After debuting her first album Overgrown in the midst of the pandemic, LA-based vocalist Joyce Wrice decided she was ready to release herself from the bounds of her last piece of work, and ready to take her sound to the next level. We chatted to her via zoom about the product of this, her new EP Motive, and how everything came to be.
After releasing her debut album Overgrown during the peak of the pandemic, LA-based R&B artist, Joyce Wrice, sat down, recuperated, and made the firm promise to herself that her next project was going to flip the switch on what we thought we knew about her. After enduring the effects of the pandemic, Wrice came up with one single motive – to make people dance.
Compact and cute, packaged within a 14-minute runtime, her follow up EP Motive is a momentous step into waters that Wrice hadn’t sailed yet. With an urge to want to show more of herself, and let loose, Wrice revolutionised her sound, the stories she wanted to tell, and the way she wanted to tell them. Motive is a sweet and sultry reminder of who Joyce is from the inside out, acting as a canvas for all of the experimental and carefree ideas that she had boxed up in her mind, finally free for the world to indulge in. With a strong team of producers behind her, from the likes of Kaytranada, Osinachi and Mack Keane, the details in the production help elevate a part of Wrice that was previously unknown, tying together elements of R&B, dance, afro swing, and funk. This EP truly is a breakthrough moment for Wrice as an artist, and provides a delicate understanding of who she is and what she wants to say. From Sydney to LA, we joined her via zoom to speak on the EP, music influences, and what her motive is now.
Hi Joyce, congratulations on the release of your EP Motive. It definitely delves into a different kind of playing field, compared to your debut album Overgrown from last year. Tell me about the EP as a whole, and the process of creating it.
I was very nervous about putting another project out in a timely manner after Overgrown. I had just been doing a lot of shows and a lot of things were happening. So as far as being able to get creative and tell new stories, I was unsure if I could do it in a timely manner. I feel like these days, audiences want things like right away. And then six months later, they’re like, where’s the new thing? So I kind of decided that I want to challenge myself to do an EP by the end of this year, and a year after Overgrown had been out. And I think it would be great to hold people over as I get into the second album. So, fortunately, I was feeling inspired to make a dance EP. Number one, because through my experiences of doing live shows, I realised that choreography is so much more important to me than ever before. So I need to make sure that I create music that can allow me to tap into that. And we had just been through a lot, the world had just been through so much. So I felt like it was my duty to also make music that people can dance to and feel good to. Luckily, I was in the studio a lot. And I was able to collaborate with Kaytranada, who is very good at executing the sound and vision that I had. I was also working with producers Mack Keane and Osinachi. And, man, I’m so happy that we were able to put this thing together. And with the blessings of having social media, I think we fulfilled the motivation behind this EP. I’m very proud. I’m very happy. I’m a little relieved. And I look forward to what’s to come next.
Reading about the EP, I remember you mentioned that you wanted to be a little bit more carefree and have fun this time round and experiment more with different sounds. And it definitely feels and sounds like you honoured that to its fullest potential because it is such a fun yet compact EP. And of course, you mentioned working with Kaytranada on it, who I feel like, if you walk into a party or a club, within the first 5-10 seconds of a track, you’ll be able to tell if it’s a Kaytranada song or not. So, how did it feel to kind of incorporate his distinct sound, and a slice of him into this EP?
I mean, it feels perfect. It feels very necessary. He is one of the most popular and, I feel like, successful producers right now. So I feel honoured to have him on the project, to be honest. And I think he really helps me capture the vision to a tee. So I really hope that we can make more. And I hope that this is just, you know, a little sneak peek of how much greatness we can do together.
Yeah, definitely. Have you guys had the chance to perform live together or is that still something that’s to be in the works?
We have not been able to do that yet. I opened up for him in New York. But no, we haven’t done that yet. So let’s speak that into existence right now. I don’t know how often he does that with artists. But that would be really great. It would be cool for us to do Iced Tea together.
With that being said, what’s your favourite song off of the EP and why?
I would say Bittersweet Goodbyes. I just think structurally and lyrically, it’s written so well. Melodically, it’s so catchy. And I love how my voice is on that record. It’s super sultry, warm and buttery, which I feel like is really great for my tone. And I don’t think anyone has really heard me do a record like that. So I’m very proud of that song. Shout out to Mack Keane, Kaelin Ellis for doing that record with me because I feel like it’s the most popular one off the EP.
