A Chat With…Lovejoy

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New kids Lovejoy have spent some time developing their strange-pop sound. Now the quintet are hitting the local circuit and playing more shows so we had a chat to Jack and Gus from the band.

Can you tell us how Lovejoy formed?
Jack: Well Gus and I had been playing together for a year or so in a sort of punky pub rock band, but we’d started finding it a little frustrating, like we couldn’t make whatever kind of music we wanted to be making. And I’d met Will (Bass) and Mia (Vocals) in a Pop Songwriting class at Uni, which I had expected to be basically a waste of time, but turned out to be a great way of meeting a couple of really lovely, talented people.

Gus: Yeah then you introduced me to them and made them play me something, and immediately I was like “Let’s make music together!” Did you do that on purpose?
Jack: Yeah totally. I was just too awkward to try and have that conversation myself. It’s like asking someone on a date.

What inspired your band name?
Jack: Well Pussy Riot was taken.

Gus: The band name took months of work, eliminating hundreds of ridiculous ideas (mostly Simpsons references). I can’t remember all of them but ‘McBain’ was a frontrunner for a while. I really wanted ‘The Nahasapeemapetilons’. I think I randomly suggested ‘Lovejoy’ at rehearsal one time and Matt (Drums) was like “Yeah that’s cool.”

Jack: And Matt is always so kind of cool and reserved with his opinions that if he expresses enthusiasm for an idea you get really excited. Like, “Wow, it must be good!”

You’ve only played a handful of live shows so far – with the first being last August. What can a punter expect from your live show?
Gus: Hopefully they kind of get a sense of narrative.

Jack: Yeah we’ve kind of tried with our arrangements and songwriting to develop this idea that it’s not just pop song after pop song, there’s some sort of larger arc. Like we have one song that I sing early in the set, that Mia reprises later on but with different lyrics and different instrumentation, telling the other side of the same story, as though it were a reply to what you heard earlier.

Gus: We try and combine a sort of singer/songwriter approach to music and lyrics with the idea that the instrumentation shouldn’t take a backseat to the lyrics. They sort of both work together to set time and place and character while still being fun and groovy and whatnot.

Jack: Most of the songs start with Gus’ guitar, which is always so idiosyncratic and expressive, and then Will and Matt are just phenomenally talented, so there’s always more than one thing to be listening to or taking away from each song. That’s the aim anyway.

What’s your take on the Melbourne music scene at the moment?
Gus: It’s great. Although sometimes I wish people would get as excited about bands as they do about doofs and DJs.

Jack: Which is not to say that there’s no merit in that kind of music, but an average doof seems to get more people more hyped – particularly casual music fans who aren’t that intensely tuned in to the music but just looking to have a good time – than a really great local band.

Gus: And they’re the people that you want to play to, the people who can teach you the most as an audience.

Jack: But the music scene in Melbourne is so exciting at the moment. We’ve got to see and meet and play with so many awesome people doing genuinely exciting and original stuff, it’s great. And there are always great bands like that who do break through and develop a wider audience because they deserve it. Guys like King Gizzard or Dick Diver. They’re not playing Rod Laver, but they’re packing out the Tote, and that’s so much more fun.

You haven’t officially released any music (apart from a few demos floating online), are there plans to record anytime soon?
Gus: We’re kind of in pre-production for an EP, just saving up enough money so we can do it properly. We feel like half the songs are ready, we’ve had long enough to feel them out and know what we want to say with them, there are just a couple of newer ones that aren’t fully formed yet. We want to use the recording process as an opportunity to take a big step forward in our songwriting as well.

Jack: Recording is a whole other discipline. Like first you get good at writing and playing your songs. Then you have to learn to actually perform them, learn presence and stagecraft and how to connect with an audience, that’s an entirely separate skill set. And then turning a good song and a good performance into a good recording is another thing again, so we’re excited to see what we can learn from doing that.

Can you tell us your favourite Melbourne acts?
Jack: There are so many! The rest of the band gave us a couple of notes: Jaala, Mangelwurzel, Crepes, The Harlots, The Rolling Blackouts, Splendidid, Swamp, Adelaide Crows, Diet., Sleepy Dreamers (drummer is a babe, winkyface), Retiree… And then you know, all the usual suspects like Dick Diver, Eddy Current, Courtney Barnett, The Drones… we’re massive fans of Hiatus Kaiyote and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.

Gus: Oh and Super-X! Give them gigs dammit!

And Melbourne venues?
Gus: The Worker’s Club have been really good to us. We saw a gig there the night I met Will and Mia. Sentimental value, great sound. And The Victoria Hotel in Brunswick is actually a really cool place to play. It’s got that old fashioned thing where the band plays in the front bar where everyone can hear, not a band room behind closed doors where everyone has to pay $10 and hope you’re worth it.

Jack: Yeah the Vic looked after us really well. I guess the Northcote Social Club is where we go the most to watch bands, just because they get so many great people through there. Howler has a great bandroom, and they always have something on which is cool, it’s not one of those places where it seems like it’s a massive inconvenience for them to put on a show. And the Gasometer bandroom is pretty sweet, it’d be fun to play there. (another winkyface)

What’s in store for the remainder of the year?
Gus: Just try to get better. Play heaps, write heaps, record heaps.

Jack: We just want to focus on writing the best music and playing the best shows we can. We figure that if you hold yourself to a high standard and you do those things then all the rest kind of takes care of itself. I like to think our live show is already much more entertaining than it was back in August. It is for me anyway.

Gus: Yeah.
Jack: Yeah.
Gus: Yeah.

Lovejoy play Bar Open on Wednesday April 20th with Swamp.