Jess Locke is performing an intimate gig in Anglesea ahead of the release of her forthcoming album, ‘Don’t Ask Yourself Why’

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Jess Locke is performing an intimate gig in Anglesea ahead of the release of her forthcoming album, ‘Don’t Ask Yourself Why’

Photo by Ian Laidlaw
Words by Riya Kiran

The Melbourne artist will be sharing her subtle, poetic and at times melancholic tunes with an intimate audience at Anglesea Memorial Hall this week.

Jess Locke is best known for her emotional indie tracks, a grungy voice singing out to you a melancholic narrative.

Earlier this month, Jess shared with listeners her new track ‘Halo’. The single marries a subtle bassline with punchy lyrics to create a song that is entirely stripped and vulnerable. Jess collaborated with producer Rob Muinos to create a guttural duet that provides warmth to the raw and emotional song.

‘Halo’ is the fourth track from her forthcoming album ‘Don’t Ask Yourself Why’ set to be released on March 26th, 2021. To celebrate her upcoming release, we spoke with Jess about her musical journey, her upcoming album and getting back on-stage post COVID!

Hey Jess thanks so much for having a chat with us! First up, can you tell the readers about your journey into music?
I started having piano lessons when I was very young but I wasn’t very disciplined and so I quit those, took up clarinet lessons, quit those, took up flute lessons, quit those, went back to the piano and quit again. Around the age of twelve, I started teaching myself guitar with a little help from my dad and brother. I think because I had no-one else to answer to, I kept going with that. Writing my own songs just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do next, so I’ve been doing that ever since.

Congrats on the new single release, ‘Halo’. Can you give us some insight into the creative process of this song?
Thank you! This one was an interesting one to put together. It started very intuitively, I remember just strumming some chords and kind of humming and singing some nonsense words. It started off more as a feeling that a song about anything in particular. It took a while to figure out how to record it as it was quite a minimalist song, and often those ones are the hardest to get right. I ended up playing it on a Wurlitzer instead of the guitar which I think really created this hypnotic feeling. Right from the beginning I knew that I wanted the vocals to be quite guttural and textured and to achieve that I wanted a male vocal to double mine throughout the whole song. Rob Muinos who produced the album sings on it and I love the way our voices blend together to create one kind of monstrous and alien sound.

‘Halo’ is an extremely emotional and moving track, almost feels like we’re being told a story. What inspired the lyrics?
They actually started out as me just kind of singing a stream of consciousness thing without any thought to what they meant, almost just focusing on the sound of the syllables and the rhymes. I suppose generally, the song is about good and evil and the social pressure to conform and be ‘on the right side’ of something when in reality there is very rarely just a right and a wrong side of something. So I suppose it’s about ‘playing good’ at the cost of truth and the messy reality of life.

You’ve also got your album ‘Don’t Ask Yourself Why’ coming out on March 26th. What can we expect from this new album?
It’s a pretty diverse album in terms of style. I wrote the songs without thinking about how they would be played live, so very unrestricted in terms of arrangements compared to my previous record. There is a lot of nylon string guitar, some rock songs and a few piano ballads and quite a lot of synth in the mix.

Tell us more about the new songs to come. Will the other tracks be similar in tone to the already released records like ‘Halo’ and ‘Fool’?
As I’ve said, it’s a real mix. I tried to pick the singles to give a bit of a taste of what the rest of the album is but it’s a real mix of styles. There are a couple of grunge tunes like Fool and few more minimalist keyboard-based songs like Halo, but every song is quite different and I hope it will be a bit of a musical journey for people when they get to hear the album in full.

How do you think that you’ve grown, musically and emotionally, since your previous album in 2017 ‘Universe’? Do you think there has been a change in your music?
I think I’ve grown. I think I’ve become a better singer and I think (I hope) a better songwriter, I’ve definitely explored more territory on the new album which I think can only be a good thing. Trying new things is always personally satisfying for me. I think I’ve learned a lot writing and recording this album too which for me is a sign that I’ve challenged myself and moved forward.

You have an extremely unique talent of creating a narrative through your music, all the while producing a very grungy and raw song instrumentally. Who are some of your musical influences?
I’m always taking in the things around me but some classic all times favourites are Cat Power, Smog/Bill Callahan, John Lennon, Gillian Welch and Elliott Smith.

You recently finished up a regional Victorian tour, how does it feel to be back on stage after the tumultuous year of 2020? What did you miss most about performing live?
It was so nice to be able to sing to peoples faces and have real interactions with people. You just can’t replace that. I think that’s the nicest thing about live performance is seeing the way in which your music has a direct impact on another individual. That’s pretty magical.

You’ll be performing in Anglesea on Friday 19th March, are you excited to do a show with Bones and Jones?
Absolutely! It’s so great to be able to get out and about and regional shows are always fun. I’m excited about playing some of the new songs as well.

Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Putting the album out on March 26 is the big event we’ve been getting excited about! After that, we’ll be playing some shows around the country.

Catch Jess Locke alongside Bones and Jones at Anglesea Memorial Hall on Friday 19 March 2021 as part of The Sound Doctor Presents. Tickets are still available here.