It’s almost two years since London-based indie-goths Desperate Journalist released their critically-acclaimed sophomore outing Grow Up. On the eve of the release of their much-anticipated third album In Search of the Miraculous, Underscore Part 3 caught up with the band’s singer and lyricist Jo Bevan to discuss art, hope, juggling life’s competing demands and the search for the sublime.
Hi Jo, how are you? Thanks for talking to us, where are we chatting to you from and what are your plans with the day?
‘[Today I’m] practising at home for our Facebook Live event which is on Wednesday [20th].’
I’m currently groggily sipping tea at my day job at a print gallery in central London. I’m planning on really administrating some serious arts today. And then practising at home for our Facebook Live event which is on Wednesday.
A lot is made of the pressures for bands in following up a debut album yet Grow Up was a stunning collection that brought you wider attention in the UK and beyond. How have you gone about conceiving new album In Search of the Miraculous and has it felt like the success of its predecessor has put you under extra pressure to deliver? ‘The new album is also quite different in tone so I don’t think it’s too easily comparable.’
Thank you. I don’t feel particular pressure to deliver due to the success of Grow Up – we always want to make sure we do our best and put everything into everything we do, regardless. The new album is also quite different in tone so I don’t think it’s too easily comparable.
The video promo for the first single from the album Cedars continues your long standing creative relationship with the director Jason Weidner. How has this managed to stand the test of time so well? To what extent is it a collaborative process between you, or an intuitive one?
Jason is very talented, has a great eye for cinematography and is extremely patient. Usually we will have just the kernel of an idea for videos or a very vague concept but he understands our “vibe” so well that he’s always able to communicate something visually that fits with the song.
You have referenced the artist Bas Jan Ader with the title of the album and in the songs Ocean Wave and International Waters. What particular resonance does his work have in relation to the themes within the album? Are we reading too much significance into Ader having effectively died for his art?
‘I felt in starting this new chapter in my life I was mirroring the Bas Jan Ader’s search for the Sublime.’
The idea of his life becoming his art, and his leap of faith in sailing such a small craft across the Atlantic Ocean, resonated with me in my own personal situation at the time. I’m very self-important, so I felt in starting this new chapter in my life I was mirroring the artist’s search for the Sublime.
Jo, you have suggested that Cedars, and the album more generally, concerns itself with the internal conflicts created by hope. Tell us more about what you mean, and how do those emotions sit on the cusp of releasing a new collection of songs to the outside world?
‘There has to be the chance for something to go wrong in order for it to be rewarding when it goes right, which I suppose fits the whole theme of this record.’
That song in particular is about overthinking: when you’re feeling generally content, but there are these niggling worries that the anxious brain latches on to; eg that you’re past it, or your happiness isn’t real, etc etc. This is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, though happily it seems a lot better now than it used to be. I read an article the other day which said something along the lines of “hope requires a little bit of fear” – i.e., there has to be the chance for something to go wrong in order for it to be rewarding when it goes right, which I suppose fits the whole theme of this record, and could also apply to how we’re feeling about releasing it. I’m excited, and really looking forward to people hearing it because I think it’s the best thing we’ve done, but of course there’s the slight anxiety that no fucker else likes it.
Some of the songs from In Search of the Miraculous have begun to feature in your live set since the end of last year. How has it felt to share the new songs with your audience for the first time and what has the reception been like?‘
Playing live with Charley has been really thrilling – even more of a wall of guitars.’
We always find playing new stuff more exciting and thankfully the response has been very good. Also, playing live with Charley has been really thrilling – even more of a wall of guitars.
The Wedding Present have been very supportive of Desperate Journalist and you have developed something of a shared fan base. How did that relationship develop and what did you take from your time heading out on the road together?
I’m sorry to say that we don’t really know each other! We all like the band, but we weren’t on the road together really, we just played a couple of sets in support. Because we all work full time and had to arrive quite close to the wire/leave shortly after playing, sadly we didn’t get too much opportunity to hang out with the Wedding Present beyond the standard hellos.
After playing at Dot To Dot and At The Edge of the Sea in 2018, what festival appearances are lined up for Desperate Journalist this year?
At the moment we are planning to do some European festivals in the summer – Koppelpop in the Netherlands and W-Fest in Belgium – but may have more to announce as the year progresses.
Can we expect to hear even more of the new songs on the UK tour this Spring, and will fans be treated to an extended set now that you have popular material from three albums to include?
‘We will be playing more new songs on this tour.’
We will be playing more new songs on this tour, but we haven’t fully finalised the set yet!
Finally, at Underscore Part 3 we are always endeavouring to highlight good new music and upcoming bands for our readers to discover. What artists are exciting you with their new output right now?
The new These New Puritans stuff, they’ve gone all percussive and Coil-y again which I love. Also TVAM. And the new Drenge songs are great but I love pretty much everything they do anyway.
Desperate Journalist’s new album In Search of The Miraculous is released on 22 February on the Fierce Panda label.
Questions Iain Dalgleish.