Exclusive Interview: Psych Pop Prodigy JDM Global Releases The Feel-Good Album Of The Summer

July 21, 2022

JDM Global josh mehling rain magazine
JDM Global josh mehling rain magazine

Hailing from Houston, Texas, JDM Global (Josh Mehling) recently released his debut EP, Go Easy, a five-song collection full of colorful dreamscapes. Mehling's signature sound builds off his first collection of songsSUMMER PACK 21, into a rush of psychedelic influences cleverly packaged in pop. His musical career began making instrumentals on SoundCloud and later got into production. In 2020, he joined friends Clairo, Claud, and Noa Frances Getzug to form the band Shelly, which became known for their viral hit "Steeeam."

Slowly working up the courage to record vocals on his productions, Mehling released his first EP under JDM Global as his final college thesis at Syracuse University. 

It doesn't stop with music. The new EP comes with an explosion of visuals and collaborations with illustrators and visual artists. The "Dizzy" music video takes you on a journey of self-reflection in a barren landscape, with Mehling sitting on a mushroom beneath a rainbow and playing the flute. As Mehling describes in the following exclusive interview, "the first songs from last year were about other people and romantic partners or friendships. This EP, Go Easy, is mostly about me!"

Photography by Meg Young
Styling by Star Burleigh
Styling assistant: Ali Gambino
Grooming by Heather Weppler
Editorial assistant: Maddy Maier
Interview by Mark Benjamin

Go Easy!

Mark Benjamin: You just released this trippy EP, Go Easy, and the super catchy single “Dizzy" with a music video before that. It’s all so perfect for summer.

Josh Mehling: Yeah! It's weird. "Dizzy” I made last August. I've been sitting on many of the songs on the new EP for nine months. So, it’s funny to have people hear it all this time later. It’s exciting. 

Why did you wait to release it? 

I made three songs while working on music last summer in New York. They all felt very summery to me. I felt rushed to put it out in fall but then winter hit, and I thought, ‘this isn't a winter thing.’ I'm excluding all of the Southern hemispheres, but it did not feel right. 

JDM Global Josh Mehling
Sweater, pants, boots, and necklace by MARCELL VON BERLIN

So, I spent a lot of time working on the visuals for the songs…more on the way! I just took my time with everything. The days blended, and then it was spring, and I thought, ‘okay, let's do a summertime roll out.’ That’s what felt right for the music.

Summertime sadness

The summer seems essential because you also had an EP, SUMMER 21 PACK.

Yeah, summer is just a feeling and a vibe, and it's interesting; the whole summertime sadness is just warm, breezy weather, blazing hot days that are run-down, too. There are opposing parts of summer, too, like exhaustion. I think there's an interesting dichotomy to the idea of summer. 

I'm also a summery type; personality-wise, even though I was born in the winter, I gravitate toward summer. Even last year, we were reentering society a little bit during the summer. I was in New York last summer, so I know what it felt like with COVID easing down; there was a Renaissance, a roaring twenties, and people were out in the streets again, getting together in parks and hanging out. And it's beautiful, like, ‘oh my God, the summer has hit, and we're all outdoors, and we can hang out.’ I love those kinds of feelings and experiences that come along with summer. I think my music ends up in that bubble, in that head space. That's a long way of saying I like summer. 

JDM Global Josh Mehling
Sweater, pants, and necklace by MARCELL VON BERLIN

Psych pop influences

That’s interesting. I think about Blind Melon, Tame Impala, and MGMT. Are they inspirations for you? 

I love them. MGMT is so interesting. Their music is very summery sounding, but there are also a lot of darker themes they talk about. My favorite thing is that kind of duality. Go Easy is a taste of that. 

A lot of pop music does this well, packaging darker things in this bright, happy summery way. On first listen, it seems like this happy song, but it's much sadder if you look into it. I think the MGMT guys are good at that. They're these breezy, sunny, psychedelic, go-with-the-flow songs or just cool, groovy. But sometimes it's like, 'Woah,' when you look into the lyrics. 'This is kinda crazy.' Interesting topics they're touching on. So yeah, I love MGMT; they're a huge influence. 

JDM Global Josh Mehling for Rain magazine
Top by MARCELL VON BERLIN, pants by DES PIERROT, sunglasses by BONNIE CLYDE, shoes by DR. MARTENS, necklace by VITALY

Humble beginnings

How did you get into music?

I grew up in Houston. I'm grateful for this time now, but I had no friends in middle school. I was very much in my loner era. My parents had always been into music. They're not musicians, but they always showed me music growing up on the way to school. Bands like Violent FemmesTodd RundgrenAmmie Mann. It led me to this massive passion for music. I got into SoundCloud in middle school; I like electronic music, not EDM, people like Cashmere CatRyan Hemsworth, and Flume. I'm twelve or thirteen, thinking this is the coolest shit I've ever heard. 

So, I Google how to make music and stumble across Ableton Live. I started teaching myself on YouTube how to remix songs using it. That’s how I learned to produce. For six years, I secretly made remixes in Ableton. I released instrumentals under weird aliases, and I would ditch SoundCloud when the songs got any plays because I was so nervous about people finding out. I'm sure some albums are still on Spotify somewhere. It's so embarrassing. Yeah, that’s when I knew I loved music. 

Becoming JDM Global

Then I went to college for the music business at Syracuse University. I was learning about labels, publishing, entertainment law—no music stuff since it was still a hobby. Two of my best friends I met in school were artists, and they pulled me back into that head space. 

