Jockstrap: The music duo defying description

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Holly Whitaker

Goldsmiths College in London has some pretty famous former music students. Mercury-winner James Blake went there, Blur were formed there (though they were called Seymour at the time) and other well-known graduates include the Velvet Underground’s John Cale and Placebo’s Brian Molko.

It’s also the birthplace of the uniquely-named duo Jockstrap (be careful searching it on Google).

“I like the fact that it’s quite shocking,” says singer and violinist Georgia Ellery, who is studying for a degree in jazz music and is one half of the band. “But it’s quite anonymous.

“I don’t think people really think it’s me and Taylor behind it. It’s just a bit of fun, really.

“Also, there was no Jockstrap on Spotify.”

Ellery met electronic music student Taylor Skye a little over a year ago and began making music which defies categorisation. Mixing strings, electronic beats, samples and flutes, with a bit of French new wave thrown in for good measure, thanks to Ellery’s half-whispered lyrics – delivered in the style of French wave ingénue.

“We didn’t say, ‘Oh we want it to sound like this or that’, we just wanted to see what came out,” she says. “We just had what we had in our experience, which was a lot of classical music for me, loads of electronic music and the degrees that we’re studying, I guess.”

“We also both like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and James Blake quite a lot,” adds Skye.

“And songwriters like Joni Mitchell,” agrees Ellery. “I guess the two worlds kind of joined together.”

The band’s standout track Hayley was inspired by a Louis Theroux documentary about sex workers in the USA while Skye’s remix of their track I Want Another Affair takes a swing past the Balearics with its Italian house piano riff.

Jockstrap played their first show in east London late last year, roping in some of their Goldsmiths fellow students on strings (playing gratis) but have already notched up shows in Europe, with one in Paris being one of their favourites and a memorable gig in the north Atlantic.

“Back in October we played Iceland Airwaves [festival],” says Ellery. “We found out from Nadine Shah who came and watched the gig that Bjork was actually watching our gig as well.

“Apparently, she had been watching Tierra Whack who wasn’t even playing at the same venue as us. So there was no reason for her to come other than to see us. That’s crazy.”

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Getty Images

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Jockstrap fan Bjork

Like Bjork, Jockstrap’s live shows are often challenging, with Skye’s distorted synthesizers and live-in-the-moment remixing.

Despite Ellery’s almost constant dancing, the shifts in tone and tempo, combined with the chopping and changing of beats and rhythms can make for an often discombobulating experience.

Their set at The Great Escape in Brighton in May ended with an audience who seemed hesitant to clap, appearing unsure as to whether the band had actually finished playing.

At one point, one of the band members appeared to be playing a games console.

“We’re all improvising musicians. So we’ll like take solos and stuff and it’s bit more free,” says Ellery – who has occasionally popped up playing violin for Goat Girl, another of BBC News’ Newbie Tuesday artists.

“To make it an enjoyable thing, we use exactly the same drum samples from the recordings,” says Skye. “The synth I use is the same so it’s just pushing and pulling between making people feel comfortable who know the songs and maybe pushing them a bit.”

Ellery and Skye released their debut EP, Lost My Key In The Club, in April this year but new music may be just around the corner. The pair have been “a bit bogged down with schoolwork” of late but said they would use the summer to work on some new tracks.

Skye even submitted remixes of Jockstrap tracks as part of his coursework and the band say they’ve been leaning on their university pals for more free sessions.

“We’ve recorded loads of strings,” says Ellery. “We just picked our friends and asked them to come and they played for free.”

Enjoy it while it lasts Jockstrap, if past graduates of your school are anything to go by, the freebies won’t last much longer.

Better call Bjork.

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