Eskimo Joe have always struck me as one of the great Australian alternative rock bands of the early 2000s.They’ve released album after album that never failed to find something new to say musically. (Most of us will forever remember their colossal 2006 album Black Fingernails Red Wine.) Even the critics over the years have come to hold them in high regard, especially with the way they almost at will change like musical chameleons. Today, of course, sees Eskimo Joe release their first new song called Say Something since 2013’s Wastelands album. Interestingly, Say Something was originally intended to be a part of a Best Of album, which Eskimo Joe had hoped to play on tour throughout 2020. Of course, unable to tour, the lads decided to release the song as a statement of hope and what it means to be a humanitarian.
I recently connected with Eskimo Joe guitarist and co-founder Stuart MacLeod to chat about their new song. Here is some of what we found out.
There is definitely a buzz in the air around the release of your new single Say Something. How has that energy affected you?
It’s been amazing actually. It’s always fun hitting the road and playing shows; performance is a huge part of being in Eskimo Joe… But there’s something so exciting about releasing new music, especially after so long. We really don’t know what to expect, but the buzz has been fantastic. It feels great to have something new to put out there and I can’t wait to crank it out live as well.
How much of a challenge was it making new music after such a long hiatus? Does it feel like a comeback?
It felt pretty great to be back in the studio. There’s always challenges when you’re creating something new; there’s an infinite number of ways to approach each song, so getting on the same page sometimes takes a while. We’ve been doing our own things outside of Eskimo Joe for so long that we really didn’t know what to expect when we got in the studio. But it felt just like it always did. We didn’t have any expectations of a comeback when we jumped in the studio, we just wanted to record some new material and see how it felt. That being said, we all agreed that we wouldn’t release anything unless it was a song that said “the Joe are back”
With what’s going on now around the world with covid-19 and even with the Black Lives Matter protests, your new song Say Something moved from its environmental platform to a humanitarian protest song in some respects fairly quickly. Is that a fair assessment?
For sure, I’d say that’s fair. Songs have a way of telling you what they’re about! Even once you have released a song, it can take on new meaning depending on its audience. But the scope of this song definitely expanded as we got closer to recording. It just felt like there was something in the air, bigger than just climate change; that sentiment made its way into the song, became the central message and there it stayed.
I was listening to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On last week and can’t help to find some common ground with Say Something. Do you think this new song could be a catalyst for a conceptual album or even more songs around ideas of humanity?
We never like to conceptualise too much, as I find it limits the creative process. I love tapping into an idea/theme/style with each new song, but as a concept going into the writing process across a whole album? Not so much… That doesn’t mean there can’t be a common thread with any new material, just that we don’t usually set out to “design” a song/album based on a theme. It’s definitely in the ether at the moment, a global awareness that things need to change. So I guess it’s hard to avoid that in the creation of art and music. But there’s also a lot of other things going on in our lives on a less global, more personal level, which inherently influence what we write about.
What was the songwriting process like for Say Something after coming back from outside projects? There is definitely a new maturity to Eskimo Joe. Not that it wasn’t there previously. It just feels like you have discovered something new about yourselves as musicians.
I guess you learn a lot in 23 years! To be honest, my life outside of Eskimo Joe has not been as hands-on with music as Kav and Joel. I was GM of a community radio station for a few years and now I head up an organisation that runs a three-days music festival; there’s not been a lot of time for me to access that “right-brain” and write music. So it was great to get back into the writing process with the band. A lot of the musical maturity since our last release comes from Joel working full time as a producer, engineer and collaborative writer and Kav working on his solo project(s). The recording process has become a lot quicker and the writing and production takes a lot more from modern influences.
Finally, what’s the plan for the immediate future for the band? Can we write-off 2020 as a non-event?
2020 is most definitely an event!! Perhaps not the one we’d hoped for. But with every challenge comes opportunity. We have been creatively inspired by recent events, we have been able to write and record new material. We won’t be performing any time soon, but with restrictions easing in WA and hopefully across Australia as 2020 progresses, I think we’ll be hitting the road and playing a few shows towards the end of the year. Looking forward to it, especially with new material!