Q&A with Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys, Playing Electric Pickle on Friday
In this era of dime-a-dozen indie electro-pop duos, one contemporary act stands apart from the rest for sheer substance, stylistic originality and emotional rapport, and that's Ontario, Canada's Junior Boys. Crooner/co-producer Jeremy Greenspan and partner Matt Didemus first began their collaboration in the early 2000s, the fruit of which were the first couple of Junior Boys EPs and 2003's debut album, Last Exit on KIN Records.
Their second full-length album, So This Is Goodbye was released on Domino Records in 2006, and with various remixes and support from the international EDM community, including tracks featured on Sander Kleinenberg and Ghostly International compilation mixes, the duo began to garner serious acclaim. In 2008 they were invited to mix Get Physical Music's Body Language 6 compilation release, further establishing them in both the indie dance and underground techno scenes.
2009 saw the release of Junior Boys' third and most ambitious studio album to date, Begone Dull Care. This endearing collection of delicately-crafted lyrical electronic pop tracks has found them an even broader audience, what with the track "Dull to Pause" chosen as the Starbucks iTunes "Pick of the Week" in August 2009, among other accolades.
Many of you will recall Junior Boys' last Miami performance for a packed room at Vagabond, where their emotionally-searing rendition of all the crowd favorites left more than a few people enthralled. Jeremy Greenspan is back in Miami on Friday night to play an exclusive DJ set at the Electric Pickle's One Year Anniversary Block Party, and we took up the opportunity to catch up with him for a brief Q&A. Read it after the jump.
New Times: Legend has it that you cut your teeth working in a muzak studio as a teenager. What can you tell us about that?
That's sorta true. It wasn't actually Muzak the company, but as a
teenager I worked at a studio in Birmingham, UK that definitely DID
make elevator music, and I was assisting on a few of those sessions.
You certainly have a distinctive singing voice. Were you always a singer?
not really. When we decided to add vocals to the tracks we were making
and turn them into songs, I originally thought that we would have to
hire a singer. But eventually I just started singing them and we
thought that it worked okay. I'm not always happy about my singing
voice, sometimes it feels awkward and weird to me, but as I've gotten
older I've started caring less and less about that and just focusing on
trying to sing honestly.
Junior Boys' sound has been
described as dance music for people who aren't into dance music. We
find that a bit reductionistic though, because there is definitely a
more sophisticated songcraft to your music than the standard EDM fare
being played at the clubs. How do you go about writing your material
and what is your typical process in the studio?
There is no
real process as such, We have always changed the way we write, the
equipment we use and our attitudes about working. I think that we
usually have a sound that just happens spontaneously, we don't really
calculate what makes something sound like us, we just set out trying to
make pop music, that was born out of a love of dance music and dance
music culture or whatever -- and that's about it.
Your last album Begone Dull Care
is an homage of sorts to the eponymous short film by National Film
Board animator Norman McLaren. Can you tell us a little about that?
was really an homage to Norman McLaren as a sorta embodiment of
everything I respect in an artist. A fiercely creative and
forward-thinking guy who made movies that were as accessible as they
were inventive -- a kind of ideal that I wanted to aspire towards. It's
sorta hard to explain beyond that. For me the dream of pop music is
that it can be as strange as you want it to be so long as you don't
underestimate your own audience.
What influences and inspires your work, outside of music?
movies for sure. Right now I'm totally obsessed with Orson Welles, and
I think that is going to figure prominently in our next album -- hard
to say how exactly.
We saw Junior Boys' last Miami
performance at Vagabond and can vouch for many people feeling that it
was a truly moving emotional experience. Your music itself has a
definite emotive lyrical quality rare in a lot of contemporary pop
music. What inspires it? What do you write about and whom for?
I guess we write first for ourselves, because we get a rush out of it,
or we feel compelled to do it, and then we write for the people who get
something out of it. I'm usually hesitant to correct people about what
our music is about, or what it means. Even though there are definite
concrete things the songs are about or are supposed to be about or
whatever, I guess its better for people to take what they want out of
it. But increasingly over the years the songs have become more and more
personal -- about things I'm going through, or places I've been or
things I've seen, etc. A lot of it localized in Ontario, in my own
little small world.
In 2008 you collaborated on the album Double Night Time
by Morgan Geist (of Metro Area, also playing at the Electric Pickle
anniversary party on February 26). How did that collaboration come
[Laughs] I didn't know they will be there. I can't
really remember how we met, to tell you the truth. But he is one of my
closest friends and is pretty much my 'go-to' guy when it comes to
getting advice on a song or an idea, etc. But I wouldn't really call Double Night Time a collaboration -- It was really me just singing Morgan's songs because he didn't want to sing them himself.
What does the future have in store for Junior Boys and Jeremy Greenspan?
well this year we have a few remixes coming out that we have done. Also
I did some mixing work for Caribou, Kode 9, and a few others. But
mainly we are working very very hard on the next Junior Boys album
which will come out in 2011.
We're very excited to hear you
spin at the Electric Pickle on February 26, and we're curious to see
what you have in store for us as DJ. What's your M.O. on the decks and
what can Miami expect during this performance?
playing a fair amount of older techno these days. A lot of Robert Hood,
Dan Bell, Speedy J (that sorta thing) and a bit of new stuff by Levon
Vincent, Morgan, and Floating Points, as well as some newer hyperdub
Jeremy Greenspan, at the Electric Pickle One-Year Anniversary Block Party. With Filthy Dukes, Marc Romboy, Metro Area, and others. 9 p.m. Friday, February 26. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Ages 21 and up. 305-456-5613; electricpicklemiami.com
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