Yes! Lightspeed totally flipped out like, “You have no idea! I’ve been studying Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis for the last eight months just trying to find anything they created and studying how to get that sound.” Soon as I heard that, I knew we were good to go. There was also Vincent who is a part of the Midnight Juggernaughts who is an Australian disco-electronic band. I wrote the early demos with them.
There’s Kevin Barnes, who is from of Montreal who is quite frankly the most soulful White boy on the planet. We totally bonded over our love of Parliament and Shuggie Otis and Chaka Kahn. And then there’s Tim Anderson, who basically did a bunch of punk, experimental alternative stuff. And finally there’s a guy by the name of Christopher, who is the most phenomenal drummer ever. He came to us and totally changed the game because for so long I kept thinking that a lot of the sounds I was hearing on a lot of the ‘80s soul-pop stuff was cowbells. But they were vases! He came in and was like, “I need a random flower vase and a couple of beer bottles.” He started playing them and I was like, That’s the damn sound I have been trying to do all this time!
Wow, you sound like your recording experience was pretty intense?
Well, this new album is my baby. I would love for us to do a part two for this interview because there were so many elements and things that happened during the recording process. I’m talking physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Are we talking about mental breakdowns?
There was definitely a little bit of a breakdown involved. I literally gave up my sanity for a while to do this record. To the point to where I started doing it in Santa Barbara and I had to relocate to L.A. because I was losing it. We literally were waking up in the morning and just making music all day and all night. We left the house maybe three times! It just started to wear on me in so many different ways. I started having these crazy panic attacks. I can say that I totally sacrificed so much mentally, emotionally and financially to get this record the way I wanted it to be. It’s more than an album to me. It’s a transitional time in my life. This is a dance record, but the lyrics can get pretty dark at times. It brought me closer to my family, my dude and my son. My mom, sister and brother all kept Juelz for a week. Everybody canceled work when I was going through it.
Did B come to you and say, “Um, it’s time for you to get some help?”
[Laughs] She told me she understood the pressure and wear and tear of it all. But to me this is something that only I could understand. It’s very easy to feel like your relationship with music is on a higher level than someone else. I had that moment where I was like, “I don’t think y’all understand…I’m coming up with ten melodies a day!” [Laughs] It started making me delirious. I think the word is commitment. The older records I did were close to me, but this was a commitment unlike I have been a part of.
What was the experience like of running the entire show since this project was recorded independently?
It was great. I was really proud of myself because I produced on a lot of the songs as well. I played some drums, keys, synths and all kinds of percussion. That was the first time that I actually really set in the producers chair. I am so serious…I really don’t want to be a drama queen [laughs]. But I feel that there are at least six or seven songs we recorded that really shocked me. And there are four in particular in which we really sound like we are in the ‘80s. But we didn’t try to recreate the sound. We literally applied the techniques of that era. We used all the antique instruments and equipment that we needed to achieve those sounds. But the great thing is we are all young; mostly everyone on the record is under 26. We were all inspired by that new wave experimental music. It’s a whole other level from the Hadley St. Dreams. I knew this go-around what I actually had to do. This time I didn’t have a record label or an A&R.
Were you worried about not having that industry support system?
Absolutely not. If anything I would not have been able to achieve what I did on this record if I was signed to a label. I’m talking about a major or an indie label. I would not have been able to orchestrate things the way that I did. I literally put together the budget. I literally kept control of every dollar spent, of every flight booked. I spent my own money!
So you were more frugal when it came to spending money on this project?
Absolutely. It’s totally different when the money is coming from your savings account and you are watching your savings account just slowly dwindle. It’s an investment just like buying a house or investing in a business. I have to constantly remind myself that this is the most important investment I can make because I would go crazy just watching the money just slowly wash out [laughs]. It makes me sick to my stomach at times. It makes me miss being on a label, but only for two seconds. Right now I’m aiming for an October release.
Were you happy with the way Interscope promoted your last album?
What I’ll say is I had more control than most artists. But having a lot of control and having all the control is worlds apart. [Interscope] did not spend money on the right things to promote me. They didn’t have the knowledge to understand what I was trying to achieve. This sounds a little unreasonable coming from me. But I don’t think they understood this beautiful marketplace that exist and how to reach out to those people. But I don’t play the blame game. They really pushed the project.
The irony is Janelle Monae is getting that kind of out-the-box marketing that you are talking about.
Right. That is so true. I love Janelle. But I think the mistake that was made with Interscope was that they tried to promote me in both lanes. I can understand music fans being confused by seeing me in an Us Weekly closet piece and then seeing me on the cover of Paper Magazine. It’s really hard to scream at the top of your lungs over and over again that I don’t want to do this. At one point it made me look ungrateful. Now I’m past that. You have to go through those growing pains and come off as a bitch. I’m glad you brought up Janelle. She debuted with the same kind of noise as I did. She had a top-10 record. But no one would ever think of her album as a failure because there is no one to compare it to. I always had to deal with being compared to another artist.