With little concern for the ebbs and flows and changing trends of the music world around them, the enigmatic Swedish duo known as JJ has been tinkering away at their own particular brand of club-inflected dream pop ever since they issued their first hazy missive, "my life, my swag," way back in 2009. Though they issued two albums of stoned and droned pop songs in quick succession in the months that followed that first single, it's been nearly five years since we last heard a full-length statement from Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander. They return this month with V, a 12-song set that picks up the simultaneously celebratory and melancholic threads that they left hanging loose on no. 3. For their FADER Mix, Benon and Kastlander call on emotive jams from Future, Juicy J, Air France, and a couple of their own unreleased tracks to evoke the feelings that currently occupy their collective headspace ("friends, summer, love, celebration," as they describe it). Check out the mix below, and read on for a rare interview with the duo that touches on the extended process that spawned V, their connection to Yung Lean and the Sad Boys, and the punny title of their now in-progress sixth release.
Download: JJ's FADER Mix
Where are you guys right now? BENON: We are in Vallentuna at my parents' place taking care of their cat and working hard on JJ Sex. Six [is pronounced] sex in Swedish and it's also "sex" so it's nice to have a number that's also… something else.
You're already working on the next release? How long have you been working on that? BENON: I don't know, since we first had sex? No, I don't know. We've been working toward everything that isn't music for [V] as well. There's a lot of things that aren't just the album. A lot of our time has been working toward the whole package.
Can you talk about the overall feeling of the mix and some of the stuff that's on it? BENON: We went with a lot of feelings we have right now: friends, summer, love, celebration. There's a lot of stuff that we've made that we haven't had a perfect context for premiering. They found their first place to be. KASTLANDER: They had to get out now. They had to go free. BENON: There's a song called "My Block." Elin likes it. KASTLANDER: I love it, it feels like… forever. BENON: It's been around for years. KASTLANDER: Years and years.
It's been almost five years since you released your last full-length, have you just had your heads down working since then? BENON: Yeah, at least in some sense of the word "working," we can't stop working. The act of creation just keeps popping up, we have no control over it.
Even if you wanted to take a break you couldn't. BENON: Most of my life has been like that. I've had a couple of times here and there where I felt like I really had a vacation. That's a state of yourself, not what you're doing. KASTLANDER: I don't work all the time. I have periods. BENON: Yes, you have periods. [laughs] But yeah, periods of depression. KASTLANDER: And then I don't do anything. It still feels like work though. BENON: It can be work to even get to work. When we decided on a material level to make this album happen five years ago, everything has happened in our lives. Loss… loss, loss, loss. Of shit. Of people. The most extreme life things have happened, and not a lot of vacation.
I think there's a sense of some of those down periods on the record, even though it's largely uplifting. KASTLANDER: I didn't even think about it at the time. BENON: We always record, but then when you listen to it, one second later, one year later, five years later, then you can hear and sense what it actually is. KASTLANDER: I sound really sad though, but I never thought about it until after. BENON: Some of the things on this record have been recorded for seven years. KASTLANDER: We're still sad. BENON: We captured ourselves during a long period of time. And during that period we've been through… stuff.
Is that sadness a constant state? KASTLANDER: When I'm happy, I'm really happy and when I'm sad, I'm really sad. BENON: We've been thinking about it lately. We can look back on what we are and what we have done and see what we are. I'm realizing that I'm always heartbroken and becoming more heartbroken and it's the same heart that keeps on breaking. At the same time it's the exact opposite as well, at the same time. JJ is all the feelings at the same time. In a way we're making music to capture ourselves and find out what we actually are. KASTLANDER: You can sing a song or write a song and you don't understand what it's about until a year after. BENON: We've been doing the whole music and recording thing for so long. It's in our physics. That part happens by itself. Now it's all about becoming more so that there's more to capture.
Joakim, can tell me a little bit about your blog? What drives the curatorial sensibility that you bring to that? BENON: It's a channel. It's becoming more and more real. It allows people to experience the situation that I'm in, and the position that I have in the context of other people. People know me and I don't know them. It's a way of trying to say how it feels to be me [laughs]. I'm a person! I have a blog!
Are you uncomfortable with the idea of people knowing you without you knowing them as well? BENON: No it's not uncomfortable. When we decided to become "official" we knew what was going to happen. We saw the world before and how people get treated because of whatever, if they're famous or poor or white. We know a lot about the game. KASTLANDER: Joakim was more prepared for that than me. BENON: I told Elin, "If you want to do this, there's no going back." And she didn't really understand the magnitude of that. Knowing what we do and knowing what had happened when the world heard us. It's a reality. The reality of being a person that many know can be very confusing. But with the blog I just try to have a lot of fun and give people themselves. I'm like you!
That's feeling of sharing must be important since you don't often share much of yourselves in interviews. BENON: [On the blog], we communicate with a lot of people. All people. Anyone who wants to. Being able to have that kind of open relation with the world, you can write anything. It doesn't get distorted, like with the music. The source is undistorted. It's firsthand experience, and that's really important to me. Though it's awesome to see yourself through someone else too. That's one of the most beautiful things you can do. But if you have a message and someone is about to spread that and they miss the message it becomes… nothing. We've been through that a lot. People miss the message, whatever the message is. But you can feel when someone is distorting it through their own weird perspective. We can make the decision to talk to someone, everyone can. When we do interviews they feel like collaborations between people who want to give something nice to the world. You can talk about small things, but in a way we're trying to create the reality we want to live in together. We're doing something together.
On another note, Yung Lean just played his United States shows here and I saw on your blog that you have some sort of connection to him. How did you meet? KASTLANDER: I don't know him that well, but I think he's a very nice lad. BENON: I was in Gothenberg maybe two summers ago. A friend told me that I needed to see a video and he showed me "Ginseng Strip 2002." It was over from the first time. I had him play it again. I was like, "Who the fuck is this?" My friend said, "Well, I've been talking to him and he's this young kid, like 16. He's from Södermalm." I was like, "That's Stockholm! That's where I fucking live!" That's his manager. From there we've just been partying whenever we meet. Yung Lean and the Sad Boys, that's the new generation. Hearing them was like the first time I heard Elin sing on something I made. It's like an extreme light shines on the way you should keep on walking. KASTLANDER: They're so punk rock. It's super cool. BENON: But they're so, sensitive and gentle. They're stars. KASTLANDER: There's a total freedom in what they do that's an inspiration. They're like from outer space, and I am too. BENON: There you have it. It's out in the open. We're aliens.
jj - V
Kendal johansson - Courtesy Lafs
Meek Mill - I Don't Know (feat. Paloma Ford)
Nordpolen - När mitt blod pumpar i dig
Cyndi Lauper - Girls just wanna have fun
jj - Back To You
Lil Wayne - Back To You
Lorentz - Där dit vinden kommer (feat. JaQe, Duvchi, jj & Joy M'Batha)
Gucci mane - Use Me
Lorentz - Mimosa (feat. jj)
Silvana Imam - Svär på min mamma
jj - my block
The-Dream - F.I.L.A.
Future - Straight Up
Juicy J - Talkin Bout
Riff Raff - Versace Python
Rich Homie Quan - I Fuck Wit You Girl
Kalle J - Inget Att Förlora
Popcaan - Everything Nice
Thaiboy Digital - Tiger
Rebecca & Fiona - Holler (Promise Land Remix)
Enya - Carribean Blue
Icebreaker International & Manual - Beacons
Sade - Never Thought I'd See The Day (L-Viz 1990 Sunrise Edit)
Alina Devecerski - Jag Svär (Svantana Remix)
Air France - June Evenings