Meet Jay Cooper, the LA-via-Sydney producer mixing hip-hop and electronic
Cooper's new single Shallow Anthem sees him link up with Baltimore-based artist Apollo Renegade.
Formerly known as JayWays, Sydney expat Jay Cooper is an artist you should already be excited about. His 2017 stand-alone single Say Something brought the now LA-based musician a heap of international acclaim including a spot on Spotify's Best New Music of 2017 playlist, inspiring Cooper to make a move over to the US to continue his collaborational approach to music, something he's keeping with his latest release and first for 2018, Shallow Anthem. The single sees him re-meet Baltimore rising star Apollo (they initially collaborated on Say Something) for another masterclass in friendship-driven musical teamwork, with the hip-hop energy of Apollo meeting Cooper's percussive, down-tempo production (and his own, Golden Vessel-esque vocal) in a way that makes them seamlessly blend - despite how far apart they are from each other on paper. "Shallow Anthem is how I've been feeling during this relocation, holding so much music back, but it's time to let things go," says Cooper on the single, which is the first from his upcoming debut new EP Interim. "It’s about the place in-between where you've been and where you know you can be. I guess it's the bridge/tunnels to your self-realisation and purpose."
Shallow Anthem isn't the end of it either. Over 2018 thus far, the musician has teamed up with rising force Xavier Mayne and is working/has worked with names spanning from JoJo to Common; no end in sight as he continues to strive towards being one of Australia's most exciting rising names (even if he's ditched us for LA). Meet him and his new single below:
Tell us about yourself?
I’m a 22-year-old self-taught musician & multimedia artist, and I grew up in Sydney. I’ve been producing music since I was 14 under the moniker of JaysWays, mostly kicking around the Sydney underground electronic music scene playing small shows wherever I could. This time was mostly spent experimenting with what kind of music I could make & perform, and figure out what it was that kept me doing it in the first place.
About 2 years ago, in 2016, I set out for North America to see where the music could take me, and I’ve spent a good portion of that time in LA writing and producing music with all kinds of artists, both upcoming and world-renowned, mainly under the wing of DJ Jahi Sundance, who plays in Robert Glasper Experiment. Bit of skateboarding with Colt Coleman, a bit of hiking with Annahstasia Enuke. All the while producing a lot (a lot) of music. I feel like I’ve come a long way since I’ve been out here, both in my ability as a producer and creative director, and as a solo artist.
What are your production and writing processes like?
It’s always going to be different per song, whether it’s mapping out a new set of rules to challenge yourself, or figuring out what you can do with the resources you have at the time. In high school, I was always making music in temporary spaces, like in the passenger seat of a car, in a friend’s basement studio, or on a hiking trail under a tree with a laptop. Lots of the new songs I’m writing have come from going back and fleshing out some of these ideas I’ve started in these makeshift setups because I love the character that translates from having to create under different circumstances. If I’m revisiting a song, I’m looking for particular details and behaviours in the sound that remind me of what was happening at the time and what lead me to make those choices. Sometimes when I write songs it’s easier to separate myself into two modes, one to produce the song and one to write it, so it often turns into a conversation that’s going on between a past version of me, and one that’s reflecting on the experience.
The most important part of producing songs for me are these eclectic sounds and circumstantial anomalies that make it unique. I know I’m always going to be able to fill it out with drums, bass, etc. no matter what, as producers we practice that type of thing every day, but if it doesn’t have its own personality somewhere, it’s going to blend in with other songs. It needs a reason to exist, to command your attention, a reason to be understood. I often battle with trying not to force it vs seeing how hard I need to push myself to find it. I collect a lot of voice memos on my phone, a handheld mic, and a cheap digital camera. Anything that is related to my feelings or themes around the song, or what I was going through at the time, it’s going in the song. I’m gonna find a way to weave it in. A lot of the process is looking at all the pieces I have and seeing how I can put them all together, like a puzzle or lego. I write notes on my phone, any words or phrases that pique my interest, jokes & wordplay I think of, types of songs I want to make, or thoughts that are relevant to what I'm feeling. Then when I’m in the studio it’s just about picking what’s the most urgent thing I have to make that day.
