Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Interview: Josh Pyke for Basement Birds, Rave Magazine

Interview with Josh Pyke for The Basement Birds. Issue 953.

ANNA ANGEL develops a bit of a crush on one fourth of the BASEMENT BIRDS project, singer-songwriter JOSH PYKE, and discovers that getting four established musos together in one place is harder than having them collaborate on a record.

Since the days of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the term ‘supergroup’ has come to mean any number of vaguely accomplished musicians coming together in any fashion to whack out a record. The original sense of the word is making a fighting recovery with the introduction of Basement Birds, a harmonious union of four renowned Australian artists. The group comprises Kevin Mitchell (Bob Evans, Jebediah) up-and-coming singer-songwriter, Steve Parkin, Eskimo Joe’s frontman, Kavyen Temperley and singer-songwriter, Josh Pyke. While not the most obvious mix of sounds and personalities, Pyke assures it was a “pretty organic meeting of minds, on the creativity side of things”.
“We started the ball rolling in 2007, I think it was,” Pyke begins. “So to finally put a body of work out feels amazing.” The project came about when Parkins performed in the Bob Evans tour band and he and Mitchell started working on what was to become the first Basement Birds single, Waiting for You. At around the same time, Pyke was touring with Eskimo Joe, and he and Temperley put their creative noggins together. “We’d all toured together, written together, and were fans of each other’s work. I didn’t know Steve, originally, but he was friends with Kev and had written with him,” Pyke says.

“Getting everyone in the same place at the same time was the hardest thing. Kev moved to Melbourne, I live in Sydney, and the other two guys are in Perth. So mostly, it was Kev and I travelling to Perth all the time.

“I can honestly say I’d be happy if I never had to go back there,” he laughs, adding, “It’s a beautiful place – I love Fremantle, but it’s not my home, and I’m on tour enough as it is.”

Despite having varied musical pasts, the group was mutually inspired by bands like Wilco and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The resulting sound is sweetly harmonious, melody-driven and displays the songwriting expertise of each member. “It was surprising how quickly we found a middle ground musically, considering we all have quite different musical backgrounds,” Pyke says. “The project was just about us coming together, writing some songs and having fun with it.”

Speaking on behalf of his bandmates is clearly well within Pyke’s comfort zone as someone who has completed numerous interviews over the years. He is decisive and well spoken, making me sound like a babbling schoolgirl (which is admittedly not that difficult). When I break the news that our country does, in fact, have a female, red-headed Prime Minister (we spoke the morning of the political changeover), he pauses for a split-second and then announces, “Well, I’ll go on record to say that’s bullshit. Labor has just signed their death certificate”. This is perhaps the biggest reminder that Basement Birds may be a new project, but its members have reserved places within the Australian music scene. The fact obviously hasn’t escaped Pyke, who agrees, “It’s fair to say we all have some level of an existing fan base, and I think a lot of them are curious about what we’re doing.

“But I’d also like to think we’re also bringing fans across, for example an Eskimo Joe fan might discover my music, and vice versa, a Kev fan might discover Steve and vice versa ... I like to think there’s a sort of cross-pollination”.

The project seems to be an opportunity to create something that cannot be achieved alone for solo artists like Pyke and Parkin. “It sounds like the sum of its parts, which is nice, I think. There’s a bit of everybody in each of the songs, there are four strong and separate influences in each song. Whatever happens with the record, I think it’s been a successful collaborative process, in that that’s what we wanted to achieve,” Pyke said.

Before each track made the final cut, it was brought before the group to be ripped to pieces and reworked. According to Pyke, “Lots of songs, like Bus Stop were written at Kav’s place, together … but mostly, it would be started by one of us,” he says. “Even if you came to the group with a song that was nearly finished, you’d have to let go of preciousness and let it be taken apart.

“I trust those guys and their musical sensibilities, and if we went into it coveting our songs, being precious about them we would never have gotten the record finished, I don’t think.”

Basement Birds are travelling across the country in August for their Good Evening and Good Night tour, and given the lengths the group had to go to in order to get a record under way, the question of how they plan to find time to tour together begs asking. “We’re going to have to [find time to rehearse together]; we want to do a good show. I’m going to have to go back to bloody Perth, to rehearse a week or so before the shows,” he laughs. “It’s a short tour, only nine days or so, so it won’t be too hard of a tour.”

Fans should make an effort to secure their tickets as soon as possible, as there’s every chance there won’t be a repeat performance. “I think we all secretly, or even, not so secretly, harbour hopes that we will, in five years or so, collaborate again, but in the short term we definitely all have to get back to our day jobs so to speak.”

“I can’t wait to do my next solo album. This is inspiring me to get back to my own stuff. When you go through a creative process you kind of want to keep it going, you know what I mean,” Pyke said.

Can we expect a Basement Birds inspired flavour to his next record, which he expects to be finished by September? “Maybe not musically, but I would like the next record to be a lot more collaborative, a lot more ‘bandy’.”

BASEMENT BIRDS play The Tivoli on Saturday Aug 21 as part of their Good Evening and Good Night tour. Their self-titled album is out now through Inertia. www.basementbirds.com.au.

Read the actual article here, pg18, or online, here.

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