By Ross Currie
It’s never easy to gain exposure in the music industry without talent, hard work and dedication to the craft. It also helps to know the right people, and a bit of luck never hurts. In the case of Hamilton-based electro-pop musician Jessy Lanza, her road to success was a combination of all of these things. With a degree in piano and jazz performance at Concordia University, as well as a brief foray into a Masters in Musicology at McGill, Lanza certainly has the credentials of a talented and diverse musician.
She first gained exposure, providing vocals on Ikonika’s “Beach Mode (Keep It Simple)” on Hyperdub in 2013. Before that, her session work for fellow Hamiltonian Jeremy Greenspan’s Junior Boys record It’s All True in 2011 saw a symbiotic musical relationship emerge between the two artists. “I’ve known [Greenspan] for a long time, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we actually started making music together,” says Lanza. “Over the course of two years we had enough material for an album,” she adds. This connection with Greenspan turned out to be a fruitful one; his connections with Hyperdub boss Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, who also happens to be an old friend of Greenspan’s lead to the release of the debut album Pull My Hair Back. “They saw each other last winter and Jeremy played him a couple tracks that we were working on. He asked us if we had any plans for it, we told him we didn’t, so he said he’d put it out,” explains Lanza, who still sounds surprised by the seemingly effortless release of the record.
Lanza nonchalantly describes the release as “an R&B album that crosses over with elements of dance music.” But it’s a little more than that. Pull My Hair Back is what happens when you take 90’s R&B a la Janet Jackson or Aaliyah, drench it in modular synthesizers and analogue drum machines, add reverb, run it through the gamut of house, techno, hip-hop, add the glitz of disco and 80’s synth-pop and top it off with Lanza’s elegantly hushed vocals. Not to mention the sensual undercurrent running throughout the album.
The release has been well received by various music communities and critics. Lanza will take her act across the pond for a one-month tour of Europe, with stops in Berlin, Helsinki, London, Amsterdam and Paris. “This is my first go at doing this. I’m pretty excited, I think it’s going to be really fun,” says Lanza. It would be interesting to see how the studio polish of the album will translate into a live setting, but as a capable performer and vocalist, the tour will no doubt expose her music to a wider audience.
It doesn’t seem like the popularity of her release is slowing down any time soon. Which means we’ll be hearing a lot more of her electro-soul music in the coming years. Not to mention being a welcome addition to the talent pool of Canadian electronic musicians and performers.
Ross hosts Salvaged Sounds Thursday’s 3:30-5:00PM