In the last few years, Freo indie-rockers Spacey Jane have gone from best-kept secret to the next big thing in Aussie indie courtesy of a killer live show and a steady stream of triple j approved hits. Possessors of a unique ability to write introspective songs that sound rather extraverted and upbeat, the WA quartet know a thing or two about penning a tasty tune.
Coming off the back of ‘Good For You’ placing at #80 in the Hottest 100, Spacey Jane hit 2020 in fine form with ‘Skin’ winning its way into the hearts of listeners via a deceptive earworm of a chorus. At once sunny and spacious yet still insular, ‘Skin’ serves as the perfect introduction to Spacey Jane’s stellar debut Sunlight, out today. As cohesive of a collection of songs as you’re likely to find on a debut, Sunlight is the sound of Spacey Jane’s arrival. Having wowed audiences at festivals like Laneway and Falls and hit the road alongside the likes of Alex Lahey and The Jungle Giants, Sunlight is the moment that should see Spacey Jane step out of the shadows and into the sunlight, one perfectly penned indie-rocker at a time.
In the lead up to the release, vocalist/guitarist Caleb Harper and drummer Kieran Lama joined Music Feeds for a socially distanced chinwag about all things Sunlight.
MF: Hey Caleb and Kieran, how’s existence treating you both today?
Kieran: I’m bored, really, haha, I’ve just been playing a lot of video games, that’s about it really.
Caleb: I’ve been working again, which is good, but that first month and a half I was so bored. It was kinda hard to get my head around the idea that everything had just stopped. So it took a while to get used to it. I have been writing a lot of music, which is good, coz I’m not usually that prolific, and now with the album coming out we’re busy doing stuff for that, which is keeping us, especially Kieran busy.
MF: Things are about to get busier again with the release of your debut album, the rather hopefully brightly titled Sunlight, how are the vibes in the Spacey Jane camp right now?
Caleb: We’re hoping to be the sunlight in your lounge when you can’t go out.
Kieran: We’re feeling mad vibes at the moment, personally, I’m excited, I’m stoked to finally be able to put out an album after all this time.
Caleb: Because we’ve not been touring or being on the road in general, has kind of made it feel like we were losing our identity as a band a little bit, so having the record coming out, and doing all the work that comes with putting it out, makes it feel like we’re rediscovering ourselves and getting back on track. It’s really good timing for us.
MF: ‘Sunlight’ took about a year to come together, yet it still feels like a cohesive piece of work, was there a reason that you spaced out the recording process?
Kieran: I think it was half due to our touring schedule, we were just fitting recording sessions around tours, so initially we weren’t even really aware that we were writing an album, we were just getting things down when we could. A couple of months into that process we realised we had enough material for a record. So all of the songs are really tied to that specific time, so that’s why they hold together so well, I think.
Caleb: We also didn’t have the money or time to go and sit in a studio for three months and hope an album appeared. That’s not a feasible thing now, let alone then, so it was also by necessity, but it worked out well.
MF: A lot of bands’ debuts tend to be a bit underwhelming at the back end, with all the best material up front, but on Sunlight you’ve genuinely delivered a complete album. How important was it for you to really nail this debut and give people a full picture of what Spacey Jane is all about?
Caleb: In some ways, it’s honestly a bit of a happy accident, because when we started, we didn’t know much about working in the studio, we kind of only got comfortable with that towards the end of the recording process. Thankfully we really care about every song, and when you treat them all equally, then that sense of cohesiveness happens naturally. That was what was most important for us, was that we really cared about every track that made the record.
MF: You’re a Fremantle band and to my ears it seems like that Freo vibe has infiltrated the music. Do you credit your sound to the influence of the bands that were around when you were growing up?
Kieran: To an extent, yeah, for sure, there’s an element of it there. We don’t try to make that the case, but we work with a producer named Parko (David Parkin) over here, that’s an absolute legend of the local scene, who we love to death, and there’s been a few WA bands that he has produced, like Jebediah for example, so there’s also probably some elements of that in our production as well.
Caleb: I think that definitely we’ve been influenced by WA bands, at least by osmosis, it would be really hard not to be. Especially when you spend a lot of your time playing with and working within the local scene. So no doubt it’s part of our identity.
MF: Lyrically, on Sunlight, there’s a focus on trying to be better, in the face of personal failing. I find it particularly interesting how introspective the lyrics are, given how upbeat the music is. I think it’s a great juxtaposition. How did that dynamic come about?
Caleb: The lyrical content for me, I don’t know what else to write about. I’m not trying to tell these big stories, I’m just using music to work through things that I’ve done and things that I’ve experienced. I feel it is much easier to connect with people, through music when you’re being honest and upfront about who you are. Everyone can relate to that. Musically, I’m not sure why it lends itself well to being upbeat.
Kieran: I think it’s probably due to the bands we were influenced by early on, which when you break them down are in essence a lot of guitar-led pop or pop/rock bands. Those bands and that genre tend to lend themselves to a more upbeat vibe.
Caleb: If you can make people dance around, but then think deeply about something, then that’s probably a sign of success, in this genre.
MF: Absolutely, that last point, Caleb, is also a pretty good description of your sound. You’re getting good at this media thing, already! Now does it ever feel difficult for you to share so much of yourself, the way that you do in the lyrics?
