When he’s not fronting revived rock rippers Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis maintains a solo career making quieter, acoustic guitar-based tunes. On his third solo album, written and recorded at his Bisquiteen home studio in Amherst, Massachusetts, Mascis—along with guests such as singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion) and Luluc’s Zoë Randell—further mines lower-key musical moments. Mascis tells Apple Music about the benefits of home recording, taking care of his singing voice, and incorporating new instruments into his sound.
There was a 15-year gap in between your first and second solo records, but now you release albums pretty frequently. What happened? Martin + Me was a live album of me trying out playing acoustic that I recorded [in 1996]. Megan, who runs Sub Pop, is a friend of mine and she always wanted me to do an acoustic album after that. I finally got around to it, so now if there’s someone who wants to release another album, I fit it in when I can.
Are there benefits to recording in your own home studio? Yeah, I was in New York one day in the mid- to late ’90s, staring out a window in a studio, and it wasn’t a great view—just a courtyard in the back of a building. I kept thinking, “I’m spending $1,000 to stare out this window.” It was a paralyzing thought I never got over.
When did you start focusing more on taking care of your singing voice? When the Dino reunion started, I was having a lot of trouble singing. I seemed to be sick all the time, and I couldn’t hit a lot of notes. I had a vocal lesson while I was on the first tour in San Francisco. [The teacher] gave me a CD to warm up, and since then doing that really helped. I started to hit all the notes and stuff.
When you’re writing songs, is there anything that causes you to separate solo songs from Dinosaur Jr songs? I’m usually writing for a specific record, so I’m writing with that in mind and I come up with some riff that seems more Dino than what I’m doing if I’m trying to write a solo record. I try to file the song away if it doesn’t fit in with the vibe I’m going for at the time.
Your favorite song on the album is “See You at the Movies.” Why? I don’t know—I just liked it better than the other ones.
Have you noticed any changes in yourself or your work since that first album? Oh jeez, I’m sure, but it’s hard to remember how I’ve changed. That’s a better question for someone else.