You might not hear it on your first few listens of Julia Jacklin’s PRE PLEASURE (out Friday, August 26th), but underneath the ten beautifully arranged, open-hearted tracks is the presence of a certain French-Canadian megastar.
“I feel like it’s a bit of a personality test for me now,” the Australian singer-songwriter tells Consequence of the one-and-only Celine Dion. “If someone is shit-talking Celine Dion, I’m like, what do you find joy in?”
And though you’ll likely never hear Jacklin perform “Moviegoer” in a 45,000-seat Las Vegas arena, Jacklin cites Dion as being a “spiritual guide” during the writing and recording of her latest album. Inspired by Dion’s unabashedly dramatic pop ballads, Jacklin found herself with a newfound license to have fun and embrace big feelings. Such freedom combined with a more sizable budget resulted in the potent, truthful PRE PLEASURE.
The record sees Jacklin exploring a slightly new set of sounds, like on the drum machine-driven “Lydia Wears A Cross” or the string-backed “Ignore Tenderness,” all without losing the magic of her voice. It’s the sound of Jacklin finding the comfort to embrace compositional collaboration and the confidence to follow her instincts without worrying if it aligns with the indie-rock definition of “cool.”
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better at understanding that I don’t need to be really good at everything in order for it to happen,” Jacklin tells Consequence. “This time, I’ve just grown up and I feel more confident in these spaces, and I know that I have skills and I don’t need to feel inadequate because I don’t have all the skills.”
It’s an epiphany too often undervalued. Much like Julien Baker on Little Oblivions, Jacklin’s loosened grip brings out the best in both her songwriting and her performance. PRE PLEASURE delivers the big moments just as expertly as the quiet ones, offering a track list that’s varied in sonic texture and constituent in quality.
It’s exciting to speculate where Jacklin will go after PRE PLEASURE. As her profile deservedly grows and her resources continue to expand, it’s impossible to say what she’ll accomplish. What is clear, however, is that it’s sure to be emotionally inquisitive, brutally honest, and wholly Julia Jacklin. For now, PRE PLEASURE continues her impressive streak, capping off her first three-album run with a high point. Now, if we could just get a “My Heart Will Go On” cover…
Check out Julia Jacklin’s PRE PLEASURE below, followed by an interview with the Australian artist. Jacklin is also touring in support of PRE PLEASURE, with tickets available here.
This record sees you continuing to expand your sound, incorporating new timbres and even an orchestra. What sparked this direction?
A big budget is probably the main thing. I don’t have any whimsical, creative reasons necessarily. It was just like, I had more freedom to do stuff like that, whereas I [hadn’t] in the past. [With] both the records that I’ve made in the past — you’ve got the four-paced band and you just make it work. This time around, there was more budget and there was more time. Marcus [Paquin], who co-produced the record, knew some people as well. He’s got a good rolodex. I think being in North America is handy as well. There are just more people who know what they’re doing.
It was just my dreams being able to come true in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to in the past. In the past, I’ve always been like, “It’d be great to have strings on this,” but it costs a lot of money, you need someone to do the score for you if you can’t do it yourself. It was a new world for me, I never understood how anybody ever did that stuff but it was super quick. I sang the melody lines that I wanted the orchestra to do and then Owen Pallett put something together, and then two days later, I’m on a Zoom call with him and the orchestra in Prague. And half an hour later, you got yourself some orchestral sounds. It was a very new process for me.
Not that you would want to change the last two records, but if you had this kind of budget and time in the past, do you think those songs would have turned out more like the ones on PRE PLEASURE?
No, I appreciate the means that I had for those first two records. I don’t think I was confident enough back then. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at understanding that I don’t need to be really good at everything in order for it to happen. That’s kind of what’s stopped me from, in the past, trying to use drum machines or having any string sections because I would assume that I would need to know exactly how that works. I just assumed that I needed to be good at literally everything if I wanted it to be on my record.
his time, I’ve just grown up and I feel more confident in these spaces, and I know that I have skills and I don’t need to feel inadequate because I don’t have all the skills. Just being confident in what I can do. I don’t think I would’ve had it on the past records because I wouldn’t have had the confidence to float it in the studio.
How was it recording so far from home? The record also features several established Canadian artists – people who are associated with The National or Arcade Fire or The Weather Station. What was it like working with them as well?
I played with these Canadians for years in my touring bands, so I’ve known them for a long time. I guess the more you do stuff, the less you feel intimidated by people’s resumes. I didn’t actually know that Marcus worked with Arcade Fire and The National or anything like that. I just knew he made my friend’s record — The Weather Station — and he was available and they vouched for him. Like, I met him on the day we started. We had a fifteen-minute chat a couple of months before, but I found out he did stuff for Arcade Fire in the studio. I was like, “Oh, okay!”
But it was cool to be in a room full of professionals and feeling like for the first time in my life that I was also a professional. I think that takes a really long time because in these spaces you always feel like, “Oh, this person’s too established and cool to be in a room with me.” Then you do it more and you start to: A) Realize, “No, I’m okay as well. I’m also doing cool stuff,” and B) If you have the money, most people will do anything. [Laughs] It’s not as mystical and magical as maybe people think it is. It’s just like, people have fees and everyone needs to work. I don’t know why I’m talking so much about money, I feel like I’m being really “biz.”
It’s what makes the world go round – and what makes records. Even with the bigger budget, though, the lyrics seem to have remained extremely personal.
