Jack Peñate returns: “It stopped at a time that everyone was thinking, where’s this going to go?”

Jack Peñate may once have been the buzziest name on the block, but as he prepares to drop his much-anticipated third album, he finally knows who he wants to be.

Things that have happened since Jack Peñate last released an album include: The 1975 appeared and released (almost) all of their music to date; Dork started these excellent pages; and My Chemical Romance broke up, went on hiatus for several years, and got back together again.

While this may seem like a long time, the road Jack’s been travelling to this very moment – including Dork meeting him in a lovely posh-looking room in his management’s offices – has been in search of who he wants to be as an artist.

Popping up during the great indie-wave of the mid-late noughties, Jack released his debut ‘Matinée’ in 2007, spending a fair while touring it and enjoying being a young musician running around town with his best pal and XL Recordings labelmate, Adele.

He released the follow-up, ‘Everything Is New’, in 2009, and after that supporting tour – well, that was it.

A feeling had taken hold of Jack after he left the stage for the last time all those years ago. He was wary of the classic “arrested development” that arises in the music industry once you’re on that pathway.

“You release a record, and you’re twenty-one or whatever age, and you carry on, and you pretty much stay there,” he says poignantly. “Not much changes. That was my biggest fear; of the no progression – in personality, in the ability to write.

“I was super aware of it, and that was the main thing. What if I make another record and I put it out in the next year or two? Is it that I’m that? I’m that guy. But that’s it; that guy’s gonna fall into the cycle again, and then there’s no stopping this. There’s literally no stopping it.”

“I wasn’t like a normal teenager. I didn’t drink or go out, I literally wrote songs, and practised”
Jack Peñate

To the outside world, it looked like he was popping off for a bit to do The Cycle, but those on the inside knew different.

“It stopped at a time that everyone was already kind of thinking, where’s this going to go?” he confesses. “We were all thinking, I don’t know where it’s going to go. It seemed like there was a natural end to whatever that was; we all felt it. Everyone who’s working and people in the band and everything.”

Being a solo artist made the call a little easier to make, but still, Jack was walking away from something he’d planned out for almost all of his young adult life, having spent his formative teen years trying to achieve what he’d always dreamt of.

“‘I’m gonna be a musician. That’s it. I’m going to be signed by My 21st birthday by this exact label’. I wasn’t like a normal teenager. I didn’t drink or go out, I literally wrote songs, and practised. I was really quite studious.

“I’d never actually had a time where I didn’t know what I was doing in my life. Up to then, I’d always known exactly what I’m doing. I got to the end of it and was like, I’ve done all those things, and unfortunately, the expected outcome of how I thought I would feel didn’t seem to appear.”

He also wanted to be bloody good at what he does. Honing in on just what he wanted out of the crazy machine that is the music industry, it was simply to be happy – and to be able to crack out a bop in twenty minutes, as he did with one his returning singles, ‘Murder’.

This journey saw him undertaking a lot of reflective thinking, but none of it was ever planned out. Nor on dry land.

“Someone would say; ‘I’m going on a boat. Do you want to come? We leave next week’, and I’d be like ‘Oh, fuck it. All right, let’s do it!’ So a lot of it wasn’t like; ‘I need to do this, I need to achieve this’. It was all very, you know, unregulated. There was there wasn’t much of a thought process!”

Which is how this second coming of Jack Peñate came to be. Finally, with his third album, ‘After You’, in tow, he’s arrived once more.

“How do you tell the story of someone who’s, you know, lost everything?”
Jack Peñate

Of course, coming back up ten years later presents its own kind of problems. One of the biggest questions that was thrown around the Jack-camp was, “‘We’ve got to go work out, where do I exist within this landscape?'”

But bowing to that pressure would’ve undone the work Jack had put into re-discovering himself, and the entire journey he’d been aiming for, which is why you won’t find him sporting any designer goods, or leaning into whatever fad appears in the charts.

His comeback album is a walk through the influences deep in his subconscious, those that resonated from his childhood, but perhaps more importantly, it’s Jack telling his truth.

“From the outset, the main goal was how do you tell the story of someone who’s, you know, lost everything?”

Which is what he dips into across the musical spectrum he’s bringing with him. But beyond the exploration of his sonic-self, and a deeper understanding, he also accrued a new mate in dog Bobby.

“I don’t want to be crude here, but I think picking up a shit every morning is like literally like, this is as good as it’s gonna get,” he says with a chuckle. But there’s more depth to this new relationship than walks and picking up dog mess.

“It’s amazing. It keeps you on your toes about how you’re thinking, and I [could] easily go days without like leave my house. I have my studio in my home, and I’ll be a little room, and I’ll get up in bed and go straight there.”

But venturing outside with Bobby means that Jack Peñate of 2019 is someone who sees the world with a more driven, organic purpose.

‘After You’ has been entirely crafted and presented with the help of his friends and family. He took a giant leap of faith within himself, walked away from something he’d built up, and is letting the world reconnect to just who Jack wants to be.

“My album is something I’m proud of,” he states with a resounding echo of self-recognition. “It’s an expelling of creative, loving pain.”

Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork. Jack Peñate’s album ‘After You’ is out 29th November.

Words: Steven Loftin

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