Nearly 30 years on from their debut LP release, Spiderbait have firmly established themselves as a staple in the Australian rock scene. The tracks on the cutting room floor attest to that.
With iconic tracks such as ‘Buy Me A Pony’ and ‘Calypso’, Spiderbait are still as relevant today as when they burst onto the scene in the ‘90s. They’ve proven it by returning in monumental fashion with a double album. Their latest release is a conglomeration of previously published tracks as well as lost or forgotten tapes that were resurfaced during the height of the pandemic.
The album itself is a particularly special release. Entitled Sounds In The Key Of J, it’s a 33 song retrospective dedicated to band member Janet, who over the course of Spiderbait’s tenure has maintained a key role in their songwriting process.
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“It’s a retrospective of stuff, but there are some new songs on there. They were songs that we found, like old demos or songs that never went on a record as well as stuff that was a retrospective from when we began”, says Janet.
The full album is compiled of songs where Janet is either singing or has been the spearhead in the writing process. However, she concedes that before any of the songs were recorded, the remaining bandmates had a significant impact over the final sound.
“When I say my stuff, we are a pretty collaborative band, it’s not just exclusively my work, but the main focus is stuff I’m singing on, or I’ve written.”
The breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic and the intermittent lockdowns nationwide resulted in a forced period of reflection for all. Janet’s bandmate Kram took this opportunity to sift through old recordings and reflect on what has been a prolific 30 years for Spiderbait.
As a direct result of this reminiscent application, Sounds In The Key Of J was pieced together in an ode to Janet.
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“We just lifted the songs off the original demos or recordings, all compiled during the lockdowns. Obviously, there was no chance to go and re-record anything. I think it was Kram digging through some of his old tapes, when you used to get stuff mastered, you’d get a CD or a tape,” says Janet.
Although initially Kram was the person unearthing old recordings, this process of resurfacing tracks has become a nostalgic journey for the remaining members of the band.
“We would often record as many songs as what we’d put on a record, most of us had no memory of that stuff along the way. It was mainly Kram going through all those recordings and going ‘why did we leave this track off the record?’”
Despite the enjoyment and surprise that arose from discovering long-since forgotten compositions, Janet admits that not every song the band has ever written will be good enough to feature on an album.
“We are pretty prolific; we are constantly pumping stuff out. If you put everything you wrote on an album, you’d be doing it for the rest of your life. That’s the nature of being an artist, you are sort of always culling along the way.”
Janet goes on to state that there were many more songs that didn’t even feature in the double album too.
“Even though it is a double album, there still is plenty of tracks that didn’t make it. Presumably in another 30 years there will be another record, a triple album”, jokes Janet.
In celebration of the release of Sounds In The Key Of J the band are set to commence a nationwide tour starting in Sydney. Within the tour, they’ve included destinations not often visited by Australian artists. This remains an important approach for Janet and Spiderbait.
“We grew up in regional Australia, being overlooked by the arts community, it was something we dealt with. The more opportunities we get to play outside of the major cities the better.”
The run of shows start in July – they’re coming to Melbourne on the 15th – and Janet is looking forward to connecting with fans as well as playing live again.
“We will just have a bit of a bash, have some fun. There are some pretty rabid fans about these songs, which I love.”
However, as time has elapsed and due to limitations, Janet outlined that some songs cannot be reproduced live.
“Some of the tracks are still in the set, but some of them we haven’t played since we put them down on the record. Some we’ve never played live and some of them we just can’t reproduce in a live setting, due to there being extra instrumentation, a keyboard, an extra guitar et cetera. But we will try and do an approximation of them, a reinterpretation if you like.”
She also admitted that some tracks have had to be changed into a different key to account for the band’s changing vocal capabilities.
“Our voices have changed, so we’ve had to drop a key for certain songs. But I’ve enjoyed it.”
Despite what will be a different experience for the audience, Janet is adamant that they will not be left dissatisfied following on from the upcoming live shows.
“It changes the feel of some of the songs. We’re just not going to be able to reproduce them. It’s a different flavour to some of the songs. But we are hopefully going to stay true to the original purpose of the song. Some of the songs are going to be faithful because they are a three-piece live song, but others we are going to have to rearrange.”
As Spiderbait prepare to embark on what will be a near four-month tour period, Janet remains excited about creativity and the opportunity to share that with others. She remains in awe of the enigmatic nature of creativity.
“It’s mysterious and it’s so exciting. I don’t think you can pin it down with a formulaic way of this is how it always happens.
“I find the process of the creative arts so fascinating, that spontaneity and that moment of invention is so elusive.”