The Sleepy Jackson
The Sleepy Jackson Spaced-out pop maestro; blue-eyeliner wearing rocknroll genius; Australias answer to Brian Wilson - Luke Steele - aka The Sleepy Jackson - has already been called all these things and more. No wonder he lives in the most isolated city on Earth. Anywhere else, with all these critical garlands, he could end up suffocating. I like the peace and quiet which comes with living in Perth laughs Luke down a late night phone line. It suits me. Theres lots of space, theres no one around. I can walk down the main road and feel like Im a professor. Then I can go back to my laboratory and conjure up some more potions.... The Sleepy Jackson story to date has already seen its fair share of explosive incidents and stunning eureka moments. Formed in Perth in 1999, theirs has been a tale of rivers of booze, vast amounts of drugs and internal strife. Rewind. Having established a foothold here in Australia with highly collectible psych-pop eps Caffeine In The Morning Sun and Let Your Love Be Love and a series of stunning, Hendrix-esque live performances, Luke announced himself on the world stage with 2003s debut album Lovers. A perfectly formed set seemingly beamed in from a starry-eyed parallel universe it boasted everything from sublime acid-country (superlative single Good Dancers) to Who-like power pop (Vampire Racecourse) it prompted a landslide of feverish reviews. Mojo called it a deliciously skewed debut; Uncut a star-crossed triumph and NME a kaleidoscopic masterpiece. It is perhaps best described by Luke himself, as simply my attempt at a perfect pop album. Nominated for a host of awards at home ARIA Awards (including Album Of The Year) it also signalled Lukes departure from his Perth pop laboratory on a trip around the world to promote it. Touring is a bit like stepping into the unknown he explains. Youre going exploring. And when you get back you write about all the things you found out there, about other people and yourself, good or bad. Personality is The Sleepy Jacksons new album. Written over the course of the last two years and recorded over three months with producer Scott Horscroft in Sydney during the Spring of 2005, it is proof that the symphonies constantly playing in Lukes head have no equal. If his debut was a small screen marvel, Personality is its widescreen equivalent, with all the trials and tribulations that entails. Getting the record finished wasnt easy he explains. The original plan was to record in Sydney and then finish it off with Dave Friddman (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) in Buffalo later in the year. But it just didnt work out. The songs cried their way back home. We ended up doing some of the vocals in hotel rooms and round at my flat until we got it to sound how it did in my head. We finally finished it on New Years Eve. Put simply, Personality is destined to battle it out at the top of those end of year polls along. From the opening bars of You Needed More to Todd Rundgren-esque closer How Was I Supposed To Know? we are witness to a songwriting masterclass with a production sound Phil Spector would be proud of. Grand pianos arrive by the score; batallions of trumpets emerge at every chorus; backing vocals arrive by the lorry load and string sections soar with a celestial abandon. Above it all, Luke applies thunderbolt guitars and a lead vocal seemingly constructed from candy floss. Imagine a thirties Broadway production of The Beatles Revolver and youre still only halfway there. Its hard to explain, but I wanted to achieve something phonetic with the vocals yet with the rhythmic appeal of Prince explains Luke. Vocally, I guess its to do with the sound Brian Wilson achieved with the Beach Boys, but musically I wanted to steer away from that rigid format of rocknroll. I wanted it to sound more like jazz really, that feeling of the music blowing with the wind.. If songs like the sublime I Understand What You Want But I Just Dont Agree and Play A Little Bit For Love serve as reminders of Lukes capacity to carve out nuggets from the richest seam of the pop goldmine, the lyrics of Devil Was In My Yard and God Knows nod to the raging inner torments which have made The Sleepy Jacksons story to date so volatile. But then, hey, the album is called Personality. It was only after Id worked on the songs for a while that I realized they were all to do with the conflicting sides of my personality explains Luke. When they first come to me they seem to be about specific incidents to do with our last manager and things in the band going haywire. But after a while they go into another realm. I realised they were more to do with the spiritual conflict between God and the Devil. I surprised myself with how angry and intense they were. But I like that paradox; uplifting tunes with these lyrics about struggle and resolution. Which is the key to the wonder of The Sleepy Jackson. Like his inspirations George Harrison, Walt Disney, Woody Guthrie and a million others (current listening: Rufus Wainwright, Frank Zappa, weird electronica), Luke is in the business of making music to lift the soul, with a vision unmatched in modern pop. I think the aim of any musician should be to take what they like from all the artists they love and turn it into something new. Music to me is magic; and the songs are like light flying in the door. And, as it says in God Lead Your Soul, youve got to keep your head up.