for algernon
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for algernon

Ashley, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Ashley, Ohio, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Band Alternative Singer/Songwriter

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"All’s Wells"

After nearly a dozen years and four highly acclaimed albums as for algernon, Cincinnati singer/songwriter Jason Wells is experiencing something totally foreign but completely welcomed. Wells, the lone constant defining the band’s Indie Folk/Pop/Rock direction, is finally feeling confidence.
“It’s hard to tell, but I feel more confident in my writing,” Wells says over lunch at West Chester’s Panera. “I have a lot of stage fright. The more things I have in front of me, the better I feel. Some of these new songs, part of my musicianship is hitting a button to sequence something and maybe playing a percussive piece. I’ve come out of my shell quite a bit. People (at for algernon’s MidPoint Music Festival appearance) thought I was drunk, but I was just dancing and getting down on the ground.”

Part of that confidence resulted from for algernon’s latest lineup, assembled for the band’s 2010 MidPoint appearance. After splitting with Dayton’s Sleepybird, his previous backing band, Wells retooled for algernon with Spectacular Fantastic guitarist John Williams, former Homunculus bassist Adam Schoen and Newbees drummer Tim Seiwert, a shift that pushed Wells into a new creative gear.

“In the past, the band has been pretty much myself, playing all the parts, mostly poorly,” Wells says with a self-depracating laugh. “That created a whole different aesthetic on the albums than I would get in a live setting. I put together the band exclusively for MidPoint and we had such a good time, we decided to keep playing.”

For algernon’s revamped line-up has resulted in increased local gigs and the recording of the Starling Redux EP, consisting of one brand new song, “Alice,” and a handful of older tracks re-recorded by the current band. The EP is essentially a stopgap until they complete for algernon’s fifth full-length, slated for sometime next year.

“As usual, people expect what they heard on the disc, or go home expecting to hear on the disc what they saw live,” Wells says.


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Cincinnati musicfor algernonJason Wells“We thought it would be fun to go back and do songs that we’re doing in the live set and get people ready for what’s next. ‘Alice’ is a good song to represent what’s forthcoming.”

Wells’ latest version of for algernon is his most collaborative lineup, offering him an entirely new band dynamic. His bandmates’ broad diversity of musical experience has exponentially broadened Wells’ creative vision.

“I’ve got all these different aspects of different genres and it’s fun to play off everybody’s feedback,” Wells says. “I’m not used to that at all. It’s a lot of compromising. I’ve gone from the dictatorship of my own private island to a big democracy, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Wells has raised the bar concerning for algernon’s sonic profile, and also pushed the envelope regarding the band’s visual presentation. With music close to completion, Wells has canvassed several local visual artists for possible interpretations of the new songs.

“I’ve talked to lot of filmmakers, graphic artists, illustrators, even some ballet people, and I say, ‘I would love to see what this music would inspire from you visually and we’d love to put it in our live show,’ ” Wells says. “Maybe it’s just for the release (concert), maybe it’s for a couple of shows, I don’t know. Music’s changing so much; hardly anybody’s buying CDs, nobody wants to buy MP3s anymore, so I feel like, as an artist, I have to adapt to what people want to take home.”

Since for algernon’s structure begins with Wells, the basic sound of the as-yet untitled new album is largely the same. But he admits the new creative paradigm has impacted his songwriting and arranging.

