With his debut EP out today on Soothsayer, we talk to Vinci Andanar aka Juno Mamba about finding his place with his music.
According to Wikipedia, a light echo is "a physical phenomenon caused by light reflected off surfaces distant from the source, and arriving at the observer with a delay relative to this distance." It's a scientific term in outer space, but for Vinci Andanar, it holds a deeper meaning. Under the moniker JUNO MAMBA, Andanar today has released his debut EP named after the astrological phenomenon and in doing so, has reconciled a chapter of his life and begins another.
Having felt a deep love of music in his childhood and developing this passion throughout his teenage years, at the turn of the 2010s, Andanar was apart of pioneering band GOLD FIELDS. It wouldn't be until almost a decade later that we'd hear the first of his solo efforts, and we can confidently say it was worth the wait. Having released his debut single, 'Flicker', in late 2019, it was clear that Juno Mamba was operating on a different level. 'Flicker' employs the same sensibilities heard in his inspirations' work like Four Tet or Caribou, but it still sounds entirely his. Rich in emotion, every single sound has an intention and a place, and its this approach that allows Andanar to create whole worlds within just a few minutes.
Expansive and unafraid to plunge the depths of human emotion, every song on Light Echoes exists in its own right but are all expertly tied together in a body of work that's at once universal and personal. You can really hear how much Andanar has poured into his music, how painstaking his approach is, and how important this is to him, but it never sounds overdone or contrived. Instead, it embraces the rawness and the rough edges, just like Andanar began to do in his own life as well. For a man who for years was unable to find a place in music he could call his, he has arrived with a defined, self-assured and brilliant body of work that means just as much to the listener to hear it as it does to him for it to be heard.
From the opening debut single 'Flicker' into the transcendental 'Blossom', the racing and release of 'Bright Noise' and the grand finale that is the seven-minute odyssey, 'Slow Light', Light Echoes is a journey in and of itself, with each song taking you into its own microcosm. Injecting everything he's learned up until this moment and pushing it further and further, Juno Mamba has delivered a sonically stunning and incredibly special debut, and we couldn't be more excited to see where this takes him. I caught up with Vinci on the phone to talk all about his debut release, how important his label family is to him at Soothsayer, and what he's learned along the way. Read it below and check out Light Echoes here.
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Congratulations on Light Echoes, it’s such a beautiful record. Some of these songs have existed in one form or another for over a year, is that right? How does it feel to finally have it out in the world?
Yeah I’m really excited. It’s been almost two years in the making so it’s just exciting to put something out by myself. I’m excited more than anything. It’s quite a snapshot of that period in my life and it’s quite personal. I’m just excited to share it and to see what people outside my inner circle think of it. It’s always hard to gauge what people think if they’re you’re best friend or a family member, so I’m really curious and excited to see how people take it. I hope people listen to it because it was quite a therapeutic experience for me and a big healing process for me, so if people can find some meaning out of it then it’s done more than I anticipated.
It’s a very emotional EP and a lot of the messaging around it has been about purpose - finding it, realising it, fulfilling it. Do you think you’ve achieved that with this EP?
I went into the process very uncertain about a lot of things in life and certainly had a lot of unanswered questions and frustration going over these thoughts I was having. It was the perfect distraction that I needed from reality and it gave me a chance to figure out what was most important in my life. For me, the EP represents a curiosity of the world past, present and future, as well as being at peace with the unknown. Going into it, I just had so many uncertainties, and then coming out I certainly didn’t have any of the answers but I felt at peace with the whole process.
This ties in really nicely with the name of the EP itself - can you tell me a bit about the concept of this and how it’s tied in with the music?
At the time, I was really intrigued about space and I wanted a name that summed up my experience during that time. The biggest realisation I had was during that time, one of my unanswered questions was whether or not music was what I wanted to do or whether it was the right thing to do. Coming out of the process, I knew it was exactly what I should be doing. Looking back, the journey I started when I was eight years old, and it’s taken me 29 years to realise that music is what I should be doing. When I was looking at names for the EP - as I said I was really into space at the time and I still am - something I found on Google is [the concept of a] light echo, the phenomenon of light reflected off from the source and arriving at the observer with a delay and that sums up my journey. It started so long ago but it only arrived to me now.
It sounds like a really self-assured release to me. It’s making a big, powerful statement in how well-developed and refined the songs are and every song has this whole world built within it. Was it a process for you to become self-assured in yourself while creating this music, or did that come after the music was created?
I’d say a bit of both. Certainly once it was done, I stood back and was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve just done that.” At the time when I wrote ‘Flicker’ which was the first song I wrote, I was thinking, “Okay, I don’t think I can do that again,” and then I just went into the next track. There was this strange process where I’d be afraid to start because I didn’t have the confidence to finish, but then throughout the process I’d start to gain confidence in myself knowing I’ve got all the tools and experience to finish a song. At the end of it, it was certainly reassuring knowing that all the years I’ve worked hard on music was worth it because before I didn’t know if all the time I’d spent on this was a waste of time or not. Making this EP gave me that reassurance that I am heading down the right track. It also gave me the confidence to actually tell people I’m a musician. There’s been so many times in the past when it wasn’t something I was proud of saying and I think that was because I didn’t have so much to show for what I’d done.
I really relate to what you’re saying there just in my own journey in music. I think it’s harder because when you’re so passionate about something and it’s all you know and all you can think about, it makes the stakes even higher. You’re so uncertain about a lot of things as well because you have this life-definingly deep passion and it’s terrifying! You put a lot of pressure on yourself for it to work and anything that makes it look like it’s slightly not working is so much bigger than it would look to someone from the outside.
