To say that Memories & Dust had an impact on me would be an understatement. I remember my mate Mike teaching me how to play the chords of Josh Pyke’s Sew My Name one sunny afternoon on the porch out the back of my childhood home, the sounds of softly swaying trees and jarringly incorrect chords still etched in my memory.
It turns out I wasn’t the only member of the household to feel such a connection to his music. Over the course of his long and illustrious career, my parents have seen Pyke play more times than I have. Pyke himself was not surprised by this fact in the slightest.
“It’s been a really important part of how things kind of kept progressing over the years is that my demographic seems to be very broad,” Pyke says. “Even now I’ll have people coming to shows that’ll be, like, I dunno… how old are you? 20 or something?”
“Yeah, so I have people like yourself coming to shows… with the parents. So it would have been people who are I dunno, like 45 who listened to triple j back in the day, and having kids and bringing their kids up on my music and bringing them to gigs. I’ve had people who y’know were 12 or ten – like you – when Memories & Dust came out and are only now able to come to shows. It’s been great, kinda like ‘Next Gen,'” he chuckles.
With poetic imagery and chord progressions to match, it’s easy to see how his debut LP has stood the test of time, and even though it’s proudly Aussie in its themes, the blanketing lyrics are interpreted internationally.
“It’s funny,” Pyke reminisces, “with Middle Of The Hill… obviously those references are about Sydney and specifically they’re about growing up in Balmain, but when I first started playing that song in the UK, a director was like ‘Oh, mate, it’s like you’re singing about my childhood.’ I said ‘What are you talking about? This song is about summer in Australia,’ but he heard the lyrics and put them on the template of his own life.
“That was the reason why I wanted to use metaphor and imagery so that it wouldn’t be too specific. I never wanted to write really direct lyrics, I always wanted to write lyrics that could be interpreted in a number of different ways so that people could invest in these songs and make the songs have more of a connection to their own lives. All my favourite songs are like that.”
Now Pyke returns for his victory lap – taking Memories & Dust in its entirety on a national tour and, in celebration of the still-resonant work’s 10 year anniversary, the release of Memories & Dust on vinyl. To top it off, Pyke released new single Into The Wind in May, co-written with Dustin Tebbutt. As if this wasn’t enough, Pyke has taken the time to collaborate and release a well-timed album, Best Of, B-Sides & Rarities, which includes two new tracks.
“It’s a double disk – the first disk is what you would think of as a traditional ‘Best Of’; a lot of singles and stuff, and the second disk is 19 songs; two brand new ones, and the rest are B-sides, rarities and demos,” he explains. “Some of them are from 2005, some of them are from when I was trying to develop my style.
“For me, I think the most compelling part of the release is the B-sides and rarities – stuff that I’ve had for ten years waiting for a chance to get out. For whatever reason these songs didn’t get on albums – for me it’s like spring cleaning for my creative consciousness in a way, that’s the best part for me.”
“[The songs] all come from the same spot – wanting to express something that is affecting me or eating me up inside. Whether or not they’re new or old, when I play them live I re-engage with that mental space and I think that’s always a good personally, let alone interesting for the fans. It’s just a good thing to do; checking in with yourself and remembering you of the things that were bugging you, double checking if they’re still bugging you, or if there’s something to address, kinda like therapy for me.”
Now is indeed a good time to be a fan of Josh Pyke. The tour and the releases are a celebration of an established Aussie legend; the universal warmth that he gave through his music. Music that hopefully, he’ll still be playing long enough for my own kids to see him play. Josh Pyke – fun for the whole family.
28 July, Enmore Theatre, Sydney
29 July, Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
4 August, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
5 August, The Wool Exchange, Geelong
10 August, Miami Marketta, Gold Coast
11 August, The Triffid, Brisbane
12 August, The Spotted Cow, Toowoomba
17 August, The Gov, Adelaide
18 August, Prince Of Wales, Bunbury
19 August, The Capitol, Perth
25 August, Launceston Country Club, Launceston
26 August, Wrest Point Casino, Hobart