Discover the Electronic Music Textures of UK Duo Jacana People
Electronic music duo Jacana People from Buckinghamshire, UK returns with a brand-new single “Ladybird” to get you on your feet.
The producer duo Aaron Miller and Robert Wheatley are fairly new to the scene, but have been actively releasing music since 2020 with their brand of textured electronica that expands to ambient, world music and house.
Last year, Miller and Wheatley released multiple EPs and a slew of singles that kept fans entertained with their brand of euphoric touches to each track. These transported listeners to a wondrous and adventurous soundscape.
They have even opened for British electronic music producer, DJ and singer-songwriter Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and joined Manchester-collective Porij on tour.
We can only imagine 2023 will be another productive year ahead for Jacana People.
Sound of Life caught up with the UK duo to learn more about their new single “Ladybird”. Also to discover what that Jacana People sound is really about, as well as dig deep into what they admire most about each other.
Hey guys – what moment in 2022 was most memorable for you both musically?
The year was a big one for us – dropping our first EP, playing our first live shows on tour, DJing at our first festivals. All those moments have influenced how we’re working going into 2023.
In terms of most memorable, supporting George FitzGerald at Koko in London was huge for us. He’s an artiste we’ve looked up to for ages and being part of that evening, right round the corner from where we both went to university, was very special.
How did the two of you link up and decide on stepping out as Jacana People together?
Miller: We actually met at school, probably when we were about 12 or 13 messing around in indie bands with mates.
We didn’t have a drummer for a while so began making basic loops for live shows and bought a few synths. It was all pretty silly. A few years ago though, we properly got into electronic sound, club culture and dance music which happened to coincide with the pandemic.
Wheatley: That was around the time we started Jacana People – it was the first time we put some thought into what a project from the two of us might sound like.
When we had our first track finished, we just wanted to get it out and beyond that, we didn’t really plan too far ahead. In the beginning, a big part of what we were about was to just work quickly and not overthink things.
What are your earliest memories of music, and how do you think that’s affected your career?
We both grew up in households full of music. Between us, our parents would be playing everything from John Martyn to Talking Heads to Moby, and we bonded over that at school together – those memories stick in your head.
We were always going to shows at O2 Academy Brixton or exchanging new music that we’d discovered.
We keep those early influences and experiences close when working on music, while also getting excited about finding new ideas and pushing ourselves into unknown places.
Who were you most inspired by when you started to work together as a duo? And how has it evolved since?
Growing up when we did, it was hard to ignore this big wave of alternative electronic music that was popping up. Producers like Joe Goddard, Jamie xx and Maribou State were everywhere.
It opened our eyes to the fact that electronic music could mean a lot of different things.
When Caribou dropped “Can’t Do Without You”, that was such a moment for us. It got us thinking differently about what a big track could sound like. We’ve carried that kind of ethos since and if anything, now we just take inspiration from a load more diverse places and eras.
Over the last few years, we’ve gone much further back and are pretty obsessive about early electronica, house and rave – Photek, Susumu Yokota, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Larry Heard – it’s an endless list.
The more you make this kind of music, the more you realise that there’s so much to take and borrow from, and the wider you cast your net, the more you’re going to learn and be inspired.
How did you find your sound as a duo, and what was that journey like?
We’ve been experimenting with sounds and ideas since we were in school, and even now, we are not sure we’ve reached our destination in terms of what we want to make. Everything is constantly moving.
The last few years have been about completely immersing ourselves in producing and writing electronic music.
However, now we’re finding ourselves hooked on collaborating with other people; instrumentalists, vocalists – elements you might not expect from a Jacana People track – and that brings a whole other dimension to the scope of what our sound could be.
We’re starting to think about what it might be like to put an album together. Putting more emphasis on a narrative or a theme that takes us to new areas, with hopefully broader ambitions for the kinds of sounds and instruments we’re pulling from.
Fundamentally, whatever we’re doing in a current moment is what defines our sound and we continue to love that journey of discovery.
What can you tell us about your new single?
Wheatley: “Ladybird” is an exciting one for us. It’s the clubbiest thing we’ve released and it was mad seeing the reaction to it on tour last year.
We wrote the track with our good mate Kiimi, who is a crazy talented producer and writer, and we just all got excited by this minimal clubby feel and the in-your-face vocal chops.
