Cody Fitzgerald ’15, a music and computer science double concentrator and the creative force behind the musical project Stolen Jars, has spent years mastering the art of turning musical complexity into simplicity: “I’m really interested in rhythms of parts becoming one part together, and things becoming indistinguishable from each other even though they’re played by different instruments or done by different things and just becoming one melody.”
Fitzgerald, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, describes Stolen Jars as a “kind of loop-based music—it mixes between, like, Dan Deacon and Dirty Projectors.” He also cites the ska punk band Bomb! the Music Industry as an influence, having first played in bands of that genre before launching his own projects. “I played in some pretty terrible bands [in middle school]”, Fitzgerald says. In high school, he became more serious about music, forming three different bands that would each record an album. “After that, I realized I really wanted to do something that was more my own music,” he recalls. “Those other bands were more collaborative, and I started Stolen Jars as a way to make something that was really just me.”
The unorthodox name was a product of Fitzgerald’s perception of his music: “When I was writing [the first album], it always felt to me like I was taking these little tiny pieces of things and putting them together in very weird ways, and that’s kind of what the music sounded like to me: somebody having these little jars of sound and just opening them up at really random times.”
Stolen Jars plays a type of genre-bending alternative folk-rock that even Fitzgerald himself struggles to categorize. “I don’t know exactly how to characterize [Stolen Jars] because the way genres are set up now, the only thing I could really say would be ‘indie,’ and [then] you’d automatically relate it to a lot of other things in your head [that] I don’t necessarily know it would be related to,” he says.
Fitzgerald records all of the instrumental parts of Stolen Jars himself. On the project’s eponymous first album, many of the vocals were recorded by his then-co-lead singer Magda Bermudez. On the group’s forthcoming album, due out this summer, Fitzgerald has chosen to write more of the vocal parts for himself, with the rest sung by new co-lead singer Molly Grund.
Though the first album is a pleasure to listen to, Fitzgerald describes it as “all guitar, all me hitting tables; it didn’t allow me to really produce it.” The second album is a departure from the first. Besides featuring more of Fitzgerald’s vocals and a heavier emphasis on drum rhythms, Fitzgerald says “it’s a lot more emotional, a lot bigger at times. I think the whole album is totally new, something I’ve never done before.”
Stolen Jars collaborated with sound mixer Eli Crews, who has worked with Tune-Yards, for the mixing process. The upcoming album was also recorded on professional equipment, rather than the computer mic used for the first album. Its release will mark more than three years of creative work by Fitzgerald and his collaborators. They plan to play as many shows as possible to promote the release.
Translating the recorded loops into live performance has been a challenging and constantly evolving process for Stolen Jars. Fitzgerald’s initial approach was to make heavy use of a loop pedal, which sometimes resulted in the band falling out of sync with the pre-recorded parts. In more recent performances, use of the loop pedal has been restricted to only when it is absolutely necessary, and the band instead re-orchestrates the songs by sometimes changing the instrument playing a given part. Fitzgerald and the band work together to perfect these orchestrations.
Fitzgerald is currently joined on stage by Grund, a Wesleyan student; drummer Will Radin RISD ’15; keyboardist Tristan Rodman ’15; and guitarist Greg Nissan ’15. Stolen Jars played a successful set at the Spring Weekend lineup reveal Speakeasy concert, and they often perform at Fete and Granoff-sponsored events in addition to shows in Boston and New York. They will next play with Nightmom at The Parlour on May 4.
Fitzgerald continues to grow musically in a distinctly Brunonian fashion: “I think it’s just [from] the process of me listening to music, meeting people here—not necessarily [from] taking courses here—changing what I really valued in music, if that makes sense.” Fitzgerald envisions himself ideally continuing to record albums after graduating while also pursuing a career in film scoring.
Though he also plans to complete his computer science concentration, Fitzgerald is drawn to music’s universality. “Everyone, no matter the culture, listens to music… It’s just kind of an innate thing to be emotionally attached to some form of music, whatever form of music that is. I think that’s something that can’t be said of that many things, and that’s why I was drawn to it.”
As for what the third Stolen Jars album will sound like, don’t ask Fitzgerald: “I don’t know what I’ll be interested in in a year,” he says, “and that’s the thing I always find awesome.”
Image via Cody Fitzgerald ’15.