Methyl Ethel is a three-piece band coming all the way from Perth, on the Western coast of Australia, somewhere where it gets scorching hot in the summer. A place that drives creativity in Methyl Ethel’s realm. A place that could easily melt your brains like butter. A feeling the three band members thrive in and get inspired. They’re in Paris for The Great French Escape, sharing the stage with three other bands from Australia, and the coolest Danish boyband to surface this year: Liss. They’re here in support of their re-released album “Oh Inhuman Spectacles” (listen below) out via 4AD on May 16th globally. Sophie sat down with Tom, Chris & Jake from Methyl Ethyl and chatted French culture, history, the album, and asked them to recommend a few local australian bands for us. Read on.
Interview by Sophie. Introduction by Sodwee. Photographs by Michela Cuccagna.[separator type=”space”] [separator type=”thick”]
Jake, you started Methyl Ethel as a solo project to finally end up as a trio with Thom and Chris. Can you come back on this ?
Jake : I think it became a band primarily because I got invited to play a show by our local Perth community radio station so I put together a band for that. I never intended it to be a gigging band. It was mainly all girls and these girls played in another band from Perth. They had another show to play so these guys came on board, we’ve been friends for a long time, and it became a band. I just cut the story short ! (laughing)
You released your first album last year but it has been globally released this spring. Isn’t it kind of scary to promote this album for the second time ?
Jake : (laughing) It’s ok, we get to come here and promote it !
But I suppose it may be strange to talk about songs you created a while back.
Jake : Yes, it’s difficult to reapproach things. For example, we made a music video recently for one of the songs of the album (Twilight Driving) and the process of getting back into it was particularly difficult because it’s so long ago and the follow-up to this album is almost finished.
What I’m about to say is actually compliment…
(laughing) That’s a good start !
“When you look at all the other categories in the West Australian Music Award, Pop is probably the most appropriate one.” – Chris from Methyl Ethel
When I first heard your voice I kinda thought it was a woman singing and the name of the band also confused me cause it sounds like a girl’s name for me. Was it on purpose ?
Jake : It was ! Initially the whole idea was to be faceless and genderless. To a large degree it’s nice to be able to keep the music genderless even though some lyrics point towards the masculine. And confusing people is fun to do !
Your record was shortlisted for the AMP and you won two prizes at the West Australian Music Awards. I guess that’s a good start for a first album !
Jake : That’s always a good thing to be recognized at home cause there are so many good bands where we’re from. That’s a good achievement !
Among these prizes, you received the best Pop act award. Do you think it’s a good way to define your music ?
Thom : We love Pop music so I guess that’s a compliment.
Chris : When you look at all the other categories in the West Australian Music Award, Pop is probably the most appropriate one.
Though Australian I suspect you have a certain crush for France : Idée Fixe, the video for Rogues… it can’t be a coincidence !
Jake : Yeah totally, I love you France ! It’s a pleasure to get to play here. This is my fourth time, Tom has been here before and Chris is a virgin ! (laughing)
What do you like about France ?
It has a lot to do with the history of great writers that I like, people from historical France. The French way, the French attitude.
What’s the story behind the video for Idée Fixe ? It’s very up-to-date with the Cannes Festival !
A lot of the record deals with the theme of the private and the public and with Oliver [Groulx, French Canadian director] with had a conversation about that and he came up with an idea. I think a film festival was going on and he took the idea of the actress kind of mirroring how I had come to write the album, the actress who sort of lives her life in the public. His visual approach was to use a lot of classic imagery, that’s why it skips between the old black and white screen tests all the way through. He’s an incredible director and i twas a pleasure to be able to work with him. The Scot Walker’s video [Epizootics!] is a particular favorite of mine.
Do you have an idée fixe ?
Thom, talking to Jake : Yours is probably France !
Jake, sipping wine : I guess… but no, music is the one thing you can’t escape.
Talking about escape, you performed at the Great Escape. How did it go ?
Jake : We had a lot of fun I think !
Thom : It’s a nice festival, pretty relaxed. I mean, we didn’t over exhaust ourselves [they had 3 shows] and had a lot of time to relax as well.
Then you had time to discover other bands!
Jake : We had time but we didn’t do a lot of research. We found quiet bars!
Thom : and the beach !
You’re performing tonight as part of a special night [The French Escape at La Flèche d’Or] and 3 out of the 4 bands are from Australia. I just wanted to know if they were any Aussie bands you would recommend ?
Chris : Totally Mild, they put out an album last year on the same record label we’re in in Australia. It’s really great.
Thom : I’ve been listening to the new D.D Dumbo single, that’s awesome.
Jake : Jalaa. We’ve just did an Australian tour with them.
Tonight the venue will organise a BBQ or as you call it a ‘barbie’. Any Australian suggestion ?
Thom : We don’t really put shrimp on the barbie ! (laughing) I would say pieces of artichoke cause Jake is a vegetarian !
Jake : And Thom can’t eat anything with gluten in it ! We don’t cook that many BBQs at home !
Chris : I like a piece of steak from time to time for my iron level ! (laughing)
Finally since Sodwee stands for Sound of The Week, what would be your sound of the week ?
Jake : I’ve been listening to, on repeat, Kate Bush The Sensual World. (VIEW VIDEO) (laughing)
Thom : Yes, that’s been played pretty heavily at the moment !