Spacey Jane Embrace Change
"Yeah, I think it's so weird, the way we make music changes all the time"
It feels only appropriate that acclaimed Fremantle-based four-piece Spacey Jane are releasing their second album, Here Comes Everybody in June, as in this same month two years ago they released their now iconic debut album, Sunlight… and nothing would ever be the same for them again.
Comprised of vocalist and guitarist Caleb Harper, guitarist Ashton Hardman-Le Cornu, drummer/manager Kieran Lama and bassist Peppa Lane, who upon joining in 2019 “revatlised” the band, in their own words, the group were soon in for another revitalisation of sorts. After dropping their debut album, monster single Booster Seat famously went on to (and continues to!) rack up countless streams, as well as coming in at #2 on the triple j hottest 100 of 2020, and winning Song of the Year at the 2021 ARIAS.
Before we’d even heard Sunlight, however, the band had begun work on album number two - Here Comes Everybody (a title inspired by the working title for the 2001 Wilco album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which Harper asked permission to use), with early single Lots of Nothing delighting fans and coming in at #3 on the 2021 hottest 100.
In contrast to the introspective, deeply personal themes of Sunlight, Lots of Nothing sees Harper opening up lyrically, saying “I want it to be a guide to the experiences that are coming for those entering a period of life I’m leaving”, while musically the band have grown, showing off their pop sensibilities alongside emotional ballad writing abilities.
To celebrate the release of Here Comes Everybody, the band will be setting off on a huge Australia, New Zealand and American tour. Before they set off, we jumped on the line with Caleb and Peppa to chat all things Spaceys.
I wanted to start off by asking you, Caleb, about the title of the album and the connection to Wilco - I believe it was a working title for a Wilco record and you reached out to Jeff Tweedy (Wilco frontman) for permission to use the title?
Caleb: Yeah, through Sloaney, our agent, he had a contact - he knew someone who knew someone who knew Jeff. And so I wrote like a very long email letter explaining how much Yankee Hotel meant to me and sort of how I felt like the title connected to the themes of our recor and yeah, he said, no worries, which is cool, got his blessing.
Did you expect a reply at all?
Caleb: I don't know. I mean, I was hopeful, because like, it was sort of a pretty direct contact, in the sense that it wasn't like a stab in the dark. But then he, actually - I didn't see the reply for like, five weeks, it got buried in my emails and so I just thought he couldn't be bothered. And then I finally, I kind of asked about it again and Sloaney was like “yeah, it’s there, he’s replied”. So that was cool.
So cool! And like, what if he didn’t reply, was there a plan B title?
Caleb: No, I mean, I kept saying that we would just use it anyway… In hindsight, I wouldn't have done that. That would be pretty rude. But then also, it's like, I can't see why he would’ve said no. There wasn’t a plan B. Coming up with names like that is really hard, I don’t know how you do it… except for like, taking it from someone else *laughs*
*laughs* And I guess this time around you’re also going from one word to a three word album title *laughs*
Caleb: Yeah, yeah, we’re coming in with some weight this time, you know?
So you started working on the new album before your debut, Sunlight, had even been released - I’m guessing in that period of waiting for it to be mastered, released etc - what was it like starting a new album without knowing how the first one was fully received?
Caleb: I think we were like, it was just as COVID hit, it was March, April 2020. So it was kind of that flat spin period for us all of like, “oh, shit like, musics dead”. And so was our band. And so that kind of like, anxiety fueled the need to do something, and so that's where it started, you know, it was sort of weird. Like, it wouldn't have probably started that soon, we would have been touring. And I think, yeah, I mean, I don't really know how it would have been different if that's not how it started. But yeah, that's, that's what fueled that, I guess, and that's the only reason it started.
What about like, in terms of not being able to test any of these new ideas in a live setting, is that different to what happened for the first record?
Caleb: I don't know, I can't remember how many songs off Sunlight we played live. Like really, I think, other than the singles, we hadn't played them, so we already sort of had that attitude going into it. And yeah, like as much as we'd like to be workshopping stuff live, it’s sort of like, these are songs for people to listen to, and will mostly be consumed through a streaming platform, you know, I think that's kind of the focus we put on it now. We definitely think about live stuff, but I don't know like, I think more about how... we do think about it a lot but, it's mostly about what makes a song Good. On its own.
Yeah for sure, that’s the version that’s gonna be there forever. So at what point during writing the second album do you, Peppa, and the rest of the crew get involved in the process?
Peppa: The first time it was in the rehearsal studio, and then we fleshed things out in the recording studio, and then we all went on a writing trip for the second batch of songs, so it’s sort of two batches of songs. And the second one we hired out an Airbnb and went down south and it was just really beautiful.
