South London always has and always will be a breeding ground for new musicians of diverse musical influence and style to sonically inspire each other. Jude Woodhead, who this October released his new EP ‘Saint Jude’ under an alias of the same name, is a perfect example of how the variety of sounds, influences and culture can blend beautifully across the spectrum – an embodiment of what the overlapping musical communities of the city can create. The 22-year-old from Forrest Hill, who in his teens started producing deconstructed club tracks influenced by the likes of Four Tet and Jamie XX, underwent a dramatic shift in style, away from the dancefloor, when his hand was forced by personal circumstance. The results are bedroom productions with a new sound, which take influence from his past forays into the club, but otherwise allows him to create music with a purpose far from the dancefloor. Since then, he has released a handful of wonderful tracks, notably ‘Beautiful Rain’ and ‘For The Birds’, but this EP marks his first release of a substantial, longform piece of work. As such, it’s one of his first projects that has allowed him to paint a continuous atmosphere over several tracks. As you listen, the same sense of nostalgia evoked in the grain and sepia tones of old film photos, resounds in his reverbed vocals and echoing synths, utilised so soothingly in tracks like ‘Boys Choir’.
“It’s kind of like a middle point of everything that you listen to” he reflects as he tries to define his own style, a question many artists hate to answer. “It’s a bringing together of genres, and I guess the focus is connectivity”. The new eponymous EP ‘Saint Jude’ has strong electronic resonance, but it is far from applicable to the dance floor. The tone is kept ambient and tentative, but emotionally complex lyrics take a vulnerable main stage in this new project, something very new for the 22-year-old. Compared with his past club-centric work, it’s impossible not to notice the development, and so the question arises of how much the addition of his own singing on the new tracks has affected his approach to making music.
“Yeah, I mean because I’ve never done it before, it’s all completely new, and so for me the writing process took the form more of a stream of consciousness. It’s not a bad thing, but I think writing with a clear message is something I’d want to try in future.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with this stream of consciousness style – in fact, it creates a sense of innocence and purity to the music in lyrics such as “there’s nothing inside me that wants to leave, but if someone beside me needs space to breathe” (Deaf Ears, Blind Years). Moreover though, it feeds into his existing style – the free-flowing form of the melodies of his voice and instrumentals fluidly intermingle. Is it important for an artist to have a direct intention though? He doesn’t think so.
“The artists intention isn’t what matters, it doesn’t need to exist. At the end of the day, what the audience takes from it creates the impact, it’s the same with all art, with all culture.” Jude has just joined me from an Extinction Rebellion march, and so thoughts on the impact of music turn to the political – something he aims to introduce into his work in the future, but is aware of how difficult it can be to achieve.
“People often don’t get it right. MIA is a good example of someone who really nails it; her work is political, but it’s not too bait, too obvious. And then on the opposite end, it isn’t too overly academic. I think that’s a real thing at the moment, artists are too academic with their message, especially in electronic music, that the point is just completely lost to anyone who isn’t at that level of knowledge and critical thinking of their work. There’s this article by Simon Reynolds that talks about the ‘Conceptronica’ of this decade, people like Chino Amiobi, the Pan label- it just ends up not breaking any ground politically because it’s too complicated, and on the way there it makes a lot of musical sacrifices.’
Jude’s thoughts on the overall music industry approach to climate change follows similar lines of enthusiasm, underpinned with gentle cynicism: that it’s great to march and stand up against these issues, but the bottom line is in the changing of policies, and that is where change is going to be made. You can hear the impression of this in the breadth of sonic influences on this EP. As soon as the beat drops in in ‘Boys Choir’ the drums recall Burial’s signature melancholy, and when asked about this similitude he marvels at Bevan’s ability to create his own world.
“He’s a great example of someone whose got the balance of concept and music so right. There’s so much meaning in it, but so much is left to the imagination, and yeah, it’s all there, the switch from the 90s to 2000s, the Blair-Bush era, neoliberalism taking hold, the end of rave, all that.”
Moving back to the comparison between the new eponymous project ‘Saint Jude’ and his older work, it’s clear that some continuity can’t be ignored. Trumpet-synth melodies in ‘Head is Spinning’ harks back to similar lines in ‘For The Birds’, and echoing samples create the same dreamlike state, floating through your thoughts. He humbly claims that he’s still playing too safe musically, going for sounds he can’t help thinking are “nice” rather than boundary pushing. Despite his own doubts, from an outside perspective his genre-blending and enveloping atmospheres are just as interesting as anything he deems truly experimental. There is assuredly an evolution of Saint Jude’s sound with this new work, and the reasoning is surprisingly direct. At age 18, when he’d begun to attend club nights regularly, whether to DJ or go out, Jude developed tinnitus to the point where he couldn’t enjoy these settings anymore.
“Earplugs just don’t do the job really, and because I can’t get involved in the culture of dance music, I just found myself moving away from it artistically -it wasn’t so much what I was listening to anymore. I can’t play live anymore, well, we’ll see what comes in time, but for now.”
The most notable new element in his music is Jude’s own voice, appearing on three out of five of the EP’s tracks, which he admits he’s still not used hearing on recordings. “I mean I’m cringed out still, but I knew that was gonna happen, that I would never be happy, so I just had to do it. I don’t know whether it affects my production, or because I wasn’t going to clubs anymore my sound changed, and so my vocals naturally felt more suited.” When asked if he would sing live if performance came back into the picture, he smiles, “yeah, of course, it would be terrifying though. But you’ve just gotta do it!”
‘Saint Jude’ stands as an EP still at the beginning of what looks to be a long and exciting musical journey for the artist, and as new as it is, provokes the question of what is to come next. With the dulcet tones of Poppy Billingham featuring on ‘Head is Spinning’ more collaboration is definitely on the cards.
“I’ve been working with a lot of people recently, it’s a much more fun way of making music, even if nothing ends up coming of it. Poppy is sick, and even though it was just her re-singing a sample, the outcome was great. Yeah, I’ve got lots coming up.” So, what is coming up? Some music that’s “really bandy, but some heavy techno actually! I’m wondering whether to have different aliases for them, but I don’t know, we’ll see.”
We’re excited to see what those tracks end up being, but for now we still have this EP to enjoy. To hear the tender South London tones for yourself, stream ‘Saint Jude’ on all core services now, or check out the music videos he’s released so far ‘here’.
Plus, check out three tracks Saint Jude is listening to right now:
Forgotten Eyes – Big Thief
Now You’re Moving – Drug Store Romeos
Molina – Glows
Written by Louis Danckwerts
Edited by Alexander Szoryn