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J. Graves is setting out to pioneer something different, with bandleader Jessa Graves squeezing together a tightly packed ball of anger, grief, and acceptance in her latest album Fortress of Fun - an outpouring of wild fury and plaintive sadness with a dark, angular sound.

Big new ideas abound, not just musically, but conceptually, too. COVID’s onset in March 2020 forced musicians worldwide to adapt creatively to the impending digital-only era, so it’s rare to see true innovation in an otherwise saturated market, but J. Graves have come up with a captivating idea: a “choose your own adventure” album.

Wanting to do something with a little more depth that would engage audiences creatively while welcoming listeners into their experience, the idea was borne from finding a choose-your-own-adventure book in a sci-fi themed studio during the recording process of previous album Deathbed. Early 2020 was tough for the band; like many artists, their built-up momentum was quickly shuttered by COVID’s insurgence. So, in mid-2020, the band went on a getaway to the coast, and the house they were staying in – lit up at night next to the dark ocean – became known as their “fortress of fun,” a title that seems immediately at odds with the album’s often-dark undertones, but one that nonetheless suits Graves’s fight to stay in the light.

In that sense, the album exists in two states: the first a mournful and mysterious effort that parses waves of difficult emotions; the second a lush, eclectic undertaking that puts listeners and viewers at the forefront of the band’s collective imagination. Each song from the album comes with a video, through which viewer/listeners can make choices that will lead to further interactive videos. Though the songs are, thematically and contextually, fully distinct from their choose-your-own-adventure video counterparts, the emotion remains raw and real, and J. Graves, with the help of mixer/producer Sylvia Massy, has fine-tuned their sound like never before into something simultaneously painful and buoyant.

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