Caleb: Yeah, so nice. It was this like, old couple that ran it, like from the house next door they were the caretakers, and they were like “go as late as you want, we sleep like the dead!” *laughs* There was a power outage for a day.
Peppa: Oh yeah!
Caleb: A scheduled one, so Ash and I drove into Bunbury and bought like a huge 2kVA genny, and like powered the house off a generator for a day *laughs*
Probably an ambiguous question, but like, what sort of impacts do you think little adventures like that have on writing, as opposed to say if you got into it that day and everything went to plan?
Caleb: Yeah, I don’t know, that's interesting. I think that sort of trip felt like the whole thing was a shake up in terms of, compared to how we’ve normally done things, which was cool. And I guess that was just part and parcel of that. So I think, like being together for that writing period, like sort of like living on top of each other, yeah, that was really, that was amazing. And I'm sure the generator ends up as part of it *laughs*
Peppa: In the back of most of the songs...
Caleb: Yeah, in all the demos *laughs* Remember the cows, Peppa? We had these cows, and we like, stood there for ages with this pile of grass trying to get them to come to the fence, they finally came over, fucking awesome *laughs* Cows are so cute.
I love that, could take this interview in a whole different direction but we can talk more cows later *laughs* Is a writing trip like this something you’d do again in future for the next one?
Peppa: Yeah, it was fun.
Caleb: Yeah, I think it's so weird, the way we make music changes all the time. Like, we have not been in a place to do things consistently yet as a band, which is cool. And I don't know if we ever will, if there's a good way or reason to change things, and you might as well, you know, keep things exciting.
So what’s changed recently as an example?
Caleb: I mean, I've been writing with other people lots, which is fun, doing writing trips and sort of, just getting other people's input at a really fundamental or foundational level for songs, which is cool. That’s something I used to be really precious about, but I’m learning to be more proactive with, which I've found really interesting. And even we don't use those songs, I think I’m learning lots about the process of songwriting and sort of like, changing the environment,I think that's the biggest thing is like, doing things differently.
And even with Here Comes Everybody, we brought in a new producer and like, recorded in different places, and all that makes a big difference. I think it's really hard to change things , unless you’re sort of a real crazy genius, when you're not changing anything around you, like your output is so influenced by your environment, and the people around you and things like that. And so making those changes, I think it's been important for us.
Is that like, potentially reflected by the themes of the records with the first being a bit more introspective and this one a bit more open?
Caleb: For sure. I mean, I just got sick of talking about myself all the time, I’m trying to not do that as much. And I think with the collective navel gazing that COVID induced, I think I was like, I don't want to necessarily be party to that. More and more, maybe I will look outwards instead. And so yeah, I tried to do that.
And you are doing more of it, as you say, with the collaborative writing stuff. You talked about recording in different places, and I wanted to hear about the experience of some of you stuck in Brisbane and some of you over here during the recording process?
Peppa: Yes, I was in Perth.
And you were over in Brisbane. Caleb?
Caleb: Yeah, Ash and I were in Brisbane. It was cool. It was weird, like that was the first time we'd ever - other than like that riding trip, we sort of felt like we were like traveling businessmen, it was so funny, like getting up every morning and driving the car to the studio. We really lived inside the record and the music and got to know it really well. And I think that both allowed us to have a broader perspective of the record in total but it also allowed us to focus on those tiny details more than we would have normally, because you're hearing it every day and like things that stand out to you. And I think that was cool.
What about the mental aspect of just being like “when the fuck can I go home?!”, like did that have an impact?
Caleb: I think in some ways, like when we're recording it though we were the novelty was still very much alive. It wasn't till after we finished recording that we were like shit. It was pretty fun up until then. And then the, not anxiety, but I guess just like the worry set in like, “oh, man, we gotta go back and do stuff, other things”. And that definitely became a challenge. Yeah, but at the time, it was fun.
What about for you Peppa, being back here with like, I guess a bit more normality?
Peppa: It was really amazing, actually, we would just every few days get a few bounces from Caleb and Ash and then hear these amazing creations that they were making, you know, we weren’t there for every tiny little step of the way, we got to see the big projects as they were going so yeah, it was cool.
I guess that also reinforces the whole different processes each time thing. Were you guys just like “oooh, what are they gonna send back?” each morning?
Peppa: Yeah, exactly. It was both like, really exciting every time and also, because you know, when you're so used to hearing a demo or something in the way that you expect it and then they would have rearranged and made all these beautiful sounds and yeah, it was awesome.
I’m almost like imagining you guys like trying to surprise each other.
