You might know Miami-born siblings Jay Thomas and Zjolie (AKA Jojo Sunshine) and their collaborator Oscar Quesada from their success in Bluejay, the acoustic/indie-folk project that won New Times‘ Best Band in 2015.
“The Bird is dead,” Thomas and Zjolie say. Since disbanding Bluejay, a project that primarily had Thomas’ hand in songwriting, Zjolie and Thomas have developed and grown fanbases of their own.
Last year, Jay Thomas released Fantasma Tropical, a dark, ethereal album with driving beats and grooves. In February, Zjolie released the track “Miami Girlz” with an accompanying music video filmed at Little Havana’s nautical-themed Bar Nancy.
Finally, Thomas and Zjolie decided to mix their talents once again and hit the studio — that is, the home studio in Thomas and Quesada’s shared living room. Under the new moniker Jay Thomas x Zjolie, the mini-album, Concierta Quarantina, is set to release Friday, May 29, and will consist of three tracks: “Orphans,” “Walls (Wish I Could Touch You),” and “Outside.”
Zjolie and Thomas live across the street from each other in Normandy Isles, so it was easy for the pair to connect and create together amid quarantine conditions. The siblings have consistently opted to live near one another ever since they left home to attend Florida State University together. (Zjolie performed in a reggae band at FSU, and Thomas met his partner and music collaborator Oscar Quesada.)
Despite the disbanding of a Bluejay, Quesada remains a constant ally to Zjolie and Thomas. He can be seen playing cello in Zjolie’s video of “Miami Girlz,” and he produced and recorded Concierta Quarantina, also providing background harmonies and string work throughout.
“I hope that we’ve put out the rawness of the situation,” Thomas says of the real-world events that inspired the mini-album. “I don’t want to throw any shade on any other songs I’ve heard during the quarantine, but it seems like there’s a lot of Hallmark-card, let’s-all-love-each-other hope garbage out there.”
Not that he has anything against songs of hope and love — he’s just aiming elsewhere, hoping to connect with those who might be experiencing something darker during this time.
The year is 2020, there has been a pandemic outbreak
It’s a killer corona
There are bodies piling up at the churches I’ve social-distanced from
Our amici tried to warn us, but we’re holdin’ on to our rights and guns.
Those lines from the opening track, “Orphans,” a crazed, fast-beat song with heavy guitar, are an example of how the pair are journaling the pandemic through their music. Later in the song, Zjolie sings and repeats, “I still want you” — a call-out to her parents.
“Our mom passed when we were 10 and 12, and we’ve been without her all this time. It brought us together,” she explains.
It has been more than five years since Zjolie and Thomas last spoke to their father, with whom they became estranged after a fallout with his girlfriend. Since then, the siblings say, they consider themselves orphans.
“Walls (Wish I Could Touch You)” is a deep, slow dive into on-screen cybersex during quarantine. “[The song] was born from starting to do FaceTime and sexy chats with boys,” says Zjolie.
The song came together after Zjolie experienced many requests to “hang out” and assurances that “if you don’t have it and I don’t have it….” Not down to take the risk for a hook-up, Zjolie kept her connections virtual and eventually found inspiration to write the sultry R&B track.
“Outside” closes the album with a stripped-down psychedelic ode to simply being outside.
“I play this song to myself. I’m glad I have this song to hold my hand,” Thomas says.
Before the pandemic, Zjolie often performed at Las Rosas, the “outside” place she says she misses the most. Both she and Thomas are looking forward to playing at Miami venues and bars once again, but only when it can be done in a safe manner.
“We don’t know how everyone is acting,” Thomas says. “We haven’t all come together as a country,”