“We’ve always had a fire in our bellies”Jakob’s win in this year’s Taite Music Prize is a testament to tenacity, says the Napier noisemakers’ uncompromising guitarist Jeff Boyle
When post-rock trio Jakob walked on stage at Auckland’s Galatos in April to pick up the Taite Music Prize for their massive fourth album, Sines, the band’s response was suitably laconic. “This is my worst nightmare,” said Jeff Boyle, the gunslinger who powers Jakob’s wall-of-sound. “There’s a reason why we’re an instrumental band.” For 17 years, Jakob have let guitar, bass and drums do the work, with no need for lyrics to muddy the mix. Boyle’s words were met with cheers from the assembled critics and music industry VIPs, who have followed the band’s slow rise with four commercially uncompromising albums. Fresh from the career-defining win, Boyle explains how the fourth time’s the charm.
THE RED BULLETIN: First things first, congratulations on the win. You’re now four albums in – does this feel like a reward for playing the long game?
JEFF BOYLE: Yeah, it does feel like that. Sines is an album we worked long and hard on, and it’d be cool if winning the Taite was a bit of a ‘Here you go, boys – good on you for hanging in there so long’. It’s been a long, hard road for all of us in the band; we’ve had heaps of injuries and setbacks over the years, but we just stuck at it. It’s amazing to get recognition for that.
What was it that inspired you to stick to your guns for the last 17 years?
It’s just been our desire to make music our way, man. We’re music lovers – listening to music, making music – and we’ve always had a fire in our bellies to keep on going and make bigger and better sounds.
The album was originally titled Colossal Sines. Why does size matter for Jakob?
When there are only three of you in the band, you’re always overcompensating by trying to sound as big as you can. Jakob has always been a band that’s wanted to be big and bold, and Colossal Sines is a representation of that.
Now that Sines has been awarded New Zealand’s most coveted music prize, how do you plan to use the victory to take Jakob’s music to a wider audience?
Honestly, I don’t think our approach is going to change now that we’ve won. We’re just going to stick to the plan we’ve always had, which was to build up an audience as organically as we could and continue to be true to what we are. At times, we’ve felt like outsiders in the New Zealand music industry – as an instrumental post-rock band, we don’t fit into the usual boxes. Winning the Taite has given us confidence that the music industry is behind us. It’s a massive honour, and obviously the prize money is going to be a huge help, but we’re on a trajectory that we’d planned to be on a long time ago.
With commercial success anything but guaranteed, what enabled you to be so uncomprimising with your sound?
We’ve always had a belief in it. It all goes back to something my dad told me when I was a kid. He taught me to play Stairway To Heaven on guitar, and I said to him, “I’m going to be a guitar player.” I remember him telling me that you need to have your own sound to succeed; you can’t just copy other people, because music lovers are always hunting for something new. Those words really had a huge bearing on what I’ve been trying to do as a musician, and also on what we’ve been trying to do collectively as a band. There are so many people who have said to us, “You guys will blow up if you get a vocalist,” but we’ve never been interested. We’ve always known we had something that’s unique, and we’ve never swerved from it – that’s how we got to where we are today.
Now that the Taite Music Prize is yours, where is the trophy going to live?
It’s going to live at our jam space, man. It’ll sit right there in plain sight so that when we’re writing the next album we’ll get a reminder that the bar has been set and we’ve got to raise it even higher.