LONG WAIT: Jess Locke’s second album Universe features songs written over the past five years by the Central Coast indie-folk musician.
THERE were days when Jess Locke punched out songs in her bedroom and simply uploaded them to music sharing sites.
It provided instant gratification, and most importantly, taught the Avoca Beach-raised indie-folk musician how to write songs.
That was 2009. Fast forward to a month ago and the Melbourne-based Locke releasedher secondalbum, Universe, and her first on the Smith Street Band’s label Pool House Records.
“I used to just record things on my laptop mike,” Locke said.“It was about having the need to put something down and out into the world, maybe a few people would hear it.
“It was a start, now it’s a much more organised process, rather than recording a song and posting it on the internet that night. There’s a year recording and mixing and planning a promo.
“It’s a longer process, but a broader reach and hopefully I’ll have more people hear it. Obviously I have more people involved. It’s not me in my bedroom anymore.”
While Universe is Locke’s second album, following 2015’sWords That Seem to Slip Away, it feels like a debut.
Jess Locke – Drive To DrinkWith the backing of a band, the record is morerealised and has already taken Locke’s vulnerable and conversational tunes to a greater audience.
“We’ve been playing them together for three years, some of the songs anyway, so it’s doesn’t feel too sudden for me,” Locke said.
“But in terms of releasing, if you look at the last release, it’s definitely a big step.
“My head has been in the process for a few years, but stepping back it’s bit of a marker and a pretty big development.”
There’s a beautiful contrast on Universe. Locke’s sweet vocals are reminiscent on The Howling Bells’ Juanita Stein, while musically there’s touches of Courtney Barnett and Angel Olsen.
Musically the arrangements are simplistic and almost poppy, but there’s a darkness permeating in the lyrics.
Particularly on the domestic violence-themed Violent Turn and rehashed opener Drive To Drink.
The latter originally appeared on Locke’s 2011 EP Skins, but is given the full band treatment on Universe.
“Honestly it was one of those things where my drummer suggested it,” she said of revisiting DriveTo Drink.
“We had a jam of it and it just worked. I felt like there was something, as we played it as a band, that felt new and made it a different song in a way. In that format it hadn’t been realised.
“After a few years it’s been given a new life.”
Universe had a lengthy gestation period. The majority of the album was written across five years before it wasrecorded in the bandroom of the Reverence Hotel in Footscray and inSmith Street Band bassistMichael Fitzgerald’s parent’s house.
Finally free of this batch, Locke plans to beginwriting the next album.
“This one has been such a slow build from over the years, it’s been awhile since I sat down and wrote,” Locke said.“I’m actually excited about that.”
Jess Locke plays at the Lass O’Gowrie Hotel on Thursday.