2018 has been a busy year for the man formerly known as Jay xero.
After blowing up at the end of 2017 with his deep-dance jam “doyouwannabemine?” he decided it was time for a change. Last week, he released a new song, “upsidown”, and unveiled his new name, warner case. We had a chance to sit down and chat for a little about his new music, upcoming projects, and why he changed his name.
The New York City resident and Cornell graduate is not a man of few words, as he said to me himself, “I’m not brief, I like to talk.” And talk he did. We discussed everything from Ableton Live to artichoke pizza and I learned a lot about the former economics major and up-and-coming musician. In October, “doyouwannabemine?” peaked at #2 on the Hype Machine charts, marking a big step for the freshly named warner case. After the release, he found himself new management in the form of A2’s Adam Arnkoff, who has managed everyone from Papa Roach to Blondie, and really started to, as he put it, “get [his] shit together”. It was then that he decided to change his name, although, it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, telling me, “I don’t know that there was one moment, but there was a gut feeling for a while. It didn’t represent me.”
He felt like Jay xero was too branded and wanted a name that better fit his sound. The name “warner case” is a reference to his family members but is truly intended to be, well, “neutral”. “When coming up with my new name I wanted something that no one would say “oh, that’s fucking awesome” and the reason is, I think if someone’s response is so positive it means it’s a little too niche or branded. So I actually wanted something vague. It doesn’t illicit any immediate feeling. So the cool thing is everybody has been like, “yeah, I like it” but they don’t have a huge reaction and that’s the reaction I want. It feels more real.” case also prefers to stylize his name with lowercase letters, saying, “I just like the way lowercase looks, I think it looks a lot more smooth in a way. When you do proper capitalization it feels kind of stuffy to me. It’s the mood I want to convey when someone sees my name, I don’t want it to feel intense.”
case is very particular when it comes to the mood or the vibe he presents. When I asked him how he would define his sound he had to pause for a moment. He told me, “There’s no concise way to put it, but, I guess, gritty, Pop, House. I want to shy away from the word Pop because of the negative connotations but I like catchy hooks. The intention is never to write a Pop song but just to write something that sounds good.” He tries to make “Dance music that has mood,” telling me, “Dance music is fun and happy and there’s nothing wrong with that but I like to explore the middle. I think it’s cool when you have a dance song that can make you cry, I really like that.” He went on to say that his music is not meant to be heard only in one setting; “I like the feeling of a song like “upsidown” because it works just as well at a pool party as in a dark club. I just really like playing around in that middle ground because it’s so versatile. I love the way it feels in the room and I like to construct it so that there’s enough going on that it feels full, but it’s sparse enough that you only really hear what needs to be heard.”
That “middle ground” that he talks about is something that is immediately recognizable in his music. “doyouwannabemine?” and “upsidown” share an extremely similar feeling, and, while it was somewhat unintentional, the two songs share more than just that. When I asked case about the similarity of the two songs he told me about his writing process and how, for him, “when it rains it pours.” He went on to say, “I was just really in that zone. Admittedly, I actually wrote “upsidown” from a lick that didn’t work in “doyouwannabemine?”. I just came up with something that I thought was really cool but didn’t fit with the vibe of “doyouwannabemine?” so I duplicated the file and deleted all the sounds except that lick and the drums and started over with just that, which turned into the song.”
He initially did not plan on releasing “upsidown” at this time but after “doyouwannabemine?” garnered so much attention he felt like it was the right move. He has a lot of unreleased material but he’s not focusing on that right now. In two weeks he’ll be performing at Paris Fashion Week, telling me that, while he loves New York City, which he described as “the epitome of the American dream in that you can do whatever the fuck you want, whenever the fuck you want,” he likes the Paris club scene a little more. “In Paris people just want to groove right away. There’s no pretense or trying to look cool, they just dance.” Luckily, he also studied French whilst at Cornell, so he’s ready to go. And while he doesn’t have any future releases slated right now he told me that he’s shooting a music video soon, saying, “I’m really excited to shoot it because I get to play around with another one of my passions: classic cars. And that’s all I’ll say about that for now.”
He did tell me about a few of his other passions besides classic cars and music though. Well, he told me about his “affinity” for cats. Explaining why he believes cats sometimes get a bad rep, saying, “I think most people who don’t like cats just grew up with a grandmother who had a cat that was a total dick. I really think that, because cats are different. Cats and dogs shouldn’t be compared as much as they are. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, I just have an affinity for cats. Cats are much more independent, if a cat doesn’t want to be pet at the moment, he’ll tell you, and I dig that.”
It wasn’t surprising to me that he had an informed response as to why he loved cats so much. case seems like someone who knows what he wants. Someone who’s music is begging to try to be placed in some unfitting genre. Someone willing to change their name solely because they felt like it didn’t represent who they are.