Photo by Tajette O’Halloran
In a period of national turmoil, when certain prime ministers need to give their ministers Australian flag pins so they know who they are representing, thank god there is one man – with two names and a huge swag of loved pop songs – who can unite the people.
You could say this is one nation under Bob, except he specifically asked “please don’t call it One Nation”. In any case, with a double-packed best of on its way, the man behind Bob Evans, the artist also known as Kevin Mitchell, explains how an accidental second career has hit two decades and, who knows, maybe even into Canberra.
YES, WE THINK IT’S TIME
It’s not too late, for really a party room vote is just a temporary thing these days: Kevin Mitchell can confirm he is available to lead the Liberal Party and the nation.
Before you scoff, claiming no one with that loosey-goosey hair could be serious and he wasn’t even the sexiest member of Jebediah anyway, it’s worth noting that he would bring not just the West Australian vote – a state by no means guaranteed as a safe haven for the Coalition these days – but a popular base in working class Newcastle (more about that later), and name recognition twice over.
That’s right, not just Kevin Mitchell but Bob Evans: two for the price of one at a modest price. A bit like Mitchell’s career. And nothing like the career of Peter Dutton, who cannot claim to have written an alternative national anthem/campaign song in the first Bob Evans hit, Don’t You Think It’s Time.
“I have often pondered whether a public life could be for me, and now it seems like at some point in time, we are all going to be prime minister,” says Mitchell, graciously accepting the poisoned chalice being shoved at him.
The future PM had been conducting interviews during last week’s political farce, the sound down but the madness still pictured, as he talked old songs and Full Circle, a new Best-Of record under the name Bob Evans – his quieter, folkier, more outright adult pop nom-de-music who has now reached the ripe old age of 20.
This chap Evans has in that two decades become a kind of national unifying force, bringing together those who discovered the teenage Mitchell in Jebediah in the early 90s, those who wouldn’t go near that punky-pop but “love a good tune”, men, women, and radio programmers everywhere who know they can slip on an Evans tune and everything seems to calm in the studio and on the talkback lines.
Of course, this also means that if the 40-year-old Mitchell was to become PM. it would probably have to be under the name Bob Evans.
“Once again the pseudonym becomes a thorn in my side,” Mitchell says ruefully. “It started off great but I don’t think my record company likes it very much and sometimes I think, yeah, it’s a bit confusing having two names.”
I suspect the record company don’t mind him being Bob Evans, who sells rather well thank you very much; it might be they wished he would stop being Kevin Mitchell.
The first order of business when Bob Evans takes the reins in Canberra should be to correct a glaring cultural anomaly: making his song Pasha Bulker another national song to be performed at all major sporting events, citizenship ceremonies and weddings.
The song is after all, one of the finest pop gems released in decades, and certainly the best song ostensibly written about a bulk carrier ship which ran aground outside Newcastle in 2007 that’s actually a lonely man’s cry for help as he wonders “where did I go wrong?”.
“Once again I maybe stuffed up with that too by naming it Pasher Bulker when those words don’t appear at all in the song,” says Mitchell, laughing as he adds that while the song is a huge favourite whenever he plays in Newcastle, “it’s another in the long line of decisions that I’ve made that have gone against any chance of success.”
You could say that the Pasha Bulker move was actually in line with a career that was never intended to be a serious competitor for Mitchell’s original day job in Jebediah, the name Bob Evans taken from a t-shirt and borrowed to make use of songs that in their personal, acoustic folk/pop forms, didn’t seem right for the band.
“The name is definitely proof that when I say I went into this without any great ambition of solo stardom outside of Jebediah I’m serious,” Mitchell says. “Things just kind of happened. But as I wander into my middle age I am starting to question whether I should have been more ambitious in my musical career.
“Sometimes, the humble, self-effacing way of doing things means you can kinda shoot yourself in the foot.”
That foot hasn’t really been shot. Not when Bob Evans has not just sustained but thrived, even as Jebediah have come and gone and come again. Take a look at the tracklisting for Full Circle and even before you think of the band-powered, darker-hued new song, Drowning, you find melodic gem after melodic gem from albums like the ARIA-winning Suburban Songbook, Goodbye Bull Creek and Car Boot Sale.
Along the way he’s been able to include a proposal in a song (she said yes), make some pointed political commentary (he’s not really likely to stand for the Liberals it’s fair to say, and Labor shouldn’t get their hopes up short of a remedy to the treatment of asylum seekers) and talk about being a man, being a father and, yes, being middle aged.
“I’m not playing arenas but they’re still enough people out there that keep me afloat and make it all worthwhile. In a lot of ways I am incredibly lucky,” he concedes, sighing and saying “Putting out a Best-Of I probably should have expected that there would be a lot of reflecting over things.
“But you know what’s also cool? Jebediah started when I was 17 and started putting out records very soon afterwards, and I put out some kind of record, whether it’s Jebediah or Bob Evans, every couple of years since. So I have really documented my entire adult life in song. And that’s something as I get older I look at as kind of cool as well.
“I often think I should have kept a diary, it would be great to read now. But I’ve kind of done that with music.”
Keep the diary idea for the Canberra career Kevin/Bob, there’s always a market for political diaries. It’s time.
Full Circle is released on October 5 and Bob Evans will tour nationally through October and November.