Written by Sophie Wyatt
Following the success of their recent string of singles’, alt-electronic duo Jacana People have returned once again with the summer nostalgia track ‘Twist Forever’. The single taken from their new EP, ‘Sunblind’ is full of rhythmic drum beats and emotive spoken word by Mancunian collaborator Antony Szmierek, this song is definitely going to be a UK festival anthem this summer.
Jacana People’s seamless production skills has seen them included in Mixmag’s tip for 2023 and included in radio playlists – everything from Radio1 to Radio 6. Previous releases such as ‘Teeth’ and ‘Myna Cycles’, a collaborative EP with Neil Cowley, have seen them gain critical acclaim from big names such as Tom Ravenscroft, Mary Anne Hobbs, Nemone, Steve Lamacq, and Jaguar. And this is only the beginning for the flourishing electronic duo. We caught up with the pair to discuss their journey so far, and what else is to come.
H: Hey guys thanks for joining us. Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about the beginnings of Jacana People, and how you both met?
JP: Hey – thanks for having us! We actually met at school when we were about 12 or 13 so have known each other for ages. We were both learning instruments at school and were really into music so it didn’t take long to start messing around in bands with friends, recording demos etc. We began making loops and playing around with cheap synths – that was probably what got us interested in electronic music. As we got a little older, we properly discovered dance music and club culture; all the experimentation that comes with electronic music, and got excited about understanding production and those processes. An old project ended before the pandemic and we knew we wanted to pursue something more in-line with the music and sounds we’d been listening to for a while. Our first track dropped around the time of the 2020 lockdown and now here we are!
H: You worked with Antony Szmierek on the new single and video, ‘Twist Forever’, how did that come about, and can you tell us a little more about the themes tackled on the track?
JP: We had known of Antony for a little while and were big fans of his music but hadn’t actually met. As is often the case with these things, we fired over a few sketches to see if anything connected but we didn’t really have any expectations of what might come. Antony came back really quickly with this amazing performance, which we loved and has basically stayed unchanged right up to the version of ‘Twist’ that you hear today. Antony’s lyrics completely define this track – it’s all about the idea that life is short so how do we make it count? Antony uses the theme of movement and dance as this allegory for making the most of what’s in front of us. He’s so incisive in capturing the light and shade of an idea – we start on the image of being thrown out of a plane, heading towards to the ground and yet the track uplifts and encourages joy. We’ve since become close friends with Antony and are all really proud of this track and the video that lives alongside it.
H: Both yourselves and Antony are enjoying huge success; with support across BBC R1, and 6 Music, and touring with some incredible artists. How important for you, is it to work with, and champion fellow rising artists?
JP: Collaboration is such an important part of what we do. If we have the opportunity to work with peers in and around our scene, we will always try to make that happen. Now more than ever artists and creatives want to feel like their work has some context, a home to live in and there’s something very powerful about working with other artists to try and achieve a similar goal. We are very lucky to be surrounded by friends who are doing amazing work and it feels very easy to champion what they’re about as we’re big fans of their output. We similarly feel that love as well – it’s been lovely finding a community around what we do.
H: What can fans expect from the forthcoming EP, ‘Sunblind’?
JP:When we’re putting together a longer-form body of work, we want to share different sides to what we’re about. ‘Sunblind’ is another example of that. We range from some of our clubbiest work in ‘Ladybird’, a single that dropped earlier this year, to this understated spoken word moment in ‘Twist Forever’. The last single from the EP is another collab moment that we’re really excited about and has been quite a long time coming! With every release we’re trying to push ourselves in our production and writing and have been ambitious with the scope of some of these tracks. As the name suggests, the theme of the sky and sunlight kept coming up when we were refining all these moments – we love accidentally landing on an idea that just subconsciously brings pieces of music together. It’s definitely been a labour of love and a mad scramble to get it finished in time.
H: There seems to be a common thread running through your recent releases – where do you draw your inspiration from?
JP: It’s kind of a subconscious thing. We always seem to write in batches, and songs just seem to group together naturally. Often there’s not too much thought to it; the music we make reflects what is going on at that time for us personally but also what is going on around us; culturally, politically. Our inspiration is always shifting – we allow ourselves to be inspired by various things so we see different outcomes in our music. We might start the week taking inspiration from something small – a new bit of studio kit or a fleeting sound – and the next day we might broaden our headspace and try to capture an emotion, a place or a memory. These different sources of inspiration keep things interesting and provide us with evolving perspectives and tastes, which is hopefully reflected in the music. Nothing exists in a vacuum either so you’re always picking up things from the music being made around you – hearing what your peers are doing is exciting and can trigger something unexpected.
H: Outside of the constraints of ‘genre’, how would you describe your music? How does it make you feel?
JP: Our music has always been a way for us to be present and block out external noise, so escapism is a theme we always come back to when talking about it. Music is therapeutic for us but that can take many different forms. It can be just as cathartic to go after a hectic, clubby feel as it is to make something deeper and floaty. The excitement and fun for us is in the experience of trying to capture those moods. It just makes sense for us to think in terms of emotion and energy. We also rely quite heavily on our gut instinct when it comes to creating – very often we’re looking for something that makes us feel good; something that we connect with on some level. That reaction tends to be very intuitive between us, that collective sense that you’re onto “something” is the feeling we’re chasing. It’s probably what happens when you’ve known someone for so long and when a lot of your experience together has been about making music.
H: How do you hope it makes listeners feel?
JP: The most rewarding thing is seeing people have an emotional response to something you make but that can present itself in any way really. We try not to put much emphasis on what that should or could look like because electronic music is always going to be very open to interpretation. In Jacana People we like getting to show different sides to what we do and whilst sometimes you try to envisage how something might look in a live show or a club – you’re usually surprised by how someone responds to your music. Once you put something out into the world, whatever meaning you had given it becomes pretty secondary because it’s now about the listener. We love that dynamic – it’s very liberating.
H: You had an incredible 2022 – are there any particular highlights?
JP: Yes – 2022 was mad! We had a lot of firsts last year – touring, festivals, getting our first EP out there on vinyl. We got to play alongside some artists who we’ve been huge fans of for years now. Playing up in Manchester supporting T.E.E.D.(Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) was a bit of a surreal moment – we grew up listening to his early records at school so that was a nice full-circle thing. Connecting with people through the live show was great as well, especially given that this project started in the pandemic and we felt like we were existing in this weird bubble for a while.
H: What can we look forward to seeing in 2023?
JP: Our new one, ‘Ladybird’ marks the start of a run of releases we have coming up in the first half of this year – it felt like the right energy to start 2023 with after getting some great responses to it on tour. We’ve been in a bit of a writing phase since then so are starting to plan for our next 6 months with festivals approaching and live shows on the horizon. We will probably start thinking about what a headline show of ours could look like, towards the end of year. Momentum is important to us and we always want to feel like we’re moving forwards and staying busy – playing abroad is something we’ve wanted to do for a little while so maybe 2023 is the year for it!
Head over to Jacana People’s Spotify page to hear more of their summer tracks.