Interview: Jade Imagine on Basic Love

Melbourne band Jade Imagine has crossed the ditch and is touring New Zealand for the first time, including a set at The Others Way Festival in Auckland tonight.

The band, led by singer-songwriter Jade McInally, has just released their debut album, Basic Love on Courtney Barnett’s Milk! label and are keen to share it with their Kiwi neighbours.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Jade McInally just before she and her bandmates set off on her Aotearoa adventure.

Click here to listen to the interview:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: Now, one thing I’m confused about, is the band a quartet or a trio?

JM So, we are a… long story. But I think, we’re – so the band that played on the album is a quartet. But we’ve since had some member changing and stuff. But live, when we play, we’re a four-piece. So – I think, let’s just go with that. Even though in our press shot there’s three of us.

MD: Yes, that was what was throwing me off, and I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

JM: It’s a member-fluid band.

MD: But you are the constant, I assume. So –

JM: Yes.

MD: And you’ve just been on tour in Australia with… Stella Donnelly, is it?

JM: Oh, we’re about to. Yeah, after The Others Way and the New Zealand shows, then we’ll be coming back to Australia and doing those.

MD: Right. And the album has been out for what, a couple of weeks now? So what’s been the reaction?

JM: Yeah. Second of August, it came out. It’s been really good. Like, yeah. Good feedback. People messaging me on socials and being like “Cool, love it.” We got one bad review, which was funny, but I don’t know. I didn’t read it, my bandmates told me not to read it. It sounded like the person didn’t like me, or something…

MD: Oooooh.

JM: On a personal level. So they were really just like… ripping into me about stuff.

MD: I suppose that’s part of the deal when you put yourself out there like that.

JM: That’s it…and I figure that when I need some new material to write about, I’ll just read it and… get really angry, and then write something new.

MD: So, is the songwriting based on anger, or – where do the songs come from, mostly?

JM: No! No. They don’t come from anger. I mean, maybe, some of them, but some of them come from – I don’t know. I guess… some of them come from a chord change and they come in, worked into a whole song. Or some of them come from… yeah, I don’t know.

MD: And do you write as a band, or do you write independently and bring the stuff to the band?

JM: For that album I wrote by myself, for – like, I kind of wrote all the ideas, the seeds of songs, and then I put them on voice memos and sent them to the band. And then we got into the room and Tim [Harvey], who’s the guitarist and who produced the record, he – we co-arranged and… you know, fleshed out the songs and all that stuff. So, it’s pretty collaborative, but I guess that the essence –

MD: It starts with you and then comes to –

JM: Me. Yeah.

MD: And of course, you’re signed to Milk! Records, which is Courtney Barnett’s label, and the perception from outside is that – there’s a little scene happening around the label. You have Tiny Ruins – which is a Kiwi act on there –

JM: Yeah. Love Tiny Ruins.

MD: Does it feel like you’re part of a little scene, being part of the label?

JM: Yeah! Uh… I think so. You know, we’re all – all the bands are really busy and we don’t really get to see each other much in real life, but the label is really good at organizing cool things between the bands on the label. We do – we’ve done in the past – we did a thing called Split Singles, which was each band off the label did a song and put it on one side of a 7”, and another band did another side of the 7”, and stuff like that. So there’s that kind of stuff, and there’s been recently lots of opportunities to collaborate, which isn’t released yet, so I probably can’t talk too much about it.

MD: I see! Sounds exciting.

JM: Yeah, it’s exciting stuff. And – yeah, it’s really cool to have the newer bands on the label, especially like Sleater-Kinney and Hand Habits, Tiny Ruins… So good, so exciting.

MD: I guess, it’s nice to feel like there’s a team involved in something behind the act.

JM: Absolutely. And they’re all really – the people who run the label are such beautiful people and so personable and so caring. Because I guess because they’re all artists, so I guess they really know what an artist needs, and they are really there to provide guidance and opinions… or no opinions, if they think that’s best.

MD: Yeah, because I think Jen Cloher – how is her last name pronounced, Cloh-her?

JM: Cloher?

MD: She’s playing at the festival as well, I think she’s coming across.

JM: She is, yeah.

MD: And she runs – helps run the label, doesn’t she?

