From creating mashups in his bedroom to headlining iconic music venues around the world, Jai Wolf pushes his artistry to the fore. His track “Indian Summer” currently has over 100,000,000 streams on Spotify. Wolf Jai is currently headlining and touring across the United States. Read on to get an inside look at the journey of this incredible artist!
First, Jai Wolf started his career doing mashups and bootlegs under the stage name No Pets Allowed. He switched to the stage name Jai Wolf years later. Jai Wolf explained to me the meaning of his stage name Jai Wolf.
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The goal was to write original music and be taken seriously as an artist. For example, No pets Allowed was a fun college project for my DJ mashup stuff. I switched to Jai Wolf in 2014.
I also wanted a name that I would be proud of when I was 30. Above all, it was important that it reflected my identity as a South Asian person. Additionally, having a searchable name on Google for SEO was also important.
Originally, I wanted to be a werewolf. It’s an animal from “Game of Thrones”. In other words, Jai was phonetically similar to direwolf. You have Frank Ocean and John Legend. However, I wanted a name with a South Asian twist.
I chose Jai because we already have Jay Z, Jay Sean and J. Cole. Phonetically, you have the sound J. I wanted to be Jai to be different.
None of my friends are called J. Phonetically, it’s Jai. If someone says J wolf, I don’t care. In conclusion, I think it’s great that people resonate with the music and the name at the end of the day.
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Second, his debut EP titled “Kindred Spirits” was released in 2016. Jai Wolf walked me through the headspace he was in when creating this project.
Yeah, it was really funny because I released “Indian Summer”. The expectation was to create a body of work around her. However, I pivoted and called it synth wave pop.
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Third, Jai Wolf’s debut album was called “The Cure To Loneliness”, which was released in 2019. He guided me through the process of finding his sound.
It was yet another step in the right direction. Also, what was the best way to mix elements of indie music and electronic music?
I went looking for live guitars and basses with a bunch of different styles. I also mixed the energy of the dance with different tempos and BPMs for a cohesive sound.
Tony Hoffer was a great engineer and producer. He worked with bands like M83, Air and Phoenix. Tony helped pull together the live feeling of “The Cure to Loneliness”. In other words, if you listen to the tracks “Lose My Mind” and “Telepathy”, that’s what I’m working towards. I was really proud of that kind of sound.
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Fourth, we talked about the track “Indian Summer” by Jai Wolf. The opening words of the “Chand” sample were fascinating to hear at a Hard Summer Festival. Jai Wolf explained to me how the song was born.
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You are the first person to accurately identify “Chand” in an interview. This is a very obscure sample I found. I chopped it and tasted it. My friend Nabeel is also Bangladeshi like me. He had the idea of sampling an Indian rhythm. I finished the track and submitted it to Foreign Family’s label ODESZA. I thought to myself, this is a weird song. I don’t know if anyone will like this.
In conclusion, it ended up taking on a life of its own and being interpreted in its own way. I started seeing it used in commercials, vlogs, etc. Lots of skydiving, adventure, yoga, dancing and digital shorts.
Personally, I remember seeing “Indian Summer” featured in a GoPro commercial, “How to Get Away with Murder” and a WongFu Productions digital short.
Fifth, we moved on to talking about South Asian musical influences across cultures. Jai Wolf spoke about his musical influences and his thoughts on individuals making music in the diaspora.
Bangladesh places a strong emphasis on music and the arts. If you grew up Bengali, there was music in your home. Basically, there was at least one member of the musical family singing Rabindra Sangeet. It is a form of Bengali poetry in song form.
I also feel like when someone from the Diaspora starts making music that isn’t influenced by South Asian music, it doesn’t get much attention. The South Asian cosign and their drinking behavior usually only comes if you reach a certain level of success.
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In other words, I want to see people from across the diaspora making music that isn’t necessarily influenced by South Asian culture. The hope is for more support and recognition. Cool South Asians doing cool stuff in a whole range of arts.