Miller: We’d had this bass hook lying around from an idea that Rob had written and as soon as we brought it in, the track just really came alive.
We’re always pushing to show different sides of what we do and this track covers another element of our tastes and feels like the right energy to start this new year on.
How does your creative process tend to kick off when starting new projects? Do you usually seek out inspirations or go with the flow?
We’re often quite proactive in the creative process. We love giving ourselves a challenge or something to aim for – whether that’s trying to include an unusual sound, an off-the-cuff sample or even trying to translate something visual (like a photo or a piece of art) into sound.
This project has always been a way of getting out of our heads and being creative, and sometimes the process of writing or even just making some noise is more important than the outcome, to us.
Have you set any designated roles when it comes to making music between the both of you?
We try and keep things pretty fluid in the studio – there’s not really a formula to the way we work.
During the pandemic we were writing remotely but now we’ve been back in the studio for a year or so and the process is basically collaborative from the off.
Naturally there are parts of the process we’re both more comfortable with, but switching out our roles from track to track keeps us on our toes. A big part of our process is trying to push things outside of our comfort zone and escape our habits and patterns.
If we can nail that, we usually find we land on something interesting and inspiring.
With so many electronic music acts out there, how does Jacana People set itself apart?
This is a tricky one. When you get in the studio to write or work on an idea you don’t necessarily think in the terms of, “How can we make this stand out?”
Very often, our favourite artistes define themselves by pursuing what is authentic to them and that is what usually connects with people. We just try and stay as close to what feels right to us, and try to trust our instincts.
We are pretty confident in our tastes and like to think we move forward at our own pace without too much input from what’s around us.
We’re lucky to be in a scene where our peers and friends are making some amazing music and it’s definitely the case that if a community around you is doing interesting, cool work, you all benefit and get better because of it.
Being relatively new to the scene, what’s the most challenging part of making your music heard these days?
Because it’s never been easier to make music or get it released, there is so much music in the world at the moment.
As a fan and a listener this is a great thing, but when you’re making something you can start to question whether there’s any space for what you’re doing – things can start to feel saturated.
The flip side of these challenges is that we benefitted massively from all of this at the start of Jacana People. It was because we were able to move quickly and release without thinking about it too much that we could push ourselves forward and move onto new things.
What do you admire most about each other when it comes to work?
Miller: I’m always surprised by how meticulous Rob is. I definitely consider him the technical one out of the two of us.
I can get distracted quite easily and want to keep moving, but Rob has great patience for making sure a sound is as it should be. Rob is creative with sound design and always makes the most of what we have to work with in the studio.
Rob can pull that bit of magic out of a melody or a sample, or put together a bass line that brings everything together when we’re struggling for ideas. That is absolute gold in the studio.
Wheatley: Aaron is great at cutting out the noise when we’re writing, identifying the core of an idea so we don’t get caught up on the unimportant elements – which I can be prone to!
Working as a duo is great for staying creatively focused. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of a track when you can’t nail a particular element, or you lose sight of the initial inspiration of the song.
Aaron has a knack for keeping an eye on the big picture and helping move things in the right direction if we feel we’re moving off course.
If Jacana People’s music were a film, what would it be and why?
We are definitely of the belief that sound and visuals are pretty intrinsically linked and we are big fans of cinema as a means of escape. It is kind of strange to think about your music in these terms but maybe something like Into The Wild based on the book by Jon Krakauer.
The film touches on some of the things we try to put into our sound. Ideas of escapism and exploration, getting out of your head and being more present in your surroundings.
We put a lot of emphasis on being in nature and that influences the sounds we like to work with and that film has those themes at its core.
What can the world expect from Jacana People in 2023?
The year feels like it’s going to be a big one for us. Our new single, “Ladybird”, marks the start of a run of releases we have coming up in the first half of this year – more on that soon…
And on the live side we’re starting to plan for our next six months with festivals approaching and live shows getting announced. We would love to start playing abroad and probably will start thinking about our first headline show towards the end of this year.
We just love keeping busy and showing people different sides to what we’re about and are looking forward to doing more of that this year.
All Images: Alex Lambert
Elevate the way you listen to Jacana People with KEF
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.