When you picture the textbook rock star—like, say, our pal Nick Hinman of Palm Springsteen—Jake Ingalls isn’t necessarily the prototype. With a shaggy head of hair, a closet full of sequins and velvet, and a demeanor that can only be accurately described as lightheartedly goofy, the 26-year-old impressively talked his way from fandom to bandom in one of the world’s most famous rock groups—more on that later. Jake’s just as likely to be found manning the light board at one of his shows as he is to be seen behind the mic, and the way he describes writing music is largely visual—drawing from his experiences with the rare psychological phenomenon synesthesia.
“Often, when we’re playing, I can feel and see certain shapes. E-major-7 with a delay feels like a shooting of green squares, and a kick drum sounds like a pink circle to me,” he tells us after a Spaceface show at popular east-side LA venue The Hi Hat. “A-major is my favorite key, because it makes me feel the most relieving sense of green and blue; it’s a sort of happy relaxing feeling, like stretching on the beach. I’ve been drawn to visuals tying in to music for a long time now; it’s just kind of the way I’ve always thought of music, and it never really struck me as anything different until I started playing around in bands as a teenager. I think everyone is synesthetic to a degree—you just have to focus on it, or simply open yourself up to it.”
As a child growing up in Memphis, Jake tells us, he always fantasized about being a musician, but never thought of it as a “viable option” for him, he says. In fact, he always thought he might end up in the field of psychology, dedicating his life to the sensory anomaly he already found himself experiencing.
“I think my plan was to explore possibilities as a psychologist,” he says. “In that way, I think I’ve always been drawn to people with a sort of schtick that ties the visual element with the music. The way David Bowie or Kevin Barnes had characters that embodied their current musical journey, or how Pink Floyd had that entire Live At Pompeii visual accompaniment [documentary]. When you’re young, if you don’t have some other way to lose yourself, a musical movement can really be a blissful time; it gives you a sort of flexible guideline of things to embrace for the moment.”
It’s Jake’s unique ability that has perhaps led to his growing penchant for embracing a wide world of color, both in Spaceface’s approach to musicality and his own personal aesthetic. (And of course, The Flaming Lips—the Wayne Coyne-fronted rock band Jake joined in 2013—is nothing if not known for their experimental musings, including a 2015 collaborative album with Miley Cyrus.)
“I was a fan, and volunteered at a show or two in 2009,” Jake says of his journey to joining the band. “Eventually, they needed someone to play for some shows, and after those were done, they asked if I’d just keep playing in the group; it’s been pretty crazy. The thing that’s truly remarkable to me about being in both groups is the intensely collaborative nature of the two. Spaceface has adopted a lot of qualities from The Flaming Lips, and we’ve even collaborated on songs together; but what I’m most proud of is the familial nature that is so pervasive [in Spaceface]. Everyone quickly slides into whatever role needs to be filled, and the whole mechanism kind of molds itself around that attitude.”
“The way things get done in the [Flaming] Lips is basically you just make a decision and see it through,” he says of the group’s creative endeavors. “If nothing comes of it, then you have the experience of exercising some ability. And if something amazing and weird happens, then great! I think the overall vibe seems to be that life is too short for hesitation. You just gotta go for it.”
Now back in LA after a national tour—and working on a brand-new music video seen here for the first time ever—Jake has had some time to ponder not only his creative and musical methodologies, but also his approach to fashion, particularly as it relates to music. He counts Outkast’s André 3000 as his lifelong style icon.
“He’s my living hero. He always seemed to chase exactly and only what he was interested in, which made him such an icon,” Jake says, somewhat starry-eyed. “I think most music scenes aren’t complete without the look. Even if it’s meant to seem like it’s anti-look, once you see a thousand kids lined up dressed like [the artist], you know it’s a scene. It’s a truly wonderful thing to lose yourself in a genre for a little bit, and I think the fashion of it is important to people. It helps them identify with the artists and with each other.”
This is where J Brand makes its dramatic entrance into Jake’s wardrobe—and his musical life.
“This past tour, I took three pairs of J Brands with me: blue jeans (Tyler Taper Fit In Blue Hood), grey jeans (Tyler Slim Fit In Slate Resin), and one size up of the soft black ones (Tyler Slim Fit In Trivor) for when I eat too much in the van,” he tells us with a hearty laugh. “Steven Drozd from the Lips was actually the first person to tell me about J Brand. He had some fantastic muted green pants he bought a few years back; I commented on them, and he said, ‘Dude, it’s J Brand, I’m never going back.’ He’s been exclusively wearing y’all for a few years now and is pretty outspoken about it. It took me a bit to catch up, but dang, these are the comfiest pants I’ve ever owned. They go with everything, and they don’t rip after not washing them for a long time (which, being on the road, I am incredibly wont to do). I also get tons of compliments on my white tee; I never knew it was possible to have a cool white tee until I had one of yours!”