Jarreau Vandal on His Journey to Find Balance, Evoking a Genre-Encompassing Sound, and More

GUM had a moment to catch up with Jarreau Vandal before his invigorating performance at Madrid based party Cha Cha this past month.

There’s no one out there who can quite spin a set like Jarreau Vandal. Informed early on by ’90s hip-hop and alternative rock, Vandal began to develop an eclectic taste that would translate to his own compositions and sets. With a highly musical upbringing, Jarreau created a personal style that reflected his many inspirations. The young artist caught the attention of Los Angeles based collective Soulection, and has then gone on to release two EPs and debut album Anthology. Also known for his Vandalized Edits, his club remixes reflect both his unpredictable and exhilarating approach to DJing. Boasting a number of heavily streamed Boiler Room sets, and popular among the festival circuit, Jarreau’s bold approach and radiant arrangements encapsulates his intuitive variety as an artist. I had a moment to catch up with Ellroy before his invigorating performance at Madrid based party Cha Cha this past month.

It’s your second time here in Madrid at Cha Cha! How’s your day been so far?

I woke up at about 10:30 [a.m.] and went to the gym… went to my mom’s house, showered and ate. She dropped me off at the airport, got on my flight. I got here, had some food, went for a massage, had some more food! Went to the hotel and now I’m here. It wasn’t really productive in making music, but I kept it moving today. Had to play the show. I was supposed to sleep a little bit before but I slept on the flight.

I’m assuming you’re used to these sorts of schedules now…

Yeah but I hate it. I try to sleep eight hours every night and it’s been really good. Especially when I work out. Your body needs eight hours of sleep anyway. I don’t care what people say, “like I can run on 6 hours” of course you can, and I can too. But are you going to be as productive as you’ll be if you sleep 8 hours? You will never be as productive or as creative, and as healthy. So that’s why I’m trying to sleep more, and sometimes you just gotta go through these moments. Especially with this job it’s really hard you know. Staying fit —

Trying to find a balance.

Exactly, because I used to not give a shit. I used to just drink and just do whatever you know. Not really think about how I would feel the day after. But yeah, now I’m getting a little older. So I kind of have to make good habits for myself now. In order to maintain and keep enjoying this. For example, I’m not drinking tonight, and I probably won’t drink until summer I guess. I have to say it can be a bit boring, but I’m so used to it now. And now after a show I usually just smoke a joint and go right to sleep.

Courtesy of the artist

To have continuity in a career like this is key, if not you’ll burn out. But in terms of recent releases you’ve been keeping pretty quiet lately. What projects are you working on right now?

I haven’t released music in a year. I’ve been making a lot of music and working on a new EP. I have so many other demos that didn’t make the EP. I just had to take a step back musically, and I’ve been trying to sing on my music and soon I will release the EP. The first song is coming out in March. It’s going to be a continuation of Suburb Superhero, my first EP. It’s going to be the second part, called The Villain Within. It’s kind of what we spoke about in the beginning, taking better care of yourself and fighting the bad habits. I made all these songs that didn’t really have a concept. And then I thought hey, some of the songs kind of tell a story, and it kind of reflects where I’m at in my life. All these bad habits, they form into a bad guy.

The artwork for this project is 3D, and it’s me in different situations with this bad guy. The first song that is coming out is called “Bad Shit,” and it’s like a love song to alcohol. You know, like a break up song. However, you can interpret it however you like. You can sing it to a person… you can sing it to a bottle of alcohol. Those are the underlying themes of it. In the meantime I’m already working on new stuff and trying to find a new sound every time. Because everything I do is a blend of all the music I listen to. You know it’s soul music, it’s hip hop, it’s rock music, it’s dancehall. I just try to blend it, and that’s the intention of music in general. That’s how genres evoke. You gotta mix it up see how it works and from there keep experimenting.

That’s interesting. As a DJ you mix a ton of different genres. But when it comes to writing your own music, how do you differentiate your approach between being an artist and a DJ? The music you write is very different from the music you perform.

True, yeah of course! When I DJ I just want it to be hype. I want the club to burn down, you know? Hahaha. As opposed to writing my own stuff, I make it to enjoy it. This sounds a bit weird, but it’s like I’m making myself feel good. Music can make you feel a certain way, and that’s the feeling I get when I’m writing so I want to share that feeling with my audience. Most of the time it’s just mellow feel good music. Every now and then it’s a bit more uptempo. So my primary intention in making music is just about feeling good, and sharing that. That’s why my music is so mellow all the time, it’s the kind of stuff that makes me feel good. I have definitely tried to make more up tempo songs. I’m slowly trying to combine that with more energy, and less slow music. However, my music will always be soulful.

Yeah, for example Vandalized Edits, that’s more of your DJ Project. How do you usually approach those tracks when you want to make an edit?

It has to be… I don’t want to say better than the original. But for me personally it has to be better than the original. It has to have a surprise element to it. If it doesn’t I might as well just play the original version you know? I want to give people something else. I want to surprise them with the fact that it’s not that version, but it also has to be really good. So to get surprised twice, you’ll definitely see a reaction from the audience. Hopefully people appreciate and understand what I’m trying to do. That’s how I approach making remixes and the edits. I just want to make another version, because a lot of times songs that I edit or remix are songs that are being played out so much, but it’s still a good track.

If I manage to make an even better version of it, a lot of times it’s a nod to the current music scene. Like I would make a drill version of a certain track because drill is getting big now. Just so it’s representative of the moment and time. The timing with these edits has always been good. For example the “Sunday Service” edit. In the beginning the first edit I did was the Mura Masa edit. It always worked out and I guess that’s also kind of something that the edit needs to have. At least the main edits that get the most love are released with perfect timing.

It for sure takes the track up a notch. Whenever I listen to a Vandalized Edit I feel the track is benefitting from an added element or quality. For example, you’re also a graffiti artist. I relate a lot of your graffiti work to your music, so how do these disciplines compliment each other?

I would say my graffiti work relates to me more as a person. I don’t really like authority, I’ve always been a bit rebellious. I mean in a way that kind of reflects in the stuff that I do with Vandalized Edits. Kind of do my own thing with it you know? With music and DJing in general, I always try to do it my own way and try to be rebellious with it.

Doing unorthodox things with DJing. I don’t care if I have to rip a song from SoundCloud and the quality is bad, as long as I can play the song. I’m not saying you should play a full set with bad quality tracks, but I don’t think it matters. As long as the intention is right, it will come across right. That’s kind of the connection I have with graffiti and music. Other than that, I just did it when I was younger, and every now and then I still do it. I always have a bag of spray paint in my car. When I see a spot, later that day I’ll just come by and paint something there. I’m not as active about it as I used to be.

Now touching a bit on Amsterdam’s scene. Could you talk a bit about some of the artists or producers doing interesting things there?

There’s a lot of people there, a lot of stuff going on. A lot of good songwriters, vocalists… There’s this girl she produces for a lot of American rappers, her name is Roselilah. She’s really dope, mainly makes like hip hop and trap. There’s a lot of good vocalists. There’s  a new girl called Latanya Alberto. She’s really dope. And of course JAEL and Full Crate are already doing pretty well.

Would love to see the day when you all B2B.

Hahaha someday!

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