Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interview: Andrew Juggernaut and Daniel Stricker of Midnight Juggernauts


We love our loyal Australian readers. So on the heels of reviewing a Cut Copy show, NQL presents an interview with Andrew Juggernaut and Daniel Stricker from the Aussie trio Midnight Juggernauts. Fresh off a set at Coachella, they were in town last week and played a rather frenzied show at the 9:30 Club. A few hours before hitting the stage, and in between checking their email, they talked about their tour, chili dogs, and their quest to find good coffee in the States. Midnight Juggernauts debut album, Dystopia, comes out in the States on May 27th.

NQL: You guys came here from Montreal, is that correct?

Andrew Juggernaut: We came from….let’s see, where were we? We’ve been moving around so much sometimes we forget. But yes, our last show was in Montreal and we’ve done a few shows in the U.S. so far and it has all been pretty great. I think we all really like coming here, it’s an exciting place.

NQL: You talking DC or the states?

AJ: Just the States in general.

Daniel Stricker: This is our first time in DC. Last time we were over here we played Philadelphia and New York but we never made it down here, so it’s pretty cool to be here. And this venue is amazing.

NQL: Yeah, it seems like a lot of good acts pass through here. I just moved from Chicago and I saw you guys played the Double Door a couple of day s ago. That’s one of my favorite venues. How was the show?

AJ: It was fun.

DS: Yeah, it was really good.

AJ: That’s the thing, all of the venues we’ve been playing have been very good with great production. And the crowds have been great. We’ve been able to go out to a few places that we hadn’t been to. Today is kind of an example. We drove in today, and just drove around and looked at all of the sights.

NQL: What’s it like for a first-timer in DC?

AJ: Well, you already have a bunch of images in your head from film, just like the White House and all these other things you see a lot, and we literally just drove straight in and drove in circles checking things out.

DS: We did the same thing when we went from Coachella to Denver and went through Vegas. We drove straight down the strip.

AJ: Yeah, and it was like “There’s that. And that. And that…”

NQL: I’ve never been to Vegas.

AJ: It’s a strange place. It’s kind of cool, it’s like a much bigger, much larger scale version of a place back home called the Gold Coast. It’s on the Australian coast and it has been sort of set up like that.

NQL: By the way, I want to let you know when I get home and listen to this tape these Australian accents are really going to screw me up, so let me apologize in advance when you're all misquoted.

AJ: [laughs] But yeah, in terms of Washington, we haven't really had a chance to hang out here. Hopefully, we’ll be here later tonight because I don’t think we’re leaving until much later. It’s just good going to all these cities because they all feel like music cities. Everyone talks about New York and places like that, but everywhere we’ve been has been cool.

NQL: Had you played Chicago before?

DS: Once.

AJ: Yeah, we played at the Metro last year when we were touring with Justice, and that’s, you know, a really beautiful place.

NQL: You brought up Coachella. How was that?

AJ: Yeah, I mean, it was pretty amazing. I think most bands would dream of playing it and I had this idea with the audience in the desert in the middle of nowhere and I really built my hopes up but it was one of those occasions where it really did live up to it. The way it looks is incredible. It’s very surreal, like some sort of oasis in the middle of nowhere. It was such a cool festival and we had a really good show and it was great fun playing. And seeing all these mountains in the background and palm trees in the middle of nowhere. It’s just a crazy landscape. But it was just a lot of fun and we hung out for the three days and got to see lots of bands.

NQL: Yeah, who did you check out?

AJ: Umm, the second and third day I saw more than I did on the first day. But the first day was Jack Johnson, and yeah, I didn’t see him. We saw our friends Cut Copy. Some of the bigger acts…Roger Waters was pretty amazing. Portishead was really good.

NQL: I heard that Roger Waters’ pig floated away.

AJ: [laughs].

DS: I’m pretty sure that was meant to happen, I don’t know what everyone was talking about. Let’s see, who else…I really wanted to see Animal Collective but I didn’t get a chance to. I saw a bit of the Breeders, who were okay, they weren’t amazing even though I’m a big fan. There were a lot of bands that we’ve played with that were on the festival that we have seen a whole lot of times which would have been cool to see. But for a lot of the festival we were busy with stuff so we missed out on some people we wanted to see. But we still got to see a lot of bands at the same time.

NQL: Moving on, have the David Bowie comparisons lost their novelty yet? I feel like I see that every time I read about you guys.

AJ: I’ve never taken that too seriously. He’s obviously an iconic artist and amazing. I think sometimes Vincent (Vendetta) unknowingly sounds like him and I think that’s why people do it, because vocally sometimes he does sound like David Bowie.

DS: It’s not an intentional thing.

