Almost all of the online interviews with Australian artist Julia Jacklin mention two things: Britney Spears, the catalyst for her musical career, and her job at an essential oils factory line. While Jacklin’s origin story deserves mention, I wanted to chat with her about how she developed her retro visual aesthetic and how the tour is going so far.
“There’s a big difference between living in one place, playing once every two weeks, and doing what I’m doing now.” Jacklin tells me. “The biggest thing is meeting musicians who are doing this for a living. That’s a big inspiration.”
Growing up, Jacklin didn’t know anyone who was a full-time musician, and her family didn’t understand what it really meant: “They didn’t really see it as being something that was going to work out, at all,” she says. Touring has built her confidence about her career path: “It helps at family occasions that I can say I’m doing something,” Jacklin says. “Now I feel like I have a title I can put on a business card.”
The interactions she has had with the people she has met along the way have also become a source of inspiration, and Jacklin brings up a point I hadn’t thought of before. “Doing this is kind of really strange in the normal day-to-day life. You don’t really meet new people. Maybe on the weekend, occasionally,” she says. “Whereas being a touring musician I’m meeting like, ten new people every single night of my life.” Not only that, but touring pushes artists to interact with folks that they otherwise would have never crossed paths with in their own communities.
It’s not just people Jacklin has been inspired by during the tour, but also, the interesting places she comes across. “Pretty much every day I’m like, damnit, I want to make a music video. I think of music videos now before I even think of the songs,” Jacklin says.
Unfortunately, Jacklin doesn’t have the camera equipment (or time) to stop and make the music videos she envisions in the places she discovers: “It would be cool one day to have a camera so I could do that on the road. I know a lot of people shoot while they’re touring, but when you have an iPhone 5…” Jacklin trails off.
Jacklin clearly values a highly-curated visual aesthetic— her music videos have the look of a Wes Anderson movie mixed with the awkwardness of The Lobster. Surprisingly, she tells me she isn’t very familiar with either. “I’ve never really been that into Wes Anderson, I’ve gotten that a lot. I haven’t watched many of his films, but I feel like I should.”
Instead, she cites Lars Tunbjörk, a Swedish photographer who captured the mundane and absurd moments of modern life, as a main source of visual inspiration. “I found his photos and that kind of informed everything I did from then on.”
As for the awkwardness? “The awkwardness, in a way, comes from not feeling that comfortable in front of the camera. So just kinda rolling with it,” Jacklin says.
You can see some of Tunbjörk’s influences in both of Jacklin’s music videos. The photographer focused on capturing strange situations in everyday spaces, a look reflected in the settings of “Pool Party,” which takes place in a house in the Blue Mountains, and “Leadlight,” which was filmed at Jacklin’s high school’s hall.
“Usually I look for something that has lots of different spaces so that you can film it in one location and don’t need to be running around, finding different locations, because that adds so much stress and time,” Jacklin explains as she tells me what she looks for in a music video setting. “Both of those locations had really beautiful settings which I knew would look good with a massive wide shot. And I’ll just put myself in the middle, and do something strange in time to the music. That’s been my tactic so far. I don’t know if it’ll get more sophisticated than that.”
Thanks to pressure from her label and their deadline for pressing vinyl, her album artwork matches the look of her music videos because it was shot in the same house as “Pool Party.” “Pretty much I just ran around with my friends for a frantic two hours and took a lot of photos in that lounge room. And then the yoga ball was just an addition, because I thought it was lacking color and I saw it outside in the garden. There’s no meaning behind the yoga ball,” she says.
The resulting artwork was a simple photo, with no text. “Because of the deadline we tried a few things which just looked really bad. I just think it takes away from the photo… I was told because I’m a new artist I should put my name on the cover,” Jacklin explains. “But, you know, I’m really glad I didn’t. It looks a lot more classy than having my name blazoned across it. I won that battle.”
Future album artwork will likely share that simplicity. “Unless I find some incredible font, you know?” Or, I suggest, if she has someone design a custom font for her, like Belgian indie-pop act Frànçois & the Atlas Mountain did.
“Yes, that’s the goal: to one day have my own font,” Jacklin exclaims.
You can help Julia Jacklin one day create her own font by supporting her on her tour; catch her at the Sinclair with Andy Shauf next Saturday, May 20th.