"I look like dogshit!!" Out of the many things that 2020 has given us that we'd like to see 'do one' and toddle off, Zoom interview calls are often up there. But sometimes it provides pure gold, and that's the case when he voice of Coach Party's Jess blasts out of our speakers before we even catch a glimpse of her tonight. Laughing as she appears, Dork is finally face to face (ish) with one-quarter of one of the Hypiest bands in our Hype List for 2021. Because out of the many things that 2020 has given us that we want to cling on to very tightly, this band from the Isle of Wight is most definitely up there. All aboard the Hype, erm, Coach then.
No messing, there are very few bands that are getting us THIS excited right now. After signing to Chess Club Records in late 2019, their debut EP 'Party Food' arrived and acted as a giant wake-up call for anyone not paying attention to what had been happening a few miles off the south coast. Following swiftly in their wake, a bop of a collab with Alfie Templeman and more killer singles. It has been Quite The Year for Coach Party, then.
"2020 was so hyped as our breakthrough year, and then... But it's gone as well as I guess it could have been considering," smiles Jess tonight. "So I'm super grateful for that, though I wish we could have played some gigs obviously."
Lack of gigs aside, the buzz around the band has been increasing exponentially after every release so far. And what a run they're on. 'Party Food' showed a band already running at full speed, and one that could go in any direction they chose. If 'Breakdown' and 'Space' felt like a band that could crash through into the mainstream like a Wolf Alice, 'Bleach' showed that Jess was more than willing to open up in the most brutally honest, and painful, way when she sang "I think about dying by myself but I'm not suicidal, just a little underwhelmed". The following two singles, 'Can't Talk, Won't' and 'Really OK On My Own' carried on in the same vein. All in all, it's been a blistering year then.
"Yeah definitely," agrees Jess. "I think 'Party Food' was really special, and they were the songs that had got us our manager and then with Chess Club. But we didn't really value them that much. Like, we just thought it was fun writing and recording some songs. But we've moved on quite a bit already, those next releases feel more true to where we're going. It's quite philosophical really, that's who we were then, and this is who we are now."
Where they could go next, and who they are now, is massively exciting. "I think we want to try and be more heavy, we're definitely trying that for these next few releases," Jess offers. "I'm at this road at the minute where lyrically, a few of the songs are getting quite dark and a bit meaningful. And I kinda like that we're a bit playful sound-wise, but then be like 'hmm, might top myself', too."
Careful not to sound flippant at this point, she leans in to the camera as she elaborates a bit further. "I think it's that feeling of what I think everyone feels inside, but they don't say it. The main thing I'd love people to take away from us is, you know, we all feel not that great sometimes. And those dark thoughts can happen to the happiest of people, and I think music is quite sugar-coated sometimes. I'd love for us to not have that," she finishes firmly.
Admitting that people have asked her if she was ok after some of the last releases, it's clear that this openness is going to continue into the band's forthcoming EP as she describes it as songs that have been 'plucked from her heart'.
As we chat about how the band could go anywhere musically, talk turns to who they'd like to emulate impact-wise. "We all collectively really love Wolf Alice, so yeah, I'd love to be similar to them," she says. "And I know there's a lot of Weezer love within everyone, so that's a contender too. But it would also be nice to break another barrier because I think there are so few bands at the minute that are actually breaking through. Pop rules all collectively at the minute! I'd love for the whole time of indie to just come back around, like it was in 2010 with Bombay, The Cribs and everyone. I'd love festivals to just be this collection of mental bands."
As you'd imagine, the IOW Festival has fond memories for Jess - but not the ones that you'd maybe imagine. "My favourite bit of that whole weekend is just on the Monday driving past the ferry terminals and seeing everyone in welly boots looking like they've just attended their mum's funeral. Carnage!" she cackles. Island life is embedded in Jess, despite many of Coach Party's songs talking of escape of some sort. "I think it's 'testing' here," she explains. "You get branded as being a bit of a failure if you don't move off it as a young person. But I chose to stay. I'd really love to move, but I want to do stuff with the band. And I love the sea and how quiet it is. In the summer, it's just like living on a paradise island with ice cream vans on every road."
With a new 300-capacity venue opening in the centre of the island, Jess states that it saved the island's music scene. And with the likes of Jess' friend Lauran Hibberd still living there, it's a scene that is starting to gain attention fast.
"She lives two minutes away from me. We went to Aldi together the other day," she laughs. "I'm a Morrisons person, though. I didn't realise that they just throw the stuff at you in Aldi. She was like, 'Catch it!' Are we music royalty on the island? Definitely."
Bands like Plastic Mermaids, Champs and erm, Level 42 live locally too, leading her to roar "Christ, we're the celebrity island!" With time split between working at a local farm park - Benedict Cumberbatch and James Blunt popped in recently to the delight of many (not together we should add), and catching up on her beloved conspiracy theories, life seems good.
Looking ahead to next year, Jess is adamant with what comes next. "I reckon it's time we start cracking on with music now, we've got a lot of demoing and writing to do," she nods. "We've been doing some really exciting co-writing lately. Went up to London a few weeks ago to do some with Juliette from The Big Moon, and met Joe from Amber Run a few weeks ago too. Yeah, so we're really cracking down on writing as much material as possible. Because if we can gig then, we want to play as much as possible and have as much material behind us as possible."
There are no plans for a full album in 2021, with the singer keen to keep building anticipation first. "Basically, when we write an album, I need to know that when it goes out that it will be Mercury Prize-worthy. That's what I need," she laughs before chatting about one of this year's contenders. "That Sports Team thing was brilliant with Lady Gaga, that was quality entertainment. I bought two copies just because I wanted them to win. One of them was on iTunes. And I don't even use iTunes..."
Mercury Prize nominee for 2022? With the start to life that Coach Party have made, honestly, you wouldn't be surprised at this point. Better get on board, this party has just got started.
Taken from the December 2020 / January 2021 issue of Dork, out now.
Featuring YUNGBLUD, Baby Queen, BENEE, Joe Keery and loads more.