Jess Locke talks venue closures, 2018 highlights, and hearing her new songs live for the first time

Last year, Jess Locke struck a potent chord with her fantastic album Universe. After spending the best part of 2018 hitting some of Australia’s best festivals and touring with a few choice names, she came back this October with a brand new 7″.

My Body Is An Ecosystem / Nothing At All was quick to remind us all why the artist drew us in so dearly, two great songs currently being supported by a neat tour.

After she had played her first show of the tour at The Workers Bar, we caught up for a chat.

jess locke interview happy mag
Photo: Iain Laidlaw

As she boards the tour bus for the last time in 2018, we caught up with Melbourne singer/songwriter Jess Locke.

HAPPY: Hey, how are things? What are you up to at the moment?

JESS: Hi! Things are good. We recently released two new songs as a 7″. So once we got that out we’ve been pretty busy rehearsing and getting ready to take it on tour.

HAPPY: Looks like I’ve caught you straight after the tour kicks off! How did last night go down?

JESS: Really nice. It was great to be able to play the new songs live to an audience. We tested them out a little bit when we supported Tigers Jaw recently. But it’s different when it’s our own show and people are coming to see us who know the music already.

HAPPY: I saw your post about the Reverence Hotel closing, you met your band there? What part did they play in you finding your feet in Melbourne?

JESS: Yeah, it’s a real shame. The Reverence Hotel has kind of just been in the background for me over the past few years. I just sort of found myself hanging out with people who hung out there and went to shows there. It was one of the places I found I could play shows at with relative ease when I was first trying to my feet in Melbourne. And then (through another friend) I met my band. Chris was working at the pub and Jim was a friend of Chris’.

So it’s just one of those things – you dip your toe in and then one thing leads to another and you find yourself at the centre of something… Nnw I work at the Rev, we recorded our last record Universe in the back room and my boss (Matt Bodiam, who runs the place with Mel Bodiam) is also my band mate in The Smith Street Band who I also play with. So I guess you could say it’s had a huge part in where I am right now. I’m very lucky to have been sucked into its vortex.

HAPPY: Are venues struggling down in Melbourne? There’s a lot of chatter about live music space in NSW at the moment, I wonder if it’s the same there.

JESS: I guess it’s undeniable that some venues are struggling, usually it seems things just get too expensive to maintain. Rent gets too high or venues can’t afford the renovations they need to stay above board. Luckily most places in Melbourne seem to have been able to pull it together enough to keep the doors open for now. We’ve still got a lot going on and people are still going out and supporting venues.

One of the best things about Melbourne is the sheer number of small venues that exist. I think the situation in Sydney is pretty unique due to the lock outs and licensing issues. The real tragedy about the Rev closing is that, while there are a lot of venues in Melbourne, there aren’t that many in Footscray, so it’s been pretty important in bringing live music including international touring acts to that area specifically.

HAPPY: Since it is the end of the year, have there been any highlights?

JESS: It feels like a bit of a blur when I try to remember what I’ve done this year! There is so much to look back on. Playing with Marlon Williams at The Forum was amazing and it’s so special as the first time I played my songs in that beautiful venue. Getting to play awesome festivals with huge lineups like The Lost Lands and Yours & Owls was awesome. But the best part for me was probably just making new music and I hope to do even more of that next year than I did this year.

HAPPY: It’s been almost two months since you released your 7″, how are those songs sitting with you now?

JESS: It’s interesting how much songs keep evolving when you play them live. I don’t really listen to them much once they’ve been released, but I’m really enjoying playing them. I feel like, compared to the recording even, I’ve been tweaking the guitar tones and kind of pushing things to the limit. It’s been really fun.

HAPPY: I’m sure there’s a few fans wondering if more music is on the way. Are these two songs the sign of something bigger to come?

JESS: I’m definitely working on new stuff already. The two new songs aren’t necessarily a reflection of what the album is going to sound like but I’m definitely excited about trying new things and writing as much as possible in the new year. We hope to release new stuff some time next year.


My Body Is An Ecosystem / Nothing At All is out now. Make sure you see Jess Locke live on her current 7″ tour:

Wednesday 12th December – Grace Emily, Adelaide
Thursday 13th December – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Friday 14th December – Festival of the Sun, Port Macquarie
Saturday 15th December – Waywards, Sydney
Sunday 16th December – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong