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Interview with Josh Pyke

Critically acclaimed Sydney based singer/song-writer Josh Pyke is in a post-release panic. He seems focused on getting to various promo events in support of his latest album But For All These Shrinking Hearts, but his tone is anxious. Yet, despite the evident stress, when speaking about the new album, his voice betrays a glimpse of excitement.

Bridie: You released your fifth studio album last week. How do you feel it’s going? 

Josh: The response has been fantastic. People are really getting into it – so far I’m really pleased.

Bridie: From the first song, Book of Revelations, I noticed that sonically, it is more experimental than previous albums. Did you intend to go in a different direction? 

Josh: I follow my nose when it comes to writing and production. In that song in particular I was building up a lot of textures and feeling really good about it. I believe in following your instincts and if it’s feeling right, I don’t question it. I love the way it turned out.

I believe in following your instincts and if it’s feeling right, I don’t question it. I love the way [the album] turned out.

Bridie: What is it like recording from your backyard studio?

Josh: It’s awesome having the freedom to not look at the clock constantly. I go down there and work when I want to and I’m not wasting any money. When you get rid of that pressure, the whole process is lot more fun. You go back to the feeling of starting out and doing music for kicks.

Bridie: Your son had his debut on the outro of Hollering Hearts. How was it recording him? 

Josh: It was funny actually. My producer John Castle was mixing the song in Melbourne and we needed one more voice in it, so I got my son to sing into my phone and I emailed it down to John, and he mixed it into the track. He’s only four, so I’m not sure he’ll understand, but maybe one day.

Bridie: You’re in the middle of playing some Fans First shows across the country. How have these shows been going and what kind of response are you getting? 

Josh: The shows have been amazing. They’re at small, intimate venues and the crowds are just beautiful and supportive. The response to the album is good. Some are saying that it’s their favourite album yet.

Bridie: You’ve been doing this for fifteen years now. Does it get easier with each album or do you still have the same level of anxiousness? 

Josh: It’s hard to manage your expectations.  Australia has such a small market, so it’s not inconceivable that you will put something out there and have it disappear. My biggest fear is making something that I love and value and not having it find a place in the world. Thankfully, for the fifth time I think I’ve avoided that.

Bridie: You used a technique on the album where you would mumble over the tracks and place the lyrics in later. Do you think this worked well? 

Josh: It was great. I used the technique for Momentary Glow and Songlines. It’s something I definitely want to explore more. I’ve always done it to a degree, but I’ve never demoed the mumbling. It’s a structured version of what I was doing before.

Bridie: Tell us a bit more about the story behind your album design.

Josh: I wanted to get a tattoo of a perpetual motion machine to remind myself to keep pushing forward. I did some research and found that due to of the laws of physics, the machines don’t work. I did some more digging and read a story about a guy called Charles Redheffer, who was charging people to come and see this perpetual machine that he had made. A sceptic examined it and found an old man upstairs cranking a wheel to keep the machine going. He was turning the wheel in one hand and eating a sandwich in the other. I thought it was pretty amazing visual metaphor for the powers that be: old men powering the world at a pace that we can’t accommodate for.

Bridie: You have said that But For All These Shrinking Hearts has been one of the most creatively challenging albums to date. What sort of challenges did you face?

Josh: I challenged myself in a good way. It wasn’t that I was facing anything negative, I just wanted to give myself a new direction, try some different techniques with lyric writing. I’m happy with the result.

I challenged myself in a good way. It wasn’t that I was facing anything negative, I just wanted to give myself a new direction …

Bridie: Whats next in the pipeline?  

Josh: After finishing up this tour, I’ll be putting out some live show recordings that I did with the Sydney Orchestra later this year. There will be some one-off festivals and then some full on touring next year.

Josh Pyke plays at the Foundry on the 12th of August for his Brisbane Fans First show. His album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts, is out now.

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