about the artist //
Jeremy Loops is electric. Whether you’ve been to one of his live shows, or watched one online through the lens of someone like daily vlogger Ben Brown, Jeremy Loops knows how to bring it. His songs are beautiful and poignant, and his appreciation for his fans is genuine. Talking with Jeremy about music, you get the sense that he’s been at it for decades, but that’s not the case. In truth, music wasn’t even on this loop master’s radar until after receiving a degree in property and finance management and taking work on a yacht for two years. It was then that he picked up his guitar, started looping sounds and began to build into and hone his craft.
But Jeremy isn’t a one man show or a one man act. Outside of music, Jeremy co-operates an impressive, important organization called GreenPop that plants trees in an effort to connect people with nature and, in his words, “make environmentalism cool.” And with over 56,000 trees planted they’re well on their way.
We spoke to Jeremy over email while he was busy touring in the US. We hope you enjoy our interview with Jeremy Loops.
BC // Music is a far cry from property and finance management, which is what you received your degree in from the University of Cape Town. Was music always something you were working toward despite going to school and getting your degree?
JL // I had no intentions of getting into music, to be honest. That just didn’t seem like a realistic plan. It’s actually my degree in finance and property management that led me to seek refuge in music, because the idea of crunching numbers late into the night instead of doing something creative made me physically ill (laughs).
BC // What has it been like developing a music career from the ground up then, after studying at university?
JL // Building this house brick by brick has been extremely rewarding for me. I’m not afraid to try new things and to start from scratch, and when I began performing I was really enjoying making music so that was its own reward. Looking at where my career is, and how much control and independence we’ve retained, even in partnering with others along the way, this is the only way I would have wanted to do this.
I first learned about you by way of Ben Brown, who is a popular British filmmaker and vlogger on YouTube. You two met in Cape Town and seem to compliment each other well. Can you explain that relationship? What is it like to live with and work with another creative individual?
JL // It’s hugely beneficial for creative people to live with other creative people. You don’t spend any time explaining or justifying your alternative lifestyle or unusual hours to someone who works a 9 to 5, for example. While Ben and I have overlaps in interest like photography, we also come from different places and perspectives, and its really interesting learning and understanding how our preferred pursuits and mediums interact with each other. We just respect each others creativity and try our best to learn from each other where possible.
BC // As a writer and musician, is it important for you to be around creative people like Ben Brown? Like your band mates?
JL // Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there’s a ceiling to the number of ideas you can come up with all by yourself, so yeah, it’s super important to be around other creative people for inspiration and idea sharing.
BC // There’s an electricity to your music that feels almost tangible. It’s something that is especially noticeable live, and that's also true watching videos of you performing live. Is that something you can define? Can you explain the chemistry you have with your band mates and the audience?
I think a distinction has to be made between recording artists and performers. I think a live show is the purest representation of what it is to be a musician and what it is to enjoy music. So I spent pretty much my whole life watching shows, knowing what I love and what I disliked about what others do. I still do it today, always making mental notes.
Motheo Moleko, who raps in our act, and I would always say our currency was people’s joy, so the happier people are at a show, the better it is for us. We always go into a show with the attitude that if we have as much fun and intensity among ourselves, it’s likely the audience will feed off of that too. And we make notes after every show, looking at what went well and what did not go well and where we can improve. It’s a non-stop feedback loop for us where we’re always pushing ourselves to the next level.
BC // What’s your process for writing music?
JL // Pick up a guitar, play something that sounds interesting, and mumble a vocal melody I find compelling. When those two parts - the guitar and the mumbled vocal melody - come together, then I have something to work from. Sometimes songs come together very quickly - like in an hour or two. Other times they take a few months to realize. At any one time, I have maybe 10 songs on the go in different stages of development, with tons of little riffs and melodies that don’t have a home.
BC // How did you start looping sounds and music? Was that something you started doing early on, or did you grow into it?
JL // When I left to work on a super yacht, I knew I wouldn’t have other band members to work with, so I was pretty much on my own. The loop pedal was really the only solution I could think of to make music by myself.
BC // One thing I think plagues growing artists is developing their own sound, or voice, or style. Was it difficult for you to detach from the artists that inspired you to develop your own approach?
JL // Being stuck in isolation for two years on a boat is a pretty good way to develop your own sound, I found. I had no outside influences and so I was really just responding to things I really enjoyed hearing myself play. But to your question, it’s mission critical to develop your own sound and it plagues everyone.
BC // How much does your environment play into your music? From what I’ve seen of Cape Town (through your lens and Ben Brown’s), is that it’s a city of two extremes. Is that a safe, fair interpretation? As someone who cares about social justice, does that influence your work?
