Jailbirds is a newcomer band from Ireland that has released their debut full-length “The Great Escape” and they are taking their first steps in the music scene. Grande Rock had a chat with vocalist & guitarist Axel McDonald about the band’s influences, the debut album and their future plans, among other things. Read more below…
Jailbirds band pic
Hi Axel, feels good to have on Grande Rock. First, introduce the band and tell us how did you all get together from Australia and Ireland?
A: Hey Thanos! Thanks for having me! So we’re a 4 piece band, my brother Jay on drums, Jamie on bass/backing vocals, Ed on guitar/backing vocals and myself on guitar/lead vocals. Basically Jay and I moved from Sydney to a small town near the French Alps called Thonon in 2007. Our mum’s side of the family is French, so we lived there for about 7-8 years until we finished high school and started university. The different courses that we were studying weren’t really working out for us, so I decided to move to Ireland after visiting a friend of mine there and falling in love with Dublin. I had applied and got in BIMM (music course) to get straight into the local scene and network with people. I met Jamie and Ed fairly quickly in the course as we shared a lot of the same musical interests. It wasn’t until Jay decided to come join me in the summer of 2016 that we decided to put the band together.
Which are the band’s main influences?
A: Our main influences would be bands who put on a killer live shows like AC/DC, Airbourne, Foo Fighters, Iron Maiden, Metallica. Sonically, we take inspiration from all those bands, but for example during the recording process of “The Great Escape”, we were listening to Blackberry Smoke, Kverletak, Motorhead, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers… each of us will listen to a variety of genres going from blues/country, all the way to some mainstream stuff.
How did the cooperation with Golden Robot Records occur?
A: My brother Jay and I met Mark (founder/CEO) in 2014 through extended family. We kept brief contact over the following couple of years as he had mentioned he was looking to start a label focusing on rock music. In 2017 we pitched our EP “Break the Silence” to him, he liked it,
and in early 2018 he was interested in having us on the label. It was good timing cause we were planning on going into the studio a few months later to record “The Great Escape”.
How do you feel now that you debut full-length album is finally out?
A: We waited a long time for this album to come out, so it was a relief! Our recording process started in late April of 2018. We went back and forth in the studio to track each instrument over the course of 2-3 months then another few for mixing and mastering. Once recording was done we still had to wait for music video budgets, complete the artwork and give enough lead time for a campaign!
All that aside, we’re excited for this album to reach people who love music the same way we do. We feel like this album is always going to be a benchmark for us because we’re proud of everything about it; from a songwriting point of view to our performance, the production, artwork, packaging… everything!
What does the album title “The Great Escape” declare?
A: It means you’re in for something big; it’s like taking a leap of faith into the great unknown with no safety net. You can also interpret the idea of escapism, where you leave everything behind and just enjoy this one thing that will give you happiness or entertainment.
Do give us a hint about each track…
A: My answers might be a little strange but hear me out… they don’t necessarily reflect the meaning of our lyrics but more the “sonic experience”… I feel sorry for the reader!
“The Great Escape”: An epic western feel but there’s a hurricane on the horizon, which then proceeds to hit you at full speed.
“Loose Cannon”: This song could be played in a rowdy pub where punters are throwing beer bottles at the band.
“Nothing Good Lasts Forever”: Ironically one of our shorter songs. This takes you on an adventure in 3,5 minutes and it’s all about living in the moment.
“Shadow of Love”: You’ve just bought yourself a Harley Davidson and there’s a wide open road, and the police are chasing you!
“Thrill of the Chase”: The title says it all!
“Underdog”: You’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve already hit rock bottom but that’s just made you stronger.
“Fight or Flight”: Darker feel than the other tracks on this album but still a very gripping riff that will suck you in and spit you out.
“The Pilot”: Imagine yourself in the cockpit of a jet fighter plane that happens to have a good stereo, this is the song that is being played on that stereo during a military dogfight.
Who did the cover artwork and how it is related with the album title?
A: Our good friend and manager Oran O’Beirne did all the artwork for us. We sat down together on a few occasions to discuss how we should go about the inner sleeves/panels but the front and back cover was all him. His first idea for the front cover was the one that we chose to keep, he really nailed it. It’s a true work of art and reflects what album is about, we love it!
