Breaking: Jessica Pratt
We find out what worldly elements were at play in the making of the burgeoning singer-songwriter's otherworldly new album.
MEMBERS: Jessica Pratt
FOUNDED: discovered by Tim Presley (a.k.a. White Fence) in 2012, who created Birth Records solely to put out her first LP
FROM: Los Angeles by way of San Francisco and, originally, Redding, California
YOU MIGHT KNOW HER FROM: the soundtrack to your bedroom folk-playing dreams, considering that those dreams feature a little pitch manipulation every now and again
NOW: her home-recorded new LP On Your Own Love Again on January 27 via Drag City
In a story as singular and romantic as that of Jessica Pratt, it should come as no surprise that the circumstances leading up to her sophomore album were somewhat peculiar. To begin with, though it did not see proper distribution until 2012, the bulk of the material from her self-titled debut was actually recorded all the way back in 2007, and was intended for few—if any—outside listeners.
“Not everybody knows, of course, that it was recorded at the time that it was, so I’m sure many people think it’s a contemporary me and that kind of makes my skin crawl a little bit,” Pratt explains. Retrospective embarrassment be damned, the album quickly gained a captivated following, as audiences became enraptured with Pratt’s unmistakable voice—a feature that’s as beautiful and anachronistic as her story itself.
“I was single, and I had no friends, no job, and no car. It was good to record because I had no distractions, but it was also kind of crazy. It was like being on a desert island or something.”
Raised in the small Northern California city of Redding, Pratt left to “escape [her] reality in that town” and ended up in San Francisco. It was there that she recorded her debut, and was later discovered by White Fence’s Tim Presley, who insisted on putting the album out. (“He emailed me and was just like, ‘Dude, this is sick. I’m gonna put it out.’ And I was like, ‘OK.’”)
Following that album’s stellar reception, Jessica found herself (for the first time in her life) setting out to make music knowing full well that there was an audience waiting for it on the other end. “I realized that I was getting a little wigged out by that. Not like intimidated, but as a realization: it just has to change the way that you think about things,” she admits. “But then I just got over it.”
To record Jessica Pratt’s follow-up, some eight years in the making, Pratt moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, joining Ty Segall, John Dwyer, and the slew of other Bay Area musicians who have also jumped ship in recent years. It was a transition that found her starting anew in almost every way. “I was single, and I had no friends, no job, and no car,” she laughs. “It was good to record because I had no distractions, but it was also kind of crazy. It was like being on a desert island or something.”
Doing all of the recording herself on a Tascam 424 four-track machine, Pratt added another notch of peculiarity by actually downgrading the production value from her first release, which was predominantly recorded in a professional studio. The homegrown approach this time around was most important for allowing the new tracks to turn out exactly as she wanted them, but also for contributing a unique analog specificity to the album—one where the tape itself plays a central role, hissing and cracking, slowing and contorting.
Now on its way out of Pratt’s bedroom and into yours, On Your Own Love Again is ultimately an album that thrives in its own idiosyncrasies. The lyrics are poetic—Shakespearian, even—but they could just as easily double as lost words overheard at a psych ward. The style is retro, like it was plucked from Greenwich Village in 1963, but there’s also something decidedly modern about it. And though her background was initially shrouded in mystery and allure, the good-natured Pratt is quick to insist on the tangibility of her current profile (“I’m on Twitter and shit”).
“Besides,” she adds, “I still feel like people don’t really know that much about me.” Not for long, anyway. FL