Jesse Jo Stark on Her New Album ‘Doomed,’ Synthesizing Masculine and Feminine, and Connecting With Her Inner Child

Nowadays, new artists often try to flood fans with music, attempting to acquire an audience through pure saturation. But singer and songwriter Jesse Jo Stark has employed the opposite approach, meting out an EP and a slow string of singles over the last five years with the intentionality and precision of someone rationing water in a desert.

It helps that the 31-year-old artist has some other pursuits to fill her time. Stark is part of the Chrome Hearts fashion family, and has designed for the brand, in addition to running her own clothing line called Deadly Doll, and trying her hand at acting. All the while, she’s been crafting a magnificently macabre musical image, one that feels distinct from the dourness that has permeated recent pop music.

Doomed, her first official album out this week, is filled with noir imagery and offers an alluring shadowiness. On standout tracks like “So Bad,” which features Stark’s close friend and collaborator Jesse Rutherford of The Neighbourhood, and “Tornado,” guitar chords sweep like tumbleweeds over a dusty road, and Stark’s reverb-soaked vocals are a masterclass in considered restraint. But she’s also branching into new territory, offering an anthemic country tune (“Lipstick”) and a dark take on disco (“Pussycat”), across the album’s lean 11 tracks.

Ahead of Doomed’s release, GQ spoke to Stark about finally releasing her debut LP, working with Jesse Rutherford, and drawing inspiration from Italian illustrators, Audrey Hepburn, and the dictionary.

GQ: How does it feel to be on the cusp of releasing an album that’s been so long in the works?

Jesse Jo Stark: It’s so random. I feel like time has just fucking passed by. I’ve always been that person who, if I get a show or something, I won’t believe that I’m playing it until I’m on stage. I don’t really know how I feel and I’m very nervous, but I’m excited. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.

You’ve been releasing music for a while, but an album should reach people who were previously unfamiliar with your discography. How do you balance having songs that really appeal to you personally with songs that would make a good impression on potential new fans?

I explain each song as if it’s a different mood in my day. I feel like we wake up in one mood and end in another. Musically, I’m so inspired by a million different things and I’ve never felt a part of one specific genre. I think that’s very irritating for people because they really want to categorize you and make sure they understand what they’re listening to, but that’s just never been my intention with my music. If I’m playing the album live, I want to fulfill every kind of niche I have of wanting to dance or wanting to cry, wanting to scream. A couple of the songs I have on here are from six years ago. We added the last track “Trippin” literally two weeks before the album was done. I remembered this demo I had and I was like, “This has to be the end,” so then we added an outro to round out the whole record. It came down to not taking it too seriously and just saying, “These seem right. This is what I want to fucking play when I’m on stage. This really is me, at least right now.”

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