Jeremy Loops is a musician from Cape Town. He is also the co-founder of Greenpop, a tree-planting organisation that’s planted over 85,000 trees in Southern Africa since its inception. His debut album launched at number one in his native South Africa, winning several awards along the way including MTV Africa’s Alternative Album of the Year’ and iTunes South Africa’s Album of the Year.

With his place as one of South Africa’s biggest artists firmly established, he leant on the power of his live show to break into Europe and North America, opening for Twenty One Pilots on the European leg of their Blurry Face Tour. Relentless touring garnered him a cult following in Europe like that in South Africa, and he soon headlined a sold out 30,000 ticket tour of his own across the United Kingdom and Europe. Trading Change has since had over 50 million track streams. In Critical As Water, he looks to translate this cult following in Europe and Africa into a global movement. Jeremy Loops will return for the first time since his 2016 SOLD OUT National Tour and drops by for an interview with Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.

Really dig the cover art Critical As Water, did it take a while to come up with that concept?
I’d always wanted to do the cover for this album underwater. I’d been quietly playing with the album name in my mind for months, and so many of the songs were starting to resonate with this water theme…but an album title isn’t always something you aren’t ready or sure about until you really commit to it. So while I processed that, the idea for an underwater shoot was running parallel to trying to finalise the album’s title. At first I wanted to sink an entire piano down, and make an entire underwater studio. I even bought this beautiful old typewriter and a lamp shade that I planned on sinking. In the end, it just made so much more sense to go down with a guitar and my journal. The two things most consistent in the writing of this album. What helped the process a lot was that creatively we knew exactly who we wanted to shoot and help execute on the concept, with filmmaker Ben Brown doing the photography and Chris Auret , who’s art directed every single one of my EPs and albums, to bring the design together.

Was it quite involved that photo shoot?
Quite involved is to understate. I legit nearly died down there. Haha. For the concept to work, I needed to be in my own clothes with no wetsuit on. Cape Town’s water is freezing cold, so it feels like the onset of hypothermia is instant. I had made the mistake of taking down too few weight belts with me, so I was desperately trying to stop myself from floating away by grabbing onto kelp between shots. Behind the rock on the shot, I hid an oxygen tank, so I was sucking up as much air as possible between takes as well. But without goggles and a crazy ice cream headache on the go – imagine what brain freeze that never stops feels like! – that was a tricky situation in itself. All along, I’m looking at this blurry team of photographers in their warm wet suits smiling and having a good time and I’m freezing my face off, doing my best to form something of a decent expression for the shot.

Are you proud as punch with your new album?
I’m so proud of this album. It’s weird, right, In that I know you should never sell your music in the event it doesn’t live up to the hype you create, but I know this is the best music I’ve ever made. There’s no question about it. And whether it opens borders for us in places like Australia is one thing, but I know the community we already have are going to be bowled over, and I and my whole team are very proud of it.

The theme of water is obvious with this album, was it always your intention or thought to pursuing this theme?
I didn’t go into it pursuing the theme, but water’s always been a huge part of my life, and was instrumental in the first key breakthroughs I made on the song writing for this album. The theme kept recurring naturally, but in really fresh, interesting ways, so I had no reason to stop incorporating it into the songs. By the end of it, when I was selecting the songs for the album from a pool of about 30 I was really proud of, it struck me that water was more prominent than I had realised. And really, you’d have to be a terrible storyteller to not respect and accept a cool theme that’s not forced.

How bad is the water crisis in Cape Town?
The water crisis is really bad but getting better. We have a ration of 50l of water per person per day. At the current consumption rate, our water reserves will last until 9 July 2018. We were supposed to run out of water in April at our previous consumption rate, but it looks like the message finally got through to the broader public that this is not a drill, and that water isn’t a luxury. So everyone is using water really sparingly. I know that’s a lengthy answer, but it’s a true reflection that as a city we’re pulling together to get through the crisis, while also highlighting how urgently we need huge rainfall to truly offset the inevitable.

How was it collaborating with Motheo Moleko?
We’ve been collaborating for years, so it’s completely natural. I think our creative processes are so in tune with each others, it’s hard to say ‘oh, this is the paradigm shift that happened for me when we work together.’ We just improve bit by bit in our own capacity, and bit by bit together.

Did you hit any bumps along the way making this album?
Getting out of second gear with the song writing was quite testing. I had sketched hundreds of decent ideas before I began writing songs I was proud of, so that first eighteen months or so of writing the album had many moments of doubt. And then recording the album itself with Will Hicks out in this tiny village called Eardisland. For long stretches of recording the album, it was just him and I creating. That’s a lot to ask of two people who have to both trust each other, have the will to challenge each other, and be creative together as well. It was an incredibly intensive six weeks of recording, and it took a lot of out me, but we got through it with something really beautiful on the other end.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard of you before?
My influence is predominantly folk. That’s the school I come from. But I grew up listening to lots of rap music and punk music and a fair amount of reggae and ska too, and I’ve never been precious about where I take my influences from, so all these sounds are everywhere in my songs. So if we need a one-liner, I’d say modern folk with a smattering of all things dope.

Are you excited about returning to Australia?
Loved playing in Australia the last time we were out there, so we’re really excited to get back. South Africans and Australians have so much in common in terms of geography and sporting interests and other cultural aspects, that it would be beautiful to see our music cut through the noise in Australia and resonate. It’s tough. To Australia’s credit, radio is very Aussie-centric which does great things for Australia’s scene and Australian bands. The unfortunate consequence is an act like me has an even tougher job to break through when competing with a very small window for international stuff against the usual suspects out of the UK and the U.S. Still, we push hard. The music is good enough, I believe, so hopefully that translates and we get some support on that front. What has been great is we’ve gotten some nice press looks recently, and had good success on Spotify Australia, so the ball is rolling.

Do you have favourite city or thing to do when you’re here?
I haven’t been in Australia nearly enough to have favourites, but there was something about the culture and energy and vibe in Melbourne that really spoke to me. As to things I’d love to do, I know of Australia’s famed beaches and the waves out there, and I would love to finally get a surf in while I’m in Australia. Hopefully that can happen this time round.

What’s next for Jeremy Loops?
For the next year and a half, we’ll be supporting Critical As Water’s release. So starting 16 March with the album’s release, and then this first world tour almost in step with the release. We’re already lining up the next thing on the touring front, as well as preparing videos and other assets around the album. I’m also loving my song writing, so I’ll be doing plenty of that along the way.

Interview by Rob Lyon

Catch Jeremy Loops on the following dates…

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