Music / Features
Track by Track:
Jules Sheldon -
Bloodshed & Serenity
Words by James Lynch
Wednesday 14th February, 2017

Jules Sheldon has been a recognisable face in Melbourne’s music crowd for years, whether playing in bands or just supporting the local scene. Today he’s released a brand new album Bloodshed & Senerity under his own name and it’s a really impressive collection of brooding alt-pop. Sometimes dark and groovy, other times lush and emotive, the album is packed full with shimmering guitars, some explosive 80’s production and Jules’ unique vocals. But it’s not just a journey sonically; lyrically it’s a powerfully honest exploration of life, love and everything in between. To help us properly dive into the new album, we chatted with Jules to get an insight into each of Bloodshed & Senerity’s tracks.
Autophobia

“This is one of those songs where you try and try for ages to get it right in various guises, but not a single one works. I wrote it in my old band The Primary and we never got it right. Tried it again when the Primary reunited and we still didn’t get it right. Tried it with a backing band for my solo project, where we still couldn’t get it right. Luckily, this album finally provided the context for Autophobia to happen. Only took 5 effing years.

I wrote it about a relationship which I should have gotten out of earlier than I did. It had got to the point where I was scared of my own actions. I had extreme guilt. I felt all I was doing was lecturing this person on why they were making me feel upset. We both knew it had to end, but for some reason we didn’t end it. Anyway, more on that break up later in the album. 

I always feel proud of this one. It was written with ‘She’s Lost Control’ as a model for the drum beat, and kind of ended up more like ‘Hey Little Girl’ by Icehouse. As Icehouse are still shunned by the cool and hip young crowd who will probably read this, let’s have a moment to appreciate them. Appreciated? Excellent! And moving on!”

Dead Hero

“The adoring fan boy in me really came out for this song. My parents influenced my music tastes drastically. Mum was an Adelaide punk, while Dad and his mate Toni should have formed the greatest pretentious synth pop band to have ever come from South London. The moment I can trace everything creative or musical back to is when they played me Space Oddity by Bowie when I was 5. 

I was obsessed. After that came me in full Ziggy make up performing Bowie songs on Christmas day, wearing pearls and my Gran’s knitted jumpers when I’d go out, and hey presto, here I am today. I hate to imagine what sort of ‘bro dude’ I might have become had I not listened to that song.

As the chorus says, you can’t mess with your own tapestry, and the musicians that influence you profoundly are integral to what makes you unique. To question that influence is to pick at the threads of who you are as an artist.”  

The Petrol Lasts

“I’ll admit that this is my personal favourite off the album. It came together when I combined three separate chord changes that had been floating around since I was playing shows in New Zealand a year before, and holds the record of being the fastest writing and recording experience I have ever had. Couldn’t make it work while sleeping on that kitchen floor in Behrampore, Wellington, but a year later I finally put all the pieces together and recorded it the next day.

This song caps off the breakup spoken about in ‘Autophobia’. My ex-and I had travelled around the world playing shows after the release of my second album but split when we returned to Australia. By the time we made it to Berlin, we knew it was over between us. We started doing the typical things that couples do to annoy one another when you are in a doomed relationship. You piss each other off with the smallest triggers, you over step boundaries, but you temporarily ignore what’s crumbling between you both as you’re stuck here together. The passive aggression rises. You realise as soon as this trip is over, so are you. 

However, as my Triffids and Go-Betweens obsession is strong, I wanted this to have the backdrop of an Australian landscape. So as you do when you write songs, you combine other experiences with your own. A good friend broke up with their partner after they did a car trip around Australia, which made for more interesting visuals in the lyrics than my own break up setting did. All I had to do was put my break up into context and the song wrote itself.” 

Midnight Cab

“This is the token ‘lonely sack of shit’ song off the album. Written about one of those times where you see every one of your friends go home with someone, while you just end up just polishing off your pint and hailing a cab home alone. It’s gloriously self-pitying and I love it.

I’d been listening to a lot of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, and wanted to write a duet for this album. I tried and tried but none of the songs I wrote suited it - then I realised that a very Velvets influenced song of mine was actually perfect for a duet. That probably saved Midnight Cab from missing out on making the album, as I was unsure about recording it.

I originally had my friend Ema Dunstan from Hi-Tec Emotions locked into do it, but she had to cancel last minute. So I gave my pal Charlotte Kerr a bell - she lived a few streets away from the studio. She came into do the chorus vocal and absolutely nailed it. This was the first time I had written a song where someone else had left such a huge mark on it that I changed how I did it from then on. When I sing it by myself, I’m not singing that chorus like Jules. My inflections are all Charlotte.”

Photo by Zoe Kimpton
The Esplanade

“This is the most personal song on the album, and probably will be one of the most personal I’ve ever written. 

