Photo: Franz Freitag
Jayda G Talks New EP, Promoting Diversity In Dance Music & Sharing Joy
With her ever-present grin and a vision of inclusivity and sustainability, Canadian-born, London-based environmental scientist/producer/DJ Jayda G is a much-needed positive force in dance music. While completing her graduate thesis in environmental toxicology, she was also working on her stellar debut album, Significant Changes (released in 2019 on Ninja Tune), bringing together her experiences with orcas and as a DJ impartial to old-school funk and house.
Now, with her latest project, a four-track EP called Both Of Us / Are U Down (with co-writing and co-production from Fred again), Jayda returns at a time we need her most, bringing more joy, funkiness and hope for brighter days.
Listen to the EP above (and order it on Bandcamp here), which was released on July 3 on Ninja Tune, and read on to hear from the "Move to the Front" artist herself about it.
In a recent conversation with GRAMMY.com, she discusses why she chose to release the project during these difficult times and shares the meanings and inspiration behinds the two songs and their remixes. She also talks representing diversity and inclusion in dance music and how others in the industry can do more.
How are you feeling right now? How have you been coping with these difficult times?
Honestly, I've been actually doing pretty good, obviously ups and downs, as everyone, I think, has been feeling. I've been using this time to really get centered, and just be rested, and also work on a lot of projects and ideas that I haven't really had as much time to give to. So, it's actually been productive and fulfilling in a lot of ways.
Your new EP, Both Of Us / Are U Down, dropped on July 3—what does it mean to you to share this project at this time? What do you hope listeners will experience with it?
Honestly, to share it at this time, it was a bit difficult. I, at first, thought I shouldn't drop the EP just because things seemed so bleak at the beginning with COVID-19 and such, and that it just didn't seem the time to be releasing an uplifting dance song. But after contemplation and discussion, it seemed like this was maybe the best time, because people need it right now. People are stuck in their homes, and aren't able to go back to normal life. So what better time to really be releasing a song and an EP that is uplifting and makes you feel good? I hope that listeners experience exactly that.
The contrast between the giddy jubilance of "Both Of Us" and the cautious-yet-excited anticipation on "Are U Down" is really fun and very real to the human experience. What does that contrast represent to you, and what did the moods of the tracks feel like for you while making them versus how you hear them now?
Well, in terms of the contrast of the songs, it's interesting. The lyrics of "Both Of Us" are rooted in a time in relationships where you want to just be with a person all the time. That feeling of "I just want to be with you!" that you get at the beginning of meeting someone—that's what "Both of Us" is speaking to.
Contrasting that to how things are now, it's still very similar. Right now, a lot of people are not able to be with each other. We're kind of isolated. And so, this is a great song that expresses exactly what I think a lot of people are feeling, whether that is a loved one or family, friends, colleagues, or however that speaks to you, right?
And with "Are U Down," is kind of a call and response with the sample that we used [that says] "Are you down," and then [Jayda says] "feeling super down." It can be taken as however you want. When we were making the song, "Are you down?" means, "yeah, I'm down to hang." I'm down to do whatever this is, be it relationship-wise or "taking the plunge," which is also part of the lyrics. And so in terms of how it is now, I think maybe it's not as relatable as "Both Of Us," but I think it definitely can be related to the feeling of "we are doing this." Where we are in this world even right now and having to get through it.
The "Both Of Us" music video is super fun and its funky Sunset Bliss Mix remix feels like a whole new track—what were the inspirations for both the video and the remix?
"Both of Us" is a very nostalgic song for me, personally. When we were writing it—this leads to the remix question as well—I was trying to pull some of my favorite house track productions. I really wanted to emulate that sound, especially in the remix. With the house claps, etcetera, that was really pulling from early '90s house references that I love and play out when I'm DJing a lot. And the same goes for the original as well, it's just stronger within the remix.
And for the music video, I really wanted to emulate that nostalgic feeling of a time passed, and I think we hit home with using an old video camera from the '90s, and using old footage from when we were DJing and such.
You hosted a handful of "Virtual Get Down" livestream sets for a few of the cities you were supposed to play in this spring—what did engaging with your global fans in this virtual way feel like for you?
Oh man, it gave me so much. It was really I did them when the whole lockdown things were still pretty fresh, I think. And to really see people engaging, dancing, and chatting on the group chat, it just like ... man, those group chats were so ... just looking back at them, were people just meeting each other for the first time, bringing together people who would've never met otherwise. And seeing people on Instagram dancing and engaging ... This one guy was like playing violin to the set, and stuff. It was crazy. It just gave me a way to engage with my fans that I never thought was possible during a time where you can't be with people. So, it made me so happy, and yeah, I was just so elated that we did it.
"It means exposing Black and queer people more within this music community that has become so White. For me personally, I'm doing the thing because I personally represent that just by existing."
Disco and dance music were created by Black and queer people, yet the modern dance music scene can feel far removed from its roots. What do you think the dance music community can do to create and promote more intentional, inclusive and diverse spaces?
Oh gosh, there's so many things. Look, it's the fact that Black and queer people made dance music, and then it was basically appropriated by White people, so it's also up to White people to take responsibility and accountability for what they have taken from this dance scene. And I think that comes from knowing your history, understanding where it comes from and really diving deeper into what that actually means to you personally. Are you taking something that really means something energetically when you're DJing? Or are you giving back? Are you trying to express or give space for Black and queer people?
In terms of what that actually looks like, I think it means, for artists who are White, maybe that's hiring a manager, a rep or a photographer that is BIPOC, or is queer; that represents the community that the music actually comes from. And then also in turn, it means exposing Black and queer people more within this music community that has become so White. For me personally, I'm doing the thing because I personally represent that just by existing.
And in terms of my actual team, when I hire photographers, or work with stylists or makeup artists, or anyone, I'm very conscious about who actually is in the room with me. Are they people who identify with me, see me for me and understand the things that I've gone through? It all makes a difference. And in terms of DJing within the scene, I try to uplift people who also identify with being Black and queer. That's always been important to me, but also, I think a bigger issue when [White artists are] speaking to other White people, it's their responsibility and their problem as well.
This year has proven to already be one of major upheaval. What are your biggest hopes for changes we see coming out of 2020?
A [COVID-19] vaccine! [Chuckles.] That is my biggest hope for changes for 2020 is a vaccine. And also, kidding aside, look, we are during a time where we are having to stop and think and be reflective about how we are living our lives. And I just hope that people really take that to heart, and I think we are. I like to be hopeful in that way, that people are stopping and thinking and looking at how this world is conducted, how our system and economy is being run. And maybe it will help people to make better choices for themselves within the economy, within voting, and move forward to a bit of a brighter future in so many more ways than just one.