The band's script and logo, designed by Kay
Jason "Jay" Kay began writing songs to send to record companies. Among them was "When You Gonna Learn", a song written when he was 16 years old. He first studio recorded the song in the Round House in Camden. The producers of this session heavily stripped down the vocals and lyrics of the song and produced it based on mainstream trends, which Kay disliked. After a dispute, the track was restored to his preference. Kay was then signed to Acid Jazz Records in 1991 after he sent a demo tape of him singing a song of the Brand New Heavies. Afterwards, he gradually gathered band members, including his friend Wallis Buchanan who played the didgeridoo. Kay's manager suggested the enlistment of keyboardist Toby Smith, but was initially not convinced: "[He] had a tendency to play these very ravey[,] acid housey chords." Smith eventually joined as the group's co-songwriter when he saw them perform as support act for the Brand New Heavies. The first song Kay and Smith wrote together was "Too Young to Die".
According to an early video of the group performing in 1992, which was provided by Nick Tydeman;[nb 1] the band's earlier incarnation had been composed of members who would become permanent; Kay, Buchanan, drummer Nick Van Gelder, and Smith. Other members who appeared in the video were Simon Bartholomew from the Brand New Heavies on guitar, Tydeman on bass guitar, and PJ Harvey doing percussion. Being the front-man, Kay is occasionally referred to as the group name, because he is the only person under contract with a record company as the artist name of Jamiroquai. It was widely talked about that the group's formation was a result of Kay's failed audition to become a singer of the Brand New Heavies, but these rumours were denied by them.
1992–1999: International breakthrough
Jamiroquai had begun performing in the British club scene. "When You Gonna Learn" became their first single in October 1992. It featured bassist Andrew Levy, who was also from the Brand New Heavies. Kay was originally given £2.5k (US$3.3k) for his first album, when he subsequently signed with Acid Jazz records; the single however, cost £35k ($46k) to produce due to Kay's control of the production. Following its success, the group were offered multiple major-label contracts and settled for a one million dollar, 8 album record deal with Sony Soho2. Kay was the only member who signed under the contract, but would share his royalties with his band members in accordance to their contributions. Bassist Stuart Zender joined the group's lineup in 1993. Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in the same year and reached the UK albums chart at number 1. It sold 1.2 million copies worldwide, according to a Billboard report in January 1994. The album's second single, "Too Young to Die" entered the UK singles chart at number 10.
Derrick McKenzie became the group's new drummer after Van Gelder's holiday from the group took longer than expected. Jamiroquai followed up with the Return of the Space Cowboy in 1994 and ranked number 2 in the UK chart. While recording the album, Kay feared of falling into the "second album syndrome". He was in a creative block which was emphasised by his increasing drug use. In a 1996 report, the album sold 1.3 million copies worldwide, including Italy, France and Japan. "Space Cowboy", sold 114,000 copies and is the group's first number 1 in the US Dance Chart. The single additionally contained remixes by David Morales, which further put the single in club circulation. "Stillness in Time" was another UK top ten hit, peaking at number 9. The group co-wrote the track "Lost Souls" for Guru's 1995 album Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality.
With Jamiroquai growing in popularity in Europe and Japan, their breakthrough in the US came with the 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving, which sold 1.4 million copies in the country and reached number 24 in the Billboard 200. It sold 3 million copies in Europe, and peaked at number 2 in the UK albums chart; selling 1.2 million copies. A review from Q magazine stated that the album is "tighter and more compact in its production", while critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented that despite having "more fully realised" fusions, it doesn't have "the uniform consistency of its predecessor." "Virtual Insanity", the group's best known track particularly for its music video; sold 356,000 copies and is streamed 4.5 million times as of 2014. It was also number 1 in Italy and Iceland. Another hit single titled "Cosmic Girl", sold 250,580 copies and peaked at number 6 in the UK and remained in the position for 12 weeks. It was number 3 in the Italy chart, number 4 in the Iceland chart, number 10 in Finland, and number 2 in the Belgium Ultratip charts. Cosmic Girl was followed by "Alright", which charted in the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 78 and is the group's only song to appear in that chart. In support of the album, the group gave an international tour including the UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil and the US. Prior to Travelling Without Moving, Jamiroquai contributed to the demo track, "Do You Know Where You're Coming From?" by British jungle-beat artist M-beat. Following a radio leak, Kay re-recorded the vocals of the song and was released as a single, as well as appearing on the album.
