Jules Sheldon has released albums before, but nothing like this. While his debut self-titled album and follow-up album "football, trams, parties and other extended highlights" were deeply rooted in an earnest folk setting, his latest album "bloodshed & serenity" is a considerable departure from that genre. Instead, Jules is now celebrating a new direction that truly describes him - "sad boy dreamy pop" post-punk music complete with guitar, synths and drum machines. Now getting ready for a national tour, EatNoise catches up with Jules to find out more ...
So, tell us about the history of Jules Sheldon, and your relationship with music ...
I was born in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, where my dear parents Susan & Jez played me Bowie, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, and Roxy Music from a very young age, while my Granny would tell me to do what made me happy, and also opened my mind up to a world of literature and discovery.
I turned to music at age 15 as a way of coping with bullying in school, and to articulate anxiety/depressive tendencies waking up in me(cheers puberty).
My first song was written at that age, then my first gig was later that year at my dearly departed friend Steve's record store. At age 16, I met Spencer P. Jones and Brian Henry Hooper who both embraced what I was doing and helped me out a lot and, as they say, the rest is history.
Music is ever changing to me. It should never be stagnant, it should never be formulaic, and it should certainly never dumb itself down in execution or intent. It's a means to challenge yourself.
You've released your debut new album "Bloodshed and Serenity" - how would you describe the music on this album?
Sad boi dream pop with added ass shakes.
It's quite a dramatic departure from your previous album "football, trams, parties and other extended highlights" in 2015 and your 2010 self-titled album. What the hell happened?
Haha, well I simply got sick of my own music.
I started out playing more folky-pop stuff, and as I was still finding my feet as a musician, I was therefore hindered by my lack of ability.
After a while I got annoyed by this and I was faced with a conundrum of playing folk music at gigs but then coming home and listening to more left of field stuff like Einsturzende Neubatuen, which was more in the vein of what I wanted to do.
So I stopped playing solo gigs for 4 years and played in a post-punk band named The Primary during that time. Only after that band ended did I feel ready to start again as a solo artist again.
The last album was me working with only my vision for what I wanted done, and was a great experience, while this one was me taking the bull by the horns and making the album I had REALLY wanted to make all these years.
Bloodshed & Serenity is more me. It's the sound of years spent listening to The Cure, Rowland S. Howard, Berlin era David Bowie, Devastations, and HTRK, and really trying to write songs where the arrangements and lyrics sync up in their purpose and intent.
Tell us about your experience writing and recording Bloodshed and Serenity.
I had a ball doing this one.
First time I've ever played every single bit of guitar on an album, and Ed Lloyd (engineer, drum machines, synths) and my long time collaborator Gemma Helms (bass guitar), were fantastic to work with.
Ed has known me for years, so when it came to his parts, he knew my reference points to a tee and could easily give me what I wanted.
It was a really easy experience overall. There were some new songs, some old songs, some VERY old songs, and many things I had never tried before.
All it took was Snowy to mix and master the whole thing to perfection, and then it was completed.
What's behind the name of your album?
The themes on this album are very much an example of things that are both beautiful and terrible at the same time.
Nothing is simply black and white in life, and for many of the songs on this record that rings true.
Where there is a song about love, there is loneliness of that love ending, where there is a song about someone who has died, the focus is on the life they lived.
I thought the words Bloodshed & Serenity summed this up well.
What has the response to your album been like since you released in February?
It's been received really well. I've noticed more people listening to this album than my last two and people seem to really like the new direction. I for one certainly like the new direction, so I'm glad others feel the same way as well haha.
Performing it has also been a joy. The use of backing tracks for my performances has meant I can do the three things I'm good at in music, all in one set. People have been very receptive to these new performance aspects, and after years of playing dour and boring folky gigs, it's a godamn pleasure to shake my ass unashamedly on a stage.
I can play solo songs like how I used to, I can play lead guitar and sing to the backing tracks, and I can also do the front man thing by putting the guitar down all together and hamming it up more than Bill Shatner at a non-kosher salami festival.
You've got a national tour coming up, which must be pretty exciting. Where are you travelling to, and how are you getting around?
I'm traveling to Castlemaine, Beechworth, Thirroull, Sydney, Hobart, and Adelaide, over June and July, before finishing with a hometown Melbourne gig on August 3rd.
I'll be flying and driving, and have the honor of playing with some truly exceptional bands as well.
On that note, make sure you have a listen to Cody Munro Moore, Lou Davies, Babey, Blush Response, Bert Shirt, Peak Body, It's A Hoax, and Classic.
What are three critical elements that influence your song writing?
Simplicity, atmosphere, and never growing out of being a teenage goth.
What songs would you put on your ultimate road-trip mixed-tape?
The Go-Betweens- Cattle & Cane
The Triffids- The Seabirds
Rowland S. Howard- Exit Everything
Time For Dreams- Operator
HTRK- Rent Boy
Gold Class- Rose Blind
David Bowie- DJ
The Blue Nile- Tinseltown In The Rain
Roxy Music- More Than This
John Cale- Fear
If you could curate your own music festival, and include yourself on the bill, what local, Australian and international artists would you book? Who would headline, and in what setting?
HTRK, Shayne P. Carter, Gold Class, Time For Dreams, Mares, Babey, Messy Mammals, Lou Davies, International Velvet, The Ocean Party, Terry, Ninetynine, Emma Russack, and Spike Fuck, in a red velvet room (about 100 capacity), with some tall dream boat working behind the bar who is also named Jules (easy to remember after a few gins), and an area with wood piled up out back where I can escape to if I don't want to be around humans.
What was your first concert/gig?
The Wiggles, Ivanhoe town hall, early 90's.
What band t-shirt might you have been wearing at the time?
I was/am too pretentious for that, so I wore a frilly shirt and blue velvet jacket.
If your music was to be used as a soundtrack for a film, what genre of film is it, who would you want directing it, and who would star?
Just this and only this.
What's the worst thing that has happened to you at a gig?
All the crappy stuff is contained to my old post-punk band The Primary.
When we finished the last song at our E.P. launch, we went back stage to relax, only for me to find blood on my shirt. I initially thought I had done something to myself, as I'd stage dived a few times during our set. Only problem was that it wasn't my blood and I didn't have a single scratch on me.
I have suspicions about who the blood belonged to, but I've never dared to ask them about it.
I also once used someone's cider bottle as a guitar slide. After the cider fizzed everywhere and there was almost none of it left, I sheepishly bought them a new one post show. As uncle Spencer once said to me, "it's nice to be important but always important to be nice".
What food/drink serving suggestions do you have for this album?
ENTREE: Polenta chips with truffle mayo. Gin (tanqueray) and Tonic.
MAIN: Napoli spaghetti with blue swimmer crab. Another Gin and Tonic.
DESSERT: Coffee: double espresso.
TO FINISH: Campari & soda.