For the next two Thursdays KEXP is curating free all-ages shows at the Mural Amphitheater stage in Seattle Center for our Concerts at the Mural series. This Thursday’s show will feature KEXP DJ Troy Nelson, Daisies and Jessy Lanza. Ahead of her headlining performance, LA via Ontario artist Jessy Lanza talks with KEXP about her latest record, Love Hallucination, and how it symbolizes an evolution in her sound as well as a newfound focus on self-love and self-confidence. Listen to an excerpt from the interview that appeared on KEXP's Sound & Vision or read the full transcript below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KEXP: So you just put out a great new record, Love Hallucination. And you've described this album as being about being blinded by love. Can you tell me a bit about what that means to you and how it relates to the title?
Jessy Lanza: Sure. Yeah. I think I was reflecting on my life as an adolescent growing up and, as most kids do in Canada, just thinking about, you know, finding somebody to love you. And I think when I said "blinded by love," what I was getting at is that I wish if I could tell my younger self something... That I could tell her to spend more time loving myself rather than finding somebody else to fix it or find somebody else to love. I wish I had focused more on self-love or self-care first. But love can blind you that way because, you know, everybody else seems to be in the same boat as well.
KEXP: Looking back at your prior albums and work, do you feel like you were exploring these ideas and this album kind of feels like a resolution of seeking through that idea of love and self-love and seeking for love?
Jessy Lanza: I think I have a lot more clarity on that theme and this album, but I was trying to get there on my past albums and wasn't quite sure of how to articulate it. And I think because I feel so much more comfortable being myself now and that I've grown a lot as an artist, I feel a lot more confident. I think it is easier for me to articulate those ideas in this record, in 'Love Hallucination.'
KEXP: Was there anything you think had a factor in that? Was it just your growth over time, or was it things in your life that changed or processes that helped give you clarity?
Jessy Lanza: I'm not sure how this all relates back to becoming more confident, but I think moving away from the town that I grew up in, in Canada, moving away from Hamilton, and doing something that was a big challenge, like moving to the states, applying for a green card, like really committing to that step in my life... I think doing that and it all working out, I think that gave me a lot of confidence. Moving to Los Angeles gave me confidence. I think it helped me to find myself as a person.
KEXP: You mentioned moving to L.A. What inspired that move? Did that move impact your artistic process?
Jessy Lanza: We, my husband and I, were living in the Bay Area because he is from there, like all through the pandemic. And then it came time for us to leave our in-laws' house. And we thought that L.A. – he works in film and I work in music – so L.A. seems like the best place to be. And I really it's pretty much the antithesis of where I grew up. The confidence and the bravado and the fantasy of the whole place. Although I've always been... I would describe myself as being a pretty cynical person, I think I needed that. I needed a bit of fantasy and bravado. And I think it was good for me in terms of believing in myself somehow.
KEXP: Prior to this record, you put out a really killer DJ-Kicks mix in 2021. And I feel like you an hear that sort of a club feel to this record as well. I'm curious, has DJing or making music informed the music that you make?
Jessy Lanza: Definitely. When I was writing the DJ-Kicks and putting together all the tracks, I started working on the demos for 'Love Hallucinations.' So I was definitely listening to like a lot of synth-pop and like ballad-based music, but then also listening to a ton of club and dance music. So I think it makes sense that those two worlds meet on the record.
KEXP: I'm kind of curious to know more about that sonic palette you were trying to convey on the record because, like, I feel like I hear club music and pop music and maybe even like city pop music as well. Like what sort of feeling or esthetic did you want to evoke?
Jessy Lanza: I guess I thought of my younger self a lot when I was making this record and thinking about What made me fall in love with music and what makes me feel joy when I'm listening to music, which is always like a good song or a good hook. I thought about that a lot when I was making this record and that I really wanted to engage with, with songwriting, even though maybe there are certain tracks on the record where it's like, I just repeat the same lyrics over and over again. So there's like not some like elaborate songwriting there, but I think there is still a hook that you can latch on to.
KEXP: Listening back to the record a few times, production-wise, it feels like maybe some of your most upbeat music. The cover has you like on a palm tree and everything and evokes this kind of like really summery, vibrant imagery. But some of the songs feel like they really deal with like heavy themes, like the opening track "Don't Leave Me Now," which talks about the fear of getting hit by a car. I was curious about that juxtaposition, and if you could tell me a little bit about that song and the inspiration behind it.
Jessy Lanza: I grew up in a really turbulent household. It was a really loving household, but there was a lot of volatility and I think... I actually haven't said this out loud before, it actually is just occurring to me now that one of my great aunts was hit by a car as a child and killed and I didn't know her, but it affected my grandmother obviously so deeply. And it's just amazing how trauma can cycle through a family where it's like I never met this person, but ever since I was a little kid, this fear of getting hit by a car has been just deeply implanted, even though it never... You know, the closest I came really was that day when I first moved here and almost got run over. And I think that just the fear of that just resonated with me so deeply. And it has my whole life. And I think so many people leading totally normal lives can relate to that. It's incredible to me the things that we cope with, like things that have happened to people in our families that maybe didn't even happen to us, but that it's as though they may as well have. But yeah, sorry, that got... I was just like, it occurred to me. You're definitely right. There are a lot of heavy, heavy themes, but also a lot of joyful ones, too, I think, on this album.
KEXP: Is that like, a juxtaposition you think about at all? Like, "I have this really personal, maybe heavier thing I'm feeling," juxtaposed against bigger, brighter production. Is that an intentional choice or is it just kind of what comes out?
Jessy Lanza: I think it's just striving to make something that makes me feel good and definitely spending time with my equipment and figuring out different patches and sounds and synthesizers, that really makes me feel better if I'm down. It's definitely something to engage with. I feel like it helps not to dwell, definitely working on making the music sound as good as it can.
KEXP: There's a song, "I Hate Myself," which you repeat that phrase over and over again, like sort of like a mantra. And then occasionally saying, "You're so cool." I felt like that was relatable. Like, that's an internal monologue maybe many of us have. At least I have. That repetition feels really like... You say a lot with saying little. I was curious about constructing that track and the impetus of it.
Jessy Lanza: Yeah, I think I was reflecting on the constant pressure I feel to be up and to feel good and to be grateful and to be empowered. And those are all amazing things that I so badly want to feel all the time. But sometimes you just don't. That can just make it so much worse when it's like, "But I don't feel any of those things. I feel the opposite." So sometimes that pressure can just make you feel worse. And I think I was reflecting just on that feeling and what to do with it. And it felt cathartic to sing that song. Also, it's based on one of my favorite Prefab Sprout songs. Somebody made this really bizarre video where they loop a little bit from that Prefab Sprout song on YouTube. And like, it's also I hate myself over and over again, set to like this image of a horse running in place, and it goes for like 6 hours or something. It's bizarre. I love whoever made that video, it's really great. But it was also inspired by that YouTube video.
KEXP: Another great song, "Drive", on the record is really cool. And I immediately think to L.A. again and driving because I think it's kind of a constant there. Was that come out of L.A., or is this inspired by something else?
Jessy Lanza: I think it was definitely inspired by living in California and driving – not necessarily around L.A., but around the Bay Area and also reflecting back on my teenage years where similar to L.A., like the city I grew up in, Hamilton, if you don't have your license, if you don't have a car, then there's not really anywhere to go or much to do. So I spent a lot of my teenage years and in my twenties driving around just so that I wouldn't be in the house. That was like our house was just being in the car [laughs]. So I was thinking a lot about that too.
KEXP: Again, very relatable. Growing up in a small town, there's freedom with driving.
Jessy Lanza: Yeah, definitely. It was always fun to drive to Niagara Falls. That's what we did a lot because it was like 40 minutes away. And then there would be the American restaurants that didn't exist in Hamilton. We'd get really excited going to Applebee's or something [laughs]. Like, we didn't have those. So it was fun.
KEXP: One of my favorite songs on this record is the closing track "Double Time", which is just such a beautiful swooning kind of comedown at the end of the record. I was curious what inspired that track and what made you want to end the record with that one?
Jessy Lanza: I love ballads and I have a tradition of ending each of my records with a ballad. And the first three records I did with a ballad. So once we finished "Double Time," I thought this should go as the last track. And I'm glad that you like it. I really like that one too. Good. The drums especially like the really big snares. And I yeah, I just love ballads and I love ending my records with them.
KEXP: This is your first show in the tour. I'm curious how your live show has evolved with this new record and what people can expect from your performance.
Jessy Lanza: We're so excited to be there. It's like I'm a bit nervous because it's a new show and a new record and this is going to be the first time we've played all the songs live. But I picked the saxophone back up for this tour, which I'm really excited about. So I have like an electronic wind instrument that I'm bringing with me and I'm playing, which is really exciting. My sister is coming on tour as well. She plays the drums and the bass, which is really nice to be playing with my sister Angie. Yeah, just there's a lot more like live instruments, which I'm really excited about, like picking the sax back up and playing it again after not practicing for a... Like I played it all through like middle school and high school, and then I didn't play for like a decade. So it's been really fun practicing for tours again because it's been so long.
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