Los Angeles-based duo J*Davey is back from a three-year hiatus and timing couldn’t be more opportune. Their synth-laden brand of new wave and G-funk, which they say contains elements of Prince, Talking Heads, David Bowie and J. Dilla, was ahead of its time and sent massive traffic to their MySpace page during the “New West” movement of the late 2000s. They acquired even more buzz with an endorsement from Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson — who, along with Prince, served as a mentor to the band.
Eventually, they inked a deal with Warner Music Group, but parted ways with the label after just a few years, releasing the new album they had recorded for Warner, New Designer Drug, on their own in 2011. Then, in 2014, amid long-swirling, unfounded rumors that they had broken up, Jack Davey (vocals/lyrics) and Brook D'Leau (production) resurfaced with a new EP, Rookie, followed by last month's Pomp EP and a reissue of New Designer Drug, on their own ILLAV8R imprint.
They attribute J*Davey's hiatus to simply “living life”: Davey had a son, became a working songwriter and adopted Buddhist principles, and D'Leau has been music director since 2011 for Grammy-winning singer Miguel, a “New West” peer. But they both agreed that cutting ties with their former label and re-evaluating their sound and chemistry played a role, too.
“We’ve been writing music together for almost 15 years,” D'Leau explains. “We needed to be able to stop and look at it from a larger perspective and then be able to revisit it, and for it to still have the same synergy was key.”
The introspective yet upbeat Pomp, which contains the infectious single “Strong Anticipation,” and the equally introspective, more melancholic Rookie each possess the quirky, unpredictable elements that define the J*Davey sound, and represent different eras in their lives, says Jack Davey. She admits that the glitchy downtempo rap track “The Ruins” from Rookie is part self-deprecating evaluation, part meditation on her former relationship with Joey Strat of rap duo The Knux, with whom she has a son. On her phone in mid-afternoon traffic on the 110 freeway, she reveals, “I really had to get that off of my brain. I was having a hard time expressing what I was going through and then that story just started pouring out of me.”
As for their major label exit, that's another relationship they've closed the book on. “When we were signed to Warner, we were signed to the rock division,” D'Leau explains. “Initially [with our music], we had a lot of pushback. It was just like … literally the words that were used were, 'Maybe you shouldn’t do that, it doesn’t sound correct.' I think part of the problem was that, to them, we were black artists not 'sounding black.'”
Davey maintains that when “Warner started imploding from the inside out,” they knew it was time to leave. “Everyone we came in with, at one point, was gone. In a matter of days people were let go. It was becoming a struggle.”
Impacted but not jaded by their Warner ordeal, the duo appreciates the lessons learned and have moved forward as independent artists. Apart from co-writing and producing on Miguel’s new release Wildheart, J*Davey are also planning a tour, re-issuing a coffee table book, guest DJing at events around town, and recording more music for another release later this summer. They're also promoting their music through a partnership with Fyuse, a spatial photography app that allows users to share photos in 3D. “We want to be visible enough for people to grab a hold of us and catch on to our stuff this time,” says D'Leau.
In a live performance of “Strong Anticipation” on P. Diddy’s Revolt TV earlier this month, the duo gave viewers, many of whom may be unfamiliar with their music, a taste of the J*Davey experience. At this point, they're ready to embrace a wider audience. Jack Davey likens their music to “a restless teenager who just now hit its Saturn return.”
“The sound that we cultivated is the sound now. It’s popular and happening. When we first came out, we were doing what we could with what we had, we didn’t really have a solid team of champions behind us and the timing was off. Right now, we have a team of champions behind us, and a chance to do things right … everything is timing. ”
To hear more of J*Davey's latest music, visit www.wearejdavey.com.