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Motor City musicians with Queens-influenced name arrive in Brooklyn

Story by Eric Dryden - Source:

Discomfort zone: Jamiacan Queens is a band that seems to relish in the strange and shocking. Photo © Andi Hedrick


Fear is a great motivator — for dance music.

An indie electro-pop group from Detroit dubbed Jamaican Queens captures the paranoid experience of a psychedelic drug — offering the hallucinatory thrill of confronting unseen and dangerous demons — as well as the highs and lows of life in the Motor City.

“That’s kind of what I love about Detroit. It’s complete lawlessness,” said guitarist and vocalist Ryan Spencer, who along with his band will perform in Williamsburg on Jan. 16. “It’s a really scary place to live. Every year they cut the police budget.”

Even though his band’s name riffs on a part of New York City, Spencer still loves Detroit.

“[It offers] limitless free time, no cops, and an awesome art scene.”

The band has profited from both the opportunities and challenges of living in this downtrodden American behemoth. The city gives artists an opportunity to live in a large metropolitan area for as little as $150 a month — a kind of freedom that comes with a restless and raw energy found in Jamaican Queens’s music.

“I think danceable music is the most entertaining form of live music. Something that has a pulse that you can’t fall asleep for,” said Spencer. “In my lyrics I try to bring out all the worst and best parts of myself and expose as much as I can. Human beings are drawn to that.”

Lots of free time and no boundaries has led the band to tackle dark and sometimes violent subject matter — to disturbing effect.

Their single, “Kids Get Away,” recounts a case of sexual assault with a soundtrack that somehow slips into an irresistible groove. It is the tension between excitement and terror that drives Jamaican Queens. The band will keep pressing boundaries without fear of any consequences.

“If people don’t get it, who cares?” said Spencer.

Jamaican Queens plays Glasslands Gallery (289 Kent Ave. at S. First Street in Williamsburg,, (718) 599-1450]. Jan. 16, 9 pm, $8.

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