Gigs On The Grind - Charles Jenkins
While weaving through the frantic motions of Melbourne’s bustling city streets, it’s usually those unexpected events and strange social interactions that prove to be the most intriguing or unforgettable. Pausing along the walkway to inspect, admiringly, a beautiful painting; recalling foreign language skills gained through schooling to translate an exchange between strangers; being asked by tourists for directions to a building that they’re, unknowingly, looking directly at; and of course, the superb and surprisingly free live music on offer that, inadvertently, makes your day seem worthwhile. Gigs On The Grid – as part of our city’s newest festival, Melbourne Music – is a special series of performances taking place at various locations across the CBD. Staged at iconic venues including Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station, The State Library, The Arts Centre Forecourt, Southbank Promenade and Degraves St, Gigs On The Grid features six of Melbourne’s finest musical acts: Charles Jenkins, Jess McAvoy, Red Ink, The Wellingtons, Matheson, and Brittle.
The inspired concept of the Melbourne Music Festival – in showcasing the finest elements of our local music industry and the superb musicians that breathe light into the artistic and cultural heart of our city – was an exciting prospect to Jenkins. “I'm looking forward to singing in those spaces, seeing who stays to listen, seeing who blanks me, figuring out what songs work and where and why,” says Jenkins. “Will my more historically correct, factual songs work best outside the library? Or will it be the ones full of lies? Tiresome questions, no doubt... but captivating for a song writing nerd such as I,” he grins.
Jenkins is praised by many as one of the country’s most revered singer/songwriters. Although Jenkins is most famous for fronting Icecream Hands, his solo albums – particularly his previous album, Blue Atlas – have earned him much acclaim and an even wider legion of fans. Blue Atlas was recorded with his band, The Zhivagos – comprising Matty Vehl, Dave Milne, Art Starr, and Davey Lane – and a 16-piece string orchestra. Jenkins has already staged two marvellous Winter Balls (in July of this year and last), in which he performed with a range of musician friends including (at last year’s Ball): Claire Bowditch, Anna Burley, Abby Dobson, Spencer P. Jones, Davey Lane, Tim Rogers, Kerri Simpson, Cal and Van Walker; and at this year’s Ball: Nick Barker, Rebecca Barnard, Rob Craw, Stephen Cummings, Suzannah Espie, Georgia Fields, Angie Hart, Davey Lane, Jeff Lang, Ash Naylor, Kat Spazzy, and Rob Snarski.
Jenkins’ forthcoming album – due out October 15 – will differ greatly to its predecessor; the presence of electric guitar merely one of the differences. Having performed in various music venues around Melbourne for over 20 years, Jenkins has been a prominent fixture in supplanting the importance of live music in our city’s culture. In April of this year, Jenkins performed alongside many of Melbourne’s finest musicians at the ‘Live Solution: Live Music Against Alcohol Fuelled Violence’ concert.
How did Jenkins get involved with the inaugural Melbourne Music Festival’s Gigs On The Grid? “Pat at the booking agency gave me a call and said there was some decent coin involved; I said to him, ‘Pat, don't be so vulgar – what's it all about, my dear man? Tell me more!’ And he did, and so here I am.”
As Jenkins’ new album, Walk This Ocean, will be released in a couple of weeks, he’s looking forward to showcasing the new songs to a diverse audience – even if they no longer feel very ‘new’. “I've been playing this record live for six months now, so they don't seem new to me anymore, I'm afraid. I'm very happy with them; you can lean on them quite a bit and move them up and down, tempo-wise, key-wise. They're a pretty strong bunch of songs, I think.”
In what Jenkins has described as his most incredible musical experience to date, his new album was recorded at Willaroo in Victoria’s western districts. “We moved into a house on an old sheep station, took over three large rooms in the west wing, and played music all day and all night, for a week...incredible,” states Jenkins. “It was very fulfilling. And we ate a lot... orange muffins, Guinness stew… bye bye belt,” he chuckles.
The first single from his new album will be Bring In The Archaeologists, which was inspired by the mere discovery that Jenkins had no knowledge of songs about archaeologists: “I feel strangely compelled to write about occupations perhaps not yet given their dues in the worldwide songwriting canon. I took care of the stenographers on the last album. Bring In The Archaeologists was the last song written before we went away to record and was meant to be the hidden track on the album, buried away at the end, naturally. But it turned out very well and became the first single, typically.”
Jenkins has also written a song about last year’s tragic Black Saturday bushfires in Accustomed To The Dark – how compelled was Jenkins in expressing his sentiments regarding that painful day through song? “I hadn't planned on it; the song veered that way over a period of time,” explains Jenkins. “I think the band convey the emotion much better than the words or the singing on that song. It's an incredible recording, I think; I never tire of the instrumental sections in that song, that's for sure.”
On a lighter note, having provided the post-match entertainment at Pure Pop Records’ Grand Final Spectacular last Saturday, which team, is he hoping, will win the ‘second’ Grand Final? “For the sake of all the beautiful people in the Pure Pop Records courtyard this Saturday, I hope the Saints win.”
And just for the record, which team does he actually barrack for? “Due to the influence of Norman Gunston in my youth, I barrack for Carlton.”
CHARLES JENKINS will be partaking in GIGS ON THE GRID, as part of the festival of MELBOURNE MUSIC. Looking for a good after-work excuse to miss that peak-hour train? Six of Victoria’s hottest indie artists play a round-robin of gigs in Melbourne streets, squares and open spaces. Charles Jenkins, Red Ink, The Wellingtons, Matheson, Jess McAvoy and Brittle will be delivering free public performances across six evenings in random places around Melbourne, including Flinders Street Station, Southern Cross Station, State Library of Victoria, Arts Centre Forecourt, Southbank Promenade, near Queensbridge Square, Degraves Street and Northbank. Gigs on the Grid guarantees you’ll hear great new music where you least expect it. Check out melbmsuic.com for all info.
Charles Jenkins & The Zhivagos brand new album Walk This Ocean is out later in October.