Chicago-based musician Jackie Hayes puts together punky, compact pop songs that sound like the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack rendezvousing with Ratatat. Fuzzy like a piece of bubblegum caked in couch lint with sticky melodies, her new EP There’s Always Going to Be Something is further evidence of Hayes’ magnetic songwriting.
The five songs on There’s Always Going to Be Something throw us into Hayes’ heavily saturated and textured world. Opener “omg” is a hodgepodge of lightning rod distortion and glass-clinking percussion. A lively bass line crochets the track together like a technicolored afghan. Later, on the tension-heavy “material,” a concise drumbeat support her through a crisis. “Finally getting better, but I don’t feel like myself,” she sings, a sliver of vulnerability breaking through her in vocal delivery.
The scratchy texture of Hayes’ songs, paired with motorik beats, isn’t the only duality that exists in her music. Playfulness and conflict coexist, creating a tension in these grungy dance tracks. Take the song “have fun,” a recording with a goal of being fun and upbeat: “You do the same old shit / Expect something different,” she offers as one of the closing lines. Whether she’s manipulating her religious parents to let her get a Facebook as a teen or trying to balance creativity and a menial job during the pandemic, There’s Always Going to Be Something captures a simultaneous humor and urgency.
Check out the EP below, and read her insights on how these tracks came to be and what they’re about.
This song is about feeling tired and stuck in a rut, but trying to bring myself out of it. It’s about growing up and realizing that things weren’t the idealized version my childhood self thought they would be. One Christmas, I was dog-sitting for a couple and they left me a bunch of alcohol. I drank too much and ended up laying on their bathroom floor for a while, reflecting on life. This is what the second verse is about specifically. This is the first song I wrote with my co-writer Michael Penn II. Since we couldn’t meet up in person, we had a shared Google Doc where we would bounce ideas off of each other.
2. “brand new”
I worked full-time at the mall after I graduated high school to save up for my own electric guitar. I used to borrow my dad’s, but I couldn’t bring it out of the house for shows. I found my guitar off Craigslist and I’ll never forget the day I picked it up. I had an early graduation so I would spend my time off alone, mostly, walking around, taking the train to the city, and playing my new guitar. This song is me reflecting on that time. I still feel nostalgic for it once in a while.
3. “have fun”
I really just wanted to write a fun, upbeat song and this is what we came up with. Sometimes when it comes to songwriting I will just list a bunch of thoughts and put them together into one song. This song is an example of that. This is probably my favorite song off of the EP, as well as Billy Lemos’, who helped produce everything.
I wrote this song, and the rest of the EP, while I was an essential worker at a grocery store during quarantine. I would listen to the EP demos in my headphones at work and try to think of lyrics. Out of all of the songs, this is the one I remember listening to the most. Sometimes Billy would send me updated files of the songs and I would lock myself in the bathroom and give notes on the mix and instrumentals. I also would take music-related calls at work. I was always afraid I’d get caught by a secret shopper or my manager would walk up at the wrong time. Luckily that never happened.
My parents were very religious and at times would claim to receive dreams or signs from God. One of the lyrics alludes to a specific story. I really wanted to have a Facebook account but I wasn’t allowed. I had the stupid idea of trying to convince my mom that a lion had appeared to me in a dream telling me I could have a Facebook. I googled Bible verses that could possibly back me up and made sure to include one in my story. She actually believed me until she saw my search history on the computer—after that, I got into huge trouble. Every Sunday morning, up until I was in my late teens, I would hide in the kitchen during the sermon and drink an entire pot of coffee. Then I would have a caffeine crash in the afternoon and lay in bed on my phone or read a book.