Brian: On DC Music Rocks, we're shining a spotlight on the great songs, artists, and incredible people behind the DC region's local music scene. J Dubs makes pop R&B music with hip-hop sensibilities. He describes it by saying, "Imagine Nick Jonas and Kehlani had a baby, Drake was his godfather, and Kanye was his high school bully." It's funny how high school bullies can be so influential.
JDVBBS: You know?
Brian: It really is. Onstage, he's a one-man band. He's recreating his tracks on the fly, live-looping basslines, guitar riffs, beats, grooves, and vocal harmonies altogether. It's production meets performance in a way that's interactive, it's improvisational, and, of course, it's freaking impressive. I first came across J Dubs when I started the show. God, it's been at least a year and a half or more since I first stumbled across your music. Ever since ... It was ... "Cinderella" was the track that I ...
JDVBBS: Oh, yeah. Probably.
Brian: I'm not going to lie, I totally had that one on repeat for at least a couple weeks. I've been a fanboy for a while so it's a treat for me to now have you here with me on the show. Thanks for being here, man.
JDVBBS: It's good to be here, man. It's good to be here.
Brian: This is cool. Now, talk about ... If you're a one-man band, then what's it like when you perform? Talk about that.
JDVBBS: All right, so here's ... I think it's misleading because I have my laptop on stage and a bunch of gear underneath my laptop, so it looks like I'm a DJ. What I'm doing is all the songs or everything that you hear in the song, that you hear of mine, I'm just reproducing on the fly. With a song like "Wait and See," I'll hit a button and that starts the clock, if you will, so you hear the ticking in the background. I'll play the keys and I'll loop them, and then the keys will loop. Then, I'll sing the background harmonies and then those will loop. Then, I'll play the bassline and all the little ... Like the kick and the snare and all that stuff, and get them programmed where I want them, but I play them all live on stage. You're watching me do that. Then, I start the song and then I'll turn certain things on and off.
Brian: Oh, I see. That's ... I think many people have seen either guitarists or other people with the looping pedals.
JDVBBS: Yeah, like Ed Sheeran.
Brian: They ... It's like the looping pedals kind of look they might have seen before but, for you, it's a laptop and more of a DJ look and set-up, but same concept. You're looping and stuff.
Brian: That's cool, man. How did you come ... How did you start doing that?
JDVBBS: Well, I have been ... I put out my first single probably four years ago. I've been playing and I've been playing with DJs and it's just ... I think it's difficult to organize things with people. I can just leave it at that. It's difficult to organize things [inaudible 00:02:27].
Brian: Organize things with people. If I do it all myself, I don't have to organize with people. That's fair. Yeah.
JDVBBS: If I do it all myself, then I don't ... I was paying for recording space and people weren't showing up. I was paying for rehearsal space and people weren't showing up. I was buying pizza for rehearsal ... That's extra pizza for me so I guess it's a win-win, but ... Or ...
Brian: That was the one you weren't bitter about. You were bitter about all the other ones.
JDVBBS: That's the one I wasn't bitter about, but the other stuff ... I'd show up to shows and people were like, "Oh, we have a show today?" I'm like, "Yeah. I'm here. You were supposed to be here an hour ago." That was ... That was straw number one. Straw number two was I had a few exec meetings, A&R meetings with a few mid-tier recording labels and they were like, "You sing good and you rap good but everyone sings good and they rap good, but you also wrote these songs? If you can get this musicianship across in your performances, I think they would really, really, really hit." I was like, "Huh. How would I do that?" I started watching a few videos online of people doing them.
JDVBBS: A buddy of mine from New York, his name is Mike, he also goes by the band Tall Tall Trees. He's a banjo looper.
Brian: Oh, man.
JDVBBS: He does all these things I've never seen anybody do on a banjo. He'll take a violin bow and bow on it and put the effects pedals. It just sounds awesome. He'll take a drum stick and he'll beat on it and it sounds dope. I was like ... I hit him up and asked him a few questions, and I watched a few videos and started buying up some gear. Then, last February was my first looping performance. It was a little rough but we've since ... It was in the beta testing and now I think we're in version one, 1.0, at the moment. I bought up some new stuff. Hopefully, version 2.0 will be coming soon.
Brian: Got it. There it is. Most of that is contingent ... Do you find it's more contingent on the gear or is it more on ... Is it really you and the amount you've practiced or is it the gear or all of the above or ...
