Kosciuszko was always a mountain to be climbed. As Australia’s highest peak it was the intrepid explorer’s pinnacle of a mountainous feat. So too for Perth rockers Jebediah, whose latest full length album Kosciuszko is one of their biggest achievements thus far and the most satisfying to scale.
More than five years in the making, Kosciuszko was a journey the four-piece underwent both together and separately. When Kosciuszko started appearing in the horizon the band had a few more of their own tasks to conquer. Frontman Kevin Mitchell was touring his moniker Bob Evans around the country, bassist Vanessa Thornton was in the thick of her nutritionists degree, drummer Brett Mitchell was lending his skills to other local Perth bands and guitarist Chris Daymond, well, it’s been said he used his time wisely.
During this time the band continued to jam together, but a move by Kevin to Melbourne, away from his native west coast city and the rest of the Jebs, hindered the frequency of these sessions. Still they got back in the band room whenever they could with the thought of an album in the back of their mind. During these sessions, they started to write with the spontaneity and relaxed attitude that they hadn’t had the joy of since their inception. The shackles of a label contract was not the only restraint that had been released, the band also had no manager and no specific timeline. There was a new sense of freedom found in their rehearsals and writing. They started to feel like themselves again.
Jebediah were pioneers of the late ‘90s punk rock grunge scene. In 1997 it all started going a little nuts for the band, playing over 150 shows and releasing breakthrough album Slightly Odway in September. With tracks like Leaving Home, Military Strongman, Teflon and the swooning ballad Harpoon it is little wonder that the album debuted in the national top ten. Within four months the debut hit gold status, sending their summer touring into overdrive Their reputation for scorching live shows had proceeded them. Jebediah were named towards the top of the bills for Big Day Out, Livid and Homebake, For a young band on their first album, the sudden acceleration of status was terrifying but they lived up to the hype and were shortly after invited to tour with The Smashing Pumpkins. They managed to sell more merch then the iconic headline act and Slightly Odway would go one to sell double platinum.
From then on the Perth pack kept kicking goals, with follow up release Of Someday Shambles hitting all the right notes with its deeper and darker attitude. Debuting at #2 in Australia, it took the band to international status, touring them in the northern hemisphere for a good part of a year and leaving a trail of fans throughout the States thanks to driving single Animal. Their third self-titled album also didn’t disappoint. They threw bagpipes into the mix for single Fall Down, which reached the top 20 and drove the album to debut at #8 in the ARIA charts.
In 2005 things changed a little for Jebediah. They left their major record label and took control of their own recording process, bringing out the self-produced Braxton Hicks on their own label. Once again, it debuted at the pointy end of the ARIA charts and once again, had kicking singles in the likes of No Sleep and First Time.
In the following years Kosciuszko started appearing as the behemoth to climb and work had begun on it in earnest. Kevin thinks the attitude that the band had towards songwriting was imperative this time around, rather than a specific concept or theme. “I think what we wanted to do was reconnect with the core of what made the band work in the first place and throw away the self imposed rule book that had crept into our thinking over the years,” he says.
Chris saw the workings behind Kosciuszko a little more black and white, putting it frankly, “We made it because, quite simply, we wanted to!”
Out of the one of the occasional jam sessions the soaring single She’s Like A Comet was born. It only took the group fifteen minutes to write, evidence to the band’s intuitive collaborative abilities. It’s a splash of the feel-good Jebediah, the one that had up to 40,000 people dancing simultaneously at numerous Australian festivals.
Control smacks you between the eyes with that similar bounding energy. This is surprising for something that was formed in the very early hours of a big night’s morning, when conversations are little slower and emotions a little more intense. “I recall it being New Years morning,” remembers Mitchell, “Chris and I were sitting by my kitchen and we both had a good buzz on. I showed him these chords I was playing around with and he came up with his accompanying riffs. We took it to a jam session a few days later and we had a song.”
If half the band can have a good buzz on at the break of dawn, then Kosciuszko shows you what type of raucous they can create as a whole unit during the decent hours of the day. Under Your Bed is like a quick aggressive lover, full of frantic riffs and distorted vocals, delivered at breakneck speed.
Lost My Nerve follows in a similar vein. It’s gritty and boisterous, spitting out honesty with a lashing of lyrics; “The lyrics are tongue and cheek but maybe I’m also getting a bit old and grumpy,” discloses Mitchell, “Either way, it annoys the shit out of me when I see a young band who have obviously only just started playing gigs and they are all playing through the newest most expensive gear that their parents bought for them. There is absolutely no rock and roll romance in that at all!”
The frustration-fuelled track was incidentally one of the first to be taken into the studio, along with She’s Like a Comet and the slacker, more down-tempo To Your Door. Blackbird Studios in Perth became their base camp where the threads of their work in their band room started to weave into fully realised songs.
Once some of the melodies and tempos that would carve their way into the base of Kosiciuszko started to take shape, the band roped in friend and producer Dave Parkin to help them with the dirty work. Having already worked with him on some Braxton Hicks b-sides and live recordings the band knew that he had the ideas and navigation they needed “Dave is a great friend of us all,” says Daymond. “He has expertise and abilities to ‘drive’ the sessions according to our directions, whilst at the same time bring his own perspective and ideas to the table.”
Subsequently the band started tackling the tracks that weren’t quite fleshed out prior to entering the studio. Battlesong was one of those songs that the band had in their back pocket for years, but always seemed to fall apart within the walls of their band room. Once recording they decided to revisit it, adding military drums to the clean guitar lines and echoing piano. The chorus is delivered like an anthem, or a motivational war cry, readying you for the next ascent.
Oxygen was also at the mercy of an in-studio rework. “This one came into the studio as jangly Teenage Fanclub sounding song. It was a little too straight so we pretty much cleared the decks and started all over again,” says Mitchell of the reverb drenched, spacious ballad.
Once the recordings started to take the shape of the album, Brisbane label Dew Process put up their hand to jump on board. “We were admiring Dew Process and it’s ever expanding roster of quality acts from across the dance floor for a number of years,” said Mitchell of the signing. The artist-focused label was the perfect fit for what the band wanted to achieve.
Kosciuszko reflects the wide-open approach that the band took towards the album. It was a long labour of love for Jebediah; a mountainous endeavour that the band dominated at their own will. With a long history of hard work and dumbfounding success, the band have laid the foundations for another steep climb. Kosciuszko is the album that will see Jebediah at their peak.