What do you get if you mix love, death and dancing? No, I’m not thinking of tequila (although that would be an educated guess). It’s Jack Garratt’s incredible new album, of course! With an absolute belter, Garratt has returned with Love, Death and Dancing after a four-year break from releasing tunes.
Garratt rose to success in 2016 with his debut album, Phase, an equally innovative release that showcased his immense musical strength. However, Garratt’s new music epitomises exactly why it’s so difficult to categorise him into a single genre. Using eclectic fusions of pop, indie, electronica, R&B with a bit of soul seamlessly sprinkled in, too, Garratt has truly created a genre with his name on it.
Keep scrolling for a candid chat about LDaD, Jack’s musical influences, a glorious return to music-making, and… salad?
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Every detail of this album has been cared for by so many people. I’ll tell you the stories about how I came to meet them and find their work another time, but now go follow both @jakewangner and @jackbcoulter. Two people whose work not only inspired Love, Death & Dancing, but ended up being two vitally important vertebrates in its creative spine. They encouraged the feeling of the music to bend, twist and reach heights I could only hope for Vol 2 of LDD is available now, full album out June 12th. Pre order bundles available from my store
As well as providing a spotlight for Garratt’s musicality, this new release is an array of vulnerable lyrics packaged in soft beats, catchy melodies and rich electronic sounds. Tracks such as ‘Time’, ‘Circles’ and ‘Return Them To The One’ discuss the all-too-frequent feelings of self-doubt. Garratt states in previous interviews that he suffers from anxiety and that this was a contributor to his decision to take a break from making music. It’s safe to say that the aforementioned tracks certainly signal Garratt’s intense journey with his emotions. A quiet, yet assertive reminder in Garratt’s lyrics that ‘Time is on your side’ cannot be missed, acting as a transmission of hope to listeners.
Like the album’s title suggests, Garratt also plays with love in his lyrics, particularly in more sombre songs where tracks toy with tempos to create a bittersweet atmosphere. ‘She Will Lay My Body On The Stone’ shows that Garratt is not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. Posed in a powerful ballad, this song is stripped down to piano with Jack’s potent voice as the driving force, propelling his soulful vocals into the spotlight. Likewise, the track contains some of my favourite lyrics on the album:
‘a symphony she makes with a smile, and when she moves it’s like the sun is in my eyes. I only want to look upon her beauty, but I’m blinded by her light’.
In my eyes, these poetic, gentle words mirror a confession of adoration, almost evoking a feeling of intrusion from me upon hearing this extremely intimate song.
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The other day I posted a story in which I admitted to some pretty intense feelings. I have recently been overwhelmed with a contracted feeling of dread and self loathing. Like being swaddled in a blanket that I knitted, but I can’t escape the feeling I’ve left a giant hole in it somewhere. I’m not really supported by my own work, I’m just wrapped up in it, and I fear the work I’ve done is shoddy at best. I know these thoughts are mine, I’m not being forced to feel them by anyone. In fact, the exact opposite is true. So many of you got in touch to offer your sympathy and support, some of you even offered thanks to me for sharing such intimacy. But I find it hard to swallow your positivity when I’m regurgitating such negativity about myself. I don’t often like to explicitly share these thoughts with you, because I don’t want to bring you down with the weight of my selfishness, but this has been hard. I’m spreading myself thin, I can feel it. This album is asking me to do so much, and I want to behest to its wants and needs because I love it so much. I owe it so much. This album, these songs, this new aural identity is one that brings me such an immense feeling of pride. I can only assume that this weakness I feel, this crippling ache in my confidence, is because I am so fiercely proud of myself. I love you all so much. I cannot wait for you to hear these songs. They have been prepared in a furnace that burns fear and bravery. Vol. 1 is out now, more music is coming soon. Full album out June 12th.
There is just so much to adore on Love, Death and Dancing, I could speak for days about all its nuances. I was also fortunate enough to have a chat with Jack about his new album via email, which has been the absolute highlight of my lockdown activities so far. Read below.
Rosie: First of all, congrats on a brilliant new album! How does it feel to be back writing music and touring since your hiatus?
Jack: It’s honestly felt brand new. My earlier tours were filled with such stress and confusion that I find it hard to remember the joy I felt when I was on stage, performing. The tour I did at the beginning of this year was such a stark reminder of just how much I love the mutual love of being on stage with a crowd of engaged and wanting people. It felt like coming home.
R: What inspired the title Love, Death and Dancing? It’s definitely an interesting trio of ideas!
J: To be embarrassingly honest, the original title was Songs About Love & Death (That People Can Dance To), or SALAD for short. My wife pointed out that this was a “bad title”. She suggested rearranging it to what it has now become. But the trio represents things I’m afraid to do alone (or selfishly). I’m afraid to love myself, I’m afraid to die alone and I’m afraid to dance alone.
