Garage Rock

21 June 2012 | 5:52 am | Troy Mutton

“There’s a lot of people that are in bands and they’re not playing music, you know, they’re just playing somethin’ else; they’re playing someone else’s music."

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We Keep The Beat, Found The Sound, See The Need, Start The Heart. That's the title of Sydney folk-pop-rocker Jonathan Boulet's follow-up to his much lauded self-titled debut. The story behind it isn't the most exciting – it's simply an old song lyric Boulet had written a long time ago that stuck – but the album itself is. Chanting choirs, rumbling percussion, driving, rhythmic basslines, and soaring harmonies abound on album that, above all else, bursts with energy.

“For me, I like the word energy,” begins a lackadaisical Boulet at home, getting back into the swing of album promo. “Definitely musically a lot of it sounds happy, but for me the songs are about other things. They're not all about having a good time; they've got different messages to them. I think through that kind of music, I'm just trying to get as much energy out as I can. So that's what we're trying to do live. We just try and make it loud and full-on for people to get into it.”

It has been a few years since Boulet burst onto the scene – backed by 'Aus heavyweight record label Modular – with a debut album adored by many, and famously put together almost entirely by Boulet within the surrounds of his parent's garage. For album number two, the setting remains the same.

“Yeah, it was the same thing again. I was trying to move and then it was like, 'Well I need to do the second record, so maybe I'll just do this first really quick and then I'll move out', so it was still in the garage. I just got some extra gear this time around and just went for it,” he tells, going on to explain it's a process he'll probably keep coming back to.

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“It's so different, you get a lot more time. When you're in a studio you're paying by the hour, and there's a pressure there that you have to get it done and get everything finished. Doing it yourself means you can just take your time and if you're not feeling like it you can come back the next week and try something else. It just allows for a lot of experimentation and it also costs a lot less. And it helps to learn. I've learnt a lot about sound, and that translates a lot to live shows and just how to mix bands. It's a good learning experience.”

The album itself didn't actually take that long to get together, it was just a matter of finding time between touring and playing with other bands. “It was kinda after the first one and some touring that I just started to think of some ideas and put some stuff together. I went through a big list of songs and demo'd a bunch of stuff and then I'd listen to it the next day and go 'Ahh, this sucks'. And I kept trying to push it and get it better and better. Over a period of six months we were writing it and recorded it early last year, and it was done then.”

As for highlights over the recording process, one in particular stands out for Boulet. “We just got the band and all their friends [together] and it was really fun doing [the chanting parts]. We had everyone in the room trying to scream out these vocals and trying to read it off the whiteboard with really dodgily scrawled-on lyrics and one pair of headphones, so everyone had to lean in to this one pair so they could hear where the beat was. It was really weird.”

Given that the album has been ready to go for a while now, the actual adding of many of the songs into the Jonathan Boulet live shows has already taken place, although it's still a constant process that can sometimes end not so well. “The new ones that we have been playing we've been getting a lot more comfortable with now. There's still a couple on there that we haven't tried yet. There'll be a point in the shows where we start trying the new ones and it'll be like the set will be going great, then we'll try a new one and the set will just die,” he laughs. “But we'll figure it out. There's always a period where it's not gonna sound that great, so we've just gotta get that out of the way as quick as possible.”

While it's fairly common knowledge that Boulet is a part of Sydney indie-rockers Parades, he also rocks the bass guitar in another Sydney outfit, Snakeface, whose name pretty much sums up their sound. The power violence punks just released an album called Oberon, and all has been going swimmingly – when they can get together to play. “Yeah, lately we just put out a record and played a bunch of shows, which was the most fun ever. We had a really good time and a really good response from crowds,” Boulet enthuses.

“With that band you're not sure when you can get everyone together, everyone's got jobs and always doing stuff. It'd be great to be able to do it more, we're just not sure when we can get together.” The enthusiasm in his voice when talking Snakeface is easily explained by the fact that it's an outlet for him to explore the heavier sounds that he enjoys; ones that, while not as explicitly on display in his own works, are definitely there. “Yeah, it's perfect. It's just good to have that difference and variation.

“And it's definitely affecting the solo stuff as well. I'm trying to get certain vibes that you can only get in those shows and that you can't get anywhere. So it's like a challenge, like I wanna get this sound with our gay pop music,” he laughs. “There's a lot of characteristics that I'm trying to get over [into Jonathan Boulet] as much as I can.”

Boulet has developed a rather unique sound, first with his debut, and it's now been extended further with We Keep The Beat... This scribe was curious to see where he feels Jonathan Boulet fits on the Australian musical landscape. “I dunno, I'm not sure…” he pauses to consider. “I'd like to fit in the music part,” he jests, clarifying: “There's a lot of people that are in bands and they're not playing music, you know, they're just playing somethin' else; they're playing someone else's music, and I'd love to be one of those bands that's just playing their own music, you know? They're not like, 'Oh, that's just this band again'. I like to be our own band.”

And has he achieved that? “Maybe. It's hard to judge because I'm so close to it. But I hope so, I'm trying as hard as I can. And at the same time it doesn't matter, as long as I'm doing music I wanna do.”

So far, so good.