Interview: Eskimo Joe

Published in The Music (NSW) | 23.10.13



Six albums in and Eskimo Joe have managed to reinvent themselves – much to the distaste of a long-term rival. Frontman Kav Temperley explains to Daniel Cribb how they injected new life into something they feared was becoming stale.

“We walked into our new record knowing we needed to do something completely different; we needed to do something a bit more dangerous, otherwise it would just get boring,” frontman Kav Temperley begins. “I think what happened, especially on Ghosts Of The Past, and I don’t discount that record at all, but all of us were really exhausted by the industry as a whole. You almost feel like you become a bit of a cliché of yourself; I felt like we started to make records according to what people expected us to make, and there’s no danger in that and no adventure.”

It’s the eve of the Wastelands album tour, and the studio Temperley is about to head to was the nest in which the band and producer Burke Reid spent months writing, recording and perfecting their new, electronic sound, which features strong drum grooves supported by solid bass lines and gentle vocals resting on a wealth of synth and drum samples. “Being able to go into a studio which sounds great and is our own space was really inspiring because what’s happened on every other record is, we’ll be in our jam room and the crazy mouldy, funky vibes build up and then you have to step out of that environment into this really sterile, state-of-the-art recording studio, and you can get a little bit of stage fright, like you walk up to the urinal to do a wee and nothing comes out,” he laughs.

Having left their label before entering the studio, they needed to somehow raise $40,000 to get the ball rolling, which is where their crowdfunding Pozible project came into effect. The campaign generated $60,737. “Smack, hookers, Ferraris…” Temperley jokes when asked what the funding went towards. “Basically the forty grand we asked for was pretty much just for Reid to come over. We had our own studio so we were just going to cover the costs of that… the crowdfunding thing was something we had all been following in the States and thought it was a really interesting idea, but was quite scary because it can blow up in your face. But I think that was part of the process; we wanted something a little more edgy because we felt we needed that injection.”

When they initially launched their Pozible campaign, some people seemed to find the project unnecessary for a band of Eskimo Joe’s status. Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson was amongst those taking a dig. “Phil’s comments were pretty naïve,” says Temperley. “He was like, ‘Why don’t you just go do a gig and pay for it?’ It doesn’t work like that and he knows that. You do gigs to keep the business rolling and maybe pay yourself a wage, but as far as making quality records goes, you need an initial investment of cash, and that’s why people like Phil are still signed to a label and getting their money. A deal with a record company is like a really bad bank loan. To do something independently is tough and that’s why crowdfunding is so great in the creative world.

“We have had an ongoing war with Phil Jamieson since about 2000. He kind of wants to be our best friend and in the band in some strange way, but any point of weakness he can see to take us down he jumps in there in a heartbeat, it’s hilarious… Stu [MacLeod – guitar] and Joel [Quartermain – guitar] were on the Big Day Out in 2000 and were having this jokey banter stuff going on – basically Phil’s really good at giving shit, but really bad at taking it. So one night at an after party they gave him heaps of shit and he went really, really dark and that’s kind of where it started. But Phil calls Joel a couple times of year and chats to him and when a new record comes out always says, ‘Yeah, man, it sounds really good’, or rings him and gives him shit. But Phil loves banters; he loves giving it, but he’s terrible at taking it. It’s been on again, off again for years and years. It keeps us all entertained.”

Daniel Cribb