Jubilee lives for cities the sun has set on. “My whole life has been after hours,” she explains over the phone from her Hell’s Kitchen apartment when I ask about the title of her forthcoming debut LP. “I go grocery shopping at 2 in the morning. I moved to New York for this. Me and my friends leave the house at 1 to go out; I’ve always been like that since I was young.” The DJ and producer, born Jessica Gentile, is most active when most of the world is sleeping, and she likes it that way. Being a night owl made her perfectly suited to embrace the world of dance music in her early teens, and it’s the underground club community she found — away from what she describes as the “grabby parts of clubs in Miami, where girls would get followed” — that inspired her album, After Hours.
Raised in Florida, Gentile began frequenting Miami raves as a teen, spending her days devouring hip-hop and dance music on local radio stations. In 2003 she moved to New York City, and it was there, a few years later, that she first got her start in music and began building her reputation as a versatile DJ, unbound to any one genre or tradition. Her profile has only continued to rise since signing to Brooklyn-based dancehall label Mixpak in 2012, where she’s released a string of EPs touching on everything from reggaeton to garage to grime and more.
Now, for her first full-length album, Gentile returns to her formative years: the late nights and early mornings of South Florida’s club scene, which was thriving long before EDM festivals became worldwide moneymakers. After Hours draws on the Miami bass and Latin freestyle music she came of age listening to, as well as varied influences from Detroit house producer DJ Stingray to Miami legend Otto von Schirach, who features on the After Hours track “Bass Supply." Songs like the broody album opener “Spring Break” and first single “Wine Up,” featuring Bronx-based dancehall vocalist Hoodcelebrityy, evoke pre-club anticipation, while others like the minimal techno track “Drive Time” capture the elation and energy that remain long after the party has ended.
After Hours, then, is Gentile’s personal love letter to the aspects of clubbing that take place away from the dance floor: the buildup, the drive there, and post-club chill-out. And, after two years of work, she’s finally ready to set it free. “It’s always weird releasing music because you put everything into it, and then you’re like, what are people gonna think about this?” she admits. “But I know that this album is so me, and I kind of can’t wait to show it to people.” Gentile talked to The FADER about the process of creating After Hours and her love for the lifestyle that inspired it.
Tell me about After Hours.
My album is very, very influenced by driving around Miami. I always had somewhat of a 30 to 40 minute drive and it was always exciting. I would always get lost or get a flat tire or be driving really fast or I’d have a few people following each other in different cars. So it was really inspired a lot not just by sounds, but by street lights, the smell in the air — Florida has a very distinct smell — and just pretty much everything around. The narrative of the whole thing [is] based around finding your home and finding like-minded people that really loved this style and sound and basically just being a kid in the nighttime, as well as the afterparty and the drive and getting ready to go out. It all centers around living by nighttime and the club life.
And why did you choose this theme for your first full-length?
I didn’t actually choose it. I just made a lot of songs based on memories and people and certain nights out that I had. [Club life has] become this separate community of people that live this different lifestyle, and dance music just shaped a lot of people. It’s an alternative way of living that’s — in the news and stuff — looked down upon, but really it’s just another scene. At the end of the day, you make a career out of this and your life out of this. All of your friends are nightlife people that love doing this and love this music.
“My album is very, very influenced by driving around Miami. Not just by sounds, but by street lights, the smell in the air — Florida has a very distinct smell.”
How have you seen the club scene change since you first became a DJ?
When I got involved in music I was super young. So DJs weren’t really cool, dance music wasn’t necessarily cool; it was nerdy. And I never thought a career would come out of it. I went to all these clubs and did all this stuff because it was this place where I could get away from bros, and — isn’t it ironic — that’s all it is now. I went because there was this sense of community, probably based around a lot of drugs people were doing, but it was also this alternative scene.
[Now] there’s festivals I wouldn’t go near, where before it was like, Oh my god, this is happening, holy shit. Now they’re everywhere. And it’s good and bad, because it’s cool that I can make a living off of playing what I like. I didn’t start DJing until way later, but the reason I started was because I was putting so many hours of my life in the scene, I wanted to contribute to it and start DJing and making music. It’s the only thing that’s ever stuck throughout my entire life.