JDVBBS: I think it's probably ... The tools are only as good as the person who is using the tools, so I think there are a few things here and there that make things a little easier but there isn't anything I think I could buy, gear-wise, that would make ... There's still ... It still takes hours and hours of practice because there's so much stuff going on. It's almost like you're playing for four people, five people, six people sometimes, depending on the song.
JDVBBS: It's a lot going on, but the learning curve is not as steep because all the sounds that I already made in the song itself already exist, so it's not like I have to ... It's not like ... I'm not covering my own song, per se.
Brian: I see.
JDVBBS: All the stuff is already there, I just have to play it correctly.
Brian: Just have to get it timed right and launched right and all that stuff.
JDVBBS: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brian: Now, where does the name come from?
JDVBBS: J Dubbs is probably 50% what my friends called me in high school, or J Dubb, JK Dubb. I was ... I went to high school in the early 2000s and that was when the J.Lo phase was rampant. You would take the first letter of someone's name and then however you decided to pronounce their last name. It's what you would run with.
Brian: Got it.
JDVBBS: In college, people called me Juicy J, which is a rapper in a group called Three 6 Mafia so I couldn't ...
Brian: Okay, I was going to say. Juicy J, I know that name. All right. Got you.
JDVBBS: It wasn't something I could by and so that's what I ended up defaulting to, J Dubbs. It was just with a U before I started really taking it seriously, that my mom calls me one day, trying to boot up Netflix on our Xbox, and my Xbox gamer tag had it spelled with a V. It's been that way for as long as I've had an Xbox gamer tag and I was like, "Oh." She heard me gasp on the phone. I was like ... She was like, "What even?" I was like, "I ... It's just a little bit of an epiphany that I had." That's kind of what it's been since 2014, 2013 maybe.
Brian: Oh. It was your mom booting up Netflix on the game ...
JDVBBS: On the Xbox, yeah.
Brian: On the Xbox that gave you your artist name.
Brian: Oh, my God. That's an amazing artist story. I hear so many great ... I love the story behind artist names because sometimes they're so funny, and that one is hilarious. Thanks, mom, for the artist.
JDVBBS: Yeah. It's a little ridiculous.
Brian: That's how ... That's ... Oh, god. That's amazing.
JDVBBS: The girl did the logo and made it ... It seemed like we put so much more thought into it. She sent me maybe three different mock-ups and I was like, "That one. This one works." It looks nice and clean and professional, fits in a lot of places.
Brian: Now ... If you don't know, when you spell it, It's J-D-V instead of the U, so if you're [crosstalk 00:06:44] J-D-V-B-B-S. That's JDVBBS.
JDVBBS: Yes. Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brian: There we go. What ... Describe your connection to the DC's ... You're in Arlington now, you mentioned earlier. You moved to Arlington. You've lived all over the place. What's your DC ... What parts of DC are you connected to?
JDVBBS: I probably connect myself best to Fairfax County because that's where I grew up, that's where I can drive around without my GPS.
Brian: Got it. I guess that's really a status nowadays, is where can you drive where you know the roads so well that you don't need GPS.
JDVBBS: That you don't need GPS. Reston, Virginia, for sure.
JDVBBS: It's probably what I connect to best. I lived in DC for a little bit. I lived in ...
Brian: What schools did you go to out there?
JDVBBS: I went to South Lakes High School and I went to Herndon High School, which is kind of a ...
Brian: Oh, the rivalry. Okay.
JDVBBS: Yeah, they're rivals, so I went to ... My older brother went to South Lakes for all four years and my younger brother went to Herndon for all four years. We moved in the middle of my high school tenure and my mom was like, "I'm not driving you to South Lakes every day. We live right down the street from Herndon High School. You're going to finish your senior year."
Brian: Oh, man, so you moved in your senior year.
JDVBBS: It was just one year, it was my senior year. We campaigned real heavy for me to keep going to South Lakes. It did not go down that way.
Brian: Oh, wow. There we go. I love it. Now, what's your earliest memory with music?
JDVBBS: My earliest memory that is tangible ... My mom used to record these cassette tapes of us just hanging around the house, listening to tunes. Not necessarily recording the tapes off the radio, but it's us listening to the radio. My earliest, I think, most tangible memory is listening to Onyx "Slam," like "[hums 00:08:20] Let the boys be boys." There's a tape somewhere at my house of me, four years old, singing along with that. That song and ... My little brother's name is Chris. I would sing to Kris Kross a lot and the little call and response, so I'd try to get him to say the lyrics with me.
Brian: Warm it up, Kris. I'm about to do. Warm it up, Kris, just was I was born to do.
JDVBBS: Yeah, exactly. Warm it up, Kris.
