Speaking while travelling down a highway in Texas and on their way from last night’s Austin gig to the next stop in Atlanta, Jay Aston of Gene Love Jezebel shares how the beginnings of this new American tour is going, “We did a lot of the new album, a lot from the second and third album; mixed and matched it. It was great.”
It’s been 10 years since Jay’s Gene Loves Jezebel (not his brother, Michael’s…if you need the backstory, go here) has been on a multi-city tour versus the one-off gigs that for decades, have brought them together on an annual basis. It was those regular reunions that sparked the momentum for a new album, Dance Underwater, which was released in 2017.
That too was an amount of time in the making, “Instead of talking about it once a year, let’s try and make it happen,” he said of making a pact between band members to write and release a new record. The GLJ was able to raise the money to make the record via a Pledge campaign and brought all the key players together, including James Stevenson (guitars), Pete Rizzo (bass), and Chris Bell (drums). The icing on the cake was getting Peter Walsh (Heaven 17, Xymox, China Crisis, Alphaville, Scott Walker, Pulp) back in the studio for Dance Underwater after having produced the Gene Loves Jezebel classic, House of Dolls, 30 years earlier in 1987.
“Jim (James) works a lot with Peter Walsh on different projects, like Scott Walker,” Jay explained, which helped pull things together, along with the bonds they created over many decades.
While it’s easy to peg different genres into a specific era, last year’s Punishment of Luxury by OMD was another musical chapter to OMD’s legacy from the last 30 years that was both relevant to the present and timeless in nature. Listen to the new track, “People in the Centre of the City” by Jaakko Eino Kalevi and you’ll hear heavy influences of Brian Ferry or tones of Richard Hazard’s “Escalator of Life.” What was retro is new again, which again, is the beauty of musical creations like the tracks on Dance Underwater.
“I just think that a good song is a good song,” he said. “There’s an identity, or language, all those ingredients put together and you’ve got what you need. Whether it’s OMD or whomever, they’ve all got their own unique sound.”
Jay has collaborated with GLJ member, Pete Rizzo, since the band’s Immigrant album in 1985, so they’ve established a long-term chemistry and partnership in songwriting, including three tracks on Dance Underwater.
Jay shares that while some themes on the album are on the darker side of things, “I also want to make it a positive outcome, otherwise you stop breathing,” he said laughing. Right off the mark, “Charmed Life (Never Give In)” definitely leans on focusing on the positive, being grateful for what you do have, and the concept of being the creator of one’s own destiny.
On that darker side, “Flying” is about dealing with depression, something all humans from all walks of life can relate to at one point or another, “Life can be really hard when you worry about things that don’t really matter.” There’s catharsis for that angst with the song’s lyrics and floating melody, an example of music’s many spiritual and emotional benefits.
When it came to the in-your-face track, “Izitme,” Jay and Peter were influenced by those in the glam rock era who came before in the early 70’s England, like T-Rex, Slade, and David Bowie. The whaa whaa guitar and strutting percussion definitely gives way to flared fashion and platforms as Jay sings defiantly, “Izitme?! Izitme?!”
Jay admitted that it was a challenge to get ready for the tour, “But for a lot of the songs we can just plug in and just play,” which is to be expected after so many decades together. During a few intense days of practice in Joshua Tree, “We worked on songs that we’ve not played for a very long time to make them mentally fresh for us.”
Thus far, there are no additional tour dates planned in the states past September, “But yeah, we’d like there to be more. We really enjoy playing together and would like to do it more often while we’re still alive,” Jay said, laughing.
Us too, while we’re all still alive in this “World’s Gone Crazy” time in history.
See Gene Loves Jezebel tonight at The Echo, and then:
Sept 26 – Santa Ana CA @ The Observatory
Sept 28 – San Diego CA @ The Casbah
Sept 29 – Mesa AZ @ Club Red