Listening back to their shows on NTS Radio and guest mixes for crews like Honey Soundsystem, Discwoman and Lobster Theremin, it’s impossible to categorise JAY and Sybil’s sound. Psychedelic techno and entrancing ambient weaves in and out of Sybil’s mixes, while JAY can go from percussion-heavy tracks to cheeky acid within a minute, continually pulling the listener further into an abyss of tingling sounds. At a time when their DJ and production trajectories are on the cusp of breaking through, we had a chat with JAY and Sybil to find out where it all began for them, how they differ from each other as artists, their upcoming projects and more.
Download: JAY and Sybil fabric Promo Mix
Uzma – Yab Yum (Sabres of Paradise Mix) [Nation]
Vid – Doar Tu (Barac Edit) [Unreleased]
Ricardo Villalobos – Moongomery [fabric]
Dorisburg & Arkajo – Void Pyramid B1 [ARKAJO]
Neel & natural/electronic.system – Gracida [Tikita]
Wata Igarashi – Gravity [The Bunker New York]
Dead Sound – Lose Your Rights [Decoy]
Tensal – Intermixture [Kynant]
Crash Guard – Basic Drive [Tripomatic UK]
DJ Hell vs. Richard Bartz – Take A Shot [Kurbel]
Planetary Assault Systems – Function 4 (Lucy Remix 2) [Mote-Evolver]
Hardcell – Skunkworks #4 A1 [Skunkworks]
Distant Echoes – Materia Concreta [Non Series]
Two Shell – Run [Unreleased]
Drum Thing – Perc It [Super Kitchen]
The Source Experience – Eroctra [Chakra]
Deno# – Tranzport [Sirius]
Space Cadets – Skill Shot [Seven Hills]
Orichalum – The Egg [TIP]
Minta Spacew – Warmer [Placid Flavour]
Aleksi Perälä - UK74R1721041 [AP Musik]
Lucette Bourdin – Dream Traveler [Not On Label]
First of all, congratulations to both of you on making a solid name for yourselves over the last year, we’ve seen your names cropping up on many bills both in London and beyond recently. How are you finding the transition from local artists to playing in places like Säule and Tresor?
Sybil: Playing at Säule was a pretty surreal and amazing experience. For me I’ve found the transition in the last year from local parties to bigger international clubs very musically inspiring. The energy of a club like Säule can be difficult to find, and it really gave me the freedom to explore harder and faster sounds I’ve not often found easy to execute in London.
JAY: Tresor was so much fun. Opening up the space for Herrensauna was something I’d wanted to do for a while and I really felt comfortable to play much harder than I usually do in London. I think community really plays an important role; the pressures of playing big Berlin clubs can be a lot for any DJ, but the sense of comfort and trust that a collective can have in you is something really special, especially if you dance as much as you play tracks (or both) and have a history with the night.
Going back to the beginning of both of your trajectories, what sparked your interest in DJing and electronic music in general?
JAY: I was a bit of a weirdo, always the person with headphones on, bopping around, ignoring most of what was going on around me. Music obsessed. I used to listen to a lot of punk, psych rock and soul and everything in between. I’d obviously dominate the aux cable at house parties at school and college, making playlists. There was a specific moment on New Year’s Eve 2013 when I played Ripgroove by Double 99 at a party and everyone went wild, my friend turned round and said I should be a DJ and I just laughed! I think there is a moment when you figure dance music out, that moment is usually in front of a massive sound system in the dark in some club. I remember really taking in my first club experience, after which I’d go every weekend without fail. I became obsessed with kick drums and craved the urge to mix, but at the time the scene was very male, with rarely any women on line-ups and I didn't really have any female friends who shared this passion for music. The thought of getting a set-up and learning felt so distant to me as I also couldn't really afford it, but eventually I bought a super cheap Numark deck. A year later I was in Brixton walking home in the rain and I found a turntable in the street and ran home to see if it worked! I still have this set-up at home. It’s ridiculously hard to mix on, but I love a challenge.
