Waiting Game

Waiting Game

Like a lot of albums from the early 2020s, the Junior Boys’ Waiting Game was born of isolation. “It was a very, very strangely quiet time,” Jeremy Greenspan tells Apple Music. “I spent a lot of it going on these long walks and getting into really slow things, like videos of people making dioramas and things like that. Quiet, slow things with little, minute details.” Of course, isolation has been a driver in Greenspan and collaborator Matt Didemus’ music since 2004’s Last Exit, whose mix of intricate club beats and shy-boy sensibilities prefigured everything from The xx to Frank Ocean. But where 2016’s Big Black Coat was inspired by the harsh loneliness of individuals Greenspan watched stumbling out of bars in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Waiting Game is gentler and more pastoral, dropping dance influences for slow, meditative synth-pop (“Night Walk,” “Waiting Game”) and interludelike digressions (“It Never Occurred to Me,” “Fidget”) whose details emerge on deeper listens—not ambient music, but something quieter and more open-ended than they’ve done before. “I feel like if I want to make a synth-pop track or something—well, I know how to do that,” Greenspan says. “But in this case, we thought it would be exciting to move out of our comfort zone.” The result is music that feels in step with their past but also decisively different, not to mention an unusually immersive headphone album. (Greenspan points out that our brains actually hear more detail and with more clarity at lower volumes—good news in our relentlessly flavor-boosted world.) Here, via each of the album’s tracks, he talks through some of his process, inspirations, and the importance of staying open to experimentation and play—especially after you think you’ve figured it out. “Must Be All the Wrong Things” “It wasn’t even supposed to be a song. I was testing out an Oberheim synthesizer and felt compelled to record something on top of it. I’ve had this happen a couple of times in my life, where you have a weird happy accident where everything you add keeps making the thing better, and it comes together in real time. But I felt like it opened the world of the album exactly the way I wanted it to. I’m still very old-fashioned in that I’m an album kind of guy, and I hoped I was making a slight statement with the first song by saying, ‘Um, listen to this as a record if you can.’” “Night Walk” “There was this TV show called Night Walk that used to come on late at night in Canada, where you’d have this guy with a Steadicam walking around Toronto at, like, 2 in the morning in 1986. They had this light jazz on it, this David Sanborn jazz. I remember watching it as a kid and it being kind of hypnotic. Like, anything that breaks a magic reality into an otherwise mundane place, or even something overtly mundane that is actually somehow more magical as a result. And the song is about the idea of this person who goes missing but doesn’t actually want to be found, so they can only go out at night and have this night-walk life.” “It Never Occurred to Me” “I have a great deal of credit to give to Dan Snaith [aka Caribou, aka Daphni]. He’s one of my close friends and was very encouraging in this record, in particular. Basically, I had a lot of material, and I knew it didn’t quite sound like a Junior Boys record. So, I sent it to Dan, and he was like, ‘Well, look, there’s no hit songs here, but I’m into it.’ And I thought, ‘What are we doing other than trying to do something exciting musically?’ In this case, I was playing around with this voice synthesis program called Alter Ego, where you can type in text and then play a keyboard in time, and it sends the text out through the keyboard.” “Thinking About You Calms Me Down” “I just felt like it was a fun song, very earworm-y. And I like the idea of love songs dedicated to the feeling one has when someone is an anchor in your life, as opposed to a song of frenzied love or lust. In general, I think the best kind of music is music that has a suspended restraint, a tension that’s never quite released.” “Yes II” “I principally always think of myself, on some level, as a kind of pop songwriter. And so, even the songs that are pretty stripped of form in terms of songwriting are, to me, just pop songs that have been totally deconstructed.” “Dum Audio” “I wrote that the night [Kraftwerk’s] Florian Schneider died. I was in this bizarre mood because he’s such a hero of mine, but he’s also a weird person to mourn because you don’t exactly think of him as a human being—the whole mystique around him was that he’s a robot. So, I wanted to fill it with these sounds of artificial life—sounds of a hospital bed and things like that. The lyrics are from this anonymous medieval poem about the coming of spring and being unable to lift yourself out of melancholy even though spring is coming. I ran the lyrics through [the voice synthesis program] Alter Ego, but it was a bit hard because Alter Ego doesn’t read Latin particularly well.” “Fidget” “I feel like in order to be good at recording music, you have to have a real sense of play. You want to be having fun in the studio. So, I was doing these experiments with this particular oscillator, and they all reminded me of little toys—like one of those fidget toys or a spinning top. And I thought it worked perfectly with these thematic ideas of a watched clock. So, we turned it into this thing that, to me now, always sounds a little like a jazz interlude.” “Samba on Sama” “I have a method for lyric writing at this point that’s basically eavesdropping. I’ll either verbatim take people’s conversations, or I’ll just describe a scene. So, for that song, I was in this totally industrial part of the city, and there were these people under a half-used lift bridge just saying insanities. It was one of those blustery winter days where the whole world seems whited out. And because this was during the pandemic, it really felt like these guys in this industrial zone were the only people on the planet. So, it had this bizarre feeling of being both apocalyptic but also slow and comfortable.” “Waiting Game” “The fun of that song for me was that, other than the bridge, there are only two chords. I love that kind of thing—if you can have a clearly delineated verse and chorus and only use two chords and keep the bassline the same. You’ll hear it a lot in Michael Jackson tracks. Just the other day, I heard [The Jacksons’] “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground),” which does that. I think it’s a really difficult thing to do sometimes. So, I wanted a song that did that, and I also wanted a song that reflected this feeling of a watched clock.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada