Prove your humanity

Hello, hello, oh hello, Fremantle rock band and Australian icon Eskimo Joe are back on our radios after seven years.

In anticipation for Eskimo Joe’s new single, Say Something, I caught up with lead singer Kav Temperley to discuss the song’s inspiration, reminisce on a successful career and the band’s future.

Image by Jarrad Seng

It’s great having you guys making music again! What’s it like being back in the studio after so long?

When you’ve been doing it with the same people for that long it doesn’t feel like much time passes when you get into a studio and start mucking about. We had a bit of a break from each other, we’ve been on the road and living out of each other’s pockets for about 17 years, and then after our last record we kind of had a plan to have a bit of a sabbatical and have the chance to do some other things creatively.

I got to go off and do a solo record and I’ve also been putting out my podcast HatJam, which is a songwriting podcast. Joel has been producing some amazing artists and Stu was managing director for RTRFM and now does Fairbridge. It gave everyone a really good chance to just do some other things, so getting back into the studio felt fresh and exciting


You’ve had a long and successful career with many award wins and nominations and performing at significant events, are there any moments that’ve stood out and stuck with you looking back now?

There are lots of moments that stand out, but sometimes when you’re in the midst of it, you take it for granted. Basically, you’re in the middle of it and all you just think about is working and getting the job done. I think now more than ever we’re able to look back and actually really appreciate the legacy we created and what we achieved being a band from Western Australia. I think only Western Australians can appreciate this, but you know it’s so far away from everyone else in the world so if you’re not in people’s faces all the time going ‘hey we exist’, people tend to forget about you.

So, certainly, when we won awards it was a really proud moment and it’s a big deal for us being from Fremantle and having some success outside of this state because it’s really tough and we had to work hard. I think some other highlights definitely were when we won song of the year for ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’ and when we got to win an ARIA and got on stage, that’s always a pretty surreal experience.


With your new song Say Something it’s clear to see it’s about hope and being humanitarian and its release is also very timely, especially with the Black Lives Matter protests that have been going on. Was that a conscious decision to release the song now and help use your voice to spread a message?

I’m really happy that we are able to use a voice to send a message because I feel like every song we wrote in the past have just been about love and how love went wrong, and that’s okay because I generally write in a very biographical way when I write lyrics, but I think at this point in time we’re all pretty happy in our lives and we got kids now and we’re starting to think about the world we are going to set up for them.

We wrote the song a year and a half ago during the climate change activism and the initial spark of inspiration came from seeing kids standing up and saying something, so I thought that was important and inspiring and as it does with music, the song evolved.

But like you said, all of this stuff going down this year, it’s very precedent and we couldn’t have predicted what was going to happen this year, so there was no preconceived idea of like ‘yeah, let’s wait until the world goes crazy’. We just released it, and art and music’s job are to reflect what’s going on in society and I think this song definitely does that.


Do you think there’s anything metaphorical about Say Something? What are you hoping your listeners will learn or take away from your new song? Other than a catchy tune.

I’m proud of the fact that this song has a message and really what we want is to inspire people and the title track says it all.

If you are at a family function and your creepy uncle say’s something weird and sexist and violent towards women then say something, don’t think it’s okay to be a good bloke and not say anything.

If you’re in the schoolyard and someone drops a derogatory comment about a race as a greeting then say something, don’t be ok with it.

If you’re in a situation and the handyman starts talking about climate change being bullshit, then say something. We just want people to actually start to use their voices and their actions as opposed to just sitting on their hands.


The music industry has particularly taken a toll over the pandemic, especially for local artists, how have you been keeping busy?

I thought I would’ve had the time to do all of these extra things during this. I’ve just kept doing what I’ve always done, which is just working away on new songs and we managed to get one podcast out, that took a lot of work even though it’s a 45-minute episode, it’s a 5-hour recording session and then it took me about 4 days to edit that down, so that’s a bit of time. I’m working on a bunch of new songs as well, which might end up being Eskimo Joe songs or it might end up being solo songs, I don’t know at the moment, so I’ve just been chipping away and doing what I do.

I also think staying still and being at home is so much more conducive for writing music. People romanticise about writing music on the road and in a hotel room … it never happens. When you’re on the road you just think, I haven’t slept enough, and I got to do another gig tonight, and is my voice feeling funny? Whereas when you’re at home, you get to reflect and that’s when great songs come out, so I certainly feel I’ve hit a real purple patch.

For local artists though, the number one thing for them in Perth, and I’m not trying to give advice or anything, but we have such a responsibility to not be a lazy artist. You’re not just going to get someone rolling in and giving you a million dollars to produce your product. It’s purely down to self-motivation and it’s been a really great time for artists to build up some reservoirs and ideas that they can then execute when gigs return and the borders open that they can take into the world.


Well now that restrictions have eased here in WA and concerts can return, will we be seeing Eskimo Joe back on stage anytime soon?

Well I’ve just started to book some solo shows again which is exciting, but Joel lives in Melbourne so obviously that’s a problem. So, I don’t think we’ll get to do any Eskimo Joe concerts soon, but I’m certainly going to get on the road and do some shows around WA in July and August.


Is the new single a swan song, a final bow out of sorts, or a new era for the band to build upon and reignite the spark in rock?

I feel like every band is on the precipice of it being your swan song and the coming of age of your whole next era. It’s all down to so much chance and the stars aligning and all the rest of it. Luckily in our band we all get along really well as friends, I feel like that’s the secret to longevity in any band. As far as whether people still want to hear our music anymore, who knows. We’re going to put this song out and hopefully it’s received well and hopefully we find the time to play some more shows, but there is a lifespan in every band but at the moment we’re still young enough to drink champagne in the spa so I think we’ll keep going for a little bit longer.

Listen to Eskimo Joe’s new single ‘Say Something’ now on Spotify and Apple Music.