"Don't chase buzz"

Fast times with Jacques Greene and Ryan Hemsworth

Jacques Greene and Ryan Hemsworth share a moment of laughter when we ask if they would describe their relationship as a bromance. "I think we'll let the photos speak for themselves," Ryan jokes. The two met in person a couple years ago in Montreal. Jacques laughs, embarrassed, when Ryan reveals he's been following Jacques since his days producing under the Hovatron moniker. Both young Canadian producers with a niche sound that balances electronica with elements of R&B and hip-hop, the pair share a musical mindset. When we get around to talking about their hopes for their respective careers, they agree on a philosophy of "be patient with it. Don't chase buzz." They couldn't be more laid back if they tried. 

When it comes to fashion, both speak with enthusiasm, describing in detail the pieces they picked out for themselves for our shoot. For Ryan: Margiela high-tops and Garrett Leight shades. For Jacques: Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby sneakers and Neil Barrett cargo pants. Jacques talks earnestly and at length about Barrett's unsung heroism in menswear. It doesn't stay serious for long, though.

You both seem to have a fondness for mystery. Ryan, you have your Secret Songs project, and Jacques, not a lot of people even know your real name. Is there something you're trying to hide, or are you both just naturally that shy?

RH: I’m naturally that shy and awkward. I’m trying not to make that my thing but I guess it kind of comes off that way [Laughs].

JG: It’s not really about mystery for me, it’s about boundaries. I think with music, you kind of lose a bit of yourself the deeper you get. It’s more about privacy than it is about secrecy.

Are you the same person as Jacques Greene?

JG: Yeah, yeah. There’s no persona. There’s just this thing where if you say “Hey Jacques,” I know if you actually know me or not [Laughs].

RH: I’m kind of jealous of that! I use my government name and all my shit is out in public. Someone will be like "Ryan Hemsworth sucks," or something, and that’s me as a human being [Laughs].

You've been working as Ryan Hemsworth for ages as well, so everything from your past is still connected to your present.

RH: At the same time, it's kind of therapeutic. Putting myself out there in a way that makes me uncomfortable ends up making me more comfortable.

You guys seem to be very supportive of one another. Ryan, you played Jacques' "Body Party" remix in your set for Opening Ceremony, for example.

JG: I died! He had asked me for the instrumental but he hadn't told me he was gonna play it out. I was at the Opening Ceremony show and it came on —

RH: Ciara was there, too!

JG: Yeah, we had a moment. Me, him, and Ciara. Everyone else just melted away [Laughs]! 

Is there ever any competition between you two?

RH: I don't think so. I don't feel competitive towards any of my musician friends. We're all on the same team.

JG: That, and I feel very confident that I've carved my own lane. The feeling of jealousy is not present. I don't see the point in feeling that way about music. 

So you guys don't secretly hate each other?

JG: [Laughs] No. I don't have time for that.

RH: There's not enough time to spend on hating shit in 2014.

What do you think of terms like “post-R&B,” “post-dubstep,” etc.? Has "post” lost all of its meaning?

JG: Talking about genres and post-whatever isn't really our job. It's not like any painter in history has had to sit down and be like "Well, am I Impressionist?" or whatever.

RH: It's so strange that we all care so much about labels these days.

I think the obsession with labels is a critic's thing. They have this need to box people in to be able to compare one artist to another. Do you think it's accurate to compare your music?

JG: I'm okay with it! I understand why someone would do that. I understand why those categories exist. It can be great to help people navigate and find other artists they like based on that category.

RH: It's good and bad. The bad being that the more we separate these sounds into little subgenres, certain artists become the face of those. And even more quickly, people get over those sounds and those artists get left behind. I find it affects the lifespan of producers. I guess it also has to do with how fast we're moving these days.

Do you think the digital age we live in makes it hard to stay topical if you're not constantly releasing?

JG: It's like that idea that if you try too hard to be cool, you're not cool anymore. It was true in high school, and it's still true now. Even if you're releasing constantly to stay relevant, people will tire of that.

RH: People get tired of that more than they get tired of nothing at all. I think the safest thing you can do is to try to have a slowly evolving career.

Your music, while different, definitely shares some similarities, like the R&B infusions. What is your favorite so-bad-it's-good R&B track?

JG: I kind of feel like that about the entire Ja Rule catalog. I can't for real be like "I love Ja Rule as an artist!" but I enjoy all his singles!

RH: I think Next had a really good discography. But their one track, "Too Close," which is actually about popping a boner while you're dancing with a girl… you can't really confidently talk about that as a good piece of music, but you know. It is [Laughs]

Let's talk about the fashion. Jacques, your love of fashion is pretty well documented and I know you count Rick Owens among your inspirations. Ryan, you've been slowly becoming more involved in the industry, like your work for Opening Ceremony and your shoot with us last year—

RH: I have a lot of Pokemon t-shirts. So yeah, you could say I'm into fashion.

What does fashion mean to you?

RH: I'm a high school kid for the most part. I'm stuck in that mindset. I feel kind of boring so sometimes it's really fun to dress up and put on a ridiculous outfit. J-Pop is a good example of that. You can wear something crazy and it's kind of escapist.

JG: It’s so important. When you walk around, before you even meet someone, the first thing you see is what they're wearing. And to dismiss that as unimportant is totally naive.

Definitely. What about the accessories you chose from our site for the shoot?

JG: I was wearing these Neil Barrett cargo trousers that were unbelievable – wool pants with a sweatpant cuff at the bottom. He managed to make cargo pants cool, and that's pretty amazing. I was also wearing the Raf Simons x Sterling Ruby sneakers.

RH: I chose these sneakers from Margiela, which are beautiful. They're all white, painted, like dipped in a paint bucket or something! They're so cool. The glasses are Garrett Leight – which I just really liked.

Would you say you have a signature piece that makes you recognizably you?

RH: Those Pokemon shirts I mentioned are probably pretty recognizably me.

JG: During the fall and winter, I wear the same two bomber jackets. One is a padded mainline Rick Owens jacket, and the other is DRKSHDW. I wear them every day, so I guess those are signature.

I feel like more so than fashion, your music has a signature. If I were to go to your show blindfolded and not know you were playing, I would know you were playing.

RH: Yeah, that makes sense, I think we operate off a certain template of sounds and we put a lot of thought into that. As much as you try to go against the grain, you always have your mood in your music. That's the thing about being a producer. That's your voice, even though it's not your actual voice.

JG: It's really hard for me to make music that doesn't carry my signature. For better or for worse. Even when I do a half-time R&B record, there's always a sound design element that is undeniably me. Almost to a fault. But I've also come to be okay with that and own it and be proud of it. There's something honorable in that.