“I already had the name before I asked him if he wanted to work with me,” says Georgia Ellery.
“I didn’t have a choice, really,” adds Taylor Skye. “It’s like parents.”
The name in question is Jockstrap and the result – at least in part – is a band you’re unlikely to forget. I say ‘in part’ only because music like this would be difficult to forget, regardless of the name.
Ellery and Taylor met at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2016, and this week, they’ll join the esteemed list of Guildhall alumni to release an album.
Their album’s very good.
But even before I Love You Jennifer B arrives, there’s so much to admire about Jockstrap.
Let’s start with how seriously they take it. It’s unfashionable to care, yet on the coveted periphery of London’s contemporary music zeitgeist are a pair who openly want to create something important. They have no shame in trying hard. I ask them for the word or phrase that least describes them. Taylor says – after a lengthy, silent deliberation that happens time and again in our interview – “a joke.” It’s a better answer than I normally get to an admittedly weird question, and one that is perhaps even more telling given the irreverence of the duo’s name.
Another admirable feature of Jockstrap is how this project seems to be only a part of their output as musicians, let alone their identity as people. Georgia is also a member of the acclaimed band Black Country, New Road, while Taylor releases music under his own name as well as their moniker.
“It’s nice to have something that’s got its own thing going,” Taylors says. “And it’s just great working with someone that you’re inspired by, that you want to work with, because you feel like you make something that you couldn’t by yourself. I think it’s a rare thing to find that collaboration, that connection. Obviously Georgia mostly sings and I mostly produce, so we have roles that we vaguely keep to, but it’s just fun to work with someone who’s ideas and stuff you like.
“We became friends as soon as we started making music. But not knowing someone, it’s quite an intimate thing to suddenly say, ‘Let’s make some music together.’”
“I think, creatively, Jockstrap offers a lot for both of us,” Georgia adds. “Taylor is always pushing for something really fresh sounding – he doesn’t really like to make anything that’s been done before, so that pushes me.”
The singles ‘Heartbreak Over Water’ and ‘Glasgow’ have preceded I Love You Jennifer B. Each accompanied by ambiguous videos, they are, like Jockstrap’s music, somehow hard to define. (Just ask their orchestra.) This makes the ability to control the chaos all the more impressive, and proves it’s not really chaos at all.
“One way we [make songs] is where I write the demo,” says Georgia. “Then I just hand it over to Taylor. Sometimes it comes back done in just one exchange, which happened for some of the tracks on there, which is really good when that happens. Then Taylor wrote some of the tracks and sent them to me, and I topline them.”
The album opens with ‘Neon’ – an expansive, cinematic track. It’s as ambitious as all of Jockstrap’s music, but it opens an album that’s not quite as confrontational as their releases to date.
“We had this ‘Neon’ song and then we added a western, windy sound when we knew it would be the first track. If something’s feeling like it could be dramatic in a cool way, we’ll let it be like that. But it took a while to figure out how to order the album, because there’s so many different sounds on it.”
“I feel like people expect our music to often be shocking, bouncing between different things, and I quite like that as the album ends, it becomes slightly more stable. Something not as dramatic. It’s very easy to make empty, shocking music. That’s why we write all sorts of different songs. I think on this album, there’s many songs that are relatively stable.”
“We have quite a vigorous editing process. We really refine every song as far as we possibly can. In the past, we were slightly less strict. That was… fun. It was fun. Yeah.”
I’m not entirely convinced that an artsy corner of northeast London won’t one day become a Jockstrap-led commune. Alluring leaders with a sought after product, both quality enough to inspire adulation, but unique enough to remain niche, seem like hallmarks of any good cult.
And even after talking to them, there remains this strange mystique around them. A lot of their sentences seem to almost peter out – like they’ve got a point to make, but don’t want to fully commit to it, should it burst the enviable persona they’ve created.
For their legion of fans, if not massive, is passionate and features a host of impressive names. Appetite for their music is fervent. Jockstrap obviously know this, and I can’t work out if it’s the reason for a slight stand-offishness.
It doesn’t make for the easiest interview, but fair enough. They’re cool and their music’s class.