Eskimo Joe Are Still Ticking Items Off Their Bucket List After 25 Years

Published in Music  
Eskimo Joe tour Australia March-April 2022. Eskimo Joe tour Australia March-April 2022.

When Western Australian rockers Eskimo Joe formed in 1997, nobody really expected them to be touring 25 years later. Not least guitarist Stu MacLeod.

"I'm not a forward planner, in my creative life anyway," he says.

"It was literally just me and Kav [Temperley] and Joel [Quartermain] hanging out making music. Honestly we started the band just to win the campus band competition to see if we could do it."

They did it, which led to "a bit of a snowball" of events. "We got a recording EP contract as one of the prizes, we recorded 'Sweater', that got on triple j," MacLeod says.

"I had to quit uni at that point; so did Joel, and it was like, 'well, off we go'."

The trio have been "riding the wave" ever since. That wave has brought with it six studio albums – three of which debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts – over 750,000 album sales, 2 APRA awards, 35 ARIA nominations (with 8 wins) and 11 tracks featured in triple j Hottest 100 countdowns.

There was a lull, for five years or so, which made some fans begin to question 'what happened to Eskimo Joe?'.

"I think it was around 2014, we had a meeting and it was like, 'you know, we're not particularly interested in killing it at the moment, and we're not killing it'," MacLeod explains.

"'Things are sort of slowing down a bit, let's just field the occasional gig request here and there and explore some other options in life.'

"So you know, we all forged separate lives, played the occasional gig together and then it was only really 2018, 2019 that we started to warm up the engines again."

In the few short years since, the band has ticked a multitude of things off their bucket list, including performing at the AFL Grand Final this year.

For the one-time number one ticket holders at the Fremantle Football Club, that was kind of a big deal. "That was a key point, not only in my career, but in my personal life," MacLeod says.

"Being able to play an AFL Grand Final at home is crazy when you live in WA. So yeah, it was a real buzz and it also legitimised my band in front of my boy's eyes.

"My boy Harry's a huge AFL fan and never really been impressed that I've been in a band, but as soon as I played an AFL Grand Final, he was like, 'yeah, I get it!'."

They also celebrated the band's 21st birthday in 2018 by embarking on a national tour with the Sydney, Tasmanian, West Australian and Camerata orchestras.

Performing their songs with a full orchestra – and re-imagining them for such a task – gave Stu a feeling they had "tapped into something special".

"One of the songs that really stood out on the orchestra tour was 'Running Out Of Needs' off the 'Wastelands' record," he says.

"I mean, I love that track on the record – that was one of the first songs we recorded for that record and it really set the tone for the rest of the album.

"But the way the orchestra had re-imagined it, it just gave it its own life; and it was one of those songs that, especially live, just the whole crowd was like, that was fricking awesome."

Eskimo Joe recently tried their own hand at re-imagining classic Australian songs, while they wait for COVID restrictions to pass so they can head out on tour.

The series – much like the band – was not originally thought out too far, MacLeod says, but 'Locked Downunder' has been well-received.

"Originally it was just, let's do some of our favourite songs and the first two just happened to be Aussie, so then we were like, maybe we should just do all Aussie tunes," MacLeod says.

"So we've got three under the belt now, and they've all been done by correspondence. So, either Joel or myself will lay down some bed tracks, send it to Kav, Kav lays down a vocal, and then the third person finishes it off with the fruit on the top."

COVID – and with Quartermain based in Melbourne – has placed interesting limitations on the band's ability to work. "Without that direct collaboration, it's literally you just hand it over and wait to see what comes back," Stu says.

"It's pretty cool. Definitely changing the way we work with musicians, but I think artists in general or creatives, one of their key strengths is that adaptability, you know, the ability to shift with the wind."

Choosing their favourite Aussie songs to cover is one thing, but when it came to selecting tracks for their 'best of' album, 'The World Repeats Itself Somehow', the trio "couldn't lead with their hearts".

"It's like making a playlist for someone – you've got to play what you think they want to hear, you know what I mean?" MacLeod laughs.

"So it was really just a case of tugging on those nostalgic heart strings as a primary motive, that's why there's no songs from 'Wastelands' on it, because it's not as nostalgic an album as the others."

To that end, it was somewhat beyond the band's control to include that debut single they recorded with the band competition winnings all those years ago.

"It was definitely a conscious choice to put 'Sweater' on there because we knew we couldn't possibly leave that off the greatest hits because we would get stoned to death, in the city square," MacLeod says.

"We haven't played it live for probably, I don't know, almost 18 years I reckon."

While the live shows in March and April will see the band perform two albums back to back – 'A Song Is A City' and 'Black Fingernails, Red Wine' - Stu hints 'Sweater' may make it into the set.

"There is an encore, I'll just put it at that," he says.

'The World Repeats Itself Somehow' is now available. The band play Sandstone Rocks at Sandstone Point Hotel (Brisbane) 26 February; they also support Icehouse at Darwin Amphitheatre 28 May.

Eskimo Joe 2022 Tour Dates

Sat 5 Mar - Fremantle Arts Centre
Sat 12 Mar - Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide)
Sat 19 Mar - Odeon Theatre (Hobart)
Fri 25 Mar - Forum Melbourne
Thu 31 Mar - Anita's Theatre (Wollongong)

Fri 1 Apr - Enmore Theatre (Sydney)

Fri 8 Apr - The Tivoli (Brisbane)



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