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Interview: Jamaican Queens

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On Thursday, Jamaican Queens perform live at Pianos on the Lower East Side, so taking the time to chat with the band was pertinent. Ryan Spencer shared as much as he could about their live show antics, working with Dopehead from Bruiser Brigade, and their delightful new EP Bored + Lazy released through Mishka Records last week. In this interview, you’ll learn a little more about the inspiration behind the new release, the intricacies of their set up and what came to mind when they heard our sexy name.


Images: Justin Ames

I’m from Jamaica, Queens in New York so whenever I would see your name online, it would f-ck me up a little bit because my city usually doesn’t make headlines. Excuse me if I’m not hip but where does your name come from?

I used the name once for a side project a couple years ago and really liked it. I was obsessed with Jamaican Dancehall at the time and thought it was a cheeky play on the neighborhood you’re from. It’s also kind of androgynous, which I like. When you decide your name, you kind of think it doesn’t matter, but it seems to be a thing we get asked about more than anything.

You guys have an authentic Detroit sound that I love so much. It’s an uptempo, danceable good time, that I wouldn’t mind making bad choices to with my friends. Speaking of friends and familiar things, what was it like working with Dopehead of Bruiser Brigade?

It was kind of intense. Those dudes smoke too much weed and after about the second blunt, I was drooling at the mouth and had to be carried out on a stretcher. Good thing Adam doesn’t smoke pot and he and Nick Speed made a fantastic beat. Mike, (Dopehead) is a fantastic rapper and an absolute sweetheart. All the Bruiser Brigade guys are interesting to watch work.

Do you have any “weird” or “odd” pre-tour preps that you can share with us? Like, do any of you have to eat spaghetti out of the can before setting up at the venue?

He laughed.

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We all do 20 push-ups each time we stop to buy gas or food or pee or whatever. I guess that’s not that weird. People give us really bad looks though. They’re shocked to see another human exercising.

What’s your live show like? What do you have in store for your New York show?

It’s a pretty complicated set up of samplers, electronic drum pads, and live instruments like guitar, drums, etc. Lots of live vocal processing. The set is usually quite concise. We don’t really talk between songs or do encores or anything. I think it’s important to give a show that focuses on the art, rather than just announcing where people can purchase your record after the show.

Album cover art
Album cover art

What inspired the “Bored + Lazy EP”? What’s the significance of the cover art, and what’s your favourite song(s)?

To tell you the truth, a bunch of our friends started doing remixes. Amazing remixes actually. Then, our manager knows Kevin Saunderson and he did one. That’s insane. To me at least. Around the same time Mishka had approached us about doing a 12″ and we split it with our own record label (freakish pleasures) and it’s getting printed as we speak. Adam and Clancy’s roommate Sweet Will does most of our artwork. He’s been obsessed with distorting faces and warping images lately. This is a result of what he felt visually represented the sound of the music. Sweet Wills a great guy and an amazing artist.

Are you looking to work with more rappers in the future? Is that an aspiration?

We love Rap. I like working with rappers. It’s not my favorite. Sometimes, they’re egomaniacs. I’m sure it’s the same with every genre. I definitely want to work with local (Detroit) rapper Doc Waffles again. He’s one of the best lyricists I’ve ever met. I lived with him for a few weeks and gave him bed bugs. I feel really bad about it. He makes amazing outsider shit. He’s big in Detroit, but only the real freaks get it.

When you first heard the name GrungeCake, what came to mind?

Adam runs a weekly karaoke gig and the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder comes in every week wearing nothing but lingerie, and does “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. He kills it every week.

He laughed.


For more Jamaican Queens, just click here.

Written by Richardine Bartee

It’s her unprejudiced love for people that’s taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs.

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