Bluejay is a local pop sensation coming to rock the Heineken TransAtlantic Festival, Miami style. In 2009, the trio with remarkable chemistry emerged from the musical ether of Florida State University. No surprise: chemistry can be natural when siblings are involved. Jay Thomas and sister JoJo Sunshine come from a line of seasoned entertainers – their father is a Rod Stewart impersonator and their mother danced at the famous Parisian cabaret, Moulin Rouge. Along with cellist Oscar Quesada who mixes right in with the low end, Bluejay is a complete unstoppable force.
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Quirky, catchy, and sometimes melancholy or moody songs pair quite well with their unusual instrumentation. JoJo’s drum kit is minimal with only a snare, floor tom, and kick drum, and she adds a synthesized bass to Quesada’s cello warmth.
While their heritage of entertainment plays a key role in the band’s existence, it wasn’t always a song and dance number. Their happy childhood was interrupted when dark times fell upon their parents, according to Jay who was ten at the time. Two years later, with the passing of their mother, the dark times continued.
But where most would collapse and give in to helplessness, the siblings came closer together and it ultimately influenced their music. For example, a slow moving song about their mother called “Burnin’ Soul” came to Jay in a dream and with the help of JoJo’s songwriting, blossomed into one of the band’s finest efforts. The band discusses that song and more in their brand new introductory video, seen below.
“Burnin’ Soul” appears on their 2012 sophomore full-length effort Mercury, the follow-up to Goblins which expressed their live show in a more raw production. Their sound has been progressing and with more songs than ever and more refined recording opportunities, the future holds a lot for this Miami three-piece.
Tropicult spoke with the members of Bluejay for a quick Q&A session:
The music you play has a dark and light side almost at the same time. Can you elaborate on why this may be?
Jay: JoJo and I lived through some dark times so there’s kind of always a darkness about our artistic output and our senses of humor. But thankfully we’re adjusted enough to get up and play these songs on stage, so I think through music, we are expressing some dark thoughts, but through the pure love of music and performance.
Can you tell me the story of the band’s formation?
Oscar: Jay and JoJo are siblings with parents in the entertainment industry and were always involved in music and arts. I was classically trained since the 5th grade and then played in the FSU orchestra.
JoJo: Yea, FSU brought us all together. Jay was studying Poetry and Philosophy, reading his poems in workshops and local bars. The poems then became songs on his acoustic guitar. Jay met Oscar and asked him to contribute cello to a track he was recording. Soon they were playing live together. Then I came to Tallahassee, and it was just a natural fit to sing with them live and on the new record ‘Goblins’.
From the cello to lush harmonies, your band features a lot of notable working parts. Are there aspects of your band’s sound and instrumentation you’d like to explore?
Jay: Yes, totally. I’m entranced often by the dark, but an example of something light that I think we’d like to tackle as a group is our sense of “a good Miami hangout”. We love to hang, start a bonfire, light a spliff, hang out, and laugh. We’ve got melodic riffs just from having good times together, and musically, we hope that leads to heavy beats, soaring synths, and expansive vocal arrangements.
What are your musical influences?
Jay: We listen to a lot of genres. I think it mostly comes down to if the music has heart and tension. Recently, I’ve been listening to Jazz and the discography of Our Lady Peace.
JoJo: Jay and I grew up with reggae and I still call it my favorite type of music but yeah we listen to all sorts of stuff from every genre.
What are your plans for the future?
JoJo: Miami has given us new energy! It has really been a re-boot of the band. We’ve spent time developing our song catalog as a live trio, and we’re just now starting to look at what to do with the new songs.
Jay: The transition from Tallahassee to Miami wasn’t easy, and so there are some new songs that are more contemplative or brooding that I’m trying to find a home for – the dark side – songs you’re more likely to hear us play in intimate settings. And on the light side, we’re also looking to record music that represents our social personalities more. Music that resonates more with the cheery individuals we are at our shows when we’re throwing a party.
The Heineken TransAtlantic Festival is produced by The Rhythm Foundation with support from Heineken USA. The Rhythm Foundation, Miami-based, non-profit cultural organization, leading presenter of world music in the US. Founded in 1988 with the goal of increasing international awareness through music. The Rhythm Foundation has presented more than 700 concerts, events, and festivals by established and innovative artists from around the world. Special focus is given to those cultures connecting to South Florida audiences – music from Brazil, Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and Europe. The range of programs covers music at the heart of global culture today to the traditional music of the world.