Josh Pyke - I Don't Know

Josh Pyke artist

Josh Pyke chose the song I Don’t Know as some of his best work.

Some Of My Best Work is a podcast hosted by Jane Rocca, music and culture journalist.

Guests nominate one specific work they feel is some of their best.

The text below is a partial transcript from Josh Pykes’ episode of Some of My Best Work. 

It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I chose this song I Don’t Know from the album Rome, because it helped me through a period of struggle in my life.

It helped me articulate what I was going through and therefore get on a bit of a road to recovery.

Specifically, this song is about panic attacks or that feeling of impending doom and anxiety.

I went through a really bad patch with anxiety in 2016-2017 and it pretty much took me off the road for a couple of years.

This song is about that feeling, what that feeling is, the struggle with that feeling.

Songwriting has always been about self therapy or self help and being able to articulate those feelings through the song helped me to get through it.

That’s part of the reason that I’m really proud of this song.

This song did allow me to answer some questions I had about the struggle with anxiety.

One of the big struggles I had, emotionally apart from actually suffering from actual fear and anxiety was. I was worried that my relationship with anxiety was part of my creative process.

I was worried if I was able to manage the anxiety or even get rid of it, then my creativity levels might suffer.

In the song I say, “I don’t know if I want to lose that feeling of otherness”, and that’s what I’m talking about.

That connection to something beyond the here and now I sort of associated that a little bit with my anxiety.

The process of writing the song also has manifests into a song that I love and I love the production, the lyrics, the melody.

I started writing this song around 2017-2018.

Writing songs was definitely part of that recovery or management process. Creativity and art have always been my way of articulating those struggles in my life, whether it’s emotional, mental or just existential.

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Listen to this story on Some of My Best Work, a free weekly podcast hosted by music journalist Jane Rocca.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

There’s a real vulnerability to the production of this track.

(Recording the song) I played the guitar and sang live. It took me heaps of takes to get a take that I thought was good enough to put on the record.

There’s a light doubling of my vocals, but it’s a pretty fragile song.

There’s only guitar and some accordion which was played by my kids piano teacher at the time, Glen Hopper, he’s a fantastic multi-instrumentalist. He did a beautiful job, played a little bit of piano, then a friend of his played the trumpet on it.

This song and the whole album was recorded in my studio, in my home backyard.

There’s a separate building down the back of my yard and I’d recorded the vocals and guitar. But after, I added some harmonies then I wanted other textures.

There’s a real fragility and vulnerability to the track, which I often layer tracks up.

I think that’s quite refreshing to hear particularly in the context of the subject matter and sort of revealing the vulnerability of the subject matter. It was a little bit scary but I’m glad it worked out.

The process of making this album was very domestic, it was coming off the back of not having toured for two years. I felt like creatively to have some real kind of bookend, or full stop or sort of creative combination to the record.

I wanted to take it out of the studio, where it had been born and get it into some other ears and into a different space to be completed because I was so close to it.

I got the album, including this song, mixed by Tucker Martine over in Portland. He’s worked with so many of my favourite artists like Sufjan Stevens and The Decemberists, so it was a bit of a multifaceted approach.

I flew over to Portland, without having met him.

I’m very fortunate I was able to do that before the world shut down.

The track was essentially finished but honing in on what Tucker brought to it, it is quite difficult because it was very technical.

I hate to use the catchphrase, but it’s an ‘analogue warmth’.

It sounds like a “record”, it has that really American kind of overly compressed sound, which I love. It’s warm, intimate and kind of dark in a way.

The biggest thing for me of it being something I’m proud of and that I’ve taken a lesson from is the vulnerability and the honesty.

Coming back off a break, I didn’t feel like I owed anybody an explanation of why I’d been away.

This song allowed me to give that explanation without just standing there revealing my heart and soul. But that vulnerability within the song is something that I’ve definitely carried forth.

It’s pretty clear what I’m talking about in this one.

Moving ahead with songwriting, that level of kind of vulnerability and exposure is something I do want to continue with.

It also was clear a lot of people have experienced similar things. The more we talk about these sorts of things, the more it normalises them.

It’s interesting with the pandemic, in terms of the influence on this song and the rest of Rome. I wrote all of the songs, produced and mixed them all before the pandemic hit.

It was almost like these songs had some reference to what was going to happen.

The anxiety and I Don’t Know, is pretty representative of how a lot of people feel during the pandemic.

I loved performing I Don’t Know live.

Even vocally there’s a lot of falsetto in it, which is a relatively new for me.

It is very fragile, which I think is reflective of the song itself in the subject matter.

I actually first played it as the opening song on a bunch of shows when I play last year in between lockdowns.

It’s hard to sing admittedly, but it’s really rewarding when you nail it.

Listen to this story on Some of My Best Work, a free weekly podcast hosted by music journalist Jane Rocca.

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