Playing to an orchestra and revisiting 20-year-old songs: a chat with Kav from Eskimo Joe

They may have been kicking around for a whopping 21 years now, but Eskimo Joe haven’t gone anywhere. Having shifted their gaze towards tightly curated reissues and grander live performances in recent times, it’s possible there’s never been a better moment to catch them in the flesh.

Having just announced their presence at the upcoming Brisbane Festival, we reached out to frontman Kav Temperley for a chat.

eskimo joe kav temperley brisbane festival

At 21 years in the biz, Eskimo Joe are still finding new ways to up the game. Ahead of their newest tour dates, with take 5 with Kav Temperley.

HAPPY: Hey Kav, cheers for chatting! What have you guys been up to lately?

KAV: We’ve been busy playing a bunch of orchestra shows as well as working on reissuing our back catalog, we’ve always got our fingers stuck in a few pies, which is probably why my hands are covered in pie all the time.

HAPPY: We’ve really been loving all those extra little goodies. You recently released on the Ghosts of the Past re-issue (the variants look sick as well) – what’s it like seeing an album you dropped years ago being re-released into the world?

KAV: Seeing the artwork reworked has been cool, in the digital world it almost feels like album artwork is becoming a lost art, but also we put so much thought and love into these records that it’s great to see them get a second run.

HAPPY: Do you think doing something like that breathes new life into an album?

KAV: Once I’ve finished an album I very rarely go back and listen to it again, we’re usually busy working on the next stage which is rehearsing to play it live and then writing a new record. Sometimes the old songs become like old stories that get in the way of you progressing as a songwriter, so you have to chuck them out with recycling. But with the reissues I’ve been sitting down and really listening again, especially to the vinyl – it’s like catching up with an old friend and remembering that you were once really close and fond of each other. Songs like Who Sold Her Out, we haven’t played that song in years, but hearing it back again I found myself thinking “This great, we should play this again!”

HAPPY: Eskimo Joe recently turned 21, congrats! Are there any albums in your discography that you look back particularly fondly on?

KAV: I think A Song Is A City was still an amazing time in our lives, we had so much self-belief, a great jam room and a terrific group of bands and musicians around us, and in the middle of this we were just loving making music together. We were lucky enough to work with some amazing people like Paul McKercher and Nick Launay, but it was also a period of us taking control of the recording process which planted the seeds for us to back ourselves and produce Black Fingernails, Red Wine.

HAPPY: You recently did a run of orchestra shows, which looked absolutely incredible. What was it like having such an epic backing band?

KAV: To hear all of these songs that started on an acoustic guitar in our bedrooms transformed into something so grand and beautiful was an absolute buzz… when you’re standing on stage and the power of an orchestra kicks in behind you, it’s very hard to keep a straight face. I’ve spent most of the time so far grinning from ear to ear. It’s probably the first time in a very long time we’ve all been nervous before walking onstage, I think all of us have this sense of ‘this is something really special, so don’t fuck it up!!’

HAPPY: Later this year you’ll be doing a similar thing as part of The Brisbane Festival, have you made any changes to the show since that last run?

KAV: One of the things that’s going to be different and special about the Brisbane Festival show with Camerata is that it’s not going to be quite as formal as the Sydney Opera House show, I think that’s going bring an element of playfulness that hasn’t been there at any of the other orchestral shows so far.

HAPPY: How different can we expect your songs to be with backing from a full chamber orchestra?

KAV: Some of the arrangers we’ve worked with leading up to this show have really turned the songs on their heads in the most beautiful way, some songs like Running Out Of Needs from our Wastelands album have really taken on a whole new life.

HAPPY: Where’d the idea come from to do a show like this?

KAV: A few years back we had all planned on taking some off to work on other projects, but of course the first thing that popped into my mind is ‘I wonder what we’ll do next…’ I went to see a close friend perform with WASO [West Australian Symphony Orchestra] and I was sold. Two years later and a whole lot of brilliant organisation and here we are!

HAPPY: Any other exciting things coming up in the Eskimo Joe camp?

KAV: We have some big rock ‘n’ roll shows coming up early next year with the Under the Southern Stars concert series, also the Caloundra Music Festival a few days after our performance with Camerata in September this year. Then we might look at doing a classic album tour where we play some of our records in full. As always we’ll keep our fingers in many many pies!


Eskimo Joe live

28th September – Eskimo Joe with Camerata, QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane QLD – Tickets
30th September – Caloundra Music Festival, Kings Beach Park, Caloundra QLD
12th January – Under The Southern Stars, Hastings Foreshore Reserve, Hastings NSW
25th January – Under The Southern Stars, Harts Mill, Port Adelaide SA
26th January – Under The Southern Stars, Shoalhaven City Turf Club, Nowra NSW
27th January – Under The Southern Stars, Westport Park, Port Macquarie NSW