Georgia Ellery

When I catch up with Georgia, it’s 2pm on a Friday and she’s in Farringdon, where she lives with her brother, making soup.

Despite being in her early 20s, Ellery is in two acclaimed bands (Jockstrap and Black Country, New Road) and has starred in a film hailed by Mark Kermode as ‘a genuine modern masterpiece.’

I’m interviewing her in advance of the release of Jockstrap’s second EP, Wicked City, coming out next week. Jockstrap is a duo consisting of Georgia and her classmate Taylor Skye, both in their final year at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Georgia is a jazz violinist; Taylor studies electronic music. After writing the songs, Georgia passes them on to Taylor, who does all of the production; the music they make has been described as a smash-up of ‘vintage pop balladry and electronic insanity’.

Ellery thinks the reason Jockstrap’s style is so hard to pin down is due to her and Taylor’s hugely varied musical influences, which range from classical to dubstep and brostep. “Those influences are so deeply embedded that something’s gonna come out, and then later on we’re like, oh that sounds like that, or that came from there.”

Jockstrap were recently signed to Warp Records, the legendary label behind various Aphex Twin albums, as well as releases by experimental artists such as Danny Brown, and Yves Tumor. Does Georgia consider Jockstrap’s music to be experimental? “I think our songwriting process is experimental… We don’t try and pigeonhole sounds or ourselves into a genre... Every time we come together, we always try and push our creative minds to get somewhere unheard and new. That’s where the joy is for us.”

“Taylor says he tends to not even listen to the lyrics. He finds his own emotional song within it – or the expression within it. And makes his production as emotive as it would be if he were starting a song. If he were writing a song.”

I ask her if this is why the palette of sounds used can often seem lighthearted, even when discussing serious themes. At the end of recent single ‘The City’, there’s a passage from the Kathy Acker novel Blood and Guts in High School over an almost comic beat, full of squeaky drops and crackling, distorted bass. (The novel contains themes of human trafficking and incest.)  “With the Acker passage at the end we actually laid the vocals over the top after he’d made the beat. So it was just totally disconnected.”

Why that book? “ I just loved that book… such strong imagery in that particular passage. And I don’t know, maybe it’s a fascination. I think it’s so great, this sort of child-like imagery, but dealing with complex emotions that Janey in the novel doesn’t understand. This plays out – this fairytale scene, this horrendously brutal and incestuous scene – in her head. It was just visually very clear to me.”

 "Half the tracks were written post-breakdown, so that’s where that theme comes from. Just feeling totally ungrounded. And mad…"

What were her inspirations for the upcoming Jockstrap EP, Wicked City? “In the second EP, I tried to write about men, because the first EP was kind of all about women,” Georgia muses. She mentions being influenced by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and, as with the Acker novel, being drawn to the perverse imagery.

On themes: “...demise of sanity, especially in the City and City Hell. Half the tracks were written post-breakdown, so that’s where that theme comes from. Just feeling totally ungrounded. And mad… Definitely marks a place and time, the EP.” She doesn’t elucidate further.

Ellery lists Elton John and Joni Mitchell as songwriting inspiration – her vocals on this EP especially taking inspiration from the latter. “And then in the production, Taylor went back to his dubstep roots and he put a lot of that in it. The growling, monster-like themes in the music.”

I ask her who her dream collaboration would be. “Sunn O))),” she replies. “I loooooove drone metal.”

Jockstrap ended up touring with leftfield hip hop trio Injury Reserve last year after meeting them at Iceland Airwaves festival. “We actually took their soundcheck. And that’s how they ended up discovering us. We played before them, and then they played and it fucking popped off.”

Georgia makes all the riotous Jockstrap videos herself, frequently starring in them too. They feel frivolous and are a lot fun to watch – this is in stark contrast to her serious performing style with other band Black Country New Road, I suggest.

“In the previous band we all stood behind a frontman, who was very much centre-stage. So when we reformed as Black Country, New Road we’re all still acting as the backing band. Kind of stuck.” She’s talking about Nervous Conditions, a band which most of the members of BC, NR used to be a part of. In 2018, they disbanded after the lead singer was accused of sexual assault.

Ellery in the video for 'I Want Another Affair (Taylor Skye Remix)Youtube/Jockstrap

Does someone need to take the lead, I wonder. “We all feel like because no one’s really performing, it’s strength in numbers – we all sort of merge into one performer. I mean, I don’t know how the rest of the band feel but that’s how I feel about it. And my mum goes, why don’t you just smile more? You just need to smile, you look SO grumpy…The music doesn't beg for smiling. You know?”

Black Country, New Road are associated with a hotbed of London talent which revolves around the Windmill in Brixton, and Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label, including  bands such as Black Midi and Squid. “We were all kind of friends before it all kicked off. Supported each other. Either way round, just as things were starting. Like at the Windmill and stuff like that. It’s just been really nice to grow alongside each other,” Georgia explains.

We talk about her film, Bait, directed by Mark Jenkin, which won a BAFTA in the category Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, as well as being nominated for Outstanding British Film. How did she end up getting involved?

“We lived in Penzance. I went to school with his stepson who is my love interest in the film. So we grew up together… I remember Mark coming to see mine and Isaac’s amateur dramatics, plays in the town hall… We did alright in Beauty and the Beast! And he drew in lots of different local creative people, people he knew and he asked me to be in it and of course I said yes. I had no idea what I was getting involved with.”

 “I had no idea. It kind of became real when we watched the premier at the  BFI, and I was just like, FUCK it’s so good!

Jenkin is obviously a very ambitious director (the entire film was shot on a vintage camera, with 16mm monochrome film). Did Georgia ever lose faith? “We had to get up really early and sometimes it would be rainy and cold… there weren't a lot of people helping, sometimes you were dragged into holding lights and stuff like that.” There were no monitors or screens on set, Georgia explains. “...You had no idea what it was looking like because it was all in Mark’s head.”

“But it was great,” she adds, “I had no idea. It kind of became real when we watched the premier at the  BFI, and I was just like, FUCK it’s so good!… It’s not too much of an angry message and it’s relatable all over the world… kind of timeless.”

Would she work on another film? “Yeah totally! Waiting for the… Kind of had an opportunity but… gotta concentrate on music at the moment. But if another indie comes along, yeah. Fuck yeah. Do it.”

Coronavirus has seriously affected her plans – Ellery tells me both bands were meant to be touring this autumn. “I’m doing some collaborative things,” she says, when I ask about what she’s up to in lockdown. “Got a Late Junction session coming out on the 29th (of May), with an exciting collaborator (who, since the interview, has been revealed to be Jamie xx). And preparing for the Jockstrap release. Because we can’t tour, we’re planning some other, virtual things.”


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Basically, everything you’ve done has been critically acclaimed, I say. Is that because you are very selective about what you choose to work on? Or do you just have a golden touch? Georgia umms and ahhs and seems relieved when I move on.

Later in the day, she emails me to reply.

“Actually, I think I’m drawn to play with musicians that have the touch. We have really great management teams that facilitated all these amazing opportunities and projects. They work very hard to push the music we make and it wouldn’t have happened without the support of those people.”

It’s still early days in Georgia’s career – I hope her future projects retain the ‘touch’.

Wicked City EP by Jockstrap is out 5th June.

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