Interview with Eskimo Joe
Having recently rocketed to the top of the Aussie charts with their third album 'Black Fingernails, Red Wine', Australian rock band Eskimo Joe are planning an assault on the UK and Ireland this December. Kav Temperley, Stuart MacLeod and Joel Quartermain formed in 1997, and since then have become one of Australia's biggest stadium rock bands, rivalling Coldplay and Snow Patrol for fans in their native country. I spoke to guitarist Stuart MacLeod ahead of their forthcoming tour.
You're about to embark on your first UK and Irish tour - how does it feel to be playing small venues again, when you're so popular in Australia? Is it disheartening or daunting?
It's exciting, more than anything else. Some of my favourite gigs have been in tiny venues, some less than 300 people. And especially as it will be the first time we've played together live for about 9 months - we've been writing for most of this year, so it'll be a buzz to pick up the live gear again.
Is there anywhere in particular you're looking forward to playing?
I'm really looking forward to seeing Scotland. I'm a MacLeod, so there is a strong ancestral urge to get back to the homeland.
You've been together since 1997 - what's taken you so long to get to this side of the world?
It's been a pretty packed eleven years! Becoming a successful band in pretty much any territory requires a hell of a lot of touring. The first five years were pretty tight, money-wise as well - it wasn't really until the second album that we started paying ourselves a wage. I guess we have the Australian government to thank for the wages up until then...
Can you explain how you guys formed, and what common influences brought you together?
Kav and I met through living next door to each other when we were about seven. Over the years, we started playing music and writing songs together, then we 'auditioned' a few drummers. Joel was actually a guitarist in a band with Kav at the time, but he mentioned he played drums, so he tried out and was more musical than any other drummers we auditioned. Over the years our musical tastes and influences have converged. It's difficult for them not to, when you're in a van on the road for ten weeks together. I have Joel to thank for introducing me to the Beatles Box Set.
With Kav as the bassist and singer of a three-piece, you must have had quite a few comparisons or references to The Police during your career! Were they ever an influence?
Ha, no we never got those comparisons. We get that more these days, in fact. Back in the early days, we didn't take the music very seriously and as a result we were... well... shite.
It was only when we started writing for the first album that we decided to actually make music we would want to listen to. This latest album has a few Police inspired moments on it.
There's always been a few Australian bands who slip through the net and make it big in the Europe, but the past few years has seen possibly more than ever, and a more diverse group, too (e.g. Pendulum, Wolfmother, and now Gabriella Cilmi is starting to get noticed). Why do you think this is? Is the scene in Australia good at the moment?
Australian music has always been great - there's a real talent on these shores that the rest of the world is unaware of. I think it's only recently that bands all over the world in general are being noticed, because of the internet. It's a double-edged sword, really. There really isn't any such thing as record sales any more, because everything is free on the internet. However, you really couldn't find a stronger marketing tool.
How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it before?
I'd give them a CD. I can't stand trying to describe our music!
Your last album, 'Black Fingernails, Red Wine' has done extremely well for you in Australia. With Irish and UK audiences being very receptive to similar bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol, you must be confident that it'll do equally well over here?
It's a fickle old place, the UK, so who knows what'll happen.
Are there any bands/albums you've been really into this year?
I actually didn't mind Beck's new one. It took a few listens, but there was some decent stuff on it. Flight Of The Conchords is brilliant. Fleet Foxes made a great album. I haven't listened to a lot of music of late, been in the studio for the last eight months writing our new one.
What are your plans for the next while? Do you see yourselves relocating to the UK or USA at any point in the future?
Who knows, but we are releasing our next album in central Europe, so we may be seeing a bit more of Europe come next year.
It sounds like a lot of Irish people who've spent time in Australia over the past few years will be part of the audience at your Dublin gig - what can they expect from your Irish debut?
We'll hopefully show them the pot of gold they've been looking for all these years! (laughs)
Eskimo Joe play The Underground @ Kennedy's (Westland Row) on December 3rd. Tickets are €14 and on sale now.
Story by Lauren | 09:00 | Tuesday 28th October 2008 | Music
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