You'd think Bluejuice frontman Jake Stone would be on top of the world right now.
The band's third (and best) album, Company
, has been a critical and commercial success, and they're about to embark on their first national tour in support of the album.
But when I caught up with Jake, it'd be an understatement to say he was in a bad place. In this confronting interview, the 32-year-old talks ageing, life after Bluejuice and his belief that he's a "dead man walking".
Hey Jake, how are you?
Not too bad, Rohan, how are you? Pretty good, thanks. First off, congrats on the success of Company. Now that it’s had a few months to sink in, what did you make of the response it got?
Everyone’s asked me that this morning, but I honestly have no real idea. I think the way people look at this band is out of my understanding. I either feel negatively about it or I don’t really have any opinion, so I can’t really answer that question in any way that’s going to make sense to a reader.
No one else has as much invested in this band as I do, so it’s pointless for me to even try going into how I feel about that and how they feel about it. I can’t really be bothered. I hope they like it, but beyond that, I just can’t talk about it. Do you know what I mean? Yeah.
I hope it’s good, but whatever. Fuck those other guys, then. You’re a music journalist – if you had to review Company, what would you give it?
I don’t know. Three and a half [stars], I guess. It got four from the Sydney Morning Herald. I still think it’s a three-and-a-half record, but I think it’s a strong record. Where do you think it loses one and a half stars?
Too many songs. I think we could have dropped two songs. Do you know which two songs they would be?
‘Kindaevil’ and ‘Do You Will?’ I like ‘Kindaevil’, it’s fun, but it’s just a 'Cheap Trix' B-Side, really. That’s what I think, anyway. ‘Do You Will?’ is well-intentioned, and it’s got some nice moments, but it just doesn’t stack up next to the rest of the tunes. I thought they were good, anyway…
Oh, I like them too, but sometimes you get down to the point where there’s 12 songs or 10 songs, and 10 songs is always better than 12 in my opinion. Those two… when you listen to the album without them, it has an amazing flow. It’s very succinct.
This band is a good band if it’s a succinct band. If it says what it needs to say and gets the fuck out of there, it’s a good band. If it hangs around and endlessly goes on, you quickly see the relative depth of the material. Anything can have depth and meaning if it’s delivered quickly and carefully, but pop music of this variety doesn’t tend to… as I’ve said multiple times this morning, we’re not The Jezabels. We can’t pull off a five-and-a-half minute epic ballad. It’s better for us to just move on quickly from things. Say what we have to say and get the hell out of there.
Are most of the songs you like at the moment three-minute pop songs?
Here and there, yeah. While I love and respect The Jezabels as people and as a band – and, actually, I really like their music – I haven’t sat down and gotten married to that album. It’s obviously brilliant, but my ears aren’t into brilliant things anymore. I just like trash. I like Hall & Oates. I spent half of last night singing ‘Out Of Touch’.
I listen to a bit of SBTRKT. That new record has some really nice moments; it’s not particularly great overall, but there are some really, really great moments on there. I like Chairlift, I find them really interesting. I like Geoffrey O’Connor. Yeah. You know, I like… bands. I don’t know. I don’t really care.
I’m 32, I’ve had a really hard year, I’m a bit of a negative cunt anyway, I’m probably over the hill, and my girlfriend, now my ex-girlfriend, left me and got in contact with me last night out of the blue, fucking up my entire week, for no apparent reason. And then, just then, she told me not to contact her again, because I was upset that she contacted me. Not upset in an angry way, just upset. So at this point, I just don’t give a fuck.
If people like it, I don’t care. If they don’t like it, I don’t care. I figure it’ll all go badly at some point anyway, so who gives a shit? If there are other bands around at the moment who are doing good stuff, great. If there aren’t, great. Whatever! It’s not just about the ex-girlfriend, it’s just… fuck it.
I’m 32, man. I’ve seen a bunch of bands come and go. Some of them are exciting, some of them aren’t. I’m cynical, I’m tired, I like making music and I get inspired to do good work, but do I have any good work left in me? Who knows? Probably, on the balance of probability, not. It’s unlikely, at this age, that you will do good work. Or will you? Maybe you will. I can’t tell. I’ve gotten past the point where I know what’s going to happen. Did you just hit 32 and suddenly start worrying about this stuff?
I was always worried about it, but it just feels like I really am over the hill now. I’ve made permanent mistakes that can’t be come back from. The band’s achieved all it’s going to achieve. I’ve done my best work. My pessimistic personality is no longer charming.
My ex is doing great stuff in New York. She’s a TV producer there. She’s obviously really successful. She gets up and goes to the gym every day. I’m assuming she’s seeing someone else. She’s going to have a great life, Because that’s the attitude you have to have to be an adult and to survive as an adult. But I don’t think I’m a survivor.
I’ve always had a bad attitude, I’ve always indulged bad feelings and been lazy. If these are the outcomes of that behaviour, then it’s only fair, I guess. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, but, you know… that’s the way I feel about things now. I don’t have that optimism and energy anymore. I think we still put energy into the band, and I still put all my guts and emotional energy into the things that I do, but am I just tapping a dry well? I don’t know. It doesn’t sound like you are. The record sounds like… it sounds like you guys could just pump out these incredibly catchy pop songs forever.
I don’t think so. It was written with her around, and maybe without her I don’t have that drive or something. I don’t know. I really don’t. I know this all sounds pretty self-indulgent, but I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen. I do know that if I stay in bed for the whole day I’ll probably be disappointed in myself. But I probably will stay in bed all day, because I can’t see a reason to get up anymore. You mentioned ‘the adult world’ before, this idea of your ex doing what she has to do in the adult world. It seems like that’s something you were thinking about on a track like ‘Act Yr Age’…
Yeah. Are there things you like about the adult world?
