Perth alternative rockers Jebediah – or `the Jebs’ as they’re affectionately known – have been kicking around as a band since 1994. They went on hiatus for a while but now they’re back with their fifth studio album, Kosciuszko. We caught up with bassist Vanessa Thornton for a chat ahead of their Battle For November tour.
Can we start with your name and role in Jebediah?
Ness. I play the bass guitar
What has kept the four of you together as a band for the past 17 years?
For the first 10 years I think we were all unsure if we were capable of doing anything other than playing in this band. As it turns out, we all have talents other than what we contribute to Jebs! So for the last few years we have been playing music together because it makes us feel good. Playing in this band also seems like a great excuse to travel around the country with some of your best mates.
‘She’s Like A Comet’ – from the album Kosciuszko – debuted at No.11 on the ARIA Top 20 Australian Singles Chart in February and won Most Popular Single / EP at 2011 WAMi Awards. Did you know you were onto a winner when you wrote that song?
That song came together pretty quickly in a rehearsal room and I think we were all pretty sure that it was going to make it on to the album even at that early stage. Things like charts and awards never even cross your mind when you’re just enjoying the process of playing the same three chords over and over again until it turns into a song! To be honest, those things never even got anywhere near my thoughts until I ended up with a freezer full of WAMI cake.
‘She’s Like A Comet’ is the only song on the album mixed by Chris Shaw, not Dave Parkin, who produced and recorded the album. Why did you turn to Chris Shaw for this song?
Record label suggestion. We were all really happy with Parko’s mix and were a bit reluctant to let anyone else near it. The whole three-year process of making that record was pretty much an experience shared between only the four of us and Parko, so maybe we were being a bit precious about things. Chris Shaw’s first few mixes weren’t sounding promising but as much as I hate to admit it, we think he really nailed it in the end and the song sounds pretty good on radio. I guess we will never know how much impact that different mix had compared to Parko’s mix.
Do you think Kevin’s time playing as Bob Evans has had any bearing on Jebediah’s successful comeback?
I have absolutely no idea. I like that his Bob stuff sounds very different from our band. Maybe he might have had a lot of pent up energy that he doesn’t express through Bob because he definitely brought some liveliness and spirit to this record. I think some of the vocals on this album are the best he’s ever sounded.
Your Battle For November tour is coming up in support of the single ‘Battlesong’. To get in the mood, if you could go into battle with any band, who would it be and why?
None. I’m a pacifist.
You’re taking Stonefield and Split Seconds along for the ride this tour. Why these two?
They’re both fairly new hip and happening bands. Haven’t heard that much of either but I really like the Stonefield song they’ve been playing on triple j. I’ve seen Split Seconds a few times at local gigs and ever since our first headline tour in ‘97 we’ve always tried to have a Perth band on the road with us so we can show off our local wares to the rest of the country.
With 1997’s Slightly Odway coming in at #15 on triple j’s Hottest 100 Australian Albums of all time countdown, is there pressure to stick to your early stuff when deciding set lists?
There is but it’s not entirely unwanted pressure. Some of those old songs feel weird to play in the rehearsal room but they’re still fun to play in front of a crowd. The hardest part about writing a set list is deciding which songs to leave out.
What do your crowds look like these days? Do you notice younger faces in the crowd or do you have a pretty loyal fan base?
We definitely recognise some people who have been coming to our shows for years. On the last tour I did meet several people after some of the shows who had never seen us play before. We feel really lucky to be able to play shows and still have people rocking up to see us.
You guys started touring when you were only 17 years old. How important is touring when you’re trying to make it in a young band?
We started the band because we wanted to play shows. So for us, the live thing was what being in a band was all about. There was no internet or myspace or whatever back then so playing shows seemed to be the way to build a fanbase.
Soundgarden are coming out for the Big Day Out next year and local bands like Violent Soho and Children Collide are flying the grunge flag right now. Do you think Australian grunge is making a comeback?
I have absolutely no idea about what is happening in music right now but I love Violent Soho so I hope grunge is making a comeback. Valentiine are also an amazing band that remind me of those ‘90s grunge and riot grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl bands. Bring it on!
Jebediah contributed ‘Getting Strong!’ to the recent Wiggles 20th anniversary covers album Rewiggled. Are they a big influence on the band?
Not at all. I listened to Patsy Biscoe when I was a tot!
What’s planned for the rest of summer?
Mostly the beach for me. I’m sure there will be some shows but my brain is already floating in the ocean waiting for my body to go and find it.
Sounds good. Thanks for the interview Ness.