No Joy's Jasamine White-Gluz On Making Maximalist Music & The Nuances Of 'Motherhood'
Jasamine White-Gluz of No Joy is back with a new LP, Motherhood, though she was never really silent, as fans might have noticed. A series of artfully crafted EPs have been released since 2015, each dropping hints about experiments she was undertaking in what sonic and recording shape her next LP might take, and making some gems available along the way.
Motherhood has been released by Joyful Noise, a ten track project that sets out, like many No Joy projects, to combine disparate elements in unusual ways. With a theme like Motherhood, White-Gluz had a tremendous field of ideas to play with, taking in the good, the bad, and everything in between, as she explains to Tower's PULSE below.
Jasamine White-Gluz previously joined our Tower Instagram Live show previously to discuss the album, which you can still view here, but if you want to hear pure gold about her forays into comedy skits, you'll have to read on...
Hannah Means-Shannon: How does it feel to have the record out there in the wild now, especially after this disrupted time?
Jasamine White-Gluz: We had always planned to have the record come out in the summer, and in March, we were wondering, “Do we? Don’t we?” But I had already worked on that record for so long, I couldn’t let it sit around anymore. There were definitely challenges along the way that I hadn’t encountered before, but you learn something new.
The hardest change is putting out the record and not being able to play the songs live, but I think the record just had to come out now. There were many times before that I thought it might be ready, but I didn’t put it out yet, so I feel like this was the time it was meant to come out.
HMS: I think the way that people are listening to music right now is kind of special. People are more likely to listen to complete albums right now, and music is even more a soundtrack to daily life right now.
JGW: I totally agree. That’s been my experience with music too, being in quarantine, or not being able to go out. Being in Montreal, where I am, it wasn’t even nice enough to go out early on. There’s just something exciting about new records coming out, and I’m noticing them, and even noticing new songs when people are putting out new singles. Maybe I wouldn’t have had time to do that before.
HMS: It’s a really interesting conversation that’s going on right now in terms of releases. A lot of people are also looking at bits and pieces of things they had never released and putting together live EPs or LPs of archival material.
JGW: It definitely puts things in perspective. I was looking at live performances as well, because it is nostalgic right now. There’s no way I’m getting in a room with hundreds of people again, so rewatching those videos and listening to those again. That energy of being at a live show and capturing it on audio is an old memory right now, so hearing it brings you back a little bit to that experience.
It really made me realize how much I took for granted how many shows I would go to, even every week. I wouldn’t even necessarily plan to, I would just end up going to hear music. Sometimes I would learn about local bands by seeing them play first, and that element has definitely been taken away. It makes me feel out of touch with the music community here.
HMS: That is so cool that you have been able to discover bands that way. I love that.
JGW: I have a lot of great memories of artists of all kinds where I remember, “I saw them play in a tiny room and they sucked! But they have gotten so much better and they are so big now!” Just being part of that process doesn’t exist right now, which is crazy.
HMS: I’m guessing from this conversation that live performance is important to you. What sort of size venues are your favorite?
JGW: Every size venue has its benefits. When you’re playing a beautiful, old theater, there’s something special about that. I would say that the last show that we played, in January of this year, we played a DIY show in Mexico City. If that’s the last show I ever get to play, I’m glad. It was our first time in Mexico. I don’t think the venue was to code, it was over capacity, it was so sweaty and everyone was so excited. It definitely reminded me of the shows we used to play. I do have a soft spot for the warehouse and DIY venues. I think there’s something magical about them. There are pros, and sometimes cons, to all venues, but I’d probably play anywhere at this point! [Laughs]
HMS: On your front porch…
JGW: Literally anywhere.
HMS: The DIY spaces are the kind of places that become legendary by word of mouth, “Were you at that show??” It adds to the mythology of everything, which is great.
JGW: When everyone knows that a venue sucks, that it’s gross in there and you shouldn’t use the bathroom, but you still love it. You have these fond memories because what you were doing there was so special.
HMS: You were facing a lot of unknowns about this album, not just because of the times we’re in, but because of the different styles you were embracing on this one, and even in using a very uncommon title. Did you get pushback about having a title like ‘Motherhood’?
JGW: No, nobody did. Putting out this record was so fucking weird on every level that to me, it was just the title. To me, motherhood sometimes creates images of a nice, soft mother, or a how-to book, or hyper-feminine images. But I liked having some contrast with that word. To me, I thought motherhood could actually be pretty metal, depending on how you spin it.
