By Emily Swanson
Most frontmen would turn to the donations of fans and well-wishers to ensure the release of their new album. Mark Stewart, however, is not most frontmen. While you may have seen him trotting about your favourite local venues with underground bruisers Horsell Common, since the band’s demise Stewart has taken up residency fronting his own indie-rock band Jonesez. With good pal and fellow Melbournian Darren Cordeux having another go behind the boards to mix the band’s second album, the little album that could was almost the little album that wasn’t. After we stumbled across a line in the band’s blog that read, “I’m donating my body to science,” BLUNTS's interests were piqued and we pushed Stewart for more details.
“I’d kind of gotten halfway through the recording process. You see it was recorded, but it wasn’t mixed, it wasn’t mastered and there was no artwork or anything like that. I’d spent everything that I had to spend, so it was either slowly chip away at it, or find a fast money idea.”
After settling on what’s arguably the most rational of the shady pyramid schemes, Stewart agreed to play guinea pig and partake in a month-long drug trial.
“I was talked through the process and had to have a physical to make sure I was fit enough to do it, and then it was four or five days a week for four weeks. It was an incredibly boring time, but thankfully it got me out of that predicament.”
A means to an end, a month of boredom for Stewart resulted in the band’s most melodic record to date. A more light-hearted affair than their debut, Betty’s Soup (2010), for Stewart it’s all about cramming in the catchy hooks and sweet melodies.
“I take it very seriously, but at the same time I do love the idea of seeing how dumb I can make the music and still keep myself interested,” he laughs. “With Gruffalo I wanted to try and make two to two-and-a-half-minute pop songs. You know, make them a bit shorter and see if I could still keep them catchy and still say everything that I wanted to say in the songs. Everything I write though, I’m convinced that somebody else has already written it and I’m just blatantly ripping them off. It’s really hard to keep yourself interested because I’m the one that’s gonna have to sing it and play it 200 times, so I may as well enjoy it. I fail probably more than I get it right, but it’s still very addictive and it’s fun to do.”
Having been a staple in the Melbourne music scene for the last decade, BLUNT asked Stewart to weigh in on the effects of Australia’s iconic music venues closing their doors for the last time.
“It’s really taking its toll down here,” he laments. “I was lucky enough to play during the last few weeks of The Arthouse, but it seems now that the only alternative is new venues, which seem to move further and further away from the city. It kind of feels like these venues take a number of years before they’ve got that character and presence about them. Places like The Tote and The Arthouse, those places have so much history and that doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve gotta have hundreds of bands coming through there and thousands of punters going through there each month and week to give it that kind of feel. These new venues are starting from scratch and it’s really kind of daunting. I guess we’re spoilt with music venues down here, but it just sucks to lose our best ones, you know?”
Here’s hoping a beer-soaked venue never goes out of fashion.