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University of Cambridge science graduates Jay+Max release debut single

Electronic music duo and University of Cambridge science graduates Jay+Max are making a call to action against global warming – though in a light-hearted way – on debut single Octopus.

Music duo Jay+Max
Music duo Jay+Max

The pair, who are from Yorkshire and Oxford respectively but now live in Camden, met by chance after first ignoring each other in the university’s orchestra. Jay takes up the story: “We met in CUSO – the Cambridge University Symphony Orchestra – but we didn’t actually speak to each other...

“We played in it for a bit and we just kind of left, and then later on we met each other at a party and it came out that we’d both been in this orchestra and left.”

Jay, an alumna of Clare College, continues: “We started making music together, but Max was better at that than me to start off with because I was not very confident, so it took me a bit of time to work up the confidence to even play to him.

“And I think that’s really nice that I found somebody that could help bring me out of my shell a bit; to give me the confidence to do that and stand on a stage in front of people. That was something really nice about when we met each other and struck up that partnership.”

With both Jay and Max holding post-grad degrees in environmental science, the natural world has always resonated strongly and they both walk a fine line between the creative and the technical. When they aren’t making music, the pair feel most at home outdoors.

Their first single, Octopus – released on November 19 – documents their journey of trying something new and stepping into the unknown. Written after Jay and Max first moved to London, the song comes as the twosome grow increasingly concerned about global warming and the future of the living world. Their lyrics also stand as a call to action for meaningful change.

Jay started her musical journey playing the piano, before moving on to the violin at 15 and subsequently the viola, but her main instrument is now the guitar. She says: “The Octopus single, that’s the new sound that we put together when we moved to London and we tried loads of things... We sat at home experimenting and came across this sound.”

Octopus is music duo Jay+Max’s debut single
Octopus is music duo Jay+Max’s debut single

Describing electronic music as “just so big”, Jay adds: “You can go to a gig and that’s what smacks you in the face. It’s not the guitars, it’s this massive bass – and we love bass. So that’s where that came from; just experimenting with those sounds that we’d seen on the live scene.”

The song boasts infectious beats and the pleasing and unmistakable sound of real gulls, which were recorded in Camden. As soon as it was ready, Jay set about drawing animal characters to bring it to life visually.

She notes that the video came from the pair’s love of the environment. “We loved our single and we wanted to have a music video to go with it,” she explains. “I started drawing these little characters, but we needed some free software because it’s really expensive if you want to animate something. We didn’t have a team to work with so we wanted to do it ourselves.

“We had a look around and the best one by far was Blender, so we picked that up and I redrew the characters in Blender and got something that I was really happy with – and then realised, several months in, that actually bringing them to life through animation is somebody’s job!

“I didn’t realise that at the time in my naivety that someone professionally does animation, and Max stepped in and said, ‘I can do that’. So he took that on and brought them to life. Now it’s done and we hope you love it.”

Fitzwilliam College alumnus Max says he played “any instrument I could get my hands on” growing up. He works in coding, while Jay works as a freelance editor, striving to educate people about science. “We are really concerned, obviously, about global warming but with our music we want it to be fun and inspiring,” he says of the pair’s outlook.

“That’s kind of what we try and do with our videos – to get people to see these animals doing cool things and be inspired by that. You know what these are – these are things that we want to protect and look after in the future. So that’s the angle that we’re going for: a positive spin rather than trying to be too negative.” Jay adds: “We want people to be inspired and to love the natural world as much as we do.”

Music duo Jay+Max
Music duo Jay+Max

Jay+Max are hoping to have enough songs for an EP and perhaps and album at some point, although Jay says they would probably need more people on board to help make the whole music and video-making process quicker.

See the video for Octopus, as well as other examples of the duo’s work, at youtube.com/channel/UChsmxKKsPodNToE-xldPQ0g.

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