Spend a long enough time lurking around a particular music scene and you’re bound to run into any number of weirdo artist archetypes: The cautionary tale that got a brief taste of industry success a few years ago, but held on too long and is now a sad shell; The one who’s clearly just in it for the drugs or sex, destined for a spectacular flameout; Gear-heads; Wannabe pop stars; Wannabe art-pop stars; And probably rarest of all, the one who seems to possess an unteachable It Factor who, no matter where they are when you encounter them, you’re positive is going to eventually find success (or maybe have it find them).
Jasamine White-Gluz is someone who falls into that last category. I first met Jasamine about 10 years ago, when we were both toiling away as relative nobodies in Montreal, adrift in a sea of bands and musicians all struggling to take that first tentative step out of the water, like one of those fish that grew legs millions of years ago. We shared a stage — usually a small one — many times, in front of a handful of jaded, blazer-wearing beard-havers, for very little money. But no matter how dire our mutual prospects may have sometimes seemed, it was clear that, one way or another, she was going places. Lo and behold, after my own brush with fame flamed out spectacularly, Jasamine and neo-shoegaze outfit No Joy have carved out a major niche for themselves, striking indie-rock gold with the elusive combination of fawning critical success and a growing, devoted fanbase.
I caught up with Jasamine after the band’s return from a brief European tour, just as their latest EP Drool Sucker was about to drop, to talk about growing up in Montreal, Pitchfork pressure, and the best hard-hitting TV news magazine to enjoy while you’re waiting for your opening act to finish soundchecking.
AUX: You got your start in Montreal during the great Montreal indie rock renaissance of the mid 2000’s. What did it mean to you to be able to grow as an artist during this particular crazy era in Canadian/Montreal music history?
Jasamine White-Gluz: I’ve lived in Montreal my whole life, so I was already familiar with what it was like when Montreal got some international attention, whether it was Bran Van 3000 or even Melissa Auf Der Maur joining Hole. I didn’t feel particularly attached to that era of Montreal indie to be honest, so maybe that’s why I didn’t realize it was such an important era.
You guys have kept Montreal as your home base, right?
Yes! Still here.
Before No Joy, you fronted a few different bands and played with a whole slew of different lineups. When did you realize that you had gotten the configuration where you wanted it to be?
I don’t think I was ever happy in my previous bands. It was very hard to translate what I was hearing in my head into the albums and the live show. But that’s where I learned a lot about arrangement and the music industry and touring, and I’ve valued those lessons forever.
I’m always interested in a band or musician’s journey from relative obscurity to success story. Like, those little moments when the momentum begins to shift. What was it like for you when No Joy started to blow up? When did you first say to yourself, “Wow, this is really going to work.”
With No Joy, there was no motive to “make it work”. There weren’t any intentions of trying to get signed or touring or anything, we just… With my old bands, there was always this feeling of trying to get industry interested, or like the end goal was to get signed. With No Joy, it was a completely personal project and I didn’t care if anybody ever heard it. I just wanted to write something that was as heavy as I could write. For whatever reason those songs connected with people and I’m very thankful for that, but the goal was never to reach the most amount of people, it was just to appease a creative idea I had.
No Joy has become somewhat of a critical darling. Does getting love from notoriously-difficult-to-please publications like Pitchfork give you a sense that you’re headed in the right direction? Is it something you set out to accomplish? Does it factor into your creative process? Or do you not even think about it?
At times it does get hard not to think about it after you’ve put out material, but I think reviews are reviews and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Sometimes those opinions influence listeners to buy your album, sometimes they don’t. At the end of the day it’s the people who come to the shows and buy the albums that are the most important, not the newspapers or blogs. But creatively they don’t factor in, I don’t write thinking “will this be a Best New Track?” or anything. I think if you did that it would be pretty obvious and probably sound like whatever is trendy at the moment. I can’t imagine that be a good way to write, and it’s also just a bizarre goal to have.
Tell me about this new EP, Drool Sucker. What was the recording process like?
We got back from a year of touring and like most bands, got bored with the playing the same material night after night. So, we had a few demos floating around and thought it would be fun to record. I had been chatting with Brian Borcherdt for a few years about working together, and the timing just worked out that he and Graham Walsh were available. We went to the Barn Window studio outside Hamilton for a day and just plowed through the songs, recorded most of it live which is not at all how we recorded our past records. Like, Wait to Pleasure was almost exclusively a studio record that we did layer by layer. But on these we played them live like we were playing a show and I think you can feel some of that energy on them.
There’s often pressure on ascendant artists when it comes to releasing new material. You get put into a bit of a no-win scenario. Release a new record of more of the same and risk getting criticized for being too formulaic, change or evolve too much and risk alienating the fans that were attracted to your original sound. How did you walk that line this time?
I think our records tend to have some variety on them, so there is often a really heavy song back to back with a more electronic, softer song. When we release a single that’s too poppy, we get emails like “WHERE DID THE FUZZ GO???”, but then when we release a noisy song we get emails like “I CAN’T HEAR THE VOCALS!!!” I think it’s safe to say we usually try and balance both elements on every song we make. But personally I would never try and replicate something that we’ve already done, that would be so boring. I think we are always in a state of evolution, sometimes a subtle one and other times a dramatic one. But either way, it’s always us.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
We have another EP set to be released a little later in the year, then some more touring. Then I’d like to bunker down and start writing another LP but probably very, very slowly.
While fronting a successful band and touring around the world is a lot of work, there’s also a lot of “hurry up and wait” involved. It’s a weird dichotomy. The boredom can be deadly. What have you been doing to pass the time? Any trashy TV shows you feel aren’t getting enough attention?
I love television a lot. Besides my love for Empire and Nashville, which just got renewed by the way, the MTV show Are You The One is really spectacular. I also love Dateline NBC.