Brian: Yeah. Oh, I remember.
JDVBBS: Those are probably the two most tangible, my first, first musical memories.
Brian: Oh, that's fun. Oh, I love it, man. Now, what about you on the personal side? Outside of music, what kind of hobbies are you in your personal time? What do you do?
JDVBBS: I am a big NBA fan. I am not ...
Brian: Well, there's a lot going on with that right now. Or you don't have a stake in it.
JDVBBS: There's a lot ... I don't have a ... I'm a Chicago Bulls fan, so, no, not really.
Brian: Oh, I see.
JDVBBS: We're probably going to be ... I wouldn't say bottom-feeders, but we're going to be looking through the windowpane of the glass to the playoffs. We're not going to be in the back where we can't see it but it's going to be a while until it works out in our favor.
JDVBBS: I think it ... As a product, there's a lot of good players and a lot of people say that a lot of teams are stacked, this, that, and the third, but it's a lot of good talent in the NBA. I think the NBA playoffs were fantastic to watch this year. It sucks that they're going to end in a little bit.
JDVBBS: I'm also a big tennis fan, and the French Open just started so I spend most of my day doing that.
Brian: Wow. Do you play these sports, too, or do you just watch them?
JDVBBS: I ... In high school, I had to make a decision, and I was never really good enough at basketball for me to even ... I probably wouldn't have played Varsity basketball in high school. I got out of football really, really early. I played on the same team, on the same Little League football team, as Eddie Royal, who is a receiver in the NFL, and so nobody else ever got to touch the ball ever. I was like, "Nah, I'm good. I don't need to play that sport anymore." I played one organized season of it and that's ... Both my brothers played in high school and I was like, "Nah, I'm good. I'm straight. If I'm going to have to compete against that guy, it's not going down."
Brian: Oh, [crosstalk 00:10:07]. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, yeah. It's not ... I'm good, but I'm not that good. Okay.
JDVBBS: I'm not that good.
JDVBBS: Also, I take my Mario Karting very seriously.
Brian: Oh, stop it. For real?
JDVBBS: If you're listening and you want smoke, it doesn't matter what ...
Brian: Can I get in on this?
JDVBBS: I'm ... GameCube, the double dash, I'm not as good at, but N64, I'm the king. Ask the kids in my dorm, James Madison University. I used to run it.
Brian: Is it GameCube or is it N64? Oh, my God. I take this challenge. Jeremy, I take this challenge, man, because I used to run it when I was younger, as well, man.
JDVBBS: All right. Cool. [inaudible 00:10:41] N64 at my house. I know we have a Super Nintendo at my house. I'm not as good at the one in Super Nintendo.
Brian: This is ... Okay. Let's make it happen. All right. I was going to say, Super Nintendo ...
JDVBBS: The latest one on the Nintendo Switch, I am very, very good at it.
Brian: That's amazing. All right, so Mario Kart. Listen. Bring it. Bring it when you see JDVBBS next time.
JDVBBS: Yes. When you see me in the streets, let's do it.
Brian: He's game. A good friendly rivalry will be happening, and I'm going to fuel this rivalry because, oh, yeah, it's on. That one and GoldenEye. Those are the two that I can ... I can talk some smack.
JDVBBS: GoldenEye, I wasn't as ... GoldenEye, I was [neh 00:11:07].
JDVBBS: I could hold my own.
Brian: Right. Yeah. I got you.
JDVBBS: I wasn't going to be the first one to die but I wasn't going to be the last one, for sure.
Brian: There we go. Oh, my God. It's so good. All right, so a little bit of gaming and a little bit of sports going on.
Brian: I love it, man. Now, what about ... What's ... Biggest success moment that comes to mind?
JDVBBS: Biggest success ... I just finished a tour. I got home in April. It was one of ... I've only been on tour maybe twice, maybe twice, because I don't know if the first one really counts. It was a little bit of a struggle. The biggest success that comes to mind, performance-wise, is probably ... I did a show at Washington University in St. Louis. It was the first time I'd ever been to St. Louis. I didn't get to see enough of it but that's kind of what happens when you're on the road.
Brian: [crosstalk 00:11:51] on tour.
JDVBBS: I started playing my first single ever, it's called "War Paint," and I started the ... I started all my sets on tour with that. Right from when the claps started going, all these college kids came and rushed the stage and they're singing the words. I'm like ... It's the first time ... I'd probably done maybe five or six college shows by that point on the tour and it hadn't quite happened yet. It was definitely a win over crowd and, from when the beat dropped, I was like, "Oh, my gosh." I took some time from the loop station and filmed the kids because I was like, "People won't believe me, that this is actually happening. I need to have this memory in my pocket at all times."
