As Jessy Lanza continues her North American tour, the Hamilton native gave us insight on the weirdness of her hometown, the dancing guy in her "Kathy Lee" video and why Hipster Ratcunt might be the name of her next album.
THUMP: You played SXSW for the first time this year. How'd that go?
Jessy: It was really hectic but I had lots of fun. While it was good, it was also a series of anxiety attacks waiting to happen—parking, the amount of people, etc. I played some really good shows and had really never experienced anything like that before.
What influence has your hometown of Hamilton had on your music?
The art scene in Hamilton is not one that people flock to. We're not a thriving arts community like Montreal, Toronto or other bigger Canadian cities. I think the people that live here and make music do it because they're compelled to. You end up with a pretty weird output.
Not all of it is good but it's usually pretty interesting. It's a good environment to experiment in and to know that you have a scene where people will come out. It's not judgmental. Nobody is putting up a front in Hamilton. You don't live there and make music because you think that you're going to be successful.
That's influenced me in a way. I've done music my whole life and not really known if it's going to work out performance wise or if I was just going to teach all my life. In that way, Hamilton has influenced my perspective on making music.
You were in a Masters program studying music not so long ago.
That program was really tough and I knew it wasn't going to work out. I dropped out pretty fast and didn't have much money. I was in Toronto for a while but ran out of money and went back to Hamilton. I didn't really have any other option.
How big of a role do those theoretical, classical elements of music that you studied play in your current work?
I don't think or care much about any of my classical training anymore. Anything I learned in university, I try not to incorporate into my music. For me, it just turns out really shitty. It's not for everybody. I'm not saying that intellectualizing music can't work out for some people though.
Things I learned when I studied jazz music were useful. One of the first things you learn is how to listen for things in other people's music—picking out baselines and chords. I do that all the time when I'm listening to samples or chord progressions that I like. In that respect, my school thing has helped but I try not to connect the two at all.
What was your creative process like with Jeremy Greenspan (of Junior Boys) in regards to your album?
I start a track with the drums because that's the most fun for me. I find that part to be the easiest. I'll have a bunch of drum samples collected that I want to use. I'll start with that, do some chords overtop and add a vocal melody—essentially have a sketch for a song. If it's worth sharing, I'll give it to Jeremy and he'll take it to his studio and fill it out a bit. From there, we'll pass the file back and forth until it's ready to be mixed.
I have so many half-assed, half finished songs that never went anywhere. Usually we work independently in our respective studios until the end. And then we mix them together.
How did your relationship with Hyperdub come about?
Steve Goodman is a really good friend of Jeremy's from when he was a teenager. When we were thinking of labels that would put out the record we thought of Hyperdub but never really thought he'd be into it. Jerry played him a couple of tracks and he surprisingly liked it.
Jed the dancing guy, who stars in the "Kathy Lee" video, is a local legend in Hamilton. How did you recruit him?
I was initially thinking I could run into him on the street because he's always around. He actually has a Facebook page so I messaged him there. I asked if he would be interested in this and to meet up with me. He was interested it so we met and discussed the idea. I played him the song and he was into it.
He's a pretty spiritual guy. He said something like "Whatever makes you happy, I want to do what puts happiness in your life" kind of shit. Pretty cool guy.
On a previous THUMP feature, a commenter called you a 'hipster ratcunt' and 'feminazi whorebag.' You jokingly tweeted about those comments afterwards, asking which one of those would make a better album name.
Oh, 'hipster ratcunt' for sure. There's something about the way the words flow together. That one is better. The 'feminazi whorebag' thing is okay. But the other one sticks a bit more.
I knew looking at youtube comments would be a mistake but on the upside i think I know what I'm gonna call my next album— Jessy Lanza (@jessy_lanza) April 29, 2014
toss up between hipster cuntrat or femanazi whorebag— Jessy Lanza (@jessy_lanza) April 29, 2014
Speaking of next album, what's in the works these days?
I've been in a travelling phase lately. I have lots of things that are started and hopefully when I get home I'll have a couple of weeks to wrap it up. I'm aiming for a release before the end of the year—fingers crossed.
Are you aiming to keep your sound consistent with Pull my Hair Back?
I start to lose perspective on what my music is sounding like. I'm not purposely trying to do anything wildly different. I'm not suddenly turning a new leaf and releasing a techno record. It's going to be heavily R&B.
It's 2:00 AM in Hamilton and you've had a couple of drinks. You're starving as well. What do you get?
There's this restaurant called La Luna. They've got really good falafels. They have deep fried cauliflower, tomatoes and shit. It sounds kind of gross but it's really good. That place is the best.
Like everyone else on the planet, Sasha Kalra has a Twitter account. You can follow him at @sashakalra.