the AU interview: Craig Jackson of The Sirens of Venice (Melbourne)


As we await a new Gersey album, Craig Jackson has been hard at work on a new project with wife Camilla – The Sirens of Venice. The duo have teamed up with six others to make a truly beautiful album, and just before it’s released in stores, alongside an accompanying tour, I chatted to Craig about the project, as well what it was like touring with Pavement earlier this year!

Larry: Hey Craig! Thanks for chatting to us today!

Craig: Not a problem! Thanks for taking my call!

Are you down in Melbourne at the moment?

Yep, sure am. In the heart of it, on Collins St!

So we’re here to talk today about The Sirens of Venice – your new project with wife Camilla. Firstly, can you tell us where the name came from? 

I was really looking for a name to suit the music, and the record that we’d made. And I was really stumped there for a while. But I remember, I think I was reading a Charles Bukowski book, and he had this term about mermaids in Venice – but he was talking about Venice, California. So then I thought, Sirens of Venice! That’d be brilliant, that sounds great. So I typed it into Google – I know this is a really uninspiring story – and it said how in Venice, Italy, how the sirens sound when the town is becoming flooded. So I thought of myself, how great would it be if it were actual mermaids making the sirens, as the water was coming through Venice, flooding it out. So that’s kind of where the name comes from. I wish I had a story that involved me in Venice, but when I was last there they didn’t have the sirens!

How did the process of putting the album come together?

Millie and I, we’d just gotten married, and we played guitar and wrote songs together in our house – it was already great fun, and we’d record it onto Garage Band, and before we even released it, about 6 months down the track, we had twelve to fifteen songs that we really loved. There was something there. So we kept working on them, and we didn’t really know what we wanted to do with them… so we got Vince from the Underground Lovers involved, to listen to the demo songs, and then we decided to go and make a record together. And then once it finished, I showed it to a few people, and then low and behold, the good people of Speak and Spell decided to put it out. It was a really organic process that didn’t require too much decision making to try and make things happen – it kind of just did!

And I understand it was recorded almost 2 years ago now – is it at all frustrating to have waited so long for it to be released, or does time help make it a more organic process?

I think that’s kind of how it came out. I’ve never really been frustrated, I don’t think. Things take time, the weird times of releasing music, to be doing music as a commercial venture at this point in time. So I understood that everything took time, and I was patient enough to persevere with whatever else we were doing, and so it just sort of all fell into place. It was really great. 

And you have 6 other members that both play on the album and that you’ll be taking on the road – so would we call you an 8 piece, or a two piece with a backing band?

It’s definitely a band, an eight piece. You think along the lines of Arcade Fire, or Edward Sharpe.

So you’re an Arcade Fire and not a Swell Season.

*laughs* Yep, exactly.

And how did the other players get involved? I understand the lineup will be different live to the record, too?

Initially, I used a lot of Jed (Palmer) and Vinces (Giarrusso) contacts to make the record. Steve who play drums on the record, he plays in the band. Jed who did a lot of the guitars, and Vince brought along Zoe (Barry), they’ve got their own things happening (so they won’t be touring with us). 

But yeah when it started out, we weren’t sure who we were going to get to be in the band, but then once again it unfolded … Millie’s brother Charlie (Davis) would play guitar, and his wife (Marie) would play strings. I mean she wrote all the strings, so she might as well play on it. And then Millie’s best friend, she would play, and her partner a bass player, and Millie would play guitar. So all of a sudden we were getting up there, and we just needed a couple of extra people, so we filled the gaps of what we needed after the six of us decided we were going to be the band. Once again, a pretty organic process to put it all together. 

Was it all recorded in Melbourne?

Yes. We did a little bit a Head Gap. And then we did the rest at a little studio in Thornbury, called Soft Centre, I think it was. Very budget record, thank God! 

Well it doesn’t sound it! It’s beautifully polished. Can you speak a bit about working with Jed and Vincent on the album?

Yeah, the production is incredible. (Jed and Vincent) were fantastic. I remember talking to Vince in the intial stages of putting together a plan for it, and I remember saying that I love The Underground Lovers records Dream it Down and Rushall Station, and that’s kind of where we wanted to go. Millie and I basically handed over all of the songs to them, and just said go wild! Do whatever you think. And to our joy they came back with some really amazing suggestions with a couple of arrangements, and at the same time were really into bringing up stuff that we’d already written.

Jed is such a great engineer and a producer, and we’re on the same page. It made for a really pleasant and fun experience of recording the record. I give them both glowing endorsements for anybody who wants to make a record that has a real feel to it, from point A to point B – from start to end. They’re some of the best in the country, if not the world.

What do you hope for people who listen to the album to take away from it? 

Well I hope they really love it! I hope it makes them want to come and see the shows. If you’re into this type of music I hope they can appreciate it, and can support the band, and we can all sit together in a room while we play some music! It’s hard to say what you want other people to do, all you can say is that you hope people will like it!

And when are we going to be seeing you on the road? I understand there haven’t been any live shows for it yet?

No! There have been none! It’s definitely the complete reverse to what they say in the textbook about making a record – start a band, go and play some shows, then make a record and put it out. We’ve gone the other way around. But hopefully we’ll be on the road by July, do some shows. Then we’ll see what happens after that! But hopefully they’re a success and they’re fun and we can continue with it all.

And I have to talk about this: You recently came off the Pavement tour with Gersey – both reuniting around the country! Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

It was unbelievable. Seriously one of the best experiences as far as touring goes. We played in beautiful theatres every night with 2,000 people very attentive, excited and responsive – and then you go off stage and you have a beer, and most of the time we shared a dressing room with Pavement. So we’d hang out with them before they went on. And then we’d have a beer and stand side of stage and watched probably our all time favourite band play night to night. And they were incredible as a band, and as people too. So hospitable, so charming. It was almost a dream come true.

I suppose if there’s anything to get you guys out of a hiatus it’s that!

*laughs* Yes!

I understand it has led to the talks of a new Gersey album?

Yeah there’s talks of getting it together, getting a new record together. We’ll see how that pans out. It’s a great idea to do it, we so enjoyed playing together again, so we’re almost back to the old days it was that much fun. So we’re going to get back in to the studio at some stage this year and see if there’s another record in it! Hopefully there is.

If it is, I think it’ll be more of that Hope Springs (their album released in 2000) sort of vibe, that we’d be going for as well.

Well best of luck with that, and with getting the Sirens on the road!

Yeah it should be fun! It’ll be like family vacation! Millie and I have traveled a lot in the last couple of years, so hopefully we can do it with guitars.

Keep your eyes peeled for The Sirens of Venice beautiful self-titled debut record, as well as the soon to be announced tour dates! It’s a project we should all definitely get behind.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.