Long time friends and collaborators Henry Fong and JSTJR are back with a banging new single, “Louder.” Blending elements of soca, dancehall, and moombahton, “Louder” is a track that is sure to be burning up dance floors across the globe. In honor their latest single together, we sat down and talked with Henry and JSTJR about “Louder,” their unique friendship, world influences, and crypto. Here’s the full interview below.
Hey guys, thanks for chatting with me, first things first, let’s talk about the new single “Louder” coming out tomorrow. It is a banger, tell me about how you guys conceived the song?
Henry Fong: “So, I was working with these artists from Trinidad, they’re called the Ultimate Rejects, they’re soca artists. And we had this idea with this really cool vocal, and it kind of sat there for about three years, I think. And, then one day, Jim (JSTJR) and I linked up in the studio, and the demo got kind of just shuffled to the back and I couldn’t really nail a drop for it. Then were working on some new music, and I was flipping through some ideas and he’s like, stop! This one’s sick, I have an idea. And, I was like, perfect man, I scrapped this one anyway, I couldn’t nail the drop on it. So, yeah, Jim took it over, and he completely re-envisioned the whole thing and put his moombahton touch on it and it turned out really good.”
JSTJR: “Yeah, I feel like Henry and I have this synergy. Same thing happened with our last collab together, ‘Arriba.’ He has this amazing idea, and it’s just missing…or he’s gotten so caught up in the idea. He’s tried a thousand different drops and a thousand different versions and I hear it and I can just, like, hear exactly what I think it needs to do, and then I finish it up, and it’s always such a cool result.”
HF: “Yeah, that’s perfect man. Like, our last one we did a song called ‘Arriba’ and it was the same thing. I had this really cool idea and the drop, it just wasn’t it. And then Jim just re-did the whole project and he chopped up the horns and made this really cool kind of Latin/Jersey club drop, and it was just perfect. We just have a good vibe just passing demos off to each other.”
How’d you guys originally meet up and what makes the two of you such a natural combination?
HF: “I think we have very similar styles and tastes when it comes to certain things. Like, we both really love club music. We like our stuff to make sure it bangs and it works in the club also. And then we both have an aspect where we both draw different influences from worldly music. Jim really likes some of the Latin stuff, Bali funk, other kind of world music. I really love reggae, dancehall sort of stuff. So, we both have this kind of worldly tasted in our music.”
J: “I just find it so fun to work with Henry because we’ve become close friends since collaborating with each other. When we’re making music together, with other artists, I feel less friendly with, even my friends that I make music with. Henry and I are very honest with each other to a point where we almost bicker in the studio. Where it’s like, ‘No, dude, don’t do that, do this!’ We have just a very open and honest vibe with each other. Even, with my good friends, I don’t really have. So, it’s cool because we end up getting shit done faster. It’s just like we just go through it and there’s no like, I’m going to let him finish this and if it’s not great, I’ll just go and touch it up later. That’s usually how it is. But, with us in the studio, it’s just like, nah, don’t do that, just try something else.”
Does that ever happen where you’re in the studio with someone else and it feels more like a chore than something fun?
HF: “It happens all the time. Like, you’ll make a song with somebody and you put out the song, and it’s like you made this baby together. And then all of a sudden like two or three years later and you’re not even friends with them, you don’t even talk to them, it’s kind of weird. It definitely happens.”
J: “I think we’re lucky because Henry and I and a small group of producer friends, we all have a lot of common interests. So, we’re kind of just always talking together everyday about whatever it is and that’s cool, because we also kind of share the same vibes, so it’s like music and life kind of all blend together. So, it’s really cool, just kind of easy.”
For you, Jim, I know you were at HARD Summer, how was it being back at an actual festival. I know you’ve each done the drive-in raves too. How were those?
J: “It was awesome! Henry was there too, we played our song at the end of my set. I mean, I’ve been doing so many live streams, and the work you put into DJing multiple times a week sometimes. You don’t really get that payoff like at a live show. So, I did a lot of work leading up to HARD Summer. Like, over a month of just preparing my set and making new music and new edits and everything. So, I was kind of ready for that livestream payoff, which is kind of lackluster. But, having that live, huge festival payoff was so rewarding. Especially after learning to work so much harder during quarantine. Just like how much more effort you need to put into to things to make it dope. When you play music live, it’s always dope, but when you play music on the internet, you gotta really put effort in to make it dope. So, it was a payoff beyond words, honestly.”