AJ: [laughs]. He’s a great artist who has done so many things, so obviously it would be nice to try and have a career as long as his.

NQL: When is Dystopia coming out in the states?

AJ: It comes out May 27th?

DS: Yes, May 27th.

AJ: It has been released online, you can get it on iTunes but it actually comes out on the 27th.

DS: A lot of people have it already from downloading.

NQL: Yeah, how does that feel for a band your size? I would think it’s a cool feeling for you to be able to realize that a lot of people all over the world are listening to your music but, then again, a lot of people all over the world aren’t necessarily paying for your music.

DS: Well, it’s like our first record so it is good to get your music out there.

AJ: I think it kind of builds a fan base for us internationally that we wouldn’t have had. And we want everyone to buy the record and understand the implications of that. But through our experience, it (downloading) has helped. I still think we’re still very much on an underground level so many people haven’t heard our record and if you reach them may go out and buy it. So a lot of people have gotten it online, but that means when we go to strange places in Europe or when we’re touring here, they may show up.

NQL: Do you think it’s an advantage to have an album come out on iTunes before it actually hits the stores?

AJ: Yeah, definitely. The album came out on iTunes in the U.S. when it did and it kind of coincided with our tour. So it was really nice for people coming to our shows to have access to the record. So yeah, I think it definitely works to release it online first. I’m not quite sure what the sound difference will be, with the digital vs. the CD.

NQL: I feel like no one cares anymore. If people can get music on their computer they don’t care what the quality sounds like.

AJ: Yeah, yeah. I still like to have all the packaging and the booklets and stuff. And the album art. But yes, May 27th, the album comes out.

NQL: I was telling a friend about your band and he asked me what you sounded like and I didn’t really know what to say so I just kind of put the album on and hit play. I find your music hard to describe, I know what other people describe it as, but do you like that your music isn’t that easy to put into a niche?

AJ: Yeah, that’s always cool. We’re not the best ones to ask when wanting to describe our sound. Lots of stuff get thrown around. It doesn’t really matter, people call it what they want. I guess it more broadly gets put into an electronic thing, even though we don’t really see ourselves as an electronic band. We really very much like rock and have a rock background. And we do just sort of blend a lot of things.

DS: It’s a mish-mash. I would hate to be too pigeon-holed.

AJ: But it definitely comes out like our own sound.

DS: And if you say that and actually believe that, then that is a good thing rather than us having to say, “Oh yeah, we don’t sound like anybody.”

NQL: You mentioned you toured with Justice and now you’re headlining a tour. How noticeable is the difference?

AJ: Well, it’s a very different kind of experience. Stepping into a tour, like the Justice tour, when they were blowing up and were really unknown over here and we came along and were just treated amazingly well by them on that tour. We had the opportunity to play to like thousands of people every night. And we played to packed rooms every night and we were really introducing ourselves and we didn’t have the pressure of that being our tour. It was kind of an amazing experience and it meant we were able to come back now and do our own tour. And it’s different because now it’s about us, and trying to promote an album. So we’ll probably come back a few times the next months to really support the album, but we’re still really introducing ourselves. But the Justice tour was great because we got a lot of new fans out of that. It’s constant building, and we’ve always kind of been like that. It’s a gradual process or rise or whatever, and it has felt very organic the way we have done it. And I think the U.S. is the last continent that we hit, we had been to Europe a couple times and we had done a lot in Australia, so it has been about spending a lot of time here, building a profile, and do a lot of playing here.

DS: Yeah, and people are nice to us. And, the chili dogs.

NQL: Oh, did you get any chili dogs in Chicago?

DS: Oh yeah, they were amazing.

NQL: Where did you go?

DS: Well, our manager is from Chicago so he took us to some place. Tell me some names and I might remember.

NQL: Okay, there’s Portillo’s. And Murphy’s. Hot Doug’s.

AJ: [laughs].

DS: I got one across the street from the Metro but that’s not what I’m thinking of.

NQL: Oh, I know exactly what you’re talking about. Damn, what is that place called. I’ve stood in line at that place many times late at night.

DS: And there’s a place down the road here called Chili Bowl or something.

NQL: Ben’s Chili Bowl! Yes, that’s good stuff. Apparently Bill Cosby is a regular there.

DS: Yeah, that’s what we were told.

NQL: Going back to what we were talking about earlier before, although I would love to keep talking about chili dogs, now people are here at the venue most likely to see you. That has to be some added pressure.

AJ: Yeah, I guess so. Whenever it’s a show that you’re putting on, you’re so much more involved with the whole set up of it all. With the bands that are on tour with you, to the press promos, you’re just much more involved and invested. So I think it’s a lot more rewarding when you have those shows and they go well. And this tour, places like Washington where we haven’t been, or like Denver, we’ve had great turnouts and it has been really cool.

