Hailing from Wollongong – yes, that’s right, Wollongong, the city that has given Australian sport absolutely nothing – is Mary Jane Kelly, a musically diverse four-piece who have just dropped their debut EP via the always reliable Trial & Error Records.
The always-polite (and occasionally facetious) Justin Bortigon was kind enough to answer these questions for us…
Please tell us your name, what you do in Mary Jane Kelly and your worst fashion failure.
I own a pair of fluro ksubi board-shorts… it was a dark moment. Not as dark as when Matt wears corduroy pants though.
If you had to describe your band to someone that has little to no understanding of heavy music, what would you say?
If they had no understanding of heavy music, I’d probably tell them to go home and put their Gabriella Cilmi record back on and keep trying to convince themselves that it has deep meaning and musical merit. However, if they had a bit of understanding I’d just give them an EP, for me it’s way too hard being in a band and then trying to introspectively evaluate your sound – or maybe I’m just stupid? I’m probably just stupid.
Can you give us a quick run down of who’s in Mary Jane Kelly, how you all got together, who secretly harbours a crush on another band member etc…
Matt plays guitar, Jam plays drums, Sam plays bass, I sing. We were all best mates for a long time and we were all on the same page musically, but we were all in different bands that we pretty much hated… makes sense right? So we quit them all to start MJK, so we could all write music we were psyched on even if no one else was.
Everyone has a man crush with Jams ability to grow a beard, despite the fact he just turned 18. And because I’m doing this interview I’m going to say everyone has a crush on me, because they are jealous about everything to do with everything about me. hahahahaha
The MJK sound has equal parts punk, metal and hardcore. Did you set out with the intention for the band to sound like this or is it just what came out?
As cliché and lame as it sounds, it wasn’t an intention for us to sound that way, it was more "organic". Thinking about it, it was probably the inevitable bi-product of the eclectic taste of music we all have. We all love punk, metal and hardcore, among many other genres, so it seems logical for the band to reflect the types of music we are into, as opposed to neglecting an influence for the sake of being safe and able to fit perfectly into a particular mould.
What’s the best thing about your hometown of Wollongong?
Friends and the nun pool. And the worst thing about “The Gong”? Most, if not all of my fellow youth and the backwards culture that they partake in. Other than that, Wollongong’s a pretty rad place.
What’s the punk and hardcore scene like in your hometown? Who are some bands kids should check out?
Scene is rad for a relatively small place. People should check out Reason Strikes and Lost in Line – both amazing melodic punk bands that don’t get nearly enough credit for what they do.
Your debut EP, “Our Streets Turn White”, was recently released on Trial & Error Records. How did you guys end up working with Nigel?
It all started when Nigel sent me an email with the poster for the Wilhelm Scream show we were playing in Melbourne. Our previous plans to release with Michael Crafter fell through due to his new found "celebrity" status and other mosh related commitments. So I just went out on a whim and shot Nigel an email back pretty much saying, "wanna hear our EP". After I explained our situation and how we had a completely finished EP, but no one to put it out, he agreed to have a listen. I guess he might of not hated it that much cause he gave me a call and we talked about releasing it, and as the old cliché’ goes, the rest is history.
Tell us a bit about the writing and recording process of the EP…
Our music is based around the guitar riffs that Matt comes up with. It is quite a long process that starts when Matt will come up with an idea while hanging out naked playing guitar and eating cup’o’noodles. Because we have 1 guitar, he will often write a lead part, and then write a rhythm part to accompany it, then mesh the 2 parts together. That is how the main riffs of the song are espoused, and then we will just prac a shit load and hang out heaps and eventually we have a song.
We treat every song we write as its own stand-alone entity, not a follow on from a previous song, or something leading onto the next song. So each song we write often has a different approach and “writing process” that seems to work for that particular one. One thing about our songs is that we never repeat riffs, our structures are never ternary or binary or rondo or anything like that, they are just a progression of where we feel the song should go and what the song needs for us to be happy with it. Because we don’t use any previous riffs, you can understand how it takes a lot longer for us to write songs.
