25 Apr 2017

From The Stone Roses Bar to Valhalla Dale: in conversation with Jellyskin

Jellyskin are a Leeds three-piece that make pop from beyond the void. They self describe as "a long lost Stereolab/Suicide collaboration", and that certainly rings true on their new track Eater; a warped, frantic 2 minute burst that sounds like an underwater Ghost Rider. Dysphoric cosmic pop, Jellyskin create noises on guitars that shouldn't be possible, juxtaposed with the glacial vocals of Zia Larty-Healy. Fresh off supporting The Moonlandingz, I had a word with one of the most exciting upcoming musical outfits in the north.

First up, can ya tell me about the history of the band?
Will: Me and Zia met in a hallowed place in Leeds called The Stone Roses Bar, and then we started going out, and then we decided to start writing music together. We then enlisted the help of our best friend Olly on drums and now here we are.
Zia: We started practicing together in a practice room that was in our halls at uni. We did that for while then announced our existence in early summer with our first track Grey Glass Hat. We did our first show in September and have been gigging regularly ever since.

How long have you been together? 
Z: Since about Spring 2016, getting on for a year now, but we've been a lot more active since September.

How do you write your songs? Is it a collaborative process? 
W: There’s not a formula per se. Usually it starts off with a germ of an idea and we go from there. We tend to stick to writing for our instruments but that’s not a rule. Songs take quite a long time because we always tweak things and they usually take ages to perfect.
Z: We never rush the songwriting. It took a few months for us to get into the swing of things songwriting-wise because before the band we’d never really done much collaborative writing, and so it took a little while to sync but now we’ve got into the groove of things it’s really rewarding to write together.

Tell me a bit about your new song Eater... 
W: Well this is what we were saying about there being no formula. I wrote and recorded most of the music for this in a frantic night in August 2016 and we only dusted this off very recently. Zia then added her synth parts and wrote some lyrics and spread those heavenly vocals all over the track. I think that happened in just one night too…
Z: I loved the track Will recorded so much that I wanted my input to be perfect so I spent a couple of hours on my own recording and coming up with a melody, and I wanted my vocals to contrast with the heaviness of Will's guitars. I had a great time working on this song, I'm excited to play it more live.

What about its video? 
Z: I filmed a really short video of us watching Cosmonauts after we’d supported them and thought it’d be cool to use for a video because there were these mental white strobes going off all around. Will had the idea of having the three portrait videos either side. Then we found a new film maker, just out of college, who worked his film magic on it, adding some cool overlays and what have you. The minimalist style works really well with the minimalist track. He’s currently working on the video for our next single.

You say (nearly) every sound on Eater was made by a guitar. Obviously it sounds out of this world compared to a lotta guitar music you hear, so what pedals and effects do you use? 
W: Thank you very much! Basically, the chunky spasm-y noises at the start that sound like psychotic drums are all down to an MXR Blue Box, which is a manic octave fuzz pedal. It's a totally unique pedal in that it really depends on what guitar you use, what amp you use, where it is in the chain etc - it's quite a reactive pedal so you can squeeze some very un-guitarlike noises out of it. The majority of the fuzz is an EHX Bass Big Muff, the reason I use a Bass Mig Muff is because it sounds huge and it’s got more snarl than the normal Big Muff. There are some little bits of distortion as well courtesy of a Caline Crazy Cat which is cheap as chips but is an amazing pedal. At the moment, a lot of the tones I’m using are either completely clean or with some fuzz. It’s easy to get lured into playing with loads of delay and reverb and distortion all the time, but your actual playing tends to suffer because of this. Using no effects means that everything you play has to be completely considered and fill the space well, especially when there’s only two melody instruments like with us. I’ve got quite an ostentatious pedalboard at the moment, but I try and use my effects wisely, playing mostly clean or fuzzy a la Sterling and Lou means that when you do whack in some weird effect, it’s much more noticeable and effective (see what I did there?). I’m conscious I’ve just written out a short manifesto for you there so apologies for that, but it’s what all the fans want to hear I suppose.

What was it like playing with The Moonlandingz? 
W: It was quite surreal playing in such a huge venue and to that many people. We always have a great time at our shows but half of the time there aren’t huge amounts of people so playing a show like that was brilliant.
Z: We had a great time, a few of our friends came up to watch us and the sound was great. It was probably our favourite gig. The atmosphere was amazing and the audience were really receptive, which was so refreshing. It’s the first time we’ve supported anyone that we’re genuinely huge fans of, so that was exciting.

What's your best story from being in a band so far? 
Z: Probably supporting The Moonlandingz at such an iconic venue (The Leadmill), it was our biggest show to date, it was our first show outside of Leeds, so it ticked off quite a few firsts!
W: Hans-Joachim Irmler from Faust followed us on Twitter the other day which is pretty cool …
Olly: Getting a bottle of white wine on our rider once… usually it’s just lager…

What are your hopes for the future of the band? 
W: We want to carry on doing this. We’re releasing an EP in a few months so we want that to come off really well.
Z: We want to carry on forever, just playing music. We’re playing our first couple of festivals soon (Live At Leeds, and UnFest in Tunbridge Wells) but we want to do more, doing some summer festivals is a big dream. We’d also love to do a proper tour.

What are you listening to at the minute? Any musical recommendations? 
W: A wonderful wonderful song called Foxx and I by The Magnetic Fields which is set to be the sound of our summer. It’s one of those perfect, wistful, poignant songs. Amazing. I’m also listening to a lot of this ambient pioneer called Midori Takada who is phenomenal, she’s worth a listen for sure. Kevin Ayers is also on heavy rotation. Also, our friends Mysteron have an EP out and that’s essential listening. But if you’re going to listen to anything, listen to it, and then listen to SEALAND.
Z: I’ve loved Goldfrapp all my life and their new album doesn’t disappoint, it’s brilliant that they’ve gone back to their electronic roots. I’m also listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Shamen. Leftfield are always in my headphones, me and Will are going to see them in May and it’s going to be absolutely incredible.
O: Sun Kil Moon and Joeyfat from Tunbridge Wells are great.

You can catch Jellyskin at Live at Leeds next week, or see their facebook for info on more shows.

(Words: Cal Cashin)