If you were to ask some casual music fans on the East Coast, West Australian stalwarts Eskimo Joe all but disappeared following 2011’s commercial radio hit Love Is A Drug.
But, indeed, the guys are all still gigging together, working on new projects and, as lead vocalist Kav Temperley explained to Girl this week, gearing up for the band’s 21st anniversary this year.
So how are you, what’s been going on?
“Well… yeah, good… Obviously everyone’s just returned from Christmas and New Years holidays, so now everyone’s doing push ups and sit ups and getting ready to do another year of gigging and having fun. We have an amazing year ahead of us, Eskimo Joe, because we’ve got a bunch of shows to celebrate our 21st birthday, including our Hotter Than Hell shows and we’re doing some symphony stuff as well… so yeah, all sorts of cool stuff happening.”
Excellent… and how are the rehearsals going for this weekend?
“Well we haven’t rehearsed yet (laughs) but we arrive on Friday and we’ll do a rehearsal and it’ll be great, so… I’m sure it’ll be fantastic. And it’s a really fun line up of bands, because they’re all bands that we’ve played with in the past. You know, like people like Jebs, they’re buddies of ours because they’re from Perth, and Superjesus we’ve toured with for years, and all of the bands have just got a really great back catalogue of hits, so I’m sure for everyone coming it’s going to be pretty good fun.”
Yeah, for sure. Well who are you most looking forward to seeing play again?
“Well I’m always interested to see whoever the local bands are, that always intrigues me. For us, again, we know and love the Jebs a lot, so yeah it’ll be great to see those guys play again for sure.”
Yeah… you know, I saw them in 2015, I saw Killing Heidi in 2016… so I’m probably looking forward to you guys and Superjesus the most, just because it’s been a little while now!
“Oh cool! Yeah, it’s been a little while! We did like a massive tour with The Superjesus back in the day, so it’s going to be hilarious to catch up with those guys again.”
Are you going to maybe play Sarah, and obviously dedicate that to Sarah (McLeod)?
“Ahahaha! Yeah, well I don’t think we’d written that song when we toured with them, so that sounds good, yeah!”
I remember posting the song on social media not long ago saying, “I really want to jam out with Sarah McLeod to this song, I really hope they play it!”
“(laughs) Well maybe I’ll devote it to her on the night. I’ll be like, (affects deep voice) “This one goes out to Sarah – you know who you are.” (laughs)”
Yes! Do it! Hahaha! So, it’s been a while since we saw you guys in Townsville, do you remember the last time you were over here?
“Yeah, we played at I think it’s called The Venue, is it? That beautiful roundhouse in the city. I think that’s the one.”
You know they turned that place into a gym?
“Did they?! That’s terrible! It’s always a tragedy when really cool venues get turned into something else. I think last time I was in Townsville I almost lost my voice and a friend sent through this recommendation of this Chinese medicine you can get, I can’t even remember what it’s called now but it totally saved my life and I didn’t have to cancel the show – I went on, and had a great gig, so yeah!”
If I remember correctly you had very fancy shoes that night.
“I always have fancy shoes. (laughs) That’s the joke of Eskimo Joe, like, everybody brings a tiny bag except for Kav who needs a really big bag to carry all his shoes. I reserve that right as the lead singer to have fancy shoes! So I’m just going to leave it at that! (laughs)”
Okay, well, what about the hairspray? I mean you’ve got all ends covered.
“Well, true… I’m putting a little less hairspray in my hair these days and just letting my freak flag fly… but yeah, last time I was there I’m pretty sure I had a lot of hairspray in my hair.”
Of course there’s that one festival you played where I got so drunk I actually forgot you were even there…
“Heeeey! There we go! That could possibly happen – not for us, but for some punters – this weekend! (laughs) I’ll be working, so… I’ll only have a couple of drinks after the show.”
I was going to suggest drinks after the show this time, all round.
“Yeah that sounds really good! So when they say ‘Hotter Than Hell’ exactly how hot are we talking? Like, what do I need to prepare for – what shoes do I need to wear?”
Ah, well when they say ‘Hotter Than Hell’ I can tell you now that Townsville has been Satan’s ball sack hot. Like, sweaty, humid, disgusting hot.
