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My Soundtrack: Josh Pyke

Appreciates fine songwriting, dances with gusto, has a slightly morbid side.

He appreciates fine songwriting, dances with gusto and has a slightly morbid side. Evident from his selections below — as well as his adventurous new album But For All These Shrinking Hearts — there’s a lot more than meets the ears when it comes to Sydney troubadour, Josh Pyke.

At this stage, it’s unclear whether or not the revelations here — including a weakness for Rihanna — is required knowledge for when Pyke hosts a special trivia night on October 6 at our Live Lodge pop-up venue. The more you know though, right? Huge prizes on offer for the winning team either way, with tickets for the event available now via Newtown Social Club.

All words below by Josh Pyke.

The First Song I Learned To Play

Soundgarden “Outshined”, 1991
“It’s in Drop D tuning, and I still play in Drop D tuning. Every song on every album [of mine] is in Drop D, and it’s because this is the song that I learned how to play guitar to. A guy at my high school introduced me to Soundgarden. Up until that point I was exclusively into Guns N’Roses. As soon as I learned how to play this song I started writing my own songs, so for me it was a revelation, it was like unlocking the key to being able to write my own songs.”

The Song I Fell In Love To

Iron & Wine “Naked As We Came”, 2004
“It’s not the song I fell in love to, but it’s the song I walked down the aisle to, and it’s just beautiful. It’s very much about the idea of longevity in a relationship. The lyrics are ‘One will spread our ashes round the yard’ – it’s fucking heavy. But it reminds me of the concept of commitment and falling in love. I can’t hear that song without it being an emotional memory.”

The Song People Wouldn’t Expect Me To Like

Rihanna “Umbrella”, 2007
“When it’s going ‘ella ella’, there’s one chord change which is so good, and it makes the whole song for me. It changes to this weird diminished minor chord, and it just changes the song from being bland pop into something much more interesting.”

The Song That Makes Me Cry

Sufjan Stevens “Death With Dignity”, 2015
“Even when I talk about it I get emotional. It’s so good. The whole album is about his mother passing away, and when you listen to the lyrics of that song with that in mind it’s like, my god. The first time I heard it I [cried]. It’s more an empathetic reaction to a guy who’s reduced to feeling like a little child. And I guess having kids changes your perspective on parenthood. As much as it’s not particularly manly to cry to songs, it’s also what I’m hoping will happen. That’s what I want out of music, a full- on emotional response.”

The Song That Gets Me on the Dancefloor

OutKast “Hey Ya!”, 2003
“I’m not much of a dancer, but I can’t pass that one up. It’s a great karaoke song as well. I remember singing that song at karaoke with Kevin Mitchell on the night that I met him before we started a tour together, and we ended up at a karaoke bar and we bonded over singing that song. There was a lot of dancing. My style of dancing is a cross between how you would slam dance to grunge and punk, and hip-hop dancing. A lot of shoulder flicking. It’s not good, none of it’s good.”

The Song I’m Most Proud Of

Josh Pyke “Middle of the Hill”, 2007
“It’s the song that opened every opportunity I’ve had since, it changed the trajectory of my life, so that makes me pretty proud. When did I realise it was connecting? I’d been booked on the Big Day Out on one of the small stages early in the day, and I was expecting there to be a spattering of 50 people, and it was fucking chockers, and I was blown away. It was the day the Hottest 100 got announced, and it was Number 19. The same day I jumped in the car and drove down to Melbourne to start a tour, and as we went back up the coast I just noticed that more and more people were showing up for my set. And I was like, something’s happening here. I knew I loved the song, but I didn’t think it would do anything, ’cause it didn’t really have a chorus and had a linear progression and a very personal narrative. But it was the one that did it.”

The Song I Play Air Guitar To

Guns N’Roses “Sweet Child O’Mine”, 1987
“When I was trying to earn money to keep making music I was a guitar teacher briefly, and I taught at a girls’ school, and most of the kids weren’t that interested, it was just a way to get out of class. But there was this one girl, she was an excellent guitarist, so she wanted to learn the solo for ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’. I’m not a good soloist or anything, but I’d go home and really intensely learn it by ear and figure out how it was written down ’cause she was learning it from notation. It’s probably the only song in which I can still remember how to play the solo. So when I’m air guitaring it’s actually totally accurate.”

The Song I Wish I Wrote

The Shins “New Slang”, 2001
“It’s almost perfect. The moment I heard that song I was like, this is where I want to be musically. I was on a weekend away with a couple of mates and one of them had a SubPop sampler and it had ‘New Slang’ on it. He basically did to me what the girl in Garden State does to the guy, he was like, ‘Sit down, you’ve got to listen to this, it could change your life.’ And it just floored me.”

The Song I Want Played At My Funeral

Enya “Orinoco Flow”, 1988
“When I was about 10 years old I was travelling in the UK with my parents, and Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’ was always on the radio, and I fell in love with it. I remember it vividly, walking across this carpark at [supermarket] Tesco and I was like, ‘Mum, when I die, can you play this at my funeral?’ And she was like, ‘OK.’ Mum thought I was just talking crazy. So I feel like being a man of my word and still having that played. I was a pretty intense little kid.”

The Song That Makes Me Cry

LCD Soundsystem “Someone Great”, 2007
“It’s a really beautiful song. I haven’t listened to it in a really long time, but it reminds me of hanging out with some people who aren’t really around anymore. Some [are dead], some I just haven’t seen in a long time. It brings back some sad things for me.”