Where did you record the album and take care of the mixing, production and mastering?
A: We recorded the album in 2 different locations depending on the instruments. We worked with our mates Danny Bochkov and James Duke over at North South Recordings, the same guys who did the production for our EP.
All drums and electric guitars were tracked in the North South Recordings studio in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. It’s a great place to hang out and record, James has his 2 dogs there with a massive garden, which allows you to relax and focus.
All the vocals, bass and acoustic guitars were tracked in Danny’s bedroom in a student house in Swords, Ireland. It’s just a normal sized bedroom with a desk, 3 chairs and these 2 big monitors blasting out tunes all day!
That’s also where we did 95% of the mixing. Jay and I would be there to help shape the songs. We were fairly hands on with this process because knew how each song needed to sound. Danny was really happy to let us guide him with this to get the right balance and feel etc. and then he would somehow be able to make everything fit together despite the amount of guitar and vocal layers in every song, and he’s a great mastering engineer too! That man is truly a wizard! In general James and Danny work great together and made us feel so comfortable every step of making an album, it’s always a pleasure to work with those guys.
What are your expectations from “The Great Escape” and what do you wish to achieve with Jailbirds over the next years?
A: As a young and upcoming band, it would be unrealistic to think that it was going to top the charts upon its release. We are 100% behind this album, there is no doubt about that, we reckon it’ll take time for the word to spread and for people to catch on but that’s OK, cause we’re in it for the long haul. That means we’ll have to play many gigs, and we’re looking forward to that! Over the next couple of years, we want to be touring mainland Europe on a more regular basis, doing more and more support slots/tours but also hoping to be playing our own shows to growing audiences. I’d say we would have another album or 2 done out by that stage.
How do you feel that you’ve played at Bloodstock Festival 2019?
A: Man that was some weekend! We had the full experience too because we camped there from the Thursday night and weren’t playing till Sunday evening! We’ve come back from Bloodstock with the feeling that we could take on the UK (haha)! That was a gig we won’t forget because the crowd were just electric, we were hungry to play and we had been watching so many other awesome bands perform for the previous 3 days. On top of that the weather had been a bit rough leading up to the moment we ran on stage but from that point onwards it got sunny and it was just awesome man. Can’t wait to go back!
It’s time for our “weird Questions!!! How did you come up with the name Jailbirds initially?
A: Weird is good! I cannot remember the exact moment I came up with the name, but I do remember it being written down in my notes along with many other names that we were considering. That was the one that stood out to us.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
A: That is definitely the toughest question I’ve ever been asked. I would have loved to be around AC/DC during the Bon Scott days, touring around Australia, slowly taking on the UK and Europe, then eventually breaking America.
Fill in the phrase… “Rock wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
A: Sister Rosetta Tharpe; she brought gospel and Mississippi blues together and inspired people like Elvis, who then inspired all of us.
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
A: Male: Tie between Bon Scott and Nic Cester (Jet). Female: Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
A: Joan Jett!
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
A: I have many answers to this question but I’m going to go with my favourite of all time: “Powerage” by AC/DC. The songs are so well crafted, between lyrics, production & arrangements. To me this is album defines rock n roll. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I first listened to it and it still inspires me today.
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced rock music the most?
A: A tie between George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
If you had the opportunity to invite any musician, living or dead, to play on your album whom would you choose and why?
A: Dave Grohl would be a lot of fun to work with. He can play pretty much any instrument really well and I’ve heard he can cook a good BBQ. Anyone have his number?!
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
A: Probably the past, and particularly Sydney (Australia) in the 1960s. It was a time of prosperity for the city and it wouldn’t have been as overcrowded as it is now! Cooler looking cars, a booming surf and music culture… yeah I think that suits me well!
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
A: You might be surprised, but I would give em “13 Tales from Urban Bohemia” by The Dandy Warhols. It’s a fantastic album that my Dad showed me when I was a kid; it’s one that you have to listen to in order from start to finish. There is a bit of variety in terms of genres but still guitar based with some awesome arrangements and great production. I hope they have a good stereo!
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife/life partner is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?!
A: She wouldn’t be my partner anymore!
Thx for taking the time to do this interview Axel. Wish you the best for the future to come. Take care dude!
A: This was fun! Thanks a lot man, you too!