There’s a fine line between being fun and stupid, points out Bluejuice frontman Jake Stone. While a sense of humour will always be an integral part of the rockin’ Sydney five-piece, the singer says when it came to making album number three, something of an epiphany occurred to him and his band members – “I think it’s time people realised we’re not a joke band.”
“It’s not really about any kind of negative feedback or comments,” Stone says in an attempt to elaborate on the band’s new mission. “It’s that we’ve noticed that given the way that we often market ourselves out to the public – I think it would be very easy for people to perceive this band as something not very serious. And it’s a bit of a shame because a lot of effort goes into this band! Don’t get me wrong, I like to have fun and I like to be fun but I don’t want to come across as stupid, and it’s important to have that fun quality about the band but it all has to be balanced to some degree. We could never get away with being a completely serious band, that’s out of the question, because that would mean we would have to turn into completely different people to pull that off. With us, we can’t even communicate unless we’re kidding or unless we’re taking the piss out of each other! It’s just more of a private concern of mine that anyone who sees our film clip might get used to the idea that we’re like this semi-unskilled rock’n’roll band.”
At the same time, Stone is quick to point out that if that was the case, on new album Company, Bluejuice simply would not have had a chance to collaborate with such a high calibre of musicians and songwriters. Proving their level of profile as well as their multi-instrumentalist chops, Stone says the new record shows quite a different side to the band you thought you knew.
“We’re actually a group of serious songwriters,” he insists. “Like, we can write a good pop song and I’m serious in that sense, in the sense of writing good music. I love writing a consistent, catchy, radio-ready pop tune that you can sing along to. I just want to write a song that will brighten up your day and you won’t feel bored – it’s a service that makes me happy to do it, and it’s a very hard one to do as well! It takes a lot of work to sound fun and effortless, and that’s always been my focus! So I think with this album it’s been very important for us to show consistency and that’s why we wanted to work with other people who have shown that level of consistency in their own work. People like Julian Hamilton [The Presets] – the dude’s record goes way back and he’s just one example. I think the fact that we have the chance to even work or be in contact with these kind of people goes to show our profile level, so we just figured if we’ve got the opportunity to connect with these people, let’s go for it, we’re in a position to do so.”
While collaborations on Company include Alex Burne of Sparkadia, Thomas Rawle of Papa Vs Pretty, jazz guitarists Ben Hauptmann and Aaron Flower, and vocalists Elana Stone, Zoe Hauptmann and Yael Stone, it was working with Hamilton in particular that stood out as a special moment for the Bluejuice frontman.
“Technically, I guess you could even call him an awesome celebrity!” laughs Stone. “The truth is that all the success he’s had with The Presets and everything else, Julian is just a truly genuine singer-songwriter, and I think that’s where his celebrity really lies. They can do that with The Presets, and they do it very well. Julian is a trained musician and so he can really play and he has his own songwriting ability as well as unique playing ability and a reliability that is very rare. And the thing is that he can pull that off all the time! I respect him enormously professionally and he’s an amazing pop musician who churns out songs that are just pop gold. I’m very inspired by his sense of class and style. I’ve seen The Presets a lot over the years, believe me, I’ve been a fan from way back when Kim was a jazz musician and the Pnau days, which is a long time ago, like I said! I’ve always thought those two were classy individuals and Julian was a prime example of someone who’s shown consistency in his career. He was a key guy who I wanted to work with.”
Interestingly, while Stone claims the band set out to make a pop-oriented album with their third effort, he also insists Bluejuice did not have a radio audience in mind this time around. Whereas in the past he would concentrate on making radio-friendly singles, Stone realised he could still maintain the catchiness while sticking to sincerity and honesty in his songwriting.
“We’ve never put out an album like this before,” he states. “To me, it’s an interesting record from start to finish. We’ve made records before which to me seemed like a collection of singles, or maybe which had a few singles on it but then the rest of the songs were put on there because they worked really well live…. But I just haven’t felt that consistency throughout the album with us up until now. A lot more attention has gone into this album, there’s been a hell of a lot more involvement in terms of production too – actually concentrate on getting that aspect done correctly. Eric J. [Dubowsky, Weezer, Art Vs Science] did most of the production, we also had a UK producer called Blue May get together with Alex [Burne] on the Shock and Act Yr Age tracks too. So we were really going all out in terms of making this album as big as possible and getting all the right people we believed could make it sound as consistent as possible. We all just feel a bit older and like we’ve done a lot of things in our lives, and I think it’s time to stop being afraid to show that in the music.”
In Stone’s personal life especially, the singer claims plenty has occurred recently to inspire the singer to write some more serious songs. While failed relationships will always continue to provide massive inspiration for most bands, Stone says for Bluejuice it’s also been life in general. The transition from your 20s and into your 30s, for one, has inspired plenty of material on Company, as have the fuck-ups and major life lessons along the way.
“I’ve personally gone through a breakup this year so this year hasn’t been that awesome for me, to be honest,” Stone laments. “That’s just one big change right there. I guess everyone in the band has gone through at least a couple major changes, though – a lot can happen in a year. It has definitely fed the record. The funny thing is how a lot of the things we were writing about, we didn’t even realise it at the time. I mean, you could be writing about something and not realise that it’s actually happening to you as we speak, then when you listen back to the record you realise that it’s commentary on what was going on at the time. I’ve come to realise that I’m an adult and I know that life isn’t always going to be fun, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a sense of humour. We’re very lucky in that when we get together as a band, all we do is joke around and laugh. But then you get your private moments and life can seem a lot harder. In your 20s everything is awesome and you haven’t had any massive fuck-ups yet, so you can just be easy-going about everything and you’re still going for your dreams because you haven’t really failed yet. But I’ve failed a few times now and I’ve been through a few challenging things over the last year and it’s been a bit harder to meet that with a light attitude.”
According to Stone, upon hearing Company, it will most likely be one of the first things fans will notice. Just as much inspired by the greats such as Phil Collins, Thin Lizzy, Steely Dan, Eurythmics, Steve Winwood and Billy Joel, the singer says the album is sonically the biggest mixed bag brought to you by Bluejuice so far. After all, it’s been three years since the two-time-ARIA-nominated sophomore album Head Of The Hawke was dropped on an unsuspected Australian audience, and a lot of good and bad music has reached Stone’s ears in the meantime.
“With artists that I like, I found that with my favourite albums they were usually the kind that you could listen to at home from start to finish – and we wanted to do that,” says Stone. “I think influences came from all over the place with this album, from Phil Collins to more modern stuff like Little Dragon or The Strokes even. Maybe some Boyz II Men and Motown… Another thing which I’m really proud of with this album is that even though we got session players to do some stuff, mostly we actually tried to cover a range of instruments ourselves. I play some guitar on the album and some keys as well. We’ve all had a bit of a go in terms of writing, which was normally really my thing before. Instrumentally we’ve all really contributed across the board – and whoever had specific instrumental skills changed them up for a different instrument. For example, James, our drummer, also had a go at playing the keyboard. Even just based on that alone, I think people will notice this is quite a different record for us. Well, I hope so, anyway.”
Bluejuice play alongside the Scissor Sisters, Cloud Control, The Living End and Gotye, plus many more at The Pyramid Rock Festival from Thursday December 29 – January 1, 2012. They also play the Big Day Out on Sunday January 29 at Melbourne Flemington Racecourse. Company is out now through Dew Process.