My grandmother lived with my family since I was 2 years old. Gran was magical in the way only a hyper-intelligent, tough-as-nails, Manchester born, 10 pound pom could be. She introduced me to worlds of encyclopaedias and knowledge, and would always teach me to never dumb myself down for the sake of others. She was a grandmother, a mother, and a dear friend to me. She died in December 2016 at the age of 95 after years of illness. Despite her body failing, her incredible mind was as strong as ever till the end.

Bullying was a constant through primary and high school, but on the days where I would be too upset by the bullies, Gran would call up my primary school, tell them I was sick, and then we’d head down to St Kilda beach in secret and eat chips on the esplanade. Those were the times where I learnt about the world from her. Discussions about the adventures of King Henry, Captain Scott, and Douglas Mawson, flowed freely before we’d have to run through the rain to get our tram home. I have no idea why, but the heavens always seemed to open up for us when we’d head there.

She took me from bad situations when I was a kid, and when she got older and her mobility was more impaired, I was able to return the favour. I’d take her in the wheelchair down to the local café, and that simple trip down the street meant the world to her. As that world grew smaller and smaller due to her body being able to do less and less, those small gestures would take her away, just for a little while, from the inevitability of her situation.

Whether I’m 5 or 25 years old, some of my most cherished times will always be the ones I spent with my Gran on our adventures, battling the Antarctic winds on The Esplanade.”

Unwilled Love

“If ‘Autophobia’ was Jules Romance Part 1, and ‘The Petrol Lasts’ was Jules Romance Part 2, then this is certainly Part 3. 

After being out of a relationship for a while and enjoying a year in my own company, I started seeing people again and engaging in the glorious mindfuck that is casual sex. I very quickly realised this was a bad idea, as I fell deeply in love with someone who it was meant to be a casual fling with. I wasn’t expecting this to happen, and it made things a lot more complicated by it happening. Curse my heart of a romantic some days.

When I started writing ‘Unwilled Love’, I wanted to use playful words and images to describe the quagmire I found myself in. Words like “devilish disease”, and images of hands touching my neck, were plucked straight from the HTRK songbook of imagery. The musical arrangement is all David Lynch. 

‘Unwilled Love; is ultimately about love’s power. Whether it be the power it unwillingly has over you, or the power of objectivity it gives the other person in this situation. Despite it hurting you, you have to respect the wishes of the other person to cut it off, as your feelings weren’t what they entered into it for. Harsh but true.”

Bloodshed & Serenity

“This was a heap of fun to make. As well as a duet, too much information about my romantic life, and electronic lushness, an instrumental was also on the horizon for this album.

I wrote the guitar line while sitting on my couch and watching ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, which had absolutely no influence over how the song turned out. Where ‘Unwilled Love’ was a lyrical HTRK tribute, this was a musical one.  Ed Lloyd and I built it from the ground up with the drum machines, then guitars, then layers of synths, and then little guitar noise parts added for dramatic effect. It also has my first ever keys credit with the little ‘boo boop’ keys parts.

The title comes from when I was trying to describe a dodgy beachside suburb to someone as “lots of bloodshed in a very serene place”. I loved the contrasting image that the words Bloodshed & Serenity implied, so as well as an instrumental, I had an album title.”

The Waves

“I complain about how long ‘Autophobia’ took to put to record, but that has nothing on the long and drawn out experience which I had with this song. It took 8 years for ‘The Waves’ to come to fruition, but I must say that it was worth it.

The subject matter is quite boring - a very detailed and passionate romantic dream. Despite a great melody and lyrics, I needed to make sure the musical backing took the evocative nature of the song to another peak. David Sylvian’s solo work was a huge influence over the whole album, and none more so than on this track. The manner of how he’d use incredible and atmospheric arrangements as a means of accentuating mysterious lyrical images, gave me a template for what I needed to do here.

Gemma Helms’ monstrous bass is amazing, while Ed Lloyd’s synth-string parts are some of the best on the album. That snare sound was also heavily inspired by Aussie Crawl’s ‘Reckless’. Once again breaking a fourth wall of Melbourne underground cool there with that one, but who gives a shit.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of recording this album was being able to really stretch out with my lead guitar playing. I never quite had the confidence to do that in the past, and this album was my opportunity to make it happen. I played every piece of guitar on Bloodshed & Serenity, and by far some of my favourite parts are on ‘The Waves’. The textural parts, such as the tremolo driven howls from the guitar, I am extremely proud of and like many things on this album, were ideas that I had wanted to put on record for years.

Good things do take time kids. As this album has proven with ‘Autophobia’ and ‘The Waves’, never dismiss or throw away anything you write, as your work can sometimes find its place later down the line.”

Check out Bloodshed & Serenity above, and catch Jules launch the album this Friday at the Yarra Hotel with Emma Russack, Lou Davies, Babey and The Ocean Party.

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