How’s the serenity? NOIRE singer and songwriter Jessica Mincher discusses the value of leaving the big smoke for the quiet country.
Jessica Mincher and Billy James quit their day jobs and moved out of their house in Surry Hills in inner city Sydney to a farm in Queensland near where they both grew up. Stepping away from the stress and the distractions of the city they were soon able to get back to making music. Fenella Henderson-Zuel spoke to Jessica in Switzerland about the indie pop duo known as NOIRE and their latest recording, Some Kind Of Blue.
Images by Blair Gauld
When we finally manage to connect our Skype call, Jessica Mincher is bitterly disappointed to discover that the video feature isn’t working. “I’m in Switzerland and I wanted to show you the view! It’s very beautiful.” The singer-songwriter is currently road-tripping through Europe with fellow musician and songwriter Billy James, the other half of Australian indie pop rock duo NOIRE.
“We started off in Paris and then went to Berlin, then we drove down to Nuremberg and somewhere else and now we’re in Switzerland!” Jessica tells me excitedly. “I think today we’re going to drive to Italy.”
The pair are taking a well-deserved break as they celebrate the release of their debut album, Some Kind Of Blue, and are enjoying the freedom of living without a schedule.
“We’re just so unplanned, so every day we’re like ‘where should we go today?’ It’s been awesome.”
Though writing songs is one of the most important things in her life “so far”, Jessica’s greatest love is film. Asked who were her main influences, rather than songwriters or musicians she nominated directors David Lynch and Jean-Luc Goddard.
Visits to the cinema are "theatrical and dramatic experiences", and her lifelong dream is to follow in the footsteps of one of NOIRE’s other inspirations, Australian singer/songwriter and composer Nick Cave, and write film scores.
She and Billy are currently working on music for a filmmaker friend but Jessica’s “absolute goal” is to create music for Lynch, Godard, Sofia Coppola and Wim Wenders. Their influence is clear in deeply atmospheric NOIRE tracks like Real Cool and He’s My Baby.
“I think with our music it’s about creating an atmosphere more than what’s being said. When I’m writing I always think about visually, ‘How would this sound?’ Movies are really good in that way.”
While this European trip and the impending release of the debut album is exciting, the past two years have been tough for NOIRE.
After moving to Sydney from Gympie in regional Queensland five years ago, the pair were soon profiled on triple j unearthed but found it difficult to sustain a music career. “We released an EP but weren’t really getting anywhere. We were just working [in other jobs] and Sydney’s so expensive. Then we’d have shows on the weekend.”
Unable to afford to focus on their music and support themselves in Sydney, Jessica confesses that the band became disillusioned with the life of a city-based artist.
“You know, time just goes by so quickly and you realise ‘Oh my god, I’ve been in Sydney for so long and I haven’t really done that much yet, I haven’t made as much music as I wanted to.’ There was a lot of indecision and not feeling productive. It makes you feel depressed all the time.”
It soon became clear that if NOIRE were to survive and thrive, there was only one thing to do. Says Jessica, “Once we’d made that decision it was fairly quick.”
She and Billy quit their day jobs and moved out of their house in Surry Hills to a farm in Queensland near where they both grew up. Stepping away from the stress and the distractions of the city they were soon able to get back to making music.
“It was a really good decision for us,” Jessica asserts. “We just went away for two months and decided to write an album. We were like, ‘we just need to get a full body of work together’.”
That body of work became Some Kind Of Blue, released last Friday. After putting the creation of the album aside for so long the pair felt a need to complete the work as quickly as possible and exorcise their city demons.
Taking a cue from Nick Cave, Jessica and Billy treated the creation of the album like a full-time job. Setting a strict timetable forced them to spend time on the album each day in an effort to put their difficult time in Sydney behind them as quickly as possible and produce their first major work.
“It’s just amazing to have it finally come out. We were more concerned about getting it done, rather than the end product, I think. We just needed to get something finished so we can move on.”
The album’s title perfectly captures both the struggles of the past and the musical influences captured within.
“We went through a really rough couple of years and I thought writing this would kind of focus on what happened but it ended up not even dealing with what was making us so sad,” Jessica explains. “We had this song called Some Kind Of Blue and it was referencing that Miles Davis album [Kind Of Blue]. And the lyric was ‘I’m all Miles Davis in some kind of blue’ and I really just loved those words.”
As is often the case, Some Kind Of Blue didn’t turn out exactly as expected but it still managed to have the desired effect.
“It was meant to be about a darker time and I think, even though we didn’t end up dealing with it, it was like the healing of it. [The album] turned out a lot more happy and positive than I thought it would,” she says while laughing.
The pair now feel far more comfortable with their abilities and the possibilities for the future, having proven to themselves that they can create music they believe in when they set their minds to it. And Some Kind Of Blue is only the beginning.
“I think we’ve still got a lot to write and I would like to have another album out in maybe six months, that’d be amazing. Whether that happens or not, I think it’s a lot easier now that we’ve gotten over that first hurdle. I feel a bit more confident in writing songs now as well and I feel a bit better that I’ve been able to produce something. It has gotten a lot easier to keep writing.”