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Why This Album Wasn't Exactly A Blank Slate For Jess Locke

3 November 2017 | 6:13 pm | Jessica Dale

"It's like a bit of a team so that's certainly new compared to how I've been doing things before."

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"Melbourne based sad pop" - that's the description Jess Locke uses to describe herself and her music on her Instagram account. It's an interesting introduction for someone who, when chatting, is actually quite upbeat.

In 2017, Locke has toured extensively (both in her own band and as a touring member with fellow Melburnians The Smith Street Band), she announced her signing to Pool House Records and released her latest album, Universe, which at the time of writing was happily sitting in a Top 20 spot on the AIR Independent Music Charts.

"It's nice to finally get it out and [it's] real, you didn't just imagine it. It's been really nice, some nice feedback and it's been great to just be able to finally share it," explains Locke.

When asked if it's somewhat of a relief, she agrees. "A bit of a relief, definitely. Although there's still a lot of work to do but definitely, it's a lot of it coming to realisation so that's nice but it's also exciting, I guess, now we can actually [know] people are hearing and getting responses and stuff so that's exciting as well.

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"I guess this album is sort of a collection of songs that were written over quite a long period of time. So it's not so much about one thing or like it going in a particular direction in terms of songwriting but I think I started playing with my current band just after I released my last record and I think that sort of feels like this record is the sum of playing with them for the last two years and kind of ties all the songs together. Some of the songs are quite old, some of them are newer but yeah, it's kind of just like tying it all together."

The older songs Locke refers to are pieces that have been sitting in her back catalogue for the past few years, some of which she chose to re-record to better fit the album.

"I think I kind of gave it something different. Yeah, there's one song — the first one on the album — I recorded it at least six years ago or something. It was way more lo-fi, folky kind of vibe and we sort of just started playing it with the band and I dunno, I think it just felt like kind of a new song so I just decided to re-do it.

"I guess I've always had a bit of a backlog of songs and you know, not really having recorded them properly and just feeling like I haven't really done them justice so I was trying to put them down to move on. I guess I've never really sat down and wrote an album from scratch with a blank slate. It's just always been like 'oh yeah, I've got that song. I really want to get that down'. It's always just kind of bringing it all together and trying to do something with them so I can free my mind of them and move on."

She laughs when asked if there's still a few songs hanging around that could be used for the next album. "Ohh, yeah," exaggerates Locke. "I think there's always songs I'd like to do something with but I actually would just like to sit down and try writing from a different perspective and sit down and a write an album as a project in itself rather than just sort of a collection of songs. There's definitely always songs that I still want to do something with so I just have to find a place for them."

This album has also presented Locke with a new home in Pool House Records - a new Australian label run by her friends and sometimes bandmates The Smith Street Band.

"It's been great - pretty much very similar to how we've done things in the past; having lots of control over the recording and doing it in a house, we did it at the local pub as well, but obviously being with Pool House there's a lot more people involved, so there's been a lot of support and constantly talking with people. It's like a bit of a team so that's certainly new compared to how I've been doing things before. It's sort of the same but different."

This month sees Locke and her band heading off around the country in celebration of Universe, something she's looking forward to.

"I think it's the biggest tour we've ever done... and we're going to some small places that we don't usually visit or haven't played at all in some cases, like Perth and Wollongong, so that's great. I think it'll be great. It's nice to put on our own shows and we've picked a bunch of bands that we love to play with us as well, so hopefully people can just expect to have a nice time and see a bunch of different music."