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Nice Jugs

1 May 2014 | 2:01 pm | Samson McDougall

"With five people there, there was gonna be some good stuff crop up.”

Camilla Hodgkins describes The Perch Creek Family Jugband's situation as a kind of “weird social experiment”. Of the five band members, four are siblings from the Perch Creek Hodgkins clan and the other bloke is Camilla's partner, James Chandler. While siblings may not be your first choice for creative cohorts, TPCFJ have made the jump from street corner novelty busking act to full-blown touring and album-making band. “We used to see ourselves as just people who busked together,” says Chandler. “But then we started to see ourselves as a band doing proper band stuff and actually, you know, artists... You could just busk forever, or you could go on a journey and see where the band takes you.”
The switch was flipped following the band's 2010 trip to Europe. Having successfully toured overseas and actually broken even, the group upped stumps and moved south to Melbourne in 2011. “Our brother Christi, who's the harmonica player, was 16 at the time, so he was still in high school,” says Hodgkins. “He really wanted to come with us so we all rented a house together and found a school for Christi to go to so he could do Year 11 and 12, not that he ended up going that much 'cause we were always away on tour. But it kept the parents happy.”
For their second album, Jumping On The Highwire, the Hodgkinses and Chandler set up in a house on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula for eight days of intensive creativity. Song-wise, they arrived with nothing but instruments and scrap paper. “We decided to try and make a routine,” says Hodgkins. “So we started at a certain time and did stream-of-consciousness writing and read it all out and just got comfortable with it, I s'pose, being able to write whatever shit we wanted and being prepared for other people to say that it was shit... With five people there, there was gonna be some good stuff crop up.”
The result of the experiment is a wider-eyed and far more diverse record than its predecessor. “I mixed the album so I've listened to it, like, ten million times,” says Chandler. “What's funny is finding pieces of scrap paper – we've got this big pile of all of the rough workings – and flicking through them. It's like, 'Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. Oh! That's the line from this song that's now so familiar to me.' I'm like, 'Oh, that's where it came from.'”