Interview: Spacey Jane talk J Awards & returning to touring, “I’ll never take live music for granted anymore”

It’s a huge week approaching for Perth’s indie-pop four-piece Spacey Jane who begin a new tour in Western Australia on Friday, while they’ve been nominated for Triple J’s Australian Album of the Year, with the winner to be announced on Thursday.

Drummer Kieran Lama admits they’ve deliberately set their expectations low for the J Award nom, where they’re up against the likes of Ball Park Music, DMA’s, Lime Cordiale and Tame Impala, but you never know with Spacey Jane who have been on a wild ride for the past few years.

In fact, Spacey Jane’s trajectory has generally been upward since they burst on to the scene in 2017 with single “Feeding The Family”, however 2020’s inescapable challenges have stalled their progress, forcing them to postpone their maiden European tour and grounding them from a bunch of dates on the East Coast.

Amid the COVID-19 chaos, Spacey Jane – who are frontman Caleb Harper, guitarist Ashton Hardman Le Cornu, bassist Peppa Lane and Lama – still managed to release their debut studio album Sunlight in June which rose to number two on the ARIA charts and was Triple J’s feature album for a week too.

But restrictions have meant they’ve barely been able to play it live to their fans, beyond a recent WA regional tour, which warmed them up for a series of dates in Perth and Mandurah starting on Friday night at Bar 1 in Hillarys.

The AU Review spoke to Lama, who doubles up as the band’s manager, ahead of their latest dates and Thursday’s Triple J announcement, while he also hinted at some more new material early next year.

You guys tend to tour a lot, but there hasn’t been much opportunity in 2020, so how pumped are you for six shows in Perth and Mandurah?

Honestly, it feels like we’re pretty lucky to play shows at all over here in WA. Fingers crossed it stays that way with the open border.

We’re super excited. Most of the year it feels like I’ve spent twiddling my thumbs waiting for the opportunity to get up and play. The shows we’ve played felt pretty special because everyone feels like they’re raring to go. They’ve been waiting, we’re all in the same boat, punters and us.

I’m a bit nervous because anything can happen with the COVID stuff. One wrong move from one person and we’re back to stage four or stage three. I’ll never take live music for granted anymore.

On that, with the WA Government opening the border recently are you exploring any plans to tour over east, given you had to postpone that tour when coronavirus hit in mid-March?

We’re looking at the possibility of playing shows over east. It’s all about the logistics of it and the restrictions in other cities. Do people stand up and watch or are they seated shows only? Financially is that viable? It’s a strange new world but we’re hoping to be able to navigate. That’s the way the year has been so far.

I know when COVID-19 hit you’d just come back from NZ and were about to do the East Coast and had to postpone all that, so you must be itching for it?

We’ve got all these tickets that have already been sold and people have been hanging on to them for months now. It gets to the point where we’re going to reschedule but if people want their $30 back that’s understandable. We’re keen to honour the tickets that we’ve sold.

I saw you play at the Wine Machine festival and you all bring great energy and seem to have such a fun time together live, where does that come from? Youthful exuberance?

I think so. It’s something we’ve always had. When we were playing shows at the start, we were a really shit band for the first year, as everyone should be. It came super naturally especially for Ashton back in the day.

They’re up there at the front and I’m just sitting down, so it’s easy for me. Ash likes to jump around. The more people tell us “that’s cool, it looks like you’re having a lot of fun”, the more we want to do it and the more energy we’ll put into it.

It’s like cardio for the guys at the front. They come off sweaty as for every show. It’s energy that seeps back and forth between us and the crowd. It feels really good and positive. You know a show has gone well when we’re all covered in sweat.

Usually it’s the drummer who’s most sweaty, they must give you a run for their money?

Honestly they really do. Ash is basically on a treadmill for the whole show!

Do you have any pre-gig rituals? Things to pump you up?

I feel like maybe the thirty minutes leading up to the show, and everyone in the band can relate to this, I’m my worst version of myself. I don’t get too anxious but there’s just enough. I don’t really have anything that I do. I just try to stare at my phone and do something to zone out, especially if it’s a high-pressure show. I try not to think about it and get up and do the job.

How’s that been for you and the whole band, being unable to tour, upon the release of your debut album which flew up the charts. All the while you were supposed to be over in the UK and doing tours here, there and everywhere. Just at a time when it feels like you’re ready to explode, you’ve been constrained by something beyond your control. Has that been hard to cop?

We’ve been pretty fortunate in that now we’re able to play shows. For a bit we were wondering “what the f**k are we doing with our lives?”. That feeling of going from doing something to doing nothing, in the first few months it was definitely a knock.

Personally my position is manager and drummer, so I was all in from the get-go, so it was weird to go from being snowed in with work, we’re on the road and everything was happening at once to this weird whiplash feeling of going back to Perth and being in lockdown for a month. That whole process sucked and we all acknowledged that repeatedly.

I moved in with Ash when the lockdown was announced and we were staving off boredom the whole time. I can’t imagine how it would’ve gone if we were in another state or if we weren’t able to get together, rehearse, write and record. That’s basically what we’ve been busying ourselves with.

It’s not pleasant at all. I really feel for people who are stuck in places that are in sh**ty positions. We keep thinking about how lucky we are here and how the rest of the world is going through the worst of it. Australia is doing a great job, so we’re blessed.

