Jesca Hoop Struggles With Gossip & Honest Expression With "Shoulder Charge"

Photo: Courtesy of Aga Mortlock.
Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
With her sixth album, Stonechild, Jesca Hoop is delving deep into culture, touching on concerns both complex and political in her songwriting. The singer songwriter has spent most of her career in folk, by way of some greater astral influence space, crafting lauded solo albums and a notable collaboration with Iron & Wine singer Sam Beam. Her latest is lauded by many critics as not only her best, but most confrontational and critical.
Her latest video, "Shoulder Charge," uses familiar London scenes — from the underground to a typical flat doused in sunshine — as a way to showcase the human struggles of people from different backgrounds. Hoop, who has long recorded and lived in Los Angeles moved across the pond and opted to make her latest album there, thus leading to her decision to make this video in her current land of residence.
Hoop spoke to Refinery29 about the video, allowing people to speak their truth, and her campaign to get a word added to the dictionary.
Refinery 29: Tell me about shooting this video. Where did the concept come from?
Jesca Hoop: "There are a lot of angles to this song, but the point of this song is that between each of us there are many points in common. Whatever is plaguing you, you are not alone. The more we talk about the things that we're going through, the more we express, demystify, and de-stigmatise our experiences as human.
"I was loose in my approach to this video. In some cases, I'll manage things more directly, but with this one, I just gave a few words of direction and then let the director take over. I was hoping that the persons who played a part would come across as the average — that everyone can relate to. My part was to do something we do every day.
"We shot in a spot in London, a borrowed flat. It was a super low-budget situation, so a friend lent us their spot. Everything was done on a simple, shoestring situation."
How conceptualised was this idea in advance? Was it choreographed or more spontaneous and in the moment?
"It was a combination of both. The most important part was to find people who didn't look anything like each other, or who appeared to come from different backgrounds. It was also important to create contrast amongst the people in the story, to help illustrate that no matter how different people appear, their stories are relatively the same. We all more or less struggle with the same elements because we're in this same situation. I'm not saying we all have to deal with war zones or specific traumas or specific prejudices — we all have a variation on struggle within the human existence. So, perhaps there's room for more understanding and tolerance. And also feeling the people around you as not other than yourself, but the same."
As you said, there are multiple angles into this song. Was there a motivator that made you want to explore this particular angle?
"The motivator was feeling like I couldn't talk about certain subjects in life for fear of opening up a can of worms. I can't imagine a person in life who doesn't feel like if they talk about a certain something that they went through, that they wouldn't be marked with that experience. We, as human beings, gossip about each other. If someone goes through something that is anti-social, we're all going to talk about it, we're going to know about it. Unless it's hurting someone else, we should feel free to talk about what we experience. The fact that certain groups of people have to remain quiet about certain human conditions or things they struggle with, or the walls they come across — the fact that we as humans are not frank and honest about what it is to be human, the different dynamics, elements, and variations within the human race, that we have so many walls up causes us to clam up and causes us to be depressed and isolated.
"There is a word in the song that I'm campaigning to be put in the dictionary; it's the word sonder, but it's not in Cambridge or Webster. It means that every person you come across is living a life as rich and complex as your own. It's essential because it helps take you out of the centre and puts every single person around you in the centre."

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