JM: Yeah. Well, she’s recent– very recently – she was label managing, and – yeah, but she’s recently moved into doing her own stuff full-time, which is really great for her because I think she will be able to put so much more energy into her music. But we’ve got a new label manager, now, who’s really awesome and we’re really excited to have him on board. But Jen’s awesome. Everyone in New Zealand should go check out their shows. I think they’re touring Tiny Ruins and Jen are touring as well. Which you are probably all over.

MD: We try to be!  My understanding was that the album, Basic Love, was kind of in the process of being made and written over quite a number of years, is that right?

JM: Yeah, I guess some of the songs were written a few years ago before I’d even done an EP, but we didn’t – some of the songs just didn’t make the EP, and I kept working on them and they changed and became different songs. And then, I – but some, like, most of the songs we wrote for Basic Love, I wrote in – I went up, kind of half-packed up my house in Melbourne and went back to stay at my mum’s house in the Sunshine Coast, which is in Queensland. And she lives in a little town called Sunshine Beach, and it’s really quiet and really… it’s kind of where I grew up. And so I just wrote a lot of the records there.

MD: It sounds idyllic. Writing in a place called Sunshine Beach.

JM: I know! It’s such a beautiful place. I mean, these days it’s getting a bit gentrified. But when I was growing up there it was just locals and everyone surfed in the town. It was a very low-key place. Like, one café and everyone knows everyone on first-name basis. And it’s really nice.

MD: Music-wise, what was it like for you growing up? What were you listening to, what kind of stuff were you exposed to?

JM: Mum and Dad listened to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, and lots of folky stuff. I think they jammed early U2 quite a lot. I don’t know about modern U2. Early U2 has a special place in my heart. Oh, what else? Cowboy Junkies?

MD: Oh, I just spoke to the lead singer of that two days ago.

JM: Oh my God.

MD: Margo Timmins.

JM: That’s – too much information for me.

MD: I told her – I said, because you know, they’re coming here to play, and I said – I have a feeling that you’ve influenced a lot of… especially female vocalists. Here in New Zealand, we have a fairly big alt-country scene nowadays, that has grown since she was last here. And she seemed totally surprised by that. But yeah, your reaction only reinforces that.

JM: Yeah, they’re coming to Melbourne as well. I’m going to buy tickets. I can’t wait. Cool band.  Nick Drake was a big one. Yeah, and another big one for us in the family was The Church. Not the holy church, but the band, The Church.

MD: Yes, yes, yes, I picked up on that. Yeah, they’re great. I just saw them a little while – not too long ago, they were fantastic still.

JM: Yeah, they’re still doing an amazing live show.

MD: So would you say that stuff seeps into what you do now? In some form or fashion?

JM: I think so. I suppose that we are big on harmonies in Jade Imagine and I feel like a lot of the bands I grew up with, were big on that too. And I guess with, yeah, like bands like The Church and stuff, they kind of play, like both guitarists were playing, not just the root note chords in the songs that they wrote, they always would be playing different things to expand the song. It’s like they pulled apart the chord structure and each person was like, “Alright, well, I’ll play that part of that chord, and you play that part of that chord.” I think that’s what we try to do as well. Rather than all just playing the same four chords together, we try and push it and try and each play something that works together as a whole, but wouldn’t necessarily make sense if you heard it by itself. I guess that’s why it’s so hard, when I go into a radio or something, or do a solo performance of like – God, my guitar part does not make sense.  It needs the other three guitars, the guitars and the bass, to be like, “Oh, yeah.”

MD: That’s interesting. So obviously when you play here in Auckland and in New Zealand, we’ll hear the whole thing all together. You’re pretty much concentrating, I assume, on material from the album. Anything else we can expect from the live show that will be a surprise or be of interest?

JM: Mm! Um, well I suppose, we’re playing a few songs off the old EP, if anyone has ever listened to it over there. But, yeah, we’ll be playing mostly new stuff. I’m working on some projections.

MD: Oh!

JM: Hopefully that’ll be fun, and hopefully it’ll be ready. Most importantly. But I think I’m looking forward to just playing with the guys and girl. But yeah, no, I think it’ll be really fun!

Jade Imagine

Friday 30th August – The Others Way Festival 2019 (Milk! Records stage), Karangahape Road District, Auckland☥
Saturday 31st August – Leigh Sawmill, Auckland*
Sunday 1st September – Blue Smoke, Christchurch*