“(laughs) Riiight. So not a full suit on stage then?”
No, not unless you want to die. The humidity lately has been stupid.
“Right. Okay. Yeah (laughs) good to know! But, you know that it’s illegal to wear shorts on stage right? People get executed in some countries for wearing shorts on stage, so… yep. Yep, unless you’re in an Aussie hip hop band, then you’re allowed to, it’s okay there’s an exemption. But yeah, if you’re in a rock n roll band it’s not okay.”
Well you might have to rip your jeans up for some air holes or something, I don’t know…
“Maybe I need some of those stripper pants so that like halfway through I can just go – whoo – and rip the whole thing off.”
Or chaps, you know, that could work too. Chaps and cowboy boots, there you go.
“(laughs) Yeah, yeah, that could work too! Though, we might be appealing to a different audience if we go down that route, but that’s okay!”
Well everyone’s welcome at these shows! So, besides obviously the public liability insurance, what was different about the festivals in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s to festivals now?
“Well… I think it was a lot more, I guess, parochial? Like, I remember around about the late ‘90s watching Silverchair play a festival and just, like, being absolutely blown away by how professional they were and how international they were, and I think all of us Aussie bands at the time were like, “oh crap, okay, that’s the bar, that’s what we need to do.” Festivals were amazing because anyone could put a festival on and everyone would turn up. I think those days are well and truly gone, it’s a bit of a different landscape these days. But in saying that, bands are so much more pro than they ever used to be. You know, you go see a band now and they just sound great, they know what to do, they know they have to get a great sound guy, they know they have to get great sounds on stage… the general education of what it is to be a band is a lot more high-calibre these days. Back in those days it was like a bunch of pub bands on stage. It was like they’d walked straight out of the pub and onto the stage. It took a few Aussie bands to go and become international superstars to then come back and teach the rest of us how it’s done. Like, I thought we were doing pretty well for a while there, but I think when we really took our big step up was around Black Fingernails time, I mean, that’s the third record for us so we’d been gigging for a few years. But I remember seeing Muse play, and they were just ridiculously good live. And, like, a lot of the stuff, as a punter you probably wouldn’t notice, you’d just be like, “hey, this is a great band!” but as that being your job and being what you do, like, I just noticed so many little technical things they were doing on stage to make it look effortless. And I was like, “awesome – that’s how it’s done!” And as soon as we saw that we got to take another big step up again. So I think playing in the late ‘90s was raucous and fun and there was always heaps of people, but it was kind of a blur because everything was a bit haphazard to a certain extent, whereas I think nowadays bands are just so on it; you know, they know how to put on a really great show because the education out there of how to do that is just there at your fingertips all the time.”
Then you see these bands like Dune Rats who kind of seem to come out of nowhere and their shows are kind of insane, and they’re playing these massive festivals…
“I think it’s because they’ve got a song that sounds quite a lot like Sweater; I think that’s why they’ve done quite well for themselves! (laughs)”
Well early on your sound was pretty pop punk – did you cop a lot of backlash when you started bringing out the more mature-sounding stuff?
“Not really. But I guess for us, we grew up being big Beatles fans and, you know, we loved listening to the records those guys made and we loved all the little psychedelic bleeps and pops that were on the records. So I think what we copped more flak for was that when we played live, there were just three of us in the studio but then we got a session guy on guitar, then we had like a mini disc player playing all of our tracks and stuff, because we couldn’t afford a keyboard player; and then we got a keyboard player!
But a lot of the little tricks and stuff we started to do to make ourselves – again, after seeing bands in the late ‘90s like Silverchair and going, “oh cool, they’re clearly not the only sounds that are coming from stage and they’re still a live band,” – the only flak that we really copped is having session guys and not calling them part of the band. But, you know, internationally you’d never say to the Beastie Boys, “oh hey, how come you’ve got all these guys on stage, how come they’re not the Beastie Boys?” you know, but there was a little bit of a tall poppy thing in Australia.
I think in any way shape or form that’s always going to kind of exist. But that’s the kind of flak we copped, which is basically… I don’t know, without sounding like a dick – we were just trying to be professional, you know, we were trying to put on the best possible show we could. I don’t think we ever copped it for the music that we made, probably more for our attitude towards trying to put on really good shows.”
