Next Wave #1124: Jossle

Mutated lo-fi pop from West Cork...

Cork-born lo-fi songwriter/producer Jossle smiles as he chats to Clash from the desk of his former Galway room. It’s been 10 months since he left to pursue music in London, and the cumultation of that time spent away has arrived with the long-anticipated release of his debut EP ‘Nested’, which is out now on Everybody’s Records. 

“I feel like it hasn’t really sunk in,” he nervously laughs when asked of the EP’s release. “I’ve been working on these songs for two or three years and I’ve already got so much newer material that it feels like these songs are just coming out but my head is somewhere else”.

“It’s crazy because I’ve been working on these songs for so long,” he adds; “it’s going to be great seeing them out in the world”.

Jossle, known to friends and family as Joshua O’Leary, was born and raised deep in the West Cork heartlands of Kinsale. Growing on a healthy diet of trad and folk, he had the tenor banjo and concertina nailed before moving on to learn the guitar at age 13. “I’d been writing song from the age of thirteen or fourteen for myself” he recalls of his early musicianship, “never showing them to anybody, I was terrified to sing in front of people until I was seventeen or eighteen when I started busking in Cork City”.

His brother Ed, a music promotor in the city, played a huge role is his early journey by booking him for his very first live show as support for Mick Flannery in The White Lady in their hometown. “I was hooked on it after that,” Jossle smiles. “I remember heading out to a nightclub with a fake ID after on the buzz of my life”.

After school, Jossle moved to Galway to study Zoology, where he met Donegal native Darragh Cotter; with whom he founded the four-piece indie rock band Rodney. The band toured constantly, playing shows across Galway as well as further afield in Cork and Dublin. When lockdown shut the country down, however, the band went their separate ways and Jossle set about using his new found spare time to learn how to produce his own music. “I hadn’t a clue how to record music but had always wanted to learn and was sick of relying on other people doing things for me” he explained of his drive, “That’s where the Jossle stuff emerged, veering more into indie than folk and just took it from there”.

Over time, he noticed his typical tendencies to rely on folk or trad instrumentation shift into pursuing more electronic sounds, with drum samples and synth in particular coming more to the fore across his new output. By the summer of 2020, he had released a since-deleted single ‘Birds’, which received generous feedback and response. “From then I was hooked” he recalls, “I moved back to Galway, started a band and just kept gigging”. “We’re rocking a seven-piece at the moment” he adds, “My goal is to have a Black Country, New Road set-up with 12 people onstage making crazy sounds”.

As he’s asked to look back on his path to ‘Nestled’, Jossle picks out one memory in particular that really sticks out, which was a boat trip around Poland he took with Ed when he was fifteen. “We were on the boat for two weeks with no signal or wifi,” he remembers, “and we only had four albums downloaded: ‘Every Kingdom’ by Ben Howard, ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ by Bon Iver, ‘An Awesome Way’ by Alt J, ‘Sleep Through The Static’ by Jack Johnson. We’d play them constantly, swapping them in and out and I’d never heard of Bon Iver before so he blew my mind”. 

Despite it being less than a year since he left Galway for London, a decision he found incredibly difficult to make, he has already made himself at home in the city’s Irish creative community. “London is very hectic, you’re always on the go so I find myself pretty wrecked but it’s been great,” he replies. “I found myself working in a record shop where everyone working there is a musician so it’s been great to help getting to know people and collaborating and things like that”.

“I’d signed with the label here so it just made sense to move over rather than jumping over and back. We’ve just got a new agent onboard so we’re working with promoters outside of London just so we can keep playing and keep getting better; increasing the shows every time”.

“It’s great. I’ve so many mates in London who are from Australia or even England itself and they’d ask ‘how the hell are you getting all these gigs’ and it’s all Irish people. We’ve quite a herd mentality, we roll with each other. Having been in the scene in Ireland for a few years has really helped, and it’s been great to see UK labels look to Ireland for artists because we’re such a culturally fat country. There’s so much going on. Most of what I listen to is Irish”.

As time passes and our conversation nears an end, it’s asked what track from ‘Nested’ he feels best sums up the Jossle project. Jossle pauses, for the first time stopping to consider the question. After a brief moment he smiles once more and says: “It’s got to be the title song, ‘Nested’”. 

“It’s got that raw, acoustic, vulnerable sound to it that I’m really trying to implement. I want people to listen to these songs and go ‘I could probably do that’ and connect with it without it sounding overly polished. It makes you connect to a song more because it makes you feel part of it”. 

Catch Jossle at London’s Brixton Windmill on August 3rd.

Words: Cailean Coffey

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