JL // I think it’s a safe, fair interpretation. I care a great deal about social justice too, but I’ve found only in the last few months as my profile has grown have I become able to say whatever the hell I want about whatever issues I want outside of my music without the concern of recourse. That’s a really nice place to be as an artist, because often times people are happy to entertain your political and social views if they’re in a song, but turn their nose when you say something in an interview or to the press. I’m in a place where the authenticity of the relationship I have with people in our community is so strong that they know I, as a musician, don’t exist to just pander and entertain them.
BC // Do you think about your legacy as a musician? Can you afford to?
JL // I think about legacy in passing, but I can’t let it motivate or steer anything I do right now. I’m still just enjoying making music right now without fear of my ability to top what I’ve done previously. This is the problem, of course, with artists who do have real legacies. They just live with the shadow of whatever their opus is following them into whatever room they walk into.
BC // One thing I know Nicole Eddy, a friend of yours and fellow South African, has written about, and something filmmakers like Ben Brown and Casey Neistat have addressed in the past, is the juxtaposition between what people think about your life and the reality of what your life is. Meaning, for people outside looking in, aspiring musicians perhaps, playing music across the world looks and sounds wonderful, but can you give us a more realistic picture of what it’s like to be a musician on the road?
It is wonderful. I would never tell anyone on the come up any different. What they forget is you’re dealing with real people that you’re taking away from their homes and their families for months at a time and that has its own set of issues. Similarly, you’re having to balance budgets, because just to fly one of us overseas costs $2000 on airfare alone. What do you do when the show that was meant to cover those expenses doesn’t sell well, for example? And then once you’re there, you’re stuck in a van together for 8 hours a day everyday , only doing the glamorous bits for an hour and a half a day, and then you’re still expected to get on well. There’s lots of things to consider here.
It isn’t a game. It’s deadly serious. But don’t get me wrong, it is wonderful.
BC // I’m hoping you can talk a bit more about Cape Town. What’s the artistic scene like there?
JL // I sat on a panel discussing the state of Cape Town’s music scene recently. I realized, being away so much this year, it’s difficult to have perspective if you’re not on the front lines. What I will say is we’re definitely developing the artists, but we really lack the infrastructure to launch major careers and to help the best bubble to the top.
BC // It would seem like a big challenge as an artist to bring your work stateside and to Europe. How did that process happen?
JL // By force, really. We’re as big as you can get in South Africa, and I guess a combination of realizing our own ‘mortality’ and wanting to see if we could crack it elsewhere, we just made the decision to take our music to Europe and North America. At first we just did it ourselves, but over time we got partners on board to help us grow things more and more.
BC // You’re not only a musician, but the co-founder of GreenPop. Can you explain how that organization started, and how that work compares or compliments with your music, if it even does?
JL // We wanted a way to make environmentalism cool, and Greenpop was that vehicle. We committed to plant 1,000 trees in Arbor Month 2010 as a once-off initiative. When we hit that milestone and felt like we were onto something, we just kept pushing.
I heard GreenPop plants over 20,000 trees a year. Is that right?
JL // I think our current trajectory is at 15,000+ trees a year and growing fast. We’re approaching 20,000 trees per annum, but I don’t think we’re there just yet.
BC // As a musician, what’s your biggest personal struggle? As the leader of GreenPop, what additional challenges do you face?
JL // I think being honest with myself as a person and having the right temperament to deal with unusual challenges is my biggest challenge. I also want to be a fair and honest person, and as one becomes more successful and more influential, for lack of a better term, the temptation to use that for your own gains grows. I don’t want to be that person.
BC // Is it important for you to have something outside of music?
JL // Absolutely. I love music, but I don’t want to be a slave to it. I don’t want to be just Jeremy Loops, the musician to people.
BC // In the end, what would you like to be remembered for?
JL // That story’s still developing. Ask me again in a decade.
We simply can’t thank Jeremy enough for sitting down to talk with us. If you don’t yet own Jeremy’s record, it’s now available in both the UK and the US. In addition to supporting Jeremy by buying his album, you can see him live. He’s currently on tour in Europe with Twenty One Pilots, so check if they’re hitting a city near you. If you’re in the US, sit tight and he’ll surely be back soon, and in the meantime give your local radio station a call and request his music.
Special thanks to the amazing photographers who provided imagery of Jeremy for this interview. They include, in order or appearance, Michael Busse, Ben Brown, Mike Gutkin and Amy Price. Also, as mentioned in the interview, you can find writer Nicole Eddy here, and Casey Neistat here.