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The Transformative Experience Of Listening To Jockstrap

Does the enigmatic, arty British duo make electronica, indie pop, or orchestral pop? Yes to all

The music of Jockstrap has zigged and zagged from college dorm rooms to English nightclubs to the shores of America, and perhaps soon enough, it’ll beam into your headphones somewhere on the planet.

The rising London indie electronic pop duo is the product of two music school classmates, vocalist Georgia Ellery and producer Taylor Skye. Together, they’ve crafted a sound that’s at times disorienting, dizzying, and challenging, yet above all, satisfying and plenty of fun.

There’s just one thing: You won’t quite find them going viral on TikTok – at least, not yet.

“We’re not, like, a TikTok band that can survive on hit songs,” Skye told MTV News. They wouldn’t have it any other way, and the long-awaited release of debut album I Love You Jennifer B (out September 9 on Rough Trade Records) takes another step down a path filled with creative twists and turns.

Is what Jockstrap does strictly electronica, or straightforward indie pop? Are there elements of orchestral and acoustic flourishes, or does their sound warrant a deep dive to discover everything happening simultaneously? The proper answer through and through is “yes.” They’ve earned praise from the likes of Iggy Pop and Jamie xx, and you might recognize Ellery’s name from her violin work with another impressive genre-bending U.K. act: Black Country, New Road.

Oh, and the group’s name? It might be jarring, but it’s nothing if not memorable.

The mash-up of jazz elements, classic singer-songwriter stylings and electronic production first blossomed at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and inside its creative hotbed, student union bar The Basement, where Ellery and Skye connected over all things music. Ellery also came across Skye’s songs through mutual friends and via Facebook posts, where he mashed up beats with video clips from movies like Lost In Translation.

From there, the two teamed up in 2017 on the very first Jockstrap song,  “I Want Another Affair”, which blends Ellery’s elegant vocals and Skye’s trippy electronic beats. It eventually ended up on 2018 EP Love Is the Key to the City.

“I really engaged with the sound, the production. It was everything I liked that I’d been listening to up until that point,” Ellery said over Zoom, seated next to her bandmate during a rehearsal break on a sunny London afternoon. “I didn’t think either of us knew what it would sound like, and we still don’t really to this day when we go and work on a song.”

The “melting pot” of Guildhall and constant exposure to creativity in every residence hall proved fruitful for the duo. Skye said it was “quite an exciting time to be around the people that we were around.”

Their fateful meeting was a sea change from Ellery’s rural roots in southwest England and the London-born Skye’s childhood in the country’s Midlands region. London is the centerpiece of the duo’s first two EPs, but from the start, they thought about honing the Jockstrap sound through a full-length album. The group dove into I Love You Jennifer B properly after the 2020 release of EP Wicked City, but like Jockstrap itself, the bedrock of the LP dates back further than that.

“The songs were made over such a long period of time that we’d have like, a moment listening to a certain sort of music, and… then move on,” Skye said, noting the band’s myriad inspirations.

As destiny would have it, Rough Trade first reached out to Jockstrap (which was once a five-piece group) around 2017, playing with friends in various iterations. The group said playing as a two-piece gives them “a lot more space to perform.” If you dig around online, you can even see an early iteration of Jockstrap playing in 2018 within the cozy confines of London bar/venue The Old Blue Last.

It felt natural, then, to eventually sign to British independent mainstay Rough Trade, which led to quite the milestone: the duo’s first-ever trip to America, for a free private label showcase at New York City’s famed Mercury Lounge on a sweltering June night this past summer.

Live, it can take some time to process what Jockstrap is doing, which isn’t a bad thing for a two-piece. Much like the group’s songs, plenty of sonic elements zip, dive, swirl, and mutate in impressive fashion. It’s fascinating and immediately engaging.

If the duo were nervous, it didn’t show, although Ellery said the experience was “quite overwhelming.”

They’ll have plenty of future opportunities to wow U.S. crowds – Jockstrap hit the States in November for an extensive tour from Washington, D.C. to Brooklyn and out to Los Angeles. Both Skye and Ellery prefer to change their setlists frequently, curating a club-like show atmosphere best witnessed in a dark environment filled with pulsing strobes.

Translating the at-times delicate, at-times frenetic and surging music of their catalog — as heard on I Love You Jennifer B — is a process both Ellery and Skye have honed across the years, taking inspiration from fellow experimental Brit James Blake. The sonic variety on Jockstrap’s debut hints at that inspiration while swerving its own way entirely, including the acoustic stylings of “Glasgow.”A friend stepped in to play guitar on that particular track, but Ellery continues to fine-tune her live guitar work, which can be heard on record on the intricate “Lancaster Court.”

The LP isn’t without its share of highlights and potential bangers, including the club-ready thumping beats and characteristic multi-layered production of “50/50,” a song whose closest counterpart might be the dance-ready stylings of certain Yeah Yeah Yeahs tracks. “Concrete Over Water” could sum up Jockstrap the best: It’s a gorgeous six-minute epic that fuses bedroom pop with Georgia’s soaring vocals before dropping into a throbbing, thunderous beat about a third of the way through.

Pay close attention to the LP and you’ll also hear spoken-word vocal samples, warbling synths and Ellery’s delicate, light-as-air vocals, all tinged with orchestral and baroque touches – and of course, some memorably intense electro beats. It’s reflective of the recording process: Parts of songs were taken from their original demos, some parts were recorded on the road, and the bulk of the work was simply done in locales like Skye’s bedroom.

Future Jockstrap releases will certainly keep the listener guessing. For the time being, even Ellery and Skye themselves will have to embark on a journey of discovery to craft a new sonic blueprint. The two point to a recent festival set by the enigmatic, endlessly creative Björk as a touch of “transformative” inspiration, and both hope to bring Jockstrap to festival crowds next summer, too.

As Skye said: “It’s just about what inspires us when we decide to make it.”