Sometimes I can't do anything until I create something for myself that helps me understand what's going on with my thoughts and emotions, but other days it’s the things I learn from working with new people that keep me moving forward.
What’s the vibe music-wise?
To me, this new EP is dark and spacious, it feels like hallucinating in some cold underground tunnel systems. Like how in those 80s movies the teen protagonist goes out into the woods to blast music and fight-dance their frustrations out. It kind of feels like I'm doing that, except I’m just in the studio burning some palo santo. Bringing all these thoughts and sounds together across a temporal thread that connects my past and future and lets me see it all at the same time. The internet is like that and we're connected to everything and everyone through these windows. There's so much I see myself doing and becoming, it's like it's happening right now, but really I’m just blinking through memories and touching all these possible futures I'm trying to manifest for myself. In reality, I'm in the studio every day, projecting these thoughts over the walls and trying to remember that I'm alive in a body, I also need to eat, sleep, take care of myself, do what I need to do to make ends meet. The space I'm in is this interim where I'm asking myself questions and applying what I’ve learned to fill the gaps, working out what it is that makes me real and connects me to others. And most of all, putting in the hard work needed for me to get to where I see myself ideally.
To put it in less esoteric words, there's elements of alternative r&b/soul, electronic beats, ambient sounds/textures, guitars and moodiness. Some of the artists I think I'm channelling in the sounds on this record might include Burial, James Blake, Flying Lotus, FKA Twigs, The Weeknd, Corbin.
Can you tell us about your new single, Shallow Anthem?
This single is the first from an EP I’m working on called Interim. To me, the EP represents the end of my hiatus from releasing music, and these endless lonely nights in the studio, wandering the streets, convincing myself that I have music that people actually want to hear. I first made the instrumental in high school, & I sent it to a young Apollo Renegade from Baltimore, we were working on a few songs over e-mail. We had just finished our first one called Spectre, which I released in 2015, and Shallow Anthem to me is like Spectre part II. He put a verse on it straight away, as he does, and then a close Sydney friend and frequent collaborator Jacques Emery laid some bass on it. Everything sounded amazing, and I had a vision for the song, but during this time I was always playing catch up with the featured vocalists, and I needed to work on my singing and songwriting ability in order to really bring it.
In September 2018, I started bringing together ideas for this new EP, and it felt like I was finally ready to reconvene with what I was going through. I’d just finished my first album which I’ve been needing to get off my chest for years, and I felt freed up to create the music about what’s happening right now. That album will come out eventually, if I can find the kind of audience that would really want to listen to it, so I need to release something else first. For now ,I’m focusing on not feeling like I have to make the biggest statements I could, but allowing myself to just process what’s on the tip of my mind.
Any shows coming up?
Currently no shows coming up but I do feel more ready than ever, and I hope these new songs convey that and people want to see me perform in 2019. I want to travel more and see the world.
What’s the rest of the year have in store for you?
I'm in LA putting the finishing touches on Annahstasia’s new record Sacred Bull, which I know is very personal and important to her as well. Then I’m going to Vancouver to finish recording this solo EP Interim. It’s pretty cold and moody there right now so I figure it’ll be a good environment to bring the rest of this project together.
Where can we find more of your music?
My new music is under Jay Cooper, and it’s on most digital streaming platforms. That’s where you can stream Shallow Anthem and where I’ll be releasing the rest of the Interim EP. There’s another Jay Cooper out there who makes rock music, but I believe we can co-exist and both share the name, live our truths. Big shout out to you, other Jay Cooper.
I also post my comics and drawings on my website, where I bring most of my content together in one place. There’s videos, hidden songs, and I’m gonna keep updating it with new things as I release them.
If daily social media antics is your thing, then I let most of that out on Instagram.