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Julia Jacklin, Black Belt Eagle Scout @ Swedish American Hall

Noise Pop Presents
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Swedish American Hall

2174 Market Street

San Francisco, CA 94114

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Julia Jacklin, Black Belt Eagle Scout
About this Event

About this Event

Julia Jacklin

The second full-length album from Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, Crushing embodies every possible meaning of its title word. It’s an album formed from sheer intensity of feeling, an in-the-moment narrative of heartbreak and infatuation. And with her storytelling centered on bodies and crossed boundaries and smothering closeness, Crushing reveals how our physical experience of the world shapes and sometimes distorts our inner lives.

“This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like I never had any space of my own,” says the Melbourne-based artist. “For a long time I felt like my head was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B, and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.”

The follow-up to her 2016 debut Don’t Let the Kids Win , Crushing finds Jacklin continually acknowledging what’s expected of her, then gracefully rejecting those expectations. As a result, the album invites self-examination and a possible shift in the listener’s way of getting around the world—an effect that has everything to do with Jacklin’s openness about her own experience.

“I used to be so worried about seeming demanding that I’d put up with anything, which I think is common—you want to be chill and cool, but it ends up taking so much of your emotional energy,” says Jacklin. “Now I’ve gotten used to calling out things I’m not okay with, instead of just burying my feelings to make it easier on everyone. I’ve realized that in order to keep the peace, you have to speak up for yourself and say what you really want.”

Produced by Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, The Drones) and recorded at The Grove Studios (a bushland hideaway built by INXS’ Garry Gary Beers), Crushing sets Jacklin’s understated defiance against a raw yet luminous sonic backdrop. “In all the songs, you can hear every sound from every instrument; you can hear my throat and hear me breathing,” she says. “It was really important to me that you can hear everything for the whole record, without any studio tricks getting in the way.”

On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out a mesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composed portrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the room with Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as “Body” wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushing as an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.

From there, Crushing shifts into the slow-building urgency of “Head Alone,” a pointed and electrifying anthem of refusal (sample lyric: “ I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine”). “As a woman, in my case as a touring musician, the way you’re touched is different from your male bandmates—by strangers and by those close to you,” notes Jacklin. On the full-tilt, harmony-spiked “Pressure to Party,” she pushes toward another form of emotional freedom. “When you come out of a relationship, there’s so much pressure to act a certain way,” says Jacklin. “First it’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta take some time for yourself’...but then if you take too much time it’s, ‘You’ve gotta get back out there!’ That song is just my three-minute scream, saying I’m going to do what I need to do, when I need to do it.” Crushing also shows Jacklin’s autonomy on songs like “Convention,” an eye-rolling dismissal of unsolicited advice, presented in elegantly sardonic lyrics (“I can tell you won’t sleep well, if you don’t teach me how to do it right”).

Elsewhere on Crushing, Jacklin brings her exacting reflection to songs on loss. With its transportive harmonies and slow-burning guitar solo, “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” ponders the heartache in fading affection (“ I want your mother to stay friends with mine/I want this feeling to pass in time”). Meanwhile, on “Turn Me Down”—an idiosyncratically arranged track embedded with hypnotic guitar tones—Jacklin gives an exquisitely painful glimpse at unrequited devotion (“He took my hand, said I see a bright future/I’m just not sure that you’re in it”). “That song destroyed me in the studio,” says Jacklin of “Turn Me Down,” whose middle section contains a particularly devastating vocal performance. “I remember lying on the floor in a total state between what felt like endless takes, and if you listen it kind of sounds like I’m losing my mind.” And on “When the Family Flies In,” Jacklin shares her first ever piano-driven piece, a beautifully muted elegy for the same friend to whom she dedicated Don’t Let the Kids Win. “ There are really no words to do justice to what it feels like to lose a friend,” says Jacklin. “It felt a bit cheap to even try to write a song about it, but this one came out on tour and it finally felt okay to record.

Despite its complexity, Crushing unfolds with an ease that echoes Jacklin’s newfound self-reliance as an artist. Originally from the Blue Mountains, she grew up on her parents’ Billy Bragg and Doris Day records and sang in musicals as a child, then started writing her own songs in her early 20s. “With the first album I was so nervous and didn’t quite see myself as a musician yet, but after touring for two years, I’ve come to feel like I deserve to be in that space,” she says.

Throughout Crushing, that sense of confidence manifests in one of the most essential elements of the album: the captivating strength of Jacklin’s lyrics. Not only proof of her ingenuity and artistic generosity, Jacklin’s uncompromising specificity and infinitely unpredictable turns of phrase ultimately spring from a certain self-possession in the songwriting process.

“As I was making this album there was sort of a slow loosening of pressure on myself,” Jacklin says. “There’ve been some big life changes for me over the last few years, and I just found it too tiring to try to cover things up with a lot of metaphors and word trickery. I just wanted to lay it all out there and trust that, especially at such a tense moment in time, other people might want to hear a little vulnerability.”

Black Belt Eagle Scout

“Having this identity—radical indigenous queer feminist—keeps me going. My music and my identity come from the same foundation of being a Native woman.” Katherine Paul (aka KP) is Black Belt Eagle Scout, and Mother of My Children is her debut album. Recorded in the middle of winter near her hometown in Northwest Washington, Paul’s connection to the landscape’s eerie beauty are palpable throughout as the album traces the full spectrum of confronting buried feelings and the loss of what life was supposed to look like. Paul reflects, “I wrote this album in the fall of 2016 after two pretty big losses in my life. My mentor, Geneviève Castrée, had just died from pancreatic cancer and the relationship I had with the first woman I loved had drastically lessened and changed.” Heavy and heartbroken, Paul found respite from the weight of such loss in the creation of these songs that “are about grief and love for people, but also about being a native person in what is the United States today.”

On Mother of My Children, the songs weave together to capture both the enduring and fleeting experiences of loss, frustration, and dreaming. The structures are traditional, but the lyrics don’t adhere to any format other than what feels right in the moment. Mother of My Children begins with lead single “Soft Stud,” which Paul describes as her “queer anthem.” It’s “about the hardships of queer desire within an open relationship.” It’s followed by “Indians Never Die,” a call out to colonizers and those who don’t respect the Earth. As Standing Rock was happening, many people in Paul’s life were coming together to fight for the most basic necessity to sustain human life: water. “Our treaty rights weren’t being honored. Imagine hearing on the news that the government doesn’t support you as a human being and never has. They don’t care about the water, they don’t care about how they are destroying what is around them. Indigenous people are the protectors of this land. Indians never die because this is our land that we will forever protect in the present and the afterlife.”

Paul grew up in a small Indian reservation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, surrounded by family focused on native drumming, singing, and arts. From an early age, Paul was singing and dancing at powwows with one of her strongest memories at her family’s own powwow, called the All My Relations Powwow. Paul reminisces, “When I was younger, my only form of music was through the songs my ancestors taught the generations of my family. Singing in our language is a spiritual process and it carries on through me in how I create music today.” With the support of her family and a handful of bootleg Hole and Nirvana VHS tapes, Paul taught herself how to play guitar and drums as a teenager. In 2007, she moved to Portland, Oregon to attend college and get involved with the Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls eventually diving deep into the city’s music scene playing guitar and drums in bands while evolving her artistry into what would later become Black Belt Eagle Scout.

Mother of My Children is a life chapter gently preserved. The access listeners have to such vulnerability feels special and generous.

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Swedish American Hall

2174 Market Street

San Francisco, CA 94114

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