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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Jericco

By: Justin Donnelly

Although having only been together in their current form for a short time, Melbourne-based outfit Jericco certainly created quite a buzz for themselves in the underground scene with their much talked about hybrid mix of world music influences, all out progressive rock, and their much talked about powerful live performances.

Having released their self-titled EP in late 2008, and with the band officially celebrating the launch of their debut release this weekend in Melbourne, I caught up with vocalist Brent McCormick to talk about the band’s multicultural background and the unique influence its had on the six tracks on ‘Jericco’, playing live and the McCormick’s early belief in Jericco’s potential - even before hearing a single note from the band.

“The formation of Jericco took place over a two year period, with me joining the band around eighteen months ago. Six months prior to that, Roy Amar (Bass player) and Luke Halstead (Drummer) had been jamming together and looking for other members. At the time, I was playing with my old band Jasper. We had been playing together for around four or five years at that point. We really wanted to go places, but we never actually got off our asses to do it properly. I had seen the ad that these guys had placed in Beat Magazine advertising for a vocalist for about a month, so I just decided to give it a go. I was still with Jasper at the time when I went and had an interview with Amar. But when I met him, he was just electric. He was such an unstoppable force. As soon as I met him, I knew that I had to make music with this guy. That was before I had even heard him play bass! (Laughs) We had a couple of jam sessions, and we knew pretty much straight away that the chemistry felt right. Apparently Amar and Halstead went through sixty odd singers before they found me. We needed a guitarist, so it wasn’t long before Jordan Nagle (ex-Jasper guitarist) joined up, with Fetah Sabawi (Ex-Superheist/Revoluci√≥n Street keyboardist/programmer) the last addition to the band.”

Much like the gradual coming together of the band’s members, Jericco’s debut recording effort was a lengthy one. But despite the drawn out sessions, both McCormick and the band are more than happy with the end result.

“The EP took a long time to complete. Overall, it took us somewhere between four and five months to finish, because Nagle went on holidays and Amar went back home to see his family for a while. So while the recording sessions were a little disrupted within that time, the whole thing eventually came together for us in the end, and we’re relatively happy with the results. In terms of the song writing, before I joined the band, nearly all of the songs had been pretty much written. So for most of the songs, it was pretty much me singing whatever I felt over the top. It was a case of me turning up to rehearsals and them saying, ‘Here’s the riffs, and here’s the songs. See what you can do’. We’ve spent a lot of time on the vocals, and chopping up the songs in order to come up with the songs we have now. I think what we ended up with is pretty raw, but also something that has a lot of energy. So my job was to come up with something that would fit in with what was already written instrumentally before I entered the picture. There’s a lot going on there. Apart from the first single ‘Sun’, which was written as a whole band, no song was the result of the band sitting down and putting together these songs at the one time. ‘Sun’ is possibly the only song on the EP that has more of a togetherness feel than the others. It doesn’t feel as chopped up and put together as the others. And there are Sabawi’s keyboards. Because he was the last addition to the band, all his keyboards were put down during the last stages of the recording process. We had already completed ninety percent of the EP, and getting ready to mix it when Sabawi added his parts. I agree that there are some sections on the EP where the vocals are pulling in one direction, and the music is pulling in another way, but we’re really happy with the way it’s come out.”

As mentioned earlier, Jericco have a different take on the standard progressive rock sound, with Amar’s Israeli cultural influences and Sabawi’s Palestinian musical heritage adding a world music element to the band’s overall sound. But while the line-up features both an Israeli and a Palestinian, McCormick states that the band isn’t what you would call a political entity.

