What is it about music that you love the most?
That the need for music is so universal, and yet there is so much diversity in the music that’s been created over time and around the world. There is literally something for everyone – and if you haven’t found anything you like yet, it’s probably because you’re the one who has to make it.
Tell us about your style of music.
I went through a very brief phase recently – maybe a night or two –when I thought I’d found my niche. I was like, ‘myth rock’! That’s it! That’s my thing! Until someone pointed out it was a bit Led Zeppelin/Spinal Tap-ish and all I could think about were druids (‘their legacy remains hewn into the living rock… of Stonehenge’) and I don’t think there’s enough bearded, guitar-driven folk-rock in my sound to fully qualify as ‘myth rock’, sadly. I’m really more piano-driven art rock, that just happens to be influenced by literature and mythologies.
Who are the biggest influences on your music today?
Right now I’m on a massive Kate Bush ‘Hounds of Love’ bender, as well as listening to a lot of great Australian artists like Emma Dean, Martin Martini and Hue Blanes who are really fantastic at blending genres like jazz, cabaret and art rock into something totally unique and real. Apart from that, it’s all about Patti Smith, Tori Amos, St Vincent, Tom Waits and Jacques Brel.
Tell us a little about your debut EP The Lotus Eaters and the inspiration behind it.
It’s pretty dark and weird in places – even previewing it for friends, I feel like I need to validate it with some variation of an ‘arty wanker’ joke, which I’m trying to get over. It’s got a lot of literary references, as well as mythological and astronomical ones. I put that down to my parents’ influence – my mother’s a librarian and my dad’s a meteorologist. We’re always looking inwards and upwards at the same time, I guess.
The Lotus Eaters pulls together a lot of the disparate sides of my creative and personal life that until now, I wasn’t sure that I could ever really reconcile. Most of these songs actually came out of dream states while going through a depressive stage, like they were seeping out of my subconsciousness when I didn’t really feel capable of creating while awake. So in a weird way, I feel really thankful towards these songs – they kind of saved my life. And then other words and songs that I’d been drawn to during The Lotus Eaters writing period, like Mary Oliver’s ‘The Uses Of Sorrow (In My Sleep I Dreamed This Poem)’ (which features in the opening track, ‘The Gift’), and The Shins ‘Sleeping Lessons’ made their way onto the EP quite organically.
It’s not really a triumphant album, although it is a lot about survival. I’d like to say that it was – I’m becoming more and more enamoured with music that doesn’t feel like there’s great sufferance behind its creation, you know? Maybe that’ll make its way onto my first full-length record, ha.
What’s your favourite tune off it and why?
Hmmm. It’s like picking a favourite child! I don’t want the others to get a complex. I think it’s a tie between the title track ‘The Lotus Eaters’ and the last song, ‘Andromeda’. ‘Andromeda’ is the most raw song, vocally and emotionally, but it features my favourite 30 or so seconds of the entire EP. And ‘The Lotus Eaters’ is, I think, one of the best songs I’ve written yet, and it really shows off my amazing band – Chad Blaster on drums, Adam Rudegeair on bass, and Jess Keeffe on cello.
The award-winning writer Neil Gaiman features on one of your tracks “She Never Again Trusted Stars.” Please tell us about that experience.
I got to know Neil through his wife Amanda [Palmer], through touring with her with my previous band, The Jane Austen Argument. It’s actually kind of surreal, because I first heard of him through Tori Amos references to their friendship in her lyrics, and Tori is one of my biggest musical idols. She was like, my gateway drug from classical music, in terms of realising what I could be capable of playing and writing – or what I could be ‘allowed to’ play and write – and that that didn’t have to be a choice between Rachmaninoff and Roxette. So to then get to the point where I knew Neil well enough to have this idea where I wanted him to record a short story that I’d written, and be able to just email him and ask if he was into it, and for him to say yes, and then record himself reading it and then send it back to me within a week, was pretty amazing. And weird to think about what past-me would have thought about future-me getting to do that.
When and where can we get it?
The Lotus Eaters is getting released on May 15, everywhere, thanks to the wondrousness of the interwebz. Mainly though, you should get it from my Bandcamp page (http://music.jenniferkingwell.net) for both downloads and CDs, or from excellent independent record stores such as Rathdowne Records.
When’s the gig and with who?
The launch party is also on May 15. I’ll be playing with my incredible band, The Garland Thugs (Jess Keeffe on BVs and cello, Adam Rudegeair on bass, Chad Blaster on drums), with special guests Mechanical Pterodactyl and The Kill Love. It’s at The Wesley Anne on High St, Northcote – one of my all-time favourite places to be in Melbourne.
Why should everyone come and see your show?
Because they’ve gotten through this interview and feel like I’m just the kind of weirdo they might be into. Also, because they’re curious about music and art and probably want to make it themselves. Maybe I could just be someone else’s gateway drug into something amazing…
Where do you see yourself and your music by the end of the year?
This is probably my most ambitious and varied year, judging by my plans so far. After the EP launch, on the cards is a part-classical, part-original piano-based show with a few other Melbourne underground pianist buddies, a Melbourne Fringe show based on the Kate Bush concept album ‘The Ninth Wave’, a national tour and hopefully a 10” vinyl release of The Lotus Eaters to cap it all off. I’d like to be able to pay my band more, that’s for sure.
What has been your most memorable moment as a musician?
Playing my first Sydney show at the Opera House, performing my own tunes on a Steinway in the main theatre, opening for Amanda Palmer on Australia Day 2012, was pretty fucking special. Inversely, auditioning for the high school big band, having never been introduced to a lead chart in my life, was a complete disaster and the main reason I have such a hangup about jazz musicians – but I’m getting over that.
Catch the multi-talented JENNIFER KINGWELL when she launches her debut EP The Lotus Eaters at The Wesley Anne in Northcote on Thursday May 15. She will be supported by special guests Mechanical Pterodactyl and The Kill Love and you can get your tickets at the door or via http://music.jenniferkingwell.net/