Marcus Azon, frontman of Jinja Safari, chats to us about their latest single 'Find My Way', experiences, evolving, traveling and which other musicians he would put into his supergroup.
Alex: Hey, how are you? I hope this is a good time!?
Marcus: Yeah this is a great time actually, couldn’t be more perfect! We are just having a lunch break from rehearsals.
A: Awesome, so how has it all been?
M: Really, really good, I just actually moved back down to Hobart and so I’m based down there at the moment but I am coming back up each week to do writing jobs for people and we’ve got four days of rehearsals so we try to do all rehearsals back to back; just so I can get everything done then head back home to Tasmania. We are the second through of our rehearsals and it is really coming together. It’s always a process for us, going from the recordings to working out how it’s going to recreate it as a live show and use as little backing tracks as possible. There’s the temptation of wanting to make everything sound fuller, which is solved by throwing it all in the backing track but it defeats the purpose of doing a live show- which all five of us are pretty passionate about.
A: Does it feel good to be all back recording together again?
M: Yeah it does! We have been for the past eighteen months; Alistair (percussionist) and I grew up together back in Tasmania and we all lived around the corner from one another- except for one of the guys who lives up at the coast. We are all quite close friends primarily and we see each other all the time. But there has been so much waiting around, waiting to release and waiting n the right time- there’s a lot of other factors that surround being in a band than just the music so I am really happy that we are dusting off our hats and getting back into it next month. And by that hopefully, by creating some kind of forced momentum it will trigger a whole bunch of other shows, and now we are independent artists again we have to be the one’s pushing everything, funding everything. We have saved a bit in the bank account over the past few years but it’s definitely a revelation now that every dollar we spend comes out of our pocket.
A: Yeah that is such a massive, courageous move to go independent! So ‘Find My Way’ is the only single that has been dropped so far, right?
M: Yeah that’s all we’ve put out so far and we have about four or five other potential singles- we have about twenty songs which we are just trying to whiddle down and get into an album. It’s a really tricky process but we are feeling really confident about these songs- not just how they will be received but also the song writing and the process that has gone into creating them has been a lot more positive than it was on the last record.
A: I read your post “ Jinja Safari on Independence” and it seems you guys did sort of get lost in the whole hype of being an escalating band in a way. What moment made you realise that you had all lost a bit of perspective?
M: I think anyone that is in a touring band has those moments where they are like, you do these shows then you come back and for whatever reasons you don’t speak to other members for a few weeks; and then you try to get everyone back together for rehearsals but no one can make it. Like one may have a party to go to or booked a holiday and you realise everyone’s lives are going in different directions. But the fact that we are all back together now, the dynamic is the same as it has ever been and it is just a lot of fun. Its sort of like school camp in a way, we all go off and do our own things, but coming back with these boys… it is a family.
A: ‘Find My Way’ is such a sweet track. Out of the dozens you and Pepa [Knight] have been writing, do you feel that it is the strongest?
M: Um I don’t know, it’s tough to define what is “strongest”. I think it was a good step back into releasing music and it is an uplifting track. It has evolved a lot over the past year and a half, so it’s good to have it out and now we are keen to release some new ones in a few weeks, or so… I probably shouldn’t say too much, haha.
A: Hahah yes, I can’t wait. So you’ve obviously had some pretty amazing experiences, what have been some of your biggest personal developments and how have they reflected in the music?
M: I think growing up, getting into your mid-twenties is quite… haha, actually someone said the other night that they thought being in your mid-twenties is like getting a new game on X-Box. Like you’re just running around pressing all the buttons, you’ve got no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going but you’re just running around looking at shit and getting excited. You just figure it out as you go along. All of us have had such massive developmental experiences; like one of us has a baby and a wife, Joe works as a manager of a bar now and is quite involved in the party life whereas before he was quite a straighty-180 haha. It’s just been good to see all of each other grow and evolve and as for those experiences affecting the music… there is definitely a lot of my struggles or experiences that I like to reflect in the lyrics of our songs. I try not to be too direct but you can definitely hear snippets of stories in ‘Find My Way’.
A: What about experiences from travelling?
M: We’ve all been around everywhere. I went to Japan last year which was a pretty wonderful trip and I went to Uganda the year before. I went there by myself; I had a motorbike and rode to the boarder of Kenya. That definitely influenced the music as well which is what I was hoping. I had brought a little recorder and recorded a heap of music which we used for our first album. Travelling is definitely a big part of what inspires us.
A: So Jinja is the name of the town in Uganda where your grandmother lived, right? What that your first introduction to those varieties of rhythms or have you always been drawn to cultured music?
M: Yeah I have always been distinctly drawn to those, I am not sure why. My parents are ministers, so I grew up in a world which I couldn’t be further away from now. Gospel music and a lot of African polyrhythm’s are really fascinating to me and definitely the idea of having a grandmother on the other side of the world in Africa and not knowing what that really meant, it’s a really interesting place musically.
A: Okay so a few random questions. Having fans on stage with you… has that ever gone wrong?
M: It has gone wrong every single time! There is always somebody that hurts themselves or falls over, trips over the barricade… I think Bluejuice did a segment on the sort of people that run up on stage and how they instinctually get their vodka cruisers and pour them all over your guitar pedals immediately, haha. There is some innate urge to make a mess. Our percussionist, these days as soon as people start coming up on stage he just picks up his gear, unplugs it all and goes “fucks this, I’m out!”. He’ll pack it all down because of the amount of times that people have messed up stuff, I mean it’s all part of the show and all, but when you’re on a sixteen date tour and you’re halfway through you go into a self-preservation mode and think “I need my gear to work for the rest of the shows!”. You know, you start to think “I’m going to party but I’m going to party in the safest way possible” haha
A: Haha yeah like “I’m going to rock and roll but be responsible about it”
M: Haha, yes exactly
A: If you could form a band with any three other musicians, who would it be?
M: The last time somebody asked me this I said named these producers who saw the interview and we ended up hooking up and made a track which got on high rotation on triple J; which was one of the more successful tracks we’ve had. Well there is just so many, like Jamie XX…. So many producers can do collaborations even over the internet now-a-days. I’ve been lucky enough to do collaborations with people I really look up to. I’ve done a couple of songs with Josh Pyke for his new album, which was pretty surreal. There’s definitely lots of people that I would love to work with, but I think practically, If I was given three people at my immediate arms length I would choose my buddy Nick, my buddy Andrew and this guy I kind of know named Brandon, on bass. They are incredible musicians and have an instrumental sort of band named Brokebeat Mountain. They are one of the most inspiring, unknown bands which may always stay unknown because they are primarily instrumental stuff.
A: Ohh, we shall have to check them out. So Marcus, what records have influenced you most growing up? Like having ministers as parents, were there ever any “Almost Famous” scenarios where you hid records from them?
M: Well like I said I had a pretty limited view of secular music because what my parents listened to was pretty Christian. The records I started to get into when I was fifteen, when I was old enough to start doing my own thing, the ones I remember getting were like Avalanche’s album, Jeff Buckley’s Grace album, Fatboy Slim and Bruce Hornsby, Hothouse. That was a pretty full on album for me. The records I remember always being in the house were Van Morrison, Ray Charles and Sting because I think they all had a slightly spiritual nature in what they do.
A: Ahh awesome, okay well I should let you get back to rehearsals and thank you so much for taking to time out to talk to us. Have an amazing tour and enjoy the rest of your day!
M: No worries at all and thank you, take care.