Look out for a new sensation on the Vancouver electronic music scene.
White Rock-raised rising star Jessu has officially joined forces with her best friend and fellow performer-producer, Chilliwack-raised Pyka (who regularly streams for a 112,000-plus following on livestream platform Twitch).
Formal debut of the newly-branded DJ duo will take place Saturday, Sept. 18 as part of the 2021 Monstercat Compound festival.
Sponsored by influential Vancouver based electronic music label Monstercat, the free, all-ages block party has become an annual feature in the city’s trendy Railtown neighborhood.
Running from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. in an area extending down Railway and Dunlevy Streets from the Monstercat headquarters, it will feature live art, video games and food trucks.
But organizers say all provincial COVID-19 guidelines will be followed; the event grounds have been expanded to allow for social distancing and masks are encouraged and will be available for purchase.
Headliners for the two-stage event are B.C.’s own the Funk Hunters, Eminence, and Rylan Taggart.
Jessu and Pyka will be featured on the Westwood Recording Stage with other emerging electronic music names, including Case of the Mondays, Shylow and Kotek.
Oddly enough for people so much in the public eye, Jessu and Pyka said their friendship started because they are both basically shy and nervous about meeting others.
“We love telling this story and always get a good laugh from it,” Jessu said, adding they first met when she was heading up to a music festival with another friend, and had agreed to pick up another couple of people on the way.
“I’ve always been super shy when it comes to meeting strangers so already I had a bad feeling about this,” she said.
“Turns out, it was Pyka and her friend, and they ended up being some of the most wholesome humans I know to this day. They mentioned how scared they were getting a ride from complete strangers.
“We bonded over how terrified we were of each other!” she added.
Another bond, she said, is the single-name DJ aliases they adopted – both of which originated in childhood.
“My first name is Sarah,” Pyka said.
“But since it was such a common name in my age group, I often went by my last name – ‘Pyka’. Using it as my DJ alias just made sense.”
“Having a common name became such a headache in friend groups so we had to get creative,” Jessu added.
“Because there were three other Jessicas, I was nicknamed ‘Jessu’ and it’s stuck ever since.”
Jessu said her DJ-ing career has benefited from growing up in a very musical home.
“Music literally brought my parents together and they’ve raised me on every genre from every decade,” she said.
“Now I get to show them new music! Thankfully, they’re pretty open-minded to new sounds and sometimes tune into our streams.”
She said she first discovered electronic music in a quest to find something to listen to while doing homework on her computer.
“I’d find myself getting lost in YouTube rabbit holes and one day I stumbled onto an electronic music channel that was full of everything from deadmau5 to Daft Punk,” she recalled.
“I fell in love with the consistent beat and feel-good melody and was hooked ever since.”
Pyka said she also grew up listening to a wide variety of genres – with an emphasis on rock, punk and metal.
“I had no interest in electronic music until I went to my first electronic music festival, Shambhala (in Salmon Arm, B.C.),” she said.
“(That) opened my mind up to it. I was surprised to find similarities within this genre to the music I had listened to my whole life – the fast, driving beats that made me want to jump around and headbang. The energy at that festival had me totally hooked on electronic music from there on out.”
Getting to know a lot of DJs as friends helped start her out in the field, Jessu said.
“(They) taught me everything I know today. It took me roughly two years before I felt confident enough with my skills and size of my music library before I actually began DJ-ing in front of people.”
Having professional advice also helped her with choosing mixing decks that would help her grow her skills faster, Jessu added.
“I have a DJM-900 and CDJ-2000’s at home, and find they’ve helped me learn how to beat-match by ear a lot faster – since the more modern decks have sync buttons and visuals to help you mix.”
It was particularly exciting to have shared a stage with Kaskade – “an artist I’ve looked up to since middle school” – at the recent Chasing Summer festival, she said.
“It was one of the most surreal moments in my life,” she said. “I can’t wait for more moments like that!”
Creating new musical experiences by blending sounds, beats and melodies from multiple sources is an ever-evolving art form, Jessu agreed.
She said that what many don’t understand is that “anyone can DJ the same way anyone can cook or paint.”
“It’s about creating your own style where the real magic happens,” she noted.
But many are beginning to discover it as a creative outlet, she added.
“Because DJ-ing has become more accessible with better technology, it’s given people the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the culture and respect the art so much more,” she said.
Teaming with Jessu has broadened her own experience of DJ-ing, Pyka said.
“Even though Jessu and I share a lot of similar personality traits, our differences seem to balance each other out perfectly,” she commented.
“It’s also so much more fun sharing all these new experiences with someone that I care about – as a solo artist, it’s easy to stick to your own particular style and not stray far from that lane. With another person in the mix, you naturally end up merging your ideas together and creating something even more unique and exciting. I feel like we are constantly learning from each other and that is such a wonderful thing.
“I think already being best friends made the transition of working as musical partners very organic and effortless. We have so much fun when we perform as a duo and I think our viewers pick up on that energy and it makes it extra special to watch.”