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Interview: Crewel Intentions

From Issue Fifteen, December 2017

Chilli Jesson has spent the last year watching Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns, absorbing the music of Ennio Morricone and watching the UK’s fertile music scene evolve from a far, biding his time and waiting to pounce. With the glorious years of Palma Violets’ youthful onslaught behind him, he’s ready for the next step in his journey. Now the leader of his new outfit, Crewel Intentions, Chilli’s come home from the desert without a cactus in sight and his (surprisingly high) boots are firmly back on terra firma. We met up with the man himself at a pub in his old stomping ground of West London to talk about progress and his new gang of outsiders.

You seem to have carefully curated your first few gigs back…

The first line up we played with was just amazing and it’s all about making those nights as exciting and as worthwhile as possible and for them to be free, that’s why they’re kind of scattered and spaced out. These are bands that I love, I love seeing the new groups in London.

How do you feel having been in their position, having lived it a little bit?

I truly consider myself the same as them, it really feels like starting again… I’ve learnt a few things, you know, I play six strings now instead of four. I’m slowly progressing, but this is a brand new thing and I think that’s where the real excitement is for me, I feel like, you know, “have another go!”.

You’ve been very careful with how you’ve released this new band to the world, making sure it’s right…

I think the way the group has formed, its not like four guys that went to school together, this has been a slow progression. You know, I originally started off wanting to be a music manager and then somehow progressed to playing a bass guitar. So I was originally managing Palma Violets and then I progressed to bass, I never intended to and this is just the next progression in my small journey. You Know.

There’s always been a curatorial aspect to everything you’ve done from Studio 180 to these new gigs with carefully chosen bands…

Now it’s more important than ever.

We were at your show at the Montague and it felt like everyone was on a level pegging with no clear headliner…

It’s just all one fucking thing… But that’s what I really want to create and it only makes the next band better, you know, when you’re up against it a little bit. I think it’s the most important thing to do. I’ve had a year of not being in a band so I’ve seen a lot of music and that’s just one thing I’ve realised, the camaraderie with a lot of these groups and I think that’s amazing in itself but I think with Crewel Intentions we’re kind of the outsiders and I feel like the role that I really wanna have is to draw all these different aspects together that I’ve been seeing and picking what I really love, you know, and just hoping that they’ll play with me and so far its worked, but you’re right there’s no kind of, set headliner, its about the night.

So do you feel like you’ve attached yourselves to other outsiders as opposed to trying to jump into an already established ‘scene’?

Yeah, I suppose some of them are just newer, like Black Midi for instance and Sister Talk, they’re just beginning but they all have this specific angle and maybe it is an outsider angle. Ultimately it’s about something that would excite me. And it’s just something new for everyone.

Do you think the fact that Palma Violets may have inspired some of this current crop of bands plays a part in their willingness to jump on board?

I never really look back retrospectively on much at the moment to be honest, I’m so much in this forward thinking motion but maybe it has been a pull in the reason why these bands do wanna come and play and be a part of it, considering there’s no music, they must be going on something…

It seems like the focus has been on getting the band ready behind the scenes instead of gigging it out to find your way…

I spent a lot of time fighting this thing of, “are they gonna make it to the end of the gig?” And it really got to a point where I got fed up with that, I wanted to give a real, real show. I mean, it can fall apart at any point, admittedly, and it has done, but its just a change in the way I’m looking at things. I do wanna give all that I can, it’s just a different tact to the way I used to think about playing, you know. It’s just another way of looking at it but you’re right, I consciously wanted it to be right before I came out with it, its just too important, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression anymore.

You’re gonna have more eyes on you with your first gig than any other band. As soon as people hear that its YOU, they’re going to be extra judgmental…

It just had to be right, I see those judging eyes anyway.

Do you write all the lyrics?

I work with my sister, the whole thing’s been quite collaborative. The lyrics on this record are quite dark. My father died when I was younger and this is a rock that I never turned, you know. My sister was a poet and has obviously written for So Young and stuff like that… We sort of, just beautifully started writing these words together in this collaborative thing and the lyrics are so personal that I couldn’t have collaborated with anyone else, I mean she went through the same shit that I have you know… We’re really close, so that’s been a really important factor and the lyrics are really great.

From seeing you live 2 or 3 times, the song ‘Crewel Intentions’ really stays in your head and although the lyrics are great, the hook comes only 30 seconds from the end and it’s got this incredible finish…

Well then you’ve gotta put it on again! That’s how you get the Spotify plays up (laughs) It’s the modern way, you know. I’m way ahead of the game.

No, I’m so happy you said that because that’s been the other thing for me, song writing is a really important thing and I’ve spent so much time on them and crafting them and I love choruses, I love pop songs and I was trying to marry the two sides and there’s a real depth to it and that’s what I hope I’ve done.

Essentially you’re writing a first album again…

Yeah, which is fucking wicked. The honest truth is, I was left with this group of songs and I called up Marley (Mackey) and said, “look man, I’ve got this group of songs, do you wanna give me a hand putting some guitar parts and stuff on them?” We had a room less than the size of this (small corner of the pub) but the songs in my head were fucking huge and it sort of ties in to this spaghetti western stuff, I was watching a lot of these spaghetti westerns with the (Ennio) Morricone sound and I loved all of his music but there was this moment when I was sitting with Marley and was like, “this is what I want it to sound like but we’ve got all these fucking limitations and no money”. Then I was just thinking, well the reason they’re called spaghetti westerns was because they didn’t have the money to shoot them in America, you know, they’re all shot in Italy and Spain or whatever. And I suppose we sort of took that same tact and I grabbed a lot of inspiration from them to go, “ok there might not be this landscape of canyons etc”. But what came out was exactly what I wanted, those limitations give that rawness that I love and the single that will come out will be that, from the fucking tin box with a few mics. I’m really happy with it because it seemed like a really daunting thing but I think I managed it.

Issue Fifteen has sold out in print but you can find it for FREE online here.

Posted by Josh Whettingsteel on 05 Nov 2018. Illustrations by Josh Whettingsteel.