Tayla Sudall from Rabbit Radio caught Jess Locke after being the first to sign to The Smith Street Bands new label Pool House Records and smashing BIGSOUND, Jess has been turning heads all over the shop and her album 'Universe' is set for release October 22nd.
Tayla: So you’ve got a new album and you’ve played shows at Big Sound and everything so that’s really cool, so could you just tell me about how Big Sound went?
Jess Locke: Yeah sure! It was great! It was pretty full on, we had like – showcases, but then there was a whole bunch of other gigs. I think one day I played like two other shows and then we did a full band show and it was just like, non-stop, but um, it was great, met lots of people, saw some cool bands that I hadn’t seen before which was cool… And yeah, just kind of chatted to some people, it was a pretty like, laid back, I mean like, stressful but laid back at the same time –laughs- that probably doesn’t make any sense, but yeah.
T So were you excited when you got invited to play?
J.L: Yeah totally! I mean like, yeah it’s great, obviously, you know, people apply and don’t get to go so it’s obviously like really cool that for some reason we were the people that got picked –laughs-.
T.S: That’s awesome! And so I was reading that you’ve gone from playing shows in cemeteries and on roundabouts, so how does it feel to go from playing shows like that to bigger shows like Big Sound and having your own official tours and stuff like that?
J.L: It’s great. I mean it feels like its been kind-of ticking away for a few years so its sort of been incremental growth, so I don’t really notice it but then sometimes I’ll think about it and look back and think like ‘ooh wow’, you know, it’s wonderful like, obviously it’s great that anyone would want to come and see me play so it’s really.. sometimes it’s just like a room full of people and it’s just like ‘wow’ but you know, also, then there’s days when there’s like ten people but that’s still good too, it is just always changing so like, I think it’s really exciting but it’s also really humbling to just remember that you know, things just change all the time and um, just to try and enjoy it when it happens.
T.S: Sooo, it was just last year that you were selected as Triple J’s Unearthed Feature Artist and then you were named one of the Top 20 artists on Triple J Unearthed – then this year Richard Kingsmill debuted your single ‘Better/Bitter’ and added it to the rotation, how did that feel for you?
J.L: Oh, it was awesome! I mean, yeah, again, just for anyone to sort of pay any attention but for you know, someone with such a huge reach and reputation, it’s like, I couldn’t really ask for anything better than that. That’s like the… yeah, the dream –laughs-.
T.S: It must have been exciting! Um, and so, you taught yourself to play the guitar, what age did you start learning to play and when did you realise that that’s what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
J.L: I think I was about… eleven or twelve, I remember it was like at the end of primary school and going into high school, I just remember like ‘cause my Dad and my Brother both played guitar and there was always guitars around so I just remember kind of like, you know, learning songs and um, I don’t really know if there was ever a point where I decided that that’s what I wanted to do… I dunno, it always just seemed really natural to me. It was definitely early on that I, you know, in whatever capacity I would always make up songs just like, it seemed really natural that if I was to play, I would just be writing something, making something up as well like it was always just the go-to thing for me.
T.S: That’s awesome. So, there’s been tonnes of buzz since your Big Sound shows, and um, I’ve just heard that you’ve been signed with The Smith Street Bands new label Pool House Records, can you tell me how that all came about?
J.L: Yeah well, we’re all friends and particularly ah, Chris and Jim who play in my band, they’ve known those guys for a long time and they kind of, you know, they’re kind of from the same, similar, smaller kind of music group where I’m kind of based now and they kind of really grew out of that and so they’ve just been, yeah, we’ve kind of just been around each other for a while and then they took us on tour last year and so then yeah, that just kind of cemented the friendship a bit more –laughs- and um, Fitzy, the bass player [for The Smith Street Band] he recorded a track for us last year and then ended up recording our whole album so, we’ve kind of been working with each other in different capacities for a while and then they started this label and they just asked us, I dunno, it all just felt very natural really –laughs-.
T.S: Yeah, that’s really cool. Your first album ‘Words that seem to Slip Away’ was independently released, so what differences have you found releasing Universe with Pool House Records and Remote Control Records versus independently releasing an album?
J.L: Oh there’s definitely umm, I definitely notice having that team behind me, you know, there’s a lot that I couldn’t do as an independent artist, I mean like, I’ve released my last record on an independent label called Less Talk Records but I mean, that was a very small kind of bedroom operation, with Remote Control and Pool House obviously there’s a lot more in terms of just like getting it out there and, I mean, in some ways it’s the same it’s just a bigger scale and yeah, you’re just kind of working with more people, bit of a team, yeah, it’s great, it’s really nice
T.S: That’s good. And so, the new album Universe is set to be released on the 20th October, what can you tell us about the new album?
