Truth be told, Brooklyn musician John Jagos is a little peeved no intrepid music reporters have ever asked him about the psychedelic band he started in high school.
“It was called Karma something,” Jagos says. “I forget. I know Karma was included in the name. I played guitar with a cello bow and a bunch of reverb. I was trying to be Sigur Ros. And we sang and it was a great time. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that hilarious band.”
Where Jagos is today is working the touring and regional festival circuit, a path which will bring him through Boulder for the first time on Friday, July 25, to perform at Madelife with Bollywood Life, Frugal Father and Melodeyes.
The thing that helped bring about his transition from the tragically unrecognized psych-rock wunderkind fronting Karma something-or-other, to the celebrated up-and-comer known as Brothertiger was the discovery of live music performance software, Ableton Live, when he was 16.
“Using a computer for a solo project, you can do so many awesome things that you can’t do with just a guitar and your voice,” he says. “I loved the way it worked, and how easy it was to get into the rhythm of a song. It just kind of morphed into this style.”
“This style,” was chillwave or glo-pop, a smooth-sounding synth-based genre of dreamy electronic pop music typified by bands like Youth Lagoon, Neon Indian and Toro y Moi. And in the Ohio dorm room where Jagos started the project five years ago, it wasn’t just coastal; it was downright alien.
“It’s an odd place for music,” says Jagos. “Lots of it is classic rock. To make electronic music in Ohio was a weird thing.”
That lack of comrades in sound is part of why when Jagos started Brothertiger, it was purely a recording project. But it didn’t take long to learn he wasn’t alone.
“Right when I put my first song on the internet, Washed Out exploded on Pitchfork,” says Jagos. “And then I saw other solo acts that were making the leap.”
So he leapt, turning his laptop project into a live act. The outsider sound that Jagos thought was holding him back turned out to work in his favor.
“It gave people something they didn’t expect,” he says. “People said it sounds like music being made right next to the beach, but it’s in the Midwest.”
Brothertiger earned a strong local and online following, and when Jagos finished school, he took his Cleveland-sized fish to the biggest pond in the indie world: Brooklyn. And once there, he took another leap, transitioning Brothertiger from a solo act to a full band.
“I always started out as solo, because I thought I could never get along with anyone in a band,” Jagos says. “But eventually I figured, why not give it a try because in New York I met a really good group of musicians.”
Jagos says that the full Brothertiger lineup is still developing its sound, with its players mostly performing parts Jagos had previously sampled or looped, but it’s only a matter of time.
“At some point or another, it’s going to just be known as a full band,” Jagos says.
That point is not this tour, however. The band is still just for East Coast performances, and Jagos’ current three-week jaunt through the West was better executed solo.
Jagos says he pulls a lot of inspiration in songwriting from science-fiction, especially the lush sonic pallets of film scores like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris (both the original Russian and American remake versions).
“A lot of it is just a feeling of sound,” he says. “A little bit of it has to do with lyrical content.”
Those influences are evident in the warm, atmospheric synth tones Jagos selects for his songs, and the thick reverbs his vocals float in.
“My songs are pretty simple,” he says. “Just a few different layers.”
On Brothertiger’s most recent recording, Future Splendors, those layers combine to feel like the soundtrack to a warm bath in zero gravity, something Jagos is fine with.
“I kind of want it to be a soundtrack to whatever they’re doing,” he says. “A lot of people have told me that is how they hear it, so it seems like it’s working.”