Humans of Canadian Memorial: Jay

How was Trilojay formed?

I knew Jason Nickel from a recording session we did a while back and J2 (Jay Esplana) as a substitute drummer for a hip hop group I was in called the Airtights. Jason, who has been with the CMUC years, recommend us to Lonnie as great options for the band: thankfully, Lonnie agreed!

It was actually Andrew, the church sound tech, who came up with the band name: “Hey, there’s 3 Jays… it’s a church… Trilojay.” This band owes a lot to the church because it gave us the idea to create this band and, because we saw each other every week, a place to really learn each other’s style. During the week, we play at some really rowdy clubs and crazy parties together: when we tell people we’re a Sunday church band, no one believes us.

How did you get into music?

I was probably in Grade 4 and there was a mix tape my aunt made. It was a bunch of ’80’s/90’s pop music but she did sneak in an old Buddy Holly song from 50’s called “Peggy Sue.” I thought this song was so cool: it was really raw and had a really neat energy to it… So I got obsessed with 50’s culture and 50’s music (and made sure I had the Buddy Holly glasses). When I inherited my grandparents’ old acoustic guitar, my dad taught me some Buddy Holly tunes and I was hooked.

I got my degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Played around NYC and Montreal for a bit and one night, while playing at the Venetian Casino in Macau, a big Asian pop singer – Sandy Lam – caught my performance. 6 months later, I was the lead guitarist on her world tour – travelling throughout Asia, Las Vegas, San Francisco, London, and Europe – while also writing and playing music for others in the Hong Kong music scene. Not only do I play with a bunch of local party bands, I play with Vancouver original artists such as Warren Flandez, Redeye Empire, and Rosemary Siemens. I’m also make promotional videos for guitar companies like Yamaha, JHS Pedals, & Robert Keeley, run a YouTube guitar page, and have built a recording studio in East Van… So music is definitely a full time job.

Any advice for musicians?

Everyone thinks the music industry is really tough. But I don’t think so as long as you treat it like a job. Some think you have to be a big star just to survive in the industry but that is not true. There is a lot of opportunity for blue collar musicians where you can do projects like commercials, soundtracks, corporate events, and festivals. If you’re good, dependable, and have a cool attitude, you’re never going to starve. You hear about artists that are waiting to be inspired by something but you’re the one that inspires you: you control your creativity. Always be on a search for knowledge and that knowledge is going to lead you to meet a lot of cool people and keep you busy.

Why do you like golfing?

Music is loud and crazy and my life is loud and crazy. In golf, you’ve got a ball and a hole… and the ball just needs to go in the hole. You have nothing but wide open space, it smells like grass, it’s calm, and you can drink beer: a sweet escape from the noise. Keep in mind though, I’m a horrible golfer and that’s probably why I got addicted to it. When I first got the guitar, I was awful; I was a horrible guitar player for a long, long, long time. I have the feeling I’m going to be a horrible golfer for a long, long, long time too and maybe that’s why I like it so much.

Tell me about your faith journey.

I was raised Catholic and I had one really good pastor, Father Scott, who was an ex-undercover cop. He’s seen things – you can tell. I never felt condescended to and he made God really easy to understand. After college, I didn’t go to church at all. I was little apprehensive about playing at a United Church but, the first day I played here, I saw a gay couple baptize their child. I remembered thinking, “this is great, this is really cool”, because that was definitely not going to happen in any church that I had been to. It was so relaxed and everyone was very loving.

My faith and soul discovery comes from the people and the boys in the band: playing music and making coffee with the Jays and Lonnie every week. Through thick and thin, long nights, and overnight flights, we still find ways to come to this church. You have strong leadership, patient and open relationships. Also, the music is great because it’s a blend of traditional, modern, gospel… It’s not stagnant, it’s varied and the people are open and receptive to it. That’s really what this church is for me.