Hunting the Western Jaguar

Photo by Jaimi Wainright.

Jeffrey Trainor of Western Jaguar. Photo: Jaimi Wainright.

A diary: a collection of the day’s events and experiences. When personal ideas are etched in stone, embossed in clay, written on paper, and more recently, blogged, vlogged, and – yeesh – tweeted, there’s a diary in these, too. Some of these are public, but more often than not diaries are personal things.

If you understand the concept of a diary, you have to wonder why Jeffrey Trainor released his deepest thoughts and struggles to the public. He released his diary even when plagued with fear of the feedback he’d receive. Trainor composed an extremely personal album over a year – an album he didn’t intend to play live, write lyrics for or even finish. His project is called Western Jaguar, and Glacia is the dark, harrowing album he released on Sept. 19 despite his deepest fears.

“I had this fear that people would listen to Glacia and think I was fucked-up,” said Trainor.

This album isn’t a tale of a psychotic life; the six-track EP is a chronicle of Trainor’s past year, and includes allusions to his struggles, shortcomings, and longings from his adolescence.

There wasn’t a great selection of roads through his turbulent, teenage proving grounds. Trainor drove on the highway during rush hour. He dealt with anxiety problems for a long time, keeping him from being more social. Long were his dilemmas, long were the nights he stayed up and heavy were the misfortunes that made him feel inherently unlucky.

“Especially during the end of high school, I was not a mentally healthy person,” said Trainor. “Even now, I don’t think I’m mentally stable.”

Trainor grew, though, and he stopped feeling patronized by hard luck. He learned people would be willing to identify with his problems. However, Trainor’s dark moments stuck with him, and they became the points of view from which he wrote Glacia.

The themes of Glacia are sombre. Trainor said various music blogs easily noted the vibe of struggle and longing in his work. Trainor has enjoyed brighter days just like everyone else, but his dark moments have been more formative. Track five, Mt. Baker, is about the death of his grandmother in February this year. He wrote Mt. Baker in two days, an impressive contrast from his usual two-months-and-more songwriting timeline.

I’d love to write an upbeat album, but I can’t do it. It’s not in me.

Trainor wants the listener to be able to synthesize their struggles with his, and here, he wants the listener to reach the message of Glacia: you’re not alone. Everyone has someone who wears the violet sweatshirt from track four; everyone has someone who was worth swimming across an ocean for, like in Karoo Mammals, track two.

“There’s people that love you. There’s people that want to be there for you. Don’t push them away,” said Trainor.

A band from the United Kingdom called Foals is among Trainor’s favourite artists. Total Life Forever is their 2010 release, and Trainor doesn’t hide the parallels between his album and Total Life Forever. Other notable artistic influences include The National and Bon Iver, who can be referenced in Trainor’s use of brass and wind instruments, which, like the drums, are synthesized due to his small budget.

Releasing the album with lyrics was an important step for Trainor because it was a new challenge; by deciding to include lyrics, he began to overcome the dread of rejection. His character gained a new layer, a new story not even his closest friends have heard. Trainor never saw himself as a vocalist; he simply didn’t have the confidence. In previous projects, Trainor would sing, but his role was always auxiliary – he helped. He’s no frontman. He filled the absence of vocals with more instrumentation and even then, Trainor wasn’t keen on showing anyone his work.

“I was concerned people would look at what I’ve written and what I’m singing and think, ‘Oh really? That’s what he’s been thinking all this time? That’s weird. I don’t want to associate with him anymore,’” said Trainor.

Glacia is streaming online, available for purchase. It’s an affirmation that Trainor won’t forget. His reaction is genuine, grinning, teeth-baring surprise.

“I’m actually really shocked that people were impressed with this,” Trainor said. “I almost feel like I owe it to people to keep going.”

In the midst of the ideas Trainor omitted, the number of times he almost deleted Glacia and the dread he incurred, Trainor achieved a victory. He needed this purge and he got it.

Album art by Jaimi Wainright.

Album art by Jaimi Wainright.

Kier Junos

When he's not playing shows with Casinos, Kier writes for Red On Black Music,( and he is also a freelance reporter/photographer at The B.C. Catholic Newspaper in Vancouver.

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