Born and raised in the small town of Grand Forks, British Columbia – some 6 hours outside Vancouver – Jayda Guy grew up surrounded by an abundance of nature on the mountains and in the forests, rivers and lakes. It was this that sparked an early interest in biology and the natural world, a passion that has endured and intensified to this day and is inextricably intertwined with her musical output. In 2018 she completed her Masters in Resource and Environmental Management specialising in environmental toxicology, wherein she investigated the effects of human activity on the Salish Sea killer whales (orcas) of Vancouver, in her native British Columbia. It was also the year that she finished recording her debut album as Jayda G: “Significant Changes”. The title of the album was the most used phrase in her final thesis and exemplifies how intertwined her work in science is with her work in music. “I’m trying to bring my two worlds together… to bridge the communication gap, engage people in a new way”, she explains. “I don’t know if people in the electronic music world will want to talk about the environment but I think I should try! I think it’s our duty to use a platform like this in a positive way, that’s our social responsibility.”
Moving from Vancouver to Berlin in 2016 to be closer to a growing abundance of European gigs, she shunned the city’s fabled clubbing scene, shutting herself away to work simultaneously on finishing the thesis and album. Musically she draws inspiration from a childhood spent devouring her parents record collection of soul, jazz, R&B, funk and blues; the roller discos her sister used to drag her to; and the CDs from artists like TLC and D’Angelo that arrived in the post for her older brother. Unsurprisingly though, references to her research are intertwined throughout the record – from the track titles to the field recordings. The intro and outro become the ‘Abstract’ and ‘Conclusion’, as on a scientific paper. The melancholic mood of ‘Orca’s Reprise’ is a direct response to the depressing findings of her thesis and features actual recordings of the orcas. Elsewhere, the track ‘Missy Knows What’s Up’ samples the voice of Misty MacDuffee, a biologist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, referencing a landmark Canadian court case about the protection of the whales that ultimately led to funding Jayda’s own research and degree. “The track is supposed to be ominous,” she explains. “We need to be holding our governments accountable for things that we believe in”.
Not all of the album’s reference points are so sombre. ‘Stanley’s Get Down (No Parking on the DF)’ is a light-hearted message to all the people who stand motionless in the front row at her gigs: “I see you, with your phone, looking at Instagram” drawls Jayda in a scathing tone over the intro. “It’s mind blowing to me” she says. “People come to the club to engage, to get outside of your life, so it seems really counterintuitive to me to be stood on your phone!” Continuing that theme is ‘Move to the Front (Disco Mix)’, which draws directly on her experiences as a DJ. “Sometimes I’ll be playing and I’ll have a row of guys just standing there, not dancing, just staring, and in the distance I can see all the women who are dancing their asses off, and I wish I could just telepathically tell them ‘Move to the front’! Those are the people I’m playing for.” Elsewhere on the album ‘Renewal (Hyla Mix)’ is “my ode to R&B”, and the anthemic ‘Leave Room 2 Breathe’ features the vocals of life-long friend and frequent collaborator Alexa Dash.