Josh Pyke: Talented Troubadour

josh pyke

FOR a guy promoting his latest album, Josh Pyke isn’t that fussed talking about it.

In fact, he’s happy to discuss anything but. Is this a trait borne from arrogance, or the humility of a man who lets his music do the talking? The smart money is on the latter.

With ARIA award wins, widespread industry acclaim and legions of fans on his side, Pyke could be forgiven for feeling confident about the release of his upcoming album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Instead, the Sydneysider is keeping his feet on the ground and aiming – as always – to connect with his fanbase in the most personal way possible.

“For me, the biggest barometer for success is good touring,” he says. “Last year was the strongest touring I had done in my career. It was incredibly gratifying at that point in my career; ten years in and with four albums at that point. To be playing to 3500 people at a sold-out solo show in Melbourne felt incredible. My hope is to play great shows to people who really want to be there. I want my songs to become part of peoples’ lives in some way. The best feedback I get is when people say one of my songs was played at their wedding or when people get tattoos of my lyrics or something like that. I want to write songs that mean something to people.”

The 37 year-old releases his fifth full-length on July 31, but what’s getting him most impassioned right now is the current state of the creative industries.

“I think about this stuff a lot,” he says. “How can people do their best work and earn a living – even a modest one – that will allow them to do it full-time and become an absolute gun at what they do? The creative industries are passion industries, so [they] don’t pay very well, and you’ll often hear the argument that [people in creative industries] are doing what they love, so why should they get paid at all? It’s just a ridiculous argument, because people value creativity. They value it enough to steal it; they just don’t value how it gets made. I kind of understand that as a consumer, but the only way to counter it is to figure out a way to remunerate artists without having much of an impact on general consumers. As much as subscription services aren’t paying artists huge amounts yet, I’m hopeful they will at some point. I like that fact they offer the consumer a great product and the consumer can feel virtuous in knowing they are paying for what they are consuming, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. But I think as soon as you create the barrier of a payment it makes the consumer not want to do it, and begins the cycle of rhetoric and fucking bullshit like ‘You don’t deserve to get paid,’ ‘You’re doing what you love,’ ‘The labels are the problem,’ and all this stuff. I don’t think it’s really fair that people who aren’t experts in the music industry or being a musician to have such strong opinions on it; it really annoys me, you know? I don’t have really strong opinions on how to be an accountant or a teacher. I think they are really important jobs and I don’t begrudge those people getting paid for what they do because they’re experts at something I can’t do. But you don’t see that in the creative arts, because everybody has an opinion because it’s a subjective thing.”

So what about the small business of that new album? Surely Pyke has something to say about it.

“I feel good,” he says. “I love the record and I feel very proud it and the development it is from my previous stuff. It’s always scary at the same time; basically inviting people to judge it. But I’m super-proud of it and that’s as much assurance as I can have about it.”

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is a heavily thematic story of Pyke’s life over the last couple of years, with many lyrically-rich stories for fans to pick apart.

“I hadn’t given it a lot of thought up until I started being asked about it in interviews,” he says. “I kind of realised that the theme is the idea of there being a line in your life that you have to draw. You either cross over it and it’s a brave thing to do, or it’s a brave thing to not cross over it. How those choices manifest themselves in your life; that seems to be a theme which pops up in a few of the songs. There have been a lot of things that I don’t want to talk about which have inspired a lot of the songs. There was a particular point where there was something affecting my life and I had to decide to deal or not deal with it, and on reflection it’s come up a lot.”

It may have a cover adorned with a picture of Charles Redheffer, the American inventor who claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine in 1812, but it’s an album heavy with symbolism relevant to today.

