Since she was a teen, L.A. native Jesse Jo Stark has been cutting her musical chops across the city and, eventually, around the world. In addition to opening for modern pop heroes like Lizzo and Doja Cat and rock legends like Jane’s Addiction and Guns N Roses, Stark also recently developed an EP that soundtracked British drama Fracture, which she also starred in. As the daughter of the creators of Chrome hearts, niece to Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols and goddaughter of Cher, it was likely inevitable Stark would end up as her own creative force.
On Sept. 21, she puts out into the world her most personal project yet, her debut album. Ahead of the release of Doomed, Stark spoke with LA Confidential about city influences, working with Jesse Rutherford from The Neighborhood and the joys of live music.
Doomed is your debut full length album. What do you want to present to the world with this project?
I feel like the whole album represents who I am, at least at this point in time. I keep saying that every song feels like a different mood. I think as people we wake up in one mood and go to bed in another. So each track feels like a different time of the day for me, and I think it really offers every influence that I draw from.
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Looking at your visuals and the title and even some song names, there is a fair amount of darkness going on. Is this a stylistic approach for this specific album cycle or is it representative of you as an artist overall?
It's who I am as an artist. This is who I am all the time. I'm actually really quite soft and sensitive and loving, but I think I find comedy in horror and looking at death in its face because it's inevitable and finding the cheeky side of that. I've always been drawn to this dark underbelly and I think that Doomed as an album offers both sides of me and I talk a lot about the duality and the light and dark sides of us as humans. I think it's a mixture, but it's definitely not taking on any sort of new character. I think that it's really just an extension of everything I've already offered as myself.
Has Los Angeles informed your music in any way?
I have a really intense relationship with my vehicles because my friend in London one time was annoyed because I put my window down and we had this whole fight about it. And I was like, “I don't understand. I'm in the car, I need the windows down and the music blasting. I need the heater on at times. The chaos has to happen inside of my car.” And now I realize how L.A. I am from that conversation.
I'm an L.A. girl, I grew up at the beach. It definitely has influenced my music, but also there's a couple of these tracks I wrote in London and I wrote during my travels, and so I think there's also other influences. I think the U.K. has really inspired me because there's a darkness. Whenever I'm in London, I write inside and whenever I'm in L.A., I write outside.
What do you find inspirational about the U.K. versus L.A.?
I just think their way of living is really different. I feel like everyone walks there. It's less about driving. Everybody's down at the pub. They hang out at the park. It's so different. I'm by the beach here in my car, like I don't really leave my house.
I think musically, they’re so much more open, and I feel like a lot of rock ‘n roll and punk comes from London. And honestly, I've felt more accepted there than here musically and as an artist, so I'm really into the U.K. in general.
Do you have a song that you're most proud of on the album?
I love “Sugar High.” It's just so delicate. And really I just wrote that by myself really quickly; it kind of came out. And then I think another one would be “Lipstick.” It almost hurts to sing because I can remember the feeling when I wrote it.
I call “Lipstick” my most pop-y song. I think it's just got a really strong, big chorus and I didn't really try to go into it being cryptic. I just wanted to say how I felt at the time. I feel like you can really feel that when you hear it. And then “Sugar High” has got really cool melodies and it's quite messy and it doesn't really have a form to it. It's all over the place, so they're really different. One's really soft and one's a bit more of a banger.
What was it like collaborating with Jesse Rutherford on this album— what made him the ideal producer for your debut?
Our friendship really evolved over time. I think, as artists, we’re really shy and wanted to see if we dug each other. We hung out a couple times and started writing. I just thought he brought this new, fresh element to everything I've done. I wanted to try something new and there's a lot of 808s and new sounds on the album. He really brought that in, and I really liked his honesty and how he wanted to know more about me. He's good that way— he pulled s*** out of me that I would never normally say or want to say or feel comfortable saying. He saw me in a different way. If you think about it, we don't see ourselves.
And so when someone really looks at you and wants to know more about you and then turn that into something else, it was really beautiful. The experience in the studio with Michael and Jesse and Thomas and I was so collaborative and special and sensitive and safe. It was just f****** cool. We just met up at the right time.
You have three shows in the fall right after the album comes out. Is that going to become a larger tour?
All I want to do is tour. I haven't gotten to tour for a while because of COVID. We're just planning it out right now, but I knew that I wanted to play some shows around the release and see people and look at people and sing to them and see if they f****** dig it.
I'm gonna play some of my older songs, but honestly I want to tell a story. I want to start from top to bottom. I want to really perform this record. I'm really excited about the order of the tracks, and that's what I really want to present to everyone. I'm getting into visuals right now. I just love performing live and I want people to hear this.
I like playing the music as you hear it as you hear it on the album live. I don’t really like to venture off because it took so long to create what you are hearing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Photos by Laurie Lynn Stark