‘My face has been melted off.’ This was the exact text I sent to a friend of mine as I walked out of the Lass one Saturday night, after seeing a really cool band launch their EP. ‘In a good way?’ he replied. ‘In the unbelievable shredding-of-guitars way.’ My ears are still ringing today, but I am ever so happily sitting down to recount the night I hung out with Jack and Jarrod from a band called Jones the Cat to chat about all things Newcastle, alt-punk, touring and their EP Paste On Smile.
I was sitting at a table on a cold night at the Wicko, huddled over a beer, when I was joined by a happy-go- lucky Jarrod and a straight-shooting Jack. I’m always curious about that first conversation, that first discussion that miraculously seems to transform a group of musicians into a band. It remains one of my favourite questions to pose to any artist that I’m lucky enough to borrow time from. ‘Jack came to me one day and asked if I wanted to be in a band called “Jones the Cat”. He said it was just him and all he had was a name… But see, that’s when I got the most excited, because coming up with the name is always the hardest part!’ Bassist Jarrod and frontman/guitarist Jack were later joined by fellow guitarist Cameron and drummer Tristan. The majority of the cohort were originally from Cessnock, but most have come closer to the light and now call our fair city home.
The longer I chatted to Jarrod and Jack, the more it seemed that, purposefully, Jones the Cat differ from a fair chunk of other alt-punk outfits – in that they are, as a collective, classically trained musicians. ‘We all studied at the Con (Conservatorium of Music). It makes it so much easier to play and perform together because we know exactly where we’re at, music-wise. It really speeds up the process when you know that the guys in your band can pick up the songs straight away. It’s a lot more cohesive.’
It seems this particular (yet perhaps unorthodox) building block in their alt-punk journey definitely shaped Jack’s writing style and the band’s output by extension. ‘A lot of the songs come from concepts, like chorus versus the verse and stuff like that.’ Actually, it seemed that a good chunk of their hidden catalogue was produced by Jack out of necessity rather than writing for the band. ‘I have a catalogue of about 30 songs or so that I’ve written for assignments or various other projects, drawing from so many different genres and concepts… I do get told to keep some genres out of the Jones the Cat set list. No jazz or country, apparently,’ explains Jack as he shoots Jarrod a knowing look. ‘Our songs have variety but they are clearly consistent.’
I noted that my favourite track on the EP, ‘I Want You Still’, has quite a strong spoken-word aspect, painting an entirely raw and gritty sound. ‘It’s interesting to hear you say that it’s your favourite track – my fiancé hates that track!’ I can kind of see why, as the whole song relies on this angsty and bitter onslaught of desperation – a list of plot points from the darkest corners of a relationship. ‘It’s really good to hear that you like the song, though, as it will most likely be the lead single from the EP.’ An excellent choice.
And so came launch day. After chatting with Jack and Jarrod and getting a really great taste of what to expect from their live performance, I was prepared for anything to go down on stage. ‘You know that feeling you get when you throw a party and you think no one’s going to come, but then everyone does? It’s that kind of feeling,’ Jack said to me as I entered a very packed, very sweaty Lass O’Gowrie. I can definitely attest that it really was one of the best kinds of feelings. That feeling where you can tell that everyone around you is just so keen to see a bunch of local guys get up there and do their thing. A few select and devoted fans were already sporting brand-new and somehow iconic bright blue Jones the Cat T-shirts, milling about in the front row while the boys set up a truckload of gear. Countless guitars and ginormous pedal boards littered the stage. Nerves seemed to be minimal as the banter was flowing freely.
Their entire set was a no-nonsense, smooth, slick and unapologetic onslaught of guitar. The punchy ‘Like Your Birthday’ and oh-so-fun track ‘Wasted’, with its unbelievably catchy hook, were clear favourites of the enthusiastic, albeit beer-soaked and sweaty crowd. But for me, it was ‘Madeleine’ that really delivered the goods. I’ve been listening to this track all week, but it was the raw and emotional live performance from frontman Jack that really pushed this track into a realm all of its own.
I need to take the time to mention the absolute jaw-dropping performance by the all-encompassing Cameron Macey on guitar. I’ve been to many shows – like, far too many for me to count. But never have I ever seen a guitarist literally throw himself into every single song so enthusiastically. For the entire set, it seemed he was so immersed in the music that he just couldn't help but be oh so in the moment. The entire set was so overwhelmingly shred-filled that at one point I found myself with my jaw to the floor, feet cemented, while this mountain of a man literally threw himself around like a rag doll, clearly having the time of his life on stage. What I wasn’t prepared for, however (despite his warning), was this same mountain of a man jumping down off the stage, into the crowd, still shredding. And the answer is obviously yes, I would buy tickets to the Cameron Macey show just to see him play guitar like no other.
Now that their first Newy gig is done and dusted, and in light of making many a mate whilst on the road, where would the Jones the Cat boys begin their tour of Newcastle? ‘Darby Raj, obviously. Because at some point they will have to eat, so where else? Also the Lass of course, because, well, music and beer.’ Having been speaking with Jack for the last hour or so, his response didn't take me by surprise, but did cause Jarrod to shake his head with laughter. Both Jarrod and Jack, it seemed, sit on either end of a very unorthodox scale, with Jarrod taking the reins with his own tour ideas. ‘There’s this spot at King Edward Park – it’s definitely illegal, but anyway – I think it’s like an old radio tower or something? You can climb to the top of it and see the whole of Newcastle, it’s awesome. Getting up there, talking about philosophy and life and stuff, that’s what it’s all about. Definitely there, and a cafe called Honey in the Hunter Street Mall – they do really good coffee.’
So… Where oh where can you get your ‘business in the front, party at the back’ alt-punk fix that is Jones the Cat’s EP, Paste on Smile? Head to https://jonesthecat.bandcamp.com to have a listen to a track called “I Don’t Want To Die Here Anymore’ (a standout on the EP) for free! And of course https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/jones-cat-0 to find out more about the inner workings of the band. Their album will also soon be available across most major streaming platforms.
Missed their Newcastle show? Don’t worry, you’re in luck. The boys will be returning to their original stomping ground to play a show in Cessnock on July 2nd. Head to their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/jonesthecat/) for more details.
Be kind to each other, support your local artists, buy independent music and you do you.