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Bluejuice on breaking up, the past & the future

Written By Sam Murphy on 09/23/2014

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In a decade-spanning career, Bluejuice have become one of Australia’s most-loved bands. If you’ve been to a festival in the last ten years, chances are you’ve seen a vitriolic Bluejuice, burning up the stage in questionable gold leotards.

While their energy and humour was a big part of their appeal, behind them are three albums that showcase brilliant pop writing. As such, the band scored a platinum record with their 2009 track, Broken Leg and went on to have two albums reach the top 40 in Australia.

If you look at their Wikipedia page now, you’ll notice it says “Bluejuice was a musical act”. It’s not completely over yet but Bluejuice referred to in the past tense will soon be a reality as the band parts ways after one more tour and a greatest hits compilation, RETROSPECTABLE. We chatted to Jake Stone from Bluejuice for the final time on why it’s the right time to break-up, the highlights, the lowlights and what’s next.

Have you found the response overwhelming regarding the breakup?  

Yeah, it’s been really good, actually. We’re going out on our own terms which is the right way. I’m glad that it’s working out that way and I wouldn’t have known how to do it otherwise. I think that by making that decision, while sad, we did the right thing.

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/bluejuicemusic/broken-leg-3[/soundcloud]

Is there a part of you that’s like, “maybe I shouldn’t be doing it” after all the positive responses?

We’re only getting that positive feedback because we’ve done something dramatic. It feels right to go out now. Otherwise we’d die a slow death, not because we wouldn’t be able to do good music, but because people wouldn’t care enough even if we did do good music. I think in a way it’s the right decision and we’ve managed perception in the right way. We’ve gotten on the front foot and done what needed to be done so people are happy and comfortable and we aren’t working against people’s perceptions. It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks, what matters is how we come out of it. I’m not sure I’m going to be happy at the end of this but I’m happy that it’s working out now.

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Was there a specific moment that felt like the right time to end it?

When Jerry left, I thought there was a good chance that it might be the end of the band. That that was about a year and a half ago now. I knew it would be challenging to continue because of his talent but, in actual fact, we continued on and put out singles anyway and now the band is at a good stage where the people in the band are just as good as what Jerry was. But it’s kind of hard to continue because now we’ve got this great setup and can write good songs. But I don’t think that it’s possible to do it under this name, in a way.

So do you feel like there are more projects that you’ll go onto after this that reflect a changing musical taste?

Yeah, I hope so. I’m basically writing constantly at the moment. I’ve had a lot of songs for a long time and it’s kind of like a long-standing accruing of tunes that I’ve been doing in my studio at home. I’ve got some songs there that are ready to go that I just have to figure it out because I don’t want to put them out in a way that’s going to be associated with me directly, as people can easily say something about it that’s negative. They can have a negative perception of it and not support it, both the media and the public, so I just have to just sneak the songs in someway that will be good.

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So I suppose that’s kind of the flip side to dealing with media, that they can have perceptions of you that are hard to change. We’ve always seen Bluejuice in a really positive light and as a very fun band but have there been tough times as well?

Of course. For seven years we didn’t have a hit, so you can imagine. It’s been hard because you’re always kind of trying to make people believe that you’re something they need in their lives, but without sounding desperate, because people are very hard to pin down. You have to seduce them. Really, that’s what it is. You have to be seductive, in whatever fashion, whether it be sexually, comically or whatever it is that you have to do and for seven years, we were the ugly duckling of the Sydney music scene. Nobody wanted a bar of us and it’s hard to do that and get people on your side and draw them into what you’re doing, to make them believe in you and to think they’re the ones that made the decisions.

Luckily, Vitriol did that, seven years in. But seven years prior to that, we were working very hard. I was a music journalist, I worked at two bars, it was really hard. And we’ve been a band that fought with other a lot as well so it hasn’t been that easy. Nothing that’s worthwhile just sort of happens like that. I don’t think London Grammar, for example, just happened. I think they did a lot of stuff for a long time and people picked up on it. So perhaps they went  from being small to very big really quickly and that might’ve been challenging for them and I think every type of career projection has its own challenges. Ours has just been really focusing on keeping that stuff happening and making sure that it continues that way.

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Were there points early on before Vitriol where you were just like “this is a really hard slog, is it worth it anymore?”

Everyone was ready to break up the band just before Vitriol came out. Like, literally. I was never going to break up the band, I was never going to stop playing. It’s not easy being in a band. Some people have the stomach for what it takes and some people don’t. I don’t mind because it’s my job, to think my way around it and to come up with good songs. It’s not just about the music – you’ve got to figure out how to get people into the thing beyond just the music.

Looking back in hindsight, is there a record where you feel like you really hit the nail on the head?

I think Company. All of the things that happened around that record, everything centred around it were sort of perfect. The relationship I was in was the most important relationship that I ever had in my life and probably one of the most dramatic I’ve ever had. So, whether it was healthy or not, it was making an impact on my writing. Other than that, we figured out how to produce it in a way that wasn’t shit. We were like, “oh, we can actually be okay in the studio now,” be what we want rather than be completely be held onto a producer who might not share the vision for what we’re trying to do, which had been the case before.

On Company, Alex and I wrote Act Yr Age and Shock and those songs really galvanised the band’s reputation on the radio and continued to push forward and allowed us another three years of professional work, cementing our reputation beyond Broken Leg. In my opinion, Act Yr Age is the most sophisticated song we ever put out because it followed two big songs and continued to be able to be successful. When you play as a DJ, and put the record on, it still sounds current, it still has the production quality that cuts through next to music with modern production.

One of the songs featured (The Presets’) Julian Hamilton and it’s got a lovely quality that only that guy could lend to it. The design is also good. It’s very personal, taken from a photo of my ex from Skype that we then refigured and then re-cast.

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Company was my proudest moment as a writer. It sums up the band’s interest and was the best thing we ever did. It’s not the best record I’m going to make, I hope, and it might be the most interesting album I’m going to make as Bluejuice but I don’t think it’s the most sophisticated or mature thing I’m ever going to do.

I still have a lot of those songs that are unreleased. A lot. And they’re all really good songs. I’m just keen to put out more music, that’s what I want. When the band ends, I want to figure out how to do that in a way that will work. We were much harder on ourselves as editors than you think. There are a lot of great tunes that didn’t make the record that weren’t Bluejuice songs that I wrote myself that, by politics or otherwise, never made it onto the album. Managers, they don’t know everything, they don’t all know what’s appropriate for the time. There’s all these songs flying around now that I want to put out.

Did you record I’ll Go Crazy with the knowledge it would be one of your last songs?

Yes we did, absolutely.

So you weren’t planning to record another album or anything like that?

Well, we had been writing so we probably had enough material to do a record but then we hit on the idea that we’re going to wrap up the band and will be doing our last tour, and we needed some singles to put out. And so then we thought we only really needed three good songs to be able to put out a greatest hits record with new material on it. And I personally need, as an artist, to have the last two songs tell a certain story.

So I need a pop song that everyone’s going to love, that kind of represents the pop band that we are, that we always have been. And then I need a ballad that’s going to close the band in a way that’s emotional for other people and connects them to the band’s history, to make them understand where we came from and tell that story in a sincere way. And that’s what the one after this will be. And that’s how I see the band wrapping up. It just makes it easier. Because I’m really proud of the songs so I think it’s worked out alright.