Written by Candace Fernandez
As I traverse the mountainous horizon of my apartment’s splintered sidewalk, I find comfort in the indecision that speckles my longing for a furry, withered dandelion. While I ponder which earth-born stubble will suit my afternoon temperament, my gaze is soothed by an indulgence in the irresolution of which flower to pluck. Despite their illusion of similarity, the pull of their true variance binds me to a purgatory of curiosity. Undecided between the floret of half corroded ivory tufts and the authoritative, long-stemmed flower I painfully opt for my interest’s former, a choice that fails to untangle me from the perplexity of indecision.
Alike the fixity of choice that belies a dandelion’s harvest, questions of genre often reduce music to lone melodic characteristic. For the duo Jockstrap, there lies a resistance to restricting their sound to adjectival turmoil. Bound by a stylistic dimensionality that ventures between electronic club synths to hardcore vocals and jazz polyrhythms, the English pair escapes the confines of genre by remaining authentic to the complexity of their experimental inclinations.
First formed in 2017 at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, the musical project’s Georgia Ellery was studying jazz while Taylor Skye was a student of electronic sound. Together, the duo comprises an amalgamation of expertise, as Ellery provides guitar, violin and the majority of vocals to the project while Skye contributes a talent in the synthesizer, keyboard and musical production. From their first release in 2018 for the EP Love is the Key to the City, works such as Lost My Key in the <3 Club <3, Wicked City, Beavercore and I Love You Jennifer B have followed, an evolution in musical composition that has sonically uninhibited them from the timidity that overshadows their early tracks.
As I stand outside the Fonda Theatre anxiously awaiting their L.A. show, this newly strengthened lack of inhibition is made clear. The covert autonomy inhabited by the line of people newly surrounding me reflects a form of self-connection that sole adornment fails to capture. As I enter the venue’s artificially lit candelabra covered walls, I can’t seem to pin down the individuals around me, a reality of expressive multiplicity that dually affirms I’m here to see Jockstrap. Without an opener, my friend and I venture to the venue’s rooftop as our own self-made prelude, admiring the glittering lights until we feel the vibration of the bass’ waves begin to move within us: a sensation that informs us the show is about to begin.
After rejoining the crowd, the crimson curtains lift as if we are here to see a musical. Maybe that isn’t too far off, as the coming performance leans on a journey of emotionality that is both subdued and intense. As the pair enters the stage, their opening isn’t overtly grand. Skye is dressed in an unpretentious white long sleeve paired with a black beanie while Ellery opts for a delicate ensemble, as her pastorally sequined top and skirt contrast with the industrial intensity explored in many of their songs.
As they open with “Debra,” the duo draws attention to themes of love and grief, for Ellery softly affirms that “grief is just love with nowhere to go” with a tone that’s sentimentality is reminiscent of a ballad. As the song progresses, I find myself transfixed by Skye’s idyllic keyboard playing and Ellery’s vocal range, a blissful variety I failed to find in their digital tracks. As Ellery’s vocal power transforms the theatre into a divine space, Jockstrap’s hypnotic expression softens the turmoil of their audience’s interiority, as their consciousness is extended beyond their perceptive control and into the palms of the duo’s melodic sway.
As the tempo builds and the song comes to inhabit the upbeat nature of its second half, the complexity of Jockstrap’s sound begins to be revealed, for an emotionally mesmerizing ballad effortlessly unwinds into an electro-pop track that leaves both Ellery and the crowd unconsciously dancing to its metamorphosis. This transformative capability for musical rejuvenation is intensified through “Neon” and “Concrete Over Water,” as Ellery joins Skye in instrumented expression, for she utilizes a guitar and violin to further escalate these already labyrinthine tracks. Throughout “Concrete Over Water,” Jockstrap’s industrial potential is exposed, as the euphonious nature of Ellery’s voice is directly superimposed upon by a hissing electronic melody and a sequence of staccato vocalization’s that are suggestive of a dog’s bark.
While I expected the show to peak with the performance of “Robert,” I found myself more deeply entranced by “Greatest Hits.” As I watched the vigor of the audience become renewed by Ellery’s lyrical yearning to know the depths of another’s inner life, the song’s tension between a desire to completely understand another’s emotional experience and the inability to ever exist within it drew me in. As she pines for this person “to know what [she] knows in [her] mind,” she also wishes “to see what [they] see through [their] eyes,” a symbiotic ambition that illuminates the impenetrable rift that forever underlies emotional connection. Yet, the unrefined passion and incongruous beats that overlay the song offers another possibility, as the absurdity of its expression suppose that while human life is incapable of dissolving the bounds of their consciousness for another’s perceptive aspiration, a recognition for the reality of senselessness within us all may relocate a pathway for emotive symbiosis within the irrationality of sensibility.
As the show came to a close and we made our way out of the theatre, I couldn’t help but wish for it to be immortally prolonged. Despite my dreams for extension directly following their performance, the days that followed it left me lost in a new reverie. As I moved through my daily walk amidst the fractured stretch of my neighborhood’s sidewalk, I sensed the typical pull of my inner longing for the pool of waning, wispy dandelions. Yet as I routinely pondered which floret to select, my hand surprised me with a quick, unthinking grasp. Newly reminded of the boundless multiplicity whirling within all life, Jockstrap’s show liberated me from the pressure of indecision by re-illuminating the dimensionality pulsing throughout everything. As I exhaled and released the dandelion of its cotton-candy fur, I noticed Jockstrap’s “Glasgow” swiftly running through my mind, a reminiscence that colored my aural sense as I watched each seed resist confinement, fearlessly journeying through the sky in search of a new horizon.