Around the time that this album is based on, for the most part I was alone a lot. During the rave, during the party, yeah, everybody could share their feelings about it, but afterwards I would go home and think, How can I tell people about this? I just remember all I wanted was friends from school that liked what I liked so I didn’t look so weird. There wasn’t EDM, there wasn’t any of this stuff when I first started liking electronic music, and throughout the years it turned into something that I could tell my mom’s friends what I do and they’re like, "Oh, do you know Tiesto?" It is completely different [from when] this was a forbidden, kind of looked-down-upon alternative lifestyle. So it’s way different than when I was young.
Now I have made this awesome community of people that totally get what I’m saying and have lived a similar life or have a similar background in it or they’re new to it and really excited about it or they used to be really into it and now they have a normal family life but it’s still in them. Now I feel like people actually know what I’m talking about and it’s all of my friends. Now I just want some friends that don’t listen to this stuff, you know?
What was your journey like in getting this album to the finished product?
Long. I’m on and off between my studio time because I also DJ. But when I get ideas, that’s when I’m like, Ok. Studio. Now. It took about two years. I’ll make something and then not listen to it for a really long time, because you kind of get used to hearing it and you don’t know how you feel about it after hearing it for the millionth time. So a lot of times I would kind of bury it almost and dig it back up and then be like, Ok, it’s all good.
I definitely took a lot of breaks, only because I wanted to make sure that I 100% loved it before I put it on this project with my name on it. But everything passed the test. A lot of the songs I get a really good feeling about, like epiphanies that I had in the studio or moments that I had where I was like, Yeah that’s the one. When I listen to certain tunes, I remember those little moments. So, all in all, it was positive.
You feature Otto Von Schirach on the album. How did you come to start working with him?
I’ve known him for a really long time. He is somebody that’s a really big influence of mine. He’s Mr. Miami pretty much. He’s always stuck to this certain sound of 808s and a style of rapping [that] is 150% Miami. So, I couldn’t do an album based on that area without having him on it. And I think that people are excited about it. The reactions have been like, "Woah, finally they’re working together."
He gave me that song that I needed of dirty lyrics [and] being told what to do [for] dance moves, which is a very Miami bass thing. A lot of the old 2 Live Crew, Splack Pack, Gucci Crew records [have] a dance move that you’re being told to do, like current rap is now. He really helped me do kind of a future version of that for my album. I needed that high bpm, a little bit raunchy, very Miami instructional lyric song for it to be of that theme.
Tell me about “Wine Up” featuring Hoodcelebrityy. Why did you decide to make that track the first single off the album?
It has been the favorite since day one. It’s been everybody’s favorite basically. [Mixpak boss] Dre Skull was playing it a lot as a draft before I even tried to and people would come up and ask what it is all the time. And I just think it was the appropriate single. The album has all sorts of sounds on it, and all of the sounds on the album are kind of in that song. [They don’t] necessarily all have that vibe, but we can all use a little bit of an extension to the summer.
“When I got involved in music I was super young. I went to all these clubs because it was this place where I could get away from bros, and — isn’t it ironic — that’s all it is now.”
How have your production skills, techniques, and styles evolved over time?
It’s always evolving. You learn one new thing and you’re like, I’m gonna do this forever! As far as technically, I learned a ton. What evolved was really just putting my voice inside an instrumental song. [That] definitely improved and it really made my creativity flow more than anything. The other EPs that I have are straight-up club bangers to me, but for this I was telling a story. It makes it a little bit different and I feel my storytelling skills definitely improved for sure.
So you made this album with more of a narrative approach.
Right. Everything I made was like, Ok, I’m in the car and I’m on this highway and I’m daydreaming about this while I’m driving. I really went back to specific drives I had and specific memories.
Sounds like police scanners, traffic, and seagulls really create this sense of place and add to the narrative aspect of the album. Did the choice to include those come out of an epiphany moment?
A lot of the background noises are personal recordings of me and my friends. The seagulls were not, but there’s a lot of voices in there and a lot of background recordings of Uber drivers, regular taxi drivers, and me and my friends talking while being out late night. I wanted it to be realistic. If I want to record people I want it to be like my life.
A lot of times when I make a tune, something will trigger something [that] will remind me of something. With “Spring Break,” we came across this seagull sound and then I was like, "Wow this really reminds me of the morning when you’ve stayed out too late and you start hearing seagulls." You walk out of the rave, everybody’s going about their normal day life, and you’ve been out all night. The sun is just starting to go up. Usually, you’ll walk outside, you’ll see someone getting arrested, maybe one of your friends is bugging out and you have to kind of take care of them. It just kind of reminded me of the darker side of leaving the club and going from this really loud venue to walking outside into the Florida morning like, Good morning, here’s reality!