Interview with Jed Kirbyshire
BY KIAN WEST
NEWCASTLE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A HOTBED OF MUSICAL TALENT, BUT IT HAS BEEN A FEW YEARS (OR DECADES) SINCE A BAND HAS BROKEN THROUGH AND GONE NATIONAL OR LARGER. RIGHT NOW, WE’RE WATCHING A HUGE RUN OF BANDS CUTTING THROUGH AND ON THE VERGE OF SOMETHING GREAT – NO LESS, THE BOYS FROM WAVEVOM. WITH WORD THEY’RE ABOUT TO RELEASE THEIR SECOND STUDIO ALBUM, I SAT DOWN TO HEAR ABOUT THE ADVENTURE…
I met mid-morning one day with Jed Kirbyshire from the band at one of our favourite coffee destinations, Suspension Espresso, to chat about local surf-punk rock sensation Wavevom.
So how is everything going?
Jed: Yes, cool. It's good. I just woke up.
J: I was up late last night on Facebook. Everything just takes a million hours to do – to make any individual Facebook event, because I have to make one for every city, so spending a lot of time doing that at the moment, getting posters ready for print and having to get stuff ready to mail out.
The rockstar reality.
Yes, it's not good. It's not good when you’re doing it yourself, unfortunately. It takes a really, really long time.
Don't most people do that sort of stuff for a large chunk of time these days? It's increasingly – like, you’re kind of talking record labels eventually or someone taking over – often it feels like the reality these days is that people want a band that's already learned how to do a lot of shit themselves. They have a framework, they've got a fan base, they've got all that stuff and you only get that because you do all the legwork.
Is that the actual goal?
Yes, it would be good to have a career off music where it's great to just write music and play music and that's it. I sometimes spend more time on this band booking and promoting and all that sort of stuff – setting up the show and everything like that – than I do actually writing or playing a show. There's nothing wrong with that. That's part of it and that's something you've just got to accept and go with, but sometimes I just wish I could spend more time and energy on just playing and writing. I suppose if I fit it all in… I guess being a part of it all for so long and spending more hours and more time every day on it, just sort of makes me more passionate for it in the end.
Yes, you’re more invested in it, in a way. You've had to hustle to make it all happen, so when it comes off, you’re almost more proud than if you just wrote the music – you've had to do so many other elements.
Yes and, when someone else does it, you can appreciate all the effort they’ve put into you.
So is there two of you in Wavevom, is that correct?
Yes, just two.
So yourself and…?
And do you both write the music together or are you the songwriter? Is he?
Generally I write most of the songs. I more or less write them. I'll have an idea in my head, play around with them on guitar, then I'll bring them to Jack and I'll say, ‘Alright, I've written this, can you play maybe this or this or give me this kind of tempo?’ and he'll do it. It will either be great and we'll run with it or it will be bad and I'll go, ‘Okay, no, no, try this, try this, try this.’ We'll try a couple of things. Sometimes then it will work, sometimes then it won't work, and then I'll go, ‘Okay, don't worry about it.’ Sometimes I go, ‘Don't worry about it, we'll just have a practice,’ or something. We'll jam the rest of our songs – a general band practice. Then I'll go away, write a bit more, change it around – change the structure – come back and try again.
I can do that probably three or four times usually but I feel like, once I get past about three or four times of taking away and bringing it back, that maybe it's just not worth it as a song. I don't feel like that's giving up on a song. I feel like sometimes, if a song just doesn't click, it's not worth pushing it at the time because you don't want to be writing four songs or this or that. You want to write a song that feels good to play and that sort of thing. That's kind of what it's about.
We want to get up on stage and feel happy to play the song. We don't want someone to yell out – if someone in the crowd wants to yell out a song [for us to play] – we don't want to go, ‘Oh, we don't want to play that because we don't like playing it.’ We want to have a repertoire that's energetic and powerful to put across live, something we can jam a hundred times but still enjoy playing it.
So, in a weird way, you've got this formula to make sure that the end result is the energy of the crowd. The crowd dictate what sort of songs, but they’re always songs that you actually really like playing. You kind of build this nice little circle where you only play great music and the punters also want that same sort of energy. So you describe yourselves as Newcastle surf/punk – are you surfers as well?
No. Jack and I actually are from out west. We grew up out near Toronto which is near Lake Macquarie, down south. When we were in high school we listened to a lot of surf rock and a lot of local bands like Surf Blood, which was an absolute favourite of ours, and a lot of bands like Waves and a lot of American garage rock. We really enjoyed it. We really enjoyed the sound of surf and garage rock and that type of thing. We heavily enjoyed the clean guitar sound and, really, to have rock and roll music that wasn't heavy over-driven guitars and wasn't big and crunchy. It was cleaner-sounding and it was a little bit jagged, but it was still energetic and fast – heavy without being tonally heavy.
It was just this right combination, I feel, and so when we started playing we just picked very clean tones and very nice and poppy and coherent drum beats and tried to make it kind of straight – clean but still noisy and messy in its own right. I just love that a genre that can be designed to be so poppy and nice could be so rough and dirty and noisy. We loved that genre with such a thing. Again, no, we don't surf – it's more an attitude, I guess, but the genre of it is catching actual waves.
