JAVELIN is two Broolyn-based cousins named Tom and George. They make music that is fun and playful, at times ridiculous but incredibly charming. It’s smart too. Carefully constructed and catchy almost to the point of a cartoon jingle, it has the ability to affect even the most cynical of stiff-lipped listeners.
They boast a hefty back catalogue of influences, ranging from J Dilla and Flying Lotus (perhaps owing to the fact that they use the same software) to De La Soul, Lemon Jelly, Beck and pure pop music along the vein of Mariah Carey. But the real magic is that although you can hear multiple sounds from a number of different eras all at the same time, you don’t get the impression that there is any unnatural aping at work. Instead, it’s free-flowing expression; a sort of gushing celebration of electronic music constructed into a colourful playground of Pop-related paraphernalia (download Vibrationz above).
While the two began playing around with music at the age of 10, they didn’t become incarnated as JAVELIN until 2005. It’s a project borne out of healthy competition, as Tom points out in the candle-lit grime of Brixton’s The Windmill. “It took a long time for us to work together. We would work and constantly show each other what we had made,” he says. “Each song was very much mine or his,” adds George. “We used to kind of, like, executive produce each other. We were always making tracks to impress one another and eventually it just came together.” It wasn’t until the two moved to New York that things really started happening, after playing at a series of DIY spots and underground bars and building a constantly evolving mix tape entitled ‘Jams and Jems’. As George puts it, “shit gets crazy when you move to New York.”
Fresh from their tour with YEASAYER (interviewed here) and with their album on the way in May, there’s a definite sense of optimism about JAVELIN. With an infectious live show full of cheeky nods to well-known pop lyrics and melodies (Tom mouthing the trumpet from Spottieottiedopaliscious over the mic at the end of their The Windmill gig is a perfect example), they reference anything from 80s Synth Pop, 90s Hip Hop jams to R&B harmonics from the early noughties. The result is a sort of pop soup. “You make the music that you love and we love a lot of music,” says Tom. Despite its awareness of the past, Javelin assert that their music is consciously removed from any of today’s categorical music scenes. “We are sort of in a vacuum,” contines Tom. “Whenever our feelers become aware of something distinct happening in our music, we’re like, okay, steer the other way.” However, there is also a sponge-like quality to JAVELIN; their sound developing from a drawn-out period of osmosis. “The music we make is a product of our tastes being pretty random and we absorb everything and anything,” adds George.
For Tom and George, explicitly referencing pre-existing pop music is no faux pas as long as it is driven by a sense of personality. “You don’t have to impersonate people. If something in you is the same as the person who made a song, you can still do it,” says George. “Whatever may be at the primary level of what you love, just do it,” continues Tom, who once heard that Bob Marley was actually imitating Barber Shop music, offering an example of how the re-creation process can be creative in itself. “He was not ripping people off because it sounds completely different,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what is driving you, it is just helping you to find something else.”
And that is exactly what is at work within JAVELIN. For them, the fascination lies in using existing sounds and cutting them up to find something new. The difference between a cover band and a genuinely interesting musician or artist is the ability to execute something in an original manner. While the music Javelin produce may have both eyes on that which preceded it, it undoubtedly sounds fresh. “There is a great quote from an astronomer. He made some calculations and was like “based on my calculations, I expect to find a large mass somewhere here”,” says Tom. “When he looked he realised he was actually wrong but in the process he found something different altogether.”
For more very good pop, you should read our interview with Primary 1 from last year.