“G’day,” Stephen Malkmus’s iconic monotone crawls down the phone line. His languid drawl is punctuated by high-pitched giggling, and at one point he bursts into a mumbled rendition of a Justin Timberlake hit.
The ex-Pavement frontman is in Perth with his current outfit Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, recovering from jet lag (or a possible hangover) by soaking up the sun and going to the beach.
“We were a bit sloppy for our show, I will admit,” he says about their performance at the Perth International Arts Festival, the first of this Australian tour. “We still tried to connect to the people, and there were some pretty cool moments that will never be duplicated. There was a free jam at the end – that was original and kinda noble and cool – and some bad jokes, because I read the paper and stuff, about bikie-gangs and, like, chlamydia and problems with that,” he giggles.
“I think it was kinda funny, like, ‘What are they talking about?’ But they also might have been, ‘Please play a song.’ I don’t know.”
Despite touring their latest album, 2014’s Wig Out at Jagbags for the past year, Malkmus confirms he and the Jicks are yet to tire of the songs. “We really didn’t tour the hell out of it – we really just did a sensible mountain. It’s been a couple of months since we’ve played live in front of people, so it’s totally cool, I’m not sick or anything. It’s still a mystery getting it right.”
Along with old favourites, the Jicks will be debuting some new material – “I’ve got tons of new stuff.” But for all his nonchalant charisma, Malkmus admits he still gets nervous when performing new material. “You’re kinda feeling it out, you don’t quite know exactly where your hands are supposed to move – it might be great but not also.”
He’s not totally alone though – he has his Jicks. “That’s the gang – you’ve got to have the gang with you,” says Malkmus. “Yeah, they’ll back me up. The drummer, Jake [Morris], if anyone tries to mess with me, physically, he’s really great. He’ll get up in their face and he’s like ‘out’. Because sometimes people hassle [me] or think they know me – I’m not Taylor Swift or anything, but they have preconceived ideas of me.”
Having spent two years living in Berlin, Malkmus has recently relocated back to his old stomping grounds of Portland, Oregon. “It’s kind of nice to be in a place where you’re little isolated, don’t have as many responsibilities.”
Artistic inspiration came from environment – “just living in another country just rubs off on you”, rather than specifically other music. “I mean, I went to some dance clubs and partied and stuff, but it wasn’t particularly profound. It’s more the ‘live for today’ mentality and ‘live for tonight’,” he says with a laugh.
“I’m getting my meaning from more grounded things, I don’t know, than what music brings to me. If life is to be happy, then a lot of people think that’s how you define it. Just eating food, or whatever. Some people like to smoke joints. But there’s family – and maybe it’s not fun to look after kids all the time but it also brings you something, you know, deeper.”
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks play Golden Plains Festival this weekend, and have just announced more headline Australian shows — details below.
Watch: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Cinnamon And Lesbians
Tuesday, 3rd March 2015
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Tickets: Newtown Social Club
Wednesday, 4th March 2015
Good God Small Club, Sydney
Tickets: Good God
Thursday, 5th March
w/ Dan Kelly
Gasometer Hotel, Melbourne
Friday, 6th March
w/ The Ocean Party
Toff In Town, Melbourne
Tickets: Toff In Town