The Detroit-based trio, Jamaican Queens, makes instantly catchy, hip-hop-influenced, electronic-soaked pop gems and performs them in a dance-inducing glam pop fashion. Although Ryan Spencer, Adam Pressley, and Ryan Clancy have been laying down beats together for less than a year, they have already released a full-length album – Wormfood – hit their hundredth show, and written album number two (which they’ll record once they’ve concluded their lengthy West Coast and summer tours).
I spoke with Jamaican Queens before they opened for Javelin at the New Parish in Oakland last week. After the boys grabbed a few local brews (Anchor Steam, of course), we went up to the roof and talked about their eclectic sound, living in Detroit, and the projects in the works. If you missed the Oakland show, catch them this Sunday at Brick and Mortar as Jamaican Queens could quickly become your favorite new band. (That’s been the case for yours truly.)
SF Bay Guardian How would you describe your sound?
Adam Pressley It’s hip-hop influenced and really abrasive.
Ryan Spencer It’s also experimental, but at the same time in the veil of pop. And lyrically, it’s very glam. We want to make music that makes people feel some sort of emotion – whether it be good or bad.
SFBG Who are some of your chief influences?
RS Most of the vocals I’m influenced by are dramatic – like the way David Bowie sings or the way the London Suede sings or T. Rex.
AP When we were making Wormfood, I started listening to the Magnetic Fields, and I was heavily influenced by what they were doing production-wise.
RS Yeah, they make very exaggerated pop music and can wrap up a huge amount of emotion in a two and a half minute song.
SFBG What type of music do you tend to listen to on your own?
AP I listen to only pop.
RS I listen to some more avant-garde stuff. I like Cambodian music and Jamaican Dancehall. That’s kind of where “Jamaican Queens” came from: Dancehall music. I love that stuff. But I like music that’s all across the board. Reggaeton. Insane punk rock. Everything. As long as it can make you feel something.
SFBG Do you guys have a favorite song to perform?
Ryan Clancy The dexterity and movement our songs require make them all really fun to play.
AP Our songs could be performed by six people, but we’ve got it so that we can all perform two instruments at once, so I’m playing a bass and a drum pad, Ryan Clancy is playing electronic drums and real drums, and Ryan Spencer is playing guitar and sampler. That’s “Water” right there.
SFBG Who’s behind your “Caitlin” video? The cinematography is unbelievable.
RC The cinematographer is our good friend Dan DeMaggio.
RS Our friend Caitlin, who the song is about, is the main character in the video. It’s a really dark story. She was living with Adam at the time, and her great aunt got murdered. A team of con artists started working for her great aunt and then ended up breaking into her house and murdering her. This is the song we wrote for her when she was going through that. It was a really intense time.
SFBG So, what’s it like living in Detroit?
RS I imagine it’s a little bit like Oakland. It’s a really supportive community, and the art and music scenes are very small so everyone knows each other and all of the bands that seem to be cool work together and help each other. Most of our friends don’t really have jobs, so you’ve got a lot of creative people working really hard on their art.
RC Yeah, I think one of the reasons we have such cool videos is because the art and the music scene are very incestuous. Everyone who’s a good photographer is also probably in a band or something.
SFBG What are you guys up to this summer and fall?
RS We’re doing a lot of festivals throughout the summer as well as working on going to Europe for the first time. We’re also making remixes, releasing some vinyl stuff in the UK, and recording a new album, which will be a long time coming because Wormfood just came out last month.
SFBG What do you think of the Bay Area so far?
RS The weather’s amazing, the people are cool, and it’s really liberal. It’s great.