Working on a project with friends can be a bit difficult. It can be frustrating juggling partnership and friendship at the same time, and there are bound to be some road bumps in the form of dissenting opinions, stubbornness, and overall unpleasantness (I can vouch for all these occurrences from my personal experience). It’s like what they say about roommates. As the college adage used to go: Don’t live with your best friends, or you’ll regret it. It’s much easier to just do your own thing.
Maybe that’s why Nothing’s Changed EP, the newest release from indie songwriter Justus Proffit and dream-pop producer Melina Duterte (Jay Som), is such a sweet victory for friendships everywhere. Clocking in at only about 11 minutes, Nothing’s Changed EP is a feel-good collaborative project between pals, proving that working with friends is not as overrated as you might think.
At first glance, Proffit and Duterte is a strange pairing. The story goes that Duterte, fresh off of the success that was 2017’s Everybody Works (disclaimer: one of my favorite albums of all time), moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area and was contacted by local musician Proffit–who asked if she wanted to record a song together for fun. With Duterte on production/keyboard/bass and Proffit on lyrics/drums, the resulting songs that were crafted from these sessions soon evolved into this EP.
But although the two haven’t been making music together for long, Proffit and Duterte make a fantastic pair, composing songs that are so naturally cosy and comfortable that it feels second nature. The title song “Nothing’s Changed” is a sunny duet that seems like it could only be created by lifelong buddies, let alone people who just met each other. Similarly, “Invisible Friends” and “Grow” are catchy rock songs that are so joyous that they could easily soundtrack the credits to a summer road-trip movie.
Additionally, while it’s Duterte’s signature warm production that takes the spotlight the majority of the time, Proffit’s vocals add a welcome vocal register to the mix. On all of the songs that she has released as Jay Som, Duterte has always sung and mixed her own songs. For the first time, she’s not the only one in the equation. Proffit’s singing voice adds a nice contrast to each song, piercing Duterte’s dreamy soundscapes with clarity–like a light cutting through fog. It’s a welcome change of pace from the familiar songs that Duterte usually makes, and it’s proof enough that she’s just as good producing for other people as she is on her own.
However, on the songs that Duterte helms herself, the result is just as intoxicating. The mostly-instrumental, murky “Tunnel Vision” is the most haunting song on the EP and the closest thing to her own solo work, juxtaposing the bright tone of the rest of the EP. If “For Light” from Everybody Works was entitled “For Darkness” and cut down to two minutes, “Tunnel Vision” would be exactly what it would sound like.
But perhaps the most exciting song on the EP is “My World My Rules”, which also takes the title of being the least-approachable one on the entire project. Upon first listen, it’s slightly discordant–it uses guitar chords and riffs that might seem off-putting and features Proffit and Duterte trading-off verses between “uh-huhs”. Add onto that the isolating lyrics from Proffit (reminiscent of the lonely lyrics that he so often wrote about on his previous releases): “I’ll be alone / Safe in my shell / No one can hurt me in my personal hell / Back on the wall / Hand by my back / Feet on the ground / Fleeting attack”, a first on an album all about collaboration. However, it pays off–those sour-sounding notes soon hit that sweet spot and gets ingrained in your head after repeat listens. It’s a shame that the song ends so abruptly (at two minutes and two seconds, it’s the shortest on the record) just when it has found its groove. That’s the only tragic thing about all of the songs on the EP–that right when you’ve started getting ready to put your dancing shoes on, the song ends.
In the final moments of the EP (the last five seconds of “Grow”) we get a small snippet of what it was like to be in the studio with Proffit and Duterte:
“Fuck!” – Proffit
“Does that make sense?” – Duterte
“That’s fucking perfect.” – Proffit
Though the songs on the EP are short and the collaboration is short-lived, Nothing’s Changed EP is a long-lasting tribute to musical partnerships made on the fly–artists coming together based on what they love to do. Those last few seconds show the two of them stepping out of their comfort zones and learning from each other, all for the sake of creating something special.
After all, isn’t that the magic of making music?