As the newest and youngest member of the dirtybird crew, 20-year-old Justin Jay proudly reps his SoCal roots, bringing LA’s laid-back vibes into perfect harmony with dirtybird’s trademark groovy funk. After winning a DJ Mag competition at the tender age of 18, Jay released his first track ever on dirtybird in 2010, and in the past three years his stature has only grown. Now, with his Static EP burning up the deep-house charts, we checked in with him to talk NorCal/SoCal beef and having two Justins on one label.
What made you choose the genre you work in now, given so many up-and-comers tend to go the progressive, electro, or dubstep route? Was it more the sound that appealed to you, or was it the idea of doing something a bit different?
I just started making the type of music that I loved hearing on the dancefloor. In LA, acts like MSTRKRFT, Justice, and Daft Punk exposed many kids my age to dance music for the first time back in 2007. I started going to big festivals with my friends to see those high-energy artists, but got hooked on the groovier stuff that was also present. I like jumping around and going crazy at shows, but only in small doses. My gripe with a lot of the aggressive, big-room stuff is just how the energy stays at full force the entire time. It’s hard to jump up and down, non-stop for a whole night’s worth of electro house. The type of dance music I love has moments where you go crazy, but the majority of the time you just settle into a really fun groove. You end up with a dynamic musical experience that you can enjoy for a very long time. That was what really guided my taste from the start, but the sound itself is what kept me interested. I love the versatility of deep house, how it can be fitting for the dancefloor as well as the headphones or the bedroom. Also, the fact that there’s such a strong forward-thinking sensibility to it is what has kept me a fan of it for quite some time now. The constant evolution of underground dance music is really captivating.
How did Claude VonStroke discover you? Do you guys have any nicknames for him? My personal favorite is Santa Claude.
I got my first tune signed to dirtybird almost two years ago by sending it in as a demo through SoundCloud. It took me quite a few months of honing my production skills to get a follow-up release, and I still have a lot more learning and growing to do, but it all started with that one demo. Claudius Maximus is a classic [laughs]!
So, what’s it like having two Justins in the dirtybird crew?
Because my first official release was on dirtybird and I had to come up with my artist name, I actually asked Barclay [Claude VonStroke] if there was room for another Justin on the label [laughs]. So far it seems to have all worked out. Justin Martin is a huge inspiration for me musically but he’s also a role model in the way he carries himself. He works really hard and is accomplishing so much, but he’s still so humble and down-to-earth. That’s representative of everyone in the crew, but I definitely really look up to him in particular.
Is there a lot of west-coast beef between the SF and LA contingents of dirtybird, or are you a super-tight-knit crew overall?
The SoCal/NorCal thing has definitely not been an issue. Thankfully the guys don’t say “hella” every other word [laughs]. A lot of my closest friends at school happen to be from the Bay Area, and Barclay just moved to LA over the summer. It all seems pretty natural that the crew would gel together being an American west-coast dance-music label. Although dirtybird will always be intrinsically rooted in San Francisco, I’ll definitely continue to push that smooth SoCal vibe into the label’s sound.
What’s coming up next for you? More dirtybird work, or will you also be releasing on other labels?
I’ll be putting out a lot more music on dirtybird. It’s definitely home for me. Beyond one-offs here and there on other labels, there’s a really cool, sexy, deep-house label in LA that I might start working with regularly as well. You’ll have to wait and see.
Photo via Kansas City Techno