“I’m worth waiting for.”
It’s hard to talk about the lessons which inform and guide ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter, the debut album by Hermajesty, without lapsing into cliché, because those lessons are universal truths which can easily come off as glib. But, while these nine songs are compounds of words and notes, strings struck and keys pressed and vocal chords ringing in perfect imperfect harmonies, there’s more at play here – a series of conscious choices, some creative, some to help shape that creativity. Not so much a simple tissue of influences and intentions, and nothing as forced as, say, Eno’s Oblique Strategies, but rather a sequence of impulses and instincts obeyed, which guided Jimmy and LD from there to here.
Those impulses and instincts were what led Jimmy and LD to find each other, and to make music together. They shaped the music that Jimmy and LD make, and how they made that music. And when you listen to ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter, you are hearing that journey, from there to here. Every path they chose coloured the sounds and the songs you hear: the ethos behind that journey, the locations – unlikely and unforgettable spaces, all over the world – where they recorded it, the amount of time they spent on it, until they knew it was right. Because you only make one debut album, and ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter is a statement they’ll be able to stand by for years to come.
Kindred spirits don’t necessarily mirror each other – rather, they often complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And so it is with Jimmy and LD. He has years of experience in the music industry, a producer and engineer whose CV includes work with The Libertines, The Lo-Fi Allstars, Robyn Hitchcock and Ultrasound. She’d never been in a ‘band’ before, an artist who’d latterly found herself drawn to making music, an impulse she only felt stronger after losing her father. He had turned down the offer to work with a big-name artist who didn’t inspire even a spark of interest within him, and felt the music industry had closed its doors to him. She had followed a path of improvising with other musicians all the way to Barcelona, but now felt the pull to return to London.
It was there that their paths crossed. Jimmy was done with producing other people’s music – now he wanted to make his own. “I wanted to redefine myself,” he says now. “I was writing, writing, writing, and auditioning singers I’d advertised for on Craigslist. I saw 200 singers in a year. There were lots of people who sounded like everybody else, and that wasn’t what I wanted. I was always interested in stuff off the beaten path.”
“I was looking for people to collaborate with on Craigslist,” LD says. “The ads were always so terrible, like, ‘Singer wanted, to play indie-gospel-rock!’ But Jimmy’s ad was different. Straight away I was, like, I need to write to this person.”
The internet, the 21st Century’s equivalent to fate, had linked them. “And straight away, there was a chemistry,” adds LD.
“She was untrained, she couldn’t sing in every range, and I really liked that,” says Jimmy. “I liked what she could sing.
Connection made, they began working on material together – eight hour days in Jimmy’s Camden flat, with acoustic guitars and distortion pedals. They were exciting early days; something was happening. A little while later, at a party at Abbey Road, they made out. It’s not important, but it is important. Magic was in the air. They recorded demos there, in downtime while Grace Jones was recording. “She would turn up at eleven o’clock with her licorice sticks and her bottle of red wine and spend two hours talking about her disastrous lovelife, and then go home,” remembers LD. “I’d sing through her mic.”
They’d put themselves in vulnerable positions, without a safety net – open-mic nights, trying out their unheard songs among the amateur strummers singing other people’s tunes. “People were were doing Bryan Adams covers or folkie stuff,” remembers Jimmy. “Then we’d turn up, and LD’d start screaming, and I’d have a distortion pedal on, and the PA would start going crazy.” They played in Barcelona, in Helsinki. “European audiences, who actually listened,” says Jimmy.
London, for now, was a dead-end. So they lit-out – no half-though impulse, but, rather, an ethos, one that would define the character of ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter. “It was very important to us that there would be a vibe of, ‘Come into our world’,” LD says. “The idea of moving around was very deliberate,” adds Jimmy. “To really embrace the environment. We said, This has to have a real focus, and we could go to a studio, but let’s add lots of elements of risk to it – the risk of driving through Europe and up mountains. It might not fucking work, but you’re forcing yourself back to where you were when you started making music. The process and the approach are the most important things.”
So let’s pretend this is an Indian Jones movie, and a graphic of a red line is stretching across a map of the world, tracing Hermajesty’s movements. From the outhouse of some dope-smoking paranoiac living across the road from Katy Perry in Laurel Canyon, who evicts them because he thinks they’re stealing from his garage. To a sketchy apartment in Echo Park that used to be a meth-house, with crumbs of crystal still laying in the carpet. To Barcelona, where they didn’t feel the vibe, and only felt inspired to travel further. To the mountains of Tuscany, through the winter, where the electricity cut out and water seeped through the roof and they had to chop wood to keep warm, but the food and wine were cheap and they could make noise without disturbing anyone else. To Berlin, where they happened upon a former GDR radio station studio where they could record for pennies. To Abbey Road, where they mixed ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter. To New York, where they mastered ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter with the legendary Emily Lazar.
Peripatetic isn’t even the word.
So that’s the journey that shaped and inspired ThisismywellThisismywaterThisismysunThisismydaughter, and while the album’s finished – nine songs of burnished longing and untrammelled emotion, a redrawing of rock’s borders, an emboldening of what’s possible within pop, Jimmy the studio symphonist fashioning his songs from unlikely and perfect elements, LD’s characterful and emotive vocals carving the melodies and establishing the mood, singing with venom and sweetness and no little provocation – the journey continues.
When we speak, they’re in Finland, where they’ve just played a show, and readying themselves for the next move.
“Since I was a little baby, I’ve always moved around a lot,” says LD. “That is something I’ve injected into Jimmy, just needing to keep moving.”
“My writing arcs towards the darker side,” says Jimmy. “Moving around, that peripatetic thing – taking risks, not knowing where you’re going – brightened everything up. I wanted to add that colourful element to everything. And some of the darkest records make you so happy.”
He’s not wrong. Indeed, Jimmy and LD have just completed a work of darkness set to brighten every corner. You really should listen to it.