Caleb: It can be hard, it used to be harder, but I’m very comfortable with the band, they’re my best friends, so they already hear all of this anyway, so to hear it in a more poetic form, is probably just a nicer experience for them than anything. It’s harder when you’re talking to or working with other people though, with Parko for instance, at the start he went really in-depth on the lyrical front, he’d ask me if I was alright and if everything was okay at home, that type of thing. He then worked with me on how to deliver the lines in a way to reflect the emotion. So it was a bit hard being that open at the start, but I’m getting more comfortable with it now.
MF: That is a sign of a good producer, they always seem to want to dig really deep and extract the best possible performance from you, by having you relive the experience on record. It sounds like he did a good job of it.
Kieran: Parko is like a professor of vibe extraction!
MF: Spacey Jane has had a lot of support from triple j. Is it still a thrill for you every time you hear yourselves on the radio?
Kieran: It still trips me out, every time. As far as national broadcasters go, how much better can you get?
Caleb: It’s just unreal to me, to be able to go for a drive, and just hear one of our songs, which honestly happens every couple of weeks, it’s pretty surreal.
Kieran: I mean I love triple j. Like most Aussies, I spent a lot of time listening to the j’s when I was a teenager, so it’s baffling to me that it’s even possible.
Caleb: The fact that it has all been unsolicited support as well, makes it even better. We know that they support us because they genuinely like the music.
MF: It’s been a diverse array of hosts over there too that have really gone in on getting Spacey Jane over, not just the typical rock guys, which suggests to me that your sound has a strong crossover appeal. Does that give you a sense of creative freedom as you move forward?
Caleb: Definitely. It’s never been a conscious choice to try and sound a certain way, but the natural blend of all of our different influences has resulted in a sound that you can’t really pigeonhole, which gives us a lot of freedom to see what parts of the record we grow to love and then take those and incorporate them into whatever we do next.
MF: That sonic malleability creates an opportunity for you in the live environment too, you can pick and choose how to present these songs live. Have you given any thought to how you might look at doing that?
Kieran: We’ve been talking about backing tracks, I bought a drum pad to make that possible, but without the ability to play shows, we’ve found that a lot of our rehearsals have naturally drifted towards focussing on new songs. Which I’m totally cool with.
Caleb: We were meant to be in the studio to rehearse for the album run, but now coz we can’t tour, we’ve decided to use it to record more music.
MF: That’s awesome though because it sounds like you’ll be able to back up Sunlight much quicker than fans or industry would anticipate. Which can only be a good thing for a band that’s starting to really take off.
Caleb: If it continues like this we can be King Gizz and release six albums in a year!
MF: You’re pretty chill right now, but you were actually pretty intense when piecing together the songs, you’ve noted that some of them are the 10th or 11th version that ended up making the record. Is that how you are wired naturally? To critique and perfect?
Caleb: We’re definitely self-critical. Particularly with the record. There were quite a few songs I changed the lyrics to multiple times, just coz it wasn’t sounding great or I thought the ideas would become lost.
MF: You have indicated that ‘Trucks’ was inspired by Stella Donnelly’s fabulous ‘Beware of the Dogs’, which is fascinating. How did Stella inspire Spacey Jane?
Caleb: I always get inspired to learn another artist’s song and halfway through I go on a tangent and end up writing my own song, and that’s what happened there. I can’t really explain what it was about the song that inspired me specifically, but there was something about the tone and the style of delivery that inspired me and it led to ‘Trucks’.
MF: Putting Sunlight out amidst the dumpster fire year of 2020, have you had to adjust your expectations for the rollout?
Kieran: I haven’t put much thought into it one way or the other. We’ve never gone this far before and put out a record, so we don’t know what it is like to release an album under ‘normal’ circumstances. So it hasn’t really impacted us like it might have other acts. What I do know is that the collective effort that has gone into making the record and getting it out is huge, so we’re just happy to get it out.
Caleb: For me, the only small thing is that perhaps if COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, we could make a bigger deal of the release, and make a bigger impact, but if we didn’t have an album to put out, we’d be in a much worse position than we are. So we’re looking forward to getting it out and seeing what we can make happen.
MF: It also presents an opportunity, because people are looking for something new and the industry has slowed down a lot, so on Friday when the record drops, people are going to be super excited to have new Spacey Jane tunes in their life!
Kieran: Yeah, for sure. I think also given that no international bands will be able to tour for a while, that might present some bigger opportunities for bands like us to take that attention when we do get back to playing live. So that could be another positive too.
MF: Exactly, there’ll be some cool all Aussie festivals and stuff as well that I can see Spacey Jane being on. I honestly can’t wait to see what it does for the local industry.
Before I let you go, I need to know if Spacey Jane were stuck in an old Kombi van and you had a cassette player and three cassettes to entertain you for the whole tour. What would those cassettes be?
Kieran: Okay, so one serious one each and one joke, first up In Rainbows by Radiohead.
Caleb: Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon.
Kieran: Fuck yeah dude! Now, the jokepick, hmm, umm, Shrek 3, nah, oh, Divide by Ed Sheeran! That’s it!