Jesse Nakano (aka Space Classic) has released two albums within a year of each other. Following Through, a heavily nostalgic record that focuses on his relationships with friends, crushes, and God, was released in August 2015 and Faults, a continuation of these topics with an expanded sonic palette, was released just last month. This feat is impressive enough yet alone when it’s done while juggling a full course load at university.
When I reach Nakano by phone, he tells he’s doing “really good” and with reason; he’s just finished his third year at The King’s University in Edmonton where he’s earning a degree in business and psychology. I ask the twenty-two year old how he balances making music and all his other obligations and he mentions how much of university is about learning to manage time but finally admits, “I have ADD so I accomplish everything with intense bursts of focus. I end up having more free time than I should in university just because of the way I work. That way of working is not always the best.”
As a kid, Nakano took piano and even drum lessons but, like most people, didn’t like to practice. When he was older, he began listening to music from the dream-pop world and was inspired to make his own music in the genre. When he wasn’t immediately seeing the results he wanted in his own music, Nakano gave up for a while until his interest in making music was reignited by his friend Ronnell Drapeza.
“I remember we were working together and one night I found his Soundcloud and I heard these little demos he had up and they were amazing. I got so inspired,” he says. “We started to collaborate but it didn’t really work. I started experimenting on my own and that just led to me practicing everyday and making something and then finally seeing some results. That’s when Space Classic started.”
He quickly put out two EPs, releases he admits could use work but are too special to completely let go of, and from February to August 2015 he wrote and self-recorded Following Through in his basement. This processes of self-recording is key to Nakano’s creative development.
“For me, the joy is in the whole process,” he explains. “Writing and using the digital audio workspace, it’s all one big process. It’s not like I write the songs and then go and record it. It all happens at once. Sometimes the vocals I record is me making up the lyrics right there and I like the vocals so I don’t change them.”
It wasn’t long after he released Following Through when he started coming up with new song ideas that would eventually develop into the track on Faults. “I’d work on [the new songs] here and there and then school got really busy,” he says. “I finished it all in February/March, just in the last school year.”
In Nakano’s music, God is ever present. Both of his parents are Evangelical Christian, he grew up going to church and still attends that same church. Even the university he attends is a Christian university. Despite his very religious background, his faith in never overbearing in Following Through or Faults, it simply lingers in the background and feeds Nakano’s anxieties and joys. But including his faith in his music is something that Nakano finds very complicated.
“It’s a delicate balance and it’s complex,” he says. “I feel often times, especially in terms of online presence in music, religion gets messy really quick and people are emotional about it. I have these opinions and I have these thoughts but that doesn’t mean I need to puke them all over the place. There are ways to deliver them that are really productive and I think that’s what I try and do with some of my songs. Productively deliver my thoughts and beliefs. It wouldn’t be very effective to be, in a sense, oppressive with it.”
Given the timespan in which they were conceptualized and released, Following Through and Faults come for a very similar place. They’re both influenced by the emotions that come with becoming an adult and are both the results of Nakano testing out his skills as a musician. He tells me that both albums were just about having fun rather than having everything perfect and, speaking momentarily about the future, says, “I’m going to become more finicky about my songs and spend more time writing them and not just make it but create something thoughtful.”
But the future gives Nakano anxiety; you can hear it in his music. In his song “Stay” from Following Through, he repeats the line, “do you find it hard when you leave your friends behind?” so many times he becomes almost desperate to stop the act of growing up and, inevitably, leaving his friends behind. So I hesitate to ask him what his future plans are. He eventually tells me he’s going to work at a youth centre in Edmonton for the summer, is eager to finish his degree, and is thinking about getting his Master’s degree in counselling or psychology.
These more immediate plans are revealed to me only after he gets very serious for a few moments thinking about his future and where music might fit in. “We get caught up in being so excited about something and thinking it’s going to make us happy and then you get it and it’s like ‘okay, what’s the next thing that’s going to make me happy.’ You’re always looking for that and that stresses me out,” Nakano says.
“I think I’m just curious about what I am designed for. Those are some of my thoughts in some of my songs. What I am designed for?”