What's more Australian than a summer festival out under the stars? Well when it's headlined by the likes of Hoodoo Gurus, You Am I and The Superjesus, you can't get more 'Straya than that, and that's just what 'Under the Southern Stars' is bringing to the start of 2019 with a run of festivals around the country starting mid-January. And to celebrate the upcoming festivities, today The Soundcheck is chatting with alt-rock icons Eskimo Joe.
Treading the fine line between alternative clout and mainstream success, Eskimo Joe have endured for over two decades with their sturdy and constantly evolving rock-tinged brooding. From local indie kids coming up in Fremantle to slaying the airwaves with the juggernaut single 'Black Fingernails, Red Wine' and becoming one of the most ARIA nominated bands in Australian history (a cheeky 35 to date), the trio have continued to impress fans and critics alike across six studio albums and tours across the globe - all while maintaining the significant lack of ego usually so synonymous with success.
And while 2019 may or may not hold new material for the Eskimo Joe gents, it's certainly starting off on a killer note with the Southern Stars festivals ripping around the country. But before the shenanigans take place, we grabbed frontman Kav Temperley to chat festivals, fundamentals and his secret to sanity on the road. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hey Kav! Great to chat today, now the first thing I suppose we should talk about...I've been drooling a bit over the lineup for the upcoming 'Under The Southern Stars' festivals happening early next year, and how awesome to see Eskimo Joe on the lineup! How pumped are you guys for these show?
KAVYEN TEMPERLEY: Very pumped, I love me a summer festival. It'll be great, and a lot of these bands we toured with way back in the day so it'll be like catching up with old friends and having a summer party! I think everyone's gonna be in really good form and hopefully no one peaks too early (laughs).
TIANA: And is there anyone in particular you're super keen to catch live? Anyone you haven't seen perform in a while perhaps?
KAV: Look - all of them (laughs). Obviously bands like Hoodoo Gurus are amazing, so that's gonna be wicked. You Am I, we've toured with them in the past, and they're just one of my favourite Australian bands, so that's gonna be super cool. And the list goes on! I can't wait to watch them all play.
TIANA: It's such an iconic lineup. And on the topic of live shows, you are definitely someone who has played their fair share of shows over the years but looking back over those countless gigs and festivals, is it impossible to ask if there's a particular one that stands out, whether memorably good or perhaps even memorably bad?
KAV: Well, there's a spectrum of all of those things going on (laughs). You just don't know when a show's gonna be a good show or a bad show, I just played a run of solo shows for my album, I put out a solo album late this year. And probably the crappest show on the whole tour was actually the most amazing. We were up...I shouldn't mention the name of the venue, but we were up the top of Australia somewhere and the venue obviously didn't do a very good job of promoting so the 30 people who rocked up (laughs) were so happy to be there. And I was just like "you know what? I'm gonna make this a great show". And it was a huge room and I got everyone to come in really, really close and we just had this really amazing, special experience. I think only live shows can do that, you can't replace that feeling you get from an audience, or that the audience gets from a performer. Then on the flip side of that, some of the shows that we've managed to play as Eskimo Joe just because we've been at the right place at the right time have been phenomenal as well, we played this Sound Relief show where it was going out on the internet to like 2 million people, and there was 80,000 people in this Sydney Cricket Ground. It was just one of those things where it was such a massive event that you feel like you're watching yourself from a distance. You're watching you do this thing. And it's not just that they're amazing shows, but they're amazing just to be involved in this moment in time. So two very different ends of the spectrum, but you don't know when it's gonna be a great show, and sometimes you're just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
ESKIMO JOE ONSTAGE FOR SOUND RELIEF (2009)
TIANA: You guys evolved from some pretty adorable circumstances, you and Stu living next door to each other, going to school together, forming a band....and the rest is history! But I believe one of your bigger breaks was jumping up at Livid Festival way back when. And I'm kind of keen to hear your thoughts on the current state of Aussie festivals, especially for the so-called "alternative" music. 'Under The Southern Stars' seems to be showcasing that a bit more, but it seemed like there's been a bit of a lull...
KAV: Well look, it's a can of worms talking about that one because we certainly live in a time of shifting sands when it comes to what's happening with music and how artists make money out of what they do so amazingly. Back in the day with Livid in the late 90s we won the Campus Band Competition and we got to play Livid, which I think was our third or fourth show ever. And we got to jump up onstage at Livid, but the music industry was very different because records were still selling. So music as a commodity was really considered something very special, you would fly or just go anywhere to get that record. And now we live in this new world with Spotify and these streaming services - it's amazing for some artists because you can just upload your songs and anyone anywhere in the world can access it. Because your music is basically free most of the time these days, I think music as a commodity is not really honoured in that same way. But I do think, like what we were talking about before, when people go to live shows and they get that feeling of what it's like to be in front of a band and that amazing feeling of togetherness when there's a whole crowd singing along to their favourite song - that is something irreplaceable. But I think it's easy for people to forget because, again, people aren't putting as much monetary value on what the musicians do. So I think the dust will settle, but I think it's a very interesting time.
TIANA: You kind of touched on there what I was going to ask you next, obviously you guys were coming up at quite a unique time with technology changes and social media ramping up. And I guess rather than asking you what's changed the most since those early days, I feel like it's almost more appropriate to ask you perhaps what's changed the least for you over your career?
