Jake Roche makes music he will inevitably hate.

The Push Baby vocalist rented out a £300 (roughly $369 USD) castle on Airbnb in early 2019 and worked with his three closest friends to craft their debut project, just to eventually declare that its opening track “sucked” the day before release.

Given his history as a candid Twitter user and perfectionist, it’s hard to tell if Roche is joking or not. But if he thinks his group is already on a new level musically, even while he’s putting out a project, he’s probably right.

On September 26 Roche’s rejuvenated experimental Manchester pop band released their debut project Woah. True to form, Roche admits he thinks the EP’s grandiose opener “CALI SUPERBLOOM” sucks.

It doesn’t. In fact, it’s a compelling, Auto-Tune-heavy welcome return from a group that once recorded with little creative control as Rixton: the 2014 Billboard-charting four-piece which opened for Ariana Grande in 2015. But those “Honeymoon Tour” days are behind Roche, as he and drummer Lewi Morgan, keyboardist/bassist Danny Wilkin and guitarist Charley Bagnall set out to do everything they couldn’t under the constraints they dealt with as Rixton, with their sights set on making music their lead vocalist won’t end up hating a day later –– or before. With Woah, push baby is getting closer.

“I was just incredibly conscious of people thinking, ‘Well you can’t do that, that’s f---ing crazy and that won’t work,’” Roche explains before release day. “Now, there’s this incredible sense of freedom… I realize now that I’m okay at music, and if I work hard at it, who knows what happens.”

Roche’s newfound freedom is the result of years of what he calls “a lack of authenticity” as Rixton. While their single “Me And My Broken Heart” was a commercial success, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and their debut (and final) LP Let the Road peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard 200, Roche felt he lost touch with the group.

“And it was no one’s fault,” Roche says. “I think it shifts constantly. I’m constantly striving to be as authentic as possible.”’

After a three-year hiatus without a project (and only the occasional Soundcloud drop), the boys fled to America in 2018. They recorded a demo, only to return to the U.K. two months later as Push Baby and trash the entire thing.

Recording music as Rixton and passing it off as Push Baby’s felt wrong to Roche. He knew they had to start over.

So, to match the magnitude of his band’s musical shift, Roche jumped off a diving board while on fire.

He calls it “The Running Jump:” an “incredibly metaphorical” band announcement video of Roche setting himself on fire and leaping into a pool. To be fair, what he was about to do was, indeed, a leap. The display, however, was solely for him and “incredibly pretentious,” he admits, but he still got his point across.

The group has since completely smothered its musical past with commanding visuals, like on the unibrow-laden “Mama’s House,” a song built around Roche’s living situation, and later with the green-screen-assisted video for “Thor,” which appears on Woah.

Produced by Wilkin and featuring the namesake of a Marvel superhero, “Thor” is a vocally layered, stripped-back take on toxic masculinity, a topic which Roche says burdens him at times.

“For me, I want to stand up and say ‘call me what you want.’ I like painting my nails. Some days I don’t like painting my nails. I enjoy watching football… And I feel like a lot of males can find it difficult to express themselves.”

As a whole, Woah’s themes vary from the feel-good “@thebackoftheparty” to the solemn “You don’t like the colour orange.” And even though Roche may no longer be a fan of “CALI SUPERBLOOM,” it serves as the most experimental and vocally unparalleled track on the EP, with layers and Auto-Tune that seems to drawinfluences from The 1975—a group which inspired the name of later track “thenineteenseventyfive,” something Roche thought people wouldn’t allow him to do on his own record.

“[With Woah,] everyone kind of looked at eachother going, ‘Can we do that? Are we allowed to do that?’ And the more we learned that you can just kind of f---ing do what you want, as long as you do it with conviction,” Roche admits.

While Roche is slowly starting to turn against his new EP, ironically or not, he knows that it’s representative of his group’s journey and that newer Push Baby music –– coming sometime later this year or early 2020 –– will find him closer to where he needs to be. “To be deadly honest, we’re still 18 months away, we’re still two years away, we’re still five years away from where I want Push Baby to be sonically and what we want to stand for as an artist.”

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