Since they formed in 2017, Jockstrap have been turning heads with a sound that is somehow ludicrously catchy, abrasive, heartfelt and syrupy sweet all at once. Comprised of singer/violinist Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye, the duo have already ticked off a bucket list of achievements that would make any self-respecting DIY artist tremble with envy.
The past two years have seen them sign to Warp, tour with oddball US hip-hop trio Injury Reserve and recruit Björk as a fan – all while completing music degrees at Guildhall University. Not to mention Georgia’s extra-curricular stints performing with Black Country New Road and acting in the Bafta-winning Cornish film Bait, and Taylor’s well-received solo project.
Jockstrap’s new EP Wicked City complements their first two releases beautifully. Building on a thematic preoccupation with the city as a place of darkness, disorientation and eroticism, lyricist Georgia switches her focus from the Lynchian characters of Love is the Key to the City to sometimes harrowing explorations of her own personal relationships. Taylor has produced a more expansive sound-world to match that encompasses swooning waltzes like ‘Acid’, banging club workouts and righteous glam-rock guitar wizardry.
When I catch up with the pair over Zoom they’re in quite different places – Georgia is calling from a remote beach, while Taylor is calling from his bedroom in his family home. From our short conversation it’s clear that they share an obvious chemistry, and a way of looking at the music industry which is perfectly in sync with their unclassifiable music. They are disarmingly confident, composed and hyper-analytical, but also unafraid to rejoice in the absurdity of life as musicians in 2020.
How has the lockdown been for you both so far?
Georgia – We’ve both been writing music, trying to get on with normal life. It’s lucky that we got the EP ready and that now we’re in the campaign stage. It would be pretty rubbish if we’d half finished it! I’ve also been watching lots of movies, reading lots.
Taylor – I bought a football. My Dad and brother will play, and I have friends at home but I’m not sure if it’s ok to play with them.
The EP comes out soon – what has the early response been like?
Taylor – It’s been great. The singles have gone down well – a decent amount of people have preordered it, maybe that’s what happens when a big label releases it.
Georgia – The response has been really good, especially for ‘The City’ – people have really liked how wacky it is.
You’ve described this EP as the dichotomy of Love is the Key to the City – could you elaborate on that?
Georgia – They definitely are sister EPs. There are links to the first one. The first is kind of musing on different people, different situations. This one is more personal, emotions are harder, kinda like light and dark, male and female.
This EP differs a lot sonically too. A song like ‘Acid’ is very pretty, and reminiscent of your early singles, but then there are way more of these abrasive moments. Which of these styles are you more drawn to? Is it more fun to sneak weird production behind gorgeous poppy melodies, or to confront people with something challenging?
Taylor – The keys to ‘Acid’ sound quite similar to ‘Hayley’. As musicians you generally get sick of what you’ve done, that happens naturally when we make new stuff.
Georgia – We did ‘Robert’ and ‘Acid’ first, and those are the two opposite ones. We’ve definitely gone for harder sounds with this one. There were less of those in the first EP. I think our musical tastes range to both. We’ve got this thematic monster going through this EP, that Taylor created with the production. Sometimes it’s nice for it to be not easy listening. It’s more immersive, almost like a 4d movie.
The song structures are different too. Sometimes the switch-ups that happen between and within songs remind me of hip-hop tracks.
Taylor – Yeah that’s true. Like Drake songs do that where there are two different songs within the same song. And there’s a rapper on this EP. The first one wasn’t really like that.
Georgia – There were more strophic songs weren’t there, structures people can catch on to.
Taylor – When we first met we were going off stuff we like, like James Blake. Now we know each other better we can do more. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we can do next.
You’re both trained classical musicians. Could you talk about your favourite composers growing up, and is there anyone that influences you today?
Georgia – I guess a lot of the classical influences that come out are the ones we’ve listened to from an early age, and songwriters. When composing for strings I like classical romantic music and impressionistic music like Debussy and Ravel. Tchaikovsky too because I spent a lot of time playing him. We’d do a lot of these long residential orchestral weekends; you’d kind of delve in a composer, for 6 hours a day, in a sea of strings. I guess it was all ingested aurally.
Do you have an instrument or orchestral section that you’d love to use in your music?
Taylor – I’d really love to use some more percussion. I’ve been listening to so much John Cage recently.
Georgia – I recently watched and loved the Brian Wilson biopic [Love & Mercy] – it shows the Beach Boys and Brian in the studio with all kinds of orchestral instruments. Taylor’s written for wind as well, so there’s room to be creative with the whole orchestra. The track ‘Yellow and Green’ could have been with harp. Maybe we could do that when we perform live.
There’s some guitar on this record as well, which is unusual for your music.
Georgia – With the guitars on ‘City Hell’, the idea was that it would be gestural – it’s like Queen. At the beginning of the song we have midi guitars, and then this real one comes in with ridiculous tapping.
The City is mentioned heavily in these two EPs – could you talk a bit more about your preoccupation with it?
Georgia – For me it’s like a poetic trope – I quite like of accumulating lots of metaphors and tropes in my writing, where you create your own language. For me the city represents formative experiences that I’ve had here, in London. So it’s a nice way of being ambiguous when describing really personal things.
In a relatively short space of time you’ve already collaborated with lots of incredible musicians. What’s been your favourite experience of working with and meeting these people?
Georgia – We did Africa Express with Damon Albarn which was quite an experience. It’s quite hard to make music in a few days with people you don’t know, making the most of the instruments we had.
But the tour with Injury Reserve was great, playing to a really receptive audience. People’s ears have really evolved to listening to left-field pop and hip hop, cause everyone loved it.
Taylor – In Norway a few months ago we met and watched CURL [a supergroup featuring Mica Levi, Coby Sey and Brother May amongst others]. It’s hard to know what they’re all about unless you just see them live, as that’s what they’re about really.
How did that tour with Injury Reserve come about?
Georgia – We played at Iceland Airwaves year before last, and we turned up at the venue for soundcheck and took their spot. They stood there with their arms folded, but they really dug it, bowed down, and then we watched each other’s sets and partied with them that evening. Then we all went back to England, cause that was their layover, and then they stayed at my house.
Taylor – Georgia you went to sleep that night didn’t you…
Georgia – Yeah I was quite a buzz killington that night! And then they promised us the slot on the tour.
Finally, what will your live plans be when things do go back to normal?
Taylor – We’ve actually been playing these songs live for a really long time now.
Georgia – We’ve been playing as a duo for the last year, in clubby places with a good sound system, and it’s a really great setup.
Taylor – To be honest it’s maybe a good thing that we perform as a duo, as there’s going to be so little money for people doing gigs now. I don’t do too much connecting onstage anyway. I knew this was gonna happen so I was distancing from the start.
Georgia – We’ll wait till it’s over and hit ‘em with a bang.
Photo credit: Maxwell Granger