Since her self titled debut in 2012, Jessica Pratt has been crafting homespun folk that fringes on psychedelic. Armed with her guitar and a striking voice, she’s never needed any kind of embellishments to make songs that really stick to the bones. This February, she’ll reemerge with her first album in four years, Quiet Signs; written in her hometown of Los Angeles and recorded in New York, it’s her first record since signing to Mexican Summer, and her storytelling — wiser and sharper than ever before — is punctuated with soft flutes, organs and synths. The result is her most thorough statement yet, an incandescent body of work that signals a full arrival for one of the most distinctive voices of her genre.
The album wraps on a gorgeous note with “Aeroplane,” premiering today on The FADER. Recounting a gilded journey, Pratt allows herself to zoom out of the minutiae and find the bigger picture through the tiniest window. Nobody leaves on an airplane and arrives home as quite the same person. For Pratt, it’s an adequate summation of the past couple of years leading up to Quiet Signs. We caught up with Pratt to discuss the song, as well as the process behind what she calls her most cohesive album to date.
On the space between Quiet Signs and her last album, 2015’s On Your Own Love Again:
When I came back from touring, I needed to acclimate to being a human again and not being in this robotic performance mode. It’s rewarding emotionally, but after a certain length of time, you’re out of a certain creative headspace. Before I really started writing anything concrete, I had some insecurities. Any time you fall out of practice with something, there’s a little niggling thing in your mind where you’re worried you’ll never be able to do it again. I had to work through being in a place where I was hyper-analyzing everything I was working on. If you start to edit things before they fully form, it’s very poisonous.
On making what she calls her most cohesive album to date:
The last record and this one differ in that the last one was very instinctual — this big blast that I wasn’t really analyzing. I wasn’t signed to a label at the time, and it felt like a more private experience than anything else. Comparatively, this was a much more considered experience. I started writing from scratch and was aware from day one that everything I was working on would be a part of one collective whole that I would then offer to people.
On the album’s intro “Opening Night,” a reference to John Cassavetes’ 1977 film of the same name:
When I was beginning to write the album, I had gone to see the movie in the theater. It was already a favorite film of mine, but sometimes the experience in a theater can be very impactful...especially if it’s a highly emotional, visceral film like that. When I heard this piano rendition of the second song on the album “As The World Turns,” it called to mind a rehearsal room which made me think of theater and setting a stage for a solitary performance. I think that when you’re going through a personally challenging time, I think it’s very natural to project your own experiences onto fictional characters, and I definitely experienced a little bit of that with the main character in that film, Myrtle Gordon.
On making an album with an audience in mind:
The more conscious you are of yourself as an entity, and the more that you imagine that people have a preconception of what you are, it can be easier to step into a semi-fictionalized version of yourself. Not to say that it’s falseness, but it is a performance, and somewhat theatrical. Making this record was as close to the bone as anything I’ve made, but there was a new level of confidence that was definitely missing before.
On writing in Los Angeles and recording in New York:
I’ve always felt like time and space are this sort of unreal thing. Especially when you fly across the country in five hours, you become much less conscious of the space you’ve just traversed. It was surreal sometimes. The process of going to New York and having time scheduled every day mattered a lot. I was working every day in the studio. It lent me a productive work ethic that was helpful in getting me to break a lackadaisical headspace at home — to get into soldier mode and get things done.
It’s the oldest song on the record. I wrote that melody years ago and decided to rework it. I had definitely toured some at that point, but the song was slightly prophetic because some of the things I talk about are so relevant to much of my life over the past few years. There’s an emotional inhalation that you get from being in such an enclosed space where the rule is that you don’t talk to anyone. I do a lot of important processing on airplanes because it’s the only time when you’re really cut off from the world.
Quiet Signs is out February 8 via Mexican Summer.
Jessica Pratt 2019 tour dates:
04/26/19 - Seattle, WA @ Ballard Homestead
04/27/19 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
04/30/19 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
05/01/19 - Big Sur, CA @ Henry Miller Memorial Library
05/03/19 - Los Angeles, CA @ Pico Union Project
05/09/19 - Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center
05/10/19 - Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village
05/11/19 - Pittsburgh, PA @ The Warhol
05/12/19 - Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
05/13/19 - Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
05/15/19 - Boston, MA @ Great Scott
05/16/19 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
05/17/19 - Washington, DC @ Miracle Theatre
05/19/19 - Brooklyn, NY @ Park Church Co-op