The New Cue #193 August 1: Julia Jacklin
1 August, 2022
It’s the first of August already. Who didn’t see that coming? Sneaky little bugger August, full name Augustus Ifyoumustus. In today’s edition, we’ve got Aussie singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin easing us into Monday action, discussing her new record with Niall having navigated her very own average Monday.
We’ll see you on Wednesday, when we’ve got former Klaxons man James Righton telling us about his new solo record and spilling the beans on his involvement in putting together the new ABBA show that everyone has been flooding Instagram with.
Enjoy the edition,
Ted, Niall and Chris
Start The Week With… Julia Jacklin
Melbourne native Julia Jacklin has established herself as one the most gifted singer-songwriters of recent years. On both her 2016 debut Don’t Let The Kids Win and its 2019 follow-up Crushing, Jacklin backed her explorations relationships and heartbreak and all the accompanying existential crises with a sound that rolled from folky Americana to urgent garage-rock bursts, both using a stripped-down set-up, band in a room getting it down-type vibes. On her excellent forthcoming third record Pre Pleasure, out at the end of this month on Transgressive, she colours it all in with sonic flourishes, an orchestra here and a barrage of distorted guitars there, everything tethered to Jacklin’s melodic touch. It’s her best record yet. A couple of weeks ago, Niall spoke to her over Zoom to hear about how it all came together.
Hi Julia, where are you at the moment?
I’m just in Melbourne, in the city.
It looks like a grey Monday there. How’s your day been?
It’s been OK, not great, not bad. Just an average Monday. I’ve been doing music admin stuff, posting on the internet to try and get people interested in the record, all that stuff.
Your new record is out in a few weeks. How’s this bit for you, the period just before it’s released?
It’s probably the worst part out of the whole thing, I wish it was just out and I could tour it. I’m looking forward to that. That’s in a month. I think if I keep that in my sights, it’ll be okay.
How does the finished record compare to what you had in your head at the start?Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever gone into making record with any kind of expectations, especially this one, because I wrote half of it while we were making it. I feel like this record in particular, when we finished it, it was just like, ‘oh, OK, this is what I made, cool’. It wasn’t exactly what I imagined but also I was just very open to the journey and for it to be what it needed to be, which is a relaxing way to be sometimes.
What was the most surprising thing to you about that journey?
I guess with this record, it was even just using a few different sonic elements which I’ve never used before, even as simple as a drum machine and then having an orchestra play on a couple of tracks. I didn’t really imagine that was gonna happen but it was the first time I’ve kind of been in an environment where that was possible and financially possible. They’re not usually things I’ve worked with before.
I love the strings on End Of A Friendship, they sound beautiful.
Yeah, I like that for a closer. Very, very epic.
Do your records all follow a similar process when you start them or is it different for each one?
It’s a different one every time I think, but also similar in that it’s pretty haphazard and there’s no real plan. I kind of just blocked in the recording time before I’d finished writing it, like I’ve done the last few times as well because otherwise, I don’t know if I’d ever make any records. But this one took a bit longer to write because of my brain slowing down, which I’m sure everybody understands over the last couple of years. It was just bits and pieces, bits and pieces and then I was in Canada and I spent about two weeks by myself in Toronto, dragging it all together. Then I went to Montreal, and it was pretty hard to finish, harder than the last two, I think.
What was the breakthrough moment?
I think the first breakthrough was writing Too In Love To Die, which was the first song I wrote for it. It was the first song I’d written in a long time, or first time I’d written from start to finish in a really long time. That was what started the whole process. It was a very warm environment in the studio, and relatively egoless. I think for the first couple of weeks, I was trying really hard to be very professional and arrive at the studio every day with plans and whatnot. But then you get closer to the people you’re working with and, eventually, it’s just like, ‘I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to do here, I just need this to feel like a lot more play, try and loosen it up a bit and experiment with stuff’. I think that’s when it started actually coming together, once I stopped pretending I knew exactly where it was going.
Lyrically, do you have an idea of what you’re going to write about across a record or does it happen on a song-by-song basis?
I think it’s a song-by-song basis. I think one day I’ll make some sort of concept record but most of the time, it’s just what I’m thinking about over a two-year span, nothing too planned in that regard. I think it’s actually quite hard to do press at this point, because I think I would prefer to press a year from now because I’d have a better understanding of what I made and why and what it actually all means. Sometimes it’s a bit hard at this point to really see from a higher perspective if there’s running themes or whatever.
It’s like when you interview an artist for an In The Studio piece and they’re so in the thick of it, they have no idea how to verbalise what’s happening.
Yeah, it makes me feel kind of stupid, because I think I feel like I should know exactly every intention I have and why I do everything because I guess that’s who you want to be. But yeah, I’m sure I’ll have much better answers a year from now.
Is that how it went with your first two records as you toured them?
Absolutely. I think a big difference between your first record and then all the ones coming after, my first record was played in front of people for years, I’d been playing those songs in the Sydney scene for years, and you just get more of a sense of what they are and nothing really surprises you. But once you actually start doing this, I don’t particularly like to play new songs in sets, I like to play them once they’re released but you don’t get to live in them and you don’t get to see how people respond to them. Sometimes I think crowd responses informs me what the song is and how it should be played, I think they can really transform on the road.
Which lyric on the record means the most to you?
A lot of the lyrics on Lydia Wears A Cross are special because I’ve never written about that period in my life.
Were you brought up Catholic? I went to a Catholic school and that track really captures the pious vibes of some of those places.
I went to a Catholic school but I wasn’t Catholic, it was just the easiest school for a mum to drop me and my sister off at because she worked at the high school. But yeah, I was definitely raised in a in a Catholic environment. It’s such a long time ago and not really an era that I think to write about, I usually focus more on my teens and 20s. It was kind of just fun to think back to being, like, eight, when I literally didn’t know what was going on.
What were you like as an eight-year-old? Were you well behaved?
I think so. I think I was quite quiet, I think I came out of my shell around 12 and had the classic rebellious teen years. But I can’t remember being eight, I asked my mum the other day and she said I was just quite serious, I was a serious kid. I took things very seriously.
When did you begin to love words?
Probably around that age. I read a lot as a kid. It was only in my late teens, early twenties that I thought about songs and using lyrics with my voice. I’ve always just been into reading and writing stuff, not music.
If you could click your fingers and instantly improve one thing about your job, what would it be?
I would like to not be online as much as I have to be. I wish I could be kind of invisible. I wish I could be a bit more of a mysterious person that nobody knows what I look like or something, just less visibility. And I’m not even that famous. But it’d be cool just to be able to focus on the music a bit more. But whatever, it’s not that bad.
When you finish one record, do you have any idea of where you might go next?
No, I finish a record and then I literally don’t pick up a guitar until I have to start touring it. And then I start writing the next one on the road, that’s usually how it goes. But I haven’t thought about it. I want the next one to be really good. But besides that, I haven’t thought about what it’s going to be.