Sybil: I’ve always been fascinated with music, I was also somewhat of a social outsider at school and formed my identity around the music I listened to, which at the time was mostly indie and rock music. Once I got to uni I started going out to listen to electronic music and just became obsessed with it. I love to dance, and for years my engagement with dance music was as a raver dancing all night. I would lose hours of time I was meant to be working in the library digging in YouTube wormholes making playlists upon playlists of music. A friend of mine said “You know you should really do something with this passion of yours”, and I hadn’t considered that this activity could be anything more than just an interest. But after a few years whilst sitting at an after party watching guys I knew play records together, I decided I wanted to learn to DJ myself. So I bought some Technics in November 2015 and taught myself how to mix. I haven’t looked back since.
When did you both realise the natural dynamic you share when mixing back to back?
Sybil: I’ve known Jay for as long as I’ve been DJing. I think she’d started DJing about six months before I did, so we’ve been on a similar trajectory, inspiring each other and learning together. We’d spend a lot of time just mixing together at home, as well as constantly sharing music with each other. I think it was in late 2016 when we were DJing at underground parties of friends of ours in South London that we really clicked as a duo. Our most memorable set from those days was a squat rave in a disused car wash the week after New Year’s Eve in January 2017. We played for 3.5 hours and really got into a deep flow state together, the energy was electric. As best friends who also party a lot together, we have this very deep shared philosophy about music and DJing, which also helps us get into these symbiotic creative states together.
JAY: Meeting Sybil was really inspiring and refreshing, to have someone who was just as musically obsessed as me was really comforting. At the time we were playing lots of DIY squat parties, one in an abandoned school, the car wash party, and forest parties. We were only playing vinyl, so we really did get to know each other’s record collections and connect on another level. We also party a lot together, and have heard a lot of incredible sets together. These experiences really inspire and connect people in a completely different way, where communication isn’t even necessary, even just physical movements or facial expressions is enough. We’re also just super excited to share music with each other in a coherent way. Just like when we used to fangirl about old trance labels and have mixing sessions and get really hyped.
How do you think you differ from each other as artists?
Sybil: We differ quite a lot, both in the way we mix and also the music we play. I’d say I have a much more frantic, rapid mixing style with quite obvious transitions which really aim to inject energy into the mix. I usually play harder and faster than Jay, reaching for the more ravey tunes. She takes a deeper approach and always impresses me with her long tripped-out transitions and percussive selections. She’ll really caress a track into the mix, teasing it for ages and slipping it in at the perfect moment. When we play together, we find this musical middle ground which is pretty distinct from our solo sounds. We can get very silly and humorous; it really brings out the sass in both of our selections.
JAY: Where we differ from each other is definitely where we inspire each other too. I think this is what really makes us click. I play a lot of percussion heavy tracks, fitting in snippets of emotion where they need to be and broken bassy bits. I love Sybil’s harder style, and it inspires me to find tracks that can bridge into what I do, but in a way that makes sense. I think when we play together it does bring out different sides of our collection rather than just focussing on a specific sound. I’d say I’m quite sassy behind the decks, which is often quite infectious.
Regarding this particular mix, did you guys have a discussion beforehand and plan it out or head straight to the decks and press record?
JAY: It felt quite natural. We both channelled our experiences of fabric and what it means to us musically.
Sybil: We didn’t plan anything specific going into it, just gathered a bunch of tunes, then chatted a bit about the vibe we wanted to go for, and the rough narrative arc, then just hit record and started mixing. We wanted to create a fun party mix which gives a taste of our sound as a pair. Due to our busy schedules we only had one day to do the mix, and luckily we managed to get it done in that session.
Are there certain tracks in the mix which are in there for a reason, relating to the fact that this is your debut at fabric?
Sybil: Yes, the opening track is also the track we started our back-to-back set at Chapter 10 with. This track carries a lot of emotion for both of us, as that was such a special set for us, and we felt it perfectly captured the upbeat optimistic fun vibe we wanted to capture in this mix. Harry [Midland] was also playing that night, and we wanted to reference that set in this mix, as we’ll also be supporting him at fabric. His support for our DJing as a pair has meant a lot to us, and we’re excited to have the chance to play with him at fabric. There’s also another track in here from that set. It’s Perc It by Drum Thing. When I played this track at Chapter 10, Jay then mixed it out and brought in another track, then she brought the Drum Thing track back just in time for the second drop, surprising everyone, even me. The dancefloor exploded! We included that track to give a nod to that moment we shared together.