“I was looking for a tattoo idea and I liked the idea of an image of something that doesn’t stop,” Pyke says. “When I get tattoos I want them to remind me of something that’s important to me; I thought it was a good thing to [depict] the idea of not stopping and keeping moving forward. Then when I started researching it and I found out there was no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, it was definitely less appealing but it made me think more about that. When I found the story about Redheffer pulling a swifty over everyone I thought of this image of an old man cranking the wheel while eating a sandwich, and I thought it was a good metaphor for what I see is the state of the world; forging ahead without thinking of the future. Politicians aren’t thinking of sustainable ways of living, and I don’t just mean environmentally, but culturally as well. They’ll just win elections and do things that get them across the line now. It also made me think about creativity and my relationship about creativity, and how creativity begets other creativity; it never stops. I don’t know where my songs end up.”

Having worked with a wide range of Australian musicians, it was only natural that Pyke sought to collaborate on But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Dustin Tebbutt was the first to get the call.

“Dustin is a friend of mine anyway,” Pyke says. “Right towards the end of when I’m making a record, I get to a point when I feel like I’ve done the bulk of the work. I had about 15 songs which I was very happy with, but I think it’s good at that point to step outside your comfort zone and see if you can do any magical last-minute thing when you’re not under pressure. I didn’t know Marcus [Azon], but I was in a café close to my house and I heard this song and thought I would love to write with someone with those sensibilities. I asked the lady at the café and she said it was Jinja Safari. I called up my manager and asked if he could hook me up with a co-write and he said ‘Oh, we just started managing those guys.’ He came over and we wrote a couple of songs, one of which didn’t make it onto the album. It was really comfortable and inspired; I felt that we had a really creative synergy.”

Laughing in the face of the rule warning of working with children and animals, Pyke hired his son to add vocals to the end of ‘Hollering Hearts’.

“He’s four and a half now,” he says. “I had the final mix of the song and thought I just needed something more chant-y at the end. He sang it into my phone and I e-mailed it down to John [Castle, producer]; he put it into the mix and you can definitely hear it in there. It’s a nice moment.”

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is out July 31.

For Scenestr

Jack Carty: “Esk is the best thing that I’ve done so far”

jack carty

FOR most musicians, a national tour means five or six dates taking in the obvious urban hotspots. Sydney folkie Jack Carty, however, is bringing his new tunes to a village near you on his upcoming 32-date tour.

“It’s really good to get out to regional shows,” he says. “There are audiences out there who are hungry for live music. It’s good to get outside the capitals and get to all the people who want to hear live music. I grew up in the country, and I remember when I was kid, if there was a band coming to town there would be a buzz, even if we didn’t know who they were. I love that about getting out to regional Australia. I’ve also played a lot of those places before, so it’s nice to go back and play for the people who’ve bought the records and became fans. It doesn’t really matter where I am; I just close my eyes and sing.”

The 27-year old is touring on the back of his new album Esk, which features a number of musical collaborators, including Josh Pyke on first single ‘The Joneses’.

“He and I toured together about two years ago,” Carty says. “We did a huge 27-date national tour together. Well, when I say he and I toured together, I really mean I supported him. We became friends and stayed in touch. When the time came to write and record this record, I gave him a call one day and asked if he’d be interested in working on it with me, and he just said yes. It really was that simple; he’s a super-down-to-earth guy. Then we ended up touring together again earlier this year, so I’ve spent a lot of time with him now, and he’s an amazing and nice guy. I then recorded ‘The Universe’ with Katie Noonan and the rest of it is a whole different bunch of collaborations. I worked on some songs with Casual Psychotic, who is the guy I made the EP with last year. The last album was quite personal and introspective, and I think that’s how I naturally write songs, so I wanted to collaborate more to see what would happen if I mixed in some outside influences.”

Having been quietly but assuredly building his fanbase with two albums and two EPs since 2010, Carty sees Esk as another stepping stone in his musical development.

“I think this is the best record I’ve ever made,” he says. “But I also think it’s not right to compare. Break Your Own Heart was a break-up album; it’s meant to be quiet and introspective and is the only record up to Esk that I feel completely proud of. Not that I think that it’s perfect, but it is what I meant it to be, if you know what I mean. But Esk is the best thing that I’ve done so far.”




