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Interview: Bahamas

There are very few artists that can truly encapsulate a moment in time like Afie Jurvanen. His delicate and rather melancholic style of writing has a way of transporting you to another place entirely, a different state of mind. Adopting the name Bahamas back in 2009, Afie has become a purveyor of heartfelt tunes, as well as creative (and often hilarious) videos to accompany his music.

After stepping back from the exhaustive life of constant touring, Bahamas has delivered a charming, more personable take on his sound throughout the forthcoming album, Earthtones. Set for release in early January, Afie is sure to deliver one of the most emotionally uplifting albums of the year. 

I’ve been listening to your latest album, ‘Earthtones’ all morning and I’ve got to say, that initially it wasn’t what I was expecting. The opening track Alone caught me off guard especially because it kicks off the album with such a melancholy, almost sullen type of vibe. How did you choose your track listing when you’re putting together an album?

Oh man, I wish there was just an app that could do it for me. It’s hard because you put so much weight on that first song; it’s meant to speak for the rest of the record and to give you a sign of what’s to come. Alone is an older song; I wrote it a long time ago and it just felt like the gateway into a bunch of other songs. It’s interesting because a lot of the other songs [on the album] have a much more optimistic, hopeful sound to them. Maybe it’s just been my nature to just want be a Debbie downer and just kick things off dark from the start.

Do you try and build a story through your albums sometimes? I know that for some artists the opening track will be the star and they’ll have this big narrative flowing through; is that something that you think about when you’re putting your album together?

I wouldn’t say that there’s any obvious sort of narrative, I think that it’s more that I like to try and record more songs than I’m going to need. I try and record 15 or 16 songs and then whittle them down to maybe 12. When you do that it becomes really obvious which ones fit together. It often happens where the song you think is going to be the greatest thing ever, just doesn’t translate or work in context with the others.

What do you do with all of the songs that don’t make it into the album? Do you just keep them there and decide one day to just put out a b-side?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m not super nostalgic, I keep them but I don’t go back and listen to them very often; they’re just part of the process. In order to produce that amazing jacket, the designer had to make four other jackets first and then at the end of the day, Yeezy put out a better jacket anyway. For me, that’s just part of it and I just accept that not everything I write is amazing obviously. I mean most of it is, but you just have to accept that it’s all part of the process.

Your track Bad Boys Need Love Too was another song that really struck me. It’s somehow this mixture of soul and funk and something else I just can’t seem to put my finger on.

That track is pretty big for me; as a writer and as an artist, I was really excited about that idea. The lyrics are really direct and obvious; I’m not trying to hide behind anything. It made me feel a little uncomfortable so that’s usually a good sign.

More and more I just think that bad boys need love too and I think we need to remember that. We’re finding out all the time that there’s so many of these guys in the world and we have to find a way to call them out. but also we need to do it in an empathetic way. We need to show them compassion and that’s how you actually win; not by hating on someone, but by killing them with love. That’s the way that everyone wins, you know?

Oh Absolutely. Now when we’re talking about music, recently a lot of artists have come out and said that Malcom Young of AC/DC contributed to them getting into music. Is there any particular artist or person that made you pick up a guitar and say, I’m going to make a go of this?

Oh geez, at the risk of sounding patronising, Malcom Young was up there for me as well. I think when I was learning how to play, that was just the most obvious guitar music to gravitate towards; it was elemental, powerful and simple in the best way. After I got more into song writing, I started to gravitate towards Neil Young and traditional guitar based singer-songwriters, and that really stuck with me; I never regret putting a Neil Young record on. These days it’s just a lot more modern music like R’n’B and hip hop; it’s what people are listening to all around me and what’s on the radio, it’s Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak, and all these people who are producing really top level music.

Now streaming services like Spotify have become such a huge part of the industry and everyday life, making music available to people all around the world. Do you think that this ability to access music 24/7 has affected the music industry?

Oh well, that’s a big question. It’s completely destroyed and rewritten the industry. It used to be the record companies that ran the whole thing and now it’s tech companies like Apple and Spotify. They would be the biggest players in the music business right now, which is kind of a strange idea. I agree that it’s great for the consumers, there’s no question about that, it’s awesome to be able to listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. We do quite well with streaming and I’m grateful for that, but if they don’t figure out how to compensate the creators fairly, then there’s only so long that they can go on. Imagine going into the grocery store and just paying $10 a month and just grabbing whatever you want, that grocery store would go out of business really fast.

It puts a lot of pressure on labels, artists, writers, producers and studio owners; there’s a whole industry that facilitates what just happens at the very end where someone on their phone just downloads a song and goes, “Oh I love this song”.

Do you think it creates this attitude of people not wanting to pay for music, not wanting to go to shows? I find it so frustrating because $20 for a show is very cheap and you should be supporting the artists and seeing live music, because that’s how it’s intended to be listened to.

I mean, it’s a tough position because generally our shows are very good, people come along and they enjoy it so they come back. There’s a lot of very positive things in my musical world and I’m grateful that streaming is a part of that, allowing my career to flourish to some degree. At the same time, it could all just go away; these tech companies get so big so fast and then two years later, it’s some other company that’s even bigger and everyone swaps over to them. The industry and the musicians really just take a beating. I think there’s a lot to be gained from paying to go see a band play, I mean I’ve spent $20 in way stupider ways. If you like a band, just go see them play, because chances are you’ll like them even more.

Bahamas Live Dates

MON 4 DEC
The Basement, Sydney
TUES 5 DEC
Mojo’s Bar, Perth
SAT 9 DEC
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
TICKETS

Written by Bree Smith