Caleb: I think like, for Peppa and Kieran, it would have been tough, they had to have a lot of trust in us to do those things which is like, yeah, it was interesting. And ideally, you know, in the future, we're able to be more day by day with it.
Actually one day as well, I went into the studio when we were back in Perth, and we were doing like the finishing finishing touches, and Parko and Peppa came in with like a harmony that Pep had done, they like so dead pan look at me like “what do you think of that?!” and it was so bad, like they’d intentionally thrown it and just sung terribly. *laughs* I can’t remember how I reacted, I didn’t quite know straight away.
Peppa: You were really polite about it, you were like “oh, maybe we can have another little go of it” or something *laughs* We did it to Kieran and Ash as well.
Caleb: Yeah Kieran was like, just straight away like “what the fuck is that?!” *laughs*
*laughs* That is hilarious. Like “oh, we’ll just fix this in post”, you know?
Caleb: We were not fixing it in post…
Peppa: We were like “no we really like it and we’re just wondering what you guys think?”
Caleb: Funnily enough, that harmony, we actually pulled it out in the end because the ridiculousness actually proved that it sort of, wasn’t that good.
Peppa: And we couldn’t not hear it as well after we did it.
Caleb: Yeah, you ruined it! *laughs*
Hey, next technique, do ridiculous versions of everything and see what stands the test… so are you guys a bit mischievous in general, you know, tour antics and that sort of thing?
Caleb: *laughs* Oh no, Peppa? Honestly, actually, we have tamed down a lot in the last couple of years.
Hey, even feeding cows counts as antics to me.
Caleb: Yeah, it’s mostly like - I was saying yesterday, I feel like when we get together, it's like a bunch of people in year eight, like 13 year olds. Just like so silly in the best way, like it's not to say anything negative about being in year eight, I just, I feel like, we are so childish. And it's really nice, like we're given a license to do that. In every other aspect of my life I’m losing that ability. We hung out for the first time yesterday in six weeks, like all four of us together. It was so funny. And I enjoyed my time. Felt like an idiot again.
I love it, and I can’t help but think about something from the press material now, Caleb, about you leaving a period of your life behind and you want this record to reflect those experiences - for a 33 year old who’s basically 13, what period of your life are you leaving behind?
Caleb: I think it's like, I wouldn't necessarily be leaving anything unless I sort of decided to like, mark that time for myself. And you know, I'm 25, about to turn 26 and feel like it's that sort of early 20s, late teens period of sort of the great identity crisis of the early 20s I think a lot of people go through, and sort of that real chameleon-like nature of life and trying to find the right people to have around you and find your community and things like that.
And the uncertainty that comes with, you know, what is my job and what do I want to get my education in? And like, all these sorts of things, that's sort of that thing that I'm referring to. But then to suggest that I am just like, I'm free now is also not the reality. There's still lingering effects and parts of that for sure. It's just, I sort of see it more clearly now maybe, for myself.
What about you Peppa? Relatable at all?
Peppa: Yeah, I mean, I'm excited for Caleb *laughs* I’m kind of even saying goodbye to that chapter now that I’m in my 30s…
Caleb: *laughs* Shut the fuck up….
I thought you were in your 40s, my bad *laughs*
Caleb: I’m 19, actually… *laughs*
"I was only 19"… So, lots going on the for rest of the year, but I do have to ask, has history repeated itself? As in, have you started working on a new record yet?
Caleb: Ah, not really… well, yeah, I’ve been writing songs for sure. But I haven't really, I think I've shown you guys a couple songs from earlier in the year. Like I was sort of writing in January, again, January, February. Just as we're sort of finishing the other one, but that's just because it sort of feels like, that's just like what I do, write songs. So that's sort of the job but we definitely haven't sort of been like, “alright, this is who we want to work with. This is the time we're going to work on it together as a band.” That is a long way away. Well, it's a way away, I don't know.
What’s not a way away is shows - lots of shows on the horizon, big big tour coming up - what are you looking forward to the most, tour or non-music related?
Peppa: I'm really excited to go to America - I've never been before. And yeah, I'm excited to see how that audience interacts with music in a live setting and yeah, get into some new territory.
Caleb: I'm excited to play RAC Arena. That's gonna be cool. I'm very nervous about that. I feel like an impostor. But hopefully it's a good show. And I feel like we've been working really hard on the production and lights for this tour. So I’m excited for it to be real. When I moved to Perth I saw Arctic Monkeys at RAC Arena in 2014, and it was so awesome.
Did you even like, entertain the idea that you’d be on that stage one day?!
Well congrats, well earned, and congrats on the new record!
Caleb: Thanks, Will.
Peppa: Thank you.