Chilli Jesson is in good spirits. Beaming with the sort of pride and happiness that you’d expect a new father to dish out, it’s pretty evident why. Out of the charred embers of Palma Violets, Crewel Intentions are born from a songwriter discovering his calling home - a clear distillation of a time and a moment.
Now, after a year spent kicking about free shows and secret sets, Crewel Intentions’ grand reveal has been nothing short of stunning, a one-two of tracks that well and truly banish any notion that the best has already been and instead welcomes in a world of new influences and cinematic flourishes. Rightfully, Chilli is in a pretty good place.
“I’m ambitious,” he states, “but at this point in my life I was ambitious to just get out of the blocks, it stopped there. I couldn't be more excited, man. It’s exceeded my expectations, and I’m fucking happy.”
After playing their first London show and witnessing first-hand the reaction and adoration already poured back (“people were singing back the songs, even songs that I don’t know how the fuck they knew”), it’s a few months that Chilli had long hoped for, an open invitation into the world of Crewel Intentions.
“I sort of spent two years away,” details Chilli. “I had this quite turbulent time. Y’know, leaving a job or a relationship is quite uneasy at moments. Massive bouts of anxieties, highs and lows. Early on, there was a bit of figuring it all out, but I was armed with quite a lot of songs, and as a songwriter, you’re only as good as your last song.
"It puts you at ease when you know you have something you love, but then to get the response you fucking hope for is something else, man. You know how fictitious your brain can be, but when it turns out the way you thought it would you feel quite smug about that,” he cracks.
Those two years found Chilli learning and looking to start again, a position he hadn’t really found himself in as an adult. Kickstarting when they were only 17, Palma Violets were engulfed in a whirlwind of success, tours, recording and hype as a product of a new wave of bands shaking up an entire genre. A blistering run through shows across the globe and two albums, the Palmas reached their natural conclusion.
“Y’know, friends you had at school, you all head off and do different things - it was as boring as it sounds,” explains Chilli. “I wish I could tell you there were guitars flying and we were shagging each other's girlfriends but it just naturally came to an end creatively, and that’s that. Being 17 then and being 24 now, you’d be a fucking idiot not to have grown in some way over the years.
“Maybe I should make something up next time to make it sound grander…”
Without a band, going through his own highs and lows and with a collection of ideas and songs beginning to formulate in his head - Chilli looked to where he could go next.
“The main thing for me was okay, I’m going to start this new group, I don’t know how it’s going to form, but my most important point was that I was going to start this from the ground up. I wasn't going to jump ship; I wanted it to be proper.”
Teaming up with mate Marley Mackey, they began to lay the seeds of what Crewel Intentions would become, Chilli writing the sort of deeply personal songs that never made their way to the fore before, but now were emboldened as he turned to something new. If he was going to start a new band, he had one condition.
“For me, the most important thing was I wanted a band where nobody knew each other,” explains Chilli. “Me and Marley, we had these songs and realised, fuck we need to have a band now, and we found people through mates of mates."
As Chilli explains further, “whatever line of work, even if you're in a pub and you get your mate along, it’s just going to be you two hanging out and if you can integrate together with other people that you may not know before, it forms a great bond. I also had a lack of friends at the time, so that's one way of bringing people together,” he laughs.
“Everybody was coming in fresh, and every new member was coming in with something different. Rudy [Rupert, keys] comes from this really blues background, wouldn’t say it’s my cup of tea, he can play Mozart on the guitar and all this stuff. Marley loves this sort of communist beat.
"Jordan [drums] is the best drummer there is, and Leo [bass] is Greek, so he knows all this traditional Greek music. They’re just the best fucking band ever, I look back and look at them on stage, and it’s incredible.”
Thought through carefully, with the opportunity to do so, the results so far have been mesmerising. Debut cut ‘Youth In Overload’ is a soaring warm number - a theatrical blend of Nick Cave and big-screen soundtracks that bursts like an instant classic from the first listen, while follow-up ‘Cruel Intentions’ is a menacing stand-off encapsulated in audio form. Like peeking into Chilli’s inner journal, it’s a sound that owns and entices in rather than clambering for position, and all the better for it as an opening statement of intent. What it shows more than anything, is the raw approach Chilli is taking to confront the darkest corners.
“'Youth In Overload', it encapsulates those two years of really turbulent and emotional times. That sort of capsule of my life is there,” reveals Chilli, “and it’s all sort of worked itself out, some days are harder than others but having all this kind of freedom of being able to express all of this stuff…” he tails off, taking the time to think and reflect. “I wear my heart on my sleeve, I always have, and now I’m doing that in my music, and it’s the most honest approach I can have to it.
“I used to dress a lot of stuff in irony. If you dress things in irony, you can put your guard up and say, ‘Oh, that was just a joke’. Now it’s all out there, and it feels amazing, to be honest. Now is a really important time. I’m sure it’s always been, but now more so than ever. There’s not this massive stigma attached to mental health, and I think there’s real importance in being open about those thoughts and issues. The fact that society is like that now has helped me to be honest in that way - not that there wasn’t when I started, I just don’t think emotionally I was ready to go down that path.”
An opportunity to be raw, to be vulnerable and to be open - Crewel Intentions are the band Chilli Jesson was born to front. An enigmatic blend of eras that stand apart from anyone else, it’s the result of a songwriter facing the world and learning how important his place is. Radiating happiness that’s a joy to hear after years of uncertainty and worry, now he has the confidence to make the next few months truly unmissable.
“I’ve always had belief,” Chilli admits. “It’s the confidence that makes it more of a reality. I strive off confidence; it’s like a snowball effect for me. Once it starts, it doesn’t stop.”
Taken from the February issue of Dork, out now.
Featuring The Japanese House, Yak, Sunflower Bean, FIDLAR, White Lies and more.