Junior Boy Jeremy Greenspan: “Jessy is extremely unique. It is super rare to find that much raw talent coupled with musical training in someone who has focused their attention on top 40 R&B. With someone like her writing with you, it’s pretty hard not to think you’re working on the best music of your career.”
Jessy Lanza’s eclectic debut album, Pull My Hair Back, takes its raw materials – R&B, experimental pop, tectonic bass – to the next level of seduction. Recorded in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, with Jeremy Greenspan of electronic duo Junior Boys, it features orgasmically forthright vocals that give the impression that she’s so taken by the beat that climax is unavoidable. “Well, we work at night a lot,” the 28-year-old laughs. “I guess it comes from listening to a lot of R&B – the majority of it’s about sex or love.”
Given her formal training and lifelong love of R&B, it’s perhaps no surprise that the album is so refined, deftly balancing a spacious slow-burn intricacy with a cool pop pulse. “When I grew up Aaliyah was a big one, and Missy too,” she says. “R&B stems from jazz so you get this repertoire of fancy chords in your head.” She started making her current music on an analogue Polymoog synthesiser left to her by her father. After doing some session work with Junior Boys, Greenspan encouraged her to make a go of a solo career.
While she’s got that Mariah moan down, Lanza brings a winking humour to the blingy R&B world too – you can’t imagine Mimi doing whistle notes over Lanza’s oozing, nightcrawling “Fuck Diamond” any time soon. “With that song I was thinking how diamonds come alongside fucking for some people,” she laughs. “I mean, I just recorded a whole bunch of different vocal tapes and ended up piecing it together. It sounded good.” She also loaned her song-stealing vocals to fellow Hyperdub artist Ikonika’s “Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)”.
At a time when some dance musicians seem like they never leave their childhood bedroom, it’s refreshing to hear that Lanza walks the walk – or should that be dances the dance? “In Hamilton there’s this thing called the Stelco tower – a big office-building nobody uses any more. But it’s totally good for shows! Some friends of mine also run a bass/R&B night that plays Brazilian juke, that kind of stuff.” She’ll be bringing her moves to the UK in November. “The album is my statement of intent,” she says. “It’s a wait-and-see sort of thing.” You have a feeling she won’t be waiting long.