100%. I think at that point in my life as well, I was hitting my 30s and I’m married and got a mortgage and all those things were playing on my mind. I think I’m making the right choice.
Once you come to that conclusion yourself, it can be a very liberating feeling to experience that. Do you think that liberation was the reason you were able to push these songs so far?
It was the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced in my life to the point where now at family gatherings, I’m proud to talk about what I do and I’m proud to talk about what I’ve got planned and I’m 100% a musician and that’s just me. I think it certainly helps that my wife is extremely supportive and is on my back like, “Shouldn’t you be in the studio?” She knows when I need my time and she understands when I’m in the zone and it’s an awkward time, she knows she needs to let me go. Having friends that are super supportive as well and telling me to keep going, that was all the motivation I needed to keep going. And more recently, people who I don’t know have been reaching out to say I’ve inspired them, that’s all I could’ve asked for.
It comes down to the sense of community that people require, especially with creatives. You can get so stuck in your head so having people around you to push you when you’re unable to push yourself is so important.
I very much agree with that. I have a few producer friends who I talk to about this stuff all the time. It’s nice knowing that you’re all in it together. That was one of the things I was questioning throughout this process was community, not just in music but in general, and how disconnected we are when the world is so “connected.” It was something I really struggled with, especially now. All my friends are getting to the stage where they all have families and things like that and at some stage, we’re all going through the same thing but we keep the struggle behind closed doors. We need to just bring that community aspect back to [the world] and really help with each other. I’m lucky i’ve got those friends and people who also make music so we can go through these tough times together.
It’s interesting that you say that because obviously some of your biggest inspirations are Caribou and Four Tet, and they actually have that same relationship you were talking about. They send things through to each other, Caribou would send Four Tet tracks he was about ready to delete and he’d save them and push him into a different direction.
I definitely look at those guys as a big inspiration. I feel like those guys with Jamie xx and Floating Points and others have this tight group and I’m lucky I’ve got some very talented friends and we all share music to get opinions and feedback to keep ourselves in check and on track. Even though I have these close friends, it’s still very hard to show I find. It makes me work even harder just to get demos right, and I need to make sure I’ve got my vision right before I can show someone. A lot of people say they can use their imagination and see where you’re going with it, but it’s still sometimes not the case. I end up working on demos for probably too long.
You’ve signed to Soothsayer for this EP - congratulations for that. They’re easily my favourite Australian label. Can you talk to me about the role an indie label like this has played in this EP?
They’ve been extremely instrumental in this whole process. I knew from the start if I was to work with a label or a label that wanted to work with me, they would need to firstly understand the project and understand the vision. Not only that, but elevate the vision and take it to the next level. The biggest thing for me was I needed to work with someone I can trust, I wanted to be able to give the reigns to someone else for creative direction so I could focus on music. The first time I met the guys, I got that straight away. They were just confident with the vision and everything they said was in line with what I had planned. The biggest thing was a team that I could trust and would grow into a family and be a part of the project from day one. They’ve been incredible this whole time. Everything they’ve suggested has been incredible all the way down to the artists getting on board. It’s just all working nicely and I think that comes down to me having full trust and faith in what they do.
Back to the artists we were mentioning before, Jamie, Nico Jaar, Floating Points and others — they’re some of my favourite artists as well, and I always seem to go back to them when I need to escape, and that sense of escapism into another world is what I get when I listen to your music now too. Do you think it’s important to be able to deliver this liberation or escapism now more than ever?
Firstly that’s so nice of you to say, that’s all I ever dream of is for people to listen to my music and escape into another reality or forget what’s going on from the day to day. Because that’s what it did for me making it, it got me out of a confusing time and I’ve always just wanted to make music like that. All those guys, I can just put on their records and just forget. The current state of the world is crazy right now and you know what people are saying, this is when art is most needed, right? Whether it’s music or film or photography or art, for me, it’s super important.
Dance music has always been rooted in this ability to help people let go, and it’s interesting to see now as the world is so chaotic, people kind of look to albums like Caribou’s latest album to almost give a sense of hope. I spoke to Dan Snaith a few weeks back and we were talking about how it’s almost a punk attitude to release something emotional and full of hope and wonder to the world right now, and I wanted to get your thoughts on that too given you’re a fan.
For me, this record, I think I subconsciously got to that place because I was personally going through it. I haven’t thought about it in that way but I can comment on my experience and the way I grew up with music. I naturally gravitate towards emotive songs, even from a young age. I think a big part of that is my mother being a classical pianist so my early memories are of first moving to Australia and waking up in the morning to her playing Mozart or Bach. A lot of the pieces she’d play were super emotive. From that, I grew up during the emo phase and that was the music I was into when I was getting into bands in high school. Doing DIY recordings and teaching myself production. For me to connect to music, it needs to make me feel quite emotional and it needs to be a piece that can pull me into a place in time or where I can visualise certain experiences in the past. That’s what I’ve always gravitated towards.
I think it’s all about that emotional release and so much is happening not just in our personal lives but outside that as well. There’s so much happening to pull us away from each other and it’s dance music that brings people together in a wholesome, nourishing way. That’s what I’m getting from this EP and what I’m getting from dance music in the last few months.
I just remembered something Kevin Parker said about his last record in that, “nostalgia is a drug to which we are all addicted.” I think that’s the case for me because a lot of my fondest memories of music is always attached to something nostalgic, and I think it naturally comes out in my music.
Interview by Emma Jones