Then the pandemic hit. I couldn't get a job or an internship that summer, so I took it upon myself to make music over the summer of 2020. That’s when my best friends and I started this band called Shelly. I made music every single day. I hadn’t done that since middle school. I don't know what came over me. I guess the pandemic boredom had reached an all-time high. 

Picking up the mic

JDM Global Josh Mehling for Rain magazine
Jacket and trousers by MARCELL VON BERLIN, top by SUPERVSN, necklace by MOUNSER

I thought I could topline an instrumental I had written and send it off to someone for someone else to sing it and put it out. I tried writing lyrics to a song once and thought, 'I'll make a demo. I'll send it to artists, and maybe they'll put it out, and I can get production and writing credit.' So, I got in my car. I was too scared for my family to hear me sing. I'm not a singer. My family never thought I would sing. So, I got in my car and recorded what I'd written into my built-in laptop mic. 

Then I was in my car driving home, listening to it and sending it to some friends, and they were like, 'wait, who is this singing?' And I was like, 'oh, that's me. Isn't that so funny? I will send it around, and someone else will release it. They're like, 'no, you should put this out. This is awesome.' I thought, 'oh, maybe I'll make some more.' That song I made in the car was the song I put out last year called "Cake." What you hear never changed how I recorded it that day. It's still my built-in laptop mic vocals. That same month, in late January, I made two other songs. 

So the launch of this artist project, JDM Global, also became my senior year thesis. I put out the EP during finals week because that's when it was due. The first three songs were last May, a year ago now. It got better feedback than I thought, and people wanted more. That landed me where I'm at, a year after those first three songs. And now I just put out this new EP. 

That's wild. It's like this entire journey of becoming JDM Global was leading up to you putting your voice on track.

The universe had been trying to shove away music for a long time, but it just kept finding a way back into my life. I leaned into it, and I was like, 'okay, I guess this door just opened; I'd be an idiot not to do it.' This is what I've loved to do for almost eight or nine years of my life now. Why not go for it? 

JDM Global Josh Mehling for Rain magazine alexander mcqueen

Loving yourself

There's also a message, I think to your music too, right? There are themes about self-love, addressing pain, and things like that. 

This new song, in particular, "Easygoing," and with the upcoming stuff, it's under this overlying umbrella theme that it's not always what you see on the surface. A lot of the time, we all put on this facade of like, 'oh, everything's fine. I'm good. I'm chilling. Things are great.' But we bottle a lot of stuff in, especially last year. That is more detrimental because when you bottle things up, it comes out in even worse ways. 

That vibe lends itself to this new music and where I'm at lyrically. I think it's so fun to hide it in this summery happy production. The whole "Easygoing" song is pretty much entirely sarcastic. My dad still doesn't get that it's sarcastic, but I don't have the heart to tell him it's a sad song. It's really fun to have those hidden and not-so-hidden messages. It makes it more interesting for me as a writer and creator. 

JDM Global Josh Mehling for Rain magazine
Jacket, trousers, boots by MARCELL VON BERLIN, top by SUPERVSN, necklace by MOUNSER

Crying in the club

Totally. I feel musicians seem to be more concerned about a hook on TikTok.

I look to a lot of fantastic pop writers who have a sound so different. Take Robyn. She is the God at taking crying in the club, these sad, hopeless romantic vibes, and making it into fun pop. Many people do that, but Robyn is great at this heart-wrenching kind of sadness in the lyrics, like in ”Dancing On My Own.” That's inspiring to me. It's funny to trick people into dancing and grooving to this. It's happy-go-lucky. Woo! But I probably cried when I made it. 

It is funny. I think about it a lot, too. Lily Allen used to do it really well. 

Yeah, exactly. That's what I think is so cool about pop music. It can be brilliant, like schemey, and I think it's funny that it gets through subconsciously sometimes, too.

I like "Dizzy" from the new EP and "Get Back" from your first EP.

"Get Back" is kind of like that, too. It's about being in a rut and wanting to get out of a shitty situation, whether you're not feeling great or maybe it's post-relationship. I've been heading in that direction, and I'm excited to continue with these themes, with the new stuff. The first songs from last year were about other people and romantic partners or friendships. This EP, Go Easy, is mostly about me! So, I'm excited about it. 

A visual vacation

JDM Global Josh Mehling for Rain magazine
Jacket and denim by G-STAR RAWW, necklace, vintage, sunglasses by BONNIE CLYDE

Let's talk about your incredible visuals, too. I can tell they're important to you.

They're my favorite thing to work on. The music is fun, but this is the first time I've worked on a ton of visuals. It feels like a dream come true. I got to work with amazing people on the artwork, such as Ema Gaspar, an illustrator from Lisbon, and graphic designer, Nick D'Apolito. It was a dream come true to work on the "Easygoing" visualizer that Jamie Wolfe did.

I feel the most like an artist working on these visuals. I think it's the collaboration of it. I don't get to collaborate in the creation process with the music. I produce it and write it all myself. So, it's fun to brainstorm ideas from the ground up with visual artists. 

The car is the best studio.

How would you tell someone to best experience your music if they were listening to it for the first time? 

That's a good question. I think alone in the car; maybe that's where I do my best thinking. A lot of the time, that's where I write songs or record them. 

Are you driving to McDonald's or something?

No, literally, I was sitting in a McDonald's parking lot on Saturday for three hours dealing with some drama since that's where I think the best, in my car, in a McDonald's parking lot. I've recorded songs in my car. I will drive around and write in my car. There's nothing like a good car sob because it's a safe space to let it all out. 

For "Easygoing," you gotta feel the bass, too. My car has my favorite speakers, and that's where I always, you have to do the car test. So, drive around in the car, to the park, or the beach, especially in the summertime!

Instagram: @joshmehling

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