NQL: What could you tell me about the music scene in Australia?

AJ: Australian bands were always kind of straight ahead rock. Kind of rough and tough rock bands. It has only been very recently where there has been this kind of dance music scene and we’ve sort of had our footing in there. We’ve always been a bit of a “live” band playing at all the live venues and we’ve always played with a lot of indie rock bands. And there wasn’t much out there like what we were doing and now it’s a really big scene, it seems. We’ve had a lot of recent success there. And you know, there's also bands like Cut Copy whose album is doing really well. It’s kind of all crossing over to the mainstream. And we kind of left when it was on the cusp of happening because we started touring, and now it’s kind of taking over.

DS: At the same time, we kind of all do very different things. Although everyone in that scene sort of gets clumped together.

[At this point, I had a really awesome question to ask, but someone was banging on a bass drum during sound check and it really screwed up my train of thought.]

AJ: Do you want anything to drink?

NQL: Uhh, sure.

AJ: Let’s see..there is Coke and water.

NQL: Coke will be fine, thanks.

DS: Can you get me a Coke, too?

NQL: [hands me a Coke]. Thanks. You guys are all pretty energetic on stage. Is that something that’s hard to maintain night after night on the road?

DS: It used to be tougher. It does get a bit strange. But now it’s not so bad because we have a good crew of people that we’re working with. And they make it a lot easier for us. We just sort of get to the venue, check our email, do sound check, check email, play, check our email, then get on the bus and check our email. We just get into a routine.

AJ: I guess having energy on stage has never been a problem. As we play more shows, we get more confident, and the more confident you are, the more free you are on stage and not be so worried about what you’re playing. And that allows for a lot more energetic show and for us to do random, stupid things.

[Daniel left the interview at this point to go tend to sound check duties, I believe.]

NQL: I’ve never really had any inkling to be a musician but I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be on the road and tour.

AJ: It’s a lot of fun. And the thing is we’re just now releasing an album internationally. And in Europe we had a lot of shows, and it’s just good to make the most of it until we’re jaded later on. [laughs].

NQL: When the album comes out and is reviewed by certain sites that have a lot of influence for whatever reason, how much will you pay attention to those reviews?

AJ: It’s just something that you have to deal with. We’ve had a lot of good reviews and we’ve had a lot of bad reviews. I think that it’s easy to take it personally but you just have to have confidence in what you are doing and you can’t be affected by it because that’s just how it is. I know personally I’m not too affected by it, but I always read reviews of the band and I can tell if the criticism is valid or if it’s not. You want good reviews in all the important publications but it just doesn’t always happen and that’s just the way it is.

NQL: When you get off the stage, can you immediately tell whether it was a good show or a bad show?

AJ: Umm, sometimes, yeah. It can be hard because you have a different perspective of what’s going on onstage. The way it sounds onstage is different from the front. And obviously the crowd is a part of it and they help determine when it’s initially kind of good, if the crowd is reacting well to it. You know, it’s really bad when shit fucks up, or something breaks on stage. When stuff like that happens and you can’t really do anything about it and I think those are the times when you just have to make something good out of it because I think people, even though you hate seeing things go wrong, they appreciate that “chance” for things to go wrong. That’s what makes things interesting about a show.

NQL: What does the average American need to know about Australia? Besides Paul Hogan.

AJ: Yeah, yeah, we tend to play up that angle in interviews and try and tell people that’s what it’s like, with kangaroos on the streets and it’s just a big desert. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Melbourne, where I live, is a very European city, and it has a really big art and music scene. For live music and lots of different types of art, it’s just a really strong and creative city. It’s like a lot of other cities, but there are still elements outside of the cities in the suburbs that I’m sure you could hit a lot of the stereotypes and clich├ęs out there. But Daniel is from Sydney, so he’d probably have other views. It’s kind of interesting because Melbourne and Sydney are kind of the two main cities where everything is sort of happening in Austrailia. Sydney is a lot bigger and really kind of crazy. Melbourne actually really reminds me of Chicago in some ways. What else…we have beautiful, amazing beaches and the food is incredible. One thing I do find is that the coffee in Melbourne is still the best in the world. I’m a big coffee person.

NQL: Me, too.

AJ: We are always hunting for good coffee when we’re on tour. I’m always obsessing about it.

NQL: So what’s it like being in the country with the worst coffee?

AJ: Well, so far there was a great place in San Francisco right near the venue we played. I haven’t had a chance yet in DC yet to find anything. There’s a site called Coffee Geek that’s like a map of good coffee across America that helps us out.

--Alex

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