In 2016, following a split with his wife, J.P. Wasson was living in Orangeville, ON with his two sons, Caden Jax and Jared Dean (who were 13 and 17 years old at the time). A lifelong punk rocker and musician, J.P.’s sons naturally followed in their father’s musical footsteps. Jared Dean picked up the bass and Caden Jax began pounding away on a drum kit. Soon the Wassons decided to start a band which would offer them a positive outlet to work through the aftermath of the divorce. With J.P. on guitar and lead vocals and his sons as his back-up band and back-up singers, The Discarded were born. Fast forward three years and The Discarded have released a 3 act collection of songs with producer Ian Blurton. A mix of punk, surf rock and power pop, the third and final installment, titled ‘Sound Check and Fury’ dropped earlier this month. The Discarded are currently playing shows across Ontario in support of their latest full length album.
Skunk Magazine had the chance to talk to J.P. about life and co-parenting following the divorce, the band’s amazing work ethic, as well as how he chooses to talk to his sons about alcohol, marijuana and drugs.
You started The Discarded after moving to a new city with your two sons following a divorce. How did starting a band help you guys to cope with such a stressful life event?
Well, we lived just north of where we live now. When my marriage broke up, my ex and I obviously had to sell our joint family home and we each purchased a place in “town” that was in the same school zone. Even though the marriage ended we are both dedicated to our children and co-parenting. As well, we both believed it important to maintain a positive relationship between the two parents.
With all that being said, yes, Caden and Jared ended up living primarily at my house and this is when we decided to focus on writing and performing music together. I guess the idea was to focus on something positive, look forward and have some fun. Anyone who’s been in a band understands the thrill and positive aspects of making music together. So yeah, it was and remains a positive influence and focus in our life.
But really it’s now five years since that all went down, and their mom likes to listen to what they’re creating as a proud mom. Like I said, we talk all the time about our children, who needs to take who where, what needs to be paid for now…so all things considered, we have a pretty forward divorced parent relationship. She’s even heading down to see our record release in Toronto and bringing our two youngest children to watch their dad and brothers. I understand it isn’t always like that with divorced parents but ultimately we believe it is very important to be adults and be parents to our children together. With the passage of time then, the stressful period has passed and you are down to what it just is now, as far as raising good humans together.
In 3 years as a band you have released an impressive 3 albums. Sound Check and Fury which was released this month is your fourth. How do you maintain such a strong work ethic?
Coffee- ha! Actually, until just recently we all lived together. This past March Jared and his girlfriend moved into an apartment together, but just a few minutes away. So it has been, and is very easy to practice. We did our first recording about seven months after we got together as a band and seven months after they’d ever been playing in a band. So it’s a very Cramps, Ramones sounding record. When we went into it we knew it would capture a moment in time and we thought it would be a cool experience just to record for the sake of that experience. After we did it we thought, this sounds pretty cool- we should just put it out.
Like most recordings, you do the recording, then mixing, mastering, and if your putting it out then the artwork/cover and making it. During that time, that excitement and that we started playing a bunch live, the two of them really took off on their instruments. So we played, practiced and wrote a bunch of new tunes that became the second album. Most of that was done by the time the first one came out.
That just builds on itself. By the second album it sounded like I had a new rhythm section as they’d improved by leaps and bounds during that time. As such, they also inspired me to challenge myself as a songwriter and the excitement I got by being in a band with them. Also since they’ve been around me my whole life, they pick up very quickly on a song I’ve written, or suggest a tune that I wrote that they knew from when they were younger.
So we tend to be an album ahead of ourselves even as we are releasing the current album. As well, after the second album we gelled a lot more as a unit. Each suggesting ideas for songs or writing their part. Even so, I may have an idea and we solidify the feel during a practice and maybe the arrangement. It’s great as it’s so collaborative.
I see that a lot more in this album as there is a lot more space in the sound of the recording.
So the five song EP we released in March and this album of twelve songs were all recorded together and go together. And as we speak about the release of this album, we entered the studio in September to start recording our next record. I’m sure we’ll slow up, but at this point this is the window we are in and as long as the songs keep coming and we think they are good tunes, we’ll head into the studio and record them.
‘Sound Check and Fury’ is the 3rd act in a series of releases which started with ‘Not From This Town’ (act 1) followed by ‘Life in a Van’ (act 2). What was your reason for releasing your music this way?
