Even when they’re not in the same room at the same time – in this particular instance, connected together through the magic of conference calls – there’s a special bond that’s developed between singer-songwriters Josh Pyke and Kevin Mitchell (AKA Bob Evans) that’s all too apparent. They appear to be inextricably on one another’s wavelength, joking around and shooting the breeze to the point where it doesn’t even feel like an interview. Mitchell, for one, is on a tangent about his love of podcasts. He recently started up one of his own, entitled Good Evans, It’s a Bobcast, and finds the medium to be completely fascinating.
“It’s like getting hooked on a soap opera or something,” he muses. “You get invested in these characters as you learn more and more about them and their personalities. I only have a handful of podcasts that I routinely listen to every single week, but the ones that I do listen to are practically part of my life now.” At this juncture, a voice intervenes. “Yeah, g’day, it’s Marty the publicist here,” says ‘Marty’, who sounds remarkably similar to Mitchell’s upcoming tour partner Pyke. “Do you reckon, Kev, that maybe you could shut up so we can get on with the bloody interview?”
With ‘Marty’ out of the picture, it’s time to talk origin stories. Before Pyke and Mitchell head out on an extensive national jaunt to celebrate a decade of their friendship, it’s worth remembering that Mitchell’s original band, Perth veterans Jebediah played a big part in Pyke’s own coming of age. “I remember it really vividly,” he says. “I was driving home from rehearsals with my old punk band, long before I ever did anything solo. I was listening to the radio and this song comes on…” At this point, Pyke defers directly to Mitchell.
“What’s the Jebediah song that goes [sings loudly] ‘WASTED! WASTED! WASTED!’?”
“That’s Jerks of Attention,” replies Mitchell, who’s no doubt gotten used to serving as a human Shazam of sorts in regards to his own songs getting sung back to him over the years.
Pyke continues: “I actually pulled over to listen to the whole song, I couldn’t believe how good it was. I went to see them at the Annandale, and there were maybe 25 people there. This was back when the Annandale had this low, floor-level stage. The next time they came through, they were playing the Metro. I’ve been a die-hard Jebs fan ever since.”
As for Mitchell’s exposure to Pyke and his music, it came under peculiar circumstances in which the two were booked on the same bill. “It was a show at the Brass Monkey in Cronulla,” Mitchell recalls. “Josh was my support act for the evening, and I was staying at [Ratcat singer] Simon Day’s house. Josh actually drove to Simon’s place to pick me up so we could drive to the gig together. It was a bit unusual, but I guess I was the out-of-towner and he was a local of sorts – I certainly wasn’t going to turn down the offer.”
It’s here where things get a little Inception. “I was actually in my car, on my way to a band rehearsal,” continues Mitchell, flipping the script on Pyke’s discovery story. “I was listening to the radio, and I distinctly remember hearing this new song, Kids Don’t Sell Their Hopes So Fast. I couldn’t believe it – little Pykey has cracked triple j! This is a big moment! From that point on, I was always invested in Josh. Three years later, we did a tour together – and that’s kind of what this whole current tour is all about.”
In the decade since, Mitchell has become equally as renowned for his Bob Evans music as that of Jebediah; while Pyke has released several critically-acclaimed LPs and toured extensively through both capital and regional Australia. For all they’ve achieved on their own accord, however, they’ve made sure to never lose touch – in fact, theirs is a bond that has survived on both mutual respect and a vast common ground.
“I don’t think I really have another friendship quite like the one I have with Josh,” says Mitchell. “I think what it is – to me, at least – is when we met, we were both kind of starting off on our own paths as solo artists. Our careers, as much as I hate to use that word, have kind of been in tandem for awhile. We’ve both put out records around the same time in the past, and we both started families around the same time as well. We were even born the same year. There’s just a huge amount of commonalities in our lives. I can’t say that I have that with anyone else.”
The tour comes as Pyke is wrapping up promotion for his 2015 album, But for All These Shrinking Hearts; while Mitchell spruiks his LP from earlier this year, Car Boot Sale, which is his fifth under the Bob Evans moniker. Although it may seem as though the tour is being presented as a co-headliner, the reality is that Bob Evans & Josh Pyke is intended to be singular – as in, you’re getting a combined set in duo mode from them. “When we first toured together, it was very separate – I played a set, he played a set and then we collaborated on a couple of songs at the end,” explains Pyke.
“This time, however, we really wanted to do something different. We’re on-stage together the entire time, and we’re basically going to be performing as one another’s sidemen. The setlist runs so that it’s one of my songs, then a Bob song, then mine, then Bob’s, so on and so forth. We’re working on presenting ourselves as a duo, and making this as complete of a collaboration as possible.”
The approach to the tour sparks a comparison to a similar run done by two acclaimed songwriters – Neil Finn and Paul Kelly. With it in mind, the question is begged if Pyke and Mitchell would consider covering one another’s songs – a key part of the Finn/Kelly show. “I sadly didn’t get to see that tour,” says Mitchell. “I do have the DVD, however [Going My Way], and what they created was definitely a source of inspiration. Going into this, we were thinking about how to make this as special as we can for the audience. It’s those kind of things – being on-stage together, playing one another’s songs – that people are drawn to, and people remember.”
“It’s also a challenge in itself. It’s one thing to come up with all of these ideas in a flight of fancy, but the homework really starts to stack up. We’ve got so much to learn, the least of all being playing one another’s songs. The payoff will be so worth it, though.” Pyke agrees: “I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a tour in a really long time,” he adds. “When you tour solo, it’s all on you. That can be fun, but it’s very special to be able to share it with someone else. The whole thing feels like a celebration – not just of our friendship, but of the end of another year, of putting out albums we’re proud of.” Being the selfless being that he is, Pyke can’t help but throw the final reason to celebrate to Mitchell: “Kev just got nominated for an ARIA, too!”
‘Another Evening With Josh Pyke and Bob Evans’ National Tour: