Jutty Ranx are a truly global and thoroughly modern 21st century musical concept, set to release their next album ‘Discordia’ on June 23rd via Jutty Ranx Music/The End Records, the band’s true entre into the heart and ears of America. The worldly trio is comprised of the playfully enigmatic and U.S.-reared vocalist Justin Taylor, who is half-Jamaican, half-Kiwi, and all captivating, and the production wiz Jaakko Manninen, the charming Finnish pop mastermind behind Beats and Styles. They are joined by multi-instrumentalist and producer Ryan Malina. Together, they collide to create a brand new form of pop music that is hard to forget, with combined backgrounds culturally and musically extending the globe. With all recording, mixing, mastering, and media produced directly by the Los Angeles outfit, Jutty Ranx is a self-contained and rare creative unit of total visionary freedom.
Manninen was a fixture in the Finnish music scene since the ’90s, but walked his own path, determined to push his rhythmic style of music despite the country’s strong metal scene. Eventually he followed his dream to Los Angeles, recalling “I had a travel guitar and a keyboard and my laptop… I knew it then. That’s when I sold everything and moved to L.A.” In 2009, he called Justin [Taylor] “and we got together and we did some music and I was like, ‘Yes! This is great.’” And the duo was formed. Shortly thereafter, Manninen and Taylor invited Malina, Taylor’s former bandmate, to join the ranks. And the trio was born.
Their debut single “I See You” earned a double platinum certification for sales in Italy, along with massive radio play. Tracks like “Goodnight Ghost” and “Parallel” reflect Jutty Ranx’s lyrical depths of personal poetry matched with instrumentals that get the body moving, impacting the heart as equally as the head and the body. Congruent with their modus operandi, there is strong songwriting and storytelling accompanied by infectious rhythms. Case and point: “I’ll Bring My Love,” a hit track that might never have been released were it originally up to Taylor, who wasn’t satisfied with his initial, off-the-cuff vocals. It was Manninen who encouraged Taylor to have another listen. Upon review, and fortunately for us, the re-listen allowed Taylor to hear the life of the track, and he moved forward with the song.
Doing what they feel and worrying about the consequences later, Jutty Ranx is very much the product of organic, first-take efforts with little over-thinking or re-writing. The power, they believe, is in the initial conception—the rawness of in-the-moment collaboration bred from a natural, unforced, and often unintentional agenda. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with frontman Justin Taylor to discuss his musical roots, the formation of the musical force that is Jutty Ranx, the creation of their debut album, ‘Discordia,’ and what the future holds for these artists on the rise.
Going back to your early years, what got you started on your journey into the world of music?
I was lucky enough to have a lot of encouragement from my parents. They suggested, at an early age, things like playing in the school band and things like that. It is hard to remember a time when music wasn’t a part of my life in some way. Music has always been something I have enjoyed and I am lucky enough to be able to pursue something I love. I never consciously decided to have a career in music. That sounds weird to say! [laughs] I think it would be easy to get discouraged, for any artist, if they said, “OK, I am just going to make a living doing music or one specific art.” My hat is off to the people who can do it. I am really grateful that people really dig what I am doing and it is a gift. I think it is OK to accept that one will probably work a job, ya know. That is alright. I think it puts a lot of pressure on whatever the medium is if you are looking at it as being the thing you survive on.
Who are some of the artists or people in your life who helped to shape the artist we see today?
I grew up in South Florida and I was about 14 or 15 years old when I started a band with my friends at the time. There was a scene going on in South Florida at the time and the bands were a little bit older than us. Ours was this rag tag, punk rock kind of stuff. I think it is interesting when you look at different music in different places and the climates to see what different types of music that breeds. Florida is famous for death metal in Tampa and all sorts of other strange expressions in music. I had a guitar teacher when I was around 14 or 15 and he was the coolest thing since sliced bread to me. He was really good friends with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and best friends with Brian Warner, who is better known as Marilyn Manson. Right around that time, Marilyn Manson was just breaking out and Rich would take breaks for a few months because he was a guitar tech on the tour. I was still too young to have any idea of what that entailed but I suppose my imagination ran wild. There was something in the air and I think it was around that time I decided I wanted to be a lifer as far as being in a band. I think that was the crucial point for me at 14 or 15, where I saw how easy it was for anyone to make music or start a band, if you aren’t obsessed with it being technical and perfect. That is when I got the rock ‘n’ roll bug and it was due in large part to the music teacher I had. He passed away recently. I regret not reconnecting with him after so many years but that is life.
Flash forward to the present. How did your current project, Jutty Ranx, come together?
It started with an introduction. Jutty Ranx started when myself and Jaakko Manninen met. We are about the same age and he was a friend of my brothers. They played music together. He had moved to Los Angeles from Finland. I had never met anyone from Finland and I didn’t know anything about that part of the world. I say that in the most endearing terms because now we have become so close and I know so many Finnish people. We were set up on what I would call a blind studio date. My brother insisted that we get together and meet up. As much of a nightmare as blind date situations can be, this one was great! We knocked out a song upon first meeting. Cut to a couple years later, we had been getting together and recording songs. We decided to call the project Jutty Ranx. Jutty was a nickname I picked up around the same time I really got into music at 14 or 15 years old. We all had nicknames and that one stuck with me. I moved across the country and still someone would know me as Jutty! I wasn’t embarrassed by it but, I had the name for so long, I would try to shake it and introduce myself as Justin. I suppose the idea of Jutty Ranx was just to embrace this thing that had been with me for so long. Jaakko and I had both been working on things and making records to little or no acclaim, more so on my end, as he was a DJ and had a lot of success with it. So, Jutty Ranx was really about embracing what was coming out from our time together. I don’t really come from the dance world at all but we discovered we had a lot of common ground. We made these songs and a video for the song “I See You,” along with some videos for some other stuff and people seem to dig it. I called my good friend, Ryan Malina, who was living in Nashville at the time. He was also in that band when we were 14 or 15. I asked him if he wanted to come out, write and be a part of it. He was into it and that is where we are now! We are really excited about this record coming out in June!
For those who haven’t heard the music of Jutty Ranx, how would you describe it in broad strokes?
I would say that it is pop music but it is fairly intelligent. I would like to think it is dance/pop/soulful. Maybe that question is easier to answer for someone who has a little more distance from the project. I do like to think it is a little more intelligent than your average dance/pop type of thing. We hope people enjoy it.
What did Jaakko Manninen and Ryan Malina bring to the table for this project?
The production and the way the track sounds, the instrumentation, was such a collaboration between Ryan and Jaakko. They are both so capable in the studio that I find myself pretty spoiled! [laughs] They can work on something together or separately and I can add a rough vocal to it and the next day we have something that wasn’t there the day before. I am really lucky in that respect. They are both really great in the studio and really creative songwriters with range.
Building on that, what can you tell us about how a typical song might come together?
There are a few different ways that it works. Sometimes Jaakko and Ryan, together or separately, will put a track together. It is the music in a couple of different parts. I will sit with it for a bit and try to get a vibe going. Usually, I go into the booth and start saying nonsense. However, I have learned to stop doing that because Jaako will just use everything! [laughs] Nowadays, I take a little bit more time before jumping straight into the booth upon hearing something. I have to say that these guys are really good at making me sound good!
The album is titled “Discordia.” What stands out as some of the challenges you faced in bringing it to life?
I would say the biggest challenge was deciding which songs we would use. Even if you wanted to use all the songs you created, you wouldn’t inundate someone with a double album as a debut. Even an album is a lot for someone to digest these days, ya know. Narrowing it down to 10 or 11 songs is certainly a challenging process. You just have to decide to let some go. It is difficult because you get attached in some way to whatever idea you are working on. We don’t have anyone like a manager or A&R guy who was in on the process with us, so it was our choice. Again, it is a difficult choice, trying to maintain perspective within the fact you love all of your children!
Since some of the songs you created didn’t make the record, do you have plans for those in the future?
Yeah. Never say never because the songs are finished.They say an artist’s work is never finished, only abandoned. They are all in a state where they could potentially see the light of day if someone wants to hear them in the future.
Are you the type of artists who are always working on music or do you find yourself carving out time here and there to focus solely on a project?
We tend to just meet up and keep writing and I think that is why, at the end of the process, we ended up with so much material. Ryan and I also have another rock project that we have been working on and have an album’s worth of material recorded for at the moment. Jaakko is constantly working on different things. Ryan produced another record for an artist by the name of Natalie Walker and it is pretty fantastic. I think it all has to go somewhere, so it is nice to work with people who don’t make it feel like work in a sense. I can see us, maybe in the future, carving out a certain amount of time and saying, “OK, this is when the writing gets done.” We have the luxury of working out of Jaakko’s home studio set up and it doesn’t cost us anything, so writing and recording are always happening.
Jutty Ranx put out a video for “I See You,” as you mentioned. The video had a tremendous response and over 7 million views. Did you have any idea that track would resonate with people the way it has and how has it changed things for you as a band?
I had no idea on the positive response we would get from “I See You.” It was a really, really nice surprise. It has been great because it has opened us up to a large audience. I suppose that is all you ever really want when you are making something that it makes someone somewhere happy besides your mom! [laughs] It was been great!
Any plans for more video releases in the near future that we should be on the lookout for?
Yeah! Definitely! We have been busy with that for sure! Jaakko is a really talented videographer in addition to being a great producer. There is a video finished for “Light You Up,” “Work” and “I’ll Bring My Love.” “I’ll Bring My Love” will probably be the second single for “Discordia.” We also just finished another video for a track that I am not sure will be on this record. They are all finished and ready to go!
Where do you see yourself headed with the band currently? What are we looking for past the record release? What’s in the works?
We are planning to go out in support of “Discordia” in late summer and early fall. We have figured out a really interesting and fun way to interpret the songs live. There are a lot of electronic elements to it. Coming from the school of really enjoying seeing people do things with the hands during a show, we have managed to make it feel human, I like to think. We will take the show on the road and we are excited to do it!
Looking back on your musical journey to date, how have you most evolved as an artist?
For me, it was a process of playing with other people first and getting inspired in that way and knowing that I ultimately wanted to say something. I learned so much playing other people’s songs with them live, whether it was guitar or keys or sitting in with people. You look back and think of all the time and money you have spent playing for projects that aren’t necessarily your calling, projects you are doing because you do what you do. I credit those projects with inspiring me. I was playing in bands with good guys who were super talented but I was inspired to do my own thing. I credit being challenged in that way with getting me over that hump and giving me the confidence to go out, say what I want and letting the chips fall where they may.
Thanks for your time today, Justin. I am really digging the music Jutty Ranx is bringing our way. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for you all!
Thanks so much, Jason! I appreciate the support!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.