Singer-songwriter Jess Ribeiro has unleashed a darker side in her latest work.
Ribeiro’s 2012 debut, My Little River, was awarded ABC Radio National Album of the Year, Best Country Album at the 2012 AIR Awards and was shortlisted for the prestigious Australian Music Prize.
Her newly anticipated album Kill It Yourself, however, represents a departure from her folk-county roots. The first single and title track is a haunting exploration into hunting animals for food, and has been receiving rave reviews online.
Recorded in collaboration with Mick Harvey (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey) and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring), the song is a stunning example of what Ribeiro’s been working on of late.
I caught up with Jess in the middle of her July residency to talk influences, travel and our disconnected relationship with the food we eat…
I believe you’re from Darwin. What was the musical scene like there?
I’m not originally from Darwin, but I lived there for many years. The music scene is wild, dreamy, transient.
Who have been your biggest musical influences so far? Local and international acts?
Some of my influences include Rudolf Steiner, Steph Brett from Empat Lima, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen.
You used to perform with a band – The Bone Collectors. Is that a project still on the cards?
It’s over. I made that with my friend Rob. Together we spent many years touring remote locations. We might make something new but not The Bone Collectors.
You’ve played alongside the likes of The Waifs and Mama Kin. Did you learn a lot from those performance experiences?
Stay hydrated. Never get drunk then go deep sea fishing in shark infested waters. I jumped off a boat in an attempt to stop myself feeling sick. I watched fish being herded into the boat like cattle. I lay in a puddle of my own spew, making eye contact with big beauties who telepathically moaned to me “revenge”. I wished to be dead I was so sick. Don’t get drunk and go fishing on tour. Surround yourself with loving people. All those performers are friendly people. It makes for good vibes.
Your new material sounds darker and edgier than your previous folk-country offerings. Where did the slight shift in direction come from?
I think it came from Saturn. Supposedly we all resonate with Saturn at some point in life. That’s what a shaman in San Fransisco told me anyway, as she waved an eagle wing over my naked body in attempt to calm my feelings of confusion during a changing period in my life.
The new single ‘Kill It Yourself’ is a haunting number. You’ve said it came from a dream you had about killing a chicken. What made you want to write about it?
I need to get a well formed spiel together about this but basically many experiences made me write it including when I moved to Darwin and I was vegetarian. Then I worked out bush and it was harder to be vegetarian. School kids would go hunting for sea foods or cooking up kangaroo tails at lunch time. The shop prices for processed and deep fried food were criminal. $99.99 for a tin of instant coffee wtf! The government intervention brought in an incentive to give kids free food if they came to school. Prepackaged slop including deb mash potato with corn flour gravy and cardboard meat balls was not received very well. All of a sudden fresh fish and sea snails, crabs and kangaroo tails seemed much more appealing to me than anything else that was available. My other friend was working in east Arnham land. He would go out with the men and hunt buffalo which would be shared around the whole community. Some children in the inner city don’t even know where eggs come from. This is worrying to me. Disconnection from where food comes from. I wondered if I could kill and prepare a chicken to eat. I couldn’t so I wrote a song.
Tell us about the equally moody accompanying music clip?
The clip stars my old neighbor, Borys. He’s an industrious Russian man who survived many wars and severe struggles throughout his life. His positive spirit and gusto for living is admirable.
You travelled the Moab desert in the U.S in the early days of the album. Did musical and lyrical inspiration strike out there?
No, but the thought of working with PJ Harvey’s cousin, brother, Mick Harvey did. I was so thirsty out there in the desert. I really thought Mick was related to PJ Harvey. I got quite a shock when I realised his roots lay in other places.
You collaborated with Mick Harvey on this record, Kill It Yourself. What did he bring to it?
He tried to bring the spirit of Mo Tucker into his body so he could play like a woman. I wanted to play with more women you see. He did a good job. I like that man.
You’ve just signed with Barely Dressed Records/Remote Control Records. Exciting?
Yeah! It’s really great to feel supported by lovely people. They are warm, calm, creative. It’s inspiring. I feel grateful. What kind of presents shall I make them? I tried to cook dinner and it was a wreck.
You’re playing The Old Bar every Sunday this month. What do you like about the venue and the idea of a residency?
It’s small and not too smelly. The lights are pretty good, red and blue. It’s also, run by a bearded man with a nose ring. How nice is that?! The idea of residency is tough because it’s winter and Sunday. I find it hard to leave the house in the day let alone the night. But I got a good shock the other night. The support bands were super! It was energising and felt good to be there. I’m excited to keep meeting these cool musical dudes and dudettes.
Who can we expect to see alongside you at the shows?
Local and national acts including, Vic Simms whose life story is amazing. You need to interview this man!!!! He’s an Indigenous guy who was a child singer (sung with Johnny O’Keefe etc). He later went to gaol and made an album called “The Loner. I can’t tell you the full story without this becoming a mass story about him but check him out. Faark. Also Empat Lima, Jealous husband, Leah Senior, Milk Teddy (solo), Gorsha, and Devotional from Sydney.
You can catch Jess Ribeiro one last time at the Old Bar in Fitzroy this Sunday 26th July.
Kill It Yourself will be released in August 2015 via Barely Dressed / Remote Control Records.
JESS RIBEIRO ‘Kill It Yourself’ Album Tour
FRIDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER
Red Rattler, SYDNEY
SATURDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER
Phoenix Bar, CANBERRA
Tickets available on the door
FRIDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER
THURSDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER
Junk Bar, BRISBANE
SATURDAY 26 SEPTEMBER
Northcote Social Club, MELBOURNE
For more info, head to Jess’ Facebook page.