HF: “Yeah, it was just good to be at a festival again and just see it in real life. Just kind of see the music that everyone’s been doing the last year and see how things have evolved and see the crowd reactions. It’s always inspiring to go to those things.”
What did you guys do during quarantine? As we mentioned, I know you had Group Chat, James. Pick up any cool hobbies or binge anything good?
HF: “Well, I think that leads off of what Jim is talking about our friend group. So, we have this DJ group chat, and we all kind of trade crypto, and we really got deep into crypto this past year.So, it’s like me, Jim, GTA, Wuki, Elijah, Sam F., Wax Motif, a bunch of guys are in there. And, the whole lockdown we basically were trading crypto, trading Bitcoin, Ehtereum, NFTs, you name it. And we were just helping each other out, giving each other just tips and stuff, and we all kind of did it as a team effort. We all kind of just kept on these little micro-trends that were happening blockchain and cryptocurrency, and we all ended up coming out of it pretty good.”
J: “Yeah, it’s crazy, man. I mean, I was definitely hyper focused on the live streaming stuff as well, more so than most people. And that was definitely tough, I burnt myself out quite a bit. It was a lot of ups and downs for me during quarantine for sure. I think everyone has that kind of experience. But, yeah, I definitely experienced a lot of different kinds of, life, though that year.”
For each of you guys, tell me a little bit of your origin story and how you each got into making music?
J: “I’ve just always kind of made music. I was playing drums and piano since I was a little kid and was always surrounded by music. I was in bands in high school and then I stopped wanting to be in bands because you always have to make a lot of decisions with other people, and I just wanted to make all the decisions by myself. So, I started producing music, and had a really good experience at a festival in like 2010 or so, an decided I wanted to be a DJ after all of that. Started kind of getting recognized for making music that was a little different than everyone else and kind of taking a different take and learning about music from around the world and how I could incorporate that into American dance music, and yeah, kind of just went from there.”
HF: “For me, I actually started as a DJ first. I was in college, and I learned how to DJ around my junior or senior year in college. And, I just really wanted to learn how to DJ since I was probably in my teens, you know, watching MTV Spring Break. So, I wanted to be a turntable DJ in my teens and I bought some turntables, and I just lived in the middle of nowhere in Florida, and I just didn’t have any mentors or anybody that had the same interest, so I kind of gave it up. Then in college, one of my friends, DJ Nims from Milo & Otis taught me how to DJ, then I got two turntables and then I ended up playing some college bar gigs for my fraternity and stuff. Then I built a promotion company with my friends and starting throwing events. We actually started throwing the first EDM, before it was even called EDM. Like, the first dance music event at the college in like 2009-2010, at UCF. So, it was kind of the first event before the music really got popular. So, we just threw this night called Riot Wednesdays for a couple of years, and we just ended up selling it out every week, just with local DJs. We just kind of did that for a couple of years and then I just grew it from there, and then I gradually learned how to produce after throwing events.”
What else can we expect from each of you for the rest of the year music and touring wise?
J: “Yeah, I’ve got a bunch more music, next release after this will be a collab with Good Times Ahead. Then, I’ve got like three or four singles that are ready to go, it’s a little different from what I usually put out, it’s more like rave-inspired, and more fast, and crazy and fun. So, I’m really excited for those next ones. I’m playing a few more festivals, Escape, Freaky Deeky, Electric Zoo, so yeah, just really busy. And making ravers rich too!”
HF: “I’m actually playing Escape too, so that’s kind of my next big festival. Then I’ve got some shows coming up in Latin America I’m really excited about. I’m doing a show in Puerto Rico with Zomboy in October, and I’m actually going to Nicaragua this month, which is cool. So, two new places I’ve never been before, I’m really excited to play there. And then the new music, just trying to roll out the club bangers. Just had a ton of music I made in the last year, it’s like this 140-150 BPM kind of house-y sound. You can call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s just club music.”
Any other words for the fans?
HF: “Listen to our new song ‘Louder’”
J: “Tell your friends about it.”
Check out the latest from Henry Fong x JSTJR x Ultimate Rejects, “Louder” out now via Insomniac Records.