With a love for music spanning back as long as he can remember, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Justin P. Romanos would try and construct his existence around sound. With that he headed off to college to endure the Music Industry Program and after some moves, some tunes and so forth and so on – he transformed into Jay Pray, an artist living that synth life. With that he’ll drop his self-titled debut October 21, and if his lead single, “I’d Go Anywhere,” is an example of what’s to come – we’re in for a treat.
Kendra: When you went to Drexel University for their music program, did you know you wanted to be an artist after you graduated?
Jay Pray: Yeah, I’ve wanted to be an artist as long as I can remember. I was constantly in music projects in college and knew that when I left I’d still pursue it. Although i went to school for the music industry, where I studied the business behind the music. I still always wanted to be first and foremost an artist.
Kendra: You graduated back in 2014. Were you nervous to start head out into the “real world” after that?
Jay Pray: Yeah I remember there was a period of a few months between when I graduated and when my lease was up for my apartment. My girlfriend was working at the time and I hadn’t landed a job. It was a pretty depressing time looking back – everything felt so unsure. So yeah graduating was a pretty scary time and eventually I got on my feet but I just wish I had put more thought into my postgrad life before i actually graduated.
Kendra: Did you save up to move to Brooklyn or did you just go all in, say this is what I’m doing and dive right in?
Jay Pray: After I graduated I moved back to Connecticut for a few months and then back to Philly because my girlfriend got a job at the Philly Zoo. I had a job that allowed me to work remotely so I was able to make the move pretty seamlessly. I love Philly so much and still consider it a home. But it was starting to get a little small. I had toyed with the idea of moving to New York City with my producer a few months before I moved back to Philly. So the idea had already been there. An old friend of mine had just gotten a job for a music publishing company and was gonna start that October and Riley’s (my girlfriend) job was seasonal so when he asked if we wanted to get a place with him it just sort of all fell into place.
Kendra: Musically speaking, when you started to feel like music was going to be your career, did you know synth was going to be the path you took?
Jay Pray: Honestly, not really – I started out playing the more conventional instruments like guitar, bass and drums. Synths were something that sort of came a bit later. When I was in high school I started dabbling with DAWs and fucking around with pre-programmed synth sounds in there but never quite understood synthesis. It wasn’t until my later years in college that I actually really wanted to understand how synths worked and how to make my own sounds. I really wanted to buy a hardware synth. I really liked the sounds of the Juno and Moog Voyager. So I saved up and bought the Juno 106 because it’s a polysynth so I’d be able to play chords and make really cool pads with them. I actually only recently bought a Moog Voyager which I’ll be using heavily on my next record.
Kendra: Your lead single that gave people a taste of what’s to come from the record, “I’d Go Anywhere,” made me wonder – where’s one place you would never go?
Jay Pray: There’s a restaurant at the Norfolk International Airport that I swear I’ll never go to again. I had a layover there once and it was like the only place to get food. Service was awful and the food was even worse. The only time my girlfriend made a yelp review was for this place. It’s actually really funny if you can find it haha.
Kendra: Right after your debut drops, I’ll be heading to a comic convention of sorts. With that, other than music – what’s the one thing you geek out over?
Jay Pray: I’m not so sure anymore – I used to be really into computer gaming in high school. Like I used to play World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike. I built computers and stuff. I was kind of a nerd. I just don’t have the time or patience to play games like that anymore haha. The most I play now is rocket league for like five minutes. Right now I’m teaching myself how to code which has been a fun hobby, but I wouldn’t say I’m geeking out over it.
Kendra: With the new album can fans expect shows? At least some around Brooklyn this year?
Jay Pray: Definitely! That’s what I’m working on now. Just trying to get my live set all together. I’ve been teaching myself how to program lights so it’s all very visual. I can’t say when I’ll be playing shows but soon hopefully.
Kendra: You went from a rural town to the big city, so if you had to make a mixtape for that kind of move for someone else, what five songs would have to be on it?
Jay Pray: These are some songs i’ve been playing on repeat lately.
Gypsy and the Cat – “Life”
LA Priest – “Lady’s In Trouble With The Law”
Magic City Hippies – “Fanfare”
Lust for Youth – “Illume”
Roosevelt – “Night Moves”