INTERVIEW: Jesca Hoop | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Born and raised in a Mormon family in California; breaking away and turning to music as a teen; nannying for Tom Waits in her early twenties… Jesca Hoop’s backstory may be compelling, yet her path into ears, hearts and record collections has been far from linear. “It’s a natural course of things,” she supposes, speaking from her adopted base in Manchester. “Some people adapt quite easily to school, but I never felt like I fitted. I tried getting jobs in run-of-the-mill paces and stuck out like a sore thumb. I’m not alone in that, but I feel like an outsider for sure.”

Perhaps inevitably, it’s a disposition that’s reflected vividly in her music; a playful, peculiar, often unrecognisable craft which over the course of 15 years has won this most idiosyncratic of songwriters a staunch cult following. “My particular nature takes over whenever I try to operate within a certain style,” she confesses. “I could try to write a country song – and sometimes I do – but I become disillusioned when I start to copy, and that’s what genre is: people copying each other. I want to hear something which bends things more than a genre might allow.”

I’m going into the iridescence of these conflicts, the hard facts of life which are never black and white

Clearly, this instinct has served her well across her six albums to date, each of which has ensnared a fresh, intrigued clutch of followers. September’s Order of Romance has proved no exception. Produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Aldous Harding) with horn and string arrangements provided by This Is The Kit’s Jess Vernon, the new record is arguably her most accomplished and certainly most intricate to date, traits Jesca attributes to an unusually concentrated gestation period. “Order of Romance feels very ordered to me,” she notes. “I’ve played with jazzier sounds, rowdy pop aesthetics… but in this incarnation they’re not as disjointed. It feels more ‘of season’, rather than written over decades.”

Although she maintains that fans attending this month’s Sage Gateshead show can anticipate a heart-warming affair (“great for the winter months!”), one of the record’s key binding agents is its fearless commitment to addressing weighty topics head-on. At its heart are themes such as climate change, religious toxicity and gun control, each expertly juxtaposed by bright, joyful melodies as on the likes of Hatred Has A Mother and I Was Just 14.

“I’d like to write songs which don’t have any meaning, but there’s a lot of noise in the world and I tend to become obsessed with topics. I need to write about things I’m engaged with, and people in my life were responding to world events in a way which showed me what to focus on – or at least gave fodder for investigation.” Crucially, and in typical Jesca Hoop fashion, the album’s outlook is anything but opaque – a slant she seemingly regards as something of an anathema. “Who needs that? It’s so boring!” She protests. “I’m going into the iridescence of these conflicts, the hard facts of life which are never black and white. There’s so much complexity and beauty to be drawn from every subject, and the last thing I want to do is dumb them down. It’s about getting into the overtones and undertones, while still leaving something for your imagination.”

Jesca Hoop plays Sage Gateshead on Friday 25
th November.

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