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An indie-rocker who calls his band Young Jesus either has a serious love of trap music or a predilection for epic musical statements. John Rossiter leans toward the latter.
“I am very emotional and can be very sincere, so I tend to not shy away from the huge stuff,” the-29-year-old singer-songwriter says. “Maybe I should, but it’s always been hard for me once I start focusing on something not to keep expanding it out.”
On 2017’s excellent, independently released S/T — which will be reissued 2/23 by indie label Saddle Creek — Young Jesus does indeed expand Rossiter’s songs with a chaotic force that is both violently unpredictable and ravishingly cathartic. Even the album’s most tuneful numbers, such as the wistful opener “Green,” never quite land the way you expect, forsaking studio polish for unresolved rough edges that spark electric friction. As S/T progresses, the album takes on the feel of a spiritual quest, with meandering songs such as “Desert” and the record’s sprawling 13-minute climax “Storm” radiating odd, Zen-like calm even as the band descends into full-on ambient noise.
Originally formed with a different lineup when Rossiter was in high school back home in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Young Jesus has cycled through various sounds and formations as its leader matured and eventually relocated to Los Angeles. Young Jesus’ debut full-length, 2012’s Home, is a relatively straight-forward emo record, a template that is deepened but not subverted on 2015’s Grow/Decompose.
But for S/T, Rossiter corralled a new corps of musicians — bassist Marcel Borbon, drummer Kern Haug, and keyboardist Eric Shervrin — that helped him take Young Jesus in a wilder, improvisation-based direction. Guided by this adventurous spirit, Young Jesus melds Rossiter’s sturdy, middle-American folk-rock hooks with free-form jamming inspired by revolutionary avant-jazz musicians such as Albert Ayler and Don Cherry. The result is one of the most exciting bands in indie rock right now. We spoke recently by phone about the band’s move to Los Angeles, unlikely influences, and how in 2018, bands are like religion.
What originally brought you to Los Angeles? Was it personal or band-related?
I think about that a lot, and I’m still in some ways unsure. I love Chicago, and I love the midwest, but I had lived my entire life in like a 20-mile radius. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the thought loop that I was in in Chicago, which was sort of just phases of drinking, hangovers,and continuing the college or high school experience.