ESKIMO JOE (LA SPECIAL)
March 15, 2008 | Author: Greg Phillips
They are considered one of Australia’s most successful bands. They have three solidly selling albums under their belt and a swag of awards to their credit including ARIAs and WAMis. If their next album is anywhere near as good as their last, it could possibly lift them to the same lofty heights locally as Silverchair or Powderfinger. That’s the kind of popularity Eskimo Joe enjoy at home in Australia. In America however, while they are making inroads with each new tour, it’s just like starting over again. Greg Phillips caught up with singer Kav Temperley after a club gig on LA’s famous Sunset Strip.
It was only a few months ago that Eskimo Joe was last in America and they hadn’t intended on returning so soon. Opportunely the band was booked as part of the Australian Government’s G’DAY USA festivities in mid January. Their part in the proceedings was a college gig in LA and a one song performance with a symphony orchestra in New York. While they were here, they slotted in some additional gigs. The lesson learnt from pioneers that have gone before them such as INXS, Men At Work, and Midnight Oil is presence. You’ve got to be here, be seen, be heard. Tonight’s gig was a hastily strung together affair. On The Rox is a small club above the much more famous Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip. With little publicity, the band attracted a reasonably full house headlining a bill with two local LA bands. As you expect with an Australian band playing anywhere in the world, the room contained it’s fair share of liquored up Aussies. It also contained some curious American music industry types. I was approached twice by local A&R people brandishing business cards, thinking I was with the band. But the United States is the world’s biggest music market and contrary to whatever PR spin you might hear, things just don’t happen over night.
“What we figured out from the last tour and the bits and pieces we did is that we have to play a lot of shows here,” offers Temperley on breaking it in America. ” You just have to tour and tour. People want to see you and feel you, and as soon as that is happening, people get excited. The plan is at the moment, we’re going to go back, record another record. We have just started writing and demoing for it. Once we have done that, we will release it here and in Australia at the same time. then we’ll do our tour of Australia and probably come back over here for twelve months and just go around and around and around. We get told lots of theories and bits and pieces on what works and what doesn’t work I guess when you come from Australia, you expect it’s going to be like home … you get played on Triple J and you do gigs and people come along. It doesn’t really work like that over here. I think the new radio is television. Last time we were here we got a song on a show called The Gossip Girls and that was a big coup. Even though we had been getting a bit of radio play, the radio didn’t seem to have the impact that The Gossip Girls did. As soon as the Gossip Girls started to happen, we sold some records. It’s a different kind of landscape basically.”
One thing Eskimo Joe, and for that matter most Australian band have on their side, is the ability to cut it live. Tonight the band is in fine form and their collection of cleverly constructed, road hardened tunes goes down particularly well with the LA audience. The two bands prior were simply not in the same class and the chasm between them became obvious when the Joes opened with a rockin’ ‘Sarah’. It was a short, tight set of ten tracks including ‘New York’, ‘London Bombs’, “From The Sea’ and the title track from their current album ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’. Aptly, the jet lagged band finished up with ‘So Tired’.
Another of the band’s notes-to-self in giving America the best shot they could, was not only to play well every night, but also to ensure they sounded great. Kav elaborates.
“What we did before we started touring over here was that we bought ourselves a little 16 track desk and a splitter box and we run in-ear monitors every night. So we bring all our own mikes and all or own leads, and everything goes into our little box, then goes out the front, then the rest of it goes to our 16 track desk. This was like a gig with no production. It had an 8 channel desk so our sound guy actually mixed the gig from our monitor desk out the front. That’s why it probably sounded a little better as well. We just hire exactly the same stuff we use in Australia. I use an Aguilar amp and they are everywhere here. They are fantastic amps. I wasn’t using one tonight mind you because it blew up (laughs). The other guys use Matchless amps, which is what they use in Australia.”
By the time this edition emerges, Eskimo Joe will be on the verge of hitting the blues festival circuit playing the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Byron Bay, West Coast Blues and Roots in Fremantle, and Point Nepean in Victoria. After that their concentration will focus entirely on the recording of album number four.
“We have literally just started, “said Kav of the album progress made so far. “We are two or three songs in. Obviously we’d like to have it recorded by the end of the year, that would be a really good idea. Have it ready by October or something, but who knows. We will just start working on it and bring it out when it is ready. We have never been ones to rush things out. We like to have everything perfect and shiny when it goes out.”
Eskimo Joe is under no illusion that succeeding in America will take time. Even though tonight’s gig is small, the effort and energy they inject into is no less than what they’d apply to a major venue gig back home. It all harks back to the adage that you reap what you sow.
“I think it is a very grounding experience to come over here and play shows,” says Kav. “I think if you can exist in these tiny venues and still rock the house, then you’re on track. It means you are still a good band doing the best that you can do. I think the bands that come over here and are used to the good life, and come over here and suck balls and are bitter about the fact that they are playing smaller venues, it’s like, well you’ve got no chance. People want to walk in there and see a band who are enjoying themselves and they are there to do it, and that’s basically our game plan.”