The group were preparing their fourth album Synkronized (1999) in Kay's Chillington studio complex, built in his Buckinghamshire country house. During its production, bassist Stuart Zender left Jamiroquai. He was replaced by Nick Fyffe for new bass tracks to avoid potential lawsuits. The album contained 1999's "Canned Heat", which was their second number 1 in the U.S. Dance Chart. The song also appeared in the 2004 cult film Napoleon Dynamite. The 1998 single titled, "Deeper Underground" was listed in the Godzilla soundtrack and was their first and only UK number 1, selling 339,100 copies. Synkronized ranked number 1 in the UK albums chart and number 28 in the US Billboard 200. It sold 3 million copies in comparison to Travelling Without Moving, which 8 sold million copies. Jamiroquai wrote the song "Everybody's Going to the Moon" for the 2000 film Titan A.E. and its soundtrack.
2001–2011: Release from Sony Music
Jamiroquai performing at the Congress Theater in Chicago (2005)
The group issued their 2001 follow-up, A Funk Odyssey, which sold 1 million copies in Europe and was certified platinum. In Australia, it was certified quadruple Platinum. Both the album and its single "Little L" were in Top 100 charts worldwide. Guitarist Rob Harris joined the group and contributed to the album's songwriting, such as "Corner of the Earth". The band embarked on a world tour to promote the album, including locations in Europe, Hong Kong and Melbourne. They were accompanied by vocalist Beverley Knight, who was featured in A Funk Odyssey with the tracks, "Love Foolosophy" and "Main Vein". Co-songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith left the band in 2002.
The band's 2005 single, "Feels Just Like It Should", received a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video. Their sixth album titled Dynamite, was later released and reached number 3 on the UK chart. The track, "Seven Days in Sunny June" is featured in the soundtrack for The Devil Wears Prada. Since the release of Dynamite, the group's line-up has consisted of Kay, Harris, drummer Derrick McKenzie, keyboardist Matt Johnson, Paul Turner on bass guitar, and percussionist Sola Akingbola. Jamiroquai were featured in the re-release of "Hollywood Swinging" by Kool & the Gang which peaked at number 5 at the Billboard dance chart.
In March 2006, Jamiroquai announced their switch to Columbia Records. A greatest hits collection, High Times: Singles 1992–2006, was issued in November and marked the end of Kay's contract with Sony. It topped the UK album chart after its first week of release, and is certified triple platinum by the BPI. In Japan, it reached number 4 in the Oricon album charts. In 2007, Jamiroquai performed in the Gig in the Sky, a concert held on a private Boeing 757 in association with Sony Ericsson. The group thus currently holds the Guinness World Record for "fastest concert", performed on the aircraft whilst travelling at 1017 km/h (632 mph). They formerly held the record for the "highest concert", which was then broken by the Black Eyed Peas performing in a Virgin Australia aircraft. The group appeared in season one of Live from Abbey Road.
Jamiroquai performing in Sofia, Bulgaria (2013)
Rock Dust Light Star was released in 2010 under Mercury Records. 30 songs were written and drafted during the album's two year production, costing £598k ($794k). Jamiroquai uploaded a 2011 track called "Smile" for free download via their SoundCloud page. That year also saw members Harris, Johnson, and Turner forming the sub-group Radio Silence, with their album Travelogue being released. In 2013, the group's first three albums were reissued and remastered.
On 16 January 2017, Jamiroquai released an online short teaser video for their eighth and first studio album in seven years, Automaton, scheduled for a March release. The trailer received more than 5 million views on YouTube and two shows that were scheduled in Paris and London sold out tickets in one minute. In the following week, the album's eponymous single was issued, followed up by "Cloud 9" in February. Although not released as a single, "Shake it On" broke into the Official French Singles Chart, peaking at number 154. In May, Kay seriously injured his spine, requiring surgery; it led to cancellation of shows in Tokyo and London for their Automaton Tour, which were rescheduled in September and December respectively.
In January 2018, Jamiroquai released a track titled, "Now We Are Alone" on their official YouTube page. They gave their first US performance in 13 years at the 2018 Coachella Music Festival and were accompanied by Snoop Dogg on stage.