Hailing from Brighton, Caramel Jack have been playing dates around the country in support of their new album ‘Songs From Low Story’. Although the band draw on a diverse range of influences, most noticeable on first listen is the thread of Americana running throughout. At turns pure vaudeville and intimate introspection, the emotional landscape of the album is littered with broken people, characters struggling to face life and others who are just plain odd.
Each song is like a short story that draws you into someone’s life for a few minutes. The music is emotionally loaded and it’s difficult to just put this album on in the background.
Onstage at Junktion 7 the band look comfortable and relaxed as they draw the audience into their world. Although some of the brass and pedal steel guitar are absent it doesn’t detract from the songs, if anything the paring down just makes them all that more stark. As emotionally satisfying as anything I’ve heard this year, Caramel Jack are a band to cherish.
Glasswerk caught up with singer Joe Doveton for a quick chat after the gig.
Tell us a bit about your background and your influences.
Rick, Norm and I have been in bands for about a thousand years. When I first met Richard in about 1986 he was interested in Pink Floyd and nothing after punk at all. I was into the Paisley Underground stuff and the UK ‘shambling’ bands and nothing BEFORE punk. In a round about kind of way, we have sort of ended up gluing these three strands together. The rest of the band- Emily (drums) Micky (keys) and Stacey (guitar) are friends from Brighton and are part of the extended family of bands down there.
You sing about midwest mechanics, rustling cattle, riding railroads and the like - what draws you to these themes? Do you think your audience will find it odd to hear a British singer singing about these very American subjects?
I think with these songs, it was a special effort to write stuff in a real Jimmy Webb style, with characters really locked into their landscapes. Plus we’re quite into things like Updike or Donleavy or Carson McCullers and so on. All the songs are fictions, there’s nothing personal in there- I like the detachment. We tried singing about Basildon, but it’s a real struggle getting that romantic ring to it.
This record was all about having some stuff that seemed quite familiar to listeners, but with a slight twist. Like the guy on “King of Prussia” is talking about the crapness of his own masculinity. Having said that all about America, I think the next album will be much more Brit-centric.
You have BJ Cole playing on the album. I presume you must be a fan. How did that collaboration come about?
I love pedal steel, I was a huge fan of Evil Graham Lee from the Triffids and the KLF in the 80’s. We got BJ through a friend of a friend of a friend who knows Alan Tyler from the Rockingbirds. BJ is in Alan’s new band. He’s got to be the most amazing player of pedal steel ever. He said “I won’t charge you what I charge Sting”. Which was a result.
You've been compared to Calexico, Handsome Family and Lambchop amongst others. Do you mind people using comparisons with other bands to describe your music? And do you feel flattered that in at least one review I've read you're described as more satisfying than all of these acts?
I don’t mind the comparisons. We like the bands mentioned, although we’d already been writing these songs for years, so they’re not really our influences. I feel more excitement it if someone picks up that we’re fans of the Go Betweens, like someone did the other day, or the Floyd or Felt or any of the other stuff we grew up with.
Finally, how would you sell yourselves in one sentence?
Caramel Jack- Justified and not that Ancient.
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