Music

Indie Mixtape 20: Jack M. Senff Is Claiming His Name

Tommy Greene

Up until now, Jack Senff was releasing music under the name Boy Rex, gaining a fervent following in the underground midwestern DIY community. Now, Senff is claiming his own name with the release of his first “proper” solo effort, Good To Know You.

Fittingly, the record is a collection of songs that deal with time — that unavoidable, ever-changing piece of the universe that we all struggle to grasp — and how it informs one’s identity. It was recorded across a number of bedrooms and living rooms, making for beautiful indie folk songs that have a particular sense of immediacy and intimacy.

“Old Days” is the first taste of Good To Know You, which still does not have a release date. However, to celebrate the new album, Senff sat down for another installment of our Indie Mixtape 20 Q&A to discuss Cole Sprouse, Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism, and hotel waffle bars.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Honest, reverent, wistful, contemporary.

Years from now, how do you hope people will remember your work?

I hope they recognize the effort and integrity of each release — how hard I tried to create something cohesive from start to finish, lyrically & sonically. I hope they find my songs ultimately human and worth something, anything.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?

I love playing in South Bend, Indiana, where I grew up, because I get to hang with my grandpa and see old friends. Seattle is great, too, LA, Montreal, Nashville — you know, these wonderful places to visit, but the shows aren’t always the best so I don’t know if it’s fair to give one of them the title of “favorite city in the world to perform.”

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

My wife has spent the better part of a decade showing me good music, putting me on the path and telling me it sounds better when I “sing in my soft voice.” There might be a dozen songwriters at any given moment vying for influence, but it’s probably Em who’s most inspired the work as a whole.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life?

Mildred’s in London, easy. A less pretentious pick, maybe, would be Sultan’s Market in Chicago, where I have been going for years and have never had a bad meal. Big shout to my baby brother, Eric. He knows what I’m talking about.

What album do you know every word to?

Motion City Soundtrack’s Commit This To Memory. [Laughs]

What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?

I saw James Taylor last year with my dad, that was great. Death Cab playing Transatlanticism for its ten year was pretty incredible, too.

What is the best outfit for performing and why?

I started tucking my shirts in a couple years ago and I think it makes me appear a bit more decent and proper. I know the tuck thing is “in” right now, but I genuinely believe it helps with my unfortunate football-player proportions. The “best outfit for performing” is just anything that’s halfway flattering and doesn’t make my legs look even bigger than they are.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?

I don’t follow too many high-profile people, but I like looking at Cole Sprouse now and again. Isn’t he beautiful and like, actually talented? Marc Maron is great too, he reminds me of a dad or uncle using social media that also happens to be famous.

What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?

Ohhhhhhh that’s hard. Every tour has a different group of people, a completely new set of tastes and musical interests and histories. I just asked Em (my wife) in the other room what we listened to a lot on our last tour together and she said, “‘Girl from the North Country’ or ‘A Postcard to Nina’” which are by Bob Dylan featuring Johnny Cash and Jens Lekman, respectively.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

“How to write a pre-chorus”

What album makes for the perfect gift?

Chris Staples’ Golden Age. It’s damn near my all-time favorite record, and I think anyone with even a passing interest in music could find something to enjoy.

Do you have a favorite hotel you enjoy staying at when you tour?

The ones with a waffle maker at the breakfast bar.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

My buddy Art tattooed huge X’s on my feet when we were 18. It was super late at night and I was laid up on the dining room table at my dad’s house while all our friends hung out and watched. It was maybe the only punk thing I’ve done in my life and they still look pretty good all these years later. Big shout to my buddy, Art.

What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio??

Currently: Hiss Golden Messenger, Faye Webster, Durand Jones & the Indications, Tiny Ruins, Neil Young

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Too many nice things to pick! Once, during my freshman year of college, I left the lights of my car on and the battery died. Some lady saw me having trouble and pulled over in the parking lot, jumped me back to life — I never even got her name. There I was on the other side of the country, not a single friend to ask for help, and a stranger saves my ass. She has no idea how much that meant to me.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

I’m a pretty firm believer in that woo woo, mickey mouse idea that what came before directly informs your here and now — for better or for worse. I think I turned out okay, all things considered, even if 18-year-old me was pretty intense and didn’t have much of a filter. Maybe I’d go back and tell him not to give away all those Merchant Ships t-shirts for free. [Laughs]

What’s the last show you went to?

I saw Henry Jamison in Chicago a few weeks back, at Schuba’s. It was good. We got Sultan’s before the show….

What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?

Tombstone (1993)

Good To Know is out this Fall via Skeletal Lightning. Pre-order it here.

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