- Ginger Fierstein
Simplicity is a funny thing.
Clearly, Patrick Jeffords can do complicated. As the bassist for Toro y Moi, he’s accustomed to weaving in and out of richly textured guitars, hip-hop-inflected beats, boogie-down synths and precisely-organized chaos. But his main focus these days is Kid Trails, a songwriting moniker he started up years ago, back when he still lived in South Carolina and MySpace was a thing. He released a few songs, but nothing terribly formal or well produced.
“I was just so busy with touring with Toro y Moi that a lot of times I’d just write a song with no real intention — little songs here and there,” said Jeffords, phoning in from a skate park in Portland, Oregon. “I didn’t really have time to foster it as a creative outlet.”
That changed in 2014, when Toro y Moi finally stopped with its nonstop touring schedule. Jeffords released three EPs in two years, and, in November, he put out his first full-length album, Kid Trails Rising. A totally independent, DIY undertaking, the 11-song collection gets an official tape release this week in Oakland.
There was a time when Jeffords did everything but play drums — a duty that always fell to Andy Woodward, also of Toro y Moi — but he calls Kid Trails a fully-formed band now. With Kid Trails Rising, Jeffords still handles the writing, singing, guitar, synthesizer, and much of the bass. But he lends out keys to Casey Mattson, and some basswork to Joe Costantini, who both also join for live gigs.
Most of Kid Trails Rising was recorded, mixed, and mastered in the homes of Jeffords, Woodward, and Chaz Bundick, the main force behind Toro y Moi.
Despite the overlap in members, Kid Trails sounds absolutely nothing like Toro y Moi. This is wholeheartedly Jeffords: simple, sometimes quiet, fuzzy — and inspired by rock ’n’ roll, old country, and doo-wop. It’s why he said his first single, the catchy ditty “The Side,” was written with “just three chords, but the right three chords.”
“All that stuff has got layers on it that might make it sound a little more sophisticated, but when you strip all those old songs back, you’re usually dealing with about three or four chords,” he said.
That echoes his decidedly old-school approach. He writes on guitar and sings what feels natural in the moment — a clear break from a wave of new acts that approach songwriting from a production standpoint.
The result sounds like sunny, shimmery, California pop in a stereotypical-but-not-annoying sense. It jangles with lo-fi, psychedelic guitar, recalling the Kinks, Kurt Vile, and the Beatles on drugs. Sometimes, Jeffords throws in spacey synth, but the songs always feel like they’d be at home on garage- and indie-friendly Burger Records. And his lyrics match his chilled out vibe — a staycation in a record.
He said the simplicity of the song structures help listeners connect to his words. He’s a relatable dude — no need to get bogged down in cool tricks.
In 2012, Jeffords moved to Oakland, following all his friends in Toro y Moi who did the same a year earlier. He first met Bundick, who recently relocated to Portland, in second grade, and Woodward and the rest of the band by high school. Back then, he used to frequent a giant rock quarry filled with rainwater, the sort of place where teenage boys consider jumping 80 feet off a cliff a rite of passage. The cover for Kid Trails Rising shows Jeffords doing a jump earlier this summer, right around the time he was polishing off the album. Surrounded by dark teal waters, his long brown hair flies toward the sky.
Jeffords still longs for parts of South Carolina. “I really miss certain moments in time, but it’s easy to look back on that with the rose-colored glasses and just think, ‘Man, the good ol’ days,’” he said. “It’s kind of a hard place to grow up. There’s this Southern charm and politeness but then also this weird underbelly and not a whole lot of acceptance, but it’s all kind of hush-hush.”
Oakland’s lively openness is a welcomed change, he said. Now, South Carolina and California are both home — but Oakland will always be where Kid Trails found its groove.
Friday, December 9, 9 p.m. Starline Social Club (2236 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland). StarlineSocialClub.com, KidTrails.bandcamp.com.