Thomas Hagen: You started out making beats, then how did you get into performing DJ sets?
JEWELSSEA: In high school a lot of my friends were in bands, so I would go to people’s basement shows. I saw a few people do DJ sets along with the bands, and I saw that it would be a good way for me to play my own music live. I wasn’t in a band but I wanted to perform what I was working on so other people could hear it; 2018 is when I started doing house shows. Then my friend started throwing raves in 2019, she got me in on it and I just kind of became the resident DJ. I was 20 and going into my junior year of college.
TH: How did you go from DJing house shows to the bigger raves and official venues?
J: My friends [Vicdeni, Keenanfromlimbo and Mowitcher] wanted to throw a rave, so we were all down to find a space, get the speakers, whatever we had to do. We were not tapped in. [laughs] At that point I don’t think I had even been to a rave yet. Before we threw our first party though, I went to [the Philly party] Raveland in 2019. That was the first rave I had been to, and I was like, “Woah, I get it now. It’s more intentional.” At house parties we were playing chiller music, but this was high-energy. They had free Red Bulls; it was 3 in the morning and I had gotten off of work at 2 maybe.
We announced our rave maybe a week out. Just word of mouth and Instagram, we threw it at this warehouse in North Philly, and — like 400 people showed up. We had no idea, we were like, “What is going on??” Everyone was packed into this really hot room; it was late August, fully in a basement, somebody in the middle of my set came over with a fan. I made like 300 bucks because there were a lot of people there; we expected to not make anything.
After that first rave, called ALT+ESC, other people started asking me to play their parties, then my first club gig was with [event promoters] Function. I think Blind Barber was the first spot with Function, then TLA. And at Silk City, Chicken of the Sea had a residency so she put me on with her.
TH: Do you have advice for people in Philly who have never been out dancing at a rave but want to try it out?
J: Just go — if you have a friend or you don’t, just show up, push yourself. It’s ok to be a little uncomfortable; you might find that you actually fit in. I was always very shy and reserved, and I became a more social person once I got to college, more extroverted. I think just pushing myself to go out with my friends, be open to new experiences, made me start to appreciate the nightlife more. I didn’t think I would be outside as much as I am now. [laughs]
TH: You bring in a lot of influence from hip hop and rap, and you have also released beat tapes. How does it feel to bring elements of rap into dance music settings? Does it surprise people? Or does it feel natural?
J: That’s what I was doing for the first ALT+ESC, I was always incorporating rap. It feels normal. A lot of the music I was listening to on YouTube, like mashups and SoundCloud era, I was hearing people mix R&B with house, or rap with house. None of that is new; hip house has been around for years. In a place like Philly—people that rap, they’re going to raves, people in bands go to raves, people at raves are going to rap shows.