Jai Agnish – Take Me Back There: Childhood fades away, but its magical imprint lives on in our hearts and dreams. Years later, we witness younger generations unfold the mystery of life.
This is the theme explored in Jai Agnish’s latest single, “Take Me Back There,” a nostalgic voyage through backyard childhood memories powered by dreamy synth hooks.
The release is the second single in as many months from the indie-pop musician from Montclair, N.J. and follows up last month’s “Free of This Disease,” – a song also soaked in atmospheric melodies and beats.
Agnish wrote, performed, and recorded “Take Me Back There” and teamed up with Daniel Smith (Danielson, Sufjan Stevens), who mixed the song. The fellow Garden State dweller runs Familyre Studio out of Clarksboro, N.J.
The cover art for the song features the only known family photograph taken in the “dugout” up behind Agnish’s childhood home. The “dugout” was a large area in the woods cleared out for a housing development that was ultimately abandoned. The area conveniently served as a giant playground for Agnish and his siblings and childhood friends. Here they would ride bikes, build forts, dig caves, and sled ride in the winter.
Agnish sings wistfully: “In the backyard by the stream, there’s a bridge that leads to the woods and the fun things. This was our world, our oasis, our magic place, and our own space. Discovering beauty and life in the chase of the fun and the mysteries. These childhood moments of my life I won’t ever forget.”
Agnish, an award-winning multi-media journalist, was active in music during the mid-90s until 2008 when he released Awake When You Dream as a free download on Bandcamp. He recently uploaded his back catalog to all the streaming platforms, including his debut album Automata, released in 2000.
The Boston Globe said of the record: “Though imaginative, electronic samples are heard throughout, the basis of these 11 self-penned songs is mostly Agnish’s wistful singing and his warm, flowing guitar work.”
His friend and bandmate at the time, Sufjan Stevens, contributed analog synth and melodica to some of the recordings. In 2000 the two put out 8.21: A Blue Bunny Compilation on Agnish’s indie label featuring songs by each of them. Stevens later included a tune by Agnish on Mews Too: An Asthmatic Kitty Compilation. “The Argument” also appears on Agnish’s sophomore album, Mechanical Sunshine, released by Clerestory AV in 2006.
Agnish, who had a knack for publicity and a fanzine called Flygirl, ran the first PR campaign for Asthmatic Kitty Records, landing Stevens his earliest album reviews in 2001. Agnish booked and promoted shows for himself, Stevens, and other friends in the New York City/N.J. area and beyond.
Collaboration and community have always been important to Agnish, who began Blue Bunny Records and Flygirl in high school to give known and unknown artists an outlet. Writers and artists who were beginning to hone their craft found a chance to be published on the pages of his zine next to fun interviews with Liz Phair, Lou Barlow, Built to Spill, and others.
During this time of the DIY/indie-rock scene of the ‘90s, Agnish would approach musicians after shows for interviews and songs. A compilation 7” and CD were included with the last two editions of Flygirl with new tracks from Bonnie Prince Billy, Lou Barlow, John Davis, Danielson, Soul-Junk, and others.