“I’ve always written with an end result in mind; I had these people in mind but I wasn’t sure whe - Citybeat


"'Orange' You Glad You Listened"

A CD release party for the debut by for algernon, called Orange Watches & Lost Loves, goes down Saturday in the Southgate House's Junie's Lounge. The free show starts at 8 p.m. and features special guests Tristen Shields, the mini-thins, Jeff Perholtz, .andrew. and others.
for algernon is the new band from singer/songwriter Jason Wells, a strong presence on the local acoustic scene for the past three years. While he doesn't exactly sound like Mope Pop master Elliott Smith, the smoky, down-beat etherealism of orange watches & lost loves has a lot of that similar, mysterious spirit stirring within. Wells understands the use of space in songwriting -- instead of filling out every square inch of sound, he allows the tracks to breathe on their own. Besides the warmly creeping effect of his actual writing, it's what Wells does with the space on orange watches that makes it such a success. Double-tracked, quivering vocals, haunted piano, directing acoustic guitar and some drum machine beats add a depth that belies the album's humble mannerisms and lo-fi production quality.
Highlights include the melodic, buzzingly angular "The Ballad of the Orange Watch," which makes one think Indie Pop collective Elephant 6 might be making a membership drive call soon, and the aching "Jean-Marie" and "Mistaken Affections," which best show off Wells' adroit emotion-into-music ability. Elsewhere, the strings-driven "You'll Be Sorry" has the breezy glide of Scottish Twee-Pop acts like Belle & Sebastian, and "Better This Way" sports Nick Drake's hallowed mystical chime. Wells has a real, unpolished gift as a songwriter, and Orange Watches & Lost Loves is an unassumingly majestic testament.
Get thee gone to foralgernon.com for more info.


appeared in citybeat june 11-17 2003 - Citybeat (Mike Breen)


"Wells goes Big(ger)"

Singer/songwriter Jason Wells' band, FOR ALGERNON, assembles for a CD release party Saturday at The Poison Room. Wells and Co. ­ celebrating the release of the new album, "remember why we ran" ­ will be joined by locals Ashley Peacock and The Spectacular Fantastic, plus singer/songwriter Matt Marque, whose latest album, Nothing Personal, features guest slots by members of Wilco and Fruit Bats.

Wells' previous releases (remember is the third long-player under the for algernon name and his fourth overall) have been isolated affairs, with the multi-instrumentalist recording most of the sounds himself. It was an approach reflected in the songs, which seethe melancholy and float on intimate atmospherics. While the songs on remember retain much of the close-quarters mood from past releases, Wells incorporates a large supporting cast this time out, including the members of his live band and local musician friends like Misty Perholtz (The Newbees) and Andrew Geonetta (Bulletproof Charm).

The tasteful ornamentation (organ, piano, synths, melodica, additional lead guitars) is enhancing and engaging, but it's the songwriting that's the centrifugal force of Wells' output, and remember why we ran contains some of his best songs yet. He cleverly uses a running theme throughout the record, based on two people -- one just out of a long relationship and the other yearning to get out of one -- who connect but ultimately fall apart because they're looking for happiness in others instead of within themselves.

In lieu of grand poetic statements, Wells tells the story through the characters' own words. It's a brilliant device, as the lyrics often sound like they could have been cobbled from actual conversations and arguments overheard through thin walls. On the track "Salt," for example, we hear this exchange, which should register with anyone who's had a "We need to talk" moment with a lover: "So go on, do what you want to/Unlike you, I give you support/I think it's safe to say, that we're losing this game/And money's not the only thing we're short."

The songs continue in Wells' low-key Indie Pop tradition, with the wispy, emotional resonance of Wilco songs like "She's a Jar" or the work of amazing Chicago singer/songwriter Chris Mills. Built around gentle acoustic strumming, Wells' songs feature magnetic melodies that go from unassuming and somber ("The Army That Is You & Me," "That Angel's Song I Heard") to buoyant and classic ("Grey Ghost," "September of When"). With remember why we ran, Wells has crafted a poignant, humble masterpiece that will haunt almost anyone who has ever experienced relationship woes and charm any Indie music fan who lives for honest, emotive songwriting. (foralgernon.com)

- Citybeat


"Let The Vibrating Begin"

