Interviews

Q+A: Nathan Kendall Of The Jensens

Brisbane indie pop rock outfit The Jensens are charged up and today dropped their brand new single Paper Walls, a fiery track about pulling yourself up out of a self-doubt spiral.  Paper Walls is accompanied by a colourful, wild video clip, created in collaboration with visual artist Unclechronicbone.  The singleprecedes The Jensens’ highly anticipated new album Hammer and Blush, scheduled for release on May 21, 2021.  Set to launch Paper Walls in style with a short run of COVID-safe shows in Queensland, the band will kick off at Solbar on November 6, moving through Mo’s Desert Clubhouse on December 4 and finishing up with the official single launch at Black Bear Lodge on December 11. We caught up with Nathan to learn more about The Jensens

H2Z: Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
NK: No worries! I went to an employment services meeting this morning, because I’m unemployed. Then I came home, opened pro tools and spent three hours trying to make a shit snare sound like a good snare.

H2Z: Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?  
NK: Music is a huge part of both my parents’ lives and my Dad taught me how to play the drums and guitar when I was a young boy, which sparked a complete obsession. I met two members of The Jensens when I was in high school. Bodi and his Dad picked me up in a white van, from a shopping centre and I just jumped in the back having never met them before, so…pretty grateful I wasn’t kidnapped. We then played in a band for a few years on the Sunshine Coast that essentially tried to be Stillwater from Almost Famous, but we inevitably split up. We couldn’t stay away from each other very long though and reconvened about a year later. That’s when The Jensens began, roughly 7 years ago. 

H2Z: Who are your greatest inspirations?  Why?
NK: Musically, a few would be Bowie, Dylan, Kate Bush, David Byrne, Prince, Michael Stipe, Robin Pecknold and Joe Strummer. I love the musicians and lyricists that don’t try to oversimplify things. Existence is surreal and the fact that I’m even alive right now and any of this is happening fucks with my head on a near-constant basis. I think there’s a depth in these particular artists words and music that captures that in a meaningful way. They managed to make something complex that still resonated with millions of people, which is admirable. On top of that, they have a combination of theatricality, melodic charm and excellent production that I find intoxicating. I’m also obsessed with Hollywood cinema, so Scorsese, Speilberg, Tarantino, Nolan,  Coppola, PTA, and Ridley Scott have all inspired me for much the same reason. I’m also fortunate enough to be inspired on a daily basis by my friends and family, who are all incredibly compassionate and intelligent people.

H2Z: How do you create music?  Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first?  Explain your process. 
NK: It’s cool in The Jensens, because we all favour different approaches to writing, which naturally brings a little diversity to a record. For me, the melody or the chords are always the initial inspiration. I write most of my songs on piano, because you get the chords, the melodies and the rhythm all in one. I’ll then make an instrumental demo to the best of my ability and if we make the decision to record it for the band, we’ll make another demo together, to work out any structural/vibe changes. Once we start to track properly, I like to become completely wrapped up in recording the instrumental and go as deep as possible, experimenting and adding layers before writing any lyrics. For a couple of reasons. Mainly because recording the instrumental bed of a track is so fun and carefree, that it’s better if the lyrics don’t get in the way. But also, I like it when the music plays some role in informing the lyrics. Once all the instrumental elements are in, images begin to form in your mind and quite often become the spark of a lyrical concept. When I write lyrics, it’s usually for multiple songs at once. By doing it that way, I can spend a couple straight weeks doing nothing but writing lyrics, which gets me into a really good flow. I’ll initially write lyrics for a song very fast and I’ll write much more than I need. If there’s 3 verses in the song, I’ll try and write 6.  Just to let ideas flow out. Then I’ll continually come back to them over the next few weeks, drafting and re-drafting and refining and combining all the parts that work well together.

H2Z: What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
NK: Enjoying the moment and not spiralling into depression when expectations aren’t met. It’s pretty easy to let the pressure of pursuing music professionally make you forget about how excited you were to do it in the first place. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The only measure of success I want to care about is how much I’m enjoying my life. Even if it takes a decade to truly find my voice as a songwriter,  I’ll at least be spending my life doing the thing I love with the people I care about most. It’s a luxurious position to be in and I’m very grateful.

H2Z: Tell us about your new release, how did it come about?
NK: PAPER WALLS! I remember Joe initially showing me the demo of this song and thinking it sounded very British, which naturally I loved. I also remember the demo being very lo-fi, kind of a Deerhunter, Monomania thing going on. For that reason it initially stood apart from the other demos for the record, which mostly had a glossier, sweeter sound. I would say, up until the mixing stage, it was probably one of the easiest tracks we’ve recorded. Everything just felt natural and fell into place really easily. Joe’s guitar parts didn’t really change much from the demo and Bodi added in some really strong synth lines and guitar riffs. Joe’s lyrics also slot in perfectly, with the exact attitude the song was asking for. I don’t know what else to say. It’s the quintessential Jensens rock banger.

H2Z: What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
NK: Don’t rush it. Give yourself the time and space to create something with depth, that you’ll look back on with pride. Save up what money you can and buy some recording gear. Doesn’t have to be anything special, just a way for you to get your ideas down in a reasonably good sounding way and be able to experiment and grow as a songwriter. Be as prepared as you can be. Rehearse once a week at the very least. Go and see gigs and support other bands and get to know the talented and like-minded people in your music community. Be compassionate and humble. Take it seriously and be ambitious, but for fuck sake have fun doing it.

H2Z: Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
NK: Vipassana Meditation, or an evening walk with good headphones and a great album.

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