After a massive headline tour around the United States, the Canadian multi-instrumentalist and producer behind Jaguar Sun, Chris Minielly sits down to chat about his relationship to nostalgia, the opened horizons of musical collaboration, and how to remain hopeful in a jaded and cynical world.
Stream: “I Feel It” – Jaguar Sun
Nostalgia is such a core feeling; I feel like everyone can grasp it so strongly.
Everyone in their twenties feels anxiety about the unstoppable passage of time, how it becomes a place you can’t return to. It’s easy to get caught up feeling homesick for an idealized past that may never have existed, or to be haunted by one that did.
Chris Minielly is no stranger to these feelings, but channels them into something positive, creating music under the moniker Jaguar Sun. The result is a sound that feels like the culminating moments in a coming-of-age film, when the protagonist gains a renewed sense of hope and possibility, a gratitude for the small things, and a revelation of their love for their best friend.
Since its origins in 2018, Chris Minielly has been creating Jaguar Sun’s music entirely from his bedroom in Ontario, Canada. You could call it alt-pop, or indie dream pop with a sentimental folksy flair. The music’s airy, upbeat, and nostalgic sound abounds with reverb guitars and sincere lyricism.
His debut album, This Empty Town (Born Loser Records, 2020), sophomore album, All We’ve Ever Known (Born Loser Records, 2022), and even his newest single, “I Feel It,” all wrestle with these existential feelings that come up when we return to places of significance for past loves and those not pursued. Instead of wallowing, however, Minielly takes us to a point of acceptance and hope for the future. As he sings in “With You“:
“Don’t look back.” They said that, didn’t they?
I guess we can’t dwell on our thoughts from yesterday,
I’ll hold your hands if you hold mine close too,
We’ll make it on our own, yeah, I’ll make it with you.
These light-hearted soundscapes and lyrics are love songs to life and friendship and pet dogs – a rare gift in this jaded era where everything feels coated in layers of irony.
Just a month after his first headline American tour (21 shows in just four weeks, all across the continent) and weeks before a return to the US for a mini tour, Minielly speaks with Atwood Magazine about the story behind his newest track, the benefits of musical collaboration, and the surprising simplicity of staying positive in life.
I love capturing that feeling of being sadly nostalgic about something but understanding that you’re still moving forward and you’re working through things, coming out of it stronger.
A CONVERSATION WITH JAGUAR SUN
Atwood Magazine: Thanks for being here and for taking the time to chat. Congratulations on finishing the Jaguar Sun Super Tour. You covered so many places in such a short period of time – congrats on surviving it! Looking back on it, how do you feel?
Jaguar Sun: Thank you, yeah, it was pretty surreal. I still can’t get over how much ground we covered in a month. It’s pretty insane! It was my first time seeing a lot of the country like that – driving across to the west coast for the first time and doing a full ring. It was a real milestone for me, and the rest of the band as well, to be able to do something that huge. Before that we’d only ever done weeklong tours here and there or a weekend trip here and there.
Were there any moments that stood out to you?
Jaguar Sun: The shows were just so cool; I loved each night. Every show surpassed my expectations. Like Phoenix, Arizona, I was expecting to play to maybe ten people, but there were 40 to 50 people there in this super sweet small bar we were playing at. There were a lot of spots where I didn’t expect there to be core fans of the project or people who cared as much as they did, and after every single show I got to talk to people that had been listening basically since the start. Lots of heartwarming moments like that.
Jaguar Sun started as a solo project. How do you feel about this shift from it being a private thing, to now headlining a tour and collaborating with other musicians, like Husbands and Jesse Maranger?
Jaguar Sun: I feel like at my core I still love to do everything solo, and I still do the majority of my writing, recording, and producing solo. But since getting together with my friends to do the live stuff, it’s really shifted my perspective on that. There’s a lot of cool stuff that comes from collaboration that I wouldn’t think of by myself. If I have a song that’s coming together and then I pass it onto Jesse [Maranger], for example, there are things that he can bring to the song that I would have never dreamed of coming up with myself. It’s something that I’ve become far more open to as I’ve moved forward. It opens the horizons more.
Collaboration shows new sides of your own creative self as well. The Blooms EP with Jesse Maranger felt more melancholy than the upbeat and airy sound of your solo stuff.
Jaguar Sun: Yeah, collaboration pushes you to different places sonically than you would typically find yourself. There’s a song that I’ve been working on with the band Stray Fossa, that shifts things into a more electronic world than I typically lie. It’s really cool to dip my toe into those spaces where I otherwise wouldn’t have gone by myself.
There’s a lot of cool stuff that comes from collaboration that I wouldn’t think of by myself. It opens the horizons more.
I loved your newest single, “I Feel It.” It feels bittersweet even though the music is upbeat, with propulsive drums and shimmery guitar. The lyrics feel so personal – could you talk a bit about the story behind the song?
Jaguar Sun: It was this bittersweet track about time moving forward but still being stuck in what didn’t happen, or what you missed – and feeling like the time that did pass, didn’t happen. It’s a very upbeat and forward track but then lyrically it’s more about being stuck on old memories and nostalgia, feeling like you didn’t make the most of something.
I see that in the image of the breeze – something that you can’t grasp but is still there, haunting you. Nostalgia is something I hear in a lot of your work. Are you a sentimental person? Is your music a way of expressing that?
