Sant Llorenç, the third album by the Catalan group Jo Jet i Maria Ribot, is a project about family and the passing of time. An impressive reflection on the emotional legacy of the generations before us. “Our lives are anchored in the lives of others,” says Jet Serra Morales, who talks about his cousins: “I now see them living the same summer I used to live. That got me thinking about how things change but stay the same nonetheless."
Written by: Rong Zwemmer
The accompanying music videos with album Sant Llorenç are moving. A baby is fed porridge, two sisters use the bed as a trampoline. A boy determinedly helps his father wash the car before he starts soaking his own toy car with the same sponge, which seems huge in his tiny hand. They are family fragments from those messy videotape recordings where the date with white letters still shines at the bottom of the screen. It doesn't get much more innocent than this. Maria and Jet sing beautifully over it and before you know it, you're longing for your own childhood.
Ten years ago, Jet (actually Jordi) started his singer-songwriter project, Jo Jet. At a random party, he saw Maria Ribot Farrés sing a song for fun. With her voice in mind, he wrote his next song. They recorded it, performed, and that was that. They are now three albums further and the project Jo Jet i Maria Ribot makes more than just music. The duo has grown into a broader artistic collective based in Manresa, in the heart of Catalonia. “We don't define ourselves so much as musicians, but as artists who want to express something,” says Jet, although they do so primarily through music.
“We didn't want to sing about heartbreak anymore. We wanted to show our authentic self. And that was a different truth than on our previous albums.”Jo Jet
Side by side, Maria and Jet don't fit within the Skype screen. After they quickly mumble something unintelligible to each other, Maria stands up. The next moment a CD by Tchaikovsky floats on the screen. The Russian composer's name is gracefully written on the slip of paper in the back. In front of it, on the plastic cover, is a bright green sticker with the title tracks of Sant Llorenç, as if Banksy had come by. Maria turns the album over. On the front, a little boy looks mischievous ahead, his hair still wet from a swim: this is not Tchaikovsky. He holds his left hand in front of his face so that his eyes attract all the attention. You'll probably be smiling when you see his joyful look.
You should especially smile when you look at him. Next to him, in the same green, it says Sant Llorenç. The inner booklet also appears to have been replaced. “We build on the lives of others,” explains Jet. “This CD has already had a life. In this way we give it a new life.”
The album title is the name of the town where Jet spent his summers as a child. When it came time to start writing for a new project, he returned to his family's summer home. The memories surfaced and piled up. In 'Sant Llorenç' he remembers the smell of coffee after the family lunch, but the current emptiness dominates on the title track: the abandoned summer house is teeming with the wandering ghosts of the past.
The listener does not have to understand a word of Catalan to get a taste of what the songs are carrying. The atmosphere of Sant Llorenç is reflective, nostalgic even. They call it punk themselves. “Tender punk,” says Jet, chuckling a little as if he's hearing himself say this for the first time. “But then our way.” Because it had to be more raw, more fair. Sant Llorenç is a new sound for Jo Jet i Maria Ribot. “The music we made first was perfect for when you want to sing about heartbroken people. But we wanted to talk about other topics. And so we had to experiment with a new language, and a new way of singing.”
“When you feel something a second or third time, you'll never feel it as if it's the first. It's intense to realize that.”Jo Jet
“I wanted to scream more,” Maria adds. “I felt freer. We had the feeling that people were thinking about us, oh, that's that sweet girl who sings beautifully and that boy who…” Deep sigh. Too bored to elaborate. Jet: “We wanted to show a different side of ourselves. People think we're sensitive and sweet and kind but we're also raw and aggressive in a way. We didn't want to sing about heartbreak anymore. We wanted to show our authentic self. And that was a different truth than on our previous albums.”
The songs don't lie. They tell of the flattening of intense feelings with age. “When you feel something a second or third time, you never feel it the first time,” says Jet. “Although it is still intense to realize exactly that.” They sing about suicidal thoughts and a family member living with depression. The protagonist loves her, but struggles with this relationship, knowing that it will always remain that way. Nothing is obscured.
What makes their music special – the harmony vocals in front, the guitar sound of Jet – is best shown on songs like ‘Ja t’havia escrit un cop’ ('I wrote you once') and ‘Va calant’ ('Keep filtering'). There is something mysterious, something exciting about the songs, as if they entrust you with their little secrets. The sound builds up subtly, something approaching hangs in the air. First they whisper, then the eruption follows. Then they sing softly to you again. The unrest is over. And the guitar is silent.
“Yes, his guitar playing has a lot of personality,” Maria says enthusiastically, before Jet can respond to my praise. He mentions Nick Drake, José González, and Fink as his musical examples that are characterized by an open tuning. In particular, 'Estiu 27' ('Summer 27') shows Jet's guitar sound beautifully. Jet, in turn, praises Maria's singing: “Apart from the technique and the color of her voice, she has a human skill to get into a song. To feel what she sings. That's what really amazed me."
Now they mainly work on new songs. Jet wrote eight of them in ten days: "We'll see in a while whether it is what it is." They are writing happier songs now, which they themselves are a bit surprised about. The punk, however, insists: “We are less concerned now if it's well done or correct. If we feel like we are gonna do it this way, we are gonna do it this way. We always try to do things differently. We do it because we feel it.”
Nu werken ze vooral aan nieuwe songs. Jet schreef er acht in tien dagen: “Of het was is zien we over een tijdje.” Ze schrijven blijere nummers nu, waar ze zelf ook een beetje verbaasd over zijn. De punk houdt echter stand: “We are less concerned now if it’s well done or correct. If we feel like we are gonna do it this way, we are gonna do it this way. We always try to do things differently. We do it because we feel it.”
Sant Llorenç is out now. Buy the album on the website of Jo Jet i Maria Ribot.
Editor's note: this article was originally published in Dutch. Some quotes may have been altered in the translation.