Jehnny Beth

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Whether she’s making music, acting, or writing, Jehnny Beth challenges conventions, her audience — and herself. Her unwavering commitment to pushing boundaries first became widely known during her time with Savages, whose acclaimed albums Silence Yourself (2013) and Adore Life (2016) delivered a jolt of uncompromising feminine energy into post-punk as well as the U.K. rock scene of the 2010s. When that band took a break, Beth’s horizons broadened. Her searing, sexually liberated 2020 debut album, To Love Is to Live, added touches of jazz, industrial music, and torch songs to her repertoire, while her acting, books, and collaborations like 2021′s Utopian Ashes with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie proved she could be equally provocative and riveting in just about any medium.
Born Camille Berthomier in Poitiers, Vienne, France, Beth’s parents were theater directors who encouraged her creativity. She took voice and piano lessons starting at age eight; by the time she was ten, she’d starred in a production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. However, the rest of Beth’s family was Catholic and traditionally minded, and she felt stifled. After studying dramatic arts at the Conservatoire de Poitiers, Beth moved to London in 2006 to pursue music. It was there that she met Johnny Hostile (aka Nicolas Congé), who became her longtime life and creative partner. Together, they became the lo-fi band John & Jehn, who released 2008′s John & Jehn and 2010′s Time for the Devil before the project ended in 2011. That year, Beth and Hostile founded the Pop Noire label as a platform for their other artistic endeavors.
Late in 2011, Beth joined forces with guitarist Gemma Thompson (a former John & Jehn member), bassist Ayse Hassan, and drummer Fay Milton as Savages. Led by Beth’s commanding presence, the band’s electrifying brand of post-punk soon won acclaim: At the end of 2012, Savages were nominated for the BBC Sound of 2013 award, and their debut album, May 2013′s Silence Yourself, was nominated for the Mercury Prize.
In 2015, Beth embarked on a few projects and performances outside of Savages. That March, she performed at the opening of the David Bowie Is … exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris; in July, she appeared at Suicide’s show at London’s Barbican with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie; and in November, Beth and the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas released a cover of the Danish punk band Sort Sol’s 1983 collaboration with Lydia Lunch, “Boy-Girl.” Savages returned in January 2016 with their second album, Adore Life, which, like Silence Yourself, earned a Mercury Prize nomination. Along with touring in support of the record, Beth continued to establish herself as a solo presence by opening for PJ Harvey’s June 2016 performance at the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, performing a duet of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s “Some Velvet Morning” with Gillespie at a Primal Scream show, and appearing on Trentemøller’s album Fixion.
At the end of 2016, Savages went on hiatus. Beth took the opportunity to recharge creatively, performing with her friend Romy Madley Croft’s group the xx and collaborating with Gorillaz and Noel Gallagher on the song “We Got the Power” from the band’s 2017 album Humanz. She returned to France, where she settled in Paris and bought a studio with Hostile. Beth also returned to acting (prior to her time with Savages, she’d appeared in a few small French films) and earned a César nomination for her performance in Catherine Corsini’s 2018 drama An Impossible Love. She and Hostile then collaborated on the music to the Chelsea Manning documentary XY Chelsea, which they issued on Pop Noire in June 2019.
To make her solo debut album, Beth tapped Flood, Atticus Ross, and Hostile as producers, and brought on Madley Croft, Idles’ Joe Talbot, and actor Cillian Murphy as contributors. Spanning jazz and industrial as well as post-punk, the freewheeling and challenging To Love Is to Live arrived in June 2020. That September saw the publication of Crimes Against Love Memories, a collection of erotic short stories; later in the year, she appeared in Kaamelott – Premier Volet, the movie sequel to director Alexandre Astier’s long-running television series about King Arthur and his knights. Beth teamed up with Gillespie on June 2021′s Utopian Ashes, a set of songs about the decay of a fictional couple’s marriage. Inspired by the country-soul duets of George Jones and Tammy Wynette as well as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, the album also featured Hostile and members of Primal Scream. ~ Heather Phares