Thursday, October 27, 2022
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
We’ve seen a lot of great rock bands come out of WA, what was the scene like as you were coming through and how have you seen it change?
It’s ebbed and flowed in lots of different ways. Perth’s always been one of those places that felt so isolated, we’re really just surrounded by deserts and ocean over here and if you want to go anywhere you’ve got to get on a plane. Perth’s always had that, so this “do-it-yourself” attitude has always come out of the bands and the scene.
We had decided, once we put out our first record, that we were going to be a “Perth band”, which wasn’t really a thing back in those days. Generally, if you got any fame, you’d move out of Perth because it was just too expensive to fly back and forth, but we decided to stay there. By the time it got to about 2004, we had a cool little jam room, and we had the only recording set up in town so all of our friends’ bands were hanging out and, as these bands were doing demos in our back shed, they were getting signed, bands like End of Fashion, Sleepy Jackson, Little Birdy. All of these bands evolved out of that and that was a really awesome solidifying of the Perth scene for the first time since we first came along. The mid-2000s were an exciting time that bands didn’t have to leave Perth. Then, in that time, bands like John Butler came up and fast forward to the 2010s, bands like Tame Impala and San Cisco came up and all started to call Fremantle and Perth home.
How has your approach to writing a song changed over time?
The fundamentals always apply. You go into a room, you try and create a song to the best of your abilities, but it’s really not until you get to the workshopping of that song. You write the vague verse and chorus, but the workshopping is where those things change. In Esky’s, through those periods of ‘A Song Is a City’ and ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, it was really literally me on an acoustic guitar, writing most of the song, and then we’d turn that into an Eskimo Joe song. The way that it works now and the nature of how people want to be satisfied creatively, we tend to leave a little bit more open before we get into a room together, so we’ll have ideas, but we won’t have fully formed ideas. Now it’s generally myself and Joel (Quartermain) sitting down in a room, starting a song from scratch and that’s how the last couple of Esky songs we put out were written.
‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ has become almost an anthem, what was it like to see so many people take to the song like that?
It was pretty magical. When we first wrote that song, I had the initial idea and I called up Joel and by the end of that day we had the first demo of that song. You kind of know when you discover a new idea and there was something to that song. It felt really effortless, but it also signalled this new sound that we hadn’t gone down before. We, at that point in time, were feeling pretty ambitious. We ambitiously wanted to make a record that was unashamedly, widescreen Australiana. We went into that with the ambition of making a record that was going to be a huge album. By the time we recorded that song, we knew it was going to do as well as it was going to do.
Has it ever become a song that you get tired of playing or hearing about?
With songs like ‘From the Sea’ and ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, I think they’re good songs and I enjoy playing them still. I don’t ever get sick of them. The energy that we get back off the crowd every time we play them, everyone will sing the first line of the song back at you, that never gets old, that is an amazing feeling. We appreciate every moment of it.
How excited are you to come over to Airlie Beach for the Festival of Music?
It’s going to be awesome. There’s a bunch of other bands we’re looking forward to seeing, as well. Its just such a pleasure to go out and play live music again because we’ve not had it for the last couple of years, so to go out there, reconnect with the fanbase and crowds who have desperately wanted to see some proper music again is just so much fun wherever that may be, but Airlie Beach is such a beautiful location that it’s going to be a huge pleasure. It’s also where I started to write the beginnings of the song ‘London Bombs’, so I have a bit of a mental attachment to Airlie Beach.
Photo credit: Jarrad Seng