POP VULTURE: Methyl Ethel
Perth's Methyl Ethel began in 2013, catching national ears with two EPs, Guts and Teeth. Years of hype proceeded the release of their debut album, 2015's Oh Inhuman Spectacle, which received rave reviews here and (after an international release in 2016 on the notable independent label 4AD) overseas. After touring the world, the band is back with a new album Everything is Forgotten, which is due for release on March 3. Their new album continues on the confounding dream-pop bend of their debut, but manages to keep things fresh and unique. They have a string of dates booked in promotion, including a place on the Groovin' the Moo lineup and a show at the Badlands Bar in Perth on May 20. Earlier in February, we caught up with frontman and band mastermind Jake Webb to discuss the exciting times ahead for the band and to investigate his pop culture tastes in the latest edition of our Pop Vulture series.
IN: So firstly, congratulations on Everything is Forgotten, I was just listening to it then and I know it’s going to be on repeat for a long time because I really love it and can't wait for everyone to hear it. It seems you wasted no time on the album because it hasn’t been too long since Oh Inhuman Spectacle was released and you were touring for it.
JW: It has for me, though. It’s been a long time for me. I mean, you guys get the album about six months after they’re finished as it stands, because of the nature of everything coming together. I mean, I wouldn’t want to claim that I’m somehow shooting out albums all over the world in a King Gizzard fashion. When you talk about being prolific, well, there’s the King Gizzards right there.
IN: Were you quite assured in the direction you wanted to take for this new album?
JW: Well, nothing is ever intentional. I think it’s just… Whatever kind of trip I’m on, man, you know? *Laughs* You know, being instant, whatever is floating our boat at the time.
IN: So is your music mostly built on improvisation and experimenting?
JW: Experimenting in a loose sense. Experimenting as far as just, like, maybe trying out a new approach.
IN: You worked with a pretty big producer in James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco, Arctic Monkeys) for some of this album, what was that like?
JW: Good. It worked, we got on well. We had a pint or two, and had good fun. A good learning experience.
IN: Moving away from music for a little bit into the pop culture segment, have there been any TV shows you’ve been binging lately?
JW: No, I don’t have the internet at my house at the moment. Or a TV. I think around the corner... Actually, I was watching Better Things. That’s a great show, there’s only ten episodes or something. Although I don’t know if that was so much of a binge as much as a healthy food pyramid.
IN: What was the last movie you saw in cinemas?
JW: Yeah, of course it was Rogue One.
IN: Awesome, did you like it? More than The Force Awakens?
JW: Well, you know, they’re different. It’s merely an appendix to the great chronicle. But you know, it was enjoyable. I don’t really go to the cinema that often. Wait, no, actually, it was Jackie. That was alright. I used to work at a cinema, so we are able to nick our way in sometimes.
IN: Staying with movies, if there was one about your life what would it be called and who would play you?
JW: That’s a really good question. We have an ongoing joke within the band about a biopic and who plays who. I think they wanted me to be played by Ben Stiller. But I want someone else. *Laughs* But you’d have to ask the other guys who they’d pick. And the title… I don’t know, as a working title, it would probably be like, “A Fall from Grace: How Did it Turn Out So Bad”?
IN: Aw, I’m sure not. Are there any cafes or bars in Perth that you feel deserve a special mention?
JW: The world is my bar, at the moment. Cafés, well, I’m a bit of a café whore, and there are so many around that you need to kind of touch on them all. There are a few good ones. Who should I shout out… That Cleaver Street Coffee Shop has been pretty good to us. Um, and for bars… Well I’ve just been frequenting that Fringe area. I was just there last night.
IN: Me too!
JW: We may have passed like ships in the night. I’m going to see that Djuki Mala show, actually. The dance troupe. That should be really good.
IN: Besides your own album, of course, are there any others that you’re anticipating this year?
JW: What’s coming out? I feel like there’s a lot of stuff coming out this year. I’m always at least two years behind, though. So I’ll probably be into whatever comes out this year in two years time. Seriously, it’s quite a shame. But as long as I don’t pass comment on them, people will never know, if I never talk to anyone about them they can’t say, “Hey man, you know, we’re over that now!”
IN: Well, coming back to your own music now… The artwork for this album is quite striking. Is there a story behind that?
JW: Yeah, of course. It was done by a friend of ours who is a great artist, and we just thought, “I wonder if one day she’ll let us use one of her pieces”? I have my reasons. I will say… The flowers. That’s the thread. That’s the key.
IN: Interesting… There’s also quite a lot of intricate sounds going on in the album, would you consider yourself a bit of a perfectionist in the studio?
JW: I don’t think you can be. Well, you probably can be, but I think the real trick for me is knowing when to call it. Because there’s beauty in imperfection, as much as in perfection. And it’s a pretty cliché thing, but leaving the mistakes in is part of the art. But I think sound is something that’s just, like, leaving stuff up to chance. So no, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist.
IN: You’ve toured around the world now and you’ve got dates in a lot of places coming up. Have there been any standout moments for you, and anything you’re excited for coming up?
JW: What would you be most excited for?
IN: Oh… Probably Field Day (UK)? That has a pretty good line-up.
JW: Oh yeah, Aphex Twin hey? And Flying Lotus is playing too, right? Yeah, that will be pretty cool. I’ll go with that.
IN: Do you ever get to go see other people’s sets when you’re at these sorts of festivals?
JW: Yeah, depends on what our schedule is like, but usually.
IN: Any standouts?
JW: I think I’m yet to have that moment... We went to a show that was really good last year, it was at the Barbican in London. It was a few musicians, like Martin Rev and Tom Verlaine doing a soundtrack to some unreleased Andy Warhol films. That was really good. But I’m yet to really have that moment, but maybe in the future.
IN: Well, I’ve certainly had that moment with your music, and I’m very excited to catch you live soon!
JW: That’s very kind of you. See you soon. It’s been a pleasure. Adios!