WAY OUT OF KILTER
In the lead up to their Brisbane show this weekend, Perth alt-rockers Jebediah have dug up all their wacky outfits in the hope of finding the old stage magic that made them so popular in the late ‘90s
It has been at least 16 years since Kevin Mitchell last listened to Jebediah’s debut album Slightly Odway. That album, released in September 1997 on the Sony indie imprint Murmur (a label whose roster also featured Silverchair and Something For Kate) became a classic of Australia’s halcyon alt-rock era.
It propelled the Perth teenagers onto the burgeoning festival scene, where punk pop anthems including Jerks of Attention, Leaving Home, Harpoon and Animal went down a treat. Jebediah stayed buoyant in the charts and regulars on the alternative airwaves for the next five years.
Then came a couple of long breaks for the band, followed by an “indefinite break” in 2005. Now they back together, prepping for the Twenty tour, which will celebrate 20th anniversary of their formation.
Mitchell and his band mates – drummer brother Brett, guitarist Chris Daymond and bassist Vanessa Thornton – revisited their back catalogue for the accompanying Twenty compilation, out last month.
Hearing those early songs for the first time in years while driving into Melbourne from his Bellarine Peninsula home was right up there with schoolphoto flashbacks for Mitchell.
“In a way, I have kind of avoided it,” he says.
“It was hard to listen to. I loved playing the songs live and living with them in that way, but listening to the record ... I was in such a hurry to leave it behind.”
In the beginning, the Jebs, as they became affectionately known, were subject to an intense bidding war – involving some flash lunches and dinners – between a majority of local record labels as word spread beyond Perth.
The hype hit the east coast when they signed to Murmur.
“Remember, this was well before the internet or social media. Living in Perth really was isolation,” Mitchell says.
While Mitchell and Co. took their music seriously, one of their lasting legacies is their humorous, irreverent videos. Just don’t mention the kilts.
Given their 2001 single Fall Down featured bagpipes, the kilts seemed logical when suggested by video director mate. Yet Mitchell remains unconvinced it was ever a good idea.
“Everyone thought it would be funny, but once the video came out, it got a bit out of control. When we were playing Fall Down on Rove they wanted us to wear the kilts,” he says.
“Then every time we did a press shoot, the record label would ask us if we would ... we always refused.”
Still, they weren’t shy about costumes on stage. Mitchell jokes that if all four members could find their array of outfits from across the years, Jebediah could do enough costume changes on the Twenty tour to rival Beyonce.
Finding those old sartorial statements would be easy for the Mitchell brothers, courtesy of their archiving mother.
But Thornton and Daymond appear to have lost some of the stage and video outfits to the mists of rock past.
One of Mitchell’s favourites was the baggy, colourful tracksuits Jebediah wore during their triumphant mainstage sets during the 2000 Big Day Out tour.
“I was around at Mum’s house last year in Perth because we were collecting images and stuff for the anniversary and, lo and behold, she had the tracksuits wrapped up in Ziploc bags,” Mitchell reveals.
“I was so excited. If Ness and Chris find theirs by some miracle, then this could happen again.” But, he adds, “somehow I don’t think they were into it as much as I was ...”
What happens next for Jebediah remains uncertain.
Mitchell says there are two possibilities: “Neither would surprise me.”
For starters: “This could be the last significant chapter of the band, the last time we do a big tour.”
But: “We may also kickstart a new phase of writing and working towards something.
“It’s one of those things where you need momentum. It can be very difficult when you haven’t been seeing each other for a while to make the magic happen.”
Jebediah have got the band back together for their 20th anniversary tour and album release.