Another Affair: Piercing Jockstrap's Harmonic Core

Another Affair: Piercing Jockstrap's Harmonic Core

Electronic enfants terribles Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye in conversation...

London outfit Jockstrap are one of the most exciting propositions in British music today.

On 2018’s stellar ‘Love is the Key to the City’ EP, they established themselves as electronic enfants terribles, juxtaposing several seemingly disparate elements in perfect harmony. This month, the band release their second EP, ‘Wicked CIty’, through Warp. 

At the core of Jockstrap is the duo of Georgia Ellery, who is also in Black Country, New Road, and Taylor Skye, who is an acclaimed young producer in his own right. Ellery provides celestial vocals and violin flourishes, whilst Skye brings a vanguard style of production to the outfit.

The duo met studying at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and are joined by three classmates when performing in a live setting; that’s Lewis Evans, Melchior Giedroyc and Michael Dunlop.

Whilst debut ‘Love is the Key to the City’ was an often hallucinogenic, colourful disc of tilted pop music, ‘Wicked City’ is a much darker sequel. The lyrical themes are twisted, and the production far more agitated than before. As it winds through its fractured acts, the EP establishes the group as a powerful and novel experimental act at the very forefront of pop music.

On a conference call, I caught up with the duo at the centre of Jockstrap.

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Hello Jockstrap. How have you been spending your time in lockdown?

Taylor Skye: I’ve been staying at my family home in Market Harborough. I’ve brought all my music stuff, so every day I just make music, play football; it feels a bit like I’ve gone back to doing what I did when I was 14.

Georgia Ellery: It’s been fine thank you, everything’s easing now. I’ve been in London, Farringdon, but today I’m on a boat. Helping my mum move in.

Can you tell me a bit about ‘The City’, the new EP’s centrepiece.

TS: The piano was what existed first. It was something Georgia had done by herself and sent over to me. We tried figuring out whether it should remain piano, or we should change the instrumentation. We tried a few different things, and went back to the piano. We decided to have a response that was the opposite of the half. It was too sentimental by itself, and it’s more beautiful if it's paired with something really aggressive. Once we’d done that, we just freestyled it, doing what felt right.

GE: Definitely. We didn't change the first half, which was the original demo. It was very spontaneously written, and it came out in five minutes at the piano. It really made us go wild with the second half, which is very free. We put lots into it as a response, that’s a good way of putting it.

Where did the lyrical outbursts in the song’s second half come from?

GE: They’re inspired by a Cathy Acker novel. There’s one chapter in this book that really spoke to me; awesome perverse imagery in a childlike setting. I was inspired by that, and took some of her ideas. We didn't think too much about what it meant, or how it related to the song, Taylor just said: “I think we should lay down you speaking over this”. I went through my notes, and went, oh yeah we’ll go with this one.

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The concept of “The City” seems to crop up in your words and lyrics a lot...

GE: Yeah, it’s a metaphor that represents lots of different things. One of those things is moving to a city, London, I guess it’s nice to explore your thoughts and feelings ambiguously, through a trope. And I guess “The City” has got some great imagery around it.

You’re planning a visual exhibition to coincide with the release of ‘Wicked City’. Can you walk me through it?

GE: We can’t offer any gigs at the moment, and it was our manager Katie’s idea. We had some paintings for artwork, and we decided to exhibit them all.

Whose paintings will be exhibited?

GE: They’re a mix of artists, two from Glasgow, Charlotte Taylor and Jacob Stockings, and Athen Brady, who’s from London. They’ve got all different styles, but they’re all multimedia artworks that started life as paintings. It looks really good. I’m excited to share it.

TS: It looks like the Tate Modern, which was our goal for this.

GE: Defo goals, and then there’s one off mixes in every room. So it’s been a lovely project. It’s half listening party, half exhibition; it’s not quite streaming your album on Fortnite, but it’s pretty close.

Last year you released ‘Lost My Key in the <3 Club <3’, a selection of remixes of your first songs. Are there any such plans this time?

GE: It’s to be expected, there’s no Jockstrap song without a Taylor Skye remix.

TS: We played one on the NTS show… go and listen to that, I’d say.

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Warp is a very prestigious label to be releasing music with. How did that happen?

TS: As happens, you do gigs, and if they go well people start hearing about it. They came to a gig we did a few years ago. They were into it without us pestering them.

GE: When it did happen it felt like the right thing to do. We met some of the artists, and it felt like Warp was a natural fit. Plus, they’re not going to think twice about what we release, which is a good thing.

What non-musical influences have come to the fore this time round?

TS: We both like films a lot. You’re into that Swedish guy, and I got into Tarkovsky.

GE: Yeah, and I guess literature as well, certain books that we’ve read. New mediums of writing. Art as well. The first track, ‘Robert’, is about Robert Mapplethorpe. Our influences, musical and non musical have been darker this time round.

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I guess there’s a lot more time to read now. What have you read during the lockdown?

GE: I’ve been reading a lot of Maggie Nelson books. She’s a contemporary feminist writer.

TS: I’ve been reading a really good book on Buddhism, I can’t remember what its called. For me, it’s hard to find books. I can stick with, but I’m really getting into it.

Tell me more about how Robert Mapplethorpe became an influence.

GE: We started on ‘Robert’ two years ago. When Patti Smith’s Just Kids came out, and I was obsessed with it and I was obsessed with Robert Mapplethorpe and his art, their relationship and New York in the 70s. So I just wrote some words about him.

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You collaborated with Dean Blunt on his 'Soul On Fire' mini-album, how was that? Do you have any further plans to work with him again?

GE: Let’s go Deanie, let's go!

TS: He sent me a link to his Bandcamp today, actually. I don’t think its really up to us when we work with him. It happens when he wants.

Have you got any other collaborations in the pipeline?

TS: 'Robert' is coming out, and it has someone else on it… we collaborate when we need to, really.

GE: We’re definitely open to it, but at the moment it’s mainly been collaborations with visual artists, for this gallery. Its been really nice. It’s not our medium, y’know?

TS: We just found a great jumper designer.

As in knitwear?

GE: It’ll be more t-shirts, but knitwear’s a shout for next time.

TS: You could knit us some stuff, Georgia.

GE: Yeah, I learned to knit this year. Maybe we could knit some exclusive merch. Have you written that down? Good.

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'Wicked City' EP is out now.

Words: Cal Cashin
Photo Credit: Maxwell Granger

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