Jasamine White-Gluz is perfectly happy with her little slice of heaven.
White-Gluz, a Montreal native, is back in her hometown, which also doubles as the base of operations for No Joy, her musical project with guitarist and collaborator-in-chief Laura Lloyd. White-Gluz and Lloyd have known each other since their early teenage years, both products of Montreal’s anglophone music and art scene. While No Joy initially began as an online project during White-Gluz’s brief sojourn in Southern California, the band’s identity is still very much tied up with their city of origin – where both women learned and honed their craft.
In recent years, Montreal has been a launching pad for the careers of quite a few notable English-language acts – from Chromeo and Kaytranada to A-Trak and Arcade Fire. But despite (and maybe perhaps of) this international acclaim, the faces and sounds of the local art scene are constantly changing.
“The great thing is that most of the time they leave,” White-Gluz shares over the phone with a big, mischievous laugh. It’s early February and the snow is piled up outside of her apartment in the Quebecois island-city, and White-Gluz has just come back inside fvirom braving the elements. She’s has been a part of the town’s music scene for close to two decades, and is blessed with a sort of veteran’s perspective of the realities and limits to this otherwise fertile incubator of creativity.
“Usually it’s because there’s somewhat of a ceiling to what you can achieve here if you want to be a full time whatever in the arts. A lot of times people stop by Montreal on their personal journeys, but they don’t often stay.”
While many see Montreal as a stepping stone, it’s reassuring to know that as long as natives like White-Gluz are around, their city’s artistic legacy is safe.
No Joy plays Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on February 23. CREEP EP is out February 24 on Grey Market Records.
Brightest Young Things: How are things in Canada? You guys must be having a much better time of it than us in DC.
Jasamine White-Gluz: [Laughs] You know, we’re so close, so we get all the same media outlets to the States – especially in Montreal. We get all the New York and Vermont TV stations, and stuff. We follow what’s going on there pretty closely and it’s pretty intense. [Deep sigh]
BYT: You guys have Justin Trudeau, and we have Donald Trump. This is really sad.
White-Gluz: It seems crazy. I don’t know, maybe it was some sort of idyllic thing where Trudeau and Obama were kind on the same wavelength about a lot of things, so it seemed like it was just… I don’t know. It’s very surprising how bad it got, so quickly, I guess? [Laughs]
We had a terrorist shooting in Montreal the same weekend Trump announced the travel ban, where a French-Canadian man shot up a mosque. It’s kind of crazy. In Canada, we tend to think we’re not violent, and very calm, and peaceful, but even we are getting affected by some of the decisions taking place down there. A lot of people thought this could never happen here, and it happened.
BYT: I’m not sure if you heard about “Pizzagate” but it was basically a conspiracy theory by the Alt-Right – actually, by Neo Nazis, let’s call them what they are – about Comet Ping Pong, a music venue in DC. Our site was wrapped up in all of this nonsense because we’ve long had a relationship with Comet and its owners, which was kind of nuts, but we took with a grain of salt at first because it was such an absurd notion. This guy drove up from North Carolina to “investigate”, and opened fire at the restaurant, and that’s when it all stopped being funny.
White-Gluz: That’s insane. It goes from behind a computer screen to physical life very quickly. That’s crazy. Crazy.
BYT: It’s troubling times. And on that note: are you looking forward to touring the U.S.?
White-Gluz: [Laughs] I am! [Laughs] I go very often, whether personally or for the band. It’s going to be an interesting time – I was in LA the days surrounding the election, and maybe it’s the weird optimist in me, but I was really inspired by people taking to the streets and making their voices heard in positive ways, and grouping together. I’m very curious to see how that climate extends to other cities. We’re not really playing any middle of nowhere cities, but I’ll be interested in seeing what the atmosphere is like in every city, and how people are coping at the moment.
BYT: It looks like a pretty interesting tour. You’re playing Philadelphia, Baltimore, and stopping at South By Southwest. Have you played South By before?
White-Gluz: Yeah, we did it twice before. And it’s always one of those things that I say we’re never doing again after leave. [Laughs] But it feels like every two years we end up playing there. It’s really intense.
The first year we went we played like ten shows and quickly realized that’s definitely not the way to do it if you want to keep your sanity, so we’re only playing a couple of shows. [Laughs] We are not doing too much.
BYT: Your initial collaboration happened over the internet, but I’m curious – how did you and Laura [Lloyd, guitar] first meet? What inspired you to create music together?
White-Gluz: Laura is from British Columbia, but she was in Montreal for a long time. It’s such a small community, especially if you speak English and you’re into music. Laura moved here when she was 14 and was going to local shows, and then it was like “who’s the hot new teen at all the shows?” [Laughs] We started playing music in other bands over the years and always collaborated, and I don’t know – it’s been that way for over a decade.
BYT: You’re not the first to say the anglophone scene in Montreal is really small. I just watched “A City is An Island” a few weeks ago – it was awesome. I’m assuming that everyone of a certain age and in the scene crosses paths at some point, and you must have encountered a lot of those interesting characters.
White-Gluz: Yeah! Because I’ve lived here my entire life I’ve seen a lot of different waves of people. Montreal always seems to stay super cheap and it’s very easy to go to school and still work on art, or whatever you’re working on. People tend to come here when they’re in some sort of transition, or a “figuring it out” phase. I’ve seen different waves of creative communities show up, whether it’s a lot of people from the States, or a lot of people from Edmonton, or a lot of people from Victoria, BC – there’s been lots of waves of people moving out here.
BYT: Which one of those waves have you enjoyed the most – as a creative, and as a consumer?