. Singer/songwriter Jason Wells is the mastermind behind for algernon. Wells -- also a member of the Vibrating Needle-affiliated Minni-Thins -- got his start a few years ago as a solo acoustic performer, and he has more recently been getting into film scoring. The new for algernon disc, The Lost Days of Captain Johnny Sinclair, is reflective of both of those musical guises. Wells' songs have a fragile intimacy and, as a craftsman, he shows a keen attention to songwriting detail. But the spacious ambiance of Sinclair and Wells' use of an impossibly wide instrumental array (cello, flute, French horn, melodica) show his writing to be more "big picture" than lo-fi. Never confined by his verse/chorus structures, Wells' tells his stories with tasteful, just-right adornment (the sweeping strings on the lush "SWPF," the sad, dirty piano on the downtrodden "Seattle," the layered harmonies and keyboards throughout). Wells seems to make music like a film director; the skeletal structures are the scripts (and they are usually good ones, tending toward the moody Indie Pop side of things), but the surroundings are just as important to the final result. Wells' vision often overshoots the home-recorded production quality; like Elliott Smith, he's the kind of singer/songwriter you'd like to see get a big budget to record, just to hear what he could come up with on a broader canvas. But Wells works the lo-fi aesthetic in as just another conveyance tool, helping him to create the pure, unsullied moods he so proficiently communicates with each track. (vibratingneedle.net)
- Citybeat (2005) Mike Breen


"MPMF 2005 Day 1"

by
Juliana Salinas-Jump

12:00 AM: The Witching Hour
for algernon - Cincinnati, Ohio
(Cooper's on Main)

for algernon were great. They were melodic, and had the vocal chops to match. At least two of the members are in another Cincinnati band, The Mini-Thins. Tonight the band had an extra pair of singers, the girls from The Shirts. They wore matching pants and shirts, and scarves, which I thought was kind of kitschy, but in the bad way. They did add an interesting depth to the songs though.
- Randomville


"Orange Watches & Lost Loves"

First listen: eh, it's pretty good. But not what I had expected. But I like Jean-Marie. Second listen: ooh, I didn't hear that part before, I like that. Hmm, that's a nice hook, I missed that one. And I really like Jean-Marie. Third listen(immediately after the second listen): What's happening? I think I'm loving this album. And I definitely love Jean-Marie. Fourth listen(next day): I definitely love this album. And Jean-Marie can have my baby. That's about all I can say about this album. It will grow on you quicker than you can dismiss it as just another passive auteur album thrown into the indie pyre. It's defnitely much more than that. Wells' vocals--which throughout most of the album are one decible away from completely inaudible--and minimal but effective instrumentation both work like hand in glove with soft electronic beats that mechanically bob to and from the surface. The overall message of missed opportunities in love is not a new one, but the swirly mix of extreme fragility and tongue-in-cheekness in which Wells presents this message is all his own and demands to be heard. Did I mention I love the song Jean-Marie? In my opinion it is a beautiful and iconic song just waiting for the world to hear it. As is the album. - Cd Baby (Jason Ludwig)


"MPMF 2005 Thursday Night"

by Jason Jump

12:16 Cooper's on Main - For Algernon

Having learned our lesson and knowing that what we're about to hear probably isn't going to sound anything like Joe Pernice we enter Cooper's on Main cautiously. For Algernon play on stage at the back of the bar and it's literally the biggest crowd I've been in tonight.

For all the people in the crowd it seemed that their seem to nearly as many on stage. Shockingly, I can hear a little Joe Pernice in For Algernon and I fall in love with their sound on the spot. The playing is tight and well crafted, the vocals hit the spot and the addition of a couple of back-up singers fills out the poppy yet earnest sound. I notice that the band is comprised of some members of another local band called The Minni Thins, and I marvel that these guys actually can play their instruments; they just seem to choose not to when playing in their own group.

