Rocket To Memphis
Jarvis is talking about Rocket To Memphis, the rockabilly garage band he formed with partner (and fellow former Toys Went Beserk member) Coo Bennett upon returning from a period living in the UK to Bennett’s original hometown of Perth a few years ago. After returning to Australia and Jarvis had been playing in the local rockabilly scene, the pair hit upon the idea of Rocket To Memphis. The band released a seven-track mini-album (Swampwater Shuffle) in 2008, followed by the band’s debut full-length album (Hip Shakin’ Voodoo) in 2009.
Having secured a UK release for Hip Shakin’ Voodoo courtesy of Raucous Records, Rocket To Memphis headed overseas in 2010 to play a few shows in the UK, followed by a tour of Japan. “It was really good,” Jarvis replies when asked about the tour. “It was the first time with this group, although we’d toured a bit over here.” While the UK shows were enjoyable, it was the gigs in Japan that provided the most enjoyment. “One of the bands on Raucous Records was this band called the Tokyo Cramps, and we thought it’d be great to play with them, so we organised shows in Osaka and Tokyo,” Jarvis recalls. The highlight of the Japanese tour was a festival in Japan featuring an eclectic mix of garage and rock ’n’ roll bands, punctuated with burlesque acts. “One of the dancers was called the ‘sexual harassment dancer’ – which was what she really was,” he laughs.
After playing in Japan, Rocket To Memphis found time to fly across to New York to record their new album, Jungle Juice, with Matt Verta-Ray (Speedball Baby, Heavy Trash). “By the time we got around to touring we already had a bunch of new tunes ready,” Jarvis says. “So we thought about who we’d want to record the album. We quite liked Heavy Trash – they were a bit like us in that they had a rockabilly influence, but they weren’t really rockabilly.” Jarvis pushed a copy of Rocket To Memphis’s previous album in Verta-Ray’s direction, and Verta-Ray responded positively. “We got this lovely email from him saying how much he liked the record. It took about 10 months for us to be able to arrange a time to go into the studio with him, but it was great to do it.”
Jarvis says Verta-Ray – with his proudly vintage recording gear – was able to create a ‘separation’ in the band’s sound that evoked a certain rock ’n’ roll aesthetic. “With Matt we managed to get that ‘50s separation sort of sound,” Jarvis says. “We went in there and banged out about 14 songs, mainly first takes. I did a couple of additional guitar tracks, and Coo did about three more guide vocals – and it was all done in about two days.”
Having explored and exploited voodoo, swamps and jungles in its three records so far, Jarvis says the challenge will be to find a new theme for subsequent Rocket To Memphis records. “It’s hard writing lyrics and not repeating yourself,” he says. “And it’s hard to come up with subject matter that doesn’t fall into parody. But musically we’ve really hit our stride how – we’ve definitely found our niche. We’ve had swamps, voodoo and the jungle – what’s the next one,” Jarvis laughs.