Like I said in the last answer- we recorded all seventeen tunes for this record last August. It’s three acts and the music all belongs together. Seventeen songs can be a bit much for some people all at once, so we decided to release Act One- Not From This Town as an EP in March 2019 and now here in November, Acts Two- Life In A Van and Act Three- Looking Forward. All three acts together and make up the songs that go with a narrative play we wrote to go with the tunes called- Sound check and Fury. But mostly we broke it up to let people have a chance to digest our new music over the year instead of all at once. And if you want, you can go to our website and read the script to the play that goes with the songs we released. The songs work on their own but if your into that sort of thing you can understand the narrative behind this group of seventeen songs.
What are the best and worst parts of being in a band with family members?
Well obviously there is a wonderful bond between family members and I understand that your kids actually wanting to create music with a parent it rare. We also see how it can be considered cringy or considered a bit of a joke. So that stigma can work against you as a band. So we are kind of like, yes we’re related, yes this is a dad and his two sons, but ultimately no one cares if the drummer is this old or if we are a family. They care if it’s a good tune or recording or if it’s heavy or authentic. We all think we make good music, that’s well played and well recorded. We think that’s what matters.
As far as the pros and cons of being in a band with family, the pros are, we know each other well. When we go on tour it’s not that different than when we travelled as a family when they were younger. We’ve shared rooms and vehicles and know what food/music each of us likes. We like travelling together and many of our best times are conversations in the van on the way to shows or home. As well, they pick up a lot faster on the songs I write. there are a few tunes that I tried with other bands that they were the first to immediately get.
The cons are like I mentioned, sometimes it’s viewed as a joke or the music isn’t taken as seriously. Secondly, you tend to be more pleasant with someone who isn’t that close to you and you can be more cutting or quicker to give an “unvarnished” truth to a family member. You can flash faster at someone who bugs you who’s family. So we acknowledge this and make attempts to keep that in check or identify it when it happens. As a three piece the dynamic is one can always tell the other two to cool it when it gets heated.
Do you/ will you talk to your sons about marijuana and if so, what does that conversation sound like?
This album has a marijuana theme throughout it. The EP has a song, “I like to Get High” and this one has a tune called “Pot Stinks,” about the hypocrisy of the anti pot crusades. The three main characters of the play are pot smokers and pro marijuana in their dialogue.
I’ve always been open about discussing marijuana and other drugs with my children. This is what it is, this is what it does. These are some of the perceived drawbacks of the different drugs including alcohol, energy drinks etc.
I tend to advocate to know yourself and try not to be too excessive. Understand alcohol and marijuana and avoid chemicals and heavier drugs. Really between marijuana, caffeine and a little alcohol, it’s all you really need. I said I preferred pot to alcohol. I said I preferred band members that smoked pot instead of drank alcohol when I was younger, and audiences as well.
The dangers? Well, alcohol you can become an alcoholic and some people are predisposed to that sort of behavior and eventually dependence. Marijuana, as I mentioned, is more my drug of choice. I was never a fan of alcohol, made me feel slugged out. I’ll have some wine or a beer, but not something I was ever that into. The joke was, when I was younger, a band member would leave beers at my place from a practice and they’d be there when they came back the following week. I’ll have some red wine but mostly if I’m staying in and about once a month.
Marijuana, I’ve spoken about the dangers of if you have a history of schizophrenia, then it can possibly trigger. As well that really the lungs were not meant to have smoke taken into them, but this is also a how you consume issue. Generally, They know its a plant, and how it’s used. That’s a choice you make and to do so in a way that is safe and enjoyable. I also said out of the “drugs” that are used recreationally, it is my preferred choice for people to use. I believe it safer than alcohol and I tend to warn them off any chemical based or heavier drugs. If you have the pot, what’s the need to move onto other drugs?
I’m also someone who doesn’t prefer you to use marijuana as an excuse to be a cliché. I have a great many friends who smoke and create, write, work, etc…and don’t fall into predicable clichés around a lazy, dumb pot head. I talk about the time and place as well. The idea is for it to be enjoyable.
So as you can see, I’m pretty open and so is their mom about honest open discussions around marijuana. It’s time to let go of the fear mongering of the “just say no” mindset and be reasonable discussing what it’s really about. You know they legalized it, they didn’t make it mandatory to smoke. So if you’re not into that feeling or don’t want to – don’t. But if you do, be informed and smart about it and enjoy. If someone does, it’s absurd to make someone a criminal because you don’t.