Brooklyn-based songwriter and producer Jae Soto has just released "Citizen Jane," a dystopian-themed mini video game set in 2073, where players navigate a post-environmental disaster world governed by a social credit system. The game, created in collaboration with Nima Niazi, integrates Soto's music to enhance the immersive experience. In addition to the game release, Jae Soto recently dropped a new single, "Working the Weekend," showcasing a blend of indie-alternative and experimental pop. The song, created using the vintage Roland Alpha Juno 2 synthesizer, explores the challenges of working-class life with minimalist lyrics and a playful nihilistic chorus. Soto's musical journey, from session singer to solo artist, draws from eclectic NYC influences and culminates in a unique sound that combines traditional songwriting with processed sounds. A release party for the single and game is set for December 10 at Wonderville, featuring gameplay and live music.
How did the band form and what does the band name mean?
Jae Soto has been my artist name for the past few years, but it's closely tied to my actual name, Justina Soto. I started this project a few years ago as a way to share my songwriting after spending many years feeling disconnected from my creative side. It began more simply as a personal creative outlet without expectations or pressure. Over time, as I've released my original music, I've started to gain clarity around my own artistic identity, which was my original hope!
Previous musical projects? How'd you first get into music?
Singing has been an innate form of expression for me since childhood. I remember being 12 and feeling this compulsion to sing - it was stimulating in a way nothing else was. I tended to have trouble articulating my thoughts and feelings, but singing allowed me to bypass that and just express myself through sound.
Attending a performing arts high school in Queens was really pivotal and saved me in a lot of ways. I was immersed in music theory, vocal technique training, ear training - all vital skills. But most importantly, it gave me a creative community and outlet during those formative years. I think it really gave me the grounding I needed at the time.
I started out professionally as a session vocalist and background singer, working with various bands and artists including a few modern Jazz and pop ensembles. While I enjoyed performing, I never fully felt like I had found where I belonged creatively, but a major turning point came after I attended Ableton's Loop summit in Berlin back in 2017. After that, I sort of became fascinated with using hardware like loop pedals, synthesizers, and effects modules to make sounds and since then I’ve been intertwining my songwriting with creative production techniques.
First concert that you ever went to?
I believe the first concert I went to was Dashboard Confessional in NYC! : )
What's your writing process like?
Songwriting begins for me when I get fixated on a particular chord or chord progression that I really enjoy playing. If the progression has some crunchiness in the harmony to it, that often sparks ideas for vocal melodies that can play off that harmonic tension.
When it comes to crafting the song's overall sound, I'll start by recording a rough sketch of the song with scratch vocals over the chord progression to capture the initial musical idea. Then I like to have freeform improv sessions using my guitar pedals. I'll experiment with different textures and loops and from these improv sessions, I'll pick out the moments and passages that stand out to me. Like putting together a collage - I piece together and rearrange the most inspired fragments from the improvisations.
What other artists or songs inspire your music?
During quarantine, I made it a point to listen to a lot of new music (like Luke Temple and Kate NV). I would go on long bike rides and just let the albums play and I think it really helped expand my musical palette and clarity on what I enjoy hearing and creating as an artist, especially when it comes to playing with musical form and disregarding genres.
It reminded me that new things really filter into our subconscious "little monkey brains" and gradually shape our artistic instincts and eventual output.
What's the live experience like and your philosophy on playing live? Do you think the music live should be identical to the recorded version or should it be it's own thing?
I spent much of this past year playing solo shows and experimenting with different ways of performing the music live. My approach has changed so many times, and although I never feel like I've completely nailed it, I've come to understand that each song flourishes in its own way.
Some songs simply feel huge and amazing when I play the full instrumental, layer big synths on top, and sing along. Others feel better when I'm just looping textures and creating a more improvisational version. When given the chance to lean into improv, I sometimes surprise myself with what I come up with and feel really relieved to have created a space to just go completely off in whatever way instead of counting measures and having to stay within the tracks limitations.
Ultimately, I've learned it depends entirely on the individual song and what feels right in the moment. But having the flexibility to reshape them live has been really rewarding.
Has the band toured? What has the touring experience been, best shows? Worst shows?
My worst concert experience has to be when I peed my pants at the 5th grade Christmas concert, but my favorite experiences have been playing for audiences I was initially terrified of, assuming they'd be hostile, only to find them really engaged and surprisingly supportive.
What's up next for the band?
I'll be releasing the full album Spring of 2024 and playing the music for folks. I'm also looking forward to sharing some projects involving the integration of programming languages to process and generate sound in new ways.