Your Leader

IN TUNE Jake Palladino taps into ‘The Big It’ on his latest album.

The sounds of the cosmos brought down to Earth in ‘The Stars Are A Lie’

A guitar player his whole life, Jake Palladino began experimenting with synthesizers in the early 2000s. He first used them to add effects and shading to his guitar tones. As he got deeper into the panoply of sounds the instruments afforded him, he decided to start a new project, Your Leader.

“Your Leader has always been there and, hopefully, will stay around for a long while,” he said, speaking by phone from the small home studio in Oakland he refers to as his music closet. “Space has background noise. It is hypothesized that this cosmic hum is the leftover sound from the Big Bang. The sounds of Your Leader have been calling out to all of us since before the Big Bang. I am just choosing to let those sounds influence my music. They’re loud and come from everywhere. Once they get moving, they’re going everywhere. From Earth, all the way past everything the James Webb space telescope will ever see. It’s a beautiful mess.”

As he experimented with the sounds he created with his synthesizers, Palladino also played in bands like Psychic Hit, Pins of Light and Hightower. After moving to Oakland five years ago, the sounds of Your Leader began to dominate his creative process. He bought more synthesizers to capture the ideas floating through his head.

“Electronic instruments are fun to interact with—you can manipulate the sounds they make,” he said. “When hooked together, machines will talk. One will tell another to do something, and it will do it. This gives them personality, so Your Leader sounds different album to album, even song to song. It encompasses whatever is flowing through my part of the universe at that moment. If a solar flare hits the Earth, it may cause a power surge that will tip the instruments to freak out a little. That makes the music go in unexpected ways. There is control, but at the same time, it’s very out of control.”

The first album he recorded as Your Leader was Shouting Through a Window Between Worlds. Palladino put it up on Bandcamp in 2017. It’s an eclectic collection of rhythms and melodies, but new musical ideas were coming at a rapid pace. As the Covid lockdown took hold, the music of Your Leader became clearer and the vibrations that would become The Stars Are A Lie—the second, just-released New Leader album—began to manifest themselves.

“Being at home, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I made the best use of it. Social life stopped,” he said. “Band practices were on pause. There was this thing that I hadn’t had in my life—time. Time to spend with my instruments. Time to go through recordings of jams, start splicing them together and build on them. Time to meditate on the next chapter of Your Leader.

“I was trying to figure out the thing that is in all things and, suddenly, it was there—The Grand It. The ‘It’ that’s in all things. It can be kind of confusing, but aren’t all things of importance confusing? I realized ‘It’ was always there. That thing I was trying to understand. I think it’s the thing a lot of other people are trying to understand, too.”

The all-encompassing “It” Palladino mentions is present in all the selections on The Stars Are A Lie, manifesting itself in different forms and genres. “Bonding Over Pizza” swoops in on a keyboard pulse that sounds like the intro to a ’50s doo-wop hit. Latin percussion, funky girl-group handclaps and soothing synthesizer tones drift from the foreground to the outer reaches of the audio range, to create a tranquil ambience. A marching funk beat, zooming bass line and distorted guitars move “Thereshopeintheharmonies” between metal, prog rock and spacy improvisation. The most complex track, “AKA,” a 15-minute piece, drifts through calm meditative passages highlighted by pious organ fills, shimmering guitars, whistling keyboard melodies, the sounds of a classical string section and luminous melodies that drift in and out of the soundscape.

“The music Your Leader makes is patient and doesn’t mind making you wait for the payoffs,” Palladino said. “There is a meditation, with slow movements, because things don’t need to be resolved quickly. Letting go and letting the universe lead you can be a good thing. Each song has moments of ‘I love this’ and ‘I’ve heard this too many times, please make it stop.’ The structure is like a pyramid, with an upside-down pyramid on top of it—capstone to capstone. The wind from a hummingbird’s wing could make it all tumble, but what a sound that would make!”

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Managing Editor of The East Bay Express, Former Associate Editor of Oakland Magazine and Alameda Magazine, Columnist-In-Residence at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)'s Open Space, Advisory Board Member of Nocturnes Journal of Literary Arts, and regular contributor to several newspapers, websites and magazines. Miller is the founder of The Afrosurreal Arts Movement through his publication of The Afrosurreal Manifesto in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 20, 2009.