Teeth And Tongue - Cutting Her Teeth
3D’s Carlisle Rogers speaks with Jess Cornelius (perhaps best known as part of Moscow Schoolboy) about her new solo project, Teeth And Tongue.
If Gus Van Sant made a film about the Australian hipster, Jess Cornelius would write the score. Her new album, Monobasic, features one of the few of the current crop of flannel-wearing all-singing all-dancing incorruptible hipsters that can actually sing and write.
Previously at the helm of Jess Cornelius Experiment (an experiment that took her to SXSW in 2005) and Moscow Schoolboy, Teeth and Tongue is much more of a solo endeavour, so Jess comes through unadulterated.
“I couldn’t say what the album as a whole is about,” she says in a nine-year old Australian accent, her Wellington roots jangling through occasionally, “but the songs are usually about me. There are a few songs on there that were written about different characters, which aren’t me. I haven’t really removed myself from a song in that way before. There are a few songs on the album that are not about me at all. They are about made up characters in made up situations. A lot of the time what I’m reading will influence me. I was reading a book that had a lot of ice and snow references and imagery in it, so I was really inspired by that.
“I was consciously trying to steer away from writing about myself and my problems. In the past I’ve written a lot of melancholy or angry music about relationships. I didn’t want to dwell on that again. I didn’t want the album to be all about failed romantic liaisons. I wanted it to be a little bit more broad, the subject matter. There are some happy songs in there, which is unusual for me. There are a few angry ones. There are songs about love, about my family. There are probably a few songs about being frustrated. When you’ve been doing this for a number of years, making music, and you’re still working in cafes to try to get money. You are constantly poor. You start to wonder if this is really what you should be doing. I think some of the songs are inspired by that frustration as well.”
Casey Rice, the same guy who has produced bands like The Dirty Three and Guy Blackman, took the producer handles on Monobasic, which, Jess says, helped to push her music in a new direction. “He had done a few of my friends’ albums. I had heard of him years ago but never met him. I called him up and asked if would be interested in doing the record. I sent him some stuff, he liked it and we got together and started working on it. It changed quite a lot. My initial idea for the project was for it to be very simple. I was considering maybe using drum machines and stuff. I’d recorded all of the demos using programmed drums, and I’d written all these drum beats. So I was considering using samples and programmed beats, but we ended up doing all the drums live.
“For this particular album, I had a lot of the songs written, but a lot of them were only parts of songs. I was hiring a studio at that point, a little room, and I had my equipment set up and I demoed everything and worked on it that way. I wrote all the parts and arrangements and layered everything up. When we recorded this album, we didn’t really have a band to record it. I kind of tracked everything separately. It was really interesting teaching people parts and working out how to perform it as a live four-piece. At the moment I don’t have much time for writing, but I’m still compiling a list of ideas for the next album.”
WHO: Teeth and Tongue
WHAT: Monobasic through Crystal Chain / Inertia / Plays Spectrum
WHEN: Out now / Sunday 7 December