For example, we come from such a beautiful culture. There’s a lot of art, music and thought behind it. Above all, we should be able to express ourselves even through a western lens.
Sixth, Jai Wolf hopes people realize that there are amazing South Asian individuals making music all over America and around the world. They all deserve a fair and equal chance like everyone else.
Seventh, “Telepathy” is a magical track that makes listeners’ heads vibrate and move. Jai Wolf dropped the meaning behind the track in his own words.
My favorite instrumental tracks are the ones you really get lost in. In other words, where you want to live in the world that was created for you.
For example, some of my favorite pop songs influenced the making of “Telepathy” through arena drumming. Sia’s “Chandelier” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” have big drum elements.
It’s this nice marriage of big arena pop mixed with more niche and electronic sounds that excites me.
Eighth, we moved on to talk about creating music videos. Fans in the comment sections interpret Jai Wolf’s music from the visuals. Jai Wolf was kind enough to elaborate on his feelings on his music videos.
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I put a lot of emphasis on storytelling and our clips. It’s funny because it’s almost like a lost art. Usually I blow my marketing budget on music videos growing up on MTV and Fuse.
With “Lose my mind”, it was all about metaphors in the music video. You have this girl on a spaceship in space, and she’s completely alone. She is about to make human contact. In the last second, the spaceship explodes and she is stuck in space all alone.
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In the “your way” music video, which I shot with my friend Chet Porter, I imagined this imaginary scenario. Chet Porter plays a super celebrity version of himself. And then he’s really, really alone. I thought that would be fun. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that Chet is a close friend of mine. A lot of my fans listen to Chet.
It’s just funny to shoot a video with your friend and have him drive a Lamborghini. Just the concept was really fun to shoot. I wanted to show an intense example of a super successful person. I also wanted to show a very human feeling of loneliness at the end of the day.
Ninth, we talked about how Jai Wolf is headlining the upcoming show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. He will be the first artist of Bangladeshi origin to headline this show. Jai Wolf shared with me what it’s like to perform in bigger venues again.
We have been waiting for this show for a long time. We have had this date since 2019. It has been pushed back twice due to the pandemic.
We did a few rounds of guinea pigs last year to see the reactions. I think it is quite possible to organize a show indoors and outdoors. I’m so excited to perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s a beautiful venue and the headliner is a great honour.
We concluded the interview with a series of quick questions.
Do you think the beat drop in electronic music is equivalent to the guitar solo in the ‘70s? Something the crowd craves?
Absoutely! You used to have choruses to sing at the top of a song. Now your choruses will lead to something even bigger. This is an instrumental part. However, I think it’s dangerous if your whole show or DJ set is just drop by drop. Sometimes it’s nice to mix it all up or change the arrangement or something surprising happens.
What is your dream collaboration?
I would like to work with Lorde. Even just to give it a beat or something that maybe doesn’t sound like my usual sound. Other dream collaborations include Two Doors Cinema Club and Foster The People.
Have you faced adversity in the music industry?
I think the adversity for me, ultimately, is yourself. You yourself can really be the thing holding you back. Your ego, your work ethic or the way you approach your art. At the end of the day, you’re really trying to compete with yourself. You should not be in competition with other people.
I have a bit of a bias being in the electronic world. Our brands aren’t super dependent on our face or anything. If the music is doing well and people are listening and watching the shows, you are doing something good.
If you look at the landscape as a whole, it unfortunately holds a lot of people back. The South Asian community struggles to support South Asian artists. I think it stems from the childhood idea that there can only be one.
That being said, I see a lot of community building among new generations of South Asian artists.
In conclusion, Jai Wolf left me these final thoughts.
I want to see more South Asians coming together to raise the next generation of artists. More community building in the next ten to twenty years. I want to see us get together and have our own moment. Something that’s not super dependent on South Asian culture.
Photo courtesy of John Liwag