With parents whose careers took his family all around the globe—his mother an international schoolteacher and his father a veterinarian for the United Nations—Jean Paul De Roover’s approach to music has always been creative and unconventional. “During one of our travels, we stopped in Germany, and my mother bought me one of the best purchases in my life—a set of red pipes from Quadro, a children’s building toy. I could build anything: furniture when we were living in Pakistan, a shelving unit, an outdoor jungle gym, or…a platform to hold musical equipment,” De Roover says in an email interview on Mar. 6. He’s maintained his unique mindset ever since. In all of his musical ventures he has managed to keep things original and surprising, and the same goes for his non-musical pastimes. “When I’m not performing solo, I’m either working on a score for a film or a commercial, listening to comedy (and wishing I was a comedian), or aqua-jogging with a handful of elderly women,” De Roover says.
Though he grew up around the world, De Roover was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and acquired an HBA and MA in Sociology from Lakehead University, which he jokes have “clearly been put to good use.” He started his first band in eighth grade when he was living in Bolivia. Though De Roover says he’s always been “musical,” it wasn’t until later in high school that he began recording his material. “I’ve always had a fascination with recording and recording techniques ever since I opened up multiple instances of ‘sound recorder’ on a PC and tried opening them and pressing play in just the right amount of time so that they all played in sync,” De Roover says. “It was always so much fun listening to my home recordings in high school that eventually I got better at them and decided that they were good enough for people to hear, both on a CD and live.”
De Roover began his one-man-act and released his first EP, Dichotomy, in 2007 after his band, Night Safari, broke up. “I was frustrated with temperamental band mates, so I put a plan into action to develop the solo performance. For several years before that I was literally sketching out what the live show would look like. Would I sit on a table and play piano with my feet? Would there be wind chimes attached to my guitar. The future was open,” De Roover says. His desire to experiment is evident in Dichotomy, which travels from a balladic sound in “Junior” to an indie-pop direction in “Lapse,” maintaining clean and tight instrumentals and a steady percussion-pacing throughout.
Since Dichotomy, De Roover has released several records. 2009’s Windows and Doors expands on the sound he introduces in his first EP, incorporating the original tracks with instrumentally rich and genre-variant songs, such as the almost country-rock sound in “Fix” and “The Knife” to the soft-punk attitude of “Dead.” Gentle indie tones, as in “You” and “Sleep,” are woven between the other influences, giving the album a diverse feel. He reinvents this in 2011’s Pitch Pipes, which feature a cappella remixes and a medley of tracks from his previous albums. Of his most recent work, De Roover says “Complexity in Simplicity is much more cohesive than anything else…The songs are all united in the fact that I’ve embedded the same density—in terms of recording, the sheer volume of sounds and layers—within a more simplified ‘pop’ structure and delivery. You’ll hear my rock/pop influences come through, as well as my now signature vocal layering, which is very reminiscent of my a cappella past.” This is reflected in Complexity in Simplicity’s recording process, which was different in that De Roover recorded the ten tracks with producer Ben Leggett in a two-week period, as opposed to the six-month stretches he took to make his previous full-length work. The result is a clean, sharp, and resonating chapter of music.
Of his musical progression, from Dichotomy’s experimental sound to the musical maturity in Complexity in Simplicity, De Roover says “it’s fun to look back and see the history of the pipes, the evolution of red shirts and the thickening of sideburns. Musically, I’ve changed from experimental instrumentals to more lyric-based pop writing, with a live show that kicks ass and gets people excited instead of shoegazing while I concentrate pressing pedals on the floor.”
Audiences will be able to witness De Roover’s unique performance style in Duncan on Mar. 29 for $15 at the Duncan Garage Showroom at 8 p.m., and for free at The Corner Bistro in Nanaimo on Mar. 30 at 8 p.m. De Roover encourages audiences to attend, and says “The live looping one-man-show is a lot of fun, for both the audience and I. They get to sing along and be part of the show, while I get to sweat buckets while singing and tap-dancing on a pedal board, using just an acoustic guitar and my voice to create elaborate, rich sounds and songs…while you might have a beautiful date in front of you, I apologize for attracting your attention in advance. Seriously, a one-man-band with a piping structure on stage, wearing lots of red? It’s hard to look away.”
After his Canadian tour, which he began in Thunder Bay on Mar. 23, De Roover plans to get back into the studio and record an acoustic EP. He says he is counting on tours in Canada, the U.S., and maybe Europe, with appearances at festivals in between.
For more information on De Roover, and to check out some of his live performances, visit <www.jeanpaulderoover.com>. Complexity in Simplicity is available for pre-order on his website, and will be available on iTunes on Mar. 23.