“There’s a definite progressive rock and world music influence throughout our EP. We try and incorporate that because of Amar and Sabawi’s backgrounds. You can find those Middle Eastern grooves throughout the whole EP. Those songs that you hear, apart from ‘Sun’ of course. were nine minute jams before I joined the band! (Laughs) Amar and Halstead would put together like four of five riffs into these songs and just jam endlessly on them. But the influence of Amar and Sabawi is purely on a musical level. I mean we’re not pushing the whole Israeli and Palestinian angle. We’re certainly not political, or out to change the world. What I find we’re trying to do is bridge that gap. It’s more about putting it out there and letting people know what’s going on in the world. I was never all that interested in the Israeli and Palestinian angle until I met these guys. We were just sitting down and then the war broke out just a couple of months ago overseas, and Amar was getting text messages from his brother saying that he was going in with the ground forces. And then it was Sabawi getting messages from his wife’s family, who live in Gaza where buildings were getting blown up beside them. It’s hearing it through those guys that I’m playing with, and seeing how it affects them, that really brings it all home with me. It never clicked until that moment. With the lyrical content, I made an effort not to get caught up in political debate. I don’t write wholly and solely about those issues. I’m quite an introverted person, and I write from the heart. All of my lyrics pretty much come from personal stories, and where my life has taken me. ‘Rujm (Pile Of Stones)’ is one of the exceptions to that. The riffs in there are so heavy and in your face, so it’s definitely one of our heaviest songs. It was while I was writing the lyrics that Amar suggested that I imagine the music as a background to war, and angle the lyrics more from his perspective. So I sat down with him, and he told me some of the most amazing stories. Amar has obviously served in the war, and he told me stuff that I would never have imagined possible. So that’s where that song actually came from. And it was good experience for me, because it was a different way of writing lyrics and something that I had never taken on before. I tend to write about my own experiences. The song isn’t that political, or based solely on any specific conflict, but more based around ideas that I grabbed from the guys that are in my band. We all have stories to tell, and this band gives us all a platform for that.”

With the record now released, Jericco have firmly set their sights on playing as many gigs as possible. And it’s no surprise given the reaction to their performances in support of Mammal in recent times.

“We’ve only been gigging now for about nine months, so we’ve been pretty much living in our own shell of a rehearsal studio in that time and writing our EP. We’ve probably only done around twenty to thirty gigs. So far, they’ve only been small events, but having said that, our second show was with Dead Letter Circus. That was amazing. We’ve just come back from a tour with Mammal in Sydney actually. I’m still trying to come down from it! The responses to the live shows were phenomenal. I had this young girl come up to me and say, ‘For the first band at the show, I never expected that! You don’t expect that from a support act!’ We sold around one hundred and twenty copies of the EP over the three shows we did in Sydney last weekend, and we’ve been getting an amazing response to those too. The response in Sydney was just phenomenal. There were two sold out shows on the Friday and Saturday nights, and then we had the all-ages gig that was pretty packed out too. The kids just loved it. We were having meet and greets and everything! (Laughs) The whole band signed about fifty discs. It was just amazing. It was really great for us.”

As for the future, McCormick says the best is yet to come.

“The EP is a good start for us, but we want to keep it moving. We’re writing new tracks at the moment. We’re thinking about releasing a single within the next three or four months. That’s just to get something new out there, and to keep people interested. If you keep with the same thing for a long period of time, people get bored very quickly, especially within the Melbourne scene where there is so much music out there every night of the week. We have to keep it fresh and new for people. The stuff that we’re coming up with now sounds incredible. Because we’re such a new band as well, we’re still getting to know each other and feeling our way in the directional sense. It’s amazing what we’ve grown to be, and just how tight a unit we’ve become as a band in our short time together. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve been involved in. The new songs we have are progressing a lot more than anything we have on the EP. We’re fitting more together as musicians and song writers. What we do find with our songwriting technique, we just haven’t found a good technique to work with yet! (Laughs) I don’t think that coming up with the stock-standard technique for writing songs is the way to go. I mean we’ll jam on a few riffs, and if they work, we establish them further. But some of the new material that we’ve come up with is just brilliant. So we can’t wait to release something new before the end of the year. But besides that, we’re currently looking into distribution for our current EP. We’re in talks with MGM, so we’ll see what happens there. Outside of that, we’re hoping to play all over the place this year. We’re currently talking to a few big booking agents at the moment to book a few shows for us. We had a guy come and see us in Sydney recently, but I’m not allowed to talk about that yet! (Laughs) In the meantime, we have a good booking agent in Aaron Podoba at Third Eye Music. He’s going at it at a million miles an hour for us, and doing some good things for us. We’re about to do a small festival with Mammal and Trial Kennedy at the Queensbridge Hotel that’s been sponsored by Triple M radio, so that should be absolutely awesome too. So we have no complaints on that front. We know as a band that we have a lot we need to work on, because this is really just a start for us. But as it stands, we have a lot of people doing the right things for us, and things are really looking great at the moment!”

I would like to thank Brent McCormick for his generous time, and Aaron Podoba at Third Eye Music for making the interview possible.

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