Bob Evans – Singing To A Familiar Stranger

Any fan of Kevin Mitchell knows that he is hardly one dimensional. He has released five studio albums as frontman of Jebediah, recorded and toured as one quarter of supergroup Basement Birds and toured as part of last year’s Bob Dylan 50th Anniversary tribute shows. Musically shuffling again, he has returned to his solo Bob Evans pseudonym. Now he’s set to embark on a national tour to coincide with the release of his new album, Familiar Stranger.

In preparation for his big comeback, Evans released The Double Life EP last November and played an intimate acoustic five-date tour, automatically getting used to his alter-ego again after his last album, Goodnight, Bull Creek!, in 2009.

“I just wanted to do a tour,” he said. “We chose the smallest rooms that we could find in each city, pretty much, and I just wanted it to feel like I was playing in someone’s lounge room. It was a good kind of re-introduction, because it had been a long time since I toured for myself properly like that. It only took one gig and it felt like home again.”

As his fourth studio album, the Melbourne-based Perth native considers Familiar Stranger very different to the folk pop sounds of his previous releases. “I think it’s really different to the last two [albums]. It’s not driven by the acoustic guitar so much, if at all. There’s only a couple of songs that are really acoustic-driven and it’s a lot more dense and more electrified, and I think stylistically, it probably is a bit more schizophrenic in that it covers a lot of a much wider sort of spectrum. The last two albums were both kind of shooting for a very particular kind of feel and quality, whereas this album covers a lot more territory in style. Sonically, I think it’s very cohesive, but in the style of songs, it kind of goes in a lot of different directions.”

He further explains that his contemplative disposition towards his life was the album’s inspiration and the main theme running through it. “The inspiration came from pretty much everything that’s happened to me in the last three years. It’s quite introspective, more so than the other records. But it’s got a philosophical kind of edge to it that the other records don’t have so much. With the other records, I found with a lot of the songs on it, I was singing for somebody else, whereas with this record, I’m pretty much singing to myself.”

He admits that his current favourite track on Familiar Stranger is a smooth tune with a hint of a classic beat that could show a bit of a different sound for him. “I am quite fond of a song called To Let You Down. It’s kind of like a bit of a slow, late night white boy R&B soul song like old-school. It’s a bit of a homage to John Lennon as well.”

Evans has assembled a fine team of musicians to help him work on the record. London-based American, Dean Reid, who has worked with Mystery Jets, was at the helm on production. “He jumped with the record with the same sense of adventure that I had and that’s what attracted me to working with him.”

He is also very proud of hearing the drumming presence of Joey Waronker on the record, who has worked with the likes of Atoms for Peace, Beck and R.E.M. “I don’t want to overstate it, but it was a little bit of a dream come true because he’s my favourite drummer in the world and I never expected that I’d ever have him drum on a record of mine, but I felt incredibly lucky to have him there. For somebody who’s done so many amazing things, he’s such a lovely, down-to-earth guy, which is always a nice surprise when you meet people like that.”

Other special guests include Scarlett Stevens of San Cisco and Dune aka Jade MacRae, who radically reinvented her musical style last year. Both artists provided backing vocals and are acquaintances of Evans. “Me and Scarlett have run into each other a few times over the years, so the first time I met her, she was like 12 years old or something. She’s the daughter of a friend in Perth [Phil Stevens, manager of John Butler Trio and The Waifs]. She’s a total sweetheart. Dune, which is Jade MacRae’s new musical outfit, came in for a couple of songs as well. I’ve bumped into Jade a few times over the years and know her a little bit.”

For his national Familiar Stranger tour, he has put together an awesome line-up of Aussie talent for his full live band, including You Am I’s Davey Lane on lead guitar (who is also a supporting act), producer and multi-instrumentalist Tony Buchen on bass guitar and The Sleepy Jackson’s Malcolm Clark on drums. “I’m definitely surrounding myself with a bit of an all-star band, which I’m really excited about.” Triple j’s Unearthed band, Tigertown, is also on the bill as another supporting act.

Harking back to his energetic alternative rock roots in Jebediah, Evans points out the differences in songwriting style between his personas. “In some songs, I guess when I’m writing with Jebediah, the lyrics are still personal, but they’re probably just not as directly personal. It’s autobiographical but it’s not as direct. With Bob Evans, it feels like the lyrics play a much more important role in the song. With Jebediah, the lyrics are just sort of there to support the music that we’re making and the music that we make is a collaborative effort and I’m always conscious of my lyrics being a representation of these other people as well. With Bob Evans, it’s much more self indulgent in a good way. It’s easier to explore different musical territory because all I have to do is have a thought and I can just act upon it immediately, whereas with Jebediah, there’s a process of collaboration that you have to go through.”

He further adds that he enjoys the transitions from him as Kevin Mitchell in Jebediah to him as Bob Evans the solo artist, to him as Bob Evans in Basement Birds. “In terms of transitioning from one to the other, it’s fine because it’s so much fun. And by doing different things all the time, it keeps it interesting. I’m very lucky I’ve got more than one avenue to explore musically and that people care about. So going from one thing to the other is a pleasure, it’s a big part of what makes my music interesting.”

As for the future of Jebediah, Evans says they still plan on playing shows and does not rule out recording new material. “We’ll definitely keep playing shows. In terms of making another record, I don’t know. We’re going to get together in a few months and have a bit of a jam and just see what happens. I’d love to make another Jebediah record if it’s inspired, but I’m not going to force it if it’s not.”

Familiar Stranger is out March 15.

Bob Evans Familiar Stranger Tour

With special guests Tigertown (excluding Cairns and Darwin shows) and Davey Lane

Thursday, 11th April

Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Friday, 12th April

Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, QLD

Saturday, 13th April

The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD

Friday, 19th April

Discovery, Darwin, NT

Wednesday, 24th April

Hotel New York, Launceston, TAS

Friday, 26th April

Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS

Saturday, 27th April

Fowlers, Adelaide, SA

Thursday, 2nd May

Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, WA

Friday, 3rd May

The Bakery, Perth, WA

Saturday, 4th May

Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA

Thursday, 9th May

Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW

Friday, 10th May

Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW

Saturday, 11th May

Zierholz @ UC, Canberra ACT

Sunday, 12th May

Heritage Hotel, Wollongong, NSW

Thursday, 16th May

Yarra Hotel Geelong, VIC

Friday, 17th May

Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC

Saturday, 18th May

Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan, VIC

Tickets on sale now at http://bobevans.com.au/tours/

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