the AU interview: Kevin Mitchell (aka Bob Evans) of Jebediah (Perth)

While he was in Sydney, Larry Heath caught up with Kevin Mitchell (who you may know as Bob Evans), from iconic Perth rockers Jebediah. They just released a new album Kosciuszko - we talk about this, and plenty more...

LH: So you’re in Sydney, doing a bunch of media bits and pieces?

KM: Yeah, literally just got in from the airport then.

LH: Well, welcome! Seems like there's blue sky today, so that’s nice...

KM: Yeah, yeah, I probably won’t see much of it today, but I’ve heard it’s out there...

LH: Don’t worry, I can’t see it either. How’s everything going?

KM: Yeah, very well, thank you. Busy! But good.

LH: You’re releasing your new album tomorrow, can you believe it?

KM: Well, I guess there is a certain part of me that is starting to believe it now. Because, it’s just we have been doing so much press recently, so I think I am going to be relieved when it finally comes out, and people can start listening to it. After just hearing me talk about it for so long.

LH: Well, I’ve got the record in front of me, I’ve had a good listen to it, and it sounds fantastic - I mean, there’s so many years of work in this record. How do you look back on that process? Because so much has changed obviously in the last five years or so, since the ideas first started floating around...

KM: I suppose I look back on it. I mean, it was difficult, but it was a real labour of love, you know. To use a bit of a well worn cliché. But I really do think this album is best described that way, we had a lot of attention to detail, a lot of care and love was put into it, and it wasn’t in easy circumstances, you know. Our circumstances were such that no one was really expecting us to make another record, I don’t think. No one would have been too surprised if we just disappeared of the face of the earth. Some people might have liked us to. But yeah, I really look back at that time and see it as a real team effort.

LH: I do agree. I mean, when you have your solo stuff going so well and Basement Birds, it must have been easy to just say 'fuck it, lets not do another record.'

KM: Yeah, I think that’s what everyone expected. But, I think as time went on, more and more I wanted to make another Jebs record. I suppose there was a little part of me that kind of wanted to prove people wrong. You know, kind of surprise people. I had a little bit of that, urging me to prove myself.

LH: In the middle of everything else going on, last year at the WAMIs you guys did a one off show at Amplifier... What was that like, just getting together and doing that gig, when everyone was still doing everything else?

KM: Yeah, for the last few years, every time Jebediah have played it’s always been a bit of a juggling act for me. For everybody, really. With me juggling it in amongst Bob Evans, which has been the focus the last few years, and Basement Birds, which was happening last year. But you know everyone was juggling, with jobs and playing in other bands as well. So everytime we played a gig it was kind of a bit haphazard. We’d get together a couple of days before. I’d fly in from Melbourne, because I don’t live in Perth anymore, and we’d have a quick rehearsal. Play a show, drink too much, and then it’d all be over again. So I think everyone is looking forward for us all to just be consistently doing Jebediah, and just concentrate on that, and learn how to play all these new songs; string a few shows together in a row, you know rather than just play sporadically.

LH: You just added eleven regional dates to your tour, which is quite epic, starting very soon. How important is it to you guys playing those regional towns, and getting to places you haven’t been before or haven’t been in a while?

KM: Touring is something we have always loved. From the very first tour we did back in 1996 with Something For Kate - it was a tour called Unipalooza; we played universities all over the country over the course of about six weeks. It was a huge tour. For us I suppose it became part of the norm. We’ve always toured a lot and played regional places, so to go back and do it just made sense to us. You know, it’s something that is important to us, playing as many shows as possible to as many people as possible, that’s at the core of it all.

LH: And as you said, the consistency of doing it for a long period of time...

KM: Yeah, I like to think that there are people in Cairns, or Bendigo, or Broome, or wherever that have seen us a bunch of times over the last ten years, so it makes sense to go back up there.

LH: And will you be doing anything with the WAMI festival this year?

KM: Erm, I’m not sure, depends... I mean, Vanessa will probably get nominated for best bass player again, she does seem to have a bit of a stranglehold on that award. I mean, I can’t get nominated for anything yet. We’ll wait and see, I suppose. You kind of have to be invited I suppose, so we’ll wait and see if we get the invitation. Hopefully. We have done it a bunch of times before, so hopefully they’ll ask us to do it again.

LH: Fair enough. You were talking earlier of how over the last couple of years everyone has just had to fit it in around everything they’re doing, and especially with you and your project. But when it came to the recording of the album, was that very much the same? I think you recorded it, or the majority of it at least, in Perth.

KM: Yeah, we just sort of did it in parts in little blocks of time over the three years. If I had a couple of weeks off from doing Bob Evans and other things, I’d fly over to Perth. We’d block out some time and people would just come in when they weren’t at work or wherever. We just sort of picked away at it over a long period of time. But it was more so kind of intentional as well, we wanted to make a record where we didn’t have a set kind of time frame to finish it, you know we wanted to just have that freedom. I think the record, it’s a different sounding record because the process is so different from the other records we have made.

LH: Does that just come down to the time frame? Or just the actual process in which you were writing and recording?

KM: Yeah, I think it was the process, and it was an intentional process. It could have gone either way, it could have been a disaster, there were a lot of ways in which it could have gone horribly wrong, we could have not finished it all, we could have ended up making it for the rest of our lives. We could have just become too self indulgent and made a mess of an album. But fortunately it feels to me, at this point of time, everything that we hoped the process would achieve. It’s been realised we have made the record we wanted to make. It’s always a relief, you know, when you get to the end of a record and you achieve what you set out to do. Because it doesn’t always work out that way.

LH: Yeah, that’s right. And you kind of look back over your career, and you started in the mid '90s when the music industry was completely different to what it’s like now. How do you feel about bands that are trying to start in the industry as it is today? Does it scare you at all, thinking if you were in that same position?

KM: It’s hard to think of what it would be like now. The technology side of things has changed everything. Mobile phones weren’t even around when we started playing, it was all fax machine. I mean, it’s ridiculous, but it’s true. I remember the first band mobile phone we got, mobile phones were just coming in, and our manager was like, 'you guys should have it', none of us had one, it was new technology. So our manager went out and bought one. And I was designated to look after this thing, it was the size of a brick, it had a little antenna you could pull up, and on the back was a belt clip so you could clip it to your belt. But it was the only way anyone could keep in touch with us whilst we were on tour. There was no social media, and I suppose those kinda things now are a second nature. We kinda feel like, we don’t feel like we are on top of all that kinda stuff. But, you know, a teenager is putting a band together now, I mean they’d probably have a Facebook page before they’d written a song. They’d be right up to date with all that shit. I guess it’s just the way things have changed.

LH: You haven’t quite become a Twitter expert yet, or do we find you on there?

KM: I struggle with Twitter. I do have one, well Bob Evans, but no Jebediah Twitter - well, it comes out of the Jebediah office, but not actually us. I do have a Bob Evans Twitter and I do use it every now and then, but it’s only just as... I mean, I can’t really get into the whole tweeting about every little thing that I am doing. I could be tweeting right now “doing an interview”. I just can’t see the point. That’s either going to make me sound really old fashioned, because Twitter is here and here to stay. Or maybe it’ll just be a passing fad and I’ll be able to say I never got into that.

LH: I guess at the end of the day, they are just new ways of promoting yourself and giving links to yourself.

KM: See, that’s the thing, traditionally I think artists haven’t been very good at promoting themselves. Well, there have always been some who are good at it. I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone. But for us we have never really been good at self promotion. And nowadays I just think that that idea of self promotion is so deeply engrained in every young artist that is starting out. It wouldn’t be something you have to learn, it would just be engrained. Whereas for people like us, it’s just not you know. We don’t even really feel that comfortable, because the whole mystery of rock and roll is being completely eroded. Everybody knows everything about everyone and theres no mystery left to it anymore. I’m not necessarily lamenting that, it’s just an observation of how things have changed.

LH: No, definitely, there this aspect now that people are casual fans of a bunch of bands rather than full on fans of a couple.

KM: Yeah. But that social media also gives people the opportunity to become really full on fans. I mean I know we’ve got a few, I reckon all bands will have a few like that. Social Media is a real tool for them to use which wasn’t really available in years gone by.

LH: Well, Kev, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today. And it's really exciting to see you guys back out on the road and recording new material, and releasing new material. We look forward to seeing you when you start performing back in Sydney very soon.

KM: Great, thank you very much.