In conversation with

Jess Eastwood

Jess Eastwood, front woman of Isle of Wight outfit Coach Party, offers an honest discussion on the challenges faced over recent months, sustaining momentum and keeping loud in a reluctantly quiet reality.

Coach Party are deservedly on the rise. Their sound has become increasingly assured after signing to Chess Club Records in 2019 and is frequently starting to fall into the hands of the most influential voices in the industry. It was interesting to consider after establishing some early success if Jess was experiencing any new pressures in refining a structured online presence, and how well she felt she was managing to do that.

Jess: Being in a band, obviously you always see people online doing better than you and you forever focus on that instead of focusing on how far you’ve actually come. You want to keep up this amazing profile and celebrate what we’ve achieved but especially with me, I am always comparing and thinking ‘this person is miles ahead’ without thinking about the fact that they’ve been doing it for so much longer. I never think about what’s happened, I always think about where I’ve got to go. Even you talking about success then, I never visualise it like that. I always think that we’ve got lucky when in reality it’s not every day you get picked up by a label and get to do all the things we’re able to do.

Jess stands in a brown jacket, leaning, in front of Clifton Suspension bridge.
People have found comfort and peace of mind through various ways during lockdown, where we have had to adapt to spending significantly longer periods of time with ourselves and our own thoughts. A recurring theme that has surfaced through multiple conversations regarding coping mechanisms is slowing down and reigniting our relationship with nature and our immediate surroundings. What was it that managed to help someone so ambitious in a time of such restriction and did the open spaces on the Isle of Wight play a part in keeping a clear mind?

Jess: I guess I haven’t had that fear of missing out especially playing live and stuff, because literally no one else can do anything either. I’ve definitely found comfort in that. Another thing maybe, a silver lining to all this, was thinking about the lack of cars on the road, the lack of planes in the sky. That made me feel good.

I was really frightened for the first four weeks of lockdown but then slowly got used to it. It gave me the opportunity to leave my phone at home. I was thinking yeah I can actually go out and leave my phone here, and that was so nice. I couldn’t do that now because someone will be getting in touch telling me something has to be done or we have to meet somewhere, or that I need to call someone or post something. You know, things aren’t back on, but they’re definitely closer to being back on than back off. It just reminded me how little stress I had. I boil most of my stress down to my phone, checking it, people messaging me or whatever. I never really want to pick my phone up but I feel like I have to. That was a really cool thing for me just feeling comfortable enough to leave it and drive somewhere and not have that anxiety.

The open space was a massive thing too. I have a lot of friends and family who are in city environments and at times I thought that’s the last place I want to be right now, especially when it was so hot. That one hour a day we were able to head down to the beach easily, so that was really nice to have.

Jess stands in front of a graffiti covered wall.

Delivering such a confident act at the front of the stage, it is difficult to grasp that Jess first picked up a bass guitar less than two years ago with no real ambition to dive head first into the music industry. She began to explore writing lyrics primarily for fun with guitarist Steph, and that initial early sound has played a prominent role throughout their development.

At the time of their experimentation, both were working the same day job together, and are still working intensely hard to make a living behind the scenes. It is intriguing to hear the justification in Jess’ words when measuring certain creative progressions in comparison to successes found in more structured and perhaps traditional career paths.

Jess: Learning an instrument is a huge achievement on its own but I never think about it. It’s a different type of success. Maybe I don’t see it as important because it’s not like you’re progressing in a job, progressing in anything that essentially makes you money. It definitely goes unnoticed sometimes.

Playing bass makes me very happy though. You can compare getting better and better as little promotions. The happiness I get from progressing with an instrument would outweigh any promotion in a job, especially if the only change was the amount of money I was getting.

Jess stands in front of a pump track.

Backdrops ranging from dingy snooker bars, clinical indoor basketball courts and evergreen fields on the south coast have helped visually enforce the band’s homegrown sound in their music videos whilst giving a nod to classic British landscapes. Due to obvious recent events, new production has been incredibly challenging, resulting in a successful experiment where Jess and friends filmed their own footage under no specific brief. With Bristol based Daniel Broadley directing and editing on a regular basis, the accompanying visuals are consistently amplifying their journey, one release at a time.

One thing for sure is that Coach Party are looking increasingly comfortable in front of the camera, kicking and screaming louder than ever before. Does getting into character require a significant amount of preparation or is it easy to dive into without much consideration?

Jess: Everyday Jess and music video Jess are very similar people. It’s not too hard to switch because we have the same director for each of our videos and we’re good friends now. You have to be able to just let go and not focus on the ten members of crew in front of you watching and working because essentially that’s their job. I always think too, with any video, if you don’t fully go for it, it will look stupid. You might as well make a fool out of yourself in front of the people there. You’d rather do that than watch it a month later and think ‘ah, I wish I went for it a bit more there’. That’s where our director Dan really helps, he tells me ‘I know you won’t be happy with that, you can do better, let’s do it again’.

With their first EP Party Food available for streaming across multiple digital platforms and also released as a limited edition 10” vinyl earlier this year, the one place most people would have listened to Coach Party in recent months is in and around the home. It is a huge shame that the unrivalled energy of live performances could not have gone ahead to showcase this new release to an accelerating fanbase. How has the creative process regarding writing and recording had to adapt to its newfound environment in terms of not being able to be performed live?

Jess: Yeah, so like writing Party Food, we wrote that ages ago and released it all through lockdown. It was weird knowing we were never going to gig this with it being the main focus. That’s not going to happen because now we’ve moved onto working on EP 2. With everyone at home and not being able to go to gigs it feels like there’s more demand and people are getting bored easily. It’s just weird putting all these emotions into writing songs and then for them just to fly by and it makes you wonder will we be in the same situation when our next EP is released? You can’t even think about playing them live because there simply is no live music at the moment. The main pressure for me is definitely writing. The other guys know this, I’m always saying ‘I can’t do it’.

EP cover for Coach Party's Party Food. The band are grouped together and the background is blue.

Having Guy, Steph and Joe there, I’m always saying I can’t sing this bit very well or whatever, and they’re always saying ‘shut your mouth, you’re fine and in your head’. Having those voices is really reassuring. Having Jonathan there as well, our manager, he’s really good at reminding me of the journey we’re actually on. You know, ‘we’ve done this, this is next, we’ve got to work on this.’ He really recognises each of us for our individual efforts and you definitely need someone like that to pull you through in those times of self-doubt. Sometimes he reminds us that we’ve only been a band for a year and a half and that we need to cut ourselves some slack.

Words and images by Jake Hitchcock