Jason John Leigh, frontman of Melbourne group The Stiffys, details the journey behind his debut album as Goodthankyou, 'The Kennards Sessions', for The Music.
Every night for the last two years, I’ve ridden an electric scooter to a dank storage unit to work while the rest of the world sleeps — teaching myself drums, slowly building a studio with broken gear, learning how to record, writing hundreds of shitty songs, and figuring out how to be an entire band by myself.
The result is THE KENNARDS SESSIONS — a ‘Hero’s Journey’ style story about a big fish who leaves a small pond and loses everything, only to find themselves. It’s about searching for your place, getting distracted by life and lust, being broken, facing your demons and finally finding a home in the arms of another.
It’s an album by someone operating at the absolute limits of their ability — musically, technically, and technologically. The sound in the unit is shit, and if you listen closely, you can probably hear hints of Tina Arena blasting on the storage facility’s 24/7 radio speakers.
The songs are completely limited by my amateur drumming skills, which forced me to approach writing differently and find a whole new sound in the process. I’m prouder of this record than anything I’ve ever done, and it’s really exciting that this is just the beginning of a whole new thing.
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This is just an explosion of sadness about feeling far away from my bandmates and far away from my dreams. It’s not a song; it’s a statement—a heads-up that you’re about to embark on a fairly hectic 33 minutes.
It’s a stream-of-consciousness rant about a night I had at the Tote, playing as a session musician for some guys who had become impossibly cool overnight at a time when I was feeling particularly uncool. It’s a terrible way to start a rock and roll record, but I just wanted to surprise people a bit.
I have a piece of paper on the wall of the storage unit that says, “MAKE THE BEST THING THAT YOU CAN MAKE, FUCK EVERYTHING ELSE”. I put it there because, in music, it’s easy to get distracted by things that are not music — guessing what people want, being cool, being competitive, being profitable, making it big, making it bigger. It’s only when I let all that go that the good songs come.
I think I might have ADHD. I think I might be self-medicating.
This song is about giving up on trying to be somebody, only to find yourself.
This is a song about ego—the peak before the crash. I think we all feel like this sometimes.
This song is about leaving the Mornington Peninsula, a place I desperately wanted to fit into for a long time. It’s also sort of a love letter to my high school best friend, but I haven’t told him. It's not romantic love, but you know what I mean.
This song is about the absolute gamble that is rock and roll, especially for an independent musician and the wild optimism it requires. More specifically, the time The Stiffys had invested everything into a record, a big tour, and a publicist, and then I fell off my skateboard at the start of the tour and broke my arm, and we had to cancel the whole thing. I still have pins in my arm.
This song is an apology.
I had a pretty weird childhood. I can’t say exactly what this song is about because it’d get people into trouble. I probably should have changed the names.
I nearly didn’t put this out because it’s too raw, but I showed a rough version of the album to some mates, and they all said this was their favourite.
This was an experiment with mild hallucinogens and songwriting. I’d gone in to record some intellectual drums and bass thing, but when mushrooms kicked in, they brought with them an urgent desire to make a sweaty tribal sex track.
The song marvels at women and how love costs them so much more. How reckless and brave it is for them to fall in love and how our species relies on them ripping their hearts, lives and bodies apart for it.
To really labour the point — it’s insane that, as a guy, I can fall in love on a dancefloor and think, “Wow, it’d be so fun to have sex”. But from a woman’s perspective, she’s thinking, “Wow, it’d be so fun to have sex…even though I know my life and body could be ripped apart as a result of that; OK, cool, yeah, let’s do it.”