Ahead of their performance this weekend at Brisbane Festival's closing night, we had a chat with Methyl Ethel's frontman, Jake Webb. We covered all the important topics, from cheese and vegemite scrolls to future collaborations, to whether the band has ever hated a song he's pitched, and how uni is "a good place to be".
Q. Are there any of your songs you don’t enjoy performing anymore?
Jake: All of them (laughs). That is a great question. Like, probably typically the songs that we have played the most. For a while it was ‘Twilight Driving’. And, just ones that like, I hate feeling like I have to, like you’re forced to do something. And in a way, that’s like…I understand people just want to hear what they know. That’s totally fair enough. And I go see bands and I don’t know songs, y’know what I mean? You wanna hear people play the ones you know. So yeah, they’re the ones you just kinda have to grit your teeth and just play. But then, after a while when you bring back songs and or you sort of re-work them or something, they can get back on your good side.
Q. What’s your favourite song to perform live?
Jake: At the moment… our band’s changed a bit so I’m enjoying playing most of them at the moment. New songs are always good to play because it’s a bit more thrilling, I suppose. We haven’t been playing very much though, so playing has been really good at the moment.
Q. What’s the weirdest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
Jake: Maybe I tend to block those out of my mind (laughs). Interviews are hard, hey. There’s a lot of questions that I just can’t answer. I can’t answer when people ask me, in an interview, really specific questions about songs. Or maybe just too broad a question. Like, what is this song about? That’s the worst question for me. Or like, what is this album about? It doesn’t mean that I don’t have an answer because I do have an answer. But it’s just one of the ones that really stump me. It’s not necessarily weird but it’s just hard.
Q. Baked beans or tinned spaghetti?
Jake: Tinned spaghetti for me. As long as it’s the one that comes with like, the cheese. I used to, as a poor struggling student, as opposed to a poor struggling musician, I used to love to hate tinned spaghetti toasted sandwiches. I’m a big fan of that.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Jake: Jesus. Hopefully still making music. Hopefully making better music than I’m making now. Like, I think the music’s pretty good, but I just hope I get better at it, y’know?
Q. Do you prefer your own concerts or festivals? Are your own concerts more intimate?
Jake: My own concerts. Our own (laughs). I think festivals…I don’t not like festivals. But, as far as the shows go, it gets a bit raucous…sometimes you just think, we could be doing anything right now and people would be having a good time. Because they’re there to have a good time, y’know? Which is fine.
Q. So you’d say your own concerts are a bit more intimate?
Jake: Yeah, intimate. It depends what city we’re in, I think. They’re intimate when…that’s the beauty of us being able to go touring overseas. There’s always an empty room to play somewhere.
Q. If you could create your own line-up for a festival, which Aussie artists would you pick?
Jake: Um, I would…I was listening to Triple R yesterday and I heard a lot of great artists. So right now, I’d probably just…I’d let someone else pick. Because there’s just so many good artists around.
Q. Which artist in the industry would you most want to do a collaboration with and why?
Jake: I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about collaborations recently. I was thinking of, I kinda wrote a song which I thought might be a good duet. And I was thinking, y’know, who? Maybe I’d like to call up Angel Olsen, maybe. Wise Blood, or I really like Julia Holter. But I don’t know, I would collaborate with anyone, but I don’t think anyone would collaborate with me. Maybe I’m a bit too much of a control freak to collaborate with people. So I don’t care, I’ll collaborate with anyone.
Q. What is your favourite Aussie food?
Jake: I have an answer for this, which is good. I really love cheese and vegemite scrolls, that you get from the bakery. Yeah, I’m addicted to that. That’s like something, though, if I’m away I’ll miss.
Q. You’ve said before that song writing is a private experience for you. How do you go about sharing songs with the rest of the band?
Jake: See, there go. That shows you about my collaboration roster. It’s as nerve wracking as…it comes with the same anxiety as showing anyone, really. But I’m proud of the songs. I guess everyone’s, they’re allowed to hate it. And it’s just preparing for people to have that look come across their faces where they think ‘yeah, y’know, eh’. Like ‘oh, this is what you’ve done. Great’ (laughs).
Q. Have they ever hated a song?
Jake: It’s generally pretty positive. It’s actually always positive, so that’s good.
Q. So they’ve never turned down a song? They’ve never said ‘we hate this, we’re not playing it’?
Jake: Not to my face.
Q. What was your first recording studio experience like in comparison to writing in your room as a teenager?
Jake: It was fucking pretty horrible. Actually, no it wasn’t horrible. I take that back. The people involved in it were great, and lovely but it’s just, I think I just prefer to go in and do things myself. I could elaborate, but actually the real truth is that one of my closest friends from high school got into recording music and basically set up a studio soon after we left high school, so I learnt a lot of stuff by ghosting him. So yeah, I guess I was lucky enough to stay out of recording studios for quite a while. I don’t know, I don’t really like big studios. Or professional recording studios, they’re something that’s a little scary.
Q. What’s the weirdest place you’ve been when you’ve come up with lyrics for a song?
Jake: Probably just driving, is the weirdest one. Which isn’t that weird.
Q. Yeah, you have to hold onto it until you can write it down.
Jake: Yeah, or just sing into my phone or something. But yeah, I tend to just be like writing. The time for writing is when the lyrics hit. You sort of like, get it out, in a way. But it’s more just adjustments and stuff. I don’t know, I could go on. You can just make something up (laughs).
Q. Who is your favourite artist of all time? If you can narrow it down.
Jake: No, that’s too hard. I can’t.
Q. What would your advice be to aspiring musicians?
Jake: My only advice would be, for anyone you want to do, just make sure that you do it because you want to do it. Make things for yourself.
Q. Did you ever consider going to uni to study music or writing?
Jake: I did. I still do, actually. I like university, actually, it’s a good place to be.
Q. What was your favourite song ever to write and record?
Jake: It’s still happening. It’s yet to be titled.
Q. So next album?
Jake: Yeah, next collaboration maybe.
Q. How long have all the band members been playing instruments and what range of instruments can you play?
Jake: Most people can play. I think that also varies. Everyone plays different things and they’ve played them for different amounts of time.
Q. But you all pretty much started when you were younger?
Jake: Some people did, some didn’t. I’d say the oldest some people started was probably high school. Yeah, most people I think when they were primary school age.
Q. Do you enjoy recording all your songs or are there some that are a bit more difficult to finish up?
Jake: I think the ones that end up being difficult aren’t end up not being that good a song anyway. Mostly they don’t make the cut. But it can be really tough to labour over certain songs. But I think once you’ve broken through with difficult songs, like usually it works out to be worth it, y’know. So therefore, I don’t think of them as being tough, y’know?
Q. What did you want to be as a child? Did you always want to be a musician?
Jake: It’s funny, the only time I can remember answering that question is, and I’m not making this up, it was a primary school yearbook thing. I think I said I either wanted to be a lead guitar player in a band or study at Oxford University so. One of them is maybe still my dream right now. Probably to play lead guitar in a band.
Jake and the rest of Methyl Ethel will be playing at the Brisbane Festival's closing night this Saturday alongside Violent Soho, Meg Mac and WAAX. You can buy tickets to see them perform at Laneway here.
They also released a new song earlier today, the first from their album due out early next year. We're sure you can learn the words in time for Saturday night.