The Theory Of Whatever

The Theory Of Whatever

“I don’t know if anyone else has the kind of ride-or-die support that I have,” Jamie Treays tells Apple Music. “The support can be a double-edged sword, but it’s just wonderful. It’s pretty much set in stone by this stage that it takes me a long time to make an album, so luckily everyone gives me a break on that.” Treays is perhaps being a bit tough on himself. The 13 songs on The Theory of Whatever—the South Londoner’s fifth studio album—were carefully trimmed down from “probably 175, maybe more” across the five or so years since the release of Trick (which came relatively hot on the heels of 2014’s Carry On the Grudge). But thanks to his aversion to social media, some unflinching testimonies on battles with anxiety, and a devout following that becomes even more fervent during his extended absences, we’re conditioned to treat new music from Jamie T as an event—a moment to savor in case there’s another lengthy wait. Fortunately, there’s a lot to savor here. Treays has channeled what he calls “troubled” periods through the pandemic (“like everyone had, I think”) with a “look after your neighbor” spirit to create something both joyfully fan-delighting and relevant. “I want hope and positivity to be the takeaways here,” he says. "That ride-or-die spirit I think gets even stronger when you get older. It’s still something I’m obsessed with. It’s still something I adore. It’s really my friends that have inspired me to write the songs. I know that sounds a bit silly, but it’s true.” Certain friends also helped Traeys focus the project here. Matt Maltese, Willie J Healey, Tom Dinsdale (formerly of Audio Bullys), and Foals’ Yannis Philippakis all mucked in, as did, most significantly, Hugo White—guitarist from fellow 2000s indie icons The Maccabees. “He galvanized the whole thing,” Treays says. “He went off to listen to 100+ songs I’d been working on, and came back looking exhausted. We then decided on the songs to work on, and Hugo went into the studio by himself and took it off my hands for a while. He went into the studio and put extra life into the songs.” Which is for the best, since Treays is an artist who needs someone to come in and grab an album by the scruff of the neck. “It’s always been the case,” he says. “I’m a producer myself, but I’m not good at beefing things up and making them really jam. I was fine making things bigger, but I didn’t want to lose what I had here. He was very good at toeing the line. He told me a story the other day that I don’t actually remember happening. I walked into the studio, did a 10-minute rant, told him what I wanted him to do, and left to not return for a day and a half. I came back in, listened to what he’d worked on, and said, ‘That’s amazing.’ He called me a bleeding lunatic and we were absolutely fine. That was the working relationship.” This union (and the “very healthy, slightly older, slightly less ego-driven community around me”) has sparked some of the best music of Traeys’ career. “90s Cars”—one of the three Tom Dinsdale collaborations—exquisitely retools This Mortal Coil’s version of “Kangaroo” by Big Star for one of 2022’s more impactful (or “weird and wonky” as Treays describes) album openers; indie mosh pits will explode to the supercharged “British Hell,” “A Million & One New Ways to Die,” and “Between the Rocks,” while there’s gold to be found in the record’s quieter moments (“St. George Wharf Tower,” “Thank You,” “Talk Is Cheap,” “50,000 Unmarked Bullets”). “It's taken me a long time to learn how to do that kind of stuff,” Treays says of his more vulnerable music. “And I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it any better than I’ve done on this album.” So, will there be another six years before we can enjoy more Jamie T? "People understand that I will not always be around,” he says. “People will always ask, ‘Where has he gone?’ but I’ve gone nowhere. I’m just hanging out, and rightly so. But you have to wait. To be constantly putting stuff out and in your face would not work with my nerves and my ability to feel real. People have to remember it’s my job. I have no want to be famous. But I do enjoy the music, I enjoy the playing. But being disconnected from everything is a godsend. Luckily, it seems being 36 is old now.”

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