The band have worked with cult experimental artist Dean Blunt, and their debut EP features a 21-piece orchestra and songs inspired by Louis Theroux
Jockstrap’s music sparks with ideas. The London duo mix bluesy bedroom songwriting, bossa nova, elegant string arrangements, and jagged, hi-tech noise – usually on the same song. Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye, both aged 20, met last year at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where they decided to make use of the school’s facilities to incorporate a 21-piece classical string orchestra into the leftfield pop music they were writing together. The result is totally idiosyncratic: “Charlotte” is a lo-fi beat that descends into pure audio chaos, while “Joy” is best described as a cross between George Gershwin and GFOTY – part lush and lovelorn orchestration, part hard-as-nails electro. Meanwhile, “Hayley” showcases Ellery’s unusual lyrical occupations, creating a fictional backstory for a sex worker that Louis Theroux meets in his Louis & the Brothel documentary, inspired by their “blatant” chemistry.
Having previously worked with experimental musician and east London cult hero Dean Blunt on his Soul on Fire release, and with scheduled shows from Iceland Airwaves to Pitchfork Paris, Jockstrap are now releasing their debut EP, Love is the Key to the City. We caught up with the band to find out more about their world.
So, how did you two first meet?
Taylor Skye: We first met at Guildhall. My first proper memory of Georgia was her sitting a few seats in front of me in composition class. It took quite a while for us to talk to each other though. I think we were both a bit nervous.
Georgia Ellery: We were living in the school’s halls in Barbican. We might have met at someone’s pre-drinks? Or we just got to know one another by saying hello in the courtyard? Can’t remember. We bonded over James Blake and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Taylor was making these short electronic tracks and putting YouTube clips to them. I was really into it. Non-musically, we’d go to the Basement, our SU club, and dance to Beyoncé.
What were your first forays into making music together like?
Taylor Skye: It was like when you first start flirting with someone you fancy. I’d make some weird drum sounds, but be too scared to show Georgia. She’d write these songs and after perfecting demos for weeks, finally send them over. It was really nice.
Georgia Ellery: It was easy, but obviously the first time you make music with someone it’s a bit scary. We were both very polite and considerate of each other ideas – we became cutthroat quite soon after. But it was easy, the setup worked. We were really happy with the sound world we were exploring. Even in the short time we’ve been together, we’ve moved very quickly from orchestral strings and bossa to grime rap, remixes, and heavier themes in the writing. We’re happy being fluid for as long as possible.
Was it always the plan to use an orchestra?
Georgia Ellery: Yes, since we met with (our record label) Kaya Kaya at the beginning of 2018. It was actually their idea to involve a string orchestra on what was then an EP. It made a lot of sense, since we included multi-tracked violin in most songs. I started writing the orchestral pieces immediately.
Taylor Skye: I remember when we first met our manager, I wanted it to seem like we had everything all planned out, so I made a big deal about how we wanted to record a string orchestra. Really, we’d only mentioned it briefly, but it totally made sense, and it was something Georgia had always wanted to do.
What sort of creative roles do you both play in the group?
Taylor Skye: Georgia writes the song – usually singing with piano and violin. Sometimes she makes full demos too. Then she takes it to me and we go over all the arrangements and sounds and starting nitpicking it all. Sometimes we get Lewis (Evans, live band member) to play flute, Michael (Dunlop) to play bass or Melchior (Giedroyc) to rap.
Georgia Ellery: I’ll write the harmony, structure, melody, and lyrics, and Taylor will lead the production. Both roles are just as creative as the other. We’ll both come up with string lines, bass lines, structural nuances – then when it comes to the creative directing of the live band, we both lead it equally.
“Hayley” is inspired by a sex worker in a Louis Theroux documentary. Are all your songs about other people?
Georgia Ellery: To date, yeah. A song is a good canvas to muse about a particular person. I like writing cryptically about people, and seeing if they notice it’s about them. Hopefully I’ll rack up a catalogue of musical profiles of people important to me – that would be cool.
Georgia, you also shot, directed, and edited the “Joy” video. What were you looking to convey visually?
Georgia Ellery: I wanted to illustrate the colours of the sound world. To me, “Joy” has this hazy beige, golden, pink colour to it. I think I captured that quite well with my shitty 2001 digital camera. The track is all very sensory, so I wanted to video to be like that, too. There are many tropes I’ve alluded to in the video.
The song has shades of SOPHIE and PC Music, too. What drew you to that sound?
Taylor Skye: It’s such a recognisable sound now that the context you use it in is what makes it interesting. So if we just made a track that sounded like a PC Music rip-off, it’d just be a PC Music rip-off. But sticking something in that style halfway through an orchestral string piece seemed like a new, fun thing to do.
Georgia Ellery: We got really into Western Beats by Kane West (an EP released by PC Music). I was like, ‘Yo, Taylor let’s get some open snares like that.’ We like the maximalism and humour of that style of music.
Who’s your dream collaboration?
Taylor Skye: Laura Marling, because she seems like a very sensitive, thoughtful songwriter.
Georgia Ellery: I’d like to work with SOPHIE. Apparently she’s a perfectionist. I like that. Ariel Pink would be really cool – I don’t know much about guitar music. Or maybe Genesis P-Orridge. I’d be out of my depth.
What sort of stuff are you drawing inspiration from recently?
Taylor Skye: Rap music, post-punk music, free jazz music, techno music, electronic music.
Georgia Ellery: Men. That’s the topic for my lyrics at the moment. Darker feelings and experiences. Personalities I’ve taken an interest in.