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Breaking Waves: Just Connor & “Hyperstrike”

Considering it has been almost exactly a year to the day since I first spoke with Just Connor about his music, I think it’s only right to do this first issue of Breaking Waves about him…

Especially since today is the day that the first Just Connor track of 2022 drops!

Please go ahead and stream “Hyperstrike”– I promise you, it will send you on a gorgeous sonic journey. It’s what I’ve had on repeat all morning. By the time you reach the second drop, you will realize that no one does wave music quite like JC.

That’s what I realized a year ago, and have realized time and time again, on my “journey through wave”. I say it like that because that’s what this has felt like–a journey. Ever since that first conversation with JC, it has felt like I’ve been on a journey to discover what’s so special about this “wave music” I suddenly found myself immersed in.

And it all started with him.

Just Connor is a remarkable producer–in more ways than one.

Read on to discover why.

Stream “Hyperstrike” by Just Connor on Spotify–

A Sit-Down with Just Connor on “Hyperstrike” & Wave in 2022

So- “Hyperstrike” is your 1st drop of 2022—and just in time for your birthday!—how are you feeling about it all? Is there anything particularly special about this track or its creation that you’d like to talk about? 

“I’ve had a running trend of releasing something new on my birthday every year, feels nice to keep it going. “Hyperstrike” is the first song I’ve been even remotely excited about making in quite a while, so it’s nice to get it out there so I can move onto writing more new songs.”

We’re so happy to hear you’ve been feeling your groove again!

So- what are you most excited about this year?  

I hope it doesn’t sound like a cop-out answer, but I’m more excited about what I don’t know than what I do.

This year already has been massive for our community and the feeling in the air is that everybody has something they’re super excited about happening behind the scenes, waiting for the right time to announce whatever it is.

It’s been a joy to watch friends come out with their best art yet, biggest releases yet, biggest shows yet, and I’m certain it’s more of that for all of us this year.

That’s incredible. I really love your community-driven spirit.
Regarding live events… I wanted to thank you again for the heads up about your Vibe In The Mile High secret set from a few weeks ago. I was so grateful to be able to tune into the stream—it was honestly something really special. However, I am curious about your thoughts on live wave events.  

Three years ago, in an interview with The Playground, you were asked how a live wave show differs from those of other genres. You prefaced your answer by saying that your answer changes every few months. 

Do you care to readdress the topic now with a few years’ distance? How do wave shows stand out now? 

“More than ever, “wave show” denotes a community event, and has little-to-nothing to say about what kind of music is actually going to be played. I feel it’s important to preface that I’m talking exclusively from the viewpoint of a person in Denver, so I can’t speak for the whole world.

However, at least here in Denver, each performance by a wave artist feels like a very personal look into what each artist enjoys listening to. Chances are, you’re going to hear a little bit of everything at a show where there is a wave producer on the lineup.

In regards to myself, strictly, I’m only going to play songs that I enjoy listening to. These are songs that get a genuine reaction or emotion out of me.

So if you see me play now, it’s more of an intimate thing than ever. I wholeheartedly refuse to cater to anyone’s taste but my own. If you see me play, it’s an authentic thing. If you enjoy it or not, at least you’ll know it was 100% me doing my thing, no compromises.

On the other side of this, I’ve been to strictly house shows and heard DJs play wave songs. Touring dubstep acts, either on the deep dub or heavier side, are dropping wave songs; it doesn’t matter what style of show you go to now, as it seems that it is more likely than not to hear a song by a member of our community.

In the same way that I think it’s important to continue to cultivate a communal space where people can make whatever they’re driven toward, I think it’s important to keep an open mindset when going to see a wave community member perform.

Everyone is trying to tell a story, and what better way than letting them show you genuinely what they’re interested in and passionate about?”

Truth.
I have one more for you. In honor of this column–I’m sure you’ve seen me asking the Twitterverse, etc., the same question over and over.. So I’d love to ask you that question now, if that’s okay.
So, Just Connor– what does wave mean to you?  

“It’s the one place that feels like home.”

That’s beautiful. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Mendo Readers?  

“Thanks for giving Hyperstrike a chance. I have another solo release on the calendar that I’m even more excited about, so I hope you’ll give that one a chance too.”

Breaking Waves: Let’s Take It Back To Where It All Began

You know, even after asking 20+ people the question, “what does wave mean to you?” (and variations)–I still had trouble answering the prompt myself.

That stressed me out.

How could I start a column inspired by, and quoting, folks’ responses to the prompt, if I couldn’t even answer it myself? It wouldn’t be fair to not answer it. Simply saying “well wave is a mystery and you should listen to Just Connor” wouldn’t be right either. But with Connor coming out with a new track, and the timing… I needed to get this done.

It was launch time.

So I went back and listened to the conversation with JC that started it all.

I figured if I was feeling uninspired, then perhaps all I needed was a little reminder of why I was even doing this in the first place. Like, how did I even get here? (Sure, Refresh had a chokehold on me, but…)

Ya’ll…

I struck gold.

I was able to trace back to the exact moment I fell in love with wave and its community for the first time, which was evidently all the way back on May 7th, 2021.

Hearing the conversation brought me right back to that moment. The same awe I felt in that moment with Connor was the same awe I felt standing in the crowd at Bar a Bar in London last month, at the Liquid Ritual “conference”, surrounded by my loved ones–my community–and really feeling it all come alive around me for the first time.

In a way, wave is the feeling of knowing for the first time that you made the right choices, that you’re on the right path. The feeling of being understood, acknowledged. Of being seen.

It’s confirmation that you’re in the right place, at the right time, with “your” people.

You know, with the homies.

Greatest Hits From a 2021 Chat with JC:

How did all of this get started? You and wave… when– how–with what… Like… were you always a music kid?

