Juicy: fighting the patriarchy with absurdity, hip hop and humour

Pictures by Fotopia

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With two nominations at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards 2019 (Best EP and Best Live), Brussels' Juicy is one of Belgium's most creative and unconventional acts out there.

What started in 2016 as a cheerful nineties hip hop and R&B cover act ended up becoming one of Belgium’s freshest dynamic duo’s. The Brussels-based Julie Rens and Sasha Vovk have built themselves a solid live reputation throughout Europe, and they conquered their place in the spotlights by dropping two critically acclaimed EP’s (‘Cast A Spell’ and ‘CRUMBS’). A debut album is on the horizon in early 2020, something they couldn't have dreamt of three years ago.

Sasha: “Back then, we had no plans, and we couldn't imagine ourselves writing our own music and lyrics. We just loved to play those sexist 90s hip hop, and R&B tracks live on stage. As we got more booking enquiries, we started looking for a band name. A friend suggested 'Juicy', which fit the music we played on stage”.

Although the band name stuck, the sound quickly evolved into something new. Hip hop and R&B was still the main inspiration, but jazz harmonies became more common throughout their productions. As both women are former jazz conservatory students, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Slowly but surely, their music ventured into new territory. In their latest songs, they embrace classical sonorities and instruments, such as a transverse flute.

Julie: “First we compose the music, preferably in a remote place such as Villers-la-Ville or the Drome region in France. As long as it’s desolate, it’s ok. Both of us suggest basic ideas, like cords or melodies, and then we further build upon that together. Once the music is on point, we start writing the lyrics. We want every EP to tell a coherent story, so we want all the lyrics to carry a certain message. The Cast a Spell EP, for example, was all about the distorted relation between men and women”.

We always want to cover topics that are close to our heart, making our audience aware of these issues while they laugh at the same time.

One of the songs on that EP, Count Our Fingers Twice, is about “ovary power”. In the video, your lookalikes hunt down a man to emasculate him with an enormous hedge trimmer. Is that a nudge towards the hip hop scene, which is still dominated by men?

Julie: “We think the hip hop scene is at the same level as any other scene when it comes to machismo. Count Our Fingers Twice was our first song. Previously, we worked with 90’s hip hop and R&B tracks, based on their sexist and misogynistic character for our cover act. In this track, we wanted to turn the tables without losing a sense of humour. We always want to cover topics that are close to our heart, making our audience aware of these issues while they laugh at the same time".

Sasha: “Generally speaking, we don’t have the feeling we have to prove ourselves any more than male artists. We feel comfortable in both the vibrant hip hop Brussels scene and the music scene in general. Yet, some media keep announcing us as a ‘female duo’. If we were men, would we be announced as a ‘male duo’? Calling us a ‘committed feminist duo’ is an anti-feminist statement on itself. Sometimes, it’s challenging to move beyond this stage. But in general, we don't face too many problems”.

As you said, your lyrics and videos are filled with humour. Do you think the hip hop scene lacks that?

Sasha: "We love to laugh! Humour characterizes many artists. Le 77, Angèle, Roméo Elvis or Zwangere Guy all deal with serious issues in their lyrics, but they use a great sense of tongue-in-cheek humour in putting their message out there.

We have only been making music fulltime for a couple of months. We’re both quite fond of the DIY-philosophy, which means we have to do (and pay) everything by ourselves.

You have a solid live reputation. 2019 was packed with shows, both in Belgium and in France. Are you popular over there?

Julie: "It's a great time for Belgian hip hop acts in France because it's kind of a hype. We have played about 40 gigs in France in the past year, so we can’t complain. It’s not only France, though. In September, we did a small but lovely tour at the Balearic Islands”.

At Dour Festival, the Bravo Brass Band joined you on stage. Are you planning on taking the live shows to a higher level?

Julie: “Usually it’s just the two of us on stage. Performing with this live brass band was such an amazing experience. We love it when a festival allows us to do this. It enables us to emphasize the performance aspect of jazz, which we could never do if it were just on that stage. We put a lot of effort in that show, so hopefully we get the chance to do that again. We have a few other live projects coming up. On Les Nuits Botanique, we will prepare a show with a string orchestra. In spring, we’ll play during a theatre show called L'Éveil du Printemps, which is directed by Armel Roussel. It’s music we wrote especially for this piece, and we’ll be performing it in Paris for a whole month”.

From time to time, you seem to share the line-up with Commander Spoon and Darrell Cole. What’s your relation with these guys?

Sasha: “Julie used to sing in Oyster Node, a band with Samy Wallens on the drums and Pierre Spataro on the saxophone. Both are members of Commander Spoon now, and ever since our time at the conservatory we have become friends with the guitarist and bass player too. The Belgian music scene is tiny, so everyone knows each other. As for Darrel Cole, we didn't know him beforehand; but we were a fan of his music. So we invited him over for a collab, and it turned out very well”.

What’s in the pipeline for Juicy?

Sasha: "We have only been making music fulltime for a couple of months. We’re both quite fond of the DIY-philosophy, which means we have to do (and pay) everything by ourselves. That said, we’re positive that everything will work out.

Julie: We’re dropping a completely new kind of live session soon; a rearrangement of Over My Shoulder, featuring eight vocalists and a guitarist, accompanied by a new absurd video. Besides that, we’re working on a full album to be released towards the end of 2020”.