Meet Methyl Ethel, the musical project of Australian musician Jake Webb. Clashing exhilarating arrangements with ethereal textures, the sound of Methyl Ethel is like no other. What started as Jake Webb’s solo bedroom experiment, has since flourished into a seven-piece live band, puppeteering the strings of alternative pop.
Methyl Ethel features in the latest issue of Tenner Magazine, the
'Voices of the Next Generation' issue.
Photography by Oli Spencer
Words by Oli Spencer
“I think they’re into it. I think they’re excited by it” Jake tells me when I ask what his parents think of his music. “It kind of makes sense to them now. I think their worry with what I’m doing with my life has started to subside and I think they are really excited by what they see, especially the boundary pushing elements of what I do.” His parents are 70’s kids, so music was a huge part of their lives - he continues, telling me that he could even say they are proud that he has found his own way through it all “That would be their words, this is not necessarily a sentence that I would share about it all…” he laughs, “I’m still just blindly budging my way, fumbling about in this studio which is an absolute mess – I wish you could see it” which leads him to another point of his, looking around his room he talks about how he’s noticed people posting ‘studio porn’ where people take photos of their studios and they’re just so clean, “I swear to god, they can’t be getting anything done in those studios, cause how can you maintain a clean studio and actually do any work?”
Now, Methyl Ethel’s new album, ‘Are You Haunted’ has arrived via their new label home Future Classic. It carries the idea of being haunted by your personal and our collective histories - not necessarily ghosts per se, but the ghosts of humanity. “When you think about all of the problems that we’re facing at the moment, a lot of them are to do with what we have done in the past. That’s the idea, to that on a big level and to that on a small personal level” he continues, spinning in his chair, “you’re always referring to how you have done things previously, and those ghosts, I suppose, are something that are so present throughout your whole life. He chuckles to himself, reflecting on how he wanted to play around with the idea of ghosts and spirits without being too conceptual… Ironic, given the band are all dressed like Ghostbusters at the moment.
The album features the first track from Methyl Ethel to feature another artist - ‘Proof’ featuring Australian songstress Stella Donnelly. He chimes up, “Stella is so great; she is such a force as far as her ideas and music goes.” sharing a lot of the same ambitions, trying to reach beyond expectations she was super open to trying new things out. The song is a montage that describes a lot of what was going on at the time of the US election, Covid and anti-vaxxers - “All of the truth and non-truth-argy-bargy that had been going on at the time and still sort of is. It's like pairing chance and proof together and feeling sort of like we don’t know where the hell the line is.”
The process behind the album has been different this time around, being created during Australia’s Covid breakout. With all that time spent in one place, he took advantage of not touring and not having to rush through things - allowing him time for rewrites, making sure everything was right. While it’s a love hate relationship, this extra attention to detail has cemented his love for mixing music. He raises his eyebrows, reflecting on hating how difficult it is to make sacrifices, loving bits and pieces in your music and having to scrap them for the greater good. He learnt that in the end, every choice that he makes has to serve a greater purpose, “It was a huge learning curve; you can learn to help yourself from the very beginning by what you choose to put in and to not put in.” Dialing in and learning so much felt liberating, he tells me, “I just reminded myself that I need to be the one to stand behind the album and say that it’s great. I wanted to make a record that I could say no, this is a good record, I’m really proud of it”.
While he dives into new territory with his music, expertly twisting and influencing the direction of Australian music, he chuckles and tells me he wouldn't leave a mark with his music, but rather a stain. “Just a small little red stain just below your chin on your favourite shirt, one that you can't get out. But one day you’ll just get out, or buy a new shirt.” he laughs, sitting comfortably, slowly spinning in his chair.