Jessie and the Toy Boys Talk Britney Spears + Nicki Minaj, New ‘Show Me Your Tan Lines’ EP
PopCrush caught up with frontlady Jessie Malakouti just before the Jessie and the Toy Boys performance on 'Conan,' as she was nestling into the green room scarfing down pasta like she didn't have time to eat. Of course, it's likely that her days are so busy now that she actually doesn't.
Amidst television appearances and new singles, a la 'Push It,' Jessie and the Toy Boys also released a new six-track EP, 'Show Me Your Tan Lines,' on June 14. The EP -- produced by No Doubt's Tony Kanal and Jimmy Harry, who has worked with Pink and Britney Spears -- sparked a lot of new elements in Jessie's style, including her mannequin band name.
Speaking of Britney, did we mention that Jessie and her toy boys are opening for Brit's Femme Fatale Tour with Nicki Minaj? It's true -- Jessie, who once danced to 'Baby One More Time' in her fifth grade talent show, will head out on the huge tour alongside the two pop greats when it kicks off June 16 -- and boy is she excited.
Are you excited that you get to go on the road with Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears for the Femme Fatale tour?
I'm so excited. I'm a huge Britney fan, I have been forever, and a huge Nicki Minaj fan. She's my favorite new artist around in a long time. I'm so excited to be apart of it such an amazing show ... I'm so excited and real, really grateful.
So you were saying you've been a big Britney fan for a long time. What's your favorite song of hers?
Hmm, my favorite Britney song. Probably 'Heaven on Earth,' which is a song on the 'Blackout' record. It's produced by these guys called Freescha, and they're actually friends of mine. They live in the valley in L.A. I worked with them on my record, I'm not sure if the song's going to make my album but they're awesome. I didn't know them when I heard that song, but after I heard it I became such a fan I was like, 'Who produced this?' And that's kind of how I sought them out and became friends with them. But, I love that song, I think it's a great song and the production is awesome.
And then, obviously, 'Baby One More Time.' I mean, I think I was like nine or 10 when that came out -- however old you are when you're in fifth grade, I was in fifth grade. I had my fifth grade talent show to it! I was really excited about it.
What about Nicki Minaj? What's your favorite Nicki song?
Probably 'Roman's Revenge.' She's just dope, man. She's just got such a sick flow. She's got great timing and she's really smart. I love the intelligence that she brings to her music, it's really really thought-provoking, and I like that.
What was you reaction when you found out you'd be on the Femme Fatale tour?
I was so excited I literally, I screamed, and then I started crying because I was so happy. I never cry and I couldn't control it, like, I was crying tears of joy. Then, the shitty part was I wasn't able to tell anybody, so I had to go back into the studio with a red face and mascara everywhere … Everyone was like, 'What's wrong with you?' and I was like 'Nothing! Everything's great!' They're like, 'Are you sure?' and I just wanted to be like 'If only you knew why I'm crying…' But obviously I had to keep it quiet for like a week before it was announced. But I was so, so, so, so excited.
So, you have a new single out, 'Push It.' How has that been received so far?
I couldn't ask for better fans. Everyone has loved it. It's crazy, I've been waiting for the haters to come, where are they? But everyone loves the song, everytime it comes on in the club people start dancing. I've even been out kind of incognito, just chillin', and heard it come on. I was really glad it was a low-key night when I heard it, because I got to genuinely see the crowd's reaction, and it was amazing. Everyone was dancing, moving, it's a great feeling. Then, when we perform it live it's definitely one people get excited about, so, it's really cool.
Do you get out on the dance floor and dance with them?
Hell yeah! You've got to.
Watch the Jessie and the Toy Boys 'Push It' Video
But first, your 'Show Me Your Tan Lines' EP came out on the 14th. Can you tell me a little bit about what else is on it, and what you hope fans can get from it?
Show me your tan lines has got six songs on it, two new songs. One is called 'Money Makes a Girl Go Round.' It's one of the first Jessie and the Toy Boys songs that I wrote, because it was kind of the song that made me realize that my sound was changing, and it sort of inspired me to start a new band as well. I've been releasing several things in the UK underground, under several aliases, there's kind of this underground dance thing over there. I started just getting more poppier and mixing the songs up, and one of the first songs I wrote was 'Money Makes a Girl Go Round.' I listened to it and it's got more of a dirty bass groove, and it's got that juxtaposition of bass guitars, but still very much electro dance house. So, I was like, this feels like a whole new thing! It's one of my favorite songs because the chorus is just huge. It's also a favorite of mine because it's kind of a song about being stabbed in the back by someone I was very close to, so it's sort of my way of saying, 'You know, listen b----, you screwed me over and now I'm going to have a hit on the radio.' So there's that.
