I renounced religion many years ago but I want to be in this club
Like the fire god Agni (Hindu not Baptist), Los Angeles sports 2 heads on its sprawling, bloated metropolis. One looking up to the butterscotch sun with lens flared, technicolour dreamscapes of vintage Hollywood. The other, snake eye slithering through a seedier, grainier city of sin; a tongue-flicking search for a future, in which the only certainty is that it’s gonna be a mighty ride getting there. For every cool, smooth LA groove there is its darker opposite. For every Captain and Tenille, a Black Flag. For each Hissing of Summer Lawns, a Straight Outta Compton. The city of Charles Bukowski and James Ellroy.
And straight out of the East side, we bring you Jagged Baptist Club. I haven't been this excited by a band since I first heard Turnstiles and before that Fontaines DC (fan boy disclosure - I was heard to declare them 'the future of rock 'n' roll'). The club consists of Blake Stokes (guitar, vox), Morgan Ponder (drums), Josh Boyd (synths) and CJ Ramsey (bass). They sit in their own space between noise artists, motorik punk and post rock yet always with a pulsing groove and an eye for a melodic hook. And the odd saxophone.
Houston-born Blake moved to LA in 2009 and after several precursors, formed the band in the implausible, industrial sub city of Vernon. He takes up the story: 'Vernon is still the only place I have found in LA where it’s actually quiet sometimes. It feels remote, it feels alien, it is purely industrial. Living and writing there (in our rehearsal space), even recording there, makes me feel like I am off on a remote secret planet, my own world. Vernon feels like this hidden monastery where people come to create their own witchcraft. It was and still is an incredibly inspiring place to work.'
Their music sounds otherworldly; recognisable noise with nods to their European influences yet simultaneously like nothing else. Remote, alien and industrial indeed.
Their debut LP Reptile Super Show was released in Summer 2019 and drew comparisons with Primal Scream and Savages, with self-confessed influences including Blur, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, The Birthday Party and Division of Laura Lee. As one perceptive reviewer noted '.... the title track to the new album by Jagged Baptist Club, is one mean beast. On an album full of menacing guitars, spat missives and sonic clatter suggesting “Transformers” being chewed up by metal teeth, the pulsing 6 1/2-minute track is the heartbeat.'
Fast forward through the shit show of 2020 into January 2021, radio station KCRW premier their newest single Temptation Death House. A track which breaks new ground for a band normally known as guitar-wielding, atonal sonic terrorists. Built around an unstoppably sexy drum and bass groove, the song winds its way through the city like an Anaconda on its way to a guillotine.
One Instagram message later, it's also slithering its way into our unknowing yet receptive universe. Are we ready for this? Too fucking right, it's what we've been waiting for. Warm, noisy, sleazy, kinetic, sprawling and cool - JBC are the perfect psychogeographic fit for LA. We love 'em.