Saint Jude amplifies the mystery on ‘Altitude’

Slow Dance’s Saint Jude (AKA Jude Woodhead) shifts his focus in songwriting from his own self-reflection to the world: painting pictures in sound of people’s stories. On ‘Altitude’, his fourth single from the upcoming Bodies of Water EP, we see a story everyone know too well; days ‘spent inside’ throughout the UK’s lockdowns.

Jude’s signature melancholic vocal melodies, that are slightly reminiscent of Arthur Russell glide effortlessly over the sweet sound of his guitar and a rich textural landscape of electronics. The hypnotic, driving drums echo Radiohead’s In Rainbows, or perhaps Nicolas Jaar’s 2015 Nymphs EP, while the harmonically intricate guitar nods towards Grizzly Bear or something more the more interesting side of the indie world. The tune would accompany a lonely bedroom daydream or would be equally suited as a soundtrack to a night out in a south London post-Covid club.

The music video accompanying the track is a collage of footage from a road trip Jude took, as he fled Italy, narrowly avoiding their lockdowns last March. The blurred headlights from late night car journeys and a deep orange sun melting over an opulent landscape perfectly reflect the dreamlike state the track evokes so well.

Jude has been a staple (or saint) in the Slow Dance community, performing at their parties, and releasing music under several aliases on their label. However, since being diagnosed with tinnitus, Jude turned his back on performance and concentrated on building his repertoire in the studio. While stepping away from the stage may damage some artists, it has only made him more mysterious, elevating his trajectory, as fans anticipate every release. We spoke to Saint Jude about his 6-track EP, Bodies of Water, which will be released in April on Slow Dance Records, featuring the singles ‘Keep the Light Inside the House’, ‘Molina’, and ‘Bodies Of Water’.

The EP seems quite nostalgic and even melancholic at points to me. Tell us a little bit about the story behind this EP? What were your inspirations and motivations behind these songs?

I guess a couple of the tracks are kind of nostalgic, or at least sentimental in that kind of way. ‘Altitude’ and ‘Bodies of Water’ were some of my first songs that I wrote, at a time when I was definitely a bit more melancholy generally, but I kind of wanted to balance that out a bit with some of the tracks that I had made during lockdown, which are ‘Molina’ and ‘Arms’. Those tracks are much louder and more aggressive, and I think hopefully they compliment the sadder tracks a bit. In terms of inspirations, it’s hard to put a finger on specific people or songs, but during lockdown when I mixed the EP I was listening to loads of Big Thief and Adrianne Lenker, and Slauson Malone’s most recent album.
When did you first know or suspect you had tinnitus? Has the absence of live performance impacted your song writing process (not having to be concerned about how to perform your songs)?

Probably year 7 or 8 of secondary school I think – it has affected the music I make, I was making clubbier electronic music before, and was trying to be a DJ. I think it’s probably improved my process, it forced me to step a bit outside my comfort zone and start singing songs and writing lyrics, and I think there’s way more possibilities to what I’m doing now than when I was doing loop-based electronic tunes.
Do you think stepping away from the stage has impacted your musical career at all?  Are there benefits to not performing?

Yeah definitely, but it’s hard to tell because I’ve never really been that much of a gigging artist, apart from a few club DJ sets. I think it’s made me a bit more of an outsider to the scenes that are going on in South London, because music scenes are based around live music. Obviously not in lockdown, but more recently I’ve been doing way more collaborations with people, and that’s probably something that would have happened way earlier if I’d been going to gigs all the time. That’s something that has made me feel more connected to other musicians.
In terms of benefits, I’m not sure if there really are any. I used to find going to see live music really inspiring. I guess I don’t have to worry about playing live, so I can put all my energy into recording and writing, but artists that are constantly playing live still have time to write albums and record so I’m not really sure.
You seem to be stepping away from the more sample-based electronic sounds from the Jude Woodhead releases or the Saint Jude EP, and leaning further towards acoustic instruments and more traditional songwriting. Why is that? Is it a conscious decision?

I think that’s probably just on this EP, I’m really aiming for a balance between the two – I think straight up traditional style songwriting is obviously great and can make you feel things, but it’s not pushing music forward. And likewise, there’s loads of sick new experimental electronic shit thats really exciting, but it’s never gonna make you feel emotion like a proper song would. I think certain artists have really found that balance – pushing the envelope without sacrificing the emotion in their music. I think Bjork and Kanye West are two artists that do those things really well. So I’m really aiming for a balance – it would be boring to just write traditional songs, but it would also be boring to spend all my time doing sound design. I definitely haven’t found that balance yet, but it’s something I think about a lot.
On the EP, you’ve collaborated with Slow Dance’s Glows on a cover of his 2019 song ‘Molina’ – a homage to the late Jason Molina. How did this come about? What’s your relationship with the tune? 

Glows originally asked me to remix that song, he was gonna do a remix EP or something like that. But I kind of went a bit too far and added my own lyrics and chords and changed the song a bit too much to be a remix.
I really love the original tune, I love the drums, and how with loads of Glows tracks it’s a big crecendo all the way to the end. I felt like it would be fun to try and push the track even further.

What’s next for Saint Jude?

Some exciting stuff! I’m close to finishing my album, which I’m hoping I can release this year! I’ve been working on it for about a year, and it’s almost ready to mix. That’s what I’ve really been working towards, but I’ve got quite a few collaborations as well that should be coming out soonish – I’ve got a track with Louis Culture, a collab track with Glows, some tracks with Sarah from Drug Store Romeos, and I’ve been doing other production stuff with Khazali, HALINA and Platonica Erotica.

Words: Vincent Curson Smith // Photos: Slow Dance

‘Altitude’ is out now via Slow Dance Records. Saint Jude’s full EP ‘Bodies of Water’ will be released April 16th, and you can stream the singles via Bandcamp.

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