There is something to be said about having your own space. For much-loved Australian musician Josh Pyke, his long awaited aspiration of a home studio has proven to be a small victory. He recounts a younger version of himself, 'literally writing down my goals and one of my first memories – my ultimate goal was having a studio at home'. With Sydney being, 'an expensive city to live in ' this dream to have a 'proper studio', is now a reality.
A former pottery studio, he says it is 'gold' and quite tranquil 'not being on the clock, or having a space you are constantly paying for and thinking, I should utilise this better'. Many fans will be able to empathise with the waiting game. Pyke's fifth studio album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts is set to drop late July. So far, two songs have been released, There's a Line and Hollering Hearts. But there's also a twist for those wanting to see Josh Pyke live.
In the tradition of 'fans-first', a limited number of album packages are available on pre-order. Included is the record, and a ticket to one of his east coast shows in Melbourne (August 5), Adelaide (August 6), or Brisbane (August 12). If you haven't already, there is still time to sign up to the mailing list. WA fans would've seen Josh Pyke live in Perth with the WA Symphony Orchestra (July 24) or upcoming at Port Hedland's North-West Festival (August 21).
At the time of this interview he was secretly excited about performing with an orchestra again. 'I did the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and it was really, really successful and very challenging, as I just I don't read music.' He says the Sydney experience taught him a number of things, namely the hierarchy that exists within an orchestra, 'the orchestra follows the soloist, it is a very different concept to playing with a band – really challenging!'
His latest album was born after researching American inventor, Charles Redheffer – who claimed to have invented the 'perpetual-motion machine'. It was a slight digression after perusing tattoo ideas. 'I didn't get one in the end, ' he sighs. 'I didn't like the perpetual motion machine'. After a while, he laughs and offers, 'I am thinking more a vintage rope-making machine'!
While creative musical pursuits and tattoos were top of his agenda, it is his kids that have changed the depth of emotion he accesses for songwriting. Known for his melodic albums, the landscape is slightly different. Reminiscing he explains, 'It has changed everything. Having kids forces you to structure your time. I used to sit around and write songs, go for a surf, go to a job at night, write a song at 2am … and that life is over!' As a hands-on and involved dad, he now limits his work time to 9am to 3pm and goes to the studio during those times. 'It's a good balance in terms of inspiration for songs, it makes you reflect on life and the world in a way that you can't understand' he says emphatically.
His two children have really 'opened my mind to a lot of different things. You have to reflect on the world you are leaving, creatively speaking and as a culture, definitely'. When looking at a broader community perspective he adds, 'I feel like my government doesn't share my values, that is why I haven't voted for them and I don't vote for them in general'. Now being a parent, his concerns are what he will be leaving behind and what individuals into the broader world are putting out. He cites this as being 'the challenge of all times, finding inspiration'.
It's this inherent desire to help people at a grassroots level that has seen him set up the JP Partnership, which received over 180 applications this year, and he personally reviewed every single one. 'It's a heavy workload, and I do it all myself'. He explains, 'if want to put my name to it, I want to make sure I initially know what is going on. I feel passionate about it and I donate my own money'.
Supporting up and coming musicians is a mainstay for Pyke who holds strong sentiments about music now having no barriers to entry, 'I feel that is a common misconception. Yes, a digital recorder is pretty cheap – you can get a good one and you can work in an apartment, with apps and whatever. At the very beginning of a career, it is highly unlikely you will make the best sounding shit at home'. While emerging artists can make a career, record at home and aggregate through Soundcloud, Spotify, he believes it is 'very occasional one act' that breaks through.
The notion that 'Indie artists think all record companies are evil' is another misconception about record labels, he states it is hard work and talent which pays dividends. To illustrate he talks about his close musical friends, 'Urthboy got massive – he is a good mate of mine – he started as a busker, but he is an exceptional performer, one in a million. Bon Iver recorded for free in a shack in the snow. Their DIY lo-fi record became massive because he is an exceptional songwriter – it happened because he is exceptional'.
The critical point he stresses is that it is a 'naive point of view to have this capacity to record for free. The best way to learn is to tour. That is a massive barrier to entry. Touring costs a hell out of a lot of more than a holiday in Australia'.
Pyke's honesty and fervor in real life has weaved its way through his music over the years and it is this authenticity that draws people to him and his songs. When asked what it is about music that moves us he jokes, 'if anybody could distill that they could be able to do it every time!' On reflection he explains, the 'biggest thing is honesty, when I write the songs I don't sit and go, "I am going to write a song about this, I am going to write a song about that"'. Intense human emotion plays a pivotal role, 'things that are 'disturbing, fearful, conflict … in your songs it has to have that kind of integrity, not throwaway entertainment … like Bruno Mars or commercial pop of Beyoncé. There is a place for that and I am not poo-pooing that at all. For instance, I couldn't sing any of those'. The likes of The National, Bon Iver, and Sufjan Stevens sit more realistically in Pyke's sphere.'I don't really know what it is that you could identify in those songs that stick with you to be honest. Everyone is looking for a way to articulate his or her emotions. This is the way that I have and always had to express myself'.
As listeners, Pyke says people 'latch onto songs that articulate how they feel' and sentiments certainly play a strong role for this singer-songwriter-musician. Particularly when Pomplamoose's recent expose on their touring expenses enter the conversation, 'they are this viral YouTube hit. I am a reasonably successful artist and I don't have any YouTube budget and they massively overspent. They could have saved a hell of a lot on that tour, I don't find appraisal helpful (commendations on them spilling the beans on touring costs) it kind of annoys me – punters on forums and stuff'. And again, this notion of 'the record companies are the bad guys'.
Making albums and music, is really about having an inherent drive, irrespective of gaining financial help. 'The JP partnership I thought it was better than giving money'. From his own experience, whether he got a grant or not, 'I would've pushed myself to get ahead anyway' and this needs to be impetus for people wanting to forge a musical career. Pyke knows it too well, 'having always lived in flats and stuff' – not quite having the space to rehearse, and now 'demoing stuff at home, messing around with recording – no giant has been harder to achieve'.
He says it's been hard for lots of reason, 'I was looking for years and years, looking to combine a comfortable home life and a comfortable studio'. It seems apt that he cites 'Book of Revelations as being up there with 'one of the top songs I've ever written I think. There's a defiance to it that's very me'. So even though all those hearts are shrinking, home is definitely where the heart is for Pyke. Well, the home studio anyway.