Not really, no. No, not really. It’s not a place I feel at home. There’s things I like about it, in the sense that I respect other people operating within it, but it’s not for me. I’m not a mature person, so I fit better within the late teens, early 20s. That’s where I think the type of person I have become sits best. In my 30s I feel alienated and out of place. Is being in a band a way to extend that bubble, to avoid those responsibilities?
I guess so. It’s just all I know how to do. I guess it is. It must be. It must just be an attempt to stave off real life responsibilities. But the more you stave those things off, the more they come crashing down on you eventually. The transition will be a great deal harder for having put it off so long. Do you think you’ll need to, though? I mean, the band seems to be pretty successful, and you’ve got your writing. What makes you think you have to embrace adulthood?
To be honest, and this is going to sound way morbid but I don’t mean it like this, I don’t really know what’s going to happen after the band. I hope I’m not even alive past that. I don’t really want to be around past that. If I have to go get a bar job again, fuck it, I’ll just hang myself.
I don’t give a fuck. It’s all… that stuff is just beyond me. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t think I’ll be working in a normal job. I can’t see it happening. I don’t have any skills. I probably won’t. And also, you kind of have to be bold and do bold things. You know? I can’t just be in some band that never quite got there and then just limp off and do some fucking shit job that I hate, like the hospitality jobs I was doing ten years ago. I… I can’t.
If that’s the way it’s going to be, I will fucking hang myself. If it’s some miserable life, why would I wanna try to even live that? So I don’t know what’ll happen, but I’ll tell you what. If it’s not any good, I’ll certainly be making an effort to get the fuck out of it. How do you define 'making it'?
I don’t know. There’s always levels, you’re right. The Jezabels have done very well, bands like The Presets have done very well. ‘Making it’ would be being able to buy a house with the money we got from the record, or having a strong enough fanbase that we could play a big stadium, that kind of stuff. But I only define that as ‘making it’ because we’re never likely to do it.
I guess any band would define making it as the next level up from where they are currently at, which they will never achieve. That’s what I think of it as. In my mind, we’ve done nothing, you know? We’ve done nothing at all, really. We’ve tried very hard, but we’ve done nothing at all. I’m assuming your living comes entirely from the band at this point. Do you have any reason to think that won’t be the case anytime soon?
No. You’re right, it does come from the band, and that’s good. We’ve made an effort to make some money by doing corporate gigs and stuff like that, so there’s some money in the bank, which is good. But… I don’t know, man. My ex leaving really just fucked with me. I thought things would be different, now I don’t know what my life’s supposed to be. When did she leave?
Ten months ago, I guess.
A long time ago. She moved to New York. So I just don’t know what’s supposed to happen now. I really imagined… up until I was this age, up until maybe a year ago, I knew what was going to happen. I had a plan and I was driven and ambitious and would stop at nothing to achieve that plan. Now? I don’t give a fuck.
And the worst part is, when you don’t give a fuck, it’s not like you’re in a better position to do well. You’re far, far worse off. If you care and are driven and you have a vision for something, you’ll achieve that vision. If you have no vision, you can’t work towards anything, it’s all just an accident, you know? That’s where I’m at now. I feel worryingly without direction.
I’ve tried to fix it. I’ve tried to do little things. I’ve failed a lot. I smoke a lot of pot, and I’m not supposed to be smoking pot at all. I don’t get up as much as I should, I don’t exercise or whatever. I tried, in my own way, to get things together by setting up my own studio, but… I obviously didn’t try hard enough, because I don’t feel any different. You know? Yeah.
I feel like a dead man walking, in a way. I feel utterly without context or point, really. Sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve done until you stop and think about it for a second. Where the band is now, compared to where you were two or three years ago... you have to be happy with that.
It doesn’t feel any different! That’s the thing. Nobody seems to show us any respect anyway. It’s not different. I’m still having to rationalise our failure to myself. What do you mean by ‘respect’, when you say that nobody shows the band respect?
Oh, it just doesn’t… I mean, we got a four star review from Bernard Zuel. When that happened, I was like, oh, that’s actually amazing. That was my goal for the record, to try and get a good review for once. Try and actually make a record the critics would like; that I would like, if I was a critic; that had content, you know? When that happened I was proud. Everything else is the same as it’s always been.
People come to the festivals and… I’m really trying not to take it for granted, and I can’t take it for granted. Big Day Out was great, there was a lot of people there. I feel very lucky to be in the band and lucky for it to be in the position it’s in, but it’s not luck! We worked really hard! Many bands work really hard, and they don’t have that thing that makes some bands do alright or not alright or whatever.
It’s been a long uphill battle with this band. It hasn’t just happened. If you look at The Jezabels, or Kimbra, or any of those acts, they only… I mean, they’ve worked at it for a long time, but it’s been less than a year or two years for those guys and they’re playing The Hordern and The Enmore. I worked for ten years to play The Metro. Forgive me for not being bowled over by our success.
Does success have to come within the band? Could you be fulfilled by doing solo stuff?
Would anyone care? I think they would.
Well, I hope so. I don’t know. I mean, I’m doing it now. I’ve got this home studio and I’m writing songs in it and stuff, but I just don’t expect anyone to give a shit. I’m just doing it because I don’t know what else to do. If I don’t do it, I’ll just go completely crazy. I’m so grief-stricken with this breakup and everything, I just don’t know what the fuck else to do. I don’t know, man. Well, our time's up, but I hope people do give a shit about the solo record. And this sounds super cheesy, but… don’t hang yourself. Have a good day, man.
You too.Company is out now. Bluejuice play The Hi-Fi on Saturday April 14.
Information to help combat depression can be found at Beyondblue (beyondblue.org.au).