Jade Imagine on her new EP, releasing her debut album and life on the road

Photo by George Foster

Jade Imagine are the Melbourne based band splashing a big wave on the indie scene. With their sound deriving from but not limited to elements of indie, surf rock, kraut rock and electronic music. There’s a certain rawness to Jade Imagine’s sound, exploring themes of isolation in inner city life, lost friendships and heartbreak. But this rawness isn’t just in the honest lyrics, but through the instrumentation as well. They record mostly using analogue equipment to keep that warm vintage feel, which allows their sound to become more evocative; bringing out the depth in every note and lyric. Allowing it to feel as if the band are sat in the room with you, playing a personal concert to soundtrack your day.

Releasing their debut singles ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘Walkin’ Around’ back in 2016 they quickly became an important part of the Melbourne indie scene. Signing to Milk! Records, which houses some of the biggest names in rock, Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney and Jen Cloher to name a few. They then released the ‘What The Fuck Was I Thinking’ EP in 2017 which encompassed the previously released singles. Having toured with the likes of Angel Olsen, POND and Stella Donnelly, Jade Imagine have gained a loyal set of fans from all across the globe. They released their highly anticipated debut album ‘Basic Love’ last year and now they’re back already with a new EP of fresh tunes ‘You Remind Me Of Something I Lost’. Fronted by singer-songwriter Jade McInally the band consists of two brothers Tim and James Harvey who play guitar and drums respectively and Madeline Lo-Booth on bass. They’ve also recently recruited a third member of the Harvey family, Jane, sister of Tim and James to join as a new live member.

Being as socially distant as possible, just the 9,400 miles between us, we spoke to Jade over a zoom call on a sunny spring morning in the UK/ winter night in Australia to talk about the new EP, her debut album and life in these strange ol’ times.

Photo by Lilli Waters

So you released your debut album last year, how was it releasing the album, what did you learn in the process, what was the most challenging part, what was the best part?

I guess, like now that I’ve had a few moments to reflect on the past year or so releasing and everything, probably the most challenging thing was touring so much. I love touring but we were kind of on the road for six months or something last year. And everywhere we went we weren’t playing like headline shows, it was mostly just good support tour shows which are really good opportunities, and you wanna do them and its good to do them but we didn’t have the biggest budget to stay in nice houses or whatever. So yeah I feel like that was pretty exhausting, but its equal parts fun and tiring. And also rewarding, we love playing. The best part was kind of the same thing, you know like getting to tour, getting to go to the UK twice in one year. And doing some shows with Stella Donnelly, that was really fun. 

I guess it was such a long lead up to that record being released, like we’d had it done for nearly two years. And it took us that long to find a record label for international release. I guess it was just a really long process, so when it was out, I guess the highlight was getting to release it, because there had been such a huge build up behind the scenes. I kept forgetting that people hadn’t heard the music, because we’d been living with it for so long. 

And with the new EP, are the songs a similar style to the ones on Basic Love? Or is their a different inspiration behind them?

I feel like they’re better for ‘being inside’ songs. They’re probably some of the ones you’d listen to in headphones more. The content is fairly similar, but from different angles. 

With the touring, as you said you supported Stella Donnelly and POND in the UK, do you have a favourite show from either of those?

That London show with POND was amazing. I mean we’ve played at festivals before, but that was definitely the biggest crowd we’ve played to inside an actual venue. And with Stella Donnelly, the whole tour was really good. We played all the major cities in Australia, but I remember the show in Sydney was really good. It was sold out show, just really fun. And getting to warm up backstage with her band, we did these big group warm ups! Stood in circles and sang together so that was really cute and fun.

Photo via Marathon Artists

I listened back to the album again a few days ago and what was quite funny was that the first song ‘Gonna Do Nothing’ is quite relevant to what we’re going through at the moment where everyone’s just not really doing much. You said before the interview you’d been writing earlier today, has the current period inspired any new music like that?

Yeah I guess, like we’re working on new songs that won’t be out for a while because they’re just getting written, we haven’t recorded them or anything. But yeah it’s weird because i wasn’t writing ‘Gonna Do Nothing’ because I was making a premonition the world. It’s funny because a lot of the songs on Basic Love have a kind of weird, uncanny, future prophecy truth thing going on, which is really bizarre. 

Yeah definitely, because I think if you released that maybe now, people would go “Oh yeah that’s obviously about today”. So what was the main inspiration behind them at them time?

Well I think it was more, when I was writing a lot of those songs it was more to do with half talking about inner city life and taking inspiration from being up at the coast. And I guess with songs like ‘Gonna Do Nothing’ I was kind of taking jabs at suburban lifestyles and the type of lifestyle where it’s 9 – 5, you kind of being boxed in by routine. It seems a lot more topical now, it’s almost like the current circumstances have made them feel like they have more purpose now, which is kind of nice.

