Justus Proffit Sings Indie, Stays Punk at Heart

Justus Proffit grew up immersed in Bay Area punk rock, playing drums in punk bands since he was 13. But when he picked up a guitar, it wasn’t fast-paced punk rock that came out. Slow and intricate melodies that touched on a deeper side were natural for Proffit.

“I picked up a guitar and just didn’t write punk songs, it just came out like that,”Proffit tells BTRtoday. They’re still punk at heart, but I guess it translates in the way it sounds, still punk but a lot toned down, more matured.”

Last month, Proffit released the EP Nothing’s Changed. The album features five songs written with indie songstress Jay Som. The two met after he played her debut record release show in 2016 and they’ve been jamming ever since. “We recorded one song everyday [for this EP] and some days it would take us like six hours and a song would be done, so it was insanely fast,” Proffit says. “It’s thoughtful, but the process felt thoughtless—it came very very naturally.”

The indie rock/singer-songwriter songs have a hint of country twang with punk rock undertones. The intro track starts with Proffit taking a deep breath, setting an air of calmness and anticipation for some emotional stuff within the album. The catchy melody is paired with Proffit’s smooth vocals and Jay Som’s sultry backing vocals singing emotional lyrics about the stagnation of life and ends with a melancholic note on trumpet.

Justus Proffit and Jay Som come to NYC on 12/7 to play Baby’s All Right. Before then, read the entire interview with Proffit below.

BTR: So how has working with Jay Som been?

JP: Going there today to write some songs for fun actually. [We met because] I was just heavily involved in the bay-area scene—so I guess we met through friends of friends. I played her record release show when she first came out with her debut in San Francisco and we hit it off as friends.

BTR: Have you always been a solo artist?

JP: No, I grew up in punk bands—I’ve played drums for punk bands since I was like 13 or something. I grew up listening to punk, but I always had an open ear to everything. I was like, “I only like punk music.” But I did only play punk shows for a long time and that eventually got old. I still play in some punk bands on the side though, just for fun. I still have that inner punk in me.

BTR: Once you have it, you can’t lose it.

JP: Exactly. It’s for life.

BTR: So you started as a punk, when did you transition into this indie rock era of Justus?

JP: Really once I picked up a guitar is when I started playing this kind of music. I started with drums and did that for a long time, then I picked up a guitar and just didn’t write punk songs. It just came out like that. They’re still punk at heart, but I guess it translates in the way it sounds. It’s still punk but a lot toned down, more matured.

BTR: Tell me more about this collaboration with Jay Som.

JP: It’s been great. It was super super easy. The whole thing wasn’t like planned out or anything. I first hit her up just like, “let’s record a song just for fun.” Then I had her hop on some of the other tracks… So we ended up collaborating completely half and half and it was so easy. It just kind of turned into doing a whole EP and all this thing. We recorded one song everyday. And some days it would take us like six hours and a song would be done, so it was insanely fast. It’s thoughtful, but the process felt thoughtless. It came very very naturally. Almost every drum take was like the first or second take. It was super fun.

BTR: That deep? How do you even reach something that deep?

JP: It kind of just strikes me. I wish I could just sit down and hammer it out. But most of the time something just inspires me and I just jot down a song. I try and been an efficient writer, but I consider myself kind of a slow songwriter. In my life I want to try and come out with at least 12 LPs, that’s my goal. So I’m working on that. [Laughs]