Music Interview: Jebediah tip their hats
Australian alternative rockers Jebediah are in the midst of a massive twentieth anniversary tour of their homeland. We spoke to drummer/backing vocalist Brett Mitchell ahead of their sold-out Sydney show tonight:
Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. You’re touring the nation on the back of the 20-year anniversary of releasing Slightly Odway. Does feel it like a homecoming of sorts?
Well, there are certainly nostalgic elements, which I believe is kind of mandatory with homecomings. So, maybe… of sorts! Of course we never really felt that far from home, or each other, even though we have been a bit split up geographically for a while and don’t perform regularly anymore. We’re really chuffed at the response to the shows. I think there may very well be some faces in the crowd that we perhaps haven’t seen since the nineties. I wonder if we will recognise each other?
Can you describe what was happening in your life during the mid-nineties and how that influenced the recording and subject matter of Slightly Odway?
I imagine similar stuff to most people in the 17-21 age bracket. Hoping to get laid, discovering drugs, listening to music, hanging out with friends. Obviously I’m being a bit flippant and glossing over some details here but honestly I feel like it was all very regular stuff, we had normal suburban upbringings. Making a racket is appealing at that age, guitars and drums fit the bill perfectly.
Your single Leaving Home came in at number 10 in triple j’s 1997 hottest 100, this must have really hit home that Jebediah were a national sensation and a tune that resonated with tens of thousands of people. Did this success spur on the rapid fire release of other albums including Someday Shambles and Jebediaries?
It spurred on a lot of gigs, at least! Things happened reasonably quickly so I don’t know how much really hit home but we knew something quite unlikely and exciting was going on. Yes I imagine that the success of the first album would have generated some record label interest in the prospect of a second, so maybe it happened quicker than if we had been left to our own devices, but who knows? I think we were just trying to keep up as best we could!
In crafting the 13 songs on Slightly Odway, was it a case of writing the lyrics first and shaping the music around the words or creating the riffs and filling in the lyrics?
Even though Kev [Mitchell – lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist] would be the only one who could definitively answer this for you; it feels pretty safe to say that the music was primary – vocal melodies perhaps included in that, but not necessarily lyrics. Lyrics were more likely to be an afterthought – which is not to say bereft of thought or meaning. Maybe sometimes certain words and notes are just floating around, waiting to bump into each other at an appropriate time…
When you toured with this album originally, you would have taken in a number of towns and venues, are you playing some of the very same venues as a nostalgic tip of the hat to the places and people that supported you two decades ago?
They’ve all turned into strip joints and 24-hour fitness clubs I think! But yes we have played these venues before, not for a long time in some cases. I feel sure there will be plenty of nostalgia, and probably a fair bit of hat tipping.
After starting out playing around Perth, it must be special to be able to not only play to your home town but with the album that really set your career on fire.
Our career was on fire? Oh my goodness that sounds dangerous – it’s a good thing nobody was injured… Perth was our home for a long time, and will always be home to the band, so it is a bit special to us. Hopefully we are a bit special to them as well!
As an artist evolving emotionally and musically from album to album, do you find it hard or even redundant performing some of your earlier material when the person you are today maybe completely different from the person you were when you first put pen to paper?
I guess so – depends on how evolved we’re feeling I suppose. I mean, all kinds of things can seem hard or redundant at times – doesn’t mean that they necessarily are, it’s often just a matter of perception. We’ve always thought it was important to keep a balanced perspective about such things, it’s not just about us as individuals, because we’re a band, and it’s not just about us as a band, because we have an audience. As with any relationship there will always be compromises but as long as everyone is having a good time, we’re fine with it.
What does music give you that nothing else does?
It’s hard to describe, but luckily almost everyone knows what it is, whether as a listener or player. I’m sure it is a very complicated set of physiological responses so I’m technically not qualified to describe it anyway Aside from the emotional, visceral aspects, it has given me a sense of purpose and achievement too. So that’s nice.
Of all the tracks on Slightly Odway, what is your favourite to play live and why?
Hmm, I don’t have a particular favourite one, more like a few that can vary. I often say something along the lines of: my favourite live Jebediah song is the one I play all the way through without any fuck-ups haha!
What has been one of your greatest, most memorable highlights from playing over the last 20 years?
The Big Day Oout tour of 2000 was awesome. I infer this from the fact that I can’t remember a single thing about it.
It has to be said that to get a start in the music business and sustain a long and creative career, one must be headstrong and extremely determined. What were your key motivators and what continues to drive you today?
We started playing music because we enjoyed it. You really don’t have to be particularly headstrong or determined to have fun, it can just… happen. As for our longevity, I’m increasingly of the opinion that our simple unwillingness to relinquish it – owing to the fact that we still enjoy it – has been the key. Some bands end because they don’t see the point in continuing, but as Kev recently put it – we never saw the point in breaking up! Having said that, of course there is some discipline and perhaps stubbornness involved along the way
From looking back to looking forward, in addition to this tour you are releasing an aptly named compilation album Twenty, what can we expect to hear on this release?
A mix of songs from the first album to the fifth, most of the singles are on there plus a few extras. We never really liked the idea of a “greatest hits” release, particularly if it had to be called that. Always seemed a little arrogant, or something!
So what does the future hold for Jebs?
We don’t know! As long as we can physically play our instruments and still enjoy each others company I think the band will continue as it has for many years, playing now and then, but it’s anybody’s guess beyond that. We will find out when we are in the future. And we will know we are in the future because there will be flying cars and world peace.
The band play in Sydney tonight (it’s sold out) and then at these venues. Tickets from www.jebediah.net.
Fri 12 June The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD SELLING FAST
With special guests Screamfeeder
Wed 17th June The Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC – 4TH & FINAL MELB SHOW ON SALE NOW
With special guests Bodyjar
Thurs 18th June The Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC – 3RD SHOW ON SALE NOW – SELLING FAST
With special guests Adalita (Full Band)
Fri 19th June The Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC – SOLD OUT
With special guests FUR
Sat 20 June The Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC – SOLD OUT
With special guests FUR
Thurs 25 June HQ, Adelaide, SA SELLING FAST
With special guests Red Jezebel
Fri 26 June Astor Theatre, Perth, WA – SOLD OUT
With special guests Turnstyle
Sat 27 June Astor Theatre, Perth, WA – SOLD OUT
With special guests Red Jezebel
Sun 28 June Astor Theatre, Perth, WA – 3RD & FINAL PERTH SHOW ON SALE NOW – SELLING FAST
With special guests Beaverloop
Interview by Courtney Dabb.