This past weekend was a sweltering one in Chicago, an apt setting for this year’s annual Pitchfork Festival. Despite energizing sets from the likes of Sky Ferreira, Mike, Pusha-T, CHAI, Freddie Gibbs and Rico Nasty, there were several moments — especially throughout the first two days of the weekend — when it felt just too damn hot to dance. But heat was the last thing on anyone’s mind during JPEGMAFIA’s set on Sunday. Blasting through his discography with fervor, he unretired his Veteran track “I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies,” repeatedly refered to the festival as Condé Nast Fest, and at one point insisted that every audience member sit down.
Anyone who saw it would agree, it was doubtlessly the single most galvanizing performance of this year’s Pitchfork Festival. Off the stage, though, JPEG is just trying to survive the summer like the rest of us. We caught up with Peggy after the set in a sweaty, wood-paneled Union Park gymnasium to learn how he’s coping with the relentless summer festival circuit, what anime he’s been watching lately, what he thinks of the #FreeBritney movement, and what to expect next from him.
What’s it been like hopping from festival to festival this summer?
I’d never been to a festival till I played one. It sucks ass. It's so terrible. You know, shit, it is what it is. It's pretty trash though, just traveling, taking planes all the time. It's not fun at all. It makes me want to quit. I like performing but i'm definitely taking a break soon.
How do you find the enthusiasm every fucking night to turn the show into an experience for these crowds?
It's not hard for me, because I always think, these are people who could just listen to my music for free at home but they came here to watch me perform, and they they have a connection to these songs. I think it's my duty to go out there and find the energy, even if I don't have any. And I always do, but I'm sure at some point it will get tiring but nah I just think of it like that. Like, people who are paying my bills, and appreciate me enough to come out, it's like I gotta be up there sweating, killin, just going out there doing as much as I can because, like, what else can I do?
How was Primavera?
Big. It was at like 1a.m. and it was fucking packed. I was like who's watching music at this point? 1a.m. and niggas was out here moshing. You should see what I'm doing at 1a.m., it's the complete opposite of that.
What is that?
Just really high, naked, watching anime.
What anime have you been into lately?
Megalo Box. I just finished it, it's really good. I've been rewatching this one called Psycho-Pass that’s also really good.
Aside from Primavera, what was touring Europe like?
Hard. I'm glad to see all these cities but I wish I wasn't working. I could just go there and just see them. But yeah Europe is tight. I just wish I could get food after midnight in the UK. I walked into this Jamaican joint at like 11:30, I had just got off stage, and they were like oh we stopped serving food at 10:30. For what? There are still people here.
Speaking of England, why did you decide to revive the Morrissey track tonight?
It was either that or this other song and I didn't feel like doing the other song. That's the beauty of the music, like there's no rules to this shit, and the rules can be broken. But they're some rules that shouldn't be broken.
Do you play that song in the UK?
I've actually only specifically been playing it overseas, I had retired it in the US till just now. I’m just tired of talking about it. I've been right about him for so long and just now people are like oh he's racist. I been known. I don't care now. If it took a pin on like Jimmy Fallon or whatever the fuck he was on for people to realize this nigga is racist than I don't know what to tell you.
It reaches a point where the more we say his name and give him the press—
That's kind of why I wanted to stop doing it. When I wrote the song I was like 25 or 26, and I definitely had the energy to be like yeah let's hunt this nigga down. Now I'm just 29 and don't really care like that. So that's why I retired it, but it's fun to do, and people seem to like it, so it's nice to unretire it now and then.
Why'd you make the crowd sit down today?
It's just to get the vibe man. Like when i do that song, I think it's better that you just sit down and it's more of a campfire vibe. That's all it is, I just like doing it at any- I did it at Primavera, I like making huge crowds do it cause it shows camaraderie. People think that shit is dead, but nah man, it's still here. You just gotta tap into the energy.
“Puff Daddy” fucking goes, and I love the song with Health. What's next on the plate?
Disappointment. Straight-ass disappointment man. Old school let downs. It's going to be an interesting end of the year, I'll say that. That's for sure, I'll say that.
Do you have a song of the summer?
Man i've just been bumping Pet Shop Boys all summer. Hell yeah man, cause they rock. “West End Girls,” have you heard that shit? That shit is crazy. I've been listening to a lot of Joanna Newsom too, she's really one of my favorites. I mean, I'm kind of out of touch with actual songs of the summer. I’ll just say this: Baby Keem got the album of the summer. Fuck a song of the summer, the summer belongs to Baby Keem.
Are you here for the whole festival? Anyone you’re excited to see?
Charli XCX, I'd like to see what she’s like live. There's some people that I don't think about live, but I'm really curious about Charli because I've never seen her live.
It's like doing a lot of poppers, but audibly.
What the fuck, that’s perfect.
Would you do a song with her?
Hell yeah, that would make sense. I'm all about existing outside of zones people think I can't exist in, so I would love to make a song with Charli. I'd love to make a song with Britney Spears, too, because she posted a horse on instagram with no explanation and we still don't know why.
Are you following the free Britney movement?
No, what's that?
People think her conservatorship is stifling her… like, she can’t do what she wants to do because she's legally bound to her dad. I don't know if it's true or not but there's a whole conspiracy behind it.
Yo what? There are so many odd things that happened that are centered around Britney Spears it's kind of amazing. There's just so many cultural moments centered around her existence and nothing else. Like when that dude was crying about people being mean to Britney, that was like an iconic moment for the internet based on Britney Spears just like going through life, what the fuck?
You got anything else to get off your chest?
Nothing but disappointment, anguish. Yeah disappointment coming very soon it's going to be very very bad it's gonna be a let down. I'll resurface sooner than you think.
People are ready.
They think they are
Ready for disappointment.