Jaguar Sun: I love the contrast of the bittersweet nostalgia you feel, with the sentimental side of it where you can pull something positive from it or move on from things in a positive way. When I’m writing, I love capturing that feeling of being sadly nostalgic about something but understanding that you’re still moving forward and you’re working through things, coming out of it stronger. I like to convey that in a lot of my tracks. Nostalgia is such a core feeling; I feel like everyone can grasp it so strongly.
So many of your songs feel hopeful and optimistic, in a time where irony and jadedness is trendy. How do you keep that attitude of positivity in your life?
Jaguar Sun: That’s a good question! I feel like as I’ve grown and found things that make me happy, I’ve learned how to break out of negative cycles. Whether it’s as simple as going outside for a walk, being around nature and knowing that I love that – or even the act of writing music makes me really happy. Or working on artwork and illustration, or hanging out with your friends or going climbing – I’ve got back into that recently. I feel like I’ve just figured out the kind of things that break me out of my cycles and I try my best to do those things whenever I can.
You’re a visual artist, a graphic designer, as well as a musician – what’s the relationship between those two expressive modes?
Jaguar Sun: Music was the whole reason I got into pursuing art. In high school I realized there was a profession where you could create artwork surrounding music. There were people out there designing cover art and gig posters and all these sweet things and I was like, “I wanna do that, that sounds so sick!” And that’s what introduced me to graphic design, which is what I went to college for. I don’t know if the visual art ever fully influences the music side, it’s more the music side influences the visual side. I’ll make the music first and build the artwork around that. But I love that they are two worlds that are so close together and influenced by each other. It’s cool being able to utilize both areas of my life actively now that I’m pushing the music more.
As I’ve grown and found things that make me happy, I’ve learned how to break out of negative cycles. Whether it’s as simple as going outside for a walk, being around nature, or even the act of writing music, makes me really happy.
It feels like a lot of your songs are love songs – romantic love songs but also love songs to your friends. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Jaguar Sun: I’m just a sucker for love songs in general and songs that touch on relationships, so it comes out as a core theme in a lot of the music I write. Even my song, “Boris,” is a love song to my girlfriend’s dog, but also is a love song to all my friends and is a love song for anyone in general who has a bond to someone or something.
Do you have specific love songs that are favorites of yours?
Jaguar Sun: Right out the gate, an artist that really stands out is Kyle Craft. A lot of his music really captures that beautiful bittersweet relationship. I guess it’s less love songs and more heartbreak, lost love type stuff but his music is so good. It feels like when he sings, he’s lived a lot of lives. He tells a story in a really pointed and specific way where you feel like you’ve lived it too. I would definitely place him as one of my favorite songwriters. Also Frightened Rabbit. There’s a lot to pull from there too.
We’ve talked about your songs as expressions of love or nostalgia, but what drew you to making music in the first place?
Jaguar Sun: I’ve been interested in music my whole life. I learned piano when I was younger and stuck with it and started learning new instruments as I got older. Getting into producing and creating music was purely a sonic thing at first. Before I started Jaguar Sun, I was releasing music under the name Lone Beach, and I didn’t sing at all. I was inspired by bands like Youth Lagoon or Real Estate, Panda Bear, Animal Collective, things like that, but just from a sonic perspective. I thought, “I can’t sing. I’m not gonna do it. I’m just going to make beats and music.” It wasn’t until I got past that Lone Beach phase and came out of college and wanted to dig down and do something serious – and I had started singing in the car – where I was like, “Maybe I can do this and record my vocals.”
The writing of lyrics started very secondary to me. I didn’t consider myself a writer because I didn’t do it at all before music. When I started Jaguar Sun that completely flipped and has increasingly become a greater passion of mine. I was pretty self-conscious about it at first and felt like I still wasn’t a writer, but as I’ve grown with the project, I feel like I’m actually starting to express myself through it. I really grasped onto that when I worked on This Empty Town (2020) and All We’ve Ever Known (2022) and everything I’ve been continuing to do.
You’ve been creating music as Jaguar Sun for five years; what are your hopes for the future?
Jaguar Sun: I just love doing this so much. Playing live now too, recording, producing, I’m just going to push Jaguar Sun as far as I possibly can. I’m in the middle of working on my next EP, so have five songs in the works for that – but also a million more half-finished songs in the bank that I’m constantly working on. I also want to continue to push the touring. It’s been such a special thing to do with my friends and it’s been surreal seeing how much we’ve grown since we played our first show a year and a half ago, to now having done a full headline tour across the States. It’s wild. It’s not announced yet but next Spring we’re hopefully hitting Europe and doing our first stint across the UK, France, Germany, and spots like that, so that’s sick! I’ve never been before so it’s going to be surreal seeing those places for the first time through music.
And you’ve got a little follow up tour in the States this November!
Jaguar Sun: Yeah! Two dates in Ohio and two dates in North Carolina. It’ll be a nice weekend thing to cap off the year and then chill in the winter.
You’ve got so much to look forward to! You, and us as the listeners!
Jaguar Sun: I’m stoked for the new songs in this EP too – it’s a big evolution in my songwriting. I can already see where I’ve grown since the last few singles that have come out and the last album as well, so I’m excited.
I’m excited too. Thanks so much for chatting!“]
Jaguar Sun: Thanks for having me and doing this! It’s fun.
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© Chris Minielly
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