Ok, let’s talk happy stuff. You must be stoked with your nomination for the Triple J Australian Album of the Year?

Absolutely. I feel like, personally, I always keep my expectations low when it comes to awards. When they come around I’m hopefully pleasantly surprised. This one feels like it could be a goer. I’m super, super happy with the acknowledgment. Some of my favourite albums have been up for this award, so it feels like a really, really good nod. We’re all stoked.

On the topic of Triple J, I want to ask you about seeing “Good For You” come in at 80th on the Hottest 100 in 2019. How was that?

That was a crazy time. When it passed 90 on the countdown we thought ‘maybe not this year’. When it was around 82-83 Caleb went off to the bottle shop and declared it wasn’t happening. We were all pretty anxious.

Then I just started getting text messages 30 seconds before it was announced, people saying ‘congrats’. I was like ‘what’s going on’. I was beyond stoked.

So where were you all?

We were having a pool party at our place in North Perth where I used to live. All our friends were there, Amelia (Spacey Jane’s former bassist) could make it. I think we’re going to try tee up something with her soon too.

Caleb was gone when it came up. It started playing when he was at the bottle shop with a few mates. I’d imagine there were some hugs and possibly tears, who knows. He came back pretty quickly, jumped in the pool and we all celebrated. It was really special. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Awesome and how’s the reception been to the album Sunlight?

I’m really, really happy with how everyone has received the record. The places it feels like it’s taking us, I so desperately wish we could play shows for people who’ve been listening to it in other places. I can’t wait for that to happen.

I feel like we’re always in this position of gratitude. From the get-go it’s felt like we couldn’t possibly be doing this as a band without the people who listen to us. We’re very, very aware of that. It’s been overwhelming gratefulness. There’s no other way to explain how I’m feeling.

How’s it been working with AWAL who you signed with in January?

The rollout of Sunlight was way tidier working with AWAL. It was way easier than I expected. It was an anxious time that week, the ARIA charts the following week but we were so happy with the result. There was no way we thought we’d chart or get feature album or all that crazy stuff. I like to feel pleasantly surprised. that was a huge month of constantly feeling like ‘woah that’s awesome’.

I should also ask about being signed by AWAL. I know it’s a difficult time to plan internationally but has it opened any major doors in the COVID-vaccine future?

Internationally it was going to do us a lot of favours. We were going to tour internationally in 2020 in the UK, then test it out and see how it goes over there. Obviously that all fell apart but they’re amazing to work within Australia.

We’ve managed to press these two 12-inch EPs to vinyl very recently which was an off-the-cuff idea for them and made so much sense. Having the ability to press music and having a really solid means of distribution is so helpful.

I find the freedom that AWAL have given us has been really awesome for this record. We don’t know where things will go with the next record but the team we’ve assembled have been great.

Are you guys working on anything moving forward, given you’ve been cooped up?

We’re bouncing in and out of the studio every few months and writing regularly. It feels like Caleb is always working on new stuff.

We’ve been getting together and rehearsing and writing together. For the first time ever we’re going to go down south to spend some time together in an Airbnb for a week and just do some demos. I can’t give a timeline but there’s definitely new material. I’m excited about some of the new songs. I’ve been listening to them non-stop for the past day or so.

But we’re definitely working on new stuff and hopefully we’ll have something out early next year. Who knows in terms of a new single, it’s all up in the air, as far as COVID goes, it’ll impact it. If we get the option to tour, we’ll tour first.

Ok so if everything goes well and someone comes up with a COVID-19 vaccine soon,what’s the ultimate for you guys, what do you want to do next, what’s top of the agenda with no restrictions?

Call me crazy and I don’t know if that’s just because of the US election but I really want to go to the States. I feel like maybe that’s more of me wanting to be a tourist!

International touring is something we were all looking forward to. We’ve been to New Zealand which was amazing but it feels like it’s so similar to Australia, so going somewhere far overseas is such an exciting possibility.

But we’ve had some incredible shows within Australia, so I really want to get over east and fulfil the tickets that have been sold and hopefully play some theatre shows.

The show we played at the Tivoli in Brisbane last year was my favourite. To be able to play big-scale shows when things are back to normal is something I’m really looking forward too. Apart from festivals, I don’t think we’ve ever played to a crowd that big. Headline shows are something else.

Spacey Jane’s debut album Sunlight is available now. Limited edition coloured vinyl pressings of earlier EPs No Way To Treat An Animal and In The Slight are out November 27th. Pre-order them HERE. The band’s upcoming run of shows in the Perth Metro area have all sold out.

Upcoming Shows

Fri Nov 20th | Bar 1, Hilarys
Sat Nov 21st | The Rechabite, Perth
Sun Nov 22nd | Freo.Social, Fremantle (U18 matinee)
Sun Nov 22nd | Freo.Social, Fremantle (18+)
Sat Dec 5th | Scott’s Garage, Mandurah (All Ages Matinee)
Sat Dec 5th | Scott’s Garage, Mandurah (18+)

Photo credit to Daniel Hilderbrand

Ben Somerford

Aussie freelance journalist, sports, music, entertainment, top 10 lists. Take beach pics too.

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