The lights went out and the stage at Irving Plaza went dark, only briefly for Jeremy Loops to introduce himself to the crowd. Without saying a word Loops lit up the room from a Tabriz patterned Persian rug set at center stage. Harmonica in hand Jeremy Loops came out swinging with a jarring solo that he looped into his opening song. The introduction was strong and made it evident quite quickly that it was going to be a great live show.
In regards to the success of their live show Loops admitted “We generally convert people quite quickly with our live show. We have never had any big songs on the radio and all the support we get are because people have really liked the live show and they come back.”
The crowd becomes less of a place for spectators and more of a dance floor. On stage it is no different feeling like an absolute party you will see the whole stage moving and joy radiates as they play.
You get a little bit of everything at the show. From a harmonica take over to freestlye raps from Motheo Moleko consisting of three words he was given by the crowd. The band keeps you engaged over the duration of the show as they involve you in the production, and the whole crowd readily accepts that responsibility. It is a high energy affair and as Jeremy said you become converted to the live show quite quickly and many on this Tuesday night at Irving Plaza were.
I had the chance to talk with Jeremy Loops for a bit after the concert where we were able to talk about their live show, the use of harmonica and loop and pedals for a unique sound, his new single ‘My People’ with James Hersey, and more. Please read the full interview transcript with Jeremy Loops below.
Hi there, I’m with Jeremy Loops! Who just played at Irving Plaza and first let me say you guys were electric! Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me after the show. As a live show that was incredible, there is a chemistry with you and your band that seems almost unmatched with each member all the way down to your crew. How did you guys come together and how have you evolved over time?
Jeremy Loops: Sure, the band has actually grown very organically. I started as kind of a one man band like loop and pedal artist kind of guy. Motheo (Moleko) was the first to join me, the rapper, he’s been with me since literally the beginning. So him and I are super comfortable with each other on stage, and Shawn on the bass was the next guy. Then we brought in Devin on the drums and I kind of filled everyone into the band one at a time. I didn’t like decide “Oh I need to start a band” I was like doing my own looping thing and I wanted to expand that a bit. Once I figured out how to do looping with raps and Motheo featuring on it is when I decided I needed to finish that out and we got drums and bass in it. Then I got the sax.
So growing the band was very organic and I wasn’t in the place where a lot of bands are where they are trying to navigate where they a lot of bands at least started as friends and so you are like stuck with the band you start with and then you all come up together, with all these politics and things. It wasn’t like that with me because I think I started on my own and played for a few years just like as a freestyle artist, before I was even Jeremy Loops. It was much easier for me after that to kind of handpick who I wanted to work with and so the team is very diverse and we all come from very different backgrounds, none of them knew each other before we played together. So the space we have as a live band is very unique.
Fabian and Ian from the stage and tech team are all people that came in because I specifically wanted them and so everyone is unique on the team and as a result we all have very different skills. I think it is nice sometimes when you don’t all share some like common history, I think sometimes that that’s actually quite problematic for some bands with all sorts of internal band politics. We don’t have anything like that and so I think we all bond over the actual music.
And you mentioned doing a lot solo with a loop and pedal that you have now been doing for years, you also add unique sounds with the harmonica which I think is one of the most under appreciated instruments. You used the harmonica to kick off the show and it was one of the coolest intros to a show I have seen. Jeremy Loops makes the harmonica cool. Where did the use of harmonica and some of what you do with loops come together?
JL: Um I was a big Bob Dylan fan growing up and especially in University I was listening to a lot of Dylan. He obviously plays a lot of harmonica and I lived out on the countryside in South Africa and I had to travel like an hour by car everyday to get to University, and an hour back in the afternoon. It was a ridiculous amount of traveling everyday. So I started first I started beat boxing to pass the time. I ripped and downloaded like YouTube tutorials of beatboxing and would play them in my car to University. I then decided I would do the same thing with harmonica and I burnt YouTube tutorials for harmonica and I would strap all of these harmonicas to my windshield panel and I would just drive and beat box and play harmonica. It was just a way to make better use of my time and yeah it stuck. I love the harmonica, It’s quite a jarring instrument but I love the sound of a harmonica. I think some people find them too jarring but for those of us who like the sound it is such a simple strong sounding thing.
That is such a cool thing and like I said it was such a cool way to start the show. I didn’t know what to expect seeing you live and that was a stellar intro. It is cool what you guys do live.
JL: Yeah it is fun. We generally convert people quite quickly with our live show. We have never had any big songs on the radio and all the support we get are because people have really liked the live show and they come back.
So cool. I wanted to talk about your latest album ‘Critical as Water’ I love the album artwork and the title is grabbing. What inspired the creation of the artwork along with the title?
JL: The album art is actually something I have wanted to do for a long time. I had an early vision that was to build a whole underwater studio, to like sink a piano, and carpets, and lamps, and a couch and be sitting like within my cozy studio under the ocean. The idea of it is coming from I lived by the sea and grew up in that like cold, icy Atlantic Ocean and it is really dark and mysterious with sharks, and kelp forests, and all this beautiful stuff down there. So that was just something I wanted to do.
The album was heavily inspired by the sea. I spent a lot of time sailing around the world like for four years after I finished high school I got my captains license and did a trip from Cape Town to the Caribbean which took 56 days in a little sailboat and really blew my mind. It was a life changing experience that led to many more years, four years, of sailing around the world and the oceans. So I spent a lot of time out there on the sea. Most of the music I learned to write I learned it out at sea. I had so much time and was so disconnected from a social life, and the ocean became such an important part of my journey.
So the album art came together and the name did as well from one of the songs ‘Flash floods’ and there is a line in there that is “A wise man once told his son be all you can, be all you can be. It’s as critical as water.” The idea that the only thing that we can all actually do no matter if you come from like the worst most poverty stricken background or you had a silver spoon in your mouth and got everything from day one. We also have the same predicament of are you going to try to be the best person that you can be with the tools you’ve been given. It’s like the eternal challenge of are you going to rise up to it? So the essence of that question is it’s as critical as water.
So there is a question I ask every interview and it’s about karaoke. Do you like karaoke?
JL: I don’t. Well I’ve never actually done it myself. I kind of consider myself a relatively poor singer. I’ve got like that raspy raspy voice going on, and so I was never really very good at copying other artists songs. I couldn’t sing in the way that I sing. It’s kind of a little bit like Dylan like I can do my thing but don’t ask me to do someone else’s extravagant song. But I do enjoy watching people fail. So I get a kick out of going and watching people do that.
If someone succeeds they shouldn’t be doing karaoke. (laughs) The question I ask every time is what their go-to karoke song would be. Do you have one if you were to do it?
JL: (laughs) No actually if it had to be a song it would be the one “Ooh, baby, I love your way, everyday, yeah.” Big Mountain I think it’s by.
Yes! Big Mountain ‘Baby I Love Your Way’ what a great choice. Wow.
I wanted to ask about your new single. You came together with James Hersey for ‘My People’ It is a perfect song to kick off the summer. How did that come to be?
JL: Yeah it is something I enjoyed writing it. James is great to work with, he and I get along very well. He’s got like this really dark wit to him and on that level we get along very well. So we connected as friends first and foremost which is always a good basis to write songs together. There are a lot of artists that I have spoken about writing songs with but never really do it, and never end up getting in the studio together. It is just a conversation and you both threaten each other with how you’re going to work with each other but we actually just threatened that we were going to work together and then we actually did. Which was a nice change. And writing that song it’s not like it took a long time. We had a pretty clear vision for what we wanted it to be about and we had it done in like two days. There was post production work that went into it after that but we wrote the song from start to finish in two days. It was while we were in Berlin I was on tour and he was in the middle of things and yeah it was easy, fun! The song has also done really well which I think is a testament to that idea that if you are writing something from a place of clarity with someone you enjoy hanging out with as a friend then it doesn’t have to be some long big production with lots of time and big producers. We literally self produced that track. We used a friend of his who is a producer but he is not some big time producer, he is a friend of James and they work together which made it nice to be very involved in that side of things.
And then finally what is next for Jeremy Loops as you finish this tour?
JL: Yes exactly this tour that we are on now marks the end of the ‘Critical As Water’ touring. So this is the end of the second album cycle and from here on I take the rest of the year off. But I’m not doing holding back from all the festival seasons and the goal is just to be writing. Lots of new songs. I’ve already written a few songs. So I will be in and out of multiple studios around the world and working from my own studio in South Africa. I’m in a place now where the second album has done really well. So that was a big risk it is a big risk for all artists, if you had a good first album and the second album tanks it can really hurt their career or it’s trajectory and then they have to figure out how to bring it back. Whereas because it was really well received the second album there is not really that much pressure now and actually for the first time in my life I’m feeling less pressure. So now I’m just going to write for fun. As many songs as I can and release probably a few songs this year. I’m think 2, 3, even 4 songs throughout the course of the year just as kind of standard singles, leading up to a full album sometime in the next year or I don’t know when exactly. But it is nice to have the second album out. When you are just dealing with one album you kind of always feel like you still have something to prove still and now we have done that. So now it is just about making new songs.
Are there any themes from these new songs or album coming so far?
JL: No not necessarily. At the moment I have written five new songs and all of them are actually quite different. I’m probably going to write upwards to 50 songs in the next year and maybe not completing all of them but doing it with the aim of finding another body of work that sits together just as it did with ‘Critical As Water’ where I kind of wrote way more songs than made the album. Some of the other ones then I will put out as singles. So the way that it all shapes up from a thematic point of view is still to come.
Well thank you again Jeremy for your time. You just had a show and are heading to the next city I appreciate the time.
JL: No thank you, and thank you for letting me pack up the room as we talk.