J.L: Ahh, it is, well, me and my band we’ve been kind of practising for a few years playing songs, some of the songs are old, but I think you really notice the difference with the band, I think they bring a lot to it. The album is very much… we’ve very much worked together to create the finished product so I think in terms of the aesthetic and the kind of genres that are kind of visited maybe a bit more um, vary than the last album, which was a bit more straight forward in terms of the, you know, bare bones… so yeah –laughs- that’s probably all I can say without it not making any sense
T.S: -laughs- fair enough, so um, what kind of inspirations did you draw from for the new album?
J.L: Oooh, well, there’s so many things, I guess there’s so many inspirations that I don’t really notice that come out like, you know, all the local bands that I’ve been playing with but then my big time favourites like Cat Power and Smog I think influence the way, you know, the way that I want the vocals to sound and things like that, it’s just yeah, a big mish-mash of a whole bunch of stuff
T.S: Yep, where did you get the title from? What does Universe stand for?
J.L: Umm, so that’s the name of a song, one of the songs on the album and um, I dunno, I was thinking for a long time about what to call it and I was kind of struggling a bit to come up with anything and then I picked Universe I think because –laughs- it’s probably the most broad and vague word I could have chosen and it sort of like, it’s the Universe, it encompasses everything! So I was like, well, you know, it’s about everything so that’s kind of yeah, I dunno –laughs- I think it works… sometimes you just kind of pick it and it just unfolds itself.
T.S: Yeah, no, it’s cool! Along with the release of the single Universe you had a pretty cool film clip for it, can you tell me about the film clip and what it all stands for?
J.L: Yeah! So, I made that with a friend of mine Marnie Vaughn and she’s made a bunch of videos for me in the past and um, we live together and we’re good friends, um, but this time I kind of just um, I kind of just said to her like, make this video and it’s kind of up to you… so she kind of you know, I talked to her about the song and she just interpreted it and so it was mainly kind of her idea and my friend Mim who um, her artwork is in the video, so they both kind of worked on it and um, I guess the song is kind of like, it’s about being connected with the universe but also being separate and you know, that kind of disjunction.
So they got this old window from like a reverse garbage which is just like a trash or treasure place in Sydney, and yeah, just like, Mim did some amazing artwork on it and it was like half stock motion and then half just me being in the video clip –laughs- I dunno, its probably easier just to watch it, but I think it kind of um, I was really happy with how it worked out and I think it works with the song and what it’s about
T.S: Yeah, I liked it! So like, the drawings that show up all over the window, they’re actually drawn on there?
J.L: Yeah, yeah so that’s Mim, Mim Montgomery, she’s a wonderful artist and she did all the drawings like frame by frame so you see them pop up and she was drawing them you know, one by one and yeah, clever
T.S: Yeah, that’s awesome –laughs- So, much earlier this year we got a taste of one of the songs that will also be on your upcoming album, Better/Bitter, can you tell me a bit about this song and what it means?
J.L: Umm, like a lot of my songs I don’t really think about what they’re about until after I write them. But I think that one came out of a bit more, slightly more political, a bit more like… you know, cynical, but also I guess, just yeah, thinking about the current political climate but then also it’s always kind of connected to me as an individual and my personal experiences, so, yeah.
I think I was kind of thinking about, I was um, -laughs-, I’ve been unemployed for a long time, oh, I’m actually not right now, I got a job but um –laughs-, you know, I think when you’re at home and you’re thinking about the kind of ethical, moral, side of work and employment and what that means and then I was thinking about like, the value of not doing something instead of doing something that’s detrimental to society or, I dunno, I think I say it better in the song –laughs-, but yeah, so it was kind of about that but then also just like taking the piss and making fun of myself, basically, so –laughs- I dunno
T.S: -laughs- so the, is that why the film clip for that song you’re at home a lot and it’s like the old grainy kind of footage?
J.L: Yeah! Totally, it’s like you know, not really doing much but maybe that’s okay, I dunno hmm
T.S: -laughs- oh well, clearly it’s worked for you, you’ve gotten to this point now so
J.L: -laughs- thanks!
T.S: So you’ve also announced an album tour in November for Universe, so what are you looking forward to most with this tour?
J.L: I can’t really pick anything in particular but, um, it’s great to just be doing like a solid run, its been ages since we’ve played. Actually, we’ve never done a headline show in Canberra or Woolongong, so we get to visit a few places that we’ve been wanting to go for a while, um, we’re going to Perth which is exciting, never done a headline tour in Perth either, so yeah, it’ll be nice just to be able to go to all those places and kind of you know, have it all in one cohesive run and um, yeah, just play the album and you know, we’ve been playing a lot of shows lately and um, doing some awesome support but it’s you know, it’s always different when its your own shows and hopefully people come and it’s nice when they’re there for you and yeah, very exciting!
T.S: Yeah, awesome!
Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure to chat with you and thanks again for taking the time to talk to me, and I just wanted to say from everyone at Rabbit Radio we wish you the best of luck with the album release and the tour in November as well
J.L: Thank you!
T.S: No worries and yeah, I’m looking forward to catching you in Brisbane at The Foundry!
J.L: Awesome, great, thanks so much, bye!