I think the title is kind of the sum of all the parts on the record, though I think that it was there before the cover art. But it captured everything together. Every decision was very planned out and intentional on the record and nothing was changed at a later stage.
HMS: It’s great to hear that. If you’re not going to pursue your personal truth now, then when, really? Already the world was such a place that you should probably do whatever you want to do, but now given things that are happening, you really should.
JGW: Exactly. I kind of compare it to being in your 20s, where you’re trying to have a certain image, but now that I’m in my 30s, I don’t give a shit. I walk around in an over-sized Flintstones t-shirt and biker shorts and don’t do my hair. It’s not that I don’t care anymore, it’s just, “Yep!” With this record, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I like doing this and this is what I’m going to do.
HMS: I’m definitely getting to that place in life where I’m thinking, “What I’m wearing is about me and not about you.”
JGW: Especially making music, in any kind of genre or style, if you’re doing what you want to do, you’re kind of bullet-proof. It’s your personal truth, and there is some freedom to that, for sure.
HMS: Now, when you look at the album, do you see any commonality among the songs, or are they each quite separate?
JGW: The album was written over a long period of time. I started demos at the end of 2016, then we recorded in the studio at the end of 2018, mixing in 2019. It just so happened that all the songs kind of had a common theme. Once I got to the studio, I realized, “These are all kind of about the same theme.” It wasn’t intentional, but I think they ended up having this theme. I think it’s because over that two-year period that I was writing it, they were things that I explored myself.
HMS: It sounds like the long period of development might have given the benefit of reflection, once you were in the studio, being able to get some distance from the material, too.
JGW: For sure, and it went through so many phases, too. I really wanted to make sure that the album was something I could listen to over and over again. Every detail was a conscious effort. I didn’t want to be rushed. The last time I put out an LP in the music industry, it was putting out an LP, then you have to tour, then you have to put out a follow-up EP. There was this hustle and this cycle that I wanted to break away from. Ironically, now, you can’t really do that anyway, so I got what I wanted.
HMS: The result is super-cool. It sounds like you made the right choices. This information does make me see things a little differently now that I know you were working on Motherhood for so long, because it means that meanwhile, you were doing a lot of collaborations. You did your electronica collaborations during that time, for instance, with Pete Kember of Sonic Boom. That gave you different things to work on.
JGW: Yes. The three EPs that I put out since 2015 were all intentionally test-drives for this record. To see what sounds I could make, what sounds I liked, and what kind of recording processes I would use. Each was written and recorded in very different ways. With Pete Kember, for instance, we did that by e-mail because he’s in Portugal.
The Creep EP was recorded a little bit like this one, but a little different. For Drool Sucker, we had a band playing all together in a room. These helped me decide which recording process I would use for the LP. For some reason, EPs don’t act as much as a statement as an LP so I could experiment a bit there. At the end of that, I was able to have a clear idea of how I wanted to make the record.
HMS: That is incredibly organized and planned. That’s really cool! I agree that people give more leeway to EPs. They expect them to be a little wacky, like the weird art version of whatever a musician usually does. But I love them for that reason.
JGW: Me too. Some of my favorite records are EPs from artists where you can tell they are just being super creative without the expectation of having some kind of statement or mission. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of singles.
HMS: What was the final process that you decided on to record?
JGW: We recorded kind of in layers. We started with the song, and then we would build on it. And we decided no ideas were bad. We tried everything. We played on pieces of garbage, we had really stupid samples that stayed in. I haven’t been able to find the right analogy. It’s like playing a Jenga game where you’re actually trying to put the pieces in, but make sure the whole thing doesn’t fall apart. Or it’s like a layer cake where you just keep adding stuff. I’m a fan of maximalist music that’s really kind of excessive, where you put on a headset and think, “What is going on??”
JGW: Luckily, Jorge Elbrecht is a genius for mixing, and we had thousands of tracks, but he was able to figure out how to have it all make sense. We were tracking everything. For some reason, we tracked five improv skits that we thought would be funny. Obviously, it didn’t make it on the record because it wasn’t very funny. I’ve been in recording processes before where everyone is being very intense, and for this one, I just wanted it to be fun. I wanted to try everything once, so that’s how we ended up with this record.
HMS: You’re totally making me want you to release an EP of those skits, now.
JGW: [Laughs] They are really not funny! Maybe we will put them out, ultimately, but I feel like we were probably pretty delirious some of the time when recording. Sometimes that mental state led to good ideas, and sometimes that led to not cool ideas. Like me trying to act.
