“We Want To Make Something That Sounds New”: Jockstrap Interviewed

The London duo reflect on this year's most striking debut...

If 2022 brought a torrential flood of new music, then this outpouring also led to a certain entrenchment of genre lines. As if a muscle memory reaction to being stretched, the industry – in the UK, certainly – re-doubled its efforts to block in creativity. So, drill sits in a drill lane. Guitar music sits in a guitar music lane. House sits in a house music lane. Of the few albums that bucked this trend, few did it with the sheer creative chutzpah that soared through Jockstrap’s remarkable, inspired, and profoundly unclassifiable ‘I Love You Jennifer B’.

The work of two musicians – Georgia Ellery, also of Black Country, New Road and co-conspirator Taylor Skye – it seemed to channel a lifetime of ideas into 10 completely remarkable tracks; musicality that moved from left-field electronics to plaintive folk all within an overtly pop sensibility.

“I don’t think we really had many boundaries, making it, maybe that’s the key,” Ellery reflects over a Zoom call. “We weren’t trying to write in one particular genre, we didn’t mind too much that we had songs that sounded differently to one another, and had different vibes and moods. And that’s kind of what came out, I think.”

Of all the records released in 2022, few challenged their audience as much as ‘I Love You Jennifer B’. A puzzle wrapped within an enigma, it also proved to be truly addicting, supplying a never-ending cavalcade of ear-worm melodies. Georgia sums it up simply, saying: “We want to make something that sounds new.”

The process of creation is profoundly intense for both parties. Sculpted over a span of some three years, the material contained on ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ was permitted time to evolve, and come fully into focus. “I don’t write many songs,” Georgia says. “It takes a lot of energy out of me. We also do this thing where we work at something until it clicks. So we stick out things. If it doesn’t feel like quite right at the beginning, we continue to stick at it until it feels right.”

“We don’t write many songs, because we know we can get there,” she adds. “And we enjoy that process.”

“We Want To Make Something That Sounds New”: Jockstrap Interviewed

Perhaps that’s why the band’s album contains more ideas than most artists manage in a two-decade career. Each song is concertina’d, easing from abstraction to clear-cut pop communication. Take the wonderfully emotive sculpture ‘Greatest Hits’, the moving ‘Angst’ or rave-driven finale ‘50/50’.

Georgia wants to achieve something “cathartic” with each recording, explaining: “You need that feeling of inspiration that you can latch on to, to make something good and feel inspired. And that doesn’t come around all the time… you kind of have to wait for it.”

Work on the album took place in a dozen locations, with the pandemic keeping the duo apart. A brush with COVID saw Taylor isolating in his teenage bedroom, reunited with some of the records, magazines, and posters that first fired his creative imagination. This, coupled with a yearning for release, led to the bulldozer finale ‘50/50’.

“I basically only use my laptop to make music,” he points out. “So it means I can sort of record anywhere”.

“I was at home,” he recalls. “And when I go home to my parents’ house, a lot of very strong memories and feelings come back. And I basically went back to doing what I do when I grew up!”

Ellery added a guide vocal, and this blurring of improvisation and structure, intention and release, gives ‘50/50’ its peculiar power. It’s “a liberating way to work” she says; “there was a lot of thought put into the lyrics. It was a nice release to do something like that.”

Much of the record is deeply personal, tied to specific moments in their lives. As a Scot, I can’t help but probe the origins of ‘Glasgow’ – seemingly prompted by a gig in the titular city. “It’s different from London,” Georgia enthuses. “And it feels far away, which is nice. It has a great creative community vibe. I’ve met a lot of creative people there. And yeah, it’s got lots of history and nice buildings. And the nightlife is great!”

As the project has grown, Jockstrap have developed a network of allies, friends, and champions across the country. A ring of in-store performances saw the duo return their often complex, intricate, cellular album to its core components. “It was acoustic performances. The songs were once demos, quite simple – like, piano and voice. So, some of it works in an MTV Unplugged setting, and some of it less so,” Taylor says.

“That only represents one side of the music we made,” he insists. “So for the album launch, we wanted to do a full-on party!”

The focus now is on serving the record – interviews, radio sessions, and live dates. “We worked really hard to get to this finished product,” says Georgia. “And that’s what we want to show people.”

“It’s taken so long to get here,” Taylor adds, “that now it makes sense to sort of indulge all this, and help it reach as many people as possible.”

Arguably one of 2022’s true word-of-mouth success stories, the pan-genre sonic trickery of ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ isn’t quite done yet.

Words: Robin Murray

Photo Credit: Eddie Whelan

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