JDVBBS: That's probably the biggest ... That's the most rockstar I think I've ever felt on stage.
Brian: That's amazing.
JDVBBS: There were like ... It was probably 1,000 people at the show. It was crazy.
Brian: That was in Missouri, [inaudible 00:12:34]?
Brian: God, so a bunch of people you've never seen. You've never been out there.
JDVBBS: Never seen. Never been out ...
Brian: They all know your music and they know the words.
JDVBBS: Yeah. Invited a bunch of them on stage to come perform with me. It was a blast.
Brian: That's awesome, man. I love that. Now, by the flip moment, then, what's the funniest moment that comes to mind from performing?
JDVBBS: What's the funniest moment?
Brian: Yeah, funniest moment.
JDVBBS: Huh. I was doing a show, and this will probably lead in great with what we're going to play next.
JDVBBS: I was doing a show in Richmond with some friends and this band called Red Gold Green. It was the first ... I'd played some shows with them way back in the day but it was the first show as JDVBBS. I did my own original stuff. The show ... It was maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday and it was an earlier show. My DJ, I just ... It was a kid that I knew from Richmond but I had never really, really performed with him, so I gave him a JDVBBS shirt so he could rep the brand.
JDVBBS: He was DJing before the show starts and the booker for the show ... I went to ... I was supposed to go on at 7:20. 7:35 comes around and people are just really starting to come in. I was like, "Hey, what time am I supposed to be on stage?" He was like, "Oh, no, that's your set. Aren't you on stage right now? That guy has a shirt that says JDVBBS so I figured ..." I didn't even let him finish ... Didn't even let him finish his words. Ran on stage. I was supposed to have 20 minute set. I probably did eight or nine minutes.
Brian: Ran on stage. Oh, my God.
JDVBBS: Ran on stage and I was like, "Hey, I'm going to do half of four songs. Please hang out and have a blast." I ripped through my set in eight minutes and I was super-worried, super-frantic. I could see that the guy was going to be mad and he made it seem like he was going to cut the mic but everyone was enjoying themselves and so it was like ... I took it out on a risk. He's like ... After the ... After I got off stage, he's yelling at me in one ear but my merch table was mobbed and I'm like, "This was the right choice, man. This is crazy." It's always funny that ... Normally, those things are just a mess and it's always a cluster F, if you will. I would rather ... It normally doesn't work out where it's something you can laugh about later, but it was really, really funny, I think, at the moment.
Brian: Yeah. Now, my favorite question to ask, and I always ask it, is if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?
JDVBBS: If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to write something hilarious on your tech rider.
Brian: What does that mean?
JDVBBS: Like, super detailed and specific. A tech rider is if you go and play a venue, they're like, "Hey, what are your sound needs?"
JDVBBS: I always give them a stage plot. I'm like, "Hey, I need these two chords to go into my system and that's it," and I have ... I [crosstalk 00:15:06] my own mics and everything.
Brian: You have the simplest plot, yeah, yeah, yeah.
JDVBBS: I always am like ... I always want to know what wireless stuff they have, what kind of speakers they have, and what I write on mine is, "I want to ... Also, if you happen to have a green room," and most people don't do this. One ... The Howard Theater has done it for me. No one else has does this. I write, "I need strawberry cheesecake Ben & Jerry's ice cream in my green room," because, if it happens, then you know they read your whole tech rider and everything is going to sound the way that you think it's going to be sound.
JDVBBS: But, if it doesn't happen, then you never know what you're going to get into.
Brian: Yeah, this is true. [crosstalk 00:15:40].
JDVBBS: For real. That's the ... It seems like a little bit of a snooty advice but stay true to it because that's how you know ...
Brian: That's how you know whether they read it or not.
JDVBBS: That's how you know if the promoter is going to give you the cash on the spot or a check or if they're doing to duck you. Every single thing that's going to go wrong, you can tell by how in depth they read your tech rider before you got there.
Brian: There you go. How prepared they are. Now, one more time for those folks who want to find and follow you and what you're doing, where do they go?
JDVBBS: Instagram, I think, is probably where I'm most active right now. I've been doing ... I've been trying to get the angles right on my selfies and things like that. Yeah, @JDVBBS everywhere. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I just deleted SnapChat because I think I waste my time on it.
Brian: Fair. Yeah.
JDVBBS: www.jdvbbs.net, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you just type in J-D-V-B-B-S, you will probably find me.
Brian: It's all JDVBBS.