jockstrap is a duo with extremely disparate backgrounds producing an extremely varied but totally unique production. Drawing from the contrasting disciplines of electronic music and jazz violin, the two artists share qualities of tireless perfectionism, work ethic and creativity, resulting in music, videos and images that all represent a singular creative purpose and shared from top to bottom. Metropolis was able to sit down with Georgia Ellery, half of Jockstrap, while she performed with Black Country, New Road at Fuji Rock in July and talk to her about the formation of the duo and the upcoming debut album, I Love You Jennifer B, out September 9th everywhere.
Metropolis: Is this your first time in Japan?
Georgia Ellery: Yeah.
M: Are you enjoying so far?
GE: I love it. I love it. Tokyo was amazing.
M: You met Taylor at the Guildhall School of Music where you were studying jazz composition and Taylor was studying electronic composition.
GE: Taylor was doing electronic music and I was doing jazz fiddle. So very different. And he was doing electronic music before coming to Guildhall but I hadn’t studied jazz violin, I was a classical violinist and just wanted to do something different.
M: So your backgrounds are quite different, what was the impetus to start creating music together?
GE: We both came to London because we wanted to do something really different. And we knew it was somewhere we wanted to be and we both have a lot of drive. I think that’s what we have in common. And when we got to Guildhall, there were loads of people doing all kinds of cool shit. There were a few people in my year who were already signed to labels.
So we were mostly inspired by people doing stuff there, so I started writing songs and I had heard some of Taylor’s compositions, little electronic pieces that he put in movie scenes and that he posted on Facebook, so I asked him to produce the songs.
M: So do you think the environment itself had an impact?
GE: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s become a bit of an ecosystem. People were making cool music and playing it to everyone and jumping on each other’s tracks. I need ropes here. I need this, can you sing here?
M: Do you come from a family of musicians?
GE: My mother plays the fiddle and Taylor’s parents were both in the West End. Yes, I would say musical.
M: How much do you think your formal training plays into the way you write? How much do you find yourself drawing on it?
GE: For both of us, I think it plays a big role. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about jazz that I didn’t know and it definitely influences my writing. I could intellectualize songwriting and not just rely on my ears. So if I get stuck, there’s always a way for me to watch it. Taylor, I think the techniques he’s been using now, he’s been using them since he was quite young. His language is something that has been slow to develop. And I don’t think he necessarily learned anything new but he always says that it was more the influences and the music that he was introduced to by the course and then also the people. So we took things out, but it certainly wasn’t education that was at the forefront.
M: I read that when you started out your roles were pretty clearly defined – you wrote and performed the music and Taylor produced it. How have those roles changed and what does the process look like now?
GE: So it started out that I was just writing songs, Taylor was producing them and then we were refining them together. And we still do and we have on some of the songs on this album, on some of the more “singing” ones that tend to be. But we also tried him to write the first piece of material like “50/50”, he created a rhythm and he sent it to me and I put it in the lead and added harmonies, so it was the reverse. Which is good because it’s a good thing to respond to a little music because you put a lot into it if you’re the first person to start. And then on other songs, we kind of worked together, so it’s a bit of a mix and I think that’s good because it means the songs are different, the structures are different, and we managed to simplify things, even if it doesn’t look very simple, it’s a little less structured.
M: How do you find working as a duo compared to six people in the other group?
GE: It’s different. I feel like my work in Black Country (New Road), even though we write the music together, is more focused and it’s more of a thing. While in Jockstrap a lot of my time is also spent creating – visuals and illustrations, every little thing we release is considered. It’s very important to me visually, how it looks and everything fits together and that’s something I’m very proud of with this campaign that we’ve done. I pushed to have time to think about it, to make it look coherent. I don’t really do that in Black Country.
M: Speaking of which, I wanted to ask you about the music video for “Glasgow”. You wrote, shot and edited the whole thing, didn’t you?
GE: Yeah, we knew we wanted to do this video on our own and make it a bit more DIY. There is a sample in the track under the bass drum, it’s like someone crashing into the mud on a walk. And you can’t really hear it but you would notice it if it wasn’t there because it doesn’t feel alive when it’s not there. So we came up with this movement idea and I think it’s pretty summery for us and it’s kind of a learning song. So we came up with the idea of taking a trip, we’re both on separate trips but we’re still moving throughout the video. So we just had this very simple idea and then Taylor was like I want to be a character. I want to be a goblin, I want to be an elf. So he did it and we filmed it separately he was at his home in Market Harborough and I was on holiday on some islands off Cornwall so we just borrowed Go Pros and filmed ourselves so the only cost was his prostheses.
M: Was it your own idea to do everything yourself or were there any budgetary constraints that you were working with?
GE: Both, but we’ve been doing videos for Jockstap since the beginning. I always did a video by myself for the first EP and the remixy EP that followed, I did all the videos. I have a “do it with what you’ve got” attitude. Like I said, visuals are really important. I had these strong visual ideas for the video, it was fun. It is possible to do it yourself. I don’t know, I like watching movies and music videos. It’s kind of a nice extra creative thing you can do to go along with your music. And especially when the music took a long time and you worked on it, making a video and editing it is just kind of fun for me.
M: I read that you said your lyrical writing has become more reserved now – “My lyrics now explore the suppression of feelings and desire.” – Why is it?
GE: I don’t know, probably a bit Covid. I can’t really get out and then maybe it takes a little longer to go back. I am old but older than me. When I first came to London it just blew my mind. It was very formative and you put yourself out there and it was great so you dove a bit I guess. I’m sure it comes in waves.
M: The new album has been in preparation for three years and it will be out in a little over a month, what is the current state of mind?
GE: I’m excited. We worked very hard as really hard. And the lockdown didn’t mean we had all that time, it doesn’t work that way. So I’m really proud, I’m really happy, I’m really excited for everyone to hear it and I guess it’s an accumulation of what we’ve been doing for the last two years. People know what we look like and expect the unexpected and they will definitely get it. All the songs are so different on the album and there was nothing we could do about it. I was obsessed with trying to do a concept album and making it all sound really contained and like one thing. Impossible. When it’s me and Taylor working together, we just have so many ideas and we’re so stubborn with our ideas that it must have been something we both couldn’t imagine. It’s always like that when you write songs, it never goes the way you think.
M: The band has a sort of motto: “Do something totally unexpected, honor your first idea no matter how weird, don’t do anything you’ve heard before and obsess over the music because everything else is secondary. . How did it happen?
GE: It comes from the fact that we are driven people and very passionate about music and we are stubborn. When we make music together, we always work towards this process, the best version of it, always trying to improve the music and never leaving a stone unturned. I think that’s just the way we work and maybe also the nature of a duo.
M: Is this something you come back to often? Or is it just the natural way of thinking?
GE: I don’t think we can work any other way. It’s not like, come on, remember the motto! We are just perfectionists. Perhaps a classical education.
M: Thank you for talking with us, you have a few days left in Tokyo, do you have any plans?
GE: Yeah, shopping.
Jockstrap’s debut album, I Love You Jennifer B, is out September 9th.