In the 1980 documentary “Philip Guston: A Life Lived,” the famed neo-expressionist talks about a painting he keeps starting over. “It looked alright—but it felt to me as if it were additions—this and that and that,” he says. “What I’m always seeking is some great simplicity where the whole thing is just there.”
“That, to me, is the ideal feeling of existing,” says John Rossiter, singer and guitarist of the LA-based art rock quartet Young Jesus. “That feeling you pursue when you’re creating, when the world is opening up and things are on the cusp of beauty and revelation, but it’s just out of reach. To maintain that in the face of depressing or difficult stuff is what I’d like to be able to do.” This pursuit is what drives Young Jesus, and it’s documented on their upcoming record The Whole Thing Is Just There.
On The Whole Thing, which takes its name from the late painter’s words, Young Jesus combines a palette of indie rock instrumentation with a spirit of unhindered spontaneity to construct—and deconstruct—emotionally potent and inventive sonic landscapes.
Imbued with a sense of both desperation and discovery, each track unfolds like a deep sea voyage: beginning on the familiar ground of a conventional song structure before setting sail for the open waters of instrumental experimentation and plumbing the depths of the unknown in search of some conceptual treasure before heading back to port.
A Chicago transplant, Rossiter’s distinct songwriting approach is informed in part by the city’s emo and post-rock traditions. But since his move to Los Angeles in 2013, his bandmates—experimentally-minded keyboardist Eric Shevrin, bassist/composer Marcel Borbon, and jazz-head drummer Kern Haug—have all brought their tastes to bear on the band’s sonic identity.
The quartet spent the following years crafting a unique style of indie rock improvisation by emphasizing openness and vulnerability in their rehearsals and live shows—the first fruits of which are catalogued on the group’s Saddle Creek debut S/T. “S/T was the sound of us learning how to communicate, as players and as friends,” says Rossiter. It was the ensuing tour that brought their insular musical language to a new level of fluency. The period of creative outpouring that followed is where The Whole Thing was conceived.
With soaring melodies, spiraling polyrhythms, free-wheeling improvisation, and a raw, stirring vocal performance from Rossiter, The Whole Thing Is Just There is both prismatic and resolute—the sound of four individuals in pursuit of a common goal: to glimpse what’s just beyond.