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Sleepy Jackson

If I had one word to describe The Sleepy Jackson, it would be “catchy!” Fortunately, the good people at Kaffeine Buzz allow me a little more leeway than just one word. Hailing from Melbourne Australia, the band is in the middle of their American tour.

Lovers, Sleepy Jackson’s first album has recently hit the shelves, and they suggest that you check it out. The album is full of pop tunes that leap from one genre to another. From the country sounds on “Old Dirt Farmer,” to the George Harrison influenced slide-guitar on “Good Dancers,” Luke Steele and company write a damn fine song. Most people should be able to find at least one song that they identify with. And for good reason, Sleepy Jackson says Lovers is written to deal with the things that a person is likely to go through in a day.

We snapped some shots of the band during the Virgin/Astralwerks showcase at SXSW, and caught up with the lead singer, Luke Steele, on his way to the next stop on the tour.

Kaffeine Buzz: So I guess the first question is how’s the tour going?

Luke Steele: It’s a pretty humbling one. Each show’s drastically different from the last one. I think in Memphis there were eight people, while in Austin there were like a thousand. It’s been good. We’ve drawn a wide variety of people.

KB: How was South by Southwest?

LS: It was a pretty amazing festival. It was a lot of breaking down and setting back up.

KB: I’d like to talk to you about your album Lovers. Let’s start with the cover art. What’s up with the dog and the vampire chicks?

LS: The dog is kind of there for the girls, to make them happy. They’re looking at the dog, and I’m looking at the dog, and one of them has her fingers on my arm, and you don’t know what she’s reaching for.

KB: On the Good Dancers track, I wanted to ask you about the violin, and the viola. Those are the only strings that you have on that song, right?

LS: Yeah, pretty much. We didn’t know how to go about working an orchestra into it, so we started by doubling up what the people were playing. We just started building it up and I think that it sounded pretty authentic by the end.

KB: I was wondering if you had any particular inspiration behind Vampire Racecourse, specifically the line about being dead and alone?

LS: Vampire Racecourse was my word for the world. Rather than saying “It’s a Devil’s world,” it’s a vampire racecourse.

KB: The song Fill Me With Apples reminds me of the Radiohead song Fitter, Happier, More Productive.

LS: Yeah, it’s funny you should say that I just heard it in the car yesterday. It’s similar, but all of the beat writers had a similar style. It’s one of my favorites, it has really has great lyrics.

KB: One of my favorite songs on the CD is “Tell the Girls That I’m Not Hangin’ Out,” is there anything you can tell me about that song?

LS: That was written with a guy called Nick Littlemore from a pretty big dance act in Australia.

KB: The BBC referred to you as “Aussie eclectic Country, with a hint of… well lots of things,” does that come from the slide guitar, because I wouldn’t really consider you guys Country.

LS: (Laughs) Yeah, it is a bit country, but I don’t know, it’s more alternative country

KB: There is a lot of melodic slide guitar on the album, do you always use a lot of slide guitar?

LS: We started using it because the producer introduced us to a lot of really good slide guitar music. We added it because we thought it sounded really good.

KB: I understand that your engineer, John Burnside’s, kid was the one singing on Morning Bird. I also noticed that he had several different credits on the album, including songwriting. Do you work with him a lot?

LS: Yeah, he’s been all over and worked with a lot of bands, The Melvins, for instance. He’s been in Australia for the last three years, and we’ve been done some work with him. I was real fortunate on that track. He was up for the weekend with his kids, and one of them just sang it. He’s done harmonies on all of the EP’s. before. He’s got a cool voice.

KB: You also use choirs on the album, how did that come about?

LS: Well we got them all in and just recorded (Laughs). One of the girls, Jane, does most of the commercials you hear in Australia, so she brought in all of her backup singer friends. They were all just really great, a bunch of 24 to 25 year olds.

KB: Are you living in London now? Because I’ve read that that you wanted to get a puppy and move to London?

LS: No, no flat in London yet. I’m still living on chili dogs. Chili cheese-steaks these days (Laughs).

KB: I also read a quote that I really enjoyed. You said that your music “feels like fresh paint.” Does it still feel like that?

LS: Hopefully (Laughs). I don’t know. At that point in the interview I think I was a bit delirious.

KB: It’s also been said that “your music is infused with crisp freshness, the tunes jackknife from Brian Wilson pop to drunken bluegrass and ballads to slide guitar.” Do you think that’s a pretty accurate description?

LS: That’s pretty good. Yeah. That’s probably more than I would say.

KB: How would you describe your music to some girl you met at the bar, because I know you wouldn’t remember all of that.

LS: Ummm… I wouldn’t usually bother. Just come to the show.

KB: Tell me about how you won the award for the Best West Australian Country Band.

LS: Well, I really shouldn’t say anything about it other than to say it was great. But we happened to find one of the guys working at the award ceremony, and an extra chilidog or two, and we win. All of my father’s friends in this country appreciated it. (Laughs) We got a mention and only one song on the album is Country.

KB: It’s been said that Luke Steele’s lack of direction is his direction.

LS: Yeah, I think that’s pretty accurate in a way. I do have a lot of directions… That’s my comment on that. (Laughs) Just scrap everything I just said.

KB: So are you still afraid of becoming old hat?

LS: Yeah, I still am. I just got the press from our American Label, and it was a lot of people putting the knife in different points. The next record is going to blow everyone away, so they don’t have to like it. It’s not going to be an old hat kind of thing; it will just be revolutionary new music.

KB: I was checking out your website after the Conan O’Brian show, and everyone on the forum was saying how good it was. Did you know that most of the people on your forum are in the music industry?

LS: Really?

KB: Yeah, it will have their name and what record company they are from. I was wondering if you would be willing to comment on some of the posts. For instance, one person said that you were great on Conan, but you seemed a little nervous.

LS: I was a little nervous, but half that stuff on there is people just trying to get back at me for something I’ve done. That’s why I try to avoid reading that stuff.

KB: What’s been your best show so far in the states?

LS: I loved New York, of course. There was this little place in Houston called Mary Jane’s that I really enjoyed.

KB: So when are you coming up here?

LS: You’re in Boulder, right? Those shows are going to be really cool. Are you going to be there?

KB: Definitely.

With two shows in the area, and the one at the Fox being free, you really don’t have an excuse to miss out on The Sleepy Jackson. With Lovers, the band has created a broad based, appealing pop album that is the hallmark of truly great bands. If they manage to focus their efforts into one area on the next album, they should be able to create something that could stand the test of time.

Check them out at the Fox on April 21st, or at the Bluebird on the 23rd.


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