In Session: Jockstrap
The experimental London duo serve up everything from Bob Dylan to Playboi Carti in their folk-meets-rap mix
After meeting at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2016, genre-defiant duo Jockstrap (then independently Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye), started working on a project that gave them the opportunity to branch out. While maintaining their individual side hustles and musical endeavours — Taylor his own solo productions, Georgia as part of the recently skyrocketed six-piece Black Country, New Road — the two look at Jockstrap as its own beloved venture; a different beast.
Though clinical in their training and mastering of production through their time in music school, Jockstrap is anything but. The beauty of the project is that neither Georgia nor Taylor take themselves at all seriously — farcical music videos meet curious lyrics over classical strings, synths, and often heavy electronic beats. In their steady rise, the pair have only become more experimental in their work.
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During their four years as an outfit, Jockstrap have released four EPs, but until now, never a full-length record. ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ is the first offering from Georgia and Taylor — a 10-track record that bounces through endless styles and tempos. We chatted to the pair ahead of the release of their debut album - check it out below.
Your debut record ‘I Love You Jennifer B’ is out in just over a week. Can you tell me a bit about the backstory behind it? Where did the name come from and what’s the story behind it?
Georgia: We've made lots of EPs, four EPs to be exact, but we knew that we wanted to do an album. We didn't speak about it, but I think we all had that in our minds as the next milestone for Jockstrap. We just started making it and it took a really, really long time.
I read that your laptop with the only backup of the record was nearly stolen recently in North London… how did that play out?!
Taylor: It was around the end of making the record. I was just in a restaurant and my bag was by my side with my laptop in it, I was on the way to the studio. Then someone came and sat behind me and I didn't really clock anything, within a few seconds I realised my bag was gone. I just could sense they'd gone, so me and a few others ran after this guy for like half a mile through Angel and didn't catch him, but then he dropped the bag to run away quicker, I suppose. My laptop was fine and I got it back but it was a mental thing to happen!
You obviously have a huge range of influences in your music, but what are your main sources of inspiration at the moment? Were there any standout influences on the record?
Taylor: There were different stages we went through. We went through one where we were both only listening to ‘70s songwriters, that was a new thing for us to not be interested in experimenting with sound too much, but be interested in the craft of songwriting primarily. We had quite a dark distorted phase where we were listening to a lot of groggy metal and guitar music. Other moments we were interested in electronic music - that’s something we've had through our roots and in our bones for a long time, so it always comes out. They were the three quite obvious points of interest that we went through, but there were also a lot of others like classical music.
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So I take it you both have similar tastes?
Taylor: Yeah, we both just love all sorts of music and are usually into different things at different times. We can share stuff with each other that the other isn't expecting.
Tracks like ‘Concrete Over Water’ feel really monumental in this record and are a complete mashup of the classical and electronic sides of Jockstrap. How does this usually come together when you’re making music? Do you play each other parts and see what works together?
Georgia: We write the song, I'll demo the track, and then - for ‘Concrete’ anyway - Taylor then took it into production and took it somewhere totally different from just a demo. It was just a melancholic piano demo before. Then, after that, we added the strings so the classical element kind of comes in towards the end.
You both went to music school, did that change the way you look at music and help you to become more experimental?
Georgia: For me, it definitely informs my songwriting. The things I learned give a more in-depth analytical approach to music and a range of music and styles with quite rigorous training or classes where you're pushed musically. Experimentally though, not so much - when I'm trying to apply things I've learned, it actually does the opposite.
Taylor: I feel like they both go hand in hand, the more you learn about something, the more you feel comfortable using it. I think I've found both useful, it's quite hard to experiment with something unless you’ve tried to learn about it. You're never gonna know something 100%, but learning about something gives you the tools to begin to deconstruct it a bit. Sometimes it's nice to do that without learning about something, but it means you have a good amount of control - the control that Georgia is talking about. I think like being able to have awareness of what we’re doing.
Your live shows are quite dynamic, are they usually quite free-flowing and change up with each show, or are you structured with your live process?
Georgia: We’re quite structured. We do change up the setlist, but we haven't had too many songs that we can change up a set. For the last couple of tours and shows we've done, we’ve had a set vibe that we're trying to achieve. Sometimes the shows don't go the way that we want. Sometimes they can be really mad and everyone's jumping, and others, people listen more and really pay attention.
You’ve also had a bit of a beeline into the fashion world soundtracking Dior and Chanel catwalks, how did that come about?
Taylor: They all came about in different ways. When we were signed to Warp, there was someone there with connections to Chanel, I think. Dior was through this guy called Frank Lebon who's a music video director that we both like, and that was a really nice connection. I'm not sure about Stella McCarney, though. I think once someone sees you on a fashion thing, it spirals out. It kind of came out of nowhere, really.
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Taylor, you’ve produced some really impressive remixes around the Jockstrap project over time - do you enjoy having that creative control electronically?
Taylor: Yeah, I express myself through music, so having outlets to do that are just essential, really. The remixes are a way of doing that, and making music by myself is also a way of doing that. I make remixes in a few hours or a day, and usually only do them if I wanna do them, there's no one telling me whether I should do one for a specific song or anything. It's quite important to have an outlet where it's completely on your own terms - and it’s cathartic too.
Georgia, I know you’re also part of Black Country, New Road - is Jockstrap a nice step away from that side of music that allows you to be creative in a different way?
Georgia: Yeah, definitely, because they’re my lyrics in Jockstrap so it’s a more definite expression of myself. But, equally as expressive as different things. Like my role in Black Country, New Road is focused and allows me to really concentrate on just the one thing and the roles that I have in that band writing and playing. Whereas Jockstrap is far more encompassing, and we have a hand in all of the creative stuff, too, like our music videos.
This mix is pretty wild - I’ve never heard someone mix Bob Dylan into Playboi Carti before! Can you tell us about your Impact mix?
Taylor: This is probably the most fun I've had doing a mix! We’re doing quite a few of them recently, and this was my favourite one by far. It was very simply folk song into rap song over and over again. I enjoy listening to that, and I think they both - a lot of the time - have a similar sentiment, but sonically sound quite different. It's a bit of a battle in my own brain, constantly. So, this is what often goes on in my mind, the sound of that mix, figuring out which path they tread sonically. I just thought it would be funny to do this because I hadn't really heard it before. It's quite nice to take a mix in the opposite direction of trying to make it sound as cohesive as possible and just make it really shocking.
Jockstrap's debut album, 'I Love You, Jennifer B', is out now via Rough Trade. Grab a copy here.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Editorial Assistant, follow her on Twitter
Bob Dylan 'Don't think twice it's alright'
Playboi Carti 'Stop Breathing'
Paul Simon 'Everything Put Together Falls Apart'
Digdat, Loski 'No Cap'
Edith Piaf 'Hymne a L'Amor'
Gucci Mane 'Father's Day'
Bill Callahan 'Pigeons'
Kanye West 'Off The Grid'
Indigo Girls 'Power Of Two'
M1llionz 'Mad About Bars'
Bill Fay 'In Human Hands'
James Blake 'Sparing The Horses'
Elliot Smith 'Everything Means Nothing To Me'
DJ Erik JP 'Automotive Extradimensional'
Bridget St John 'A Song As Long As It Wants To Go On'
Lil B 'I Love You'
Leonard Cohen 'Avalanche'
El Alfa, Anitta, Busta Rhymes, CJ, El Cherry Scom, Wisin 'La mama de la mama' (remix)
Chet Baker 'The Thrill Is Gone'