Queens of the stoned age

Jamaican Queens bring trap pop to Dayton

By Tim Anderl

Photo: [l to r] Ryan Spencer, Ryan Clancy and Adam Pressley of Jamaican Queens; photo: Robert Alexander

The Motor City’s Jamaican Queens create a cacophony of sounds that is hard to hang a label on, although they call it “trap pop.” For the uninitiated, their music is largely a palate splashed with every artistic whimsy the dudes can throw at it, even if that’s pitchy synth blends, fuzzy bass and 808 drum samples that keep pace with chart toppers from modern electronica and hip-hop.

While the band puts finishing touches on the follow-up to their celebrated 2013 debut, Wormfood, they’ve lined up their first ever trip to Dayton. Dayton City Paper caught up with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Spencer to discuss the origins of the band, a potential collaboration with the Insane Clown Posse and what his mom thinks of his music.

You and Adam Pressley conceived Jamaican Queens in 2011, but you had played in bands together before that. What was it about your chemistry that made him someone you wanted to continue collaborating with?

We were living together at the time and were in another band. We started writing songs together on the side because we both had a lot of free time. It just made sense. So while the other band was breaking up, we started conceptualizing what this new band would be. – Ryan Spencer

Part of that band breakup was because one of the members was addicted to drugs, but you’ve been pretty forthcoming about your own experimentation with drugs. Does your mom ever get bummed out when she reads your interviews and sees that discourse?

I honestly don’t think my mom reads any of my interviews. I’ve played her some of the songs before and she can’t stand it. She really doesn’t like the music at all (laughter).

Adam’s old band did disband because of drug use. It was heroin addiction. Can you be physically addicted to marijuana? I may be mentally addicted to marijuana. I smoke weed all the time. But it doesn’t interfere. I’m not late to work and stuff. – RS

So it is more recreational?

Yeah. Even when I get drunk I usually stop after a certain number of drinks. I have a low tolerance for alcohol and can’t push the limits or I’ll end up puking. I wonder if when I’m in my 30s I’ll just lay off of booze and just smoke pot. Or maybe I’ll find religion or something (laughter). – RS

Your sound is a bit of an enigma and there is an experimental element to it that recalls Brian Eno and Lee Scratch Perry. But it also leans toward southern hip-hop and rap, dub and folk that leech into the mix. Is there a grand vision at work here or do you exercise all of your artistic whims?

Adam and I listen to so many different varieties of music and we create a lot of varieties of music. It wouldn’t make sense to pigeonhole ourselves with one sound. I think our next album is even more scatterbrained to be honest. The album that we’re finishing now offers an even wider variety of genres and influences.

The new album is more like our live show. We recorded with an engineer that is known for doing live band stuff. He did all the Protomartyr records and he’s done live sound for Liars and The War On Drugs. He really gave us a lot of good energy and helped us to capture the moment more. – RS

Your first record, Wormfood, was called “the coolest debut of 2013” by L Magazine. Was it validating to have critics embrace the record almost immediately?

I don’t know if that was a good thing. The length of time that people pay attention to a record is shorter than it has ever been and it is making everything so disposable. So if you put too much stock in what other people think about the things you’re making, it’s just going to be disappointing in the long run.

If we had blown up with the last record, right now we’d be losing our minds having to put out a new one to an adoring fanbase that wants something very similar to the last record. We’re lucky that we have a very small following now. It means we have room to grow. Maybe if this record gets super big I’ll have a mental breakdown at 30 and I won’t have booze to lean on (laughter). – RS

For your videos for “Caitlin” and “Water” you enlisted friends to help you bring those to life. Are there other artists in Detroit that inspire and antagonize you to greater ends?

We definitely have some artists that we are fans of and work very closely with them. Most recently we were working at the Bruiser Brigade studio, which is Danny Brown’s studio, with a couple of the other Bruiser Brigade guys and Nick Speed. – RS

Danny Brown is in tight with the Psychopathic Records guys. What are the chances of you working with them?

That would be a dream come true. Mike E. Clark who made all the beats for the Insane Clown Posse records did three remixes of one of our songs and has invited us to come and record at his studio if we want. I don’t know if that is really the direction we are going though (laughter). – RS

Jamaican Queens will perform on Friday, Dec. 5 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth Street. The show is for patrons 21 and up. For more information, please visit jamaicanqueens.com.

Tim Anderl is the web editor and a contributing writer at Ghettoblaster Magazine and maintains his own music blog at youindie.com. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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