R: The groove of the songs on your album certainly makes me want to dance. Is there a song out there that always gets you dancing?
J: There are so many, far too many to choose just one. ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie, ‘Did I Hear You Say You Love Me?’ by Stevie Wonder, ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover by Prince’, ‘Between The Lines’ by Robyn, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk, ‘What A Fool Believes’ by Aretha Franklin. Sorry, I know you only asked for one!
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R: Your debut album, Phase, was a massive success. How did you approach the writing and production process of Love, Death and Dancing in comparison?
J: I came to this album fully aware of how much I loved Phase, and how I didn’t want to try and replicate it. The songs on LDaD are so different. They deserve what they expect from me; patience and attention. The biggest challenge I found was how to continue the honesty and the vulnerability in the writing through to the production and arrangements. Sometimes this meant stripping things down to their bare bones like on ‘She Will Lay My Body On The Stone’, in other cases it meant creating explosions of detail and sound like in the outro for ‘Anyone’. My songwriting goes so much further beyond music and lyrics. The rhythm, structure and production of my music is, to me, just as important as the songwriting.
R: Your music explores a vast range of sounds, like being a genre in its own right. That being said, are there musicians that inspire your sound?
J: My entire life, I’ve felt like a sponge soaking up the music around me. This has meant I now have a plethora of sounds in my brain to take inspiration from. From Imogen Heap to TOBACCO, or Steve Reich to Little Simz, I adore music that’s been truly cared for by its creator. I want to be an artist that’s pigeon-holed by their own name. The only way to do that is to be open to everything, to not steal or lift but genuinely love and listen. I find asking questions helps me figure out what I love about the music I listen to. […] I may never get the answer, but the questions then help me create my own work.
R: There’s real honesty in your lyrics, which is such a gift to your listeners. Did your hiatus shape the more candid tracks on Love, Death and Dancing?
J: The time I took off was mostly to confront the emotional pain I was feeling. I knew that if I was going to write about that pain on my next album I would have to do so with honesty. I wasn’t about to start over-poeticising my experience, I wanted instead to make sure that everything I say on this album is inarguable. There’s very little room for misunderstanding. The irony of that being that I think people have been able to connect and relate to my music more so this time ‘round, because of how personal I made the lyrics.
R: ‘Time’ is a song that particularly seems to wrestle with feelings of self-doubt. Why did you choose this as the album’s introductory single?
J: This was actually the first song I wrote and then recorded for the album, it made sense for it to be the first single for this reason. But yeah, as you’ve pointed out it also seemed to poignantly cover a lot of the ground that the album as a whole does.
R: I must admit, I have a soft spot for ‘Mara’. What inspired this song for you, and does the figure in the song, Mara, represent anybody in your life?
J: Yeah, I agree, that song has stuck with me in a way I never thought it would when I first started writing it. I wrote ‘Mara’ after I started to suffer from intrusive thoughts. I began researching what they are and if they appeared elsewhere in history and around the world and came across a story that’s taught in Buddhism, about a malicious spirit called Mara that attempts to distract the Buddha while he’s meditating in his garden. Instead of punishing the spirit, Buddha invites Mara to sit with him and have tea. This became a really powerful message to me and taught me that inviting my dark thoughts to sit with me is a much more healthy way of communicating with them rather than swatting them away or ignoring them altogether.
R: I’m interested in ‘Only The Bravest’ – being the longest song on the album and including a beautiful monologue at its end. What was the process of crafting a song like this?
J: I started this song on a small, boutique synth I have by Roland (the JX-03). I wrote it for synth and voice and performed like that in the studio when recording it. Then, it was down to Jacknife Lee and I to begin filling out some of the missing widths with ambient sounds and effects. The monologue at the end is actually the speech my Father-in-Law gave at my wife and I’s wedding. I added that about a month after the song was finished, Jacknife and I felt as though it was missing something for the outro. The speech fit perfectly.
R: Is there a song on the album that resonates with you most, or do you feel equally connected to them all?
J: Though I love all of them, ‘She Will Lay My Body on the Stone’ is my favourite song I’ve ever written. Lyrically, musically, harmonically I think it’s a brilliant song and I am so proud of it. Some of my favourite lyrics on the whole album are in that song.
R: As we speak of expression, I was wondering what inspired the new project on your website, Call and Response.
J: Call and Response has been an amazing project to put together. The album deals with themes about closure and how our desire for it isn’t always necessarily healthy and aligned with what we need. I wanted to find a way to represent to an audience of strangers that we don’t always need to receive answers or responses to our thoughts and questions. Sometimes the act of asking, or the act of responding, is enough.
Love, Death and Dancing is due for release on June 12th, and on behalf of CUB Magazine, I would like to thank Jack for allowing us exclusive access to this gem of an album.
If you haven’t already shown Jack’s music some love, what are you doing? Get on it!