Haha yeah definitely, and in terms of writing the songs, do you write everything and then bring it to the rest of the band? Or do you sometimes get together and start writing a song? 

With the album and the EP, I started the idea of the song and then I would usually take it to Tim (Harvey) my guitarist and he helps produce the songs. Like he produced ‘Basic Love’ and the EP that we’re releasing. But all my bandmates are such amazing players and I really love where they take the songs, so I always try and leave room for how things will go. 

Yeah so you give them the idea of what the song should be and let them expand on it.

Yeah so with the recordings, Tim and James are brothers and they’ve played together in bands before, so I feel like they had a really good musical chemistry. And most recently their sister’s joined the band as well, so we’ve got three siblings strong haha.

Haha, a bit of a family affair!

Yeah, it’s cute. But I feel like it’s nice to leave the songs a bit open for those guys to take it in a good direction.

Photo By Nick McKinlay

And with the new EP I think I read that was recorded around the same time as the album?

Yeah we actually recorded it at the same studio around the same time. We weren’t sure what songs were going to be on the album and which were going to be on the EP. We had like 20 songs or something and knew they weren’t going to fit all on one record. So when we were recording we were like let’s have something to come out later. Which feels so weird releasing something that far down the line after you’ve recorded it. But that said I feel like we still really love the songs and It hasn’t taken anything away from them by waiting that long.

Have the songs been played live yet?

Not really, I mean we were playing Coastal Pines for a while but then we got a new bass player and she didn’t know how to play it haha, so we didn’t play it for a while. But we’ll have all the new songs in ‘The Set’ whenever we play live again, or on the internet live.

What’s it been like at the moment releasing the new EP? As normally when you release new music you go and tour behind it, what it’s been like releasing something where you can’t tour it?

It’s been super weird, I guess for every band at the moment that’s releasing stuff, it just feels so weird. But part of me has really enjoyed not having to lug an amp and a guitar and a pedal board to rehearsal every week. I feel like a lot of musicians are quite introverted, there’s been this weird thing happen where you’re kind of forced to film yourself more often and be in front of the camera more often. And it’s been a really strange experience because a lot of the things I feel really comfortable doing, like I love playing live, I don’t really get nervous playing live because I’ve done it a lot, and I enjoy it. But doing Instagram live gigs has been such a weird experience getting used to just like engaging with a screen. It’s almost like pretending you’re having a conversation with yourself and you’re having a great time haha.

Yeah definitely, I suppose onstage when you play you can see how the audience is reacting. But on a screen it’s just like, well do they like it?

My friend sent me this app, that I’m gonna try and use If I have to do another live video. It’s this audience clapping app that apparently senses when the song is ending and it does this like clapping noise so I think I’m going to use that haha, to try and get some vibes in the room

Haha that’s really cool. What will it be like playing that first show after however long it is? 

I feel like it will be potentially be pretty emotional. I had a talk to my friend about this the other day, talking about venues and when gigs start coming back and bands start playing shows, are there going still be the social distancing restrictions? And how would that affect a gig, with everyone stood apart and away from the stage. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and venues might not be able to have as many punters in the room. But as far as playing goes, I’m really itching to play, even just rehearsing or whatever. Which we can do now, apparently, because it’s legal here to have 5 people in a house together. I don’t know what it’s gonna be like when the venues re-open. I guess everyone’s just wanna go out, and go hard I reckon. Like people are just gonna be so sick of being inside.

And I think when they say “Yeah you can properly go out and have a concert as they were again”, I think it will be kind of insane the amount of energy in that room.

Yeah and hopefully all the venues can survive. Like i’ve been trying to think of ways that if I was a manager of a venue right now, I wouldn’t know what to do. A lot of venues are doing take away food and stuff like that to keep getting income. I think when things re-open I feel like everyones just going to have band together and spend heaps of money at pubs to help build them back up again. Hopefully look after our live scene.

There’s a trust organisation over here (Music Venue Trust) that are doing a big fundraiser where a venue can say that if they need support you can go and donate to them. Is there anything like that in Australia? 

No, not at the moment. I mean there’s a really good company called Support Act. A lot of people have been donating money and they provide help for musicians and arts workers. But I’m not sure if they donate money to venues, worth looking into actually.

Photo by Xavier James

As for yourself as an artist and I’m sure most artists are the same where you would go out and tour and make money that way. What’s been the biggest help for you, with things like Bandcamp day?

