We chatted to Jim Jones, Rupert Orton and Henri Herbert about playing the David Letterman show, causing a stir at SXSW, and showing the world just what music is made of.
By Meghan Player
“This tour has been fucking amazing. Brilliant,” begins guitarist, Rupert Orton. Chatting to the band on the eve of their gig at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney – after two weeks of touring the country for both festival and various club show commitments – the band are surprisingly upbeat, enthused by the upcoming gig this evening.
Unsurprisingly though, the band have been ripping up the touring circuit with their own unique blend of rock and roll. Touching on almost every aspect that made music good, the band deliver a sound and style that is as old as the hills, but still as dangerous as a car bomb. A sound the band insists is based on a long-term obsession.
“[The sound] comes from a life long obsession and love affair with all kinds of music,” explains Orton, “A lot of our material is rock and roll, but there is a lot that permiates out of that. We’re truly obsessed about it.”
“You don’t just come from nothing,” adds frontman, Jim Jones, “Everything is a combination of your own perception and what you have heard. Our sound is perceived through every other filter or style of music that we’ve heard throughout our lives.”
Interestingly enough, the youngest member of the band, keyboardist Henri Herbert – is the ‘go-to guy’ for any pre-1950s knowledge that band require when writing a song.
“It’s fascinating for me to approach [the music] in a contemporary way,” he explains, “It’s interesting to play it as a person now, and hear it now – rather than trying to sound like someone playing it back then.”
That sound is what has grabbed peoples attention across the globe – throwing the listener head first into a explosive, high octane sound, that is as much about the energy as it is about the melody.
“This music, and the way that we’re trying to do it, it doesn’t really get off the runway, unless you put your heart and soul into it,” believes Jones, “It’s like a voodoo thing. You have to invest a certain amount of your soul into it, otherwise it won’t reveal itself to you.”
The same thing also seems to go for the bands albums – their raw debut, self-titled album and the louder, more energized, ‘Burning Your House Down’ – a trait that will continue into the bands third album – an album described quite simply as; “Louder,” laughs Orton, “More energy! More everything!”
“We’re quite focussed and ruthless with what we want and where we’re going,” explains Jones, “Generally, it’s going to be better and louder. We’re going to see how far we can take it.”
Interestingly, fans have already had a chance to hear the new material – with the band including a few new tracks in their current set list – a move that has worked in the bands favour.
“It’s definitely a fast way to realise if there is anything that needs to be changed in a song,” Jones explains.
“It’s hard to describe in words,” Orton continues, “but if you’re playing something to someone who has never heard it before, and there are 400 people packing a room, and then you connect – there’s a moment where you realise ‘Oh yeah! This is what the songs do!’ ”
That ‘connection’ with an audience has always been evident within the band – both in their albums and live shows. Undoubtedly, it is a trait that comes naturally to the band – and has, fortunately, been recognised and developed with each album.
‘Burning Your House Down‘ saw the band work alongside the legendary, Jim Sclavunos [The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Sonic Youth], whose impact on the band is unquestionable.
“Part of the reason we wanted to work with him, was because of his history,” Jones tells. “He was there to really share the journey of us trying to get from what was really an explosion of our first record, into something that was like ‘right, where can we take it now?’.”
“To have someone that [has been part of many classic albums/bands] work with us, was astonishing,” continues Orton. “He takes [music] very seriously. [We’re] not like some fucking gap year holiday band. You need someone who takes you that seriously – to say ‘I believe in what you’re doing, and this is how seriously I take it’.”
The belief of producers and music lovers alike have no doubt seen the band reach all sorts of heights and warranted incredible highlights over the last 12 months – most notably, when the band appeared on the David Letterman show.
“We just thought it wasn’t going to happen. Then it got confirmed a week before we were going to America [for SXSW],” Orton recalls, “Then, out of nowhere, this hurricane comes along and it got cancelled again! We got rescheduled again – but I personally only believed we were doing it when we walked into the studio and the cameras went ‘bang'”
“And what you see there is the relief of the five of us going ‘fuck yes!'”, Orton laughs
“Play this fucking song before something else happens!” Jones quickly adds with a laugh.
Whilst the David Letterman show is no doubt a standout in the bands mind, 2011 was a big year for the band overall. In March, the band returned to SXSW in Austin, Texas for two showcases, plus a few ‘solo’ gigs – where news of their energetic, high octane performances spread like wildfire.
“It [SXSW] was a very fortunate opportunity for us – that it did all the things that it was supposed to do,” explains Orton, “but you hear of a lot of bands that go over there and nothing happens. We were very fortunate it went the right way.”
The bands prescence certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the wider music community – with one nights performance in Austin sounding like something of legend.
“It was like the entire cast of ‘Please Kill Me‘ were there,” laughs Jones.
“We’d read that book all the time, but it was like, we went there, and all the people that were still alive, were there!”, enthuses Orton.
“Slyvain Sylvain was there. Bob Gruen was taking photographs. We thought we’d walked into a parallel universe. That was mind blowing! Then we got invited to this BBQ right in the middle of nowhere – and it was like ‘Oh, there’s Nigel Harrison from Blondie’ – and just all these legendary people just hanging out, having a regular Sunday afternoon BBQ.”
Without a doubt, stories of working with, sharing a stage with and enjoying weekend BBQ’s with some legends of rock and roll – 2011 will be a hard year to top for the Jim Jones Revue. However, the talks of a new album to be released this year, followed by a solid touring schedule has definitely occupied the bands mind for a better part of 2012.
“We’ve tried to create a space to do the new record, but I don’t think we’re going to do much until February – after the dates in France. If all goes well, it will come out in September sometime, and then we’ll go on the road for a couple of years to tour it,” Orton explains.
After today’s interview and tonights subsequent show, there is little doubt left in anyone’s mind as to how much energy, enthusiasm and passion, The Jim Jones Revue possess. Amongst the explosive shows, sharp clothes and killer albums, there is one point that Jim Jones makes today that stands out above all else:
“We let the music speak for itself.”