What more can you ask for? Bluegrass band Then Jolene have taken the North Coast by storm. We caught up with the band to find out more about what makes their sound so unique and where they draw their inspiration from …
How many band members are there, and what do they each bring to Then Jolene?
Then Jolene have eight members in total. Each member brings their own unique perspective to the band, some of us also bring multiple personalities – so this is always fun. It is a unique band in many ways: three members born on the 21st November, two married couples – dramatic and theatrical, to say the least. Some of us bring intelligence, others humour, some common sense and on most nights fine cheese and domestic beer.
Tell us how you got together …
Is it pretentious to say serendipity? But, it did kind of fall into place … We all, for whatever reason or another, ended up either moving to or moving back to Woolgoolga around 10 years ago. We had kids, we played music, the town is small, so you have to be selective … I think we chose each other, in some respects.
What type of sound can we expect from you?
We kind of drew our inspiration from the old Bluegrass stuff. We use traditional instruments like fiddles, mandolins, acoustic guitars, our bass player has a stand-up bass that was his grandfather’s, that is 130 years of age …However, we do tend to bastardise that ol’ timey sound due to the fact most of us have a history in alternative, punk or metal bands. What you can expect is six part harmonies; we have set up the vocals to be the key element of the band. Due to all this, our sound cannot be easily defined – we like to call it HAPPY TIME SWAMP GOSPEL.
What makes your vibe and sound so unique?
All of the above. We have no clear indicators of what we should sound like; we have four songwriters within the group and six vocalists. We are a custom base and obviously draw our inspiration from the Bluegrass areas, but the sound is unique. As far as the vibe goes, we are bloody theatre – the banter and diatribe between songs can be hilarious, cutting, and there is a willingness to take the piss. It truly is dinner and a show. Two married couples, three members born on the same day – to say we are a quiet bunch would be a lie.
Rumour has it that most of your shows pack out. What’s it like to play in front of a crowd? Do you prefer intimate gigs or packed gigs?
Yeah, it has been amazing and unexpected. We have seen a real sense of word of mouth follow this band; we have sold out a couple of shows at the same venue, which has been awesome. I think, to use a stage term, we are all a bunch of old hoofers; we thrive on crowd participation and response.
Rachel, one of our vocalists, is known to stand on a milk crate as she is very short, and I don’t mind a microphone in front of me – it make my opinions louder, much to my wife’s chagrin. As far as crowd size goes, I don’t think it matters too much; you just have to engage them, make them feel a part of it, and the rest will follow.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
The ocean, our kids, our dogs, our partners, beer, cheese, a light north westerly, rain dripping off the wattle and the Daily Telgraph.
Tell us about some of your most memorable shows …
I don’t remember any shows … Oh, OK, we played a venue; it was small but full. We decided to do a cover for a sing-along, and we played River To Pray. All of a sudden we had 80 people singing with us in unison, no instruments, just accapella. That felt good.
Favourite venue to perform?
Two venues spring to mind … The Old Mothers Milk in Sawtell, I think it’s called 63 First Avenue now – what a great little room! Great people, great beer, great food. The other would be The Pelican Playhouse in South Grafton – man, what a room! Old timey theatre, curtain closing, seating and a green room with a wheel chair – tops.
What plans have you got for 2016?
2016 will be a big year for Then Jolene. We will release our debut album; we recorded this with the wonderful Paul Agar at Heaven Recording Studios in Yamba. We will also be undertaking a tour of Sydney and will play as many festivals that will allow us. One of our members just had a battle with cancer, and won, so we are stoked to move forward.
You’re playing a bunch of local gigs over the next couple of months. Where and when can we find you?
We are playing our home town pub, The Seaview Tavern at Woolgoolga, on Boxing Day and then at 63 First Avenue Sawtell later in January. We are also playing up at Billinudgel and Lennox, Byron, towards the end of January. Happy days.