Well yeah that Bandcamp day has been amazing, like we’ve sold so much merch on those days, when they waive their fees. I noticed there’s a new function on Instagram where there’s like a donate button and apparently when bands are doing a live video, fans can donate a certain amount of money of their choosing to the artists as the live video’s happening. I think that’s kind of cool as it’s like paying entry to a show. I guess just like people buying merch has been really helpful. APRA (Australian Performers Rights Association) have done this thing where usually you get royalties for playing live shows but they’ve made live internet shows a stream of income. So you can get royalties from playing live on the internet. But I think merch has been the biggest part.

You just released a new hoodie I saw recently 

Yeah! We just made that a thing last week. (Available to buy here)

Who designed it?

That was Tim, our guitarist! We were talking about doing some kind of comfortable clothing for people who are in iso. And he was like “What about a hoodie?” So we went with that. And then I was thinking about who could design it or collaborating with an artist, and then I realised I really liked the idea of doing things more closer to home. And he’s a really good artist! Which I always forget, like he’s not an ‘artist’ but he just has a good eye for that kind of stuff. And I feel more and more like I just want things to feel really organic and I just really love getting friends to make things or getting bandmates to do things because I feel like it’s got way more meaning then.

Absolutley. Do you think he could design any more merch for you in the future?

Probably, actually he’s already done something that I think we’re gonna put on a t-shirt.

Oh awesome, i’ll make sure I grab one of those!

Ayy, haha yeah it’s probably too hot over there (UK) to wear hoodies right now.

Yeah its getting into really hot days where all you wanna do is just sit in the garden

That sounds so nice! We’re about to go into the middle of winter so it’s getting pretty cold here.

So in terms of your sound and your style, are their any influences to your sound that you lean on when writing?

So lately, I’ve been getting into this woman called Charlotte Adigéry, but that’s just a random one. I’ve always loved bands that have really good harmonies, like I grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel. I really love recordings that you can hear the room sounds, a lot of old folk stuff. I really love Brian Eno’s ambient stuff, like I love how he blends organic sounding things with really electronic sounds.

I think that first ‘Music For Airports Vol.1’ is my go to calm down album 

Yeah yeah, I’ve been playing a lot of that kind of stuff lately.

Would you ever want to make an ambient album?

Well I’m actually doing that at the moment! But I feel like it’s too early to talk about it yet, because I haven’t written it. But yeah it’s definitely a thing.

Oh cool! I look forward to hearing about that one.

So this question might be a bit of an outsider view on Australian musicians, but I’ve seen in the past 10 years there’s been this huge outflow of really great Australian musicians coming into the ‘Western’ scene. Especially some of the big names like Tame Impala, King Gizzard, Courtney Barnett and yourself, do you feel there’s any particular reason behind this? 

God I don’t know, I feel like its pretty, maybe it’s just a coincidence. I feel like there’s a lot of space in Australia, like you can just go out of the city and just spend a couple of weeks and do your thing. And I feel a lot of bands I know do that, like utilise the country in Australia to regenerate and create ideas. But I’m not too sure if that’s got anything to do with those bands. Yeah like Tame Impala and Pond, they’re all based in WA and there’s amazing nature over there. There’s a lot of space which I kind of feel equates to headspace and having that mental space. Like when I get out of the city I feel like my ideas become clearer and I can kind of get into a zone easier than I can within the city. But I guess also its got something to do with the fact that living in Australia and trying to tour, you have to really want it to get anywhere because its so friggin expensive to travel anywhere. You have to really believe in it, to travel from Perth in Western Australia to Melbourne it nearly a thousand dollars return. So for bands that really want to make a living or to make their music a thing it is quite a challenge. It’s not like the states where you can just jump in a car and drive all the way across and play a big show every night and rake it in. Or similar in Europe where there’s little towns just dotted about. 

Yeah it is quite compact here

Yeah, I’m not quite sure if that’s got anything to do with it, but maybe you’ve got to work harder or makes you try really hard because you don’t wanna fuck it up haha! 

Absolutely yeah that’s just a thing I’d noticed when looking into different artists 

Like I’m really proud of Australian music, I really love a lot of my friends bands. I feel like it’s a cool thing. Who knows what it is though.

Photo by Xavier James

Finally, we’ve just started into a new decade, what have been some of your favourite albums of the last decade?

I have really loved Julia Jacklin’s records and Stella Donnelly’s. Talking of King Gizzard, their Paper Maché Dream Balloon album, that acoustic album they did is such a great one.

Awesome that’s everything I think, hopefully see you at a show again soon!

Yeah I’m hoping we can tour as soon as possible, who knows! 

A BIG thank you to Jade for spending an evening talking to us and to Eleanor at Our Golden Friend for helping organise the interview.

‘Basic Love’ is available to buy here. Limited cassettes of ‘You Remind Me Of Something You Lost’ are available to buy here (while they last) and available to stream world-wide now.

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