Yeah, I wrote a lot of the lyrics in Montreal. Like, I had to finish the songs. I think my process slowed down quite a lot over the pandemic. My brain really took a hit in terms of being able to get my thoughts together coherently. So, it was a bit of a different process in that I was writing quite a lot in the studio. I was asked the other day if I could send some early demos of some of the songs for this compilation and I was kind of like, “There kind of are no early demos.” Because the lyrics were mostly nonsense until we recorded the final version. Even looking back or watching things that we were making from the studio, there was just a lot of feeling lyrics [out].
But everyone was really encouraging and very open with their own lives and their own experiences. I think everyone in the room was going through something uniquely weird. Just the openness in the room helped me get over the embarrassment. Like, I feel more embarrassed about singing these lyrics in front of my bandmates than I do about releasing them to the entire world, which is just bizarre. But I think that everyone else opening up was really helpful, having long-term friendships in the room was helpful.
I wanted to particularly ask about the lyrics for “Moviegoer,” because there was just some sardonic meta-humor to it that really stuck with me. Subtle jabs at “film bros” and so on.
That’s a tough one. The genesis of that song was that I went away to try to do some writing, which I sometimes do but is totally not my style. But I forget every single time I do it and I’m just like, “Ugh, I’m alone with my own thoughts and nothing’s happening.” I need a bit of excitement around me. But I went away and I stupidly — in a very classic internet-narcissistic way — listened to a podcast some people had done where they were reviewing my first album again. And they were being pretty brutal. [Laughs] I was like, “Oh, gosh, this is just such an intense thing to do.” I genuinely am very okay with criticism. I think I was just feeling very vulnerable in that moment because I had just gone away to try and write music. I don’t know why I listened to it.
And then I was just really fed up with the industry. Just how much we’re always told how important art is and how cathartic it’s supposed to be, without acknowledging that there are not a lot of mental health services available to people. And also that there are only a very small privileged few who get to do it in the first place, who usually have more resources than most people anyway. I think especially in film. I had just visited a place where there was no wifi and I just had heaps of DVDs, and I watched this film where I was like, “Oh god, that was so pretentious.” I won’t say what it was, because maybe it’s good and I just didn’t get it or something. But I was like, “Fuck, how much money did that take to make?”
It was just a whole lot of feelings coming together in this storm, and then it was actually fruitful. I only wrote that one song on that trip. I was thinking about how unsuccessful that trip was, but now I’m like, “No, I wrote that one song and I really like that song.” I feel like it captured something that isn’t as plainly obvious, which I think a lot of my songs are a bit more open heart. A lot of the time people are like, “What are your songs about?” I’m like, “Have you listened to it? Because it’s pretty obvious,” do you know what I mean? That one’s a bit more, I don’t know, lyrical or something.
I read that Celine Dion was a big inspiration for PRE PLEASURE as well, which fascinates me. How do you think that influence came through?
Well, I think it’s not so much a sonic inspiration as much as a psychological one. It’s more about not taking myself so seriously and not feeling so trapped by the indie-rock world of cool, which can feel very suffocating. Especially trying to navigate your personality on the internet, which is so talked about to the point of being boring as hell, but you’re trying to literally package your personality into a version of yourself. I definitely lean more toward irreverent humor and sarcasm because I don’t really know how else to do it. And I don’t think that is a superior way to just being super earnest. It’s just a weird thing to navigate and I feel like I’m embarrassed at myself every ten minutes at the moment.
I think Celine is less in the sonic texture of the record and more about having fun and embracing how much I love singing and melody, even in the orchestral moments, and having chimes on the record. Things that maybe in the past I’d be like, “but is it cool?” It just helped me to open up just a little bit and have fun with the process. She’s more of a spiritual guide, not really influencing the production of it.
And Celine Dion is really… I feel like it’s a bit of a personality test for me now. If someone is shit-talking Celine Dion, I’m like, “What do you find joy in?” I’m not saying everyone has to like Celine Dion, but it’s so easy to not take that kind of artist seriously. But they are so beloved and they obviously are doing something that really connects with people, and that is so valuable.
I don’t know, it was kind of a beautiful little thread during the recording process as well, because half the crew in the studio were French-Canadian, so they were more familiar with her French music. Laurie, who plays drums, is a big Celine fan and she was showing me her early French songs, and when we had finished tracking, we went to [Celine Dion’s] deli. It was just a nice, positive thing, especially while making an emotional indie-rock record.
PRE PLEASURE is such a striking title for an album. Where did that come from?
Because I had to come up with a title, and a few people were like, “Just have a self-titled record.” I was like, “Self-titled? Are you kidding me?” No beef with that, but I don’t understand self-titled records. Like, is it called your name? I don’t even understand it, so I was like, “No, I’m not going to do that, I need to come up with a name.” I think I texted a few options to my friend Christian Lee Hudson. He’s a very good friend of mine and he’s kind of just one of those people who [I’ll send] very early songs to. I think I texted him and he was like, “Yeah, ‘PRE PLEASURE’ sounds cool.” And I trust his judgment.
But I was trying to think of a word that encapsulates the feeling of… because I had just made the record, but I didn’t know what it was about until I finished it. It wasn’t like I went into it with this grand vision or anything. So, I listened back to it and it really stuck out to me that a lot of the time I’m writing songs from the perspective of really wanting to understand myself, my family, my friends, and my partner in this way where you would finally come to this all-encompassing truth. Like, if you could just communicate with every single person in your life, you would eventually know them completely and you would know yourself completely.
Then you would just be able to enjoy your relationships from all the emotional work that you’ve done. And now, three albums in, and I’ve been kind of singing about the same thing for three albums, I’m like “oh, this is going to be the rest of my life.” If you want to be close to people, you have to buckle yourself in for a life of miscommunication, just constantly back and forth. And It’s really hard, it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be when I was younger.