premiere: slo, nothing hurts like this

Jess Mills returns as SLO with a beautiful and a breathtaking new track.

by i-D Staff
30 April 2015, 12:54am

She might have been known previously for more bass-driven offerings, but London singer and writer Jess Mills' new project, SLO, offers a much more, svelte, subtle ethos. Premiering today on i-D, the heart-bursting Nothing Hurts Like This is both beautiful and a bit breathtaking. "It's is song about the irrational spectrum of emotion you can feel in love at any one time," says Jess. "The ridiculous things you can say to each other, the utter irrationality of those moments. It's a perverse thing that we quite often take out our hardest edges on the person closest to us. I was always taught that you should never treat the person you love like that, never have them be the person who experiences the worst of you. They are the rock that holds you up, so you should never chip away at it. You should protect them from that, not overexpose them too it. I guess Nothing Hurts Like This is a song about that overexposure." Written with and produced by Zero 7's Henry Binns, press play and get ready to bring the pain...

Hello Jess! How's life?
Hello! I'm very good thank you, it's been a really great few weeks actually. It feels quite amazing to be putting music out again. There was a minute when I wasn't sure when that was going to happen, so that fact that it is, has made me very happy of late.

Last time you were about, you were signed to Island and known for your work within DnB/ Dubstep. Now you're signed to Black Butter and your music is most definitely not DnB/Dubstep. What's been happening?
The last couple of years have been defined really by having a necessary amount of space and freedom, this has been really integral to the music that has formed this new chapter.

This music was really just made for myself initially. At first it just felt enough to be writing without an end goal in sight, just out of the necessity to exorcise all these ideas and have a body of work that I felt really proud of. I signed to Black Butter Publishing recently, as well as writing and releasing my own new solo material, I'm also really loving writing songs with and for other artists. Already since my signing to BB a couple of very exciting things have entered the pipe line. They're the most ambitious and driven people I've ever worked with, I feel very honoured to be part of their family.

What's behind the project name, 'SLO'.
SLO was a name that had been kicking round in my mind since I started writing the new material. It felt symbiotic with the music I was making, it just stuck.

The landscape has changed quite a lot over the last three years; where do you see yourself and your music in terms of what people are listening to at the moment?
I think I find myself looking outward much less these days, I didn't write any of this with a sense of where it would or could fit in; I just wanted to write songs and work with producers that I loved and that be the only criteria. Although there has been so much great new music coming out in the last few years, the artists I've been really inspired by in writing this music have been around for a while;, Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden) Cat Power, Prince, Beth Gibbons and also more recently James Blake - he's an extensively referenced artist these days but I think that's because he's genuinely cut a new paradigm in music with his work.

Do you feel a difference now that you're not on a major label? What are your reflections on your time at Island Records?
I had some amazing times during my time at Island and also some not so amazing times. In the end it just didn't work out. Luckily it was a very amicable separation between us and I really have no bad feelings towards anyone about that whole time. When it all came to end, it was a surprisingly huge relief to be back in control of my own process and making music that I felt really proud of. Creatively, the difference in the writing processes has been utterly different this time. There have been no executive decisions other than my own in terms of the music and creative, and that has been so important to me. I really struggled with with the explicit expectation of me writing MY music just for "Commercial" purposes. For me, writing music has always been about something so much more integral than that, it's an extension of myself. Of course commercial success is an amazing thing if you can achieve it, but I think it's much more likely to happen if the music has integrity in the first place. Quietly I still dream very big I guess; I dream of playing on big stages to big crowds.

How do you feel about the music you're making now and the artist you've become/ are becoming?
I've removed the filter completely with this music. I guess that has given me space to write some of my most honest work. I don't feel I'm seeking approval or validation with this. As a singer I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have before. I feel I know my strengths and my limitations but, most importantly I suppose I feel I can express my music and my songs as I intended them to be. It makes the prospect of doing shows again a really exciting prospect.

Today we're premiering Nothing Hurts Like This from the SLO EP. Can you tell us a bit about SLO.
This EP has always intended to be an introduction. These were some of the first songs I wrote in this new chapter and it felt right that they should come first. The people I've collaborated with on the production side has been really important too, I've been working with minimalism and hyperspace in the production, hopefully giving space for the rawness of the songs to communicate. Hopefully people can feel an intimate proximity to the subject matter, those are always the songs that have meant the most to me.

It might be a bit naff to mention parents, but as your mum is a Labour MP and as we have a major election coming up, can you tell us your thoughts? Do you plan to vote, what are your hopes for this election?
Don't apologise, it's not naff and I'm also very used to it! Yes, of course I will vote - as you know I come from a staunch Labour family. It looks like Ed Miliband might actually have a shot at this Election, people who doubt his personal charisma need to remember that the Labour Party is much bigger and more important that the singular face of its current leader.

At the heart of The Conservative ideology lies a profound lack of social empathy, the insidious way they are singlehandedly dismantling the services that support the people that need them most in need in our country is chilling proof of that. I saw a picture of D Cam posing in a pic with Katie Hopkins the other day, that says it all really. How any decent person could even breath the same air as that woman, she's a fucking sociopath. Basically, everyone get out and vote, it's looking like we've actually got a shot at getting the Tories out and that is the most important thing for all of us.

If there's anything else you want to add, please do!
I guess I should say here that the SLO EP is out on May 4th… sorry for the shameless plug but I just realised I better mention that somewhere!


jess mills
nothing hurts like this