The place is packed, I'm tired and I've some how managed to be right in the spot where folks making their way from the front to the back squeeze through, so I quickly get tired of being stepped on and nearly stabbed with lit cigarettes. As much as I'm enjoying For Algernon, I've had enough for tonight and have to work early the next day, so we head out to the car, an awesome night of fun and music had by all.
- Randomville


"Profile of Jason Wells"

OK, get this: Some guy was on the top floor of a giant skyscraper, looking through a dirty window.
He eventually got depressed and decided to jump through it. He fell all the way to the end. He didn’t die. Why didn’t he die? (Insert hard thinking.) Give up? Well, he was a window-washer, and he jumped through the glass into the building.

Kinda dark. Kinda a sweet relief. Perspective is tricky. And for Jason Wells of for algernon, although his sound veers toward soothing, then leans into the moody side, a focused, optimistic, artistic view is key.

“As long as I can play and create, I’m happy,” he says. “The pressure of having the record that makes or breaks me, well, I don’t really care anymore. I have moments when I wonder why I go on, and then I get an e-mail from someone somewhere. If I reached out to one person, that’s awesome to me. I don’t know what else could happen from there.”

Grandma’s Casio electronic piano was Wells’ first stab at Rock. For a while, he clung to nothing but Gangsta Rap and Frank Sinatra. Later, on guitar, he pumped out originals. He laughs quietly.

“Now I have too many instruments,” he says. “Banjos, ukuleles, all kinds of crazy stuff.”

He likes literary references and “stupid long titles.” He talks about the dark singers — Elliott Smith, Nick Drake — with an ironic grin. A Cincinnati West-sider with a red-brown scruffy beard, glasses, a simple sweater and black Chucks, Wells admits that his fingertips are numb. Nerves.

Although lighthearted and modest by nature, his craftily subtle songs are spaciously pensive, with a whispery, bare quality reminiscent of Chris Whitley. The “open background” feel to his minimalistic tunes doesn’t overpower the whole mood but rather supports it. In 2000, for algernon began as an attic-recording project with “a bunch of gadgets.” Now, he says, “You can barely walk in. I’ve got so much stuff in there. You can always tell when I’m making an album. There’s paper on the floor, instruments, keyboards piled on top; it looks like a tornado went through.”

He later worked with fellow locals the Minni-Thins. “I’m not a leader in a band situation,” Wells says, “so I back away and let other people take over, and what I had originally envisioned goes away in that atmosphere, so I work better alone.”

At one point, eight people performed with for algernon live, complete with strings and horns.

“It was beautiful,” he says, “but I ended up stripping it back down.”

Friends add parts, but Wells mostly records alone. Releasing a slew of CDs since 2001, his latest two creations, (con)sequence and an ungentlemanly act at sea, will be released concurrently at his next show. Until now, ungentlemanly has been in the closet.

“The songs were pretty revealing, and people would listen to it and ask, ‘Are you OK?’ ” Wells says. “After three of those phone calls I was like, ‘I’m not gonna let anyone else hear this. It’s some of the craziest stuff I’ve ever done.’ Later, I was happiest with it, actually.”

Currently, Dayton band Sleepybird backs him live.

“I basically stalked them until they were my friend,” he says. “I’ve been writing with them in mind. Their sound naturally fit with these two albums — dark, orchestral and folky at the same time. Big and tiny all at once. The practices we’ve had have been amazing. I get lost just listening to them, so I’m really glad to have them along.”


Drawn to the vast scope of Icelandic group Sigur Ros, Wells remarks, “I didn’t write anything for like six months after seeing (Sigur Ros) play live. That’s the way you should walk out after seeing someone. You should feel inspired. You should feel healed. I don’t think I’m anywhere near that, but that’s the goal I’m looking for when I’m writing, and now with Sleepybird I see potential I guess.

“I remember this story about Bruce Springsteen,” Wells says. “He was playing some New Jersey bar and someone came up to him and said, ‘You really saved my life tonight,’ and it doesn’t matter from there. Everything else is just a blessing from there on out.”

Wells smiles, looking away, glancing into the coffee shop window.

Sometimes, despite yesterday’s cloudiness, the view through the glass becomes streak-free. All clear.

- Citybeat C.A. MacConnell


"Midpoint, My Thursday Night"

by
Kari Wethington

Midnight. There's a lot to see in my final hour. First, I catch a couple songs by local folksters For Algernon at Coopers on Main - and it's a highlight of the night, for sure. Maybe it's the vocal harmonies or the blaring but charming trombone - but this stuff is good. - CinWeekly


"Midpoint, My Thursday Night"

by
Kari Wethington

Midnight. There's a lot to see in my final hour. First, I catch a couple songs by local folksters For Algernon at Coopers on Main - and it's a highlight of the night, for sure. Maybe it's the vocal harmonies or the blaring but charming trombone - but this stuff is good. - CinWeekly


"He Loves You But He's Chosen Darkness"


One of the things that really grabbed me about Jason Wells' 2006 CD (as "for algernon"), remember why we ran (besides Wells' dedication to "all-lowercase" branding), was the singer/songwriter's ability to filter emotion straight through the speakers. The album was thematic, centered around the story of two star-crossed lovers — one in a relationship but wanting out; one just out of a long relationship — who cross paths but ultimately end up apart, realizing they need to find happiness in themselves and not other people. It dealt with familiar "love" themes, but in a very direct way, telling the story through the actual words of the characters. But it was clear to me that Wells felt those songs. If there wasn't some autobiographical elements in there, Wells should look into the acting profession.

Being able to relate to other people's emotions and experiences through song isn't as simple as going, "Hey, you've done this, too, right?" The trademark misery-loves-company Blues song, while initially effective, has turned into this as its sentiments have grown clichéd over the years — "I've been down so long," etc. When people expect you to say something, it doesn't have the same impact.

To really touch a nerve, it has to go deeper and the writer/singer has to be able to convey the emotion in such a way that the listeners go, "Wow, I didn't know anyone else was going through that — I could have written that." I've had this experience with Greg Dulli's lyrics in the past, and The Ass Ponys' criminally underrated A&M swan-song, The Known Universe, almost spooked me with how it seemed to mirror my exact feelings.

Wells is among the best in the Greater Cincinnati area singer/songwriter pool at putting devastating heartbreak into words. Call me morbid, but that's some of my favorite music — the dark, honest stuff. I was thrilled to hear that Wells is making good progress on his new album, an ungentlemanly act at sea, which, unlike the last record (which was perfectly fleshed out by a gaggle of local music pals), Wells says will be a simpler, more lo-fi affair (though he's still considering whether to add on or not). Wells graciously sent along this preview of the new disc, "bloody lip," which certainly lives up to his assessment of the new material.

Some possible collaborators that may appear on the album (unless Wells decides to go it alone) are the members of Dayton's like-minded Sleepybird. Wells — who likens their combination to Iron & Wine-meets-Will Oldham — says he's been sending them songs, but living in different cities has kept them from getting much actually recorded.

Something they have been able to collaborate on is a music video. Wells recorded a cover of Sleepybird's great "Glisten," and the ’Bird's Nick Tertle created some great visuals to go with it. Take a look:

A more pressing matter for Wells is his appearance tomorrow (Saturday) at the Rohs Street Cafe as a part of the coffeehouse's big "Fair Play Fest." Wells — who hasn't played live in some time — is a part of the 7 p.m. musical portion of the day's events. He says he's going to preview the new songs and also be "jumping around" between instruments during the solo set.


— Mike Breen




- Citybeat Music Blog


"He Loves You But He's Chosen Darkness"


One of the things that really grabbed me about Jason Wells' 2006 CD (as "for algernon"), remember why we ran (besides Wells' dedication to "all-lowercase" branding), was the singer/songwriter's ability to filter emotion straight through the speakers. The album was thematic, centered around the story of two star-crossed lovers — one in a relationship but wanting out; one just out of a long relationship — who cross paths but ultimately end up apart, realizing they need to find happiness in themselves and not other people. It dealt with familiar "love" themes, but in a very direct way, telling the story through the actual words of the characters. But it was clear to me that Wells felt those songs. If there wasn't some autobiographical elements in there, Wells should look into the acting profession.