Then, I have a song called 'Summer Boy' on the EP that's not going to be on the album, it's an EP exclusive. The first lyric of 'Summer Boy' is "Show me your tan lines, I'll show you mine." So that's why I named the EP that. I was really particular in choosing what songs to put on the EP, and the order and everything, it felt really summertime, so that's why that song is on there.
Will there be another single from the EP or will it be from your record?
I think my next single will probably be from my record. I think I'm going to release another single to clubs that's awesome, it's a song called 'Naughty.' I've hardly played it for anybody and it's really, really good. We're going to be performing it on the Femme Fatale tour as well, and that will be the first time I have played it live. I think that's probably going to be the next club single, but the focus right now is still 'Push It,' for sure.
What was it like working with Jimmy Harry and Tony Kanal from No Doubt on the EP?
It was awesome! It doesn't get any better than guys like that, you know, they have so much experience. It's just interesting the way their brains first in terms of musicality. They rock and I'm a HUGE No Doubt fan, huge huge huge fan. Just the fact that Tony was apart of the song was like the coolest thing ever for me, for sure.
So you write all of your own songs. What inspires you?
I do. I write all my songs. When I write a song, my process is a little bit different. I start with the melody always. My whole cell phone is filled with melodies, just random, mumbling melodies. Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and find my phone on my dresser and like grab it and be like, 'Nanananana.' Of course, I'll wake up the next day and be like 'What is that? That's awful.' But some days I'll wake up and be like 'That's amazing!' So that's how I start my songs, I just hear melodies all day! I've always heard melodies, even as a kid, I'd write poems or whatever and put melody behind them. So I always start with the melody, except with 'Push It,' the track existed already, so I did write the melody and lyric over it but the groove was already there because Tony and Jimmy had already been working on it and had it sitting around for awhile. So, it varies.
I get inspired by all kinds of things, I'm always people watching. I write a lot about love and war, sex and betrayal, just all the things that I go through. I try not to ever write anything forced because even when other artists sing my songs, it's like ... You didn't even really go through that. When you hear people singing your words … I would never want to be an artist who wasn't being true to their words.
We've read that you are amused when people pin you in a certain way, essentially that you're just another pop star. Obviously, that's a hard thing to break. Who do you think you are? Who do you want to be seen as?
The goal has always been to inspire. When I was a little girl, I didn't have a very easy childhood, and my escapism was music. I was definitely that kid who would go into their closet, or lock their bedroom door and blast records and just kind of zone out, and that was the way I processed. I listened to all kinds of bands and artists -- music is therapy. I'm not really sure if I have an opinion about how I want to be seen, but I definitely have an opinion about how I want to be heard. I want people to … In the same way of why I respect Nicki's songwriting ability so much, I do the same thing. I pose a lot of questions in my music, I want to get people thinking. I want to get people asking themselves questions -- or even just getting people through a hard day with a certain song. In my life personally, music has been therapy, so it'd be great for me to inspire people now and be on the other side of it.
Where does the name Jessie and the Toy Boys come from?
Actually, the song 'Summer Boy!' The chorus is 'You can be my summer boy, you can be my summer toy / You can be my summer boy, my little toy.' It's like the most repetitive singsongy lyric ever, but it was one of those moments where it just kind of came out, and I was like, 'That is so catchy!' So, I just kept playing around with the name but I didn't like Jessie and the Boy Toys, and I came up with Jessie and the Toy Boys and that started sparking the whole thing of how I wanted to start a band again, but how I really didn't want to start a band again. I didn't want any other egos or opinions or anyone getting in the way of my creative vision. So, that sparked the idea to have mannequins in my band, and it all just made so much sense. Duh, Jessie and the Toy Boys, and toy boy mannequins rolling around with me. Love it.
Watch Jessie and the Toy Boys Perform 'Push It' on 'Conan'