Jacob Check into Hospital
On the release of their riotously fun new single, Hospital, Newcastle-Wollongong five-piece Jacob talk tour habits, embracing fun, and the absurdist influence behind their upcoming third LP, 'The Rock Band'
Image credit: Teel Studios
Jacob are on the road again.
It’s a familiar feeling, but lead singer Ruairi isn’t sure they’ll ever fully adjust. “We have this kind of dynamic: we're all annoyed at each other all the time, but in a fun way,” he says, lighthearted. In the background, the other members of Jacob — Andrew, Jamie, Stuart, and Kristian — laugh along in agreement. “We have not been getting the right mix of sleep and relaxation, it's just been full on,” he explains. “Every other tour we've done, we've kind of done like two shows a weekend, but this time we've been cramming in four shows per week.” Ruairi’s high spirits and high energy, the fatigue hardly showing as he jumps at the chance to share jokes with the rest of the van. “I mean, really we were just booking shows for places to stay, and they put us up for free!”
2023 is shaping up to be a big year for the band: they’re celebrating a decade of their first project, Time To Get Up, they’re upping the ante on their tours, and they’re gearing up for the release of their third record, The Rock Band. Their fist-pumping first single, Atom Bomb, built on the pop-punk punch they were finessing with 2018’s Show Me Some Passion, and their new peppy single, Hospital, leans more fully into the fun of it all.
“This is definitely my favorite single of the bunch,” says Ruairi excitedly. “We actually pushed it back,” he admits, with the band’s fondness for the track making them reconsider their release plan. Taking influence from the sounds of the genre’s forebears, it’s inspired by an unlikely muse — an eccentric comedy writer whose skill is rivaled only by his mystique. As Ruairi explains, The Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder is so secretive, “even Simpsons fanatics” mightn’t know of his impact.
At one time, Swartzwelder’s entire existence was debated by fans, who posited his name could just be a writing room alias. “So many questions I had about him,” waxes Ruairi: “was this man real? Was he a figment of the writer's imagination? Was he simply a pseudonym?” This reclusive eccentricity is not the source of his legend, but fuel to the fire of his comic ability: as the most prolific writer in The Simpsons history, his absurd and off-the-wall jokes have earned him a high esteem amongst the show’s greatest writers. “I found it all fascinating, and yeah, a lot of that just wound up being the basis of the song, because I just couldn't stop thinking about it.”
“I don't even remember how I initially came across him,” says Ruairi, “but once I did, I started reading a lot of his books.” Those absurdist novels, uncompromising and self-published, became a touchstone for Ruairi as both a fan and an artist in his own right. “It's just as funny as the writing on The Simpsons,” he lauds. “It turned out to be a real turning point for the way I was writing lyrics at the time, because we were really trying to embrace fun and sweetness, and you know, that's all Schwarzwelder.”
Non-sequiturs and absurd images channel that voice, with a few references to the work of the man himself. “They’re a sitcom filled with cowboys, find it kind of hard to follow / ‘cause they don’t have props or actors or a camera,” sings Ruairi as the song launches into the chorus, a reference to Swartzwelder’s unaired pilot Pistol Pete. “I thought I just loved the Simpsons, and then you know, once I'd gotten to know Schwarzwelder a bit more, I was like, 'Oh my God, this is what I love.” That love became not just a lynchpin for Hospital, but the entire new record itself. Ruairi describes their first couple of records as “moody,” contrasting them with the absurdist embrace of The Rock Band. “We were just like, 'Nah, let's just get ridiculous.' It's more fun for us, and writing lyrics especially… we've just been cracking each other up.”
Hospital comes complete with a flashy, energetic music video, one that represents a new high for the five-piece. “This time, we actually paid someone,” he says with a laugh. “We were so happy with it, though.” The director, Liam Mahoney, is “one of their Wollongong friends,” and that connection fostered a relaxed and improvisational set — the kind in which the raucous members of Jacob shine. “He was keen to work on it, and we were finally keen to do a good video,” says Rauiri excitedly. “Everything else we've just done on iMovie!”
The track arrives amidst a generational pop-punk resurgence, with hip-hop folding punky palettes into the mix — see Uzi’s Pink Tape — and original genre stalwarts reconvening, such as on the recent MCR and Jimmy Eat World tour. “I don't even know if I have an answer,” says Ruairi of the reason behind that recent renaissance. “I mean, is it just clever marketing? Is it just the 20-year cycle of music and trends? Maybe it is that there's more of a disconnect today, people are feeling more like outcasts, and they're searching these things out at the moment because the world has gone completely insane.” He’s still not sure about where Jacob themselves sit in that wave, though he’s unconcerned as he wonders aloud. “I'm not even sure Jacob fit that well into the new resurgence,” he admits, “because, I mean, while at the same time, it's still fun… I don't know, I just feel like we don't even play shows with those bands, we're not invited!”
If Jacob aren’t invited to the party, they’re more than capable of making their own, and the next few months sound like a rager. “I'm really keen to get this new single out, and for people to see the video,” says Rauiri, audibly excited, “we've been really looking forward to that for ages.” That’s just another step on the way to The Rock Band, which has been a long time coming. “I'm also just keen to get the vinyl,” adds Ruairi, “because my partner Maisie did all the design work for the inserts and cover. I really want to see what they did with it, because honestly, the layouts that they put up were really confusing. I’m like, what is this even going to look like!?”
We’ll all know soon enough: The Rock Band, the new record from Jacob, is out August 18.