Breaking the mold before it's even set is nothing new for indie-electronic artist Jai Wolf, better known to some as Sajeeb Saha. Born in Bangladesh, raised in New York City, inspired by everything from hip-hop to classical music to punk rock, both his life and music have been defined by an amorphous quality that only a third culture kid could understand. The fact that Jai Wolf never quite fit in used to be fuel for his daydreams, now it's what makes him one of the most exciting electronic artists of his generation.
It was Skrillex himself who plucked Jai Wolf from obscurity when he came across the then-fledgling bedroom producer's bootleg of "Ease My Mind" in 2014. The OWSLA boss was so impressed that he signed the track for release and dropped it into heavy rotation in headline sets around the world, beginning with Glastonbury in the UK. From that point, Jai Wolf was a fixture at major stateside festivals, developing a reputation as a master remixer, often mentioned in the same breath as Flume and ODESZA in that wave of 2015 future bass. It was the kind of year of which most bedroom producers only ever dream, but Jai Wolf's real breakout moment was just about to hit.
"'Indian Summer' was the first time I ever tried sampling South Asian music. I had no expectations. I thought it was a strange, weird song," Jai Wolf smiles, looking back on his unique path to stardom. Since then, that "strange, weird" track has taken over the world, racking up tens of millions of streams, a major GoPro ad campaign, appearing on American Idol, and even soundtracking one of Kobe Bryant's final basketball games in the NBA. The song made Jai Wolf a star, but creatively, he was already looking towards bigger and better things.
The success of "Indian Summer," a track that leans more indie than EDM, was the catalyst to a major change in Jai Wolf's perspective. He decided to ditch the drops and focus on crafting songs with depth, with meaning and melody. He signed to indie darling label Mom + Pop Music, placing himself alongside the likes of Flume, Jagwar Ma, and Wavves. The result was the debut Kindred Spirits EP in 2016, a record that stunned critics and signaled the birth of Jai Wolf the songwriter, the live performer, the indie-tronic artist. The EP somehow merged the sweet melodies of 80s synth-pop with the atmosphere and grandiosity of EDM, the intimacy and closeness of chillwave, and the thoughtful introspection of indie-rock. It's a busy brew, but an easy listen, and it was the sound of Jai Wolf finding his voice. "I like writing songs that have a duality," he says. "A complexity of feeling that takes you to a melancholy, reflective space."
The creative release of Kindred Spirits and the deep connection Jai Wolf has forged with his worldwide fanbase has strengthened his sense of mission. "I really want to make honest music that people can relate to, can escape into. I don't want to make music that's just for the sake of being popular or trendy. I want people to really get lost in the world that I create," he says. "My music is for people who are desperately dreaming beyond where they are at right now—it can be the future, it can be the past. I want you to feel nostalgic. I want you to reflect on your life. I also want you to be inspired about where your life could go."
The story of Jai Wolf so far is more than the hits, the packed dancefloors, or co-signs by mega-stars. There's a message within it. "It's really easy to feel like you need to follow trends, the blueprint," he says. "But over the past three years I've learned that you shouldn't try to emulate anybody. You can take the elements you like and find a way to speak them through your own voice. That's the only way you'll ever truly express yourself honestly." It's a lesson for artists and fans alike, and a hint of what's to come for Jai Wolf. With his first ever LP impending in 2018, it seems that this story—one that spans the globe and genres alike—is just beginning...
"I know that there are people out there who are feeling what I'm feeling," says Jai Wolf. "I would love for them to find a way to connect with that through my music."