JAY: There are some Ricardo [Villalobos] moments in here for sure. When I think of fabric, I think of him. I nearly always make it to the club for his morning sessions, I’ve had some real epiphanies in there and I’m also a SUCKER for when he starts playing hella samba music. I’ve teased a snippet of one of his tracks from his fabric 36 mix, which is also a very inspiring and special mix for both of us. There is also another track produced by him in this mix, but under his Minta Spacew alias.
Considering you’re both based in London, has the scene here helped to mould you as artists or influence your sound?
JAY: I think DJing in London definitely makes you more fearless than most, especially when you’re surrounded by a bunch of west DJs. There is a kind of “get stuck in” attitude where things can go quite fast. I feel I’ve always accepted opportunities despite maybe not feeling ready, but this is what I love about London, that it catapults you into action. It makes you move. When I started mixing I was obsessed with acid t, house and old trance labels, I was writing my dissertation on old rave zines at the time so the history of dance music culture was really prominent when I was digging for tracks, but since then my sound has really developed. The scene here is always really supportive of being yourself.
Sybil: I feel like my style as a DJ has been influenced a lot by the wider London scene. I mix quite excitedly, and we both switch between genres a lot. I think this “any genre goes” thing is very London/UK, and is central to the parties in south we played a lot as a pair when we were starting out. I also spent a year and a half working at Rye Wax, and the record shop is defined by its taste for what they call “west”, or weird sounds. It really pushed me to explore new genres with an open mind, and to never be afraid to weird out the dancefloor. We had this very funny experience recently where we were playing at a friend’s squat rave in Berlin this year together, and Jay dropped Cape Fear. We were expecting a big reaction to dropping this tune in 2019, as you might expect at a similar rave in London, but the Berliners just nodded their heads and carried on dancing, whilst Jay and I were going crazy in the booth. So getting used to the cultural differences in where we’re playing is something we’re learning more about all the time.
What’s next for you both on the production front?
JAY: So I’m currently writing an EP, as well as some exciting collaborations with very talented friends. These things take time, and I'm learning that patience is maybe one of the most important things for me in terms of production. I have a lot of ideas, too many actually so it's good to take things as they come and not overcrowd my brain! Watch this space!
Sybil: I’m still very much learning how to produce, it’s an aim of mine to really get stuck into production this year, especially to learn how to make drone and strange psychedelic techno. The main barrier at the moment is just finding the time in between working an office job four days a week and DJing at the weekend to also produce, and that’s alongside just keeping myself alive and general life stuff, as well as finding time to dig for music and prep for gigs.
Both of you are playing out regularly together now, are there any pre-gig rituals which have now become part of your routine?
JAY: We usually just show up and do the thing. Get into the zone and communicate, which is important.
Sybil: People always assume our sets flow well because we “must know each other’s music really well”, but that’s actually not it at all. I never know what Jay will play and she doesn’t know what I’ll play, we always play one-for-one. It’s always totally improvised and we have no idea where a set will go before we start. We like it that way, it keeps it fresh and exciting and makes it feel like we’re creating something together.
Can you name one track that you're both fairly certain will be played on 27th July?
JAY: This Transparent Sound remix by Mark Ambrose is super sexy but very techy, the rhythm subtly gets bouncing. The vocals fly around. I also know Sybil will love how cheeky this is, and will have the perfect track to play after.
Transparent Sound – Freaks Frequency (Mark Ambrose’s Mix) [Crayon]
Sybil: It’s hard to say for sure, but I have been playing this track in a few of our back-to-backs this year. I think it sums up our shared sound quite well; it’s groovy, funky, kind of minimal techno, and just as it sounds like it’s going one way or getting too intense, it changes tack suddenly to go in a different direction. It’s got that cheeky energy too, which I think we both gravitate towards as a pair. There are tracks I find that really make me think of Jay, and I get excited to play them in our sets just to see her reaction. I think we both do this, saving tracks just to surprise the other at the perfect moment. When I found this track I couldn’t wait to play it in a back-to-back with Jay.