Jontha Links: “It's important to keep our mind open to what the creative possibilities are.”

Jontha Links, the musical duo made up of Connie and Shamik, sit down with &ASIAN to talk about their newest release ahead of their upcoming EP. Brace yourself for their thoughts on life, music and identity.
Jontha Links. Photo: Sam Orlin
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Jontha Links: “It's important to keep our mind open to what the creative possibilities are.”

In an industry that seems so focused on trying to grab the attention of fans, Jontha Links' approach to music is reflected in their diverse sound that resonates with so many people. For Connie and Shamik, music is more than just a hobby or something to gain fame and popularity; it's a platform to tell a story to those listening.

Photo: Sam Orlin

The chemistry between Connie and Shamik in the music-making process is vital to creating such meaningful music.

Yet, while most musicians like to sugarcoat their first impressions of each other, Connie wasn’t afraid to be honest with his feelings when first meeting Shamik at their tech company all those years ago. Going into an intern programme, Connie joked that he was “a little judgemental” when meeting Shamik for the first time. Yet, like many people have experienced, once they found out about their shared love of music, things changed.

“I had my guard up, and I was a little cold, honestly," he expressed. "But then I heard that he was a double major in music, and I instantly was kind of like, 'I do music, and I am actually recording a project right now; maybe we would actually get along.'"

Shamik's reaction when meeting Connie was all about music. It wasn't something you'd expect in a tech setting, but they found out through a mutual friend about their common interest in music. A lot of people say they are "interested in music," so Shamik explained that they were both sceptical and even mentioned that they assumed it was 'just a casual interest' in music until they actually met, before thinking: "We are serious about it.'"

Source: Instagram

While the worlds of music and engineering might seem on opposite ends of the spectrum, the similarities in their career paths made working together easier as both shared the similarities of creativity that come with music and engineering, whether it's designing or problem-solving.

For Connie, it was the similarities that helped them when it came to putting their heads together to solve a problem and showcased their similar thought process. Although it had benefits, Shamik also revealed how it was a “double-edged sword” in many ways and their similarities and backgrounds made them more wary of how they approached music.

"There's a tendency when you're thinking that much in that logical way, to kind of be uncomfortable with ambiguity, and that's important in music, to let things be ambiguous. Going to places you don't know how it works and places you haven't been before, there's a bit of unlearning for me to do and relinquishing control."

Photo: Sam Orlin

Along with their love of music and career paths, both Shamik and Connie had similar experiences with their upbringing. Shamik is a first-gen born and raised in America by an Indian family, and Connie mum is African-American while his dad is Congolese. It means, like many people, the two grew up with conflicting views about their identity.

Shamik revealed that he always felt as if there were two sides of himself. Like many young people, he had a tendency to separate those two things, with one identity at school and another at home.

"From a young age, I have always had two sides to me.My Indian parents and family, those traditions, but also being surrounded by American friends and being 100% a part of that identity too. When you're young, there's a tendency to separate those two things; you have one identity at school and another at home."

It is these experiences growing up that Connie explained is incorporated into Jontha Links' music, with the focus on being between spaces and battling with conflicting parts of yourself. In particular, Conrad shared his own feelings growing up where he was conflicted with where he fit in, and found a way to use those experiences to fit into their music, making it personal and relatable for many people.

"It was like, 'I have this heritage that I am trying to reconcile, but I am being told at school that I am not sounding like a Black person, so I don't know if I fit in with [an] American Black standard.' A lot of our music and creativity unpacks and just sometimes celebrates and reflects on what it means to grapple with those points. Music to this day has a self-reflective and self-exploration essence to it.”

Source: Instagram

As mentioned by both artists, they were exposed to different music while growing up, and they seem to take the same approach when they create music. Connie explained that they want their music to feel like it represents who they are, whether it is different elements or what they were exposed to growing up.                                                                                        

“We feel like we were working in taking those best parts and putting them together until finally, after the pandemic, we came out with something especially, this makes a lot more sense.”

As easy as it might seem to take parts and put them together, Shamik emphasised that it is never as simple as just creating music: "We've always grappled with the trade-off between serving our diverse set of influences and achieving cohesion." Throughout their time writing music, they have written music that sounds forced, and so they go back and write completely different things for months on end, bouncing back and forth between different sounds.

As Shamik describes, music is never a linear journey.

This could be the same when describing how consumption of music has changed with the rise of social media platforms, especially the like sof TikTok. After it was released, the duo's song "Pretty Carolina" witnessed the impact of what it meant to be viral, and both Conrad and Shamik are aware of the impact and embracing the new trends. They are also determined to stay true to themselves and not just become musicians craving "viral success."

Connie acknowledged that the use of TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube shorts has meant that a range of musical influences and diversity are more accepted and promoted. It is perfect for their own music, which is known for blending different styles and genres. Yet, it can also be a huge change for their listeners, so he explained how the experience has changed the way they create music whiles staying true to who they are.

"We both have found it's a bit of a rabbit hole to chase that [trends] in a sense. We want to make music that can perform well in the climate we're in but also stay true to our songwriting process and make music that we are proud of."

Like Connie, Shamik emphasises the importance of staying true to who they are as artists.

"It's important not to chase things. It's important to keep our mind open to what the creative possibilities are and to do something super authentic and not try to predict what is going to be popular because that takes all the fun of making art."

Photo: Sam Orlin

Since coming together, it seems like the theme of Jontha Links has always been to continue creating music and finding new ways to portray their message to fans. They spoke deeply about the use of different genres and trying new things, and the next project is also going to be something new for fans. While adding that fans can expect rock sounds to being incorporated, the duo continues their desire to create something new without putting any "limitations" on the genre.

Of course, along with the upcoming album and project, both Shamik and Connie are looking further into the future and to what they want to achieve with Jontha Links in the long run.

While creating music and performing in front of fans is the immediate plan, Connie wants to keep creating music that they can continue to be proud of, and that represents who they are and the stories they want to tell. In particular, he pointed out that everything they spoke about returning back to the idea of "evolving and moving with the times, and not chasing, but being open-minded about our sound."

With so many artists trying to stay on top of new trends, Jontha Links’ willingness to adapt to the industry, but also their desire to stay true to themselves and experiment makes them stand out amongst the crowd.

'hero' is out now, with their upcoming EP material love, out soon. Jontha Links can be found on Instagram here.
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