JJ | Amusingly Abstract

JJ are one of the harder bands in the world to pin down. Since their emergence in 2008, they have been eternally mysterious, keeping us hopeless as to guess what their next move might be. Their releases are always self-titled - except when they're not, and they are just as likely to release a gentle, atmospheric dreamy pop song as they are to work with contemporary pop artists (like their 2011 Ne-Yo collaboration "We Can't Stop"). It's been four years since their last full-length studio, 2010’s jj no. 3. In that time, they've whetted our appetites with singles like "High Summer" and "Beautiful Life." Now, the Swedish duo is finally back with their new record, V . The album will be their first for the Secretly Canadian label.

While the album does not forego their atmospheric roots, it is by far the catchiest thing the band has recorded yet, and tracks like “All White Everything" explore their ever-growing relationship with hip hop. John Hugar talked with jj about their inspirations, lyrical allusions and contradictions, and some of the artists they might like to work with in the future. Thier answers were cryptic, and often hilarious, fitting in with their upbeat-yet-mysterious nature.

The new album is V, a slight differentiation from jj no. 1-4, but still in the same vein. Was it a conscious choice from the beginning to have numbered self-titled releases (perhaps as an homage to Peter Gabriel?)—or was it something that just sort of happened? If it's the former, what made you decide to use that aesthetic?
It just happened consciously. Next one is Sex.

In 2011, you released a single with Ne-Yo called "We Can't Stop." Are you mad at Miley for stealing your song title? On a serious note, was it an enjoyable experience for the band, and would you consider working with more contemporary pop artists in the future?
Can't be mad at Miley! She's been down with us. It was enjoyable to say the least. We cried out. We rocked out. Warmer, warmer disco. We would consider it again, yes. Show me what you got!

One of my favorite tracks is "All White Everything"—I thought it was a beautiful, mesmerizing song, but I also noticed that you quote T.I.'s "What You Know" in the lyrics, and the title appears to be an allusion to Lupe Fiasco's "All Black Everything"—although I could be wrong—would it be appropriate to read the track as something of an homage to hip hop?
I am overwhelmed to understand some of your experiences with “All White Everything”. What you know about it is great though—an icebreaker. “All White Everything” is a saying in our hood. Everything is a homage to hip hop. Everything I am is an homage to everything. What do you know about that? 

I was struck by how seamlessly you were able to make T.I.'s lyrics fit in with your melody and atmosphere. I've noticed that when a lot of rock or indie artists cover contemporary hip hop and R&B songs, they tend to present it as a joke—Snow Patrol's take on "Crazy In Love" comes to mind—does that bother you? It feels, to me, like they're mocking the music or lyrics, and "All White Everything" did not feel that way at all.

Thank you. 
Nothing really bothers me, but thought-based sounds with obvious human motives don't make me blush, make me sweat, make me cry, make me move. My whole being wants and needs music. Make me blush, make me come and come back. Something smart, funny, professional and new won't do. We can joke all day, but then I prefer great jokes, in whatever form they come.

Going back to your early work, I also noticed your allusion to The Moody Blues ("standing on the threshold of a dream") "My Life, My Swag"—do you enjoy making subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to other artists in your work? From a listener's standpoint, I find it quite enjoyable when I'm able to pick up on it.
Early work, late work, when did the work begin I wonder since I never heard of that! 
The Moody Blues! Wuuaaow! I find it extreme, this information you give us. We enjoy making it real. The story evolves in the most unpredictable ways. Everything is in there. Sooner or later. 

Your albums have received great critical acclaim in the U.S., but not a great deal of pop crossover success. Do you have any interest in cracking the Top 40? Is that something you pay attention to? 
Great. Critical. Success. We have interest in top 40 crack. As Wayne said "life on the edge. I'm dangling my feet. I tried to pay attention but attention paid me.”

Continuing in this vein, would you consider a full-length, or at least EP-length collaboration, with a contemporary hip hop or R&B artist? (If you did, I suspect I would greatly enjoy that—your atmospheric music seems to sync up with rap quite well.)
I would love to make something bigger with anyone who can use their mouth in a true real, spectacular, touching way. I'm up for it.

In a similar vein, what current artists/musicians would you be most interested in collaborating with?
The next one that comes my way.

After coming from Sweden, and since gaining a following in North America, you've played for audiences all around the world. What differences have you noticed between European and North American crowds? Perhaps even any differences between Canadian and American crowds?
Everything is so different, I don't know where to start. The so-called atmosphere a gathered group in a certain place and time can create is always too unique to me. Like a new world. New country. New city. Existing only there and then and having no needed reference to anything. An amazing moment.

Since we're roughly halfway through 2014, what's your favorite album—or perhaps a few of your favorite albums—of the year so far? 
Broder Daniel Forever. 

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