Yeah, fair call. Now, your childhood wasn’t hugely conventional, shall we say? What part did that play in your music career?
“Well I think more than anything else it just allowed me to become a creative. You know, I think there’s a certain point in our lives where, you know, some people can just naturally access the creative mind – for me it was pretty natural, I wasn’t a big sports person or anything – but because of my background and the wackiness that that involved, it was very supportive of being creative. So at a certain point in time when a lot people go and change their brains and get a commerce degree or whatever, I just was encouraged to continue being creative. And luckily for me, you know, that’s what I do for a living. So it’s worked out well.”
Well yeah, it certainly has! So, out of all the ‘90s bands, all the guys from that era – who’s still your favourite? Who do you still listen to?
“Oh wow, listen to… that’s an interesting one. Let me think… I mean, I grew up going to the early Big Day Outs with bands like Soundgarden and The Breeders and Smashing Pumpkins and all that kind of era of bands. I would still go back and listen to those guys. But I think music is like a muscle, you know, you’ve got to keep working it. So it’s great to go back and listen to all your old favourites – which I hope for some people in the world we still are – but I think always adventuring and always finding new music is what it’s about as well. I mean, you might discover a band that came out 30 years ago that you’re only listening to for the first time; but you might also be discovering a band that came out yesterday. I just think, like with any exercise, you’ve got to keep exercising that musical muscle.”
Yeah, for sure. So what can we expect from Eskimo Joe this weekend? Is it going to be a little bit of old stuff and a little bit of new stuff?
“Absolutely. So we’ll just do like a greatest hits show. So, if you know our music and you listen to our records, you’d know the two or three ‘hits’ from each record and we’re going to play them all.”
So is that going to be a good dress rehearsal for the 21st anniversary stuff?
“Well what we’re going to be doing is the Hotter Than Hell shows – there’s three of them – and they’re going to be really good fun, and, like you said, quite… warm (laughs). And then we’re going to go around and do a bunch of shows with symphony orchestras, so they’re going to be a completely different kettle of fish. This weekend it’s going to be sweaty, it’s going to be rock n roll, we’re going to hopefully have people singing along at the top of their lungs… but in a couple of weeks time we start our symphony orchestra tour. So we start with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and then we do Sydney and Tasmania and on from there. So that’s going to be amazing but a completely different experience.”
Has it been eye-opening working with the orchestra?
“Yeah, it’s really interesting because the way you do it is obviously quite different. You know, being in a rock n roll band you started in a small room then got into a slightly bigger room then a slightly bigger room, whereas in a symphony situation you step straight out into a big hall and – I didn’t know this about symphonies – but the way the conductor works is that they follow the lead instrumentalists, whether that’s the piano player or the violin player or whatever, then the rest of the orchestra follows the conductor. So being the singer, everybody has to follow me, whereas I’m used to following the drummer. So (laughs) I keep looking over at Joel (Quartermain) who’s playing a bunch of the drums on these shows, and I’m like, “am I in time? I don’t know!” So yeah, it’s going to be cool… but a little bit sphincter-clenching.”
Hotter Than Hell Tour 2018
Sat 13 Jan – Townsville
Eskimo Joe, Jebediah, Killing Heidi, The Superjesus, The Koffin Rockers
Sat 20 Jan – Gladstone
Grinspoon, Jebediah, Killing Heidi, The Superjesus, The Koffin Rockers
Sat 27 Jan – Redland Bay
Eskimo Joe, Jebediah, The Superjesus, Thirsty Merc, Dallas Frasca
Sat 3 Feb – Adelaide SOLD OUT
Grinspoon, The Superjesus, 28 Days, Rackett
Sat 10 Feb – Ipswich
Eskimo Joe, Jebediah, Frenzal Rhomb, Bodyjar, Rackett
Sat 10 Feb – Mt Evelyn
Grinspoon, Killing Heidi, The Superjesus, Dallas Frasca, IV League
Sat 3 March – Geelong
Grinspoon, Regurgitator, The Superjesus, Dallas Frasca, IV League
Tickets and more information via the web site
For more information on Eskimo Joe’s symphony orchestra tour check out their web site