Point of Brew: Joe White and Marli Smales

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A coffee break with Joe White of The Jensens (vocals and keys), and interrupted by Marli Smales of Chakra Efendi and Good Boy (bass).

Alright, Joe. How do you take your coffee?

Joe: Black.

Where’s the strangest place you know of people listening to your music?

Joe: This girl sent us a message on Facebook from Bali. Was it Bali? I don’t want to get it wrong. I’m pretty sure it was Indonesia somewhere. And she was like: ‘Hey, I don’t know if you guys will read this, but can you send me the lyrics for Bones? I really want to read the lyrics’. And so I sent them back to her and she was like: ‘I didn’t think you guys would reply, but thank you’. So that was pretty sweet!

How has your music changed since you started?

Joe: I guess, like—oh hey Marli! Marli from Chakra Efendi is here in the house.

Marli: Hellooooo! What are you guys doing?

We’re actually doing an interview. I can talk to both of you at once!

Marli: Okay!

Okay. I’ll start from the top again—how do you take your coffee, Marli?

Marli: Iced long black.

Where’s the strangest place you know of people listening to your music?

Marli: Chakra’s music? Chakra has a lot of following in America. Like, a lot in Philadelphia. It’s pretty sick. And Perth. I don’t know—is Perth weird?

All: [laughs]

Joe, how has your music changed since you started?

Joe: We find a whole sound and a space, then we figure out what we want to say in that space and then write the lyrics. Whereas it used to be, I’d sit on my floor playing my guitar, play two chords, hum a melody and put the first lyrics I could think of over that.

Do you write music Marli?

Marli: No. All the bass parts are mine in Chakra, though. But it’s Chakra’s music.

Do you think your process has changed?

Marli: Absolutely. Playing with Good Boy has made me better, because learning Rian’s bass parts—and Rian’s a fucking GUN bass player—are insane. Being with Chakra for so long now, I’m constantly trying to make them [the bass parts] better.

Are there certain themes that you find yourself coming back to in lyrics or instrumentally?

Joe: Yeah, I guess I write about alienation, identity, frustration with the way things are. I guess that would probably summarise most of my lyrics—being frustrated about things beyond your control.

Good answer. Marli?

Marli: No [laughs]. Thirds and fifths [laughs].I try my hardest to stay away from thirds and fifths.

What are you reading or watching at the moment?

Joe: Well, Game of Thrones. And I’m reading 1984. I’ve read half of it several times and it’s really interesting that it seems very current for a book that was written in like, 1949. Some of the stuff that he talks about, it’s like: ‘Oh, that’s so modern!’.

Marli: I’m reading Fellowship of the Ring. It’s very exciting. And watching? Nothing religiously. I just started to re-watch Puberty Blues, actually.

The old one or the new one?

Marli: The new one. I do love the old one, though.

Is there any period in your own life that you take inspiration from when writing?

Joe: Yeah. When I was 13 I lived in Africa with my parents for a year. Whilst I was over there, I realised things about myself and I realised that I didn’t align myself with the religious-based reason why we were there. I discovered a lot of distaste for Western culture and it was a really formative period in my life—a lot of realisations that still hold true and I think about it all the time.

And over there, I discovered music. Every week I would teach all the young kids in the church a song from Hillsong, because they were desperate to know it. I would teach it to them and we would perform it at the church on Sunday. They would have the normal church music, and then they would have an hour’s worth of individual people getting up to do performances they called ‘items’. At the start I couldn’t really sing, but by the end, when it was the last week and we did three songs, all these people came up to me like: ‘When you came here, you really couldn’t sing, but you have a beautiful voice now’. So I came back to Australia and I was like: ‘I’m going to play some music’.

Whereabouts in Africa?

Joe: Uganda.

Cool! And you Marli?

Marli: I guess moving to Brisbane. I am a very different person as to when I was living on the Sunshine Coast. I have a lot of different friends too. I guess I measure from that point on. I moved to Brisbane to play music, because I was driving down three or four times a week to play with Chakra and there was a period where, for months, we played once or twice every weekend. It was crazy.

Apart from music, is there anything else you like to create?

Joe: I guess it’s still music-related, but I’ve always wanted to write and produce a musical. And probably star in it. I’ve always wanted to write a rock opera like Rocky Horror or Sweeney Todd.

Marli: I macramé. I also really like to make earrings.

What’s the hardest decision you’ve made today?

Joe: What to listen to at the gym.

Marli: Whether to sit down with you lot.

All: [laughs]

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

Joe: When I was playing in a band at 16, we used to play with this heavy, delta-blues band lot. Anyway we went to this party afterwards and we were all getting pretty lit and their guitarist was like: ‘What you guys need to do is move to Brisbane, get on the dole and write music all the time. And party’. That was it.

And here you are.

Joe: And here I am.

Marli: My mum’s pretty good at giving advice. I think the best was when I was younger, she was like: ‘Make friends with boys and stay out of the middle of everything’.

Okay, last question: if you could make a band with anyone you wanted, who would be in it?

Joe: Okay, I’d have Kevin Park on drums—because he’s a great drummer, man—I’d have Thundercat on bass, Rick Wright from Pink Floyd on keys and...who’s going to play guitar? I’ll play guitar!

Might as well insert yourself in there. When else would you get the chance to play with those guys? What about you Marli?

Marli: Okay. Bass—

Joe: You would be on bass, right?

Marli: But I want John Paul Jones to play bass!

Joe: What are you going to do? Sing?

Marli: Okay fine. If I fucking have to. John Paul Jones on keys. I’ll play some shitty bass.

Joe: Just, all of Led Zeppelin and you.

Marli: Yep! I’ll just sit and watch. I’ll play tambourine.

Tom Jordan