JaysWays creates electronic music and digital illustrations, combining both mediums to tell stories and make bodies move. Before his eighteenth birthday he’d already collaborated with fellow Sydneysiders Cosmo’s Midnight and Nicole Millar, but now after high school he’s concentrating on a larger body of work that he can call his own.
We had an open and honest chat with the young creative that you can read while listening to a beautiful mix which he put together for MoVement this November. It’s been pieced together with great care and features almost exclusively Australian artists.
Do you think of your music as dance music?
I wouldn’t call it dance music necessarily, but there are elements that have come from the dance music that I’ve enjoyed in the past. I think that my music might not have a perfect flow in the way that dance music is designed to have, but the ways music makes you want to move is something that’s still really important to me. I’m interested in expressive movement, things like dance and martial arts which have influenced my music as well, but my music isn’t really ‘dance music’. I don’t know if it’s really ‘anything’ exactly, more like an amalgamation of fragments and pieces collected from many different places of inspiration, one of which may be dance music.
Your work is often quite personal and tells a story. Is that something that comes out of the music, or does the narrative come first?
The narrative and concept is something that’s grown equally with the music, they’ve both worked off of each other and fused into this bigger thing that has kind of become part of my reality in a lot of ways. At least I think so. I go through stages where I crawl back into myself and spend a lot of time alone, like most of us do. It’s generally these times that I work on music either because I’m feeling strong emotions or there’s a certain confusion or numbness that makes me want to create something, to bring some balance back into my mental state, or to re-re-think about who or what I am and why. Sometimes I’ll be listening to something I’m working on and I’m in a particularly magical space and time and mindset that just makes it click, and those are the moments that I crave. The kinds of moments that remind me that I’m a conscious being in such a rich and complex natural environment.
I like the idea that we’re all part of a greater narrative that we’re working on together, everyone has their own character and perspective in the way they express themselves in it. The artists in this mix are kind of like that to me, kindred spirits who are on my team, riding parallel musical and emotional wavelengths. Lately I’ve been feeling like I shouldn’t be afraid to really try and express myself and use my tools to materialise my thoughts in a way that feels both genuine and empowering. In the same way I hope to reach people like or unlike me who feel affected by my ideas enough to reply with their own ones, offer me a different angle, like I’m passing the torch down and inspiring people in the same way my friends and idols inspire me, because I think we all need that.
You work with visual art forms too. How does that intersect with your songs?
I want to say that I acknowledge I’m not necessarily a visual artist in the same way I’m not really a musician traditionally. These are just some of the outlets I’ve enjoyed exploring since I was younger, and it’s always been a thing that I’m trying to find my own way through. When I first started writing songs at 12 or so, I didn’t know what I was doing. When I was 17 and writing songs, I still didn’t know what I was doing, and I’m constantly learning. Now I’m 19 and I feel like I’ve come a long way, but in the immeasurable realm of music and art and expression there is still much territory around and within myself to explore.
My songs are kind of like travelling through an environment that’s constantly morphing and changing, where the temperature and space and light are all flashing and being thrown around you. It’s like the bits and pieces of memorable time frames in my life, real world and virtual experiences, digital art and the art in nature are combined to create a weirdly emotional dream that feels like a bit like a volatile and unpredictable video game. When I first started trying to capture or illustrate the sounds and music I was trying to create, I wasn’t really thinking about it. Over time I started to realise the connection between visual and aural concepts, and these days I understand that the two mediums exist in the same spectrum. You can translate them back and forth, both have their strengths and weakness, you can use music to simulate space and colour in the same way you can use visuals and colours to simulate rhythm and repetition, sound and emotion. I’ve been focusing a lot of my free time just on making music, but I’m going to do a lot more illustration and visual stuff in the future.
I believe you’re working on an album that embraces both the visual and aural side of things. How’s it coming along?
I’ve been working on (what feels like) an album for (what feels like) a while now, and things are both very close and very far to where I want them to be. It’s supposed to a concept album based on two binary characters and stories that deep down aren’t so different. I’m still trying to figure out whether it’s one album that interweaves the events and movements, or two albums that are individual but connected concepts. It started as a comic book or video game idea, which helped me map out the tracklist as chapters to a graphic novel. I’ve done lots of storyboarding and every song has a strong idea in my head, but I wanted to put the music at the forefront for the timebeing.
When I release it, there will definitely be a strong visual element, and I’m working on lots of stuff, but it will work itself out and become clear in hopefully the not-so-distant future. I’m quite critical of my own work, but at the same time I’ve started to become more accepting of what I make and how it was affected by the circumstances and moods surrounding the time period. I think this is part of the idea of embracing my emotions and just letting them engulf me until I become almost a caricature of myself in my art. That’s kinda of another idea I explore in the album, each song is one that’s been affected by a lot of strong emotions in specific times over (in some cases) a couple of years, to the point where it gets a bit over-the-top. But it makes me feel better and helps me overcome emotional instability when I do that, so I like it and it’s important to me.
Your live show is worth mentioning too. What’s the difference between that and this mix you’ve curated for us?
I’ve been working on making my live show more expressive, giving myself more active control over the music and making it more of a moment, more affected by how I feel and what’s happening around me. I give myself room to add or take away as much I want, or not, depending on the situation. I play mostly my own music, and it’s about exploring new ways, or just perfecting old ways, to deliver the ideas in the tracks. I’ve been singing a lot more, because there’s nothing more ‘you’ than your voice, and I’ve been doing more live beats and synth looping stuff too. Sometimes you can dance and move, but sometimes it makes more sense to close your eyes and just let your mind wander.
This mix isn’t so much like my live show, it’s more like a mixtape of artists who really inspire and motivate me. There is lots of great music happening around me here in Sydney and the broader Australia that some people might not know about. It’s crazy how much of it I’ve started noticing and it’s made me realise that I’m not alone and there are so many great mentors and great friends and great people who aren’t so far away. There are some exceptions, but almost all the tracks are from Australian artists, and all of the tracks are by artists who inspire me to be a better creator and a better person.
JaysWays – ???
I’lls – Let Me Have Just One
Kučka – Flux 98
HTML Flowers – Storm Bloom (prod. Polograhia)
Sui Zhen – Teenage Years
SUIIX – Alright (Tennis Boys Remix)
Andras & Oscar – I Know What You Want
Cassius Select – Crook
Heat light – Shirtless
Mura Masa – Are U There?
JaysWays – Hologlyphs
Andrei Eremin – Two Dones (ft. Nearly Ontario)
the government (jacques emery) – dreamed ii
Woodes x Elkkle – Flash Mob
FKA Twigs – In Time
Oscar Key Sung – Altruism
Buoy – I Don’t Want To See You (prod. Jack Grace)
Howl – I’m Gone