ESKIMO JOE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - ROSS PUR­DIE

Kav Tem­per­ley ex­or­cises his demons.

ANY­ONE who wants to un­der­stand the past 10 years of Kav Tem­per­ley’s life need only ab­sorb them­selves in his band’s re­veal­ing back cat­a­logue.

As the prin­ci­pal song­writer be­hind Eskimo Joe, the singer weaved a trail of lust and heart­break, de­bauch­ery and dis­cov­ery on the four al­bums doc­u­ment­ing his twen­ties.

There’s the hon­ey­moon op­ti­mism of Girl, recorded in 2001 as Tem­per­ley en­joyed his first long-term re­la­tion­ship. The ro­mance didn’t last and was later laid to rest in a bit­ter fol­low-up, A Song Is a City.

By 2006, Tem­per­ley had drunk his heartache away and was turn­ing to the night for kicks. Eskimo Joe’s storm­ing Black Fin­ger­nails, Red Wine re­vealed a more dan­ger­ous fig­ure in­tent on em­brac­ing his in­ner rock star.

He reeled it all back in time for a fourth, In­shalla – a more artis­tic record – which re­flected the singer hit­ting his 30s, seek­ing ‘‘ peace and love and kids and a more grounded ex­is­tence’’.

While that pledge would al­ways be overly am­bi­tious for a tour­ing mu­si­cian in one of Aus­tralia’s best-loved rock bands, Tem­per­ley even­tu­ally set­tled on a break from writ­ing with Eskimo Joe.

In­stead, the band, which also fea­tures Joel Quartermain and Stu­art Ma­cLeod ( all pic­tured) founded a record la­bel named Dirt Di­a­monds and be­gan build­ing a stu­dio com­plex near their home in Fre­man­tle called The Waste­lands.

Tem­per­ley found free­dom in the su­per­group Base­ment Birds, along­side his friends Steve Parkin, Josh Pyke and Kevin Mitchell. They toured and re­leased an al­bum last year. He also en­joyed an in­for­mal res­i­dency at a lo­cal cafe, test­ing new sounds on Sun­day cus­tomers. One week he’d rein­ter­pret pop songs by Ri­hanna, the next he’d ex­per­i­ment with a key­board and drum ma­chine.

When the time came to re­group Eskimo Joe, Tem­per­ley was in­tent on ap­proach­ing mu­sic in a new headspace. But how?

The an­swer res­onated from the writers he most ad­mires – poets such as Sylvia Plath and mu­si­cians like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Co­hen, all artists who en­cour­ag­ingly didn’t hit their stride un­til their 30s and 40s.

In or­der to de­velop a more ac­com­plished voice, Tem­per­ley sought to change the things which had pre­vi­ously de­fined him.

The tone of the fifth Eskimo Joe al­bum, Ghosts of the Past, be­came cen­tred on tak­ing stock and edit­ing past emo­tions.

‘‘ The process of writ­ing this record was about re­flect­ing on all those times in my 20s when I wrote about failed re­la­tion­ships and about ev­ery­thing go­ing wrong, all the demons or ghosts as I call them on the record,’’ the 32-year-old says.

‘‘ The songs are about the ghosts I’ve de­cided to live with and the ghosts I’ve de­cided to let go and how that af­fects me in my adult life.’’

To make the record, the band re­lo­cated south to In­jidup, WA, and set­tled in the same grand beach shack where Tame Im­pala recorded its de­but al­bum, In­ner­s­peaker, armed with only ‘‘ te­quila, some fun things to smoke, our record­ing gear and in­stru­ments’’.

They made demos of two songs, When We Were Kids and Word of Avoid­ance, be­fore look­ing up their favourite pro­ducer Matt Lovell and book­ing some time at his lo­cal stu­dio, The Man­grove, on the NSW Cen­tral Coast, to com­plete the rest.

The re­sult is an al­bum of stripped-down qual­ity; the sound of a rock band armed only with gui­tars, piano and drums and big things to say. It’s an­other new phase in Tem­per­ley’s life and one he’s keen to cel­e­brate when they play Splen­dour In The Grass.

‘‘ With In­shalla we tried to be a bit too arty. But we learnt peo­ple just want the hits at fes­ti­vals, and that’s what we’re go­ing to do.’’

Ghosts of the Past by Eskimo Joe is re­leased on Au­gust 12; The sin­gle Love is a Drug is out now.

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