For mX

The White Album Tour: Prefab Four

white album

IF YOU’RE GOING TO CHOOSE a single album to base your 21-musician show around, it had better be a good one.

Four of Australia’s top rock singers; Chris Cheney of The Living End, Tim Rogers of You Am I, Phil Jamieson of Grinspoon and ARIA Award-winning singer-songwriter Josh Pyke have chosen to do exactly that. Thankfully for everyone concerned, they have chosen wisely.

Their upcoming White Album Concert tour will see the four musicians backed by a 17-piece orchestra to run through the 1968 classic Beatles album on a national tour, including such numbers as ‘Back in the USSR’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ in a repeat of the widely successful 2009 tour that brought a slice of the swinging sixties into the modern day. High demand for the show at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre on 13th July has led to the addition of a matinee show on the same day.

Speaking to, Jamieson and Rogers explained that it was an easy decision to reconvene and get into a Fab Four frame of mind once more.

“The timing worked,” Jamieson said. “We weren’t in a cycle trying to sell our own rubbish so we could do these amazing concerts again. It was a blast for the audience and you could not disguise the absolute joy we all had up on stage.”

Despite having commitments with You Am I and his solo work, Rogers was also quick to jump at the opportunity.

“We were completely surprised by the reaction to it,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been in anything that’s been so complimented. Anything I’m involved in there always seems to be a certain percentage of dissenting voices questioning as to whether I’m a complete hack or not! The four of us are quite different personality-wise and quite complimentary. Doing anything that’s other people’s material is not my automatic go-to thing. I prefer writing what I perform. But it’s like stepping into a character, it’s almost like sweet relief at times. You can go and be a performer. There’s less Rogers angst, more Lennon angst.”

In terms of musical releases, 1968 was a teeny bit special. Maybe it was the influence of the Summer of Love the year before, the rise of the counter-culture movement in America and elsewhere or the sudden widespread availability of a range of mind-altering new drugs, but one twelve-month period saw the release of some of the most influential and era-defining music of possibly any other year in musical history, and to say the charts of the day hosted an embarrassment of riches is an understatement. Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, The Band’s Music from Big Pink, The Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks featured alongside albums by The Doors, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Aretha Franklin.

At the top of the pile, though, has to be the White Album, so called for its blank, nameless cover. Written at a time when the Beatles had long since quit touring and the distance between main song-writers John Lennon and Paul McCartney was growing ever wider, exacerbated by musical differences, ego and supposedly meddling spouses, the album still sounds fresh today. It also contains one of George Harrison’s finest compositions in ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’; a song only taken seriously by Lennon and McCartney after Harrison enlisted the help of Eric Clapton to play lead guitar on the track. Josh Pyke explained in an interview with the AU Review why the song and album will always be considered a classic.

“It’s just a genuine phenomenon,” he said. “There is never going to be another band like the Beatles. And even if there are bands that are technically as popular or sell as many records, I think it’s fair to say they will never have the lasting impact upon culture as the Beatles have; because the Beatles came at a time when nothing was like what they were creating and they kept on pushing the limits of records, and they peaked and kind of disappeared under tragic circumstances when they were still massive; there was no slow decline.”

“With the White Album, you’ve got your raw, Hamburg rock’n’roll,” Cheney told Time Out Melbourne. “Then you’ve got stuff like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and ‘Rocky Raccoon’. It was pretty fractured at that point, so they were all in different studios doing their own stuff. I think every band needs that friction or it’s going to result in bland music. I know from personal experience, the hardest times with The Living End have produced the best results, because you’re fighting for something, and you’re pushing each other towards a greater result.”

The show will see the double album’s thirty songs played in full and in order, starting with ‘Back in the USSR’ and finishing with ‘Good Night’, and will include guitars, strings, horns, two drummers and musical direction by former Air Supply guitarist Rex Goh.


For Scene Magazine/Scenestr