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Young Jesus - The Fool

February 20, 2024

Young Jesus - The Fool

John Rossiter (a.k.a Young Jesus) was clearing trash out of a citrus orchard in Tarzana when he received a mysterious email from Shahzad Ismaily.

i was curious to reach out to Young Jesus about Milford Graves.

can you please put me in touch with them?

are they still LA based?

kind regards,


Milford Graves was an interdisciplinary drum genius who explored connections between improvisational music, the human body, gardening, art, and science. Many years earlier, John had been asked if there were any artists he’d like to meet or collaborate with – Graves was the first name that came to mind. John had quit music to study permaculture and to work in landscapes and gardens. His last album, Shepherd Head, was too much time spent on the computer. Music had left John tired, jaded, and disconnected. Working with soil and plants gave him some life back. He said, “You know, when gardening, the right decision to make for the landscape is usually the one that is already happening. It just takes time to read what that is."

So, John left the orchard to meet Shahzad (Feist, Lou Reed, Arooj Aftab) for lunch. They instantly bonded, talking about improvisation, rhythm, the heart. On a lark, Shahzad invited John to New York. When John demurred, Shahzad cooked up a scheme to have John working in his garden in between sessions. Half ruse, half invitation. Shahzad The Trickster, leading them deeper into their strange journey.

They improvised whenever they were in the same town. John would work in Shahzad's garden in New York. Back at home in Los Angeles, John met with Alex Babbitt and Alex Lappin to plant fruit trees and build paths from broken concrete. After work, they'd sit at a piano and sing their hearts out.

Songs started to form, songs about shame and grief, love and redemption. They came fast, a song a day for two weeks. It was different from past albums, which felt like years of hammering out lyrics and ideas. This one came in the wake of a long illness, where tunes came in a rush, as if they were physical, as if the body couldn’t heal without them. An almost involuntary outpouring, overrunning his usual self-consciousness.

Rossiter had to sit and transcribe without judgment: let the ideas grow on their own. Shahzad was in LA one day when John sat down at the piano and played them for him. They decided to record them at Shahzad's Figure 8 Studios in Brooklyn – these songs would blossom into Young Jesus’ forthcoming album, The Fool.

The crew grew naturally from there. Lappin and Babbitt joined them in New York. Phil Weinrobe (Adrianne Lenker, Lonnie Holley) engineered and helped produce the songs. Aaron Roche came and sang. As the week went on, everyone grew closer, talking through the deep darkness in some of these songs. Building trust and friendship. Healing a bit. Rossiter remembers recording the tune "Rich". How it started so uncomfortably. Too much shame, sadness. No connection between the musicians. But, slowly, people showed up. Lappin's great aunt and uncle. Uncle Jack asked John if he'd ever talked to a therapist and everyone burst out laughing. Shahzad's daughter. Everyone shared some food and laughed. By the end they were singing the final line of the song - "back when I was a kid" - together.

Rossiter and Lappin went back to LA to finish the songs. They guided each other in the same way they built those broken concrete paths in the garden - sometimes using a sledgehammer, sometimes using their bare hands. Shahzad and Daniel Littleton (of IDA) happened to be in LA, and they came together to do a couple takes of "Rabbit" with Pete Min at Lucy's Meat Market. It was deeply connected music and they left the session laughing. Phil Weinrobe and Phil Hartunian (Westerman, Florist) mixed the record, former Young Jesus drummer Kern Haug mastered it.

Inner landscaping requires presence and bravery. It can get pretty dark and strange the deeper you walk into that jungle. And it’s from the absolute pits of that inner landscape that the truest music rises from.

At the end of the last session, Rossiter and Lappin sat down and drew tarot cards. John drew The Fool.

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