Singer/songwriter Josh Pyke has spent the last month on the road. Travelling across Australia to promote his latest album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Josh took some time to chat with Raven about beer, collaborations and life on the road as a musician.
Having been in the business for a decade now, do you find it’s harder to be creative? Or does having five albums under your belt take the pressure off a little?
I don’t think it takes the pressure off. In Australia, in particular, because we are such a small market comparatively, in some ways you have to start again every time you do a record. You’re usually only as good as your last record, so I try not to put pressure on myself to be creative. I’m my own worst critic, always wanting to make sure I’m happy with my output. So I definitely don’t feel like I can rest on my laurels.
If you say you’re only as good as your last album, you’re doing pretty well at the moment. Your newest album debuted at #2 in Australia. What was your reaction to its success?
I was really happy. I’ve had a lot of songs played on Triple J, but I’ve never had a lot of commercial radio airplay or been a particularly commercial artist, so chart position is not really something that I think about that much. But all my records have been in the top ten – four of them in the top five – and for me, what that actually indicates more than anything, is that I have an incredible core fan base that’s really supportive. It’s a testament to those guys more than anything, really.
You’ve sought out some unique locations for the upcoming But For All The Shrinking Hearts tour, specifically the Twilight shows at the Melbourne and Taronga Zoos. What drew you to these locations?
I’ve been a fan, or an observer, of these events for a while so I was keen to jump on board. We just wanted to do something a little bit different and move into that world where you’re doing more events, instead of going around the country playing the same venues, again and again. I’ll definitely be back to them sometime in the future, but for this album I really wanted to take it to some places that I haven’t been.
So if you could play anywhere, regardless of whether or not it’s a music venue, where would you play?
Gosh, there are some beautiful places… In Western Australia I played in an old quarry, and I’ve played in jails around the country, so there are lots of places to play. I’d love to play in a church again. It’s a really beautiful experience. I’m not religious at all, but the actual space itself is designed to make people’s voices sound kind of ethereal. I think it’s a really cool thing to play in places that aren’t always venues.
In the past you’ve written a lot of songs while on tour. Are you likely to put pen to paper on this coming tour?
No doubt. There’s something quite inspiring about playing with your mates in a band, so I often come up with little bits and pieces during sound check. Things sound different through the big P.A. There’s something about that big, echoey sound that makes you feel bigger than you are, and that helps you make songs sometimes. No doubt that will happen again, but whether or not anything good will come up, it’s just impossible to know.
At the same time, in a recent interview with The Sydney Morning Herald you admitted that you wouldn’t mind a break at some point. Following your national tour, is a break from music on the cards for 2016?
I don’t know, it’s hard! It’s so much a part of me that I would never be able to have a break from actually making music or engaging with music.
Is it even possible for musicians to take a break from music?
No, I don’t think I could take a break from music, but I can see myself taking a break from albums and promo and touring. I do love touring and I love making albums, but after ten years, the other stuff that comes along with it gets tiring. This is going to sound like a complaint, but I don’t mean to complain. It’s just the reality of a musician’s life. Interviews and various promo things are all great and what you need to do, but it is exhausting for your brain. When you’re talking about yourself all the time you get pretty sick of yourself. So I would quite like to have a break at some point and focus on not talking about myself for a while. There are far more interesting things to talk about.
You have some pretty exciting projects coming up, on top of the tour and break, etc. I was excited to hear you’ve been collaborating with Sydney’s own Young Henry’s Brewery in the creation of your own beer, The Summer. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yeah, I made a beer with them called The Summer, which is named after one of my songs. It’s based on a home-brew that I’ve been making for a while, but now it’s scaled up to be a lot bigger and a lot better. We launched it last week so it should be available in a bunch of places around the country. We were trying to get it into venues around the tour, but a lot of them have contracts with liquor suppliers so it’s kind of tough. I know The Triffid in Brisbane is going to have it on tap at the gig, which is cool. It was a really fun, creative process putting that one together.
How did the collaboration start up? Where you mates with the guys from Young Henry’s beforehand?
Not really, I was a fan of their beer and had drunk a lot of it around the Inner West in Sydney, where I live. Someone on Facebook suggested I should get Young Henry’s involved in my home brew and I thought, ‘Actually, that’s a great idea.’ I knew that You Am I had done a beer with them, so we got in touch, and they were really keen off the bat. So I gave them a taste of my homebrew and we got it happening.
You’ve also alluded to a possible upcoming collaborative musical project. Can you shed any more light on this?
It’s still a bit up in the air at the moment, but let’s just say it’s something that I’ve done before, but it’s not Basement Birds and it’s not a one-album thing.
So it’s not what anyone’s been expecting.
Well I reckon when it gets announced people will be like, ‘Oh of course!’. I’m hoping that it’ll all happen. I caught up with the person in question last week, and we’re both keen, so it’s just a matter of timing. But so far, so good.
At one stage there were also rumours of a side project you were working on. Are we likely to see its release this year?
I was just thinking that! Again it’s so hard to find time. We were deep into it last year; my mate Dave and I were doing this project. And we had five songs and thought, ‘Ok, we just need another five and we’ll have a record.’ But then I got to make my album and touring, just couldn’t do it again. So I think the best idea is to finish off the five songs that we’ve got and just release a little EP. I doubt we’ll ever even tour, it’s just a fun little project that I’d be keen to put out into the world for people to hear.
Who are you currently listening to?
I’m still in love with the most recent Sufjan Stevens album, Carrie & Lowell, and the song Death with Dignity. Another person that I can’t get enough of at the moment is actually Elton John. I also really love Montaigne’s stuff, she’s local to Sydney, but I’m a bit out of touch with what’s going on in the pubs at the moment – musically.