Rising Canadian-born and-based singer/songwriter Neon Jesus can trace the origins of his genre-defying sound — a sound that pairs blues-inspired guitar with pulsing electronic dance music — to when he lived in New York.
While in New York, the rising Canadian artist frequently caught live music, and he noticed a significant and very telling difference in terms of reaction: “I’d be out at a rock show and while people were attentive and taking everything in, the crowd’s reaction was rather lackluster, even amid great artists before them,” Neon Jesus recalls. ““But then I’d head to a rave in Brooklyn and it struck me that people there were uninhibited and just generally more invested in what they were listening to. That was when I started to wonder what would happen if someone were to bring the two genres together.”
Electronic music was uncharted territory for the rising Canadian artist. But rather than mindlessly following the short-lived trends of generic dance music, Neon Jesus invested time to understand the foundations of electronic music and began to create his own beats to accompany his own guitar playing. That approach to production caught the attention of New York-based dance music production Abe Duque, a pioneer of deep house.
Mentored by Duque, Neon Jesus was exposed to underground dance music. Together, they created a live sound featuring synths and drum machines while the Canadian artist played guitar that saw the pair playing off one-another in an improvised manner familiar to the blues and jazz. The pair took their live sound to Berlin, where Neon Jesus became the first artist to play electric guitar at the renowned Berlin-based techno club Berghain.
Interestingly, those performances laid the foundation for Neon Jesus’ forthcoming full-length debut Tabula Rosa. Tabula Rosa‘s first single, the slickly produced and sultry “Red Lips” is centered around a thumping kick drum, glistening and pulsating synths, the Canadian artist’s plaintive wailing and scorching guitar lines reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, Prince and the like. And while pairing bluesy, power chord-driven rock with pulsating electronic dance music, “Red Lips” sonically and thematically reminds me a bit of INXS‘ “Need You Tonight” as the song is about desperate, maddening, obsessive desire — but with a sinister and uneasy undertone. “When you look back at artists like Prince or Jimi Hendrix, the blues was at the heart of their sound,” he declares. For some, this may seem a bit odd. The blues label doesn’t easily stick to them. Rather than mimic what came before them, they took the soul of blues and roots music and grew their own branches from the same tree. That’s the impetus behind my exploration of mixing blues and rock guitar with electronic music. I’m growing my personal branch on that tree.”
The recently released video was shot on grainy Super 8 film and is split between footage of the Canadian artist rocking out in a dark club, a beautiful blonde in knee high boots strutting around NYC. “With the video, we were trying to capture the sensation where love slips into obsession followed by a sudden darkness, where only the Lord can save you from its clutches,” Neon Jesus says.