Dance Your Heart Out to NekoJam's Debut Album NKJ_1
BY Evan Vitkovski / Nov-26-2019
The members of NekoJam have been friends for a decade plus after meeting in college. They started as a student band pop rock outfit, which lead singer Sandra admits was cheesy, but fun. Regrouping in 2014, their vision and sound changed with the times. Spearheaded by bass player and producer Molly Lin, they've broken into the world of electronic music, with a taste for different subgenres of house and drum n' bass. Practicing and performing their craft with live instruments sets them apart from other acts in the field of electro-pop and house. A real sense of commitment and passion for making dance music drives the spirit of NekoJam. The four bandmates share a love for catchy hooks and danceable beats that spark their creativity. Molly said: "It's not just adding beats to a pop song, that's not what we do."
For the past two years they have been putting their efforts towards releasing a full album, which materialized in September 2019 with NKJ_1, released on ROKON Records. The album portrays their girl-power style with fresh hooks and fun pop music infused with an electronic spin that has its own innovative sound.
DJ Fresh and Nathan C also contributed their production skills to the album. Molly expressed her admiration for DJ Fresh, saying: "Before we did production with DJ Fresh, all the arrangement and beats I made had lots of parts for each track... but he taught me to focus on the tone and instruments we choose and find the main hook for the whole song. It made the mixing much easier."
Sandra also took some cues from DJ Fresh in her approach to songwriting, saying: "He is the one who taught us, less is more when producing music... Also in terms of the lyrics, I wrote a complicated poem that I thought was very deep, but (after working with DJ Fresh) I found it's better to be more direct and straightforward. That's the main point of doing electronic music. Making it catchy." Molly agreed, "It's all house music, we want them to feel happy and then to feel like dancing."
Songs that fans can sing along with, dance, and party to don't mean there isn't a deeper meaning behind the lyrics. Sandra explained the underlying message that runs throughout the tracks on NKJ_1: "We have a theme for the whole album, which is about how shallow you can see this world from the point of view of technology and social media… For some people, you just appear to be caring about them on the surface. We want to reflect on that concept of what is true around us and not let the surface fool you. This is part of the newer songs on the album."
Combining their previous singles and EP releases with a remix from French producer Movenchy, the 11-track album is both a starting point and the outcome of years of hard work and dedication. Sandra says: "It's a result of our friendship… so it's something else other than the music." The songwriting process changes depending on if the song lyrics are in English or Chinese, which dictates the melody and groove. Molly Lin has a collection of beats and hooks to draw from. She also performs as a DJ, while also working with other songwriters outside the group. Each song is shaped by experimenting with ideas and input in the studio, demoing the tunes live, and finalizing them with all the workable elements.
Signing with ROKON Records has given NekoJam an outlet for their electronic-based sound even in a limited market for what the sound they are pushing. "Doing electronic music in Mandarin is pioneering. We're still trying to find a way to balance being successful in the market and being true to ourselves musically. The label and the band are shaping each other. Working with ROKON, we're working very hard to find a status in so-called Chinese electronic music. We get to talk directly to the boss, which makes it easier to brainstorm," said Sandra.
Alien Huang directed their latest video for "This Way," which he also added a verse to after hearing the original track and feeling inspired. NekoJam welcomes collaboration and inspiration from across the board during their creative process. Sandra explained, "The whole concept for the music video has a story about betrayal in friendship, human nature, vanity, reality…" Check out their music video to get a glimpse of how their vision came together.
Next year, NekoJam is playing SXSW Festival, where they can bring their own brand of music and create an image of Mando-electro-house to share with the American audience that might not be familiar with them.