White-Gluz: Oh, wow. Interesting. [Pauses] I think as a consumer and fan of music, when I was more bright eyed and younger, there was this band from Montreal I loved called Bran Van 3000, and they sort of broke out in the trip-hop, late 90s, I don’t know how to explain sound. They were one of the first bands that crossed over to the U.S. I mean, they were opening for the Beastie Boys, and that was so cool! There were many members in the band, so everyone knew someone who was in it.
A very similar thing happened a decade later with Arcade Fire – a somewhat local band that was getting a ton of attention in the States. Quebec can kind of sleep on stuff sometimes, so when some project gets attention in America then it circles back.
And we’ve seen this happen in the last few years with Grimes and Mac DeMarco – these are people that were playing all the time, everywhere here, but it took like a Pitchfork review for Quebec to be like “oh yeah, yeah, it’s huge!” [Laughs] I probably like the earliest one because I was so wide-eyed and new to music, but that other wave with Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade – that era – was also pretty interesting. Those are all waves of musicians that happened here, and then they got popular somewhere else, and then those people moved away. [Laughs]
BYT: How about as an artist? Has there been an era of Montreal’s scene you really enjoyed being a part of?
White-Gluz: I don’t know. We don’t really identify as a local band, in a weird way, because when we started we were immediately branded more of an LA band despite being from Montreal. And we immediately went on tour with Best Coast and Wavves, but we were never really too involved in the local scene. And we never play locally now! We’ve definitely played DC like ten times more than we’ve played Montreal. It’s this weird relationship we have with the city where we live here but don’t ever play here. [Laughs]
And everything in this city is divided by English and French, and that splits the audience up as well. We have a little crew here and I like it as being the home base for brainstorming and recording, but we take it all on the road.
BYT: Speaking of recording, I know CREEP is the second in a planned series of EPs, following last Summer’s Drool Sucker. What, if anything, do these EPs have in common thematically? Do you have a vision for what the series will ultimately look like?
White-Gluz: When we started we began with one EP, and kinda knew it was going to be a series, but I couldn’t really figure out how they would all link together – whether it was how they were branded, or the art. But when I was writing them I realized I didn’t really want them to be linked in any way, other than they were a progression of where my writing is developing. The next song – which I can’t disclose – is even more fucked up. [Laughs] It’s a transition where I could have waited in between records, but I wanted to put it all out there and say “this is where we are at this point.” This EP was recorded over a year ago, but it’s really just documenting this creative journey, I guess. So by the time we make the next full-length we can just focus on the record, as we’ve cleared all the stupid ideas out of the way. [Laughs]
BYT: Jorge Elbrecht was involved in the creation of this record – it seems as though you guys have a great working relationship with him. What makes Jorge an integral part of the No Joy team?
White-Gluz: We were introduced to him through Mexican Summer, but we’ve known his band Violens and his work – we’ve been fans of his songwriting for a while. And I really don’t know, but he’s the perfect creative match. We’ve had different band members tour and write with us, but he’s always been that one link that just gets it. I can send him demos and say “oh I want to do a thing like this” but the demo sounds like internet dial-up, and he is able to interpret ideas I have in my head that I can’t really explain in words. He seems to get them. He started touring with us as well, and it’s been a full understanding of the band from production to the dynamics of our sound. When you find someone like that you don’t really want to let them go.
BYT: That sounds like a great, quasi-symbiotic relationship. Weirdly enough, I’ve been to his hometown of Limón, Costa Rica. It’s pretty rural and agriculture heavy. What was recording part of More Faithful down there like? Was any part of this EP recorded or written in Costa Rica? The opening little riff on “Califone” has a real Latin beat to it.
White-Gluz: [Roaring laugh] Woah! That’s crazy. Yeah, we recorded that last album down there. Basically, we had been planning the More Faithful project with Jorge, and he was going through a transition where he was leaving New York and would be traveling. He basically said he was going to be away from the studio and would only be doing mixing over email. I just really enjoyed working with him in person and felt like we needed to be there. He was going to visit his family in Costa Rica and I just said “ok, I’m coming with you!” [Laughs] And that was that – we brought a bunch of speakers, computers, a couple of instruments and mixed at his great-grandfather’s farmhouse down there for two and a half weeks. We didn’t really get to see too much, as it was rainy every day, but I would get a bit of the sun because I get up each day around six in the morning.
“Califone” was recorded in my apartment, actually. We did some of the drums here in Montreal. and I had a Califone reel-to-reel machine, with a weird tape on it that I didn’t know what it was. My father got it at a junkyard sale. The reel was all muddy, and when I played the tape, it made this weird tropical beat. That’s what’s at the beginning of “Califone.” [Laughs] I’ll never know what it is. I tried using Shazam, to no avail.
BYT: You guys just switched over to Grey Market from Mexican Summer. Is this new label a more conventional or unconventional fit for you? Ultimately, does it matter who releases your music?
White-Gluz: Well, it’s interesting because we didn’t really switch labels. The goal with the EPs was to put out music and songs that transitioned creatively but also release them with people in different ways, and with different ways. Drool Sucker we did with Top Shelf, and hope to work with them some more because they put out a lot of rock records we’re a fan of.
Grey Market really started with Jorge and John Rubeli, who is a guy who is great and has worked in the music industry for years, and years, and years, and usually at the major label level. He wanted to start this art collective where everything was transparent, because if you’ve been in a band or worked with a label you realize there’s a lot of costs you’re not made aware of. [Laughs] You sell records but you’re still in debt and never know why, or get to see what your expenses are – where money went or who’s getting a salary. This is what happens when your music is simply a product in a company. Grey Market started that niche of being fully transparent, and all the costs are discussed – and you can choose how you spend your money, whether it’s buying ads, or on mixing. It’s a collective, where there’s no label head that’s going to yell at you! Everything is shared, and it’s an interesting format. We figured we’d put it out and see what happens.