Artist Review: JJ Shubert

JJ Shurbet is a 19-year-old artist, born and raised in the South and currently based here in Appleton. They launched a YouTube channel in 2015 and gained a following after releasing an acoustic Lil Peep cover, subsequently gaining popularity on the platform for their creative takes on a diversity of covers. Shurbet began recording original music under the project name Scruffpuppie in 2017, which was mostly acoustic alternative work described on their Spotify as deeply influenced by Bon Iver and an “homage to the grunge, folk and indie icons who came before them.” In 2020, they released both an acoustic extended play (EP) in continuation of this genre, as well as an experimental electronic/hyper-pop album under the new moniker, grimtweaker. 

Both of Shurbet’s latest projects are short and sweet, with each being only about 20 minutes in total. Their debut experimental album entitled, “Junction 15,” is only 17 minutes long but includes several impressive features, including established artists in the field, such as Cmten on the track “Regular Show,” who has worked with genre-defining influences such as 100 gecs and XIX. The work is a marked deviation from Shurbet’s previous acoustic discography, emphasized by an entirely new project name. However, though the genre is a wild departure, “Junction 15” shares a thematic and lyrical similarity with the rest of Shurbet’s work. 

Scruffpuppie’s acoustic work is described as “rooted in the monotony of suburban angst,” a theme they seem to continue to explore through the album, “Junction 15,” which incidentally shares a name with an apartment complex in suburban Texas. Several tracks grapple with identity in the context of substances, social perception and local frustration before finally describing leaving on Christmas Eve 2019 in the track “Mop” towards the end of the album. 

While the themes in “Junction 15” are somewhat of a continuation of Shurbet’s previous work as Scruffpuppie, their expression in electronic music rather than more lyrically-focused guitar music is different. In true hyper-pop tradition, the lyrics are more punchy, simple and repetitive with a great deal of attention to production, samples or instrumentals and the overall generation of funky sounds and moods, rather than the at times ballad-like storytelling lyrics found on the EP “Never Coming Home.” Both works, especially since their creation in the same year, certainly demonstrate a wide range of artistic expression in both form and content. Additionally, the widely variant records were each published by the same Virginia-based label, Psychic Music, self-described on their Facebook page as “giving unknown artists a platform to succeed through personalized help, world-class distribution and major label marketing tools” regardless of genre. 

Shurbet’s original music is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, while more of both their covers and originals can be found on YouTube and SoundCloud — both accounts under the name Scruffpuppie. They also keep active Instagram accounts under both professional titles, updated with music and merch drop info.