Just after she’d released her second album, 2016’s Oh No, Jessy Lanza’s life was in a bit of an upheaval. She’d broken up with her partner and co-producer, Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan, and moved from her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, to New York City to start a new relationship. But things didn’t immediately gel. “I had a vision of what that move was going to mean and how I was going to feel,” the songwriter/producer tells Apple Music. “And then when I ended up feeling pretty much how I did before I left, I just started feeling lost and homesick. I think I just underestimated how moving away from my family and from familiarity and all that stuff would affect me.” But as the songs for her third LP, All the Time, began to take shape, “it just became this thing I could connect to and engage with that made sense,” she says. “I was a bit of an emotional mess writing this record. I was really depressed and I used the album as a way to claw myself out of this hole that I was in.” Listening to these tracks—by turns woozy and propulsive, ruminative and joyful, taking inspiration from ’80s funk and quiet storm, ’90s house and techno, and 2010s footwork and hip-hop—you wouldn’t necessarily suspect they’re the product of dark times. But it is, at its core, a dance record, meant more for catharsis than self-pity: “It was hard not to write these meaningful, really emotional lyrics,” she says. “It sounds like a cliché thing to say, but I do feel like overthinking the lyrics is my first step in ruining a song.” Despite having established a new working relationship with Greenspan, who helped produce the album, that feeling of upheaval hasn’t entirely gone away. When the pandemic hit, and her NYC lease was up, Lanza hit the road and landed—at least temporarily—in Palo Alto, California, where she told us more about the genesis of All the Time.
Anyone Around "That was the last song we wrote for the record. I wrote it while we had started mixing, so it was really late to be added to the tracklist, but it's one of my favorite songs. It’s about realizing that maybe you're the asshole in your life. I was just thinking about the plot, like in a film noir where it's at the end and the protagonist realizes they're the murderer or whatever. I was just thinking like, at the end of my life, I don't want to suddenly realize that actually I was the asshole the whole time. It's about pushing people away and not having self-awareness."
Lick in Heaven "I wrote that after I had a particularly bad fight with my partner. I was in the remorse phase of feeling like I really need to apologize for what I said, and then I started thinking about that moment in a fight when somebody really has the choice to either go back or let their pride or their ego get the better of them, and then they just go full nuclear. And then I thought of the idea of spinning out, and how that would be a fun lyric to write the chorus around."
Face “This was an edit fest of a song; it was a lot of experimenting on new equipment that I just got. I had a bunch of semi-modular stuff that I didn't really know how to use, so I would do just really long takes at the BPM that I wanted ‘Face’ to be at, and then just edited stuff together after. I know Jeremy did the same thing; he was experimenting a lot with new modules he added to his Eurorack. It started with that bassline that's in the song. For me, the bassline is the hook. In house music, that bassline really is everything, so I was thinking about that a lot in ‘Face’—trying to get a good bassline—but it's a lot of editing. That song just became a clusterfuck of a song. The lyrics were the last thing I wrote. I was riding home on the subway in New York and just being a bit creepy and looking at everyone's expression and had this thought of 'I wonder what these people are actually thinking about. Are they pissed off?' I thought it would be fun to write lyrics about that.”
Badly "I think ‘Badly’ is my favorite track from the album. I know I already said that maybe about 'Anyone Around,' but I like ‘Badly’ a lot. The reason I have an affection for it is because it was a lot of happy accidents in that song. The sub line at the beginning of the song was kind of a mistake. I don't even know how the sampler in Logic made that...it just happened. I did a lot of modular experimenting in that song too, and then Jeremy added—in the breakdown there's this really cheesy Mariah Carey pop-ballad breakdown in the middle that when I first heard it, I was like, 'I don't know if I like this.' But it really grew on me, and I think of that song really fondly."
Alexander "I was pretty sad when I wrote that one. I was trying to do a cover of the Alexander O'Neal song 'A Broken Heart Can Mend.' And then it just wasn't going anywhere and it just didn't sound very good, so I changed the key. I just started messing around with it over the course of a couple weeks, and it changed from that cover into 'Alexander,' and I just kept the title."
Ice Creamy "I think the vocals ended up sounding that way because Jeremy and I passed that one back and forth quite a few times, and I would run it through some of my vocal effects and then Jeremy would have a go at processing it, and it just took on this weird shift. I kind of can't tell what key it's in. It's a weird song. I went on this tour in 2017, all by myself, which was a really bad idea. I was trying to be tough and thinking, 'Oh, I traveled around. I'll be fine.' It just really fucked me up by the end of it. I was taking these pills that I bought over the counter in Mexico to sleep—tramadol. It just makes you not care about anything, and so by the end of that tour, I was taking tramadol to sleep, and it was just not good. It just was a big mistake to do that. It's not a problem for me anymore, but 'Ice Creamy' was about basically taking tramadol and not giving a shit about anything, and how sad that is."
Like Fire "I kept hearing 'In My Feelings,' the Drake song, because in 2018, when it came out, I would just hear it everywhere I went. I was just like, 'The drums are really good for this song. I'm going to try and figure out what's going on,' and so it was just an experiment trying to learn a Drake beat, and then also I was working on a HOMESHAKE remix at the same time, which wasn't going anywhere, so it became kind of like a failed HOMESHAKE remix and also me trying to figure out a Drake drum pattern, and then it turned into 'Like Fire.'"
Baby Love "I wrote it after coming home from the hospital after meeting my niece for the first time. It was just a different feeling than I've ever felt before. I was really just so happy. So that song is dedicated to her."
Over and Over "I was really into this one S.O.S. Band song called 'Looking for You.' In the first verse, Mary Davis does this little speaking thing where all of a sudden she breaks from singing. I just thought it sounded so good. At the time, I was feeling really angry, really sad, and just trying to write in opposition of that feeling, so I think 'Over and Over' is a very good example of me trying to do that—and trying to copy Mary Davis. It comes back again to the theme of patterns in your life that, if you're lucky, you'll notice them before you die. Not to get too self-help, like we're in a therapy session, but it really is about just noticing things that just keep happening over and over, and I think it comes back to, 'Wow, these issues in my new relationship are the same issues I've been having throughout my adult life with people.'"
All the Time "'All the Time' was like the catalyst for the whole record, because it was the oldest song on the record. Jeremy sent me a really simple chord progression and drums, and it was right when I was moving and we just weren't sure if we were going to make another record together. And then I wrote the vocal and the lyrics over top of what he sent me, and we were both so happy with it. I think it was a good omen or something. It was just a sweet, sad song that we both loved so much, and it was a really nice motivator. It was the spark to make a whole nother record together."