Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, which has become a vibrant hotbed for global music of late, Tambourine Jesus may not be a band you have already heard of, but you soon will. Having played with Australian and Kiwi legends, including Angus & Julia Stone, The Teskey Brothers, Redcoats and Spencer P. Jones, the triumvirate already have a superb musical pedigree. And they are coming to Tokyo for a three-date tour in November. 

Composed of James Gilligan, Liam Gough and Neil Wilkinson, Tambourine Jesus have been warming up for their official band and debut album launch in Japan’s capital by playing some intimate gigs in Melbourne. With a beautifully sonic balance of rock, indie, funk and pop, Tambourine Jesus is a band who should very much be on your radar. Tokyo Weekender spoke to them before their debut tour here.  

What was it like making “Rain & the Fire” and was there a specific concept or aim you were trying to achieve?

We had a lot of fun making the “Rain & the Fire” video. It was born from a brainstorming session one rainy afternoon when we were trying to figure out a concept cover for our debut album. We saw a photo of a woman behind wet glass which set us off on a creative and abstract path. We had just started using AI to help generate concept images and were playing around and prompting the AI bot to generate all sorts of weird creatures inside of a wet glass box set in strange landscapes. We were then mad enough to undertake recreating one of the images in real life that we had generated using the AI bot. We set about building the glass cube from salvaged and recycled materials and Liam’s mum tailored the fur suits for us. 

We found a rugged otherworldly landscape on top of Mount Baw Baw in Victoria and dragged the glass cube, our costumes, instruments and two cinematographers up the mountain from dusk through nightfall and then again for sunrise. We decided to shoot a film clip at the same time as the stills for the album cover art. Overall, we were trying to create a feeling of two spaces: the inside world and the outside world. The upcoming album has a lot of underlying themes concerned with climate change and, really, this is a statement about where we may be headed in the future if we don’t slow global warming. It’s a landscape that may not be safe and habitable for us in the future. 

How would you describe the sound of Tambourine Jesus and how did you choose the band’s name?

We find it hard to describe the sound of Tambourine Jesus because the upcoming album is quite eclectic in its sounds and mix of genres. We’ve had people compare us to the sounds of Battles, Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead and Bjork, to mention a few. The band was named after the mythical legend that is “Tambourine Jesus,” no one knows who he is or was and where he may be now. Rest assured we won’t stop looking for him.

Have you been doing gigs in Australia? What has the reaction been like?

We have been doing some private gigs around Melbourne but are excited about launching the band in Japan. We mostly have been rehearsing and honing our live show before we hit the stage in Japan. We love to play live. That was a big part of our intention in starting this band, to play live together on a stage.

How excited are you about coming to Japan?

Japan holds a very special place in our hearts. We have been there several times playing music over the years. Liam played Fuji Rock with The Teskey Brothers several years ago and James this year with Atsuko Hatano and Joe Talia. We love everything that Japan has to offer; the food, the music, the art and culture, but especially the people.

Is it a bonus being Australian right now in the music industry or is it a hindrance being compared to bands like Tame Impala?

Tame Impala did influence us many years ago, but we were already familiar with that sound from the 1960s and 70s from bands such as Germany’s Can and Sweden’s Dungen. Being an Australian band seems to be a good thing in the world of music at the moment. Over the years, we’ve been referred to as “exotic.” We don’t feel very exotic, but the world music scene seems to think that our geological upbringing and home base of Melbourne makes us something worth listening to. 

Do you have any plans to tour anywhere else in the world?

We have grand plans and aspirations to tour widely, but for now we will focus on Australia and Japan. We will tour our debut album before starting work on recording our second album. We’ve already begun writing many more songs.

Can you tell me more about the process of making your debut album? Where was it recorded and what are the standout songs for you?

We recorded and produced the album ourselves in our home studio in Warrandyte, Victoria, among the mountains and trees. It’s a big old 70s mud brick house that we converted into a studio that looks out over the Dandenong Ranges. It’s a peaceful and creatively inspiring space to work in and has several local kangaroos that watched us work.

The three of us spent many days and nights in our home studio writing and recording, but also cooking and laughing together. Working on this record definitely brought us closer together in many ways. We’re very proud of the record but two stand out songs for us are “Rain & the Fire” and “Ticket to the End of the World.” The former is what we call a pop banger, short and sweet. Whereas “Ticket to the End of the World” is in four movements, not unlike a classical song structure and melts together several genres.

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What should audiences in Japan expect from your upcoming gigs in Tokyo?

Audiences in Tokyo can expect an energetic live trio of three-part vocal harmony, guitar, bass and drums. We have been looking forward to performing this music in Japan for a very long time, so I think we will put on quite the performance.

Do you have a message for your fans in Japan?

To our fans in Japan, thank you for listening to our music. We appreciate you so much and look forward to meeting you at the show very soon. 

Tambourine Jesus play three dates in Tokyo: