Jascha’s last stand
No matter how you slice it, Jascha Ephraim is an unlikely local-music icon.
Far from embracing the over-earnestness so common to members of the singer/songwriters’ club, Jascha is a self-mocking lyricist, his songs covering such vaunted themes as his ex-bandmate’s whistling (“Chompers”) and the dubiousness of his own rock-star daydreams (“Hebrew Screw-Up”).
Yet in his own way, the rail-thin synth-pop performer has become a downtown musical phenomenon — not bad for a guy who likes to sing about the antics of his grandmother.
Stranger still, Jascha does it all with only a CD of his own prerecorded tracks as backing.
And yet his early demo recordings have become part of the standard currency of the Asheville rock scene, traded with great eagerness. Since March, Jascha’s hungry legion of listeners has awaited the release of his much-talked-about, self-released debut album, something he’s repeatedly promised would be available any day — that is, as soon as his dad got through mastering it, and his mom had finished making the cover art.
Yet nothing ever came of it.
Then, not too long ago, I got an e-mail from Jascha reporting that he was leaving Asheville to seek greener pastures on the West Coast.
New CD or no, it seemed high time to shine a little extra light on the brain of Asheville’s most unlikely pop star. What follows are excerpts from an interview done earlier this year.
Random Acts: “Many people think of you as the goofy, sarcastic guy who sings karaoke to his own music. Is that an image you’re comfortable with?”
Jascha Ephraim: “It’s what people want to see me for, because it’s the easiest joke to get. … Now I’m kind of settled into this type of songwriting. It’s not actually the kind of music that I … appreciate the most, but it’s the most natural for me to make. “Maybe I’m just cheesy at heart.”
RA: “Do you ever worry that people may not be taking you seriously?”
JE: “No. … With a few exceptions, I feel that being flat-out serious about anything is generally pretty stupid. … I take funny things much more seriously, because funny things are usually much more genuine, well-informed and thought about.”
RA: “When a show is going well, what goes through your mind?”
JE: “I like the shows where I start thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here, and what are you people doing here dancing to this crap?'”
RA: “Would you ever consider having a live backing band?”
JE: “Absolutely, on these following conditions: The band members would not want any of the money. They would not want to play any differently than I tell them to. They would not want any credit for anything that they do. And they would have to be the size of the ‘Homies’ collectable figurines that you find in gumball machines. On those conditions, I’d love to have a band.”
RA: “You’re known for playing up the sexual side of your performance, which — combined with the synth-pop flavor of your music — frequently draws comparison to an ’80s Prince. Is this an image you set out to create?”
JE: “When you’re doing these kinds of shows, you have to do something with your body, and you have very limited options. … You can be a crybaby sissy-sissy, or you can be full of blubbering ecstasy like a Polyphonic Spree video.
“Or, you can play up the sex stuff. The sex thing is pretty easy, because you just wiggle your butt. It helps with the whole sarcastic-pop-star thing I’m going for. Even my own tiny, pale, hairy, Jewish kind of sex sells.”
Catch Jascha Ephraim at his farewell show Thursday, July 15, at Vincent’s Ear. More info: 259-9119.