Jesca Hoop is a Californian singer, currently based in Manchester, England. Fresh from releasing The House That Jack Built in June 2012 and an acoustic version of her debut album Kismet in January 2013, she has recently supported I Am Kloot on their sold-out UK tour. David Brown from Louder Than War caught up with her before her show at The Junction in Cambridge to find out a little bit more about her.
Could you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and how you ended up in the UK?
I’m from California originally. I’m a Northern Californian person. I started my musical career in Los Angeles and I’ve been an independent artist since the beginning, releasing records since 2007 and releasing them independently since 2007. I chose to move from Los Angeles to Manchester about three years ago and I did that as a result of touring with Elbow and getting to know England a bit and deciding to work a smaller market more intensely. And so, like I said I’ve released two records here independently. My first record, Kismet, I didn’t release in this country, but I’ve just released an acoustic version of that record called The Complete Kismet Acoustic.
What inspires to you to write? Your songs have some interesting subject matter. On the last album, The House That Jack Built, there’s a song called Hospital which is about a child who gets attention by harming themselves?
Or enjoys the attention they get from being harmed. I like to write about things that cause me to think and cause me to feel, things that stir my curiosity. I also like to write about things that are a common thread between people. Although we don’t all share that feeling, I think it’s more common than we acknowledge, whether it’s that a person is really attracted to the drama or the pain or whatever. The self-harmer can manifest itself in many different ways. I tend to write about things that do anything but put me to sleep, a counter-balance to the overall mediocrity of songwriting at large these days.
Do you have your stories as lyrics already or do you write the music first and then put lyrics to it?
It’s different every time. I have reoccurring themes, but I don’t have a set process and I like to be surprised by a new approach in an organic kind of passing through the hours in the day.
Do you take that approach out when you play live as well? I’ve seen you several times and it’s been different each time in terms of the way you look, the set up of your band. Is that to keep it more exciting and fresh?
I would say nerve-wracking more than exciting. I try to be in the moment, but not completely. I think it’s good to have structure that helps you put on a show without a hitch, and that’s the only thing that’s important to me. The only thing I put in place are certain cornerstones to the show and relaxing enough to connect with the audience, that’s the most important thing.
You released The House That Jack Built last year. Are there plans to do another album soon – you played a new song last night?
There’s a new record in the works right now, but it’s too soon to tell plans about it. We released two records recently, The House That Jack Built last June and Kismet acoustic in January, so that’s two albums.
What was the thinking of redoing the first album?
It’s not a redo. It’s just another version, but it isn’t a redo, because when you have the studio, there’s all sorts of experimentation and all sorts of applications you can apply to the songs and when you bring them to the live venue, the very practicality of the live performance kicks in and the limitations of travelling with your music, the arrangement has to decipher itself very clearly. The way we were able to tour that record was with two guitars and three voices and the response was great and that facilitated a whole different approach to the songs. So we decided to capture them that way as well. In no way do I want people to see it as a redo.
Is that something you would look at doing again? Say with Hunting My Dress?
Yes, in the way that you can give a new approach to the songs through recording and capturing them live. That’s what The Complete Kismet Acoustic is, it’s a live rendering of the songs and we consider doing that with Hunting My Dress and The House That Jack Built.
Once this tour’s over and with a new record in the pipeline, are you going back in the studio or staying out on the road. Or is it the end of the promotion cycle for The House That Jack Built?
I’m touring The House That Jack Built all through this summer while I prepare for the next release. That’s firstly in the United States and European festivals and I’m touring with Shuggie Otis and going to South by South West and playing some independent shows on the West Coast in April.
You did the gigs in London and Manchester with a band, but the shows in Brighton and tonight in Cambridge are solo. What’s the reason behind that?
With a tour support it’s difficult to carry a band round, you have to do what’s practical. The playing solo has been quite appropriate in most of the venues. Seated venues and also very reverberant. With the band in a church like Brighton last night could have been problematic. I was quite relieved to be playing on my own and showcase something a little different.
Jesca Hoop released her third single off The House That Jack Built “Ode To Banksy” on March 4th. She plays the following UK dates :
Wednesday April 10 – Manchester Takk
Thursday April 11 – London St John’s Church, Bethnal Green
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here