A Chat with Melbourne's The Teskey Brothers
After coming together in 2008, the Teskey Brothers have been passionately exploring their own unique sound. With 9 years of experience under their belt, 2017 saw the brothers culminate an album of rich sounds and raw emotions -- Half Mile Harvest. They have begun their first tour around Australia, London and New Zealand, with their authentic sound pioneering the revival of love for the '70s resonance of soul music. We got the chance to speak to lead vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player, Josh Teskey.
Isolated Nation: Hey Josh! Before we start we just wanted to commend you for the brilliant album that you guys created, upon listening to it for the first time, you could really ‘feel’ the rawness of the music. But I was just wondering what the story behind the title ‘Half Mile Harvest’ is?
Josh Teskey: Yeah no problem bro, really appreciate that. Half Mile Harvest is sort of a play on words with using analog equipment. The two inch tape in the tape machine rolls out to be half a mile long. It’s just a play on words with the tape machine and sounds a bit better than 663 kilometers or something like that in the metric, hahah.
IN: Yeah that’s so true. Were there any events that influenced the mood of the album or lyrics to any of the songs?
JT: Yeah I mean, most of the songs are breakup songs, but there are some odd ones in there like ‘Shiny Moon’, which is mainly a song about addiction, being hooked on alcohol, as we all are you know (hahah). I would like to say that the whole album has a play that it is all about addiction, whether we are addicted to something or someone.
IN: That’s really awesome, that connection to addiction is really interesting. So how did you guys find the recording process?
JT: Man it was so much fun. For us it was the first time really having a go using this old analog equipment and recording in that way. It was almost the whole inspiration for doing this album. My brother Sam is sort of like a crazy old scientist with all the equipment. He gets these mics and was only about a year into using his Studer tape machine, which is like a 80’s two inch tape recorder he got a hold of. Part of a point to the album was just doing it in the way all of our favourite artists did back in the '60s and '70s with Stax Records and things like that. So it was really fun to record in this sort of way, limited to how many takes you can do, where you couldn’t just cut and paste things in and out, but you’re doing everything in this old style.
We learnt a lot along the way. Little things like being quiet in between takes, not letting people talking in between spill over into other tracks. I think sometimes when you have all the options, like when you’re recording with Pro Tools, and with a computer, you can have a million record takes on there, you can cut and paste takes in and out. I think too many options can be detrimental to the music itself, keep it raw and how you’d play it live. For me that was a really important side of it. Not having too many options really kept it raw, and how the songs were originally written. We’re just so in love with bringing it back to this old school way of recording, and I think we’ll always be doing that.
IN: So will this be your first tour?
JT: Yeah, the East Coast tour just in the middle of the year was literally the first time we’d left Victoria as a band. It was really, really exciting for us. I guess the next stage is heading over to the westside. As of this weekend, it was the first time, not only the band coming to Western Australia, but the first time any of us had ever been over there. We did Wave Rock Festival on the weekend and it was unbelieeevable, we had such a ball out there! Just a people place, beautiful people, just a great, great festival. Yeah I guess it is the first time we’ve toured, it’s new to us and we’re really, really excited.
IN: Is it weird going from playing gigs in your town to touring around?
JT: Yeah this year’s been a massive change for us, we’ve basically been playing together for almost over a decade and just doing the rounds in our local pubs in our area, getting around Fitzroy and Melbourne a bit. We’ve always been playing every weekend, but we’ve been playing pretty casual and never pushed it too much. This year is all totally new to us, we’re playing stuff we’re really, really excited about. Playing big rooms in other states and having people turn up is awesome for us, so much fun.
IN: Yeah that’s so good. Has touring affected the dynamics of the band, since you guys are spending so much time together?
JT: Yeah i mean it’s all sort of positive really. We’re only a few months in I guess but we’ll see how we go (haha). All in all we’re actually getting along really well. I guess before this we were always gigging, but there wasn’t much of a chance to hang out in and around the gigs. It’s actually really nice to go on week long trips, have some time with the guys and have a little bit of down time as well, which is really nice as well; all in all it’s positive.
IN: That’s really good to hear. So how does it feel to have 3 of your launch parties sold out?
JT: Ahhh man it was totally crazy, totally unbelievable for us. When we did The Corner, we were scared of booking one show, and if we could get a pretty full room for the first one that’s all we can ask for. Things have moved in a completely different way this year and we couldn’t really believe it. It was an awesome time for us.
IN: Yeah that’s awesome. So where’d you get your love for motown music?
JT: I guess all the guys have grown up on it. I think I’ve always loved soul and blues music, in the sense that it is is soul music, it’s all the feeling and subtleties that you put into it. For me it’s less is more, with complete feeling. That’s what I’ve always loved about it, and I guess I’ve connected with particular vocalists that think in this way.
IN: Yeah I never really thought about it like that. 10 years ago, did you ever think you’d reach where you are today?
JT: Nah man, I think we’ve always recorded music and played music for ourselves. Even when we did this album, we’re just recording stuff that we love in a way that we’ve always wanted to do it. For our own sake really, it was an album for us. We didn’t come into it with massive expectations, we thought, “Oh, we’ll just sell it, put it out there, throw it around to some local radio stations,” and we’ve just been really blown away that people have connected with it as much as we did.
IN: Just out of curiosity, have you ever experimented with anything outside of soul and motown?
JT: Yeah totally, after years of playing we’ve ventured away many times. If you came and saw Teskey Brothers 5 or 6 years ago, the songs we were writing were a little more folky and we didn’t do our own soul writing for a while. Our last album a while ago was quite focussed on covering soul in particular. But when we first sort of started attempting to write songs it was coming out in all sorts of different ways. It was coming out in a folk sort of sound and we delved into some reggae at times as well. We had a time that if you came to our gigs, it was a sort of mix match of all sorts of different covers, as we used to delve from one thing to another. I think within the band there were different ideals of what music people liked. Our drummer Liam, I guess, has a real dark spot for reggae stuff (haha). But I guess we all agreed we loved this blues and soul music and somehow we pinned ourselves down to this genre, and it seemed to suit us the most. As we got into it more and more, we decided, “Yeah, this is our sound.” I think we’ll always delve out of it a little bit ya'know, we’re not exactly a total typical Aussie motown band. It’s got it’s influences but, I guess it’s got it’s own sort of Teskey sound as well.
IN: Yeah you can definitely hear that. Just to wrap things up, do you have any advice for people going into creating and producing?
JT: Well I mean, I really sort of love recording what I love, so just yaknow, don’t try and change your sound to suit what you might think may be the popular sound. We’ve thought about that in the past, thinking of things that would sound good on triple J, but I think it’s been really good that we’ve stuck it out, always playing the music we love playing, and you know, eventually people will get behind it. I think just stick to the music you love.
IN: That’s so great. Thank you so much for letting us interview you.
JT: Yeah no problem, thanks for having me.
IN: Good luck with your tour!
JT: Cheers, guys.
THE TESKEY BROTHERS WA TOUR DATES
Saturday 23rd September - Wave Rock Festival, Hyden
Thursday 2nd November - St John’s Anglican Church, Fremantle Arts Festival, Fremantle
Friday 3rd November - Ravenswood Hotel, Mandurah
Saturday 4th November - Settlers Tavern, Margaret River
Sunday 5th November - Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough
Tuesday 7th November - Perth Blues Club at The Charles Hotel, Perth
Thursday 9th November - Prince of Wales, Bunbury