The only available time I can catch Caleb Harper, the lead singer of Aussie rockers Spacey Jane, is at 11.30pm on a weekday.
He smiles at me from his laptop screen and apologises for his tiredness, before admitting that the anti-social time suits his packed schedule ahead of the release of the group’s second album on June 24.
In fact, the singer has only just arrived back in Fremantle, a small coastal city in Perth, Western Australia, where he and his bandmates cut their teeth.
Having outgrown the small local circuit, Spacey Jane recently headed out on a European tour, stopping by in London for the first time, where fans packed into a rammed Electric Brixton.
Given the fact that the band trade in the business of guitar-driven road trip anthems, it would be inappropriate not to begin our chat by learning about the band’s literal, as well as artistic, home.
Slicking back his blonde-tipped mullet, Caleb paints a picture of Australian bliss.
“It just feels slow, in the summer it’s very beachy and everyone’s out and about. It’s just a really beautiful place to be,” he describes.
“We were really lucky to be the beneficiaries of a really strong and vibrant scene that when we started looked after us and gave us so many opportunities to play in front of people.”
The group’s debut album, though, quickly propelled them to greater heights. Within the first year of its release, Sunlight helped the band achieve over 125 million streams and unlocked the rest of Australia – and the wider world – to the possibility of touring.
And, speaking to Caleb while he’s still in the throes of the inevitable jet lag that results from those overseas trips, it’s clear that it is live performance that he and the band value the most.
“You can see streaming numbers now, there’s really amazing availability on all sorts of statistics and metrics for a band’s success. But I think for us, not being in the room it’s not really as real,” he stresses.
“Connecting with audiences in a live setting means the circle sort of completes.”
Australian counterparts DMAs have blazed the trail for other artists from the Southern Hemisphere to establish themselves as cult favourites in the UK, and Spacey Jane certainly trod a similar crowd-friendly path of punchy indie pop rock with their debut album.
The band’s formula sees them mix melodic, punchy rhythms with downbeat lyricism, and Here Comes Everybody doesn’t find Spacey Jane deviating too far from the company line.
The work was written by Caleb as an outlet as coronavirus wrapped its tentacles around our social lives, and there’s a discernible worldly anxiety to the album’s lyrics.
He explains: “With nothing positive on the horizon touring-wise, it was like, ‘okay I’m going to write’, it came from this place of anxiety for me I think where I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something, the only way I can be a musician right now is by making music’.”
Tracks like Clean My Car and Haircut are an obvious reflection of this creative restlessness, twinning in their emphasis of how mundane tasks became central to keeping anxieties at bay.
With all its catastrophizing, it’s really no surprise when Caleb admits that the album was partly inspired by his heavy listening to Phoebe Bridgers’ 2020 masterpiece Punisher. But, Here Comes Everybody also retains the group’s signature ability to find a catchy chorus in the sadness.
Partly, this is attributable to the decision to work with pop producer Konstantin Kersting. The German-Australian producer and sound engineer has worked with the likes of Dance Monkey sensation Tones and I, and his guidance no doubt informs the pop-gilted edge to the sad bangers Spacey Jane delivers.
The decision to work with Konstantin also reflects the fact that Spacey Jane operate in the musical era of the algorithm. Booster Seat, the group’s biggest hit, wasn’t even expected to be a lead single, and yet audiences resonated with the track so deeply that it still receives the loudest cheers at the Aussies’ gigs.
“That’s the only world we know in terms of releasing music,” Caleb acknowledges. “Spotify has been there since we started.”
That said, fans shouldn’t expect 30 second TikTok-friendly jingles on the new record. Although the group have developed a candid persona on their social media channels, Caleb admitted that he was encouraged by the surprise success of Booster Seat in demonstrating the lingering importance of authenticity in the internet age.
“We’ve been thinking about that a little bit lately, especially while we were picking singles for the new record, and I don’t quite know what we thought [about Booster Seat],” he admits.
“It’s just funny because it’s a long song, it’s like four and a half minutes and that’s not your classic hit radio song. But I think it taught us to not conflate something being radio worthy and being digestible for people and being a good song.”
Though, as it turns out, this surprising audience can be both reassuring and frightening. Caleb is open in revealing that he is worried how people will respond to Here Comes Everybody, given that it comes from a place of such global restlessness.
“I’m pretty anxious, I’d say. I’m excited, no doubt, but it’s a scary prospect… Putting a whole thing out is scary and people will obviously have their feelings about it,” he confesses.
“When we put the first record out, it was kind of like putting something out in the world that no one was asking for or expecting, and so there was less of a pressure to give people what they wanted.
“I’ve poured my heart into this and I want them to like it, so it feels like there’s a lot at stake, but I guess we’ll have to see what happens.”
While on their trip around the UK, one of the group’s highlights was a visit to Stonehenge. The famous Wiltshire site is a scene of celebration at the changing of the seasons, so maybe there was something in the air when Caleb and his mates visited as they marked their biggest tour to date.
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“It was just so funny having these sort of tourist experiences, we were so excited about it and definitely had stars in our eyes, which was cool,” he says.
In fact, Caleb admits that the UK visit was one of the group’s first opportunities to really take in their rapid progress after a whirlwind start.
He explains: “It just sort of depends on how willing you are to indulge either your drive to make it happen, or you indulge your body being like, ‘just stop for a second and relax’.
“Moments like the London show especially, we walked off stage after that and were like, ‘that was incredible, let’s talk about how cool that was, and not just be like, oh let’s go to bed’.
“It’s recognising those moments when you have them as being special and beautiful.”
The final track on Here Comes Everybody, titled Pulling Through, echoes out a similar refrain: “you’re just proudly pulling through”. Sleep deprived but smiley, you get the sense that’s the current mantra guiding Caleb and his bandmates as they begin their next adventure.
Here Comes Everybody, Spacey Jane’s second album, is out today (June 24).
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