I've always had this 'DIY lo-fi' approach. It wasn't until probably a year or so ago that we actually got equipment that was worth using – oh, actually probably about two years ago now.
Yes, it was always like borrowed stuff or cheap things and broken things and guitars missing strings and that sort of thing. But who am I to distinguish what 'punk' is. I don't think anyone can ever, anymore, work out the label on punk. Punk in that sense is just a heavy, fast, energetic – it's a mash-up of a lot of things. I feel like to call ourselves 'surf rock' might be a little offensive to the nice music that surf rock is. So I guess we are a punk band.
Okay, so you've got your second studio album coming out. When is it out?
At this very point – today currently, for the record, is the 13th of June – at this point we don't have an actual date. We could put a date on it, but we just have that fear that the mixing will be rushed and we don't want to be like, ‘Oh, it's going to be out tomorrow,’ and then quickly just finish it off.
Are you going to sell it?
Yes. Digitally it will be free – on Bandcamp, and it will be on Spotify as well. I suppose you can download it on Spotify if you've got a premium. I believe – and we believe – in free digital downloads. I don't really like paying for digital downloads. I feel like if I want to spend money and give the band money, I want to either give it to them at their show or I’ll buy their CD or their vinyl or their tape or whatever. I want to give them money for something they directly produce. I feel like digital downloads just don't really work. You know, you put up something digitally and people are like, ‘Oh, I'll get it next time,’ and they forget about it. If it's there, people are going to download it and that's what we want. We just want it to be free, we want everyone to download it and give it a listen. If they don't like it, delete it, mate, but each to their own. Everyone might dislike the music, that's cool.
[laughing] At least they listened to it.
Yes, give it a go. Download it, give it a listen, that's all we care about. That's all that matters.
Your album artwork – is there anyone in particular who designed that for you?
Well, the album art is a series of photos that were taken.
Was that your own work?
Yes, a bit of my own work, just taking nice photos. I like taking a lot of film photos and some nice scenic ones. I feel like when you take photos with a film camera, like a panorama or something nice, it's just nice to look at it. I just find it really pleasing to look at. I've just taken a bunch of those and put them together.
I've given them to Angus Bowen of KHAN Creative. He's our graphic designer for everything, he looks after all the digital work, and he’s just put some text over it and some formatting. The text on the album is my own handwriting put onto photos. I just always really liked the look of handwriting on something digital. I mean, when handwriting goes digital it gets a nice look, I've always found. It's a simple concept. It's not a brilliant drawing or it's not a weird 3D animated thing. It's just some pictures of things that I like looking at and a bit of text put together.
Sounds like you've got a tour in the works. Do you have a local show booked?
Newcastle show is a while away after that. It's on the 22nd of July. It's an all-ages show. We haven't played an all-ages show in over a year, I think. It's always good. All-ages is hard – it's hard to get a venue that can do all-ages and can still pay the bills. The problem with all-ages venues when you’re trying to book them is they have such a large hire fee due to the fact that there are no alcohol sales. You know, that's what pays the bills in a lot of venues, and that's why everything is 18+ unfortunately. But we've managed to get in with The Commons and Andrew Brassington, who has this new booking agency company called Boys Don't Cry, which has just pulled up. He is booking a lot of shows at The Commons and just trying to put all-ages back in Newcastle, essentially.
It's a good venue.
Yes, it's a nice place. He's just trying to keep the shows cheap, get a little money for the bands and a show for the kids, and we support that 100% wholeheartedly. That's an opportunity for us because there are so many bands in Newcastle that we love but we can't just put them all in one show. If we wanted to put them all in one show we'd have, like, a twenty-band day or something. We couldn't do that.
This show has got a lot of younger bands coming through. We've got Milky Thread, we've got Chimera, OilBaron and then we've got Totty from Wollongong, who we’re on tour with for most of ours. I think we’re on tour for all of our New South Wales dates and our Canberra date at this point.
Then our big 18+ album launch. Our final one is on the 28th July, which is the Friday after that one and that's our big show. That's our second last of the tour, so that's kind of like our homecoming, in a way. Pretty much a whole month from our going away party. So that's with, at the moment, Oilbaron and Totty, who we’re on tour with. That's going to be a big night at the Cambridge. I can't really give away anything right this second. Maybe when the article is published then it will already be up but maybe it won't be so I can't…
When you’re not rocking out, where do you like to just hang out?
Well, I guess my favourite places would be the Lass and the Hammo as well as the Cambridge. I like to go to the Cambridge, but it's more of a venue as opposed to a pub, so you can only really go there if there’s a gig or for something – not just to hang out, because it's not really open otherwise. But, yes, I like to go to the Lass or the Hammo and hang out, watch a show, especially on the weekdays – there are usually some good shows on. Otherwise, I'll go to our storage shed where we practise and play all our music.
There you have it. Local band Wavevom are about to tour the East Coast and you can catch them at the end of this month. Buy their album on CD or download a copy via their Bandcamp! Support local music.