Because we spend so much time on our writing process, our recording process is very quick. We practice heaps, then go into the studio and get it all done. We always have a pretty solid idea of how we want it to sound before we go in, so very little is done to the songs in the studio, other than finding that sound we want.
The EP’s artwork is definitely a little left of centre. Who came up the concept and design?
Myself and Matt came up with the concept, – we are fascinated with the apocalypse, and because the lyrics that go with the EP deal a lot with the lack of compassion and understanding and overwhelming amount of ignorance and stupidity mankind seems to be cool about possessing. We decided to use the idea of monsters destroying a city as a way of depicting what we as humans are doing to our world through our actions.
It’s obviously based on the line “our streets turn white”, white being a neutral and often “emotionless” colour, which is, I feel a good way of depicting the current state of the world. An emotionless, bleak and fundamentally backwards place. We chose Jake Rolfe to do it because we loved his work and thought he could interpret what we wanted in an original way.
The world is in an economic black hole at the moment. Why should someone spend $12 on your EP when they can buy passion pop?
Well buying either of those things is not going to restore investor confidence Cam, haha. However, buying passion pop you run the risk of killing yourself and possibly breaking a heel at Hot Damn while a sleazy dude in a leather jacket attempts to finger you in the gutter. Buying our EP you only run the risk of having a really shit listening experience – I’ll leave that up to the individual to weigh up what is more important to them.
This October and November sees you hitting the road for your first extensive tour. What are you most looking forward to?
Making our merch guy drink Jams piss out of a Maccas cup we found in the gutter for $12.50, so he can buy a pack of Winfield Golds… again. Hanging out with old friends, meeting new friends, and moshing Hell to Earth during Ruiner.
Which member of Mary Jane Kelly is going to be the biggest punisher on the road? Who has the worst/most irritating behavioural traits?
We all know each other well enough, so we’ve grown to accept our individual flaws. With that said I’ll probably get pissed off over something insignificant and then blow it way out of proportion to the point of a massive argument – That is probably a hugely irritating behavioural trait, so I’ll vote myself as the biggest punish.
2008 has been a great year for new music. What have been your 3 favourite records this year and why?
Shai Hulud – Misanthropy Pure: Shai Hulud is my favourite band, I love everything about them; lyrics, music, message. They brought out something that once again blew me away, just like all their other records have.
United Nations – Self Titled: I love Glassjaw, I love Thursday, I love Converge – so when dudes from all 3 of these bands get together and start a weird emo-powerviolence side project with The Beatles burning on the cover, how can I not love it?
A Secret Death – Self Titled: None of us had really ever listened to this band before, but as soon as we saw them live and picked up their CD, it hasn’t been turned off repeat. The album is perfect in almost every single way. Cannot say enough good things about it.
What are the 3 best shows you’ve attended (as a fan) in 2008?
Hardcore this year was awesome.
I dunno if ETID toured this year or 07, but that was amazing.
Seeing A Wilhelm Scream at the manning bar was also amazing.
Any embarrassing onstage incidents while singing for Mary Jane Kelly?
I most likely, constantly embarrass myself onstage, but I just don’t care enough to actually get embarrassed.
If you could tour with any 3 bands, who would it be and why?
Every Time I Die.
The list could go on forever, and will be astronomically long if I’m able to bring bands back from the dead. We’re happy to tour with any band though, being able to tour is a phenomenal gift in itself.
Any final words?
The credit shit-storm will end when the debt of inventories of newly built homes is gone, and home price deflation comes to an end.
As for the US recession, well that all depends on what economic school of thought you place yourself in – and I somehow doubt passion pop is a school of economic thought CAM! Hahahaha.
For everything Mary Jane Kelly, head to the bands Myspace page. ‘Our Streets Turn White‘ is out now via Trial & Error/Stomp.