For almost a decade The John Steel Singers have been ahead of the game. With their ever evolving take on psychedelia, funk, rock and the likes they’ve managed to lift themselves free of any restrictions giving them the longevity that many Aussie bands could only dream of.
Exceptionally tight and talented in every sense, the group have continued to release music that astounds. Having stayed firmly relevant throughout the years, no one else has done exactly what they have and there’s no denying the Aus music scene will be left with a giant JSS shaped hole until their hopeful return.
They’ve captured hearts, dropped panties, and smothered minds with the best of Aussie experimental tunes for almost 10 years, we chat to them about the end, and the chapters to come.
HAPPY: You guys just released a new album. Tell me a little about the inspiration behind the record, the writing and recording process?
JSS: It started in our old rehearsal room (RIP) many years ago, over two extremely fruitful nights we jammed and ended up with the basis of a lot of the tracks on the album. We made a real good decision and used band funds we’d somehow managed to save and built a studio.
That meant we had time to work on it to our hearts content, until our engineer, producer, and rad friend Miro Mackie made us commit to a finish date. We were listening to bands like The The, Arthur Russell, Shuggie Otis, The Clash and Steely Dan so we’ve ended up with an album that is funky but channeled through Scotland in the early 80’s.
HAPPY: You guys just announced that after 9 years you’ll be taking a hiatus. Tell me about the decision to do that? Will the tour that you’ve also just announced be the last we see of you guys as a group?
JSS: Life has gotten rather busy after we finished the recording. Luke has a little baby boy, I’m still a bit pissed he wasn’t named after me. Tim has bought a bar, which I’m still a bit pissed wasn’t named after me. Scott has always been super busy with work and not naming things after me. James plays in almost every band in Brisbane and is a fucking spot on DJ. And I have a new business which is named after me cause I suck at naming shit.
This ain’t the last you’ve heard from us. I haven’t looked up the definition of hiatus but I’m pretty sure it means we’ll be back.
HAPPY: Do you have any solid plans for what you’ll each be doing during this break?
JSS: Probably tell stories to Luke’s child whilst drinking in Tim’s bar about all the rad times we had touring and then get super sad and take another slug of whiskey flavoured with salty tears.
HAPPY: Tell me bout some of the best memories you’ve made with the band?
JSS: Jesus, playing anyone of the amazing festivals that were nice enough to put us on the bill. Rubbing Moby‘s head on new years eve at falls festival before being politely told to leave, wandering out of his UFO shaped green room and meeting King Kahn. Touring with Cloud Control, then falling in love with Cloud Control.
The Here’s Johnny tour with Jono Boulet. Scoring the winning goal in probably the most uncoordinated soccer match ever against Dappled Cities. Almost shitting myself when our tire blew somewhere on the autobahn in Germany. The meatballs we got from a service station in Belgium.
And last but not least the feeling that you get when the jam you’re working on suddenly locks in and starts working and you look around the room at the other guys in the band and realise you are without a doubt one of the luckiest ginger fucks in the world.
HAPPY: What can we expect to see on the upcoming Aus tour? do you have any crazy tour stories?
JSS: We’ve conveniently forgot the logistical nightmare it is to tour with more than 5 people so now we have Jono Boulet joining us on percussion and the amazing Kirsty Tickle on sax and vocals. Depending on what city we’re in we may add another three backing vocalist to make these shows the best we’ve ever done. I can without a doubt say that we’ve never played together as well as we are now.
Seems odd to take a break now but I think that is due to getting older so in a half a decade we will be blowing some fucking minds at RSL’s across the country. What happens on tour stays on tour, except for what I mentioned in the previous question.
HAPPY: What’s been the highlight of the time you guys have spent together? Do you hope to continue making music with the guys?
JSS: I think meeting Robert Forster, then working with Robert Forster has got to be up pretty high in the highlight category. But just to be able to tag along with the super talented individuals in the band and play music for people who’ve paid money cause they like what you do is fucking mind bending.
That shit is super flattering. I’m blushing right now… or I’m sunburnt… goddamn shitty pale skin! Yeah we’ll be back in the studio when we start missing each other and pick up where we left off.
HAPPY: What was the goal when you first started? Do you feel you’ve reached that goal?
JSS: I remember the goal when we started was to play Ric’s Bar in our hometown of Brisbane on a Saturday night. So yeah we’re pretty fuckin’ successful. Nailed that shit.
I remember Tim saying one of the reasons he started the band was to be able to see the world. I thought it would be much easier to get a job and save for a year but he sure proved me wrong. We got to do a 6 week tour surviving solely on the money we made from selling merch the night before so that was an infinitely better way to travel. I think we’ve been incredibly lucky. Any band that manages to stick around for a decade is.
We’ve seen better bands than us start and fold, as a wise man once told us on the balcony of a shitty hotel in Coffs Harbour “It’s a fuckin’ hard industry… Fuckin’ hard!” Then he asked for a free CD as his toothless mate pulled a bong.
Shit, put this as the highlight of our career. I don’t think life can get better than that