We'll make no bones about it. 23-year-old DJ turned solo artist Jerico is an extraordinary talent. It only takes a few seconds digesting his new cut 'Zanmi' to realise why. His mix of slowed down baile funk with experimental club and Haitian Creole upbeat lyricism is an intoxicating concoction that you didn't know you needed to hear. It's exhilarating to hear someone carve a new path in music.
We've been fortunate enough to be in radio contact with his label Moonshine over the past few months ever since covering the best Montreal artists around such as Pierre Kwenders, Husser, and mind bath. So when they sent through Jerico's new EP, we didn't hesitate to give it a spin. This up-and-comer, who's sat his studio in Little Italy in uptown Montreal, is open to conversation and answers questions regarding the uniqueness of the sound he's pedalling, his studio tricks, how to keep a successful mentality, and what role The Arcade Fire's Win Butler's played in helping him get a foothold in the Montreal scene.
This is Jerico's first UK interview and comes before any UK PR push. Discover this insanely fresh artist, who only just built a Facebook page for his solo work this week, now. And discover him before he goes and slays SXSW and has every chance of gaining global recognition and being on the road away from his beloved province of Quebec, Canada. Without further ado, here's our meeting with Jerico:
Gigwise: Hi Jerico, it's great to meet you. We're premiering your track 'Zanmi' so I want to kick off talking about that track in particular. How did the decision to record Haitian Creole vocals on to track come about?
Jerico: I made the beat and was looking for someone to jump on it but it wasn't anyone's cup of tea. My friend and I agreed I should hop on it since I just learned Creole. I took it upon myself to learn the language. That took me two or three months talking every day on the phone with my dad. My mum's white and I grew up with her mostly and my dad moved from Haiti to Canada when he was 14. They are split up but everyone gets along. I was always around Creole and understood it but didn't manage to speak any until recently.
What was the reaction like from your family learning Creole in your twenties?
J: It was pretty great actually. I went back to my grandmas and aunts place and started speaking Creole and they were really responsive and happy about it. They never pushed it on me, were happy that I pushed it on myself. I did it for two reasons: one to connect with where I come from; second, I was like, ‘OK, I see how this music thing is going. Am I only going to be a producer? Or am I going to do vocals push it to the next level for me and my friends and family and all that? I noticed Creole would be a path to do that.
I want to understand the beat on the track; what's it made up of?
J: It's about 105 bpm. It's basically a slowed down baile funk rhythm - baile funk is from Brazil and I love a bunch of Brazilian mc's and producers. But instead of baile funk sounds I just used the patterns and put the experimental club sounds that I would get from any other DJ’s/Producers from here or Toronto, LA, New York and all that. Then I just put my vocals on top. When I’m doing it, it's great; it feels wonderful.
How did you input the sounds?
J: There’s my voice, VST - digital synth, percussion and I had a glass of wine in the studio and spit whatever's in my mind.
What are you singing about?
J: What 'Zanmi' means is 'Friend' so the whole track is just me and friends and having fun on a Friday night. It’s nothing too political or crazy.
Can you recall anyone else mixing these sounds with Creole?
J: No. All the dancefloor underground, experimental, the type of people making instrumental beats similar to my shit don't have Creole vocals. On the other hand, everyone I know making Haitian music is making Zouk Compa - traditional. There are no other people doing it. I am kind of lucky to be in my own lane with that. It happens a lot with Spanish. All the N.A.A.F.I folks and a lot of other people are doing experimental music with that.
How do you manage to have such broad knowledge of world scenes?
J: It's my job. I pay the rent from DJing. And when your rent is on the line and you have to DJ a bunch of places that are weird at first. I’ve gone from DJing the top-40 for a bunch of folks, to other places where it's like mostly going to be Haitian folks there. Then other nights at underground clubs and you need to bring that weird stuff. By doing that for a year or so I’ve learned a broad approach.
What venues gave you your break with your label Moonshine?
J: I was playing at Dacha and Pierre Kwenders’ partner, who you might know at as mind bath. He was working the floor when I had my first DJ gig at that club and I fucking killed it. When I stepped out of the door for a cigarette he was like, ‘Yo! We need to DJ together my boyfriend plays Agrikol’ it would be a great match and such.
How does Agrikol connect to Moonshine?
J: Pierre Kwenders – who you already know - basically runs the Moonshine parties. And PK also DJ's at Agrikol weekly and Agrikol is owned by Win Butler from Arcade Fire and a lot of other investors, business people. Win gets involved in the Moonshine parties but not that often. Moonshine, Agrikol, the restaurants, the parties, the music, it's all connected.
Do you feel you want to push with Moonshine and that to become a global thing? How do you see this going?
J: Yeah absolutely. I'm very happy to push, to do the whole Moonshine thing. We are doing two EP's , the Moonshine collective have got me to the point where I’ve been able to meet my favourite artists through these parties. I was able to open for my favourite artists, make a connection.
Who are those favourites?
J: Zora Jones, Sinjin Hawke, Coco Supreme, Young Teesh from Toronto. I missed Quay Dash as I was unfortunately at another venue when she was in town. It's just, they have been great to me. I will do my best to be great to them.
How do you prepare yourself as an artist to go forward in this industry?
J: You have to do it for yourself there's no easy way for this. You need to be in those awkward situations to push it and you need to believe it more than the people who tell you they don't believe in you. You have to push it way more. When it comes about people are like, ‘Oh yeah! This is pretty cool’. Then you're like, ‘You weren't believing this shit when I was telling you about it two three months ago!’ But, hey. It is what it is. You need to go out and get it and just demand it.
...And Jerico’s determination is thankfully met by an extraordinary talent.
It will be exciting where this Quebecois atist who's taken his Haitian music, Brazilian music, hip hop, experimental club - and beyond - and crafted it to the point where people are coming up to him awe inspired that he's managed something unique can go. For now you can listen to the wholly original ‘Zanmi’ before MOonshine release the Run That EP that features three other tracks are sample-based cuts. It’s out on 8 March and co-produced by Jesse Osborne-Lanthier.