Rome is Josh Pyke’s long-awaited follow-up to his 2015 LP But For All These Shrinking Hearts and marks his return following a two-year break from the stage. Even with the challenges of COVID-19 he has forged ahead with the album release and has continued working on his series of children’s books. Hi Fi Way spoke to Josh about the album and a whole host more.
Are you navigating the chaos well?
We’re just playing it day by day. I was meant to have completed two tours by this point and obviously that can’t, hasn’t happened, so we are just literally day by day playing it by ear.
Were there any doubts about whether to keep pushing on with an album release? Or wait a bit longer to see what happens?
Honestly, we were deep in it. There was no backing out. As an artist, I think it’s hard to… I love all my music, but there’s a sense of energy and enthusiasm when you’re releasing an album that you’ve just created. I guess I’d have to wait six months to a year before I released the album. I have moved on creatively. I would have already probably written a whole other album worth of stuff. I love this album. I want it to be out in the world. I don’t believe in creating art in order for it to exist in a vacuum. So, I never really have any thoughts about delaying it. I knew that we probably have to delay touring, but I would prefer to release this album and then just release something new. If it comes to not being able to tour again for quite some time, I’d rather just keep releasing music and not touring than hold everything back.
Have you been making the most of the time being creative and working on new songs?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I write all the time. I have a studio at home. When I’m not hanging out with my kids, I’m down here writing music or producing other artists, or I do music for film and TV. I have written kids’ books as well and I’ve got another kids book coming out in November as well as a bunch more for next year. I try and stay creative all the time and those things are all interchangeable in terms of inspiring other things. I reckon I would love to release another album sooner than later. It’s something that I don’t force it, but it thankfully seems to be something that’s still coming pretty naturally and often at the moment.
Particularly with this album, how do you see the evolution of Josh Pyke sonically, compared to the previous albums?
Well, I think having my own studio means that I get to be a lot more creative and experimental. A good example is the song, Home. I recorded that song, the song was complete, and then I just had the sense that it needed to be in a different key. So, I was able to just start again and record it again. When you’re in a studio and you’re looking at the clock all the time, you can’t do that. For me, having that creative freedom just allowed me to be more experimental and having no time constraints allowed me to come back to things when in the past I wouldn’t have been able to. I think there’s a confidence to the record that is more so than in the past, because I was able to really come back and stand by those creative decisions.
Does the inspiration from the album come from anywhere particular?
I’m inevitably influenced by other people’s creativity for sure. I try not to be, I guess is the point, but the album Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens was a huge one for me during that period. I reckon some of that has crept in, but really the influence just comes from my life. I’ve said this publicly, there’s been stuff happening in my life in the last five years or so that I choose not to talk about, but the way that it manifested was in me having some pretty significant anxiety issues that had ramped up and had caused me to have severe panic attacks which is why I took the time off. I didn’t really talk about it at the time, but I’m happy to talk about it now. That whole process of dealing with that, trying to manage it and trying to figure out why I was having these issues, all of those things informed the record massively as well.
Do you feel like you are in a better place now?
Yeah. I mean, I think it is always ongoing, as you would know, it’s not a thing that just gets fixed and then it’s not there anymore. I feel like my perspective has changed in the sense that I can recognise when I’m responding to something through anxiety, as opposed to not an anxiety response to situations. COVID is probably the most anxiety inducing experience the world’s faced in the last twenty years. I feel like I’ve been handling it reasonably well.
Are the ups and downs the hardest thing to manage?
That’s the perspective thing. In the down moments now I can have more of a perspective of going, “Okay, the way you’re responding to the situation is not helpful. You’re responding to this situation through the lens of anxiety”. Then it allows me to at least accept that as opposed to going, “What the fuck is wrong, what’s happening, what’s over there, everything’s falling apart”, over dramatising everything and catastrophising stuff. I can, I hopefully have a perspective and go, “Okay, I’m starting to fuck up here again”. Just be aware of it, and if you are aware of it, then you can hopefully manage those times.
You must be excited about hopefully being able to get out on the road in October if things are all good to go?
I am excited. I feel extremely unsure whether or not it can happen to be honest. I don’t know, we’re just going to take it day by day. I’m ready to go. I’d love to be able to play these shows and share these songs in that context, but you’ve just got to do what’s right.
Those fans first shows are always a highlight and a heap of fun.
Absolutely. That is the reason that I do it every time, it’s to re-engage with my core fan base and to get that real connection. It’s what I love the most about touring which is that real engagement and sharing that experience with people. I have done some streaming stuff and I’ve been really active on socials but there’s just no replacement for getting in a room with people and obviously those things are completely out of my control at the moment.
Being a published author now with your children’s books must be a huge buzz?
It’s awesome. It’s something that I take really seriously and I’m pursuing. I never want it to be like a musician that released a kid’s book and then that was it. It’s something that I’m pursuing properly. I’ve got another one coming out in November and then I’ve got a bunch more coming out hopefully next year and it’s just great. It feels like you’re fighting the good fight. Kids are so beautifully open with their engagement in creative things, whether it’s music or books and there’s no agenda to it. It’s just like you’re just trying to create something that kids will like and get something out of. Hopefully a positive message, or make them laugh or distract them from the issue’s that kids are facing. It’s very, very rewarding and gratifying thing to be involved in.
Interview By Rob Lyon