JEBEDIAH How To Live Long And Influence People

Pic: Matt Saville
Jebediah | Pic by Matt Saville

Jebediah celebrate their 20th anniversary with a new compilation album, Twenty, and a national tour which stops by the Astor Theatre from Friday, June 26, to Sunday, June 28. BOB GORDON reports.

Unlike many of their ‘90s contemporaries, Jebediah have never broken up, nor announced an official sabbatical. 

While Kevin Mitchell’s forays into the worlds of Bob Evans and The Basement Birds have sometimes seen Jebediah on the backburner a little, when they have re-emerged it has always been at full-force.

Upon the band’s 20th anniversary tour and commemorative album release, one wonders though, was there ever a time when they all though it might have been done and dusted?

“Personally, for me, no,” says guitarist, Chris Daymond. “I’ve never felt like I could be standing on the edge of it not ever happening again. So that’s just a gut feeling, because there’d have to be some reason for that; some catalyst that would mean that the end is nigh. And that hasn’t occurred to me.”

“I can’t even foresee the end,” says bassist, Vanessa Thornton, “or how we would ever get to the point where we would say to each other, ‘okay this is it. This is gonna be the last show’. Imagine going out to play a show, knowing it was gonna be your last. I mean, obviously we’ll play a last show, but…”

“… will we?” asks Daymond.

“I guess so, unless we’re gonna go forever. Like until the end of time.”

“That’s my plan,” says Daymond, sending Thornton into fits of laughter.

Anyone thinking that the three Bob Evans albums may have distanced Mitchell from Jebediah has been proven incorrect by the fullness of time. If anything the folk/country climes of his alter-ego must have likely made sure that there was plenty of room for Jebs in his rock’n’roll heart.

“The other interesting thing about that is he started playing Bob Evans show before we even released Slightly Odway,” Thornton points out. “So that has always been there and always been a part of what he does.”

“It depends on what your outlook is on it as well,” says Daymond.

“If you’re optimistic then you don’t think that that kind of change will have a negative result on the band. You think it’s going to have a positive result – which it has done – and you encourage each other to pursue those things, it’s really important.

“Kev’s enjoyment of pursuing his own musical journey is integral to being part of this as well. So it’s your outlook when those things come into play, all of these things can exist together, it doesn’t have to be a trade-off between one thing and having to give something else up.

If anything, allowing Jebediah to take a back seat for certain periods of time has allowed all its members to follow their passions, and eventually rekindle the initial passion when they started the band in 1995.

“It takes the pressure off as well,” says Thornton, who also plays in Axe Girl and The Tommyhawks and previously with Felicity Groom & The Black Black Smoke. “The band was totally a hobby, and it was not something that we had all invested every facet of our life into. The sheer joy of just being in this band because  we just wanted to play music together, I hadn’t strongly felt that particularly feeling for a good many years, the whole journey’s been fun and I wouldn’t change anything, but there was definitely a feeling, when everything else was taken away, that it’s come back down to this basic thing – us four want to be in a room together and play music.”

Daymond agrees: “That’s an important point – the four of us. Whereas if you compare it to something like Silverchair, where it was emotionally driven by Daniel (Johns), his investment in playing those songs every night, emotionally, it takes a lot out of him. So to keep that momentum going, obviously is very, very difficult, from an output point of view.

“So it does have its shelf-life in a way, and it does have to resolve so you can move on. Because our music is a shared creative exercise, you can all step away from it and it won’t necessarily disintegrate.  When  you pick up your guitars again in the same room together you can just jump back into it.”

The 20th anniversary tour will see Jebediah played their debut album, Slightly Odway, in its entirety along with other hits and favourites. The interest in this outing, nationally, has been massive and has certainly taken the band by surprise.

“The element of revisiting an album like Odway obviously brings an attention to the show which we haven’t had recently,” Daymond notes, “but also  it’s really humbling that people want to come along and celebrate that with you as well. When we did the predictions, budget-wise, for the tour and stuff we were very pessimistic about attendance, so we’ve been blown away by the fact that we’re doing four nights at the Corner Hotel. It’s never happened in our career.”

While times have changed, there’s been no change of heart in Jebediah. Their approach to playing and creating music has remained on track and is the key to why this tour rings so bright and true.

“It’s not unusual for us to be playing these songs in this way, it’s not like we have to rewind the equipment,” says Daymond. “We’ve all still got the same thing in our hands as we did when we did that. What makes it really special is the connection you have with the people who are enjoying it. We’ve played Leaving Home so many fucking times that you’d think, from a musician’s point of view, that we’d be sick of playing that song. But it’s not like that, because every time you play it, sure, if you were just looking at your guitar it would be exactly the same, but you’re not. You’re involved in the experience of sharing the music with people. Now you can see that it really means something. If you can’t get anything out of that as a performer you’re missing the point.”