HMS: That pretty much sums up the development of Psychedelic Rock. Some things were really great. Some things were not.
You had several collaborators on different songs on this album. Was that logistically difficult at all?
JGW: We basically did that all in a studio in Montreal. Jorge and I had been working together at different times, though we didn’t really have a schedule or a deadline. I was calling the shots. So when I thought the demos were in the right place, we brought everyone into Montreal for about two weeks.
HMS: Oh, the before-times, when you could do stuff like that…
JGW: Yes, that’s impossible now!
HMS: You mention that you like the idea of contrasting the idea of motherhood with some different aspects that people might not expect. What do you think are some things that people might have a false conception of about motherhood?
JGW: In general, I love music that’s contrasting of two things that shouldn’t go together but do. So, things that are loud and quiet, or heavy and soft. I’m always drawn to weird combos that somehow work together. That’s an underlying theme in any production that I do. I was exploring a lot of different topics about motherhood, fertility, who qualifies as a mother, who doesn’t. But one of the things I was also addressing is when you realize that your parents were just people like you. You think back to your parents at your age and the decisions that they made.
Culturally, we often think about parents as serving their kids, and perhaps they do, but that’s not all they are. They are multi-faceted. They are a lot more complex. Motherhood is often seen through this rose-colored lens, that it’s a beautiful, wonderful things, which it is. But it’s also a beautiful, wonderful thing to not want to be a mother. It can also be a sad thing or a heavy thing. It can be all these things. That’s what I was trying to capture on the record. Motherhood can be many different things to many different people. It’s not just one thing.
JGW: I find in music, in general, there’s a lot of attention on youth. And young women aging out of fertility and aging out of what is considered youthful is a whole other thing that’s not necessarily talked about much. It’s not necessarily shown as a positive thing. Often aging is equated with being no longer valid, in some sense. I wanted to celebrate aging.
Aging is fucking rad. Like I said, you walk around in a giant Flintstones t-shirt and you don’t care! There are many aspects and it isn’t just a blanket that applies to anyone who identifies as a woman or a mother. There are nuances to that, and I wanted to show both good and bad aspects to that, as well as everything in between.
HMS: That is awesome. Thank you so much for doing that. Older women are so under-represented, not just in music, but in all forms of media. I don’t even mean “old”, I just mean older than their 20’s. Older female musicians receive a lot less attention in the news cycle, a lot less photography and video sharing. Not necessarily in the art that’s created, but in the art that gets attention, it’s such an underrepresentation.
JGW: In discussing this with friends before, a lot of times the response I get is, “But Kim Gordon!” I know, I love Kim Gordon, but there are a whole range of women making music. There are people there, making music, but they aren’t getting the attention they deserve, or they feel like they can’t because of the nature of the work they are doing. You don’t always have to always be the artsy, kooky, old lady with a million cats. What about the hot 50-year-old who just wants to make Rock songs? There are people like that, too. I feel like guys get a pass but older women don’t get that attention.
HMS: People also start their interest in music at different points in life, too, and that’s often less accepted to be getting into songwriting or playing music at an older age. Sometimes that work can be amazing, but it’s going to be harder to get media attention.
JGW: Hopefully this is just the beginning of the conversation and people will start talking about this kind of thing more and more.
HMS: It’s possible that with the growth of accessibility to music making software, like ProTools, we’re going to start seeing a more diverse array of people making and releasing music.
JGW: 100%. Often when discussing Logic or ProTools, the assumption is, and my mind goes there too, that kids will be using this to make music. But what about the mom making music after hours when the kids go to bed? There is something to be said about these tools becoming more accessible, and I think there is going to be a bigger variety coming out, for sure.
HMS: I’ll ask you our Tower Records question, about our motto, which is written “No Music, No Life” and “Know Music, Know Life”. Which do you prefer and how do you feel that it applies in your life?
JGW: Personally, I would say, “Know Music, Know Life”. Music has opened so many avenues for me. Certain songs are just the soundtrack to certain periods in your life. I have that a lot. Also, there are lots of things I’ve learned through playing music that have given life-lessons. Whether it was learning a skill, or learning the hard way how to do something, it’s definitely been the guiding force for me.
HMS: Is there anything fans should look out for coming up from No Joy?
JGW: There are going to be some more live streams in September. But there are also going to be some exciting things concerning Motherhood towards the end of the year. I can’t say what, but it’s very exciting. There’s more yet to come.
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