Caturday with Jessy Lanza

Cordelia Speed

For Jessy Lanza, lockdown was spent exploring an alternate universe created in her very own living room with the help of collaborator and director Winston Case and his family. Listening to her now out latest album, All the Time, we too are transported into this quirky world which celebrates an experimental blend of dreamy synth-pop and R&B. Entering this sphere, which is unapologetically and fearlessly Jessy, we engage with the artist and discover new sides of her personality through her most raw record to date. A career in the industry was a natural pathway rather than a decision for Jessy, who was born with music flowing through her veins which she inherited from a family of avid musicians. We catch up with Jessy to discuss everything from her early inspirations, to emotional connection to her record, to tackling the modern world as a woman.

CS: Hey Jessy! How are you doing?
JL: I’m good ~~ Thanks for asking!
CS: We’re super excited about your new album, All the Time! How was it working on this project during lockdown? Did you find it challenging to make music or was it more of a welcome distraction?
JL: So glad you’re excited for All the Time to come out. I’m excited too. Luckily the album was finished before lockdown started but all of the videos for the singles were made under quarantine so that was definitely challenging. Luckily, I live with Winston Case who directs all of my videos but filming with only the two of us was tricky since I had to be in the videos too. Luckily, we live with Winston’s family, so they helped out with lighting and setting up shots.  It was definitely nice to have something creative to focus on and put all of our energy into.
CS: There is a refreshing sense of authenticity that shines through your lyrics which are packed with raw and often difficult emotions. Do you find creating music to be a cathartic way of processing your feelings?
JL: I’m happy that the honesty of the lyrics comes through in songs. That’s really nice to hear. I wrote All the Time at a moment in my life where I was feeling very disconnected and emotionally isolated. While I was going through a lot of personal issues the album felt like a real thing I could connect with so I put all of my energy into working on it.
CS: In “Lick in Heaven” you explore the ideas of anger and frustration through a glossy and ethereal synth-pop soundscape. You’ve said that this track “takes aim at what the culture expects from women”. It’s inspiring to see you using your music as a tool for such an essential discussion. A forward-thinker by nature, what changes would you like to see within the industry?
JL: I think the bigger issue is misogyny in a broader social context. We see that a lot of society’s rage is taken out on women (the worldwide increase in domestic violence perpetrated by men against their partners in quarantine is one example) and until those numbers change I don’t think changes in the music industry will be representative of real progress. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of efforts to shift the power dynamic of the industry because I think that’s important too, but I think the most important and meaningful work starts closer to home.
CS: The aesthetic of your music bursts with vibrancy which is translated into your music videos which transport us into a dream-like, almost psychedelic world, particularly in “Face”. What were your inspirations for this video?
JL: Thank you so much. Our main inspiration was the house we’re staying at right now. Director Winston Case and I thought it would be fun to focus on the daily activities of our life at home and bring those mundane activities to life in the video for Face. We had a lot of fun doing light design around the BBQ, the tea kettle and the couch.
CS: Your music seems to me to be a unique and quirky blend of electropop, synth-pop, techno and R&B. Who would you say are your biggest influences?
JL: I’ve always loved listening to the radio and I think my love for pop music started there. I am a sucker for a hook or a catchy chorus regardless of the genre. I’ve always loved R&B music the most though – Janet Jackson was my first pop obsession and I think in a way she’ll always be my biggest influence.
CS: Prior to starting your career as a vocalist and producer, you grew up playing the piano and clarinet before going on to study jazz and becoming a music teacher – sounds like music has played a pretty integral role in your life! In what ways has growing up surrounded by music shaped the artist you have become today?
JL: Yeah definitely! My parents were musicians too, so I’ve always been encouraged to follow that path. One of the biggest influences for me was my dad’s PA rental business he ran as a side job (he was a music teacher too). I would go with him to music equipment auctions and help him refurbish speaker parts and paint speaker cones and cabinets. He would also take me to the clubs he was installing PAs at around Hamilton and I helped him by laying cables. I obviously couldn’t stay once the club opened because I was a kid but having that experience as an outsider in the club and venue world really piqued my curiosity and I wanted to be a part of that world too.
CS: When did your dream of a career in music start to become a reality?
JL: When my co-producer and co-writer Jeremy Greenspan and I released our first record on Hyperdub Records, Pull My Hair Back, I started to tour internationally and then my life shifted from working a day job and music on the side to being a full time musician. Caribou also took me on a European tour followed by a North American tour in 2014 which really changed the direction of my life at the time.
CS: With the imminent release of your new album, All the Time, the future is looking very exciting for you! Can you tell us anything about what you’ll be working on next?
JL: I have a few remixes coming out later this year which I’m really excited about. I’m also working on new music with a few friends so hopefully I can share that soon.

Click to check out Jessy Lanza’s playlist