Upon arriving at Jake Stone and Stav Yiannoukas’ shared flat in Surry Hills I am quite surprised to find the two of them cleaning the kitchen in matching aprons and hairnets, and not much else. They however, don’t seem the least bit bothered with the situation, ushering me over to a seat an offering me a bogan sandwich.
“Basically, you take a piece of pita bread shovel it full of pieces of chopped tomato, get some cheese just chuck that in there as well, two kinds of hot sauce then grate some cheese over it, then you just put it under the grill and close it over,” Jake explains, sounding like a bizarre Huey. “It looks like something you’d eat in a dorm, but it’s pretty good.”
I take a seat and bite into charred and cheesey mass of oil and fat in my hands as Jake and Stav jump headlong back into their domestic chores. Working as a team they throw plates and cutlery across the room, dancing up a storm to James Brown, before the track changes and suddenly The Stooges come blasting through their tiny wireless.
“I suppose the live show is really taken from bands like At The Drive In and that punk aesthetic,” Jake tells me as he dry off a skillet. “But at the same time not forgetting Ben Folds, early Ben Folds and bands like that, and then Public Enemy as well. That attitude to fun, with the aggression of hardcore punk and the melody of straightforward pop music, and that has a broad appeal to people and we just want to remind people that it’s ok to have fun.”
“I’ve been working at The Hopetoun and The Annandale for years and there were a lot of bands around for a long time that really weren’t having fun. The majority of the audience want to feel included and they want to have a party with you, and we want to do that too. In performance I want to vanish into the audience in that way so it just feels like a big house party and that’s the whole idea of the band.”
Watching the two go about finishing up the cleaning their chemistry is undeniable. They’re banter has been likened to legendary double acts like Abbott and Costello, yet to me it seems less contrived and more like the insult and joke riddled relationship of brothers.
“People think we’re brothers, which is the dumbest thing ever,” Stav exclaims. “I’m his albino brother if anything,” Jake notes, as he rubs the mocha skin of Stav’s forehead.
“In truth we met a long time ago through a mutual friend of ours, who was having a film showing and who funnily enough ended up doing the Vitriol and Reductionist clips. Anyway it was pretty messy and Stav came up to me and asked ‘how do I get in to stand up?’ And I told him, ‘I’ll tell you how to get in to stand up!’” he proclaims in the accents of a slurring drunkard. “You know I was way overconfident and drunk and we didn’t see each other for about a year… and I missed you every day of that year,” Jake utters with mock longing.
“Then he came along to one of our gigs. Bluejuice was sort of together before Stav, but it was just me sort of screaming over a very repetitive bassline and beat.” “And that’s exactly what Bluejuice still is…” Stav adds.
“We had this weird residency at The Three Wise Monkeys, great pub, big music supporters those guys,” Jake remarks with deep sarcasm. “We did a three hour thing on Sundays but we didn’t have any songs, so we just played whatever for three hours, and it was usually just one lyrical phrase repeated for like an hour.”
“I have respect for those singer songwriters from that era, it’s just that Neil Diamond is gross and he will fuck your daughter if he can.”….“Cheese ball, fucking cheese ball, die Neil Diamond!”
“Then, surprisingly after about three months of that, we demanded some money from the establishment,” Stav informs me. “We were like, ‘look, we won’t bring twenty people to this pub on a Sunday if you don’t pay us two hundred bucks’ or something really crap. Then about five weeks later that ditched us for a Neil Diamond covers band.”
“But we did know that we were better than the covers band, I think I mean Neil Diamond’s pretty good,” Jake confesses to Stav. “He’s terrible,” he retorts. “I saw him at Glastonbury and he stinks, he is utter shit.”
“I don’t think he’s shit, he’s a good songwriter but when you see him, he’s a massive sleaze. I have respect for those singer songwriters from that era, it’s just that Neil Diamond is gross and he will fuck your daughter if he can.” Jake continues as Stav adds his thoughts to the mix. “Cheese ball, fucking cheese ball, die Neil Diamond!”
The boys have worked up quite a sweat by his point and ask if I wouldn’t mind continuing the interview while they wash up. Expecting to be lead into the laundry, I find myself in their bathroom as they hop in the tub together.
“I think a lot of our success has come from acknowledging our limitations and working within them and I think a lot of bands do that,” Jake tells me, seemingly oblivious to the fact he’s in a bath. “If you have a framework within which you know you can work and you know you have to do something simple it allows you to be fairly creative because you’ve got these boundaries. I can only go as far as that, so what can we do with what we’re working with.”
“And it’s true as well of Vitriol as a song,” Jake elaborates. “You know we couldn’t really sing at that point.” “Still can’t,” Stav quips, splashing some bubbles up into Jakes face. “It’s sort of hip-hop-ish but we did want a melody,” Jake continues, “so it’s very much a sort of A B song. We’ve got these two parts and a very limited bunch of lyrics, but if we just hit that first part then hit like a fifth or a third over it on the second part it just re-energises it. It’s like crack, you know as opposed to cocaine, it’s not good for you but it’s fucking addictive,” Jake exclaims with a laugh splashing water back at Stav and all over the floor.
Things start getting a bit creepy when they shampoo each other’s hair, and an urge to leave begins to grow in my gut. “We’ve got a bit of an odd feel for music fans,” Jake remarks as Stav pours a jug of water over his head. “We were never a buzz band you know because we weren’t very good at the start and nobody really liked us. We were kind of the ugly child of the Sydney music scene and it took a long time to convince people, but luckily in doing all that and building up that crowd really slowly, we now know how to do all this stuff like promoting and booking ourselves.”
I cop an eyeful of something fleshy and decide I’ve got enough material, excusing myself discreetly. Ever gracious hosts they walk me out and stand in the door waving at me in matching terrycloth robes as I leave. Looking back at this demented image of domestic bliss I can’t help but laugh a little and feel warm inside, regardless of how weird I felt only moments ago.
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