“House of Jealous Lovers,” The Rapture’s bridge between the punk they grew up on and the dance music they were beginning to embrace, was written in 2000, just a year after Jenner and Roccoforte had picked up and moved from San Francisco to New York. It was around that time that they met a pre-LCD Soundsystem James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, his founding (and now former) partner in DFA. Though the song was written before DFA technically existed, the duo brought a lot to the table, not only in putting out the single and promoting The Rapture’s sound, but also inoculating the band with what would become DFA’s signature recording style, which Murphy and Goldsworthy infused with a variety of outside sounds and relevant musical quotation. DFA co-founder Jonathan Galkin, who at that time had been convinced to quit his job to help put out the single, points to a track like “Olio,” which appears on both their pre-DFA LP Mirror and the DFA-produced sophomore effort, Echoes, as being a good example of this. The influence of Warp Records’ bleep era house music transforms the dark, droning goth jam of Mirror’s “Olio” into Echoes’ spare house-infused analog: a piano melody layered with bleeping synths and back beats, the guitars all but stripped away. Everyone at DFA had known that The Rapture’s second LP would need to be put out by a larger label, as they didn’t have the money or distribution capabilities, but they didn’t support The Rapture’s decision to go to Universal. Smarting from the loss of time and emotional energy they’d put into helping record Echoes, DFA asked for a portion of the band’s advance as well as some songwriting credits—demands that The Rapture felt, at that time, were unreasonable. Nine years after the fact, though, it seems the majority opinion on both sides is that any acrimony was due to youth and inexperience. “Olio”—along with several other tracks on Echoes—fell into a murky gray area between authorship, collaboration and friendship.
Without the collective synergy of DFA, The Rapture’s stint with Universal was like an awkward adolescence. They had vague ideas about what they wanted their sound to be, but lacked the strength, direction and single-mindedness to produce anything cohesive. “Pieces of the People We Love, to me personally, didn’t feel like we’d stretched out enough or pushed things enough,” says Roccoforte. After Pieces, the band had a brief and strange interlude with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake and recorded a track for the video game Grand Theft Auto IV called “No Sex For Ben.” For Safer, this collaboration felt like a move in the right direction, whereas for the rest of the band it was more of a fluke—a one-off collaboration with a producer they admire, but something that was ultimately not right. “It just didn’t make any fucking sense to me because it was the total antithesis of what I felt musically I wanted to do or what we should be doing,” explains Roccoforte. “It was a total different direction.” On Pieces, Safer sang on almost half the songs, and the band’s sound and direction were getting muddled between two leaders. As Andruzzi sees it, “It’s part of the whole big picture. When you’re in a band with two singers, you’re sort of caught between two singers. Vito and I were kind of like moderators/collaborators.” Vying for artistic space eventually led Jenner to quit the band in the summer of 2008, after they’d wrapped up all their promotion responsibilities for the album earlier that winter. “I felt like my voice wasn’t being heard anymore,” he explains. “I started the band as a creative outlet for what I wanted to do, but Mattie just wanted more and more space.”
During his months away from the band, Jenner worked on finding his own voice and coming to terms with both losing his mother and having a child. He became a Catholic, a church he found literally because his son dragged him inside. “One day he was like, I want to go in there, and so we did and started talking to people and hanging out. I knew that having some sort of ‘practice’ would be helpful, but I didn’t know how to do that.” As he had as an adolescent, Jenner also turned to music for comfort, only this time instead of steeping himself in early ’90s indie hardcore and punk, he started listening to early ’60s black gospel and bluegrass like The Lutheran Brothers, The Blue Sky Boys and The Stanley Brothers, and he joined his church’s choir. This experience deeply influenced his songwriting process, and many of the tracks on In the Grace of Your Love deal explicitly with faith and his relationship with his mother, swinging between a sometimes divine, sometimes damning portrait. In “Miss You” he sings, Never thought I would miss you, but, oh, how I miss you/ Always thought I could forget you but I can’t forget you…/ When I see your face, it just tears me up inside/ I wanna run, I wanna shake out this feeling, this feeling I have for you. Jenner also set out to cultivate a deeper connection to his roots, signing up for popular record database sites like ancestry.com, collecting information from distant relatives and working to strengthen his relationship with his father, whose photo appears on the cover of In the Grace of Your Love. (The photograph, a vintage shot from Surfer magazine, is of Jenner’s father standing “toes on the nose” in a cruciform). He also got weirdly into park league softball.