Spaceship Boy EP Out Now
Jackson Klarsfeld was swimming down lane five in the McCann pool when his mind wandered around the Earth, to the sun, stars, Jupiter and beyond.
“The melody just started going through my head, like, ‘This is a story ‘bout a little baby spaceship boy,’” said Klarsfeld, ‘21. He mimicked the melody with hand motions, his eyes wide and eager to outline the process, “‘He flies around the Earth, the sun the stars and Jupiter, to see what he can do for all his friends in the...’ — What rhymes with earth, universe? That’s perfect--we’re going to write a song about space!”
Klarsfeld got out of the pool, mid-practice, grabbed his phone and sang the lyrics into a Snapchat video so that he wouldn’t forget them. After practice, Klarsfeld went home to his personal spaceship — or his production set-up in his New Gartland dorm room — and wrote the rest. A few months later, he released it as part of his debut EP, Spaceship Boy, available now on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms under his artist name, Retrograded.
It’s a simple, feel-good melody sampled from the 2008 pop-hit, “The Show” by Lenka. “The best songs come all at one time, for me at least,” Klarsfeld said. “I have a studio set up in my room — well, it’s not a studio. I have, like, speakers,” Klarsfeld said.
His teammate and best friend, Danny Simpson ‘21, insisted to sit in on the interview as his “manager.” He chimed in: “It’s a spaceship, bro — that’s what the song’s about!”
Klarsfeld and Simpson’s laughing lingered. “I have a monitor, and some speakers, an audio unit,” Klarsfeld concurred.
He pulled out his laptop and opened “Spaceship Boy’s” sound file on Logic, showing only 13 layered tracks--a few different ukulele strumming patterns and simple chord combinations. “And then, uh, the drums come in,” he pointed to layered tracks, a few high-hats and a snare from a Logic preset, a hand-clap and a vibraphone.
For Klarsfeld, it’s all fun and games. As a film major and California native, artistic expression is inherent to his personality — it’s something he longs to carry out in life for as long as he can.
The 19-year-old describes his music as an evolutionary product of both his growth as an artist and a person. “I just started doing it one day, and now, here I am,” he said. “This is not like, the end-goal, at all. This is just stage one.”
Klarsfeld is a member of the Marist Swim and Dive team, and he’s received endless support from both his teammates and the rest of the Marist community. “They played it at our formal and it freaked me out,” he said. “People keep texting me telling me my EP made them cry — and that’s the best compliment I could have gotten.”
Klarsfeld has entered the DIY-music scene, ready to tackle DAW (digital audio workstation) production with his eyes wide-open. He’s learning as he goes, and still has a lot of work to do. “I can’t sing at all, dude,” Klarsfeld laughed. “It’s all processing.”
Most of the thrill comes from playing around with audio tracks and controlling his vision for the collective sound. “I don’t know anything about music theory — I’ll look up a key that I want my song to be in, I’ll look up the scale for that key and pick notes from there.”
But, with “Spaceship Boy,” Klarsfeld’s voice is stripped of any auto-tune or special effects. “With that one, I wanted it to be more genuine,” he said. “I always really liked the gigantic bases and super distorted vocals. But now I am realizing that the less I try, the better my songs sound.”
The 5-song EP includes a track titled “July,” in collaboration with Marist senior, Olivia Haleblian, whose EP, Forty Winks also debuted this Spring.
Klarsfeld’s video work and creativity was further pushed with the recent Red Fox Films 48 Hour-Film Festival. He collaborated with Ken Huang ‘20 to create, “While You Can,” a music video featuring a track from the 2014 Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which Klarsfeld remixed and mastered that evening.
Klarsfeld has gotten more and more comfortable with his growth throughout the process. “My mindset sort of changed, and I think that was a good thing because the music came out better,” Klarsfeld said. “A lot of people that have listened to it have been like, ‘It’s not really my kind of music, but I appreciate what you’re doing.’ And that’s all I really want.”