The old aphorism goes that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, but trying to convey in words exactly what London duo Jockstrap sounds like might be even trickier than that. Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye met while studying at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama (Ellery studying jazz violin and Skye electronic music) and formed after they noticed via Facebook that they’d both been to the same James Blake show. Their 2018 debut EP Love Is the Key to the City introduced their idiosyncratic approach to music, taking in classic, dreamy pop songwriting—echoing everyone from ’50s jazz singer Julie London to alt-pop including Broadcast or Stereolab—and obtuse beats from Skye that could easily have come from the PC Music stable. The EP won them a fan in Björk, who came to a 2018 show at Iceland Airwaves and eventually helped them sign to the iconic Warp label for this, their follow-up EP. “It’s a bit more of everything,” says Skye. “It’s funnier, it’s definitely a bit more ridiculous at some points, but it’s more serious too.” “I think it’s a lot more confident and we pushed ourselves creatively a lot further,” adds Ellery. “This is new to us and it’s really exciting.” Read their track-by-track guide below.
Robert Taylor Skye: “All the tracks on the EP are in the order we made them, and this one went back and forth for ages as it just kind of felt like the dregs of the last EP. The idea to put a rap feature on it came almost immediately, but we had to spend ages finding the right person.” Georgia Ellery: “We used Groggs from [Arizona hip-hop trio] Injury Reserve. We met them at Iceland Airwaves a few years ago and then they invited us to support them on their UK tour. We got something from them and then Taylor really manipulated and distorted the vocals so it feels more like an instrument on the track or part of the mix than standing out as a rap on the track.” TS: “They already had the rap recorded, so it wasn’t made specifically for the song, which was quite nice. It felt right for the rap to not mean anything specific. I think you have to make a rap feature a little ridiculous, too.” GE: “The track’s inspired by the American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I got really obsessed with his work for a while.”
Acid GE: “This song’s about my brother. We went through a period of not having much of a relationship, so I was just kind of figuring that out through song, I guess. When Taylor sent over a version which was quite close to this final version, I remember feeling like he was telling a different story through his production to the story I was telling, and it just sounded crazy and awesome and really helped shape the song.”
Yellow in Green GE: “All the songs start with me writing a poem, and this was written on a train from Glasgow to London. I got an early train and it was really frosty and I sat and wrote this.” TS: “This track was a case of Georgia writing a song and then me producing it in a way that is right and not trying to make too much of a different statement from what it was in the first place. We got a friend to record the piano for it, and it really came together when we put a sub-bass note underneath the big piano chords. That was the big moment!”
The City GE: “Usually with songs I’ll pick away at a progression and come back to it day after day, but ‘The City’ just kind of poured out of me, and it’s rare but amazing when that happens.” TS: “The first and second half of this song are quite different, and in some senses it falls into a bit of a trope of ‘girl does nice piano ballad and boy does big angry stompy thing’, but I actually did something much softer first, which Georgia didn’t like, and then came back with something harder, which she did like. It’s my job in Jockstrap to add a decent amount of production to it and do something that’s reasonably radical. Sometimes that can be something quite subtle and sometimes it’s quite big.”
City Hell TS: “This almost feels like the whole EP in one song. There’s about ten specific people that influenced moments in this song, and we’re happy to admit that.” GE: “For example, the guitars at the beginning are influenced by a couple of tracks on the first Beyoncé album. I was like, ‘Taylor, can we have that sound?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, they’re reversed MIDI guitars.’ We were inspired by Roxy Music, too, with their glamorous marriage of synths and guitars on their early albums.” TS: “There’s a bit in there that really reminds me of Panic! At the Disco too. It was a really meaty piece to tackle and get the structure down. Mixing it was difficult as it was all these different elements, but the vocals helped tie it all together.”