Listening to the EP, it feels very nostalgic. Although it has so many modern aspects to it, it definitely feels reminiscent of the pop and r&b girls of the early 2000s. Cassie, Jojo, Amerie, Christina Milian. So I feel like you are someone who’s kind of triumphing a generation and era of r&b music that they were fronting once upon a time, and it’s really cool and exciting.
Thank you! Those were people that I grew up listening to, and just like, fan over, so for me to be able to create something that they would be proud of lets me know that I’m doing my job right.
I know as well that you’re always ensuring to champion your cultural heritage as much as possible through your music. Tell us a little bit about your experiences navigating both your Black and Japanese heritage, through music.
I guess I’ve never really thought about it too much. I grew up an only child. And my mother who is Japanese, pretty much raised me, my father who is Black was in the Navy. So he was travelling a lot and we never travelled with him, we stayed in San Diego, California, which is where I’m from. And I just spent a lot of time at home, or at dance practice, or Buddhist meetings. And so if I wasn’t doing those things, I was listening to music and obsessing over artists that I love. And that’s what really influenced me and kind of moulded me into who I am. My mother did a really great job of taking me to Japan once a year, every year of my life. I would visit my dad’s side of the family in Michigan and my dad always played music, r&b, hip hop, reggae, everything. My mom didn’t play music so much and her family doesn’t play music at all. She’s kind of shy, but she has a great ear, and she has really good taste. So she was really into disco. But when she was younger, and when she met my dad, there were very few moments where she would play Japanese soul music and watch Japanese television. But overall, in the household, there would be music here and there. But I guess my interest mostly came from my dad playing it and then me just researching and taking the initiative to listen and sing on my own.
I feel like you’ve done a great job at honouring what you know, and what you’ve taught yourself but also learned about your Japanese side. For example, the music video for Iced Tea. What was it like filming that video and playing around with the overall theme of it?
It was a really tough time filming the video, to be honest. But I have an amazing team, a great creative director, who always keeps in mind that I want to incorporate my Japanese heritage. And we really wanted a more narrative-based video, as opposed to the past ones that I’ve done. We wanted to showcase my sweet side, but also my more bold, badass side. Because I don’t really show that a lot. I don’t think people really know that about me. But in Motive, I think you get a taste of it. The video is really me seeking revenge from someone who tries to test me and take advantage of me and I’m really happy that everyone loves it. I’m happy that I had another visualizer where I could showcase my choreography and tap into more of my Janet Jackson side. Beyonce, Britney Spears type of video. And even again, speaking Japanese to show people that I do speak the language. I really want people to get to know me more. I’m kind of a private person. I don’t really share too much about myself, or if I do, I think sometimes I could do so more, so hopefully this video is me showing more of my identity and who I am and what I’m capable of.
When you were making the EP, you were constantly posing the same question to yourself – “what is your motive?”. With the EP out, what would you say is your motive now?
Oh, good question. I guess my motive is to just keep evolving. The EP, it’s only 14 minutes, it’s not that long. Someone tweeted the other day, “I just sat through this EP, where’s the album?” [laughs]. So, I just want to elaborate more on the feel and sound of Motive. And just dig deeper with it, as well as finding out more of what I want to do, what stories I want to tell, what sounds I want to experiment with. I like to surprise myself and surprise my listeners. So I’m just excited to also see what’s next.
And then with that being said, what does the rest of your year look like?
I won’t share too much because I want to keep some mystery and let people be surprised and excited, but I would just say, there’s some more exciting things around Motive. And for me, I just want to train, I just want to get better with my skills, I want to get better at singing live. I want to get better at writing songs, and creating melodies that really stick with people that really impact them. And I also just want to be more strong, I want to be mentally and physically more strong. So that next year, when I am hopefully closer to fulfilling this sophomore album, I can really come even harder with my live shows.
I’m very excited to see it come to fruition. I like that you obtain a level of mystery, we kind of live in an age where everyone wants to share everything.
Yes, I think that’s really important. I feel like that’s why we love Rihanna. That’s why we love Beyonce. That’s why we love Frank Ocean. Like you said, we share so much already. You need to save things for yourself. I think it’s appropriate to just, you know, give little hints.
Definitely, I like the ambiguity. I’m excited to see what it is that you have crafting up from here on out. Hopefully we can see you in the flesh and live down under when the time arrives.
I miss going out there. I really hope I can go back ASAP because in the early stages of my career, Australia, New Zealand supported me heavy. So it’s only right that I go back and show love with all this growth. So, another thing we’re speaking into existence for 2023. And then you can interview me out there.