Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's a sad state of affairs when only twenty people are in a room to see Sarah Blasko. Sure, she has spent the majority of her burgeoning career in her homeland of Australia, where she is becoming more and more well-known, selling out big venues around the country and touring pretty non-stop for the past few years. However, Sarah's phenomenal talent-- her voice alone will do you in-- and her natural charm make her one of the most amazing performers, and after two years of waiting (on my end, that is), she finally made it to New York.

Friday, 7 September marked the first of a three week residency at The Living Room, here in the Lower East Side. I arrived geekily (did I just say geekily?) early to find Sarah and crew sitting in the main bar area. I listened to sound check (which sounded amazing in and of itself) and then Sarah took the stage at exactly seven o'clock to a ridiculously empty room. While this sucks, I realised the distinct privilege of seeing Ms. Blasko in such a tiny venue with so few people there-- I was seated roughly three feet from her all evening-- and it's an experience I will not forget. And one that I get to repeat for the next two weeks in a row.

If you're a Sarah Blasko fan, one of the things you probably like best about her is just how quirky she is, and slightly awkward in the best way (because hey, aren't we all a little awkward?). Once the music begins, she gives it her all, bringing songs from her latest album, What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have (which is, according to Sarah, going on sale here in the States in about a week's time), and her first album to life in a way that is magical and a gift to be able to witness. She's adorably self-deprecating and so genuinely nice that it's a little disconcerting. In fact, when she found out how long I'd been a fan, she just kept saying, "But how did you...." before shaking her head and laughing in disbelief. All the waiting finally paid off last night, and I can't wait for next Friday to do it all over again.

Below, a few more pics from the show. I'm not a fan of flashing in an artist's face, especially in such a small room, so excuse the darkness:

Chances are, if you're outside of Australia, you've never heard of Eskimo Joe. It's unfortunate that previous to now, to attempt has been made to bring the guys overseas, besides the tiny blip on the radar that was CMJ 2006. However, with the US release of their latest album, Black Fingernails, Red Wine, things may begin to change for the band, who has already received tremendous success with the album back home, including ARIA Digital charts and a coveted #2 position for the title track on Triple J's 2006 "Hottest 100" program-- Not to mention plenty of ARIA and WAMi awards. The album is full of melodic rock songs strongly presented by vocalist Kav Temperley and held together by Joel Quartermain and Stuart MacLeod, all of whom are multi-instrumentalists and are able to achieve a pop synchronicity that translates into a really well-made album.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Kav a few weeks ago, and here's what he had to say:

One Small Sound: Your songwriting has grown considerably between the release of "Sweater" and "Black Fingernails, Red Wine". Was there a pivotal event that changed your approach to songwriting or was it something that happened gradually and that you were unaware of?

Kav: There was a trend towards taking the songwriting process a little more seriously through the second EP leading up to the 1st album. When we started writing for the 1st album, Joel initiated a meeting whereby we all agreed that we were in this for life, and that we needed to start writing songs that we would be proud to leave behind as a body of work. These had to be songs that we put more thought and heart into. So the 1st album was really the first thing that the real Eskimo Joe ever wrote.

OSS: Walk us through your songwriting process as a band.

Kav: I start the writing process with lyrics and a basic melody. Joel is great with arranging songs and patching up any holes. We make sure the song is tight and works just stripped back on acoustic guitar or piano. Then we jump in our studio and start recording a demo. That's where we put the meat on the bones. We fill the song with as much as it needs and hopefully it works out. Some songs we rerecord up to three or four times.

OSS: One of my favourite songs on the album is "New York". What's the story behind that song?

Kav: That song is about the first time we came to New York. We were chasing a record deal, and things were shaping up well, but in true music industry style, things started to turn sour, and I won't go into it, but the trip was awful. It really felt like us against the world, and we kinda lost our minds a little in the midst of it all.

OSS: What's something you want to accomplish as a band that you've yet to accomplish?

Kav: We want to have a more international presence. We want to be able to jump on a plane and go to Japan, Europe, USA, South Africa, and still have people there that know and love the songs. Seeing the world through the band has been a great experience thus far, and we want to keep that going and open up more of the globe to our music.

OSS: What are some other bands that you guys have been listening to lately? Do you feel that the music you listen to influences your own or are you able to separate the two?

Kav: We welcome the idea that you are what you listen to. It makes sense, I don't think you can listen to music and not be inspired by it. Recently we've been listening to bands like Arcade Fire, Interpol, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Kings Of Leon, and there's always more that get thrown onto the CD player.

OSS: What are some of your favourite venues to play and why?

Kav: There's a place called the Tivoli in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. It's an old theatre, kind of looks like an old burlesque venue. It's got great acoustics, a second tier mezzanine and a great atmosphere. We've played some really memorable shows there.

OSS: If you weren't in a band, what other jobs do you think you'd be doing?

Kav: We've always joked that I would be a solo artist and Joel a record producer. Stuart would be doing voiceovers for cartoons.