Being able to relate to other people's emotions and experiences through song isn't as simple as going, "Hey, you've done this, too, right?" The trademark misery-loves-company Blues song, while initially effective, has turned into this as its sentiments have grown clichéd over the years — "I've been down so long," etc. When people expect you to say something, it doesn't have the same impact.

To really touch a nerve, it has to go deeper and the writer/singer has to be able to convey the emotion in such a way that the listeners go, "Wow, I didn't know anyone else was going through that — I could have written that." I've had this experience with Greg Dulli's lyrics in the past, and The Ass Ponys' criminally underrated A&M swan-song, The Known Universe, almost spooked me with how it seemed to mirror my exact feelings.

Wells is among the best in the Greater Cincinnati area singer/songwriter pool at putting devastating heartbreak into words. Call me morbid, but that's some of my favorite music — the dark, honest stuff. I was thrilled to hear that Wells is making good progress on his new album, an ungentlemanly act at sea, which, unlike the last record (which was perfectly fleshed out by a gaggle of local music pals), Wells says will be a simpler, more lo-fi affair (though he's still considering whether to add on or not). Wells graciously sent along this preview of the new disc, "bloody lip," which certainly lives up to his assessment of the new material.

Some possible collaborators that may appear on the album (unless Wells decides to go it alone) are the members of Dayton's like-minded Sleepybird. Wells — who likens their combination to Iron & Wine-meets-Will Oldham — says he's been sending them songs, but living in different cities has kept them from getting much actually recorded.

Something they have been able to collaborate on is a music video. Wells recorded a cover of Sleepybird's great "Glisten," and the ’Bird's Nick Tertle created some great visuals to go with it. Take a look:

A more pressing matter for Wells is his appearance tomorrow (Saturday) at the Rohs Street Cafe as a part of the coffeehouse's big "Fair Play Fest." Wells — who hasn't played live in some time — is a part of the 7 p.m. musical portion of the day's events. He says he's going to preview the new songs and also be "jumping around" between instruments during the solo set.


— Mike Breen




- Citybeat Music Blog


Discography

2001 - Public Diary LP - (Jason Wells)
2002 - 11/2/02 - Live LP - (Jason Wells)
2003 - Jean Marie - single
2003- Orange Watches & Lost Loves LP
2004 - Julie, Dream Instead - EP
2004 - Who's Charles (original film score) - EP (Jason Wells)
2005 - The Lost Days of Captain Johnny Sinclair LP
2005 - The Dreamers Club ( original film score and soundtrack ) LP - (Jason Wells & Jeremy Strickland)
2006 - Seven Hills (tv show theme song & score- Jason Wells & Jeff Perholz)
2006 - remember why we ran (July 2006) LP
2007 - Heaven Lies Here (film score)
2007 - an ungentlemanly act at sea (Sept. 07) LP
2007 - radio midpoint-interview and the song "numb" mpmf.com to listen
2009 - con(sequence) LP
2010 - Random Acts of Solitude (An RPM Challenge)
2010- Oh My Starling - LP
2011- Starling Redux - E.P

Photos

Bio

Jason Wells began performing in Cincinnati, OH around the year 2000 as a solo performer. As time passed he began to acquire some folks to back him up on a few songs. Eventually he began writing with full band arrangements in mind and decided that he would go under the name "for algernon". The line-up of musicians and instruments is ever changing to fit the music which ranges from buoyant indie-pop to dark and broken folk. In 2010 "oh, my starling" was released followed by an e.p in 2011 titled "starling reduxe.p." They are currently nearing completion on their most ambitous record to date acquiring several visual and media artist and coreographers to bring a unique experience to the listener and concert goer.

Band Members