After once training to be a preacher, Paul Janeway has since left the world of religious instruction behind to preach a more personal, musical gospel. On St.Paul & The Broken Bones‘ new record, The Alien Coast, which arrived on January 28th via ATO Records, things become a lot more psychedelic. With this stunningly dark but still danceable new album dropping and a massive tour underway now that the COVID restrictions have eased enough for the musical highway to open again, our own Rex Thomson sat down with Paul Janeway to talk about all the new album, headlining Suwannee Rising, and more for the first episode of his returning podcast, Rex-A-Vision.
You can listen to the entire episode with Paul Janeway below or scroll down to read key excerpts from the interview.
Rex-A-Vision: The Podcast – Episode 75: Paul Janeway
Being in a professional touring band is a hard gig on the mind and the body. With a packed tour schedule on the horizon, Paul was quick to answer the question of whether he had any worries about facing the grind of such a rigorous schedule:
“Yeah, Yeah I do. My wife and I had our first child in September of 2020 and it’ll be the first time I’ve ever been on the road like that with a child waiting back home. I don’t know how I’m gonna handle that, how I’m gonna feel about that.
You gotta think though, we toured basically seven years straight. The pandemic, from that perspective—if it had to come, it couldn’t have come at a better time for us. I’m not gonna lie. There was a little burnout.
For it to come when it did, it did make us more grateful now—all the clichés. It really does feel good to get back. I’m ready to get tired of touring again.
It’s like this record, The Alien Coast. It was done in March of 2020. We’ve been sitting on this thing for a while but we knew… we knew we weren’t releasing this thing until we knew we could tour. We’ve gotta tour on an album. We can’t just release it and be done.”
When asked if he thought the new album represented a step forward for the band, Janeway was quick to praise the overall advancement he feels The Alien Coast represents for the band, musically:
“I think there’s always kinda feel that way, especially when you’re in the moment. We knew it was gonna be different. A little more out there. A little more psychedelic.
I think it’s the full bloom of this entire band. You never know. I know for us it hit the mark and was very satisfying. Back in the day when people were given time to make records or albums it was usually around the third or fourth that was like, ‘okay.’ There’s a realization and it all kinda comes together.”
The tunes on The Alien Coast share a space-age disco hallucinatory edge that feels like its own genre. When asked if he agrees St. Paul & The Broken Bones are pioneering the new genre of “Southern Gospel Horror Dance Music” Paul laughed and said:
“Ha! I kinda dig it! That’s great! I’m all about it! I think where some of that comes from—In 2019 I had to get an emergency appendectomy. It almost ended my career because of the tube in my vocal cords and the damage that did. It’s not something I told a lot of people about but it almost put me on another career path.
I had never spent a night in the hospital before and I was all hooked up on morphine. You really do have these dark dreams where you’re in-between asleep and awake in amazing pain and that’s where these tunes originated.
I definitely took from that experience. I mean, it’s not like I sat there and wrote all these songs in that time but there are definitely elements of that.”
When pushed on what it’ll be like to revisit such a dark place regularly while onstage Janeway’s ’til then breezy confidence cracked slightly:
“You know, I just don’t know yet. It’s gonna be compelling to find out. Some of that, the fear maybe, that’s seared into the brain now I guess. I guess we’ll see what happens.
Some songs, like a sad song, when you play it live over and over it’s like a therapy. You do it so much it ends up with a different mental impact than the first couple times you played it.”
When pondering the direction and the shattered boundaries the material on The Alien Coast has coaxed out of St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Janeway was very clear in his assessment of their progress as a unit:
“For me, it sounds very natural. I don’t think if you listen to album one and this one you’d think these were even the same band. But if you listen to album three and this one you can hear some elements that are common to both. I think it feels very natural, at least to me. None of us are trying to do anything. We knew we were stretching our palette but I don’t know if we were ever conscientiously doing so.”
Songs from The Alien Coast like “The Hunter and The Hounds” invite comparisons to mid-to-late nineties Radiohead, a sentiment to which Janeway quickly agreed:
“They’re a huge band that all of us love. They’re a band that Jesse [Phillips] and I bond over. I don’t think there is any doubt about that. And a band called Portishead. We haven’t really explored that aspect of our sound as we have our soul and funk.”
The Covid break gave a lot of bands a chance to re-examine their direction. It sounds like it gave St. Paul & The Broken Bones time to reflect:
“For me, I don’t know how it all would have played out if we had had the chance to get out there and release and tour on it right away. Not saying it would have affected me, but the turn in tone definitely caused a stir in our team.”
Switching up to the packed St. Paul & The Broken Bones touring schedule, the band has clearly stepped up its road presence and prominence on many a bill. In the case of the upcoming Suwannee Rising event, the band has found itself with a well-earned top slot at the jam/funk-oriented festival. When asked about the added pressure that sort of booking can bring:
“You know, it’s weird. We do the show, y’know. You do feel a lil’ more responsible for things. You want everyone to have a good time. But there’s a reason someone picked us to be in that position. You do the things it takes to get you to that point, then you lay it out there.
By the time we get to that show, we’ll have a whole tour under our belts. We’ll try and deliver. Those kinds of fests are fun when the crowd is ready to get down. It makes it easier on us, for sure.
I think for us when you are headlining you think…”Maybe play a longer set?” Let’s try and make this memorable. But we play with the same amount of energy whether it’s five, or fifty or five thousand people in the crowd. We’re gonna leave it all out there.”
You can get tickets for the band’s headlining gig at the 2022 Suwannee Rising Festival here and check out the rest of the band’s many tour dates here. Below you can see a bit of the up-close magic they made on their last visit to the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park way back in 2014. Furthermore, scroll down and listen St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ new album, The Alien Coast, via the player below.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Bear Creek Music Festival 2014
[Video: Tomer Z]
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – The Alien Coast