KAV: I think the thing that's changed the least is: you've still got to just sit down and write a really good song, and create a really good record. That's the fundamentals of what we do, and I think people forget that really quickly because things turn over so fast, and I know I get a lot of pressure to put stuff out, people saying "you've gotta push stuff out, people need content, content, content!!". Whereas it's actually a bit of bullshit because at the end of the day - if you put out bad content, you're dead in the water, no one is interested because it's not very good. Just creating stuff doesn't mean anything. But the fundamentals still apply, just sitting down in your room and trying to write the best song you can possibly write. Taking your time, making sure it's fantastic, making a really good recording, experimenting a little bit...all of those fundamentals have changed the least, they are still really important.
TIANA: As cliched as it sounds, I am a massive fan of quality over quantity. Which is tricky because so many things can impact and influence that, but ultimately it is so important.
KAV: Yes, I mean I still discover records that were put out 30 years ago and I'm like "this is AMAZING. How have I never discovered this record?!". But it's because the artist made a fantastic record and it still stands the test of time!
TIANA: Now as a frontman for an Aussie alt-rock band, what bands and artists were you actually into when you were younger, was it the usual suspects?
KAV: It changed all the time. When I was a really little kid, the music that was around was The Beatles and that kind of stuff. And that certainly was a big influence, the imprinting on my brain. And then my teenage years, from the beginning there was certainly the spectre of metal, that definitely came in like all teenage boys. And then somewhere in my late teens I started to discover bands like The Pixies, Neil Young became important. And then I discovered Bowie's back catalogue, and then The Beatles back again. And then, of course, in all of that there was all of these great movements in music - the grunge thing happened, and all the rest of it. But for me personally, I go back to those staples like my Neil Youngs and my Bowies and Beatles and stuff like that. But I'm always discovering new bands, whether they came out yesterday or, like we said, 30 years ago. I think somewhere between 19 and 24, people don't really have to make an effort to discover new music because they're just desperately wanting to know what's going on inside of them, and only art can give us a glimpse into that. But then a lot of people foreclose, they still listen to the same records they listened to when they were 22. So I think after that point it becomes a responsibility to kind of keep that muscle flexed and always be looking for new music, and pushing through the uncomfortable moments until you just discover fantastic stuff again.
TIANA: I do find it's so hard a lot of the time to get people to check out a band they've never heard of, but slowly it's happening, like you said the tide is definitely turning.
KAV: Yeah, it's tough as well because traditionally it's supported by radio play, and there's just so many artists. If you listen to Triple J now, it's just jam-packed with so many songs, so it's pretty hard for people to latch onto things. So it really is up to the individual to actually make the effort and discover and explore themselves!
TIANA: And for someone who has played so many shows all over the world alongside some insanely big names - is there still a bucket-list band, or are you guys just happy to do your thing and not focus so much on that?
KAV: There's always a bucket-list - but! I don't really believe in bucket-lists, I do think you just go out and do it and enjoy the moment. But there's some great artists who I haven't seen play live yet, there's some great artists I would love to play alongside. I would love to do some classic childhood goals, like have a huge song on a massive movie or something like that, those things still exist. And every once in a while you get a little taste of it, but there's still some moments I'd like to tick off.
TIANA: Now obviously you've got Under The Southern Stars early next year, you've got a couple more things on the horizon...but are there any secrets you can reveal about the near future for Eskimo Joe?
KAV: Well, from January onwards I'll start writing another record, and I don't know where that will end up. We might do these Under The Southern Stars run of shows and be like "let's jump in the studio and make a record!", and I'll be ready because I'll have a whole lot of songs. Or everyone might just get held up by life and go and continue their other side projects creatively, and I might make another solo record or maybe another Basement Birds record, I don't know! But I will definitely write another record, and it'll be ready to go in about a year's time.
TIANA: That's exciting, and it is always good to go with the flow I reckon. And for my final question: I recently chatted with Brad from Hoodoo Gurus about the Southern Stars shows next year and he was chatting about getting back into the swing of being on the road again, all the logistics. But for yourself, what is your one essential item or piece of equipment that you need when you're on the road?
KAV: Oohhhh, that's a tough one! I'm gonna be a total dork about it and just say a really good book is very important. Because there's only so much screen time you can zap yourself with. But if you've got a good book, there's so much waiting around that happens when you're on the road, whether you're on a plane or sitting backstage or whatever. So if you've got a really good book - you're sorted!
TIANA: Plus it's portable, could double as a slightly uncomfortable pillow in a pinch!
KAV: Yep, exactly! You don't need to charge it, it goes on a journey with you. It's all good.
TIANA: Excellent answer, and exciting times ahead with Under The Southern Stars, but also beyond that for you guys as well!
KAV: Absolutely, thank you so much for chatting to me!
UNDER THE SOUTHERN STARS 2019
Tickets for all events are available now from:
Saturday 12th January, 2019
Hastings Foreshore Reserve VIC
Saturday 19th January, 2019
Broadwater Parklands, Gold Coast QLD
*Eskimo Joe not appearing in QLD
Sunday 20th January, 2019
Sunshine Coast Stadium, QLD
*Eskimo Joe not appearing in QLD
Friday 25th January, 2019
Harts Mill, Port Adelaide, SA
Saturday 26th January, 2019
Shoalhaven Turf Club, Nowra, NSW
Sunday 27th January, 2019
Westport Park, Port Macquarie, NSW
BY TIANA SPETER