“I always wanted to be a music kid. I wanted to make beats because I grew up listening to hip hop. That’s where my heart is. And I just like, never was super into electronic music. […] But I wanted to make hip hop beats. So I started teaching myself Ableton seven or eight years ago, and I chose it because I liked the workflow. It made sampling really, really easy. It felt conducive [..] It’s super hands on, it’s super visual.

And as it goes, me wanting to just push myself, I started teaching myself how to write melodies and how to synthesize sounds. As part of that, you’re learning to mix and master your own work the whole time.

So it went from me making beats to me making like, really early wave stuff. Which, the early stuff could be classified as ambient, melancholic, emotive music with traditional hip hop or trap drums.

And it was just the right place at the right time kind of thing for me.

The stuff that I was starting to gravitate towards listening to was the stuff that I was gravitating towards making, at a point when other people were, you know, doing the same thing, before it was a thing. And that just happened to build a lot of really valuable relationships and helped put New York on the map by throwing the first wave shows ever. We used to throw shows in like illegal underground club venues in in the city and now it’s a thing, it’s totally different [and] I feel like I’m in a totally different space.

It’s really, really interesting that this small community of friends making and supporting each other’s work has become a scene that people want to be a part of. I feel lucky to be here but I’m grateful too.”

Check out Just Connor’s most recent vibe.digital podcast

At this point during our 2021 interview, I had written down the phrase “genre definer”–because the guy who helped throw NY’s first wave shows most definitely helped define the genre, in my opinion–but being entirely new to the scene at that point, I was unsure if that was an accurate description.

I began to launch into how cool I thought it all was, intending it to be complimentary…

But Connor stopped me after a moment, and was sure to politely, but firmly, reiterate that this was not a solo effort by any means.

He said, “It’s tight. It was just like–we–you know, it wasn’t just me, it was it was my friends and I— Okay–I don’t want that misconstrued.”

I wanted to highlight this moment because that’s the epitome of wave culture, really.

It’s community first. Every time.

This facet was truly demonstrated a few times during my talk with Just Connor.

When we pivoted back to the topic of the initial NYC shows, JC continued:

“It really started off as a way for us to like, just get together and party with our friends and share our music. And then, as the online element of it started to grow, more and more people were interested in getting, like, involved.

They would ask like, ‘Yo, I want to be a part [of this], how do I be a part?’ And the answer that I’ve always given people, it’s like, ‘You just got to come out. You just got to come to the show. Like, come. Come meet everybody and share a beer and like, talk.’ And even now that I’m in Colorado, that’s still the same way. Every time somebody’s like, ‘Yo, I want to get involved. How do I get involved?’ Like, show up? That’s it. That’s all it takes? Yeah.”

(c) Kait Fisher

Our conversation meandered around for a while (catch yourself up to speed here) but I eventually came to this conclusion, a little over half an hour in:

“I think a very important aspect that I want to highlight here is how community-centric wave is and how, like, that’s how it started. That’s how it is and that’s how it seems it’s going to continue to be… I didn’t know that before, and I think that’s so fucking beautiful.”

It took me one conversation to understand that– and I still feel that way. That’s why we’re here.

That’s when Just Connor told me a little bit more about what belonging to the wave community truly looks like.

“That’s what this is to me, 100%. Without the community, I’m not here.

The the honest to goodness truth is… we were friends before anybody put a fucking title on it–

Plastician started calling the tracks that he was playing ‘wavy bits’ on his Rinse FM radio program and say, ‘All right, and now into some wavy bits, right?’ Or ‘check out this wavy bit, this person on SoundCloud…’

So we started calling our shit, like wave music, you know, [laughs] but no one was really serious about it in that regard. It literally was just a community of people that were like, really into their own music.

And believe it or not, but 90% of the people that are in this community are extraordinary human beings.

All of my closest friends are people that I have met through this pursuit of music. My roommate right now, who is my absolute favorite human being on the face of the planet, is somebody that I know only because I went to play a show in Chicago. And they said, ‘Well, if you need a place to stay, you can stay with me.’ and they opened their door to me and shared their time with me, gave me a safe and comfortable place to be, and now we’re inseparable. They’re my–you know, my absolute best friend.”

listen to w/out

“Same story goes for the reason why I’m in Colorado; I wanted to come out and hang out and meet some people that I only knew online.

And the homie, M!ngo, said, ‘So yeah, come down, stay as long as you like.’

And I got to his front door and I knocked.

He opened it up and he spread his arms wide.

And he says, ‘You’re here. Welcome. Come in. What’s mine is yours.’ And he gave me a big hug.

It was like, I never wanted to leave…

So much so, that when I left, I was inspired for like, three weeks after and was like, ‘Alright, I wonder what it would be like to live there versus like, go and hang out every six months.’

The people in this community are real, genuine, incredible…just spectacular people.

For me. It’s been a way to make a bunch of lifelong friendships.

It’s, uh, yeah. The music thing, I think, is a B-Side to all of it.

And that’s really what it is.”

Listen to M!ngo

“And I have friends that are going to read this article and the laugh, and they’ll be like, ‘There he goes, again. You know, Connor being a fucking mush over here.’

But it’s true. It was the same way when I went to London.

I went to Europe; I backpacked through Europe for two three weeks, and every different country I went to, I had a place to stay–multiple places in some countries–and all these people that I only knew online but had never met in person opened their arms and opened their doors and shared their time and their space with me.

[…] The music is like a cool thing that we all do, but the friendships really why I’m here.”

A Taste of the Wave Community // Hell Collective Show, Nectar Lounge, Seattle, WA 2021

Keep In Touch with Just Connor:

Just Connor’s music can be found on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Connect with the artist on Twitter and Instagram.

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