Jess Locke Interview: "Music is never as powerful/transformative as when you're a teenager."
She's in WA for all-ages HyperFest this weekend, before her national tour kicks off in March.
After a fantastic 2017 that saw her signing to The Smith Street Band's Pool House Records and releasing her latest album Universe, Jess Locke is back on the road in 2018, starting with all-ages festival HuperFest this weekend. Once it wraps up, she'll be heading around the country over the month of March to celebrate latest single Dangerous. We sent off a few questions to see where she sits with her most well-received LP yet, working with close friends, and the importance of all-ages gigs for young fans.
Hey Jess. Universe has been out for a few months now – have you had the chance to reflect on the album and its release yet? How do you feel about the album now post-release?
Honestly, after a while it’s really hard to hear the album with fresh ears, I’ve just listened to it so much in the process of making it. But the fact that it has been so well received means a lot. In the end I think we did a good job and I’m glad people like it.
It follows on from your debut album Words That Seem To Slip Away. They say that writing your debut album is a massive learning curve as a musician, so is there anything you learnt in the creation of your debut which you applied to the making of Universe?
I wouldn’t say I actually ever sat down and wrote my first album. What ended up on that album was the result of years and years of writing songs and recording demos and playing those songs with different people. Before releasing it I had been releasing home recordings on the internet. So while it technically was my first full length official record, it didn't really feel at all like the beginning for me. I think what was awesome for me about putting out that record was a sense of tying up loose ends. And I kind of feel the same way about this most recent album. You go into something with a plan about how it’s going to turn out and it mostly doesn’t turn out that way, sometimes for the better! At a certain point you just have to call it and move on and take any unrealised creative energy into the next thing. I think that’s the main thing I’ve learned from recording in the past.
Did you find it easier this time around?
Mmm…no. Not easier. Just different. It was a quite a long time between recording the last two records and a lot had changed. I had a new band and we had really worked a lot together on the songs before going into the recording process. So there was a lot of preparation, and then there was also a lot of editing and overdubbing whereas the first album was a bit more like a document of how those songs sounded at that point in time. If anything, I would say recording Universe was a bit more painstaking, but also a lot more rewarding because of that.
The album was released through Pool House Records, which is ran by The Smith Street Band guys. How did that partnership come about?
We have all been friends for a while and then a couple of years ago they took us on tour with them. We started recording with Fitzy and then decided he should record our album, even before Pool House Records started. So then, when they started the label and offered to put our record out it just made sense.
Also it’s worth noting that you’re all pretty good friends too, and you collaborated with Smith Street on their single Birthdays in February ‘17. Does working with friends make it easier? I’d imagine that it’ll be more relaxed than working with a label you didn’t have a previous relationship to.
Yeah, totally. It’s really easy to forget that it’s a legitimate record label sometimes, because it really just feels like a bunch of friends putting out music and hanging out. Me and Chris also live with Fitzy so that makes it even more cosy. It very much feels like we are doing things together as opposed to there being any kind of hierarchy. That being said, a big part of being on Pool House is working with Remote Control Records and although we didn't know any of them beforehand, they also just feel like part of the family now and are super easy and great to work with. So it’s sometimes nice to form new relationships. I guess we have just been pretty lucky with ours.
Your next two Perth shows are a headline show (at The Odd Fellow) and a festival show (Hyperfest). How does the crowd dynamic and your live show change depending on the format (festival vs headline), if it does?
The dynamic of a festival vs a headline show is definitely different, although sometimes it’s difficult to predict and just depends on the day. I like playing festivals to people who might not have heard of us, so it’s kind of like winning people over. But it's also really lovely to play a headline show and realised that people that aren’t my friends have left their houses to come and see us play music. That kind of blows me away sometimes. So yeah, it’s all good. The best shows are just the one’s when people are engaged. I think, as a band we naturally respond to other people’s energy.
Your festival show is also all-ages too, which I think is worth talking about. As someone who has been making and listening to music for a long time, do you feel that all ages shows are important in opening up younger audiences to music? How so?
Absolutely. Music is never as powerful or transformative as when you are a teenager. I think about how important music was for me growing up, in high school and how much it got me through. There is something really special about the music that you discover at that age. That’s why it means so much when young people tell me they love my music and why they should be able to go and see that music live and engage with the artists like us grown ups do all the time.
Once the tour wraps up in March, what’s happening in the second half of the year?
I really just want to write ad start recording the next album. I’ve already got a few things in the works so I would love to just knuckle down and really get into it.
Sat 24 Feb - HyperFest @ Midland Oval, Midland (All-ages)
Thu 1 Mar - The Curtin, Melbourne w/ The Stroppies and Hollie Joyce
Thu 8 Mar - Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane w/ Sleepclub, Pool Shop and Stevie
Fri 9 Mar - The Factory Floor, Sydney w/ Brightness and Jack R Reilly
Sat 10 Mar - The Odd Fellow, Perth w/ Joys and New Nausea