By Ryan B. PatrickThe recently released debut album from Jamaica-Toronto collective the Courtney John Project is something its frontman dubs "rootstronic," a blissful blending of reggae and EDM influences. Appropriately dubbed Future, the LP represents a digitally-forward sound that comes organically, Courtney John tells Exclaim! — one with which the band intends to continue pushing boundaries.
"We created this sound and didn't know what to call it," says John of the rootstronic tag. "We said we'd call it [that] because of the indigenous [Jamaican] elements and the innovative 'tronic' kind of vibe. With any type of movement, you just kind of stumble on something. Once we decided that we had something special, we decided to start making more of it."
Working with longtime collaborator and producer Nastassja "The Wizard" Hammond (daughter of legendary lovers rock artist Beres Hammond) and producer-musician Steven "Lenky" Marsden, the singer-songwriter/producer says the genesis of the rootstronic sound stemmed from the album track "Soul of a Man," which was originally slated for the soundtrack for the 2012 Oliver Stone motion picture Savages.
Released on the Toronto-based FiWi Music, the 10-track Future — "one part Kingston mash up, one part euro-electronica, 100 percent provocative," says John — kicks things off with a reverent electronic dub reworking of the Errol Dunkley roots-reggae classic "Black Cinderella." The rest of the tracks follow along the same rootstronic wavelength.
The album process was a collaborative one, as they "didn't want to make just beats," he says. "We wanted to build from the bottom up. In the case of 'Black Cinderella,' it was a cause of moving from a classic 4/4 reggae beat to a 3/4."
Calling it "reggae meets EDM," as a recent Billboard piece termed the sound, is something that the group ultimately has no control over, he says.
"It's the bloggers and the people who are calling it that. It's always going to be how people interpret it. What's the difference between 'grunge' and 'hard rock?'" he asks with a laugh. "For me, with reggae, it's more than the music, it's the cultural aspect coming out of Jamaica. But I have no problem with it; when people hear it, they know it's a little bit different."
John tells Exclaim! that the next single off the album will be "Rain Like Gold," and the group plan to shoot the music video (directed by Ras Kassa) soon in Jamaica. A European tour is also in the works for mid-July, with plans on returning to perform in North America by the end of summer. For now, John notes, it's about experimenting with the reggae/EDM sound and working on pushing the subgenre forward.
"For me, it's about moving the music forward. Often times, artists get so comfortable with what's working that we neglect the future and the language that people are speaking. I think real creative people are always ahead of the curve."