Eskimo Joe

Australian rock royalty and 1990’s Indie icons, Eskimo Joe are back with new music after a seven year hiatus. Their new single, Say Something is Eskimo Joe at their very best – a catchy lyrical tune the band is famous for, with a strong message for their devout fan base and new listeners in 2020. Hi Fi Way spoke to Kav Temperley about the challenges all bands are facing right now and gives greater insight to the single that is more relevant that ever with everything that is going on right now.

Congratulations on the single, you have to be blown away with the reaction to it so far.
Yeah, we really are. To tell you the truth, it’s one of those really interesting things. We took a bit of a sabbatical about seven years ago just because we thought it’d be nice to disappear for a while and have people miss us. And lo and behold, it worked, people missed us. So, it’s lovely to be back and lovely to get the reaction for the song because we’re obviously really proud of it.

Seven years is a long time. Do you get a little bit worried that will people will forget about band when started to make a comeback?
I don’t even know if trying to come back is probably the right way to explain it. We still enjoy hanging out with each other and we love making music together, but it was really important for us to creatively to step away from the whole Eskimo Joe machine for a couple of years, just to re-establish our relationship with each other and how we want to make music together. So coming back and doing this song, we were happy with it, we’re proud of the message that’s in it as well. I think we just thought, “Let’s put this out there and if people love it then that’s great. And if they don’t, well, I guess we won’t do any more songs after that,” but we put it out and everyone’s reacted really well. So, I guess we’ve got to go make some more music now.

As far as timing goes, you couldn’t have asked for a better time to release such a relevant single in COVID and Black Lives Matter that has a really strong message.
Yeah. We really couldn’t have predicted any of this stuff that all happened in this perfect shit storm that is 2020. I mean, we started writing the song about a year and a half ago almost. We finally got round to recording it in February this year and then I think the idea with the song was we thought it’d be nice to put out a best of and have a new song, but we have actually planned a really big tour this year where we were going to play A Song is a City and Black Fingernails together as one concert. We were really excited by it and were like, “This is going to be great, it’s going to be a huge year.” Then of course, everything shut down and everyone’s gigs were cancelled, just or they were postponed and postponed again and then it was a bit like, “We’ll call you when it’s time to come out and play shows again.”

We just thought we’ve got this song. We really love it. If we sit on this song for too long, then we probably won’t love it as much and so we put it out and just as we were putting it out, the whole Black Lives Matter thing happened at the same time. It was this really weird kind of timing thing where we’d written this song which seemed to be talking about exactly what was going on in the world at that point in time. Like I said, it’s spooky timing.

Is it a little bit frustrating on the other hand losing that momentum, obviously you would have gained a bit with the single, but not really knowing what live music’s going to look like this year and possibly in to next year what does Eskimo Joe actually do next?
I’m sure it’s the same for everyone in all different types of industries, but certainly in the music industry it’s a weird one because not only do we kind of go, “well what do we do next?” But this is how we all earn our living and not just us but all the people who work with us earn their money out of us going out and playing these shows. It feels a bit kind of discombobulating for everyone, like no momentum and not really knowing what tomorrow is going to bring. So yeah, it’s a weird one. I just feel like we were really fortunate to have had this song ready to go, and it gave us all a focus. It turned out that we ended up putting all of our energy and time into releasing this song as opposed to just going, “oh yeah, we’ve got a new song to go with the tour,” you know what I mean? It became all about the song and again, that’s just one of the weird kind of fatalistic moments that we couldn’t have predicted.

We hope the Adelaide music scene survives and picks up again and I imagine it is similar in Perth?
Yeah, it’s a tough one. I mean, Perth’s pretty similar size wise to Adelaide and there’s certainly some really classic indie venues that almost went under during this period. They had to rely on crowdfunding to keep them open and managed to make it through or just make it through. The pubs have all just opened back up again. They just made it through but I think as far as people wanting to just go out and see music on a regular basis there’s almost this two sides to it. There’s this one side where people are like starved and really, really want to get out there and then there’s this other side where people are still a bit tentative. There’s still that fear going on.

It has been interesting to see how everyone’s adapted. It was interesting seeing you guys on The Morning Show all appearing via Zoom.
I think like any change, everyone goes in kicking and screaming every time, but once it’s happened, everyone’s like, “Yeah, this is not so bad. We can do this.” So hopefully that happens with music. I really think it’s super important that people keep creating new art and keep putting out songs because if we get to the other end of this whole experience and all we’ve got is reality TV, that would be very depressing.

Have you kept writing yourself and do you think a lot of the songs that you are writing today gravitate to Eskimo Joe, or do they kind of gravitate to Kav solo mode?
They can go either way and I’ve written a bunch of songs that I’m going to send out to the guys and say, “If there’s any songs you feel passionate about here, put up your hand now because otherwise I’ll probably just turn them into solo record songs.” Once you’ve gone so far down the road with a song it’s pretty hard to then go. I’ve got a bunch of ideas, some ideas I’m trying not to overwork, because once we all sit down in a room together and actually workshop a song, it’ll change massively. I’ve got a couple of songs I really love and part of me thinks, “Oh my God, this would make an amazing Eskimo Joe song.” But then other parts of me are like, “But maybe it could be an amazing Kav Temperley song,” you know what I mean? You go around in circles with that stuff. My wife had to listen to me endlessly talk about the songs that I’ve written and where they belong. “Should this be a solo song, should this be an Eskimo Joe song?” I go round and round, it’s terrible.

I love your solo album. It’s got some absolute gems on there and there’s a real maturity with your sound. It’s going to be quite exciting to see what you guys actually do with the next album.
Well, I really hope that we can just continue with this momentum and get into the studio and keep doing it. One of the great things is that I got to go away and do some solo stuff. I had to handle so much of the playing and the production myself. I managed to up skill a whole lot more, going into doing some new Eskimo Joe stuff and the same with Joel, he’s been away producing all these amazing artists, like G Flip and Meg Mac, to name a few, he’s done some really great recordings over this time. We’re a lot more self-sufficient as a group and able to work quickly in that way and that excites me, just being able to go in together to a studio and create something that sounds like Say Something.

In terms of touring plans, is there any indication of when you might be able to get out on tour?
We’ve tentatively booked some venues for May, June next year. It seems like a long way away, but I think that’s just the reality of the world at the moment. Interestingly enough, we have booked a whole lot of nights in a smaller venue, then we booked at the same time a bigger venue, just to see where the world’s at, because if we get to next year and people are still just wanting to go to smaller venues, then we might just have to do a whole lot of shows in a small venue, but if everyone’s kind of relaxed and happy to go to a big venue with lots of people in it, then we’ll make sure we put on a big show as well.

Yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how much of a log jam there is with everybody wanting to get out and tour. Might have to get a second or third job to be able to pay for it all I think.
I think so. The weird thing is you’re going to have lots of people who don’t have money to buy tickets as well anymore. I think everybody’s expectations of what it was and what it is, is going to be interesting, I think ticket prices are going to have to come down because people aren’t going to have as much money to buy these tickets, which means that the touring costs of the band are going to have to come down. Everyone’s going to be working harder for a little bit less money for a little while, I have the feeling.

In terms of keeping the momentum going, what’s next for Eskimo Joe, is there going to be any live online shows or any other releases between now and when the album might come out?
Well, I’m hoping that we can get Joel over to Perth for a little while. Once he’s here, we’ll smash through recording a couple of extra songs and that’ll be just a joy if we can get that happening, just to cruise towards the end of the year with a couple of other little friends to Say Something, I think that’d be great.

Interview By Rob Lyon

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