Based out of Los Angeles, Young Jesus is the project of Chicago-born songwriter and musician John Rossiter. Emerging back in 2012 with their debut album Home, the band have gone through various guises and released five further albums culminating in their most recent offering, Shepherd Head, which came out in September this year via Saddle Creek.
Inspired by the loss of a close friend, Shepherd Head is an album of digging deep. Thematically it finds John tapping into ideas of faith, love, and loss, and digging deeper into them than ever before. Musically too it is a shift of direction, John embracing ideas of collaboration and improvisation, foregoing his usual meticulous rehearsals and rapid live recording for the world of found sound and a thoughtful cut-and-paste studio-led approach. The resultant record is fantastically ambitious, flittering seamlessly between genres without ever losing touch with the songwriting brilliance lurking in the heart of every track. Picking tracks at random could feel quite jarring, yet they’re cleverly stitched throughout, take the way the disjointed angular opening track Rose Eater slides into the gorgeous flow of the Tomberlin featuring Ocean, or how the Animal Collective-like twisted disco of Johno, slides into the more organic strains of the title track. While the presence of John’s reverential vocals might have people reaching for Bon Iver comparisons, the fact is this sounds like nobody other than Young Jesus, whether turning his hand to post-rock, spoken word, neo-classical or a distinctly undanceable brand of dance music, he remains intriguingly himself throughout, and all the better for it.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Young Jesus?
A constantly evolving, searching band. Music made for and guided by spirit. Everything is in service of personal and, hopefully, communal growth. 15 years in and still learning. We’ve always been musically dynamic and a deeply passionate live act.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Wow, I love this question! I remember I saw Shawn and Cody play at a place called Coffee and Pie Oh My in Highland Park, Illinois. They each played an acoustic guitar and Shawn sang. I thought it was the most beautiful music I’d ever heard. I asked to join their band and we became a very tight crew. I think my first show with them was in a coffee shop in Winnetka, Illinois. I was about 19 or 20. I remember my girlfriend’s parents were there (as was my girlfriend). It was a somewhat quiet acoustic set. Very sweet. Emo. But I wrote the coda to this song called All My Friends and in it I scream “THESE FUCKING ACHES!” over and over. I looked at my girlfriend’s parents and thought “here we go.” And that’s been me ever since. I have to commit to the music fully, body and soul. Even if it’s a quiet coffee shop and the screaming is totally out of place.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music is a kind of spirit for me. It comes to me if I’m open, curious, honest with myself. When I write, it is not really from an intentional place of creating, but something very deep. Music leads me towards who I am trying to become. Sometimes I listen back to albums of ours and realize I wrote towards what I was trying to learn or embrace in myself. It’s not for years later that I really start to embody those things, but music is the guide. I do make other art. I like to draw and I write poetry. Also very important practices for me. But asking why I make music is like asking why do I drink water, if that makes sense. I do it to survive.
FTR: What can people expect from the Young Jesus live show?
Lots of passion and energy. And I like to be funny playing live. Hard to believe! Yes, I make jokes, live. Sonically I like songs to change based on how we’re feeling. So hopefully no show is the same. We do a lot of improvising, but it depends on the situation. Regardless– full commitment to the music.
FTR: What’s next for Young Jesus?
I have a lot of songs ready to release. Feeling very good about the future of Young Jesus. We’ll be touring a lot, exploring. I was watching the Thomas Crowne Affair with Pierce Brosnan a couple weeks ago and really liked the soundtrack. Those cheesy movie 90s/early 2000 chase scene drums and textures. Maybe something’s leading me there?
I wrote a very honest, very straightforward album that should be out in the next year or two. Recorded at figure8 with Shahzad Ismaily, Loppa Albon, Lag Babbitt, Phil Weinrobe, Vishal Nayak. A special record. Another shift in sound.
They Listen To…
Willis Earl Beale – Burning Bridges
Holy shit what a fucking tune. What a performance. Deep groove. I have tremendous respect for Willis Earl Beale’s music. It feels like his performance and his music has stakes. This is what I love about a lot of music. It has the force of his life behind it. If there is not the risk of failure, of pain, of life, it doesn’t move me. It can be fun but it doesn’t influence my life. This influences my life.
Antony and the Johnsons – Epilepsy Is Dancing
Impossible to find this video. This live take of Epilepsy is Dancing is so beautiful. I love the rhythmic repetitive electric guitar. I love that guitarist. Again, this music is creative and it has real emotional stakes. Feels like everyone on this tune is killing it. This performance of this song is so important to me. I cry when it starts. And then the chorus! The strings in the coda! I have endless love and respect for Anohni. Such an inspiration.
Pregnant – Lil By Lil
This song has 37 views and it has one of the best intros ever. Again, living breathing changing music. Astounding to play with this crew live. Daniel is a true artist. Check out the album Bonfire too.
Worthitpurchase – Prospect Heights
Great LA band making some very beautiful tunes. Grooving here in a very special way. Especially vocally. Wow!
Joanna Sternberg – This is Not Who I Want to be
Do songs get better than this? A beautiful glow in the dark night.
Shepherd Head is out September 16th via Saddle Creek. For more information on Young Jesus visit https://www.youngjesusmusic.com/.