Jonathan Boulet, musician
When on tour, a fresh pair of socks is equivalent to a shower ...
He may be 16,000 km away holed up in a foreign country, but the wit and humour of 26-year-old musician Jonathan Boulet is palpable. Never one to take himself too seriously, it’s this penchant for absurdity that has inspired gags like intentional bad grammar in song titles, chuckle-inducing video clips and exceptionally fun live shows. After leaving his hometown of Sydney for the creative chaos of Berlin, the musician is now planning an Australian tour from his new home of London. Jonathan’s self-produced third album Gubba was let loose in the universe last month and will be the stimulus to draw him back to our shores, with an east coast tour including a stopover at Black Bear Lodge on Thursday August 28. Before Jonathan and his band make their way back to Australia, The Weekend Edition chatted to the singer-songwriter about his upcoming tour, Aussie sarcasm and the joy of fresh socks.
Australian ears were treated to Gubba late last month, what’s the response been like so far?
It’s been super great so far! Really positive. I think I can genuinely say, along with a lot of other listeners, I like the new stuff better than the old. Out with the old and in with the new! If it’s too loud, you’re too old …
What’s the story behind the album name? Were any other options considered before settling on Gubba?
The name is an Australian Indigenous slang term for ‘white man’. There weren’t a lot of serious options to be honest. Gubba became the default and eventually I realised how perfect it was. The only other serious option was Lipshitz. So Lipshitz got a song name instead – a worthy second place.
Your dad stars in the new video for the first single off the album, ‘Hold It Down’. How did you convince a former player of the French football team to give himself a wedgie on film?
You’ve been digging deep! For a chance to be in the spotlight again, an old dog will do anything … But seriously, he was a champ about it. He was actually really stoked to be involved and back on the motorbike again after so many years. Hours after they finished the last shot of the video, Dad sold the bike and it was gone forever. I think the most important thing was the message: it doesn’t matter who you are or how you look, if you’re on a motorbike you’re cool as hell.
Did he and your mum take kindly to your early musical dabblings in their garage?
They did indeed. Too kindly perhaps. They really nailed the parenting nail on the head. I think their approach was pretty much to never tell me to shut up. Exceptions for late-night noise, of course, but otherwise the garage was the freedom room. You could do anything you wanted in that room, judgement free. Every home should have one. A judgement-free zone. A freedom zone.
You were signed to Modular by the age of 21. Was having the backing of such an iconic label daunting at that young age, or did the excitement take over?
As a young whipper snapper with nothing to lose, it was more a source of motivation than anything else. Of course I was excited about it – I was riding the clouds! I was a fat kid with an unlockable jaw and I never thought a real label – let alone one with such a history – would be interested in jams I beat out in the garage.
You made the track ‘Hold It Down’ available for free download and we also spotted a bunch of previously unreleased tracks for free on Bandcamp. Is accessibility to music something you care strongly about? Any plans to continue down that route?
The internet and accessibility to music is a strange beast; it has its pros and cons, of course. The unreleased stuff I do is just a creative output and helps the juices flow. Making it free/pay-what-you-want just seems to fit the nature of that stuff. Plus sometimes it’s nice to have everything for sale all the time. You don’t want to think about your creative work firstly as a business because that’s the quickest road to compromise. I plan to always make stuff, good or bad, and always make it available to everyone. It’s my attempt to contribute.
What triggered your move to Berlin?
I think it was just time to have a crack at it over there … See what it’s all about and have a good go. Being one of the cheapest cities in the world at the time, what better place for a cheap person like myself to go.
Now you’re living in London, have you planned out the next step or are you waiting to see where life takes you?
There’s not really a plan, other than the plan of making music. We’ll see what surprises old man life has for us up his sleeve. The master plan is to buy a large castle-like property and turn it into a Willy Wonka factory for musicians, artists and creatives alike.
What have you missed most about Australia while you’ve been away?
The unending sarcasm. It’s not as funny when you have to explain that you’re making a joke.
You’ll be touring up the east coast and playing in Brisbane on Thursday August 28, is there anything you’re looking forward to doing or consuming while you’re in the Sunshine State?
I look forward to drinking the sunshine in and consuming the good vibes.
We heard you have a particular fondness for new socks. What’s something else we might not know about you?
When on tour, a fresh pair of socks is equivalent to a shower. You may not know that I have a single transverse palmar crease on both hands.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve heard your music played?
I haven’t really heard it played in any genuinely weird places. I guess my weird to normal ratio of travel destinations would lean more towards the normal side. Apparently it’s been played in the Czech Republic. It’s not that weird, but I do like to imagine an elderly Czech couple sitting around the wireless, tapping their knees along to one of the new songs.
What’s one song you wish you’d written?
Adam Sandler’s ‘At a Medium Pace’.
Who would you most love to see in your audience?
Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
Sorry but I’ve got to ask … was leaving out the ‘n’ in ‘You Are A Animal’ intentional?
Yes it was! I thought it’d be funny and by god it was funny. And still continues to be.
If you could give your teenage self one piece of advice, what would it be?
‘By the time you’re 26, find some better advice to offer.’
What’s your personal definition of ‘success’?
Producing worthwhile and original creative work.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
Listen to music … naked in bed.
Relax … naked in bed.
Catch up … the local fine dining and specialised coffee parlour.
Be inspired … it’s always good to go to a bad gig for some motivation.