October was an incredible month for shows. Between the weeks of the long-anticipated VIA festival and Little Dragon’s intimate Shadow Lounge performance, we had a chance to chat with Junior Boys vocalist Jeremy Greenspan before they hit the stage for their Pittsburgh show. Quite possibly one of my favorite interviews to-date, we talked about everything from the sultry front man’s image to the similarities between Pittsburgh and his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, to the Boys’ recent playlist on Beats in Space and even Yinzers. This conversation unfolded in the corner of Altar Bar’s green room with his band and tour mate Egyptrixx off in the distance, chiming in from time to time. I was very excited to catch a glimpse into the pre-show hangout of one of my favorite artists:
Kymbo Slice: I was just talking with your drummer about how this is the second to last stop on your tour, how has it been?
Jeremy Greenspan: It’s been long. The first three weeks of this tour were amazing. We were playing big places to lots of people. And then once we got past Texas basically things started getting really rough. We did an east coast tour in June, so we did all the major east coast spots – Boston, DC, NYC, Chicago. So this time we did six shows in Florida, a show in Athens, a show in Kentucky. In Lexington, 20 people showed up. So we’ve had some big hopes for Pittsburgh, but I don’t really know what Pittsburgh is all about.
KS: You mentioned on Facebook today that Pittsburgh was the American Hamilton. What does that mean?
JG: First of all, it looks like Hamilton. Hamilton is nestled into an escarpment like this. You guys are nestled into these mountain plateaus, Hamilton has that too, but the real reason is because Pittsburgh was known as being where all the steel is made. Hamilton is Canada’s steel town. All the steel factories are in Hamilton. Both cities are laid out the same.
KS: Pittsburgh is very confusing for most people, a lot of one-way streets.
JG: Yeah that’s the same thing with Hamilton. It’s filled with one way streets. Everybody I know from Hamilton who has been to Pittsburgh has been like – it’s eerily weird. It looks the same. It feels the same. So when I came here I was like, this is weird, it looks and feels like Hamilton.
KS: Let’s talk about the vocals you’ve contributed to other artists’ tracks. I listened to the one you selected for Beats in Space, the Kelley Polar premiere. Do you have any particular favorite artists to work with? How does that all come about?
JG: To my knowledge, I’ve only done vocals for four other artists – Kelley Polar; Morgan Geist, where I did half of an album singing; I did one with a band called Mice on Mars recently and then I did it with Caribou. They’re all different, but what they have in common is they’re close friends of mine. I’ve never done vocals for anyone that I wasn’t really tight with. I don’t know that I would. I’ve been asked a lot, but I’ve turned down a lot.
KS: You have a unique voice. And I’m surprised to hear your speaking voice is kind of deep.
JG: People have told me that I sing differently than I talk. I think my singing voice is a result of when I was first singing, I was in really small rooms. We never had a proper recording studio. There was always the threat of people overhearing and also me feeling self-conscious of people overhearing me singing. So I was singing really quietly and it just kind of turned into my singing voice.
KS: I was going to ask about your relationship with Caribou and Morgan Geist but we already touched upon that.
JG: They’re two of my best friends.
KS: They’re two of my favorite artists. I read an article where you were talking about how you want to make music that’s accessible for people who don’t listen to electronic music. Those are two of the first artists that I got into (including Junior Boys) when I was being inducted into this culture. And I really appreciate that, because at times it can get pretentious and really overwhelming for someone who isn’t used to the scene.
JG: I grew up listening to dance music and a lot of stuff that’s pretty abstract, but I appreciate for some people that can be a little bit weird. For some people, what they like about us is that we have songs. We follow a classic song structure – we have choruses and verses – so maybe that makes it a little easier for people who aren’t into listening to straight up techno or something like that. It bridges certain people into those kinds of things.
KS: Some people can’t get into music without words. I was like that for the longest time and now I’m the complete opposite.
JG: Yeah, I sort of grew up being into a lot of instrumental stuff but I always wanted to do music with vocals. When we started, I didn’t necessarily think it was me who was going to be singing. In fact, when we started, we had this process of trying to find a singer, but we couldn’t find someone. So I started because we couldn’t find someone to do it.
KS: Do you like how it turned out? Would you prefer to have a different role in the band?
JG: I like singing and I think it’s worked out well for me. When it comes to performing, I never was really comfortable being a front man/entertainer.
KS: You have a very sexy voice.
JG: Thank you very much. I don’t try and project something I’m not.
KS: Very opposite of your deer hunter…
JG: Yeah, my vibe. The most common thing that I get when people meet me for the first time is usually like…really?
KS: But you like that?
KS: What’s one of your favorite releases of the year?
JG: I really like that Lupe Fiasco track with Trey Songz.
KS: I saw that track on your Beats in Space playlist.
JG: A lot of that stuff on the BIS playlist, a lot of those releases. There’s a new Caribou release under the name Daphni that’s really good. A couple of releases on the label Crosstown Records that came out this year. I really like Dan Berkson, he’s done some stuff this year I’ve really liked.
KS: I liked the Jacques Green song.
JG: Yeah, he’s really good. He’s from Montreal.
KS: Speaking of, you don’t sound very Canadian.
JG: I think I can put it on sometimes, If I need to. If I’m being polite I sound less Canadian.
KS: Do you speak French?
JG: No, but Matt does. Hamilton is not a very French part of Canada.
KS: I saw it’s very close to Detroit.
JG: It’s close, and it’s VERY close to Buffalo. A lot of our influences come from us being so close to Detroit.
KS: I didn’t realize how much I was into Detroit techno until I went to Movement this year and saw Claude Young.
JG: Oh yeah. I love Claude Young. That’s funny, I think he just tweeted me today. He’s great and I’m so glad he’s having resurgence. I remember seeing him when I was fifteen and he just absolutely blew my mind. He was this minimal Detroit techno DJ but deejaying like a party DJ, like scratching and doing all sorts of weird shit, he was incredible.
KS: Someone told me to ask you about poutine.
JG: I don’t know what to tell ya. Do you know what it is?
KS: Fries with gravy.
JG: It has gravy and cheese. Traditionally cheese curds. It’s from Quebec, the French part of Canada. It’s become really bougie recently, so there’s all these yuppie poutineries that have popped up. It’s kind of bullshit.
KS: It’s a fad probably. I heard them talking about Yinzers over there.
JG: Oh what? What’s the term? I’ve never heard that.
Egyptrixx: It’s their term for townie.
JG: They’re called Yinzers?
Egyptrixx: People say yinz guys instead of yous guys.
KS: And n’at instead of and that. It’s funny.
Egyptrixx: I understand the context, but it’s still an awesome word.
As you can see, things got a bit silly at the end. Junior Boys are kicking off a European tour on November 16 alongside Diamond Rings and their BFF, Caribou. So if you’re in that neck of the woods in November or December, be sure to check out Junior Boys who in my opinion, has the sexiest voice in music today! Oh, and peep our photos from the show too: