Interview: JJ Braves

Recently I was able to get a hold of LA-based artist, JJ Braves, for an interview regarding the music he’s been creating, including the great new single for “Jawbreaker (Future Vision).” In this conversation, I asked Josh about his core musical influences, his recent production work with other artists, his insight on the LA music scene, among many other topics. The new single hits the streets on February 18th, and I’d recommend it for fans of 80’s synth rock in the same realm as Tears For Fears with the modern flair of Jamiroquai.

So thank you again for your time today, Josh, and congrats on the upcoming release of your new single called “Jawbreaker (Future Vision).” Can you detail how that recording process went for this new single that’s going to hit the streets next month?

It was a really cool experiment that actually took a couple other tracks to get correct. I’m working with a producer, and I had him make a drum sample pack of his drums in a room, and I kind of started with that. So I programmed all my drums for my song, and I programmed my bass so that the drums in the bass would sit tight together. And then I just layered everything over the top, and then took it back to my producer, and then re-recorded all the vocals in the studio. So I’m kind of doing everything just in stages and getting help where I need it, but Jawbreaker took probably a month to get together. And that’s about an average length of time for me since I’m writing it, recording all the parts, and then trying to make sure that the production value is high enough to share with people, like you!

Awesome! Yeah, the song has a very 80s, dance-hall vibe, almost like Tears for Fears meets Jamiroquai. 

So glad you like it! I’m honored. Honestly, every time somebody takes a minute and just expresses interest in what I’ve worked so hard on, it’s always an honor. I’m super stoked and thankful to be working with Caleb with Boleyn Records. I feel like this is the shot I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. And I’m putting everything I have into it right now. All my time, all my money. There’s no “Plan B” at this point.

Hopefully everything continues on that same trajectory, because it seems like a lot of people are starting to notice you. So I understand you also do a lot of production work. What are some of the artists you’ve recently collaborated with? And are there any lessons learned from each of those artists that you can take into your music?

Yeah, I really like trying to do an artist development project on the side while working on my music. I feel like it helps me kind of keep perspective. So right now, I’m working with my partner Joey Cook, who’s an American Idol alumni. She’s now starting to create and release her original music. And I’ve been teaching her how to produce her own tracks, and I helped her set up a home studio. It’s been super rewarding working with her because I have no doubt that her music is going to go places. And I’m just happy to see her take off. I really like working with artists that are kind of starting out, and I worked with Joey with a group called Gold Shimmer for about a year. I was in the band as a keyboard player. I was just there happy to help out, help write some songs, and help do whatever I could to help the band grow, until I felt like it was time where I needed to say goodbye to that group and move on to something new. I’ve also worked with a YouTube channel called “Blackout TV,” and I did some sessions for them. But since then, I started working on my own music with Boleyn Records. I have kind of put all of my production gigs on hold and am still working with Joey, but I’m not actively looking for producing gigs at this point. I’m pretty much putting it all into my own music. 

Okay, that makes sense. How did you get partnered with Boleyn Records? Did you shop around your music, or how did that partnership come together?

It was super unexpected. I’ve known Caleb, the owner, for probably over five years now. I met him because he needed a tour manager for one of his artists, called He Is We. I managed a two week tour around the country, which was full of all kinds of ups and downs and all kinds of crazy shit. So Caleb and I ended up keeping in touch and he got me another gig with a different artist, but this time recording the instruments for her new record, which was a blast. That was in March of last year. And so since those couple gigs that Caleb hooked me up with, we just stayed in touch. And then I came into some money through my dad to kind of make a push to get my music going. And I wanted to get some advice from people who were in the industry and essentially asked a couple people, “Hey, if you were in my position, ready to take the plunge, and you had the funds, and had the time…if you were in my position, what would you do?” So Caleb was one of the people that I hit up, and he and I have always had a lot of fun shooting the shit on the phone. So after about two hours of just talking about whatever, he mentioned that he started a label. And he said, “Well, I’ve heard your music, and we’d be happy to partner with you.” And it kind of caught me off guard a little. I was like, “Let me think about it, but yeah, let’s make this happen!” So that was toward the end of summer that we had the conversation. I love working with the label because they’re new and everybody’s helping each other out. And helping grow something from the ground up is just super rewarding. So it’s a really good fit for me, and I’m really thankful for Caleb and for the team. That run will enable them to give me this chance and let me work hard for them.

How would you describe the direction of the new material? I understand you’re kind of working on either an EP, or possibly even a full length for this year.

Yeah, getting a full length out would sick! Honestly, I’m trying to focus on getting enough songs so that I can play a full hour set. So I have a second single lined up to be released sometime this spring. And I’m just going to continue working on songs. And if I end up having enough for an LP, I would love to release one. I think then I would be really set up to do shows, and I’d have enough songs to fill a headlining slot. But it’s all a big experiment between myself and with the label, and with being a full time artist at this point. I’m learning at my own pace. So, hopefully it’s two singles and at least an EP by the time summer rolls around, and we can start gigging, and then we’ll see. I’m really stoked about pursuing this kind of arena rock direction. I guess it has that kind of flavor. But I get mostly positive feedback. But I was actually listening to Ratatat yesterday…and I don’t know if they’re still releasing music, but I heard it in probably 2007, or something like that. It’s all instrumental, guitars and beats, but they have this really signature guitar sound put together. So that kind of got me inspired to maybe put together something on the album where the beats were more electronic-oriented. Most of my songs have big guitars, live drums and all that, but I’d like to also be able to branch out or do more electronic style stuff. I also really like writing ballads, so I’m excited to kind of release some ballads with the flavor that I have, and show people what it’s like when I open my heart up a little bit inside. But yeah, I’m in this really cool spot right now where I have a great single ready to come out, tons of creative latitude to pull in all kinds of influences, and everything is just happening, really organically. I feel like I have permission from myself to bring that into my music. And I think that keeps it exciting for a lot of other people too.

Awesome! You mentioned you’re from the LA music scene. How would you describe the scene out there? 

I’m actually a bad person to ask. I don’t go to a lot of shows. I mean, I have friends that are in bands, and sometimes I’ll go to their shows. But there’s a lot of really talented people out here, but I’m not a huge fan of the way people will show up to a gig and hang out for only 20 minutes, and then get an Uber, and go to the next “game” down the road. And it’s way different than when you play like in the Midwest, where showing up is the most exciting thing that’s happened all month. So they’re ready, they’re engaged, and the energy’s there. So I don’t feel that quite as much in LA. I think that if you’re really popular, it can be really energetic, and really a lot of fun. But if you’re in LA and trying to make it, it’s still sort of like a bummer that people don’t seem to pay super close attention unless you give them some kind of extra incentive. To have good music and be talented just isn’t enough, in my opinion, around this area. 

Sure. So that leads me to my next question. Do you have touring plans for the rest of this year? 

Well, I mean, a billion people have touring plans right now, right? I want to be ready to pick up whatever drops in our lap and the label’s been awesome. They tell me about more opportunities for submissions and stuff. So I’d like to have some kind of touring set up by the time we get to June. I’d like to be playing as regularly as we can, and for me not to be focusing on writing as much during that time. I write and arrange all my own parts. So really, it’s a matter of finding these guys, sending them the parts, asking them to learn it, and then showing up to rehearse and play on short notice, potentially. I mean, you never know what’s going to happen. 

Yeah, if the single picks up traction on a certain radio station, they might ask you to play a radio show. So you never know how things can really accelerate, right?

Yeah, but it’s all dependent on COVID. So I’ll make all the plans that I can for now and if the rules change, then they change, and we all gotta roll with it. 

So what types of things keep you motivated?

I think they draw a lot of inspiration. Honestly, this might sound kind of like a weird connection, but pursuing a healthy lifestyle is sort of a new thing for me. I’m bipolar, which I found out about five or so years ago…so managing bipolar is kind of a full-time job for me. So being mentally healthy and being an advocate for mental health is something that gets me out of bed in the morning. I know that if I’m doing well, mentally, and my life is healthy, I make better music. Just pursuing a healthy lifestyle inspires me to do more, because I feel more confident in what I’m creating. But I’m also inspired by the artists that I work with, like Joey, who I mentioned. It’s a huge inspiration for me to just watch her work, and also teaching her things is really inspiring. And then every once in a while, I’ll get on a kick for a band. I wouldn’t have had a big Gojira kick for a while and my go-to record is Diorama by Silverchair. Also, Random Access Memories is a great, great record for sonic clarity, and just really good mixing all around. So yesterday, I was listening to Ratatat. I like my project, because I give myself the freedom to be inspired by whatever and put it into the mix. My lifestyle reflects the bands I’m listening to, and then just the people I’m around…the hustlers and the grinders that are also really, really talented people. 

That’s great! If you could collaborate with any artist, either past or present, who do you think you would choose?

I don’t listen to The Killers a lot, but their style is what I’d like…down the road, or whatever. But that would be really, really cool to collaborate with Brandon Flowers. I would love to collaborate with Weezer. They’re just been a huge influence of mine for a long, long time. I wish I could collaborate with Eddie Van Halen, bless him, he’s gone from us now. I think the rock gods of old Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and probablyThe Clash, but there’s just so many iconic bands…I mean on one hand, I’m really bummed about what’s happening in the industry, but on the other hand, I’m really stoked because I think people are just wired right now.

Do you have any last words for your fans on the upcoming music?

I’ve got this single where I feel like my music is kind of “Dad Rock.” So all the dads out there  who went to Def Leppard as their first concert, or whatever, maybe give it a listen. I’m just stoked to be here. I’m stoked to be doing what I’m doing. And I’ve got no idea what’s gonna happen, but if I could just at the end of the day pay my bills, doing what I love, that’s totally enough for me!

That’s awesome. I’ll be rooting for your success!

Thank you. I appreciate that!