With last year’s release of their debut single, ‘Manchester By The Sea’, Perth’s Trent-Jean became online sensations after their video, featuring dancers from across the globe, went viral amassing over one million views in only three weeks. ‘Manchester By The Sea’ also is a finalist in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition, which is being judged by the likes of Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Tom Waits and Nancy Wilson, and boasts past winners of the likes of Tones And I, The Teskey Brothers, Thelma Plumb and Ali Barter. That’s pretty good company to be keeping so early on in their career. Now, on the eve of the release of their second single, ‘B4IDie’, which is being premiered on Around The Sound, we just had to get behind what makes this band so special.
‘B4IDie’ is a stadium sized behemoth of a song. It’s chunky, it’s poppy, it’s got a hard candy coating of swaggering rock and it’s got its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.
Let’s just clear up something first. Trent-Jean is the brainchild of musician Trent-Jean Michel, but it’s definitely a band, not a solo project. While the early iterations of Trent-Jean may have included a moving feast of musicians, the line-up has now settled with the addition of drummer, Josh Gallagher, most recently known for his work with Canadian rockers, Deraps. With the appointment of Gallagher to a permanent role behind the kit, which, according to Michel, is when, “our stars aligned,” the full complement of band members is now: Trent-Jean, Vocals and Guitar; Brontë Mongoose, Guitar and Backing Vocals; The Mighty Josh Gallagher, Drums; ‘Mind Reader’ Reynolds, Bass; Dan Desirable, Keyboard; and ‘Queen of Sax’ Alannah Chapman, Saxophone.
I don’t usually list the full line-up of band members’ names when it’s a local outfit, especially one as early career as Trent-Jean, because it’s usually just a roster of forgettable names of people who may or may not be remembered next week, month or year. Rock and roll is a harsh business, so send your complaints to Gene Simmons or someone like that, I didn’t write the rules. But this lot have got it down. They have the stupid monikers to go with their dumb career aspirations. They want to be rock and roll superstars and they’re going to give it everything they’re got. No half measures for Trent-Jean.
Speaking of the likes of Gene Simmons and his band KISS, they’re just one of the outfits that inspire Trent-Jean. Want to know who else is on the list? That’s lucky, because I asked Michel and this is what he said.
“As a child I looked at acts like KISS, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC on stage and it was just like a giant party, they just really connected to their spirit and let it soar. I wanted that. In the Perth music scene, from what I saw, it wasn’t cool to be that sort of rock star, it was seen as cheesy. So, I shied away from my natural inclination of being larger than life.”
Fortunately for Perth and the rest of the world, with new single, ‘B4IDie’, Michel and his band have gotten back in touch with the starry-eyed children inside and recreated themselves in the image of the cheesy rock stars that Michel so much admired in his youth.
Built around a stonking guitar riff that buries itself deep inside your brain and just never lets go, ‘B4IDie’ is a stadium sized behemoth of a song. It’s chunky, it’s poppy, it’s got a hard candy coating of swaggering rock and it’s got its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. So much so that, towards the end of this joy ride about a romantic liaison gone slightly awry, Diamond Dave the Rooster’s autotuned dawn chorusing makes an appearance. It’s almost like they had a band meeting during the recording sessions and item one on the agenda was: What’s the stupidest thing we can do on this record and get away with making it sound great? Hence Diamond Dave.
Talking about the riff that anchors ‘B4IDie’, Michel said, “It actually started on piano. I remember one day, I had this song and I was just sitting in the music room and I had the idea, which was going to be the bass line, but turned into the guitar riff. I was playing it on the piano and I had The Black Keys in mind and I was playing with this kind of stabbing — you can hear it on the record — vibe going on which I looped and I played on the piano. Then, I tracked it into my laptop — that riff was actually done on my couch in the living room at my house, I tracked it straight to the computer. So, we used those files in the studio. I was going to rerecord it, but there was magic and vibe in it, it was when the idea first came to me and it had that energy of being fresh.”
Rock and roll is meant to be dumb, outrageous, full of chutzpah. It’s meant to make you grin stupidly and want to move. When a song like ‘B4IDie’ comes on the radio you’re meant to crank up the car stereo to earthquake level and open the windows, looking at the person alongside you at the lights like you’re just looking for a bit of fresh air.
Rock and roll is about escapism, and Michel knows that and knows how to write it into a song. Like his larger-than-life heroes, Michel takes his craft seriously, but also not.
“‘B4 I Die’ is a step into who I am,” Michel said. “It’s very tongue in cheek. It’s who I am, I like to joke. I’m a light-hearted guy amongst the crazy depth of my serious mind. I wanted this record to reflect that. This is a tongue in cheek Trent.”
But there’s also Michel’s ‘serious mind’. This is the eternal conundrum of rock and roll — for all the makeup, outlandish costumes and silly stage antics, there’s always a serious side.
“I’ve always been a really energetic guy who’s always loved to perform, put his heart and soul into it,” Michel said. “I want to just elevate the audience, electrify them like my heroes have done for me. I’m making music because I want to create art. I’m not doing it because I want to get girls or I want to get famous, I just want to use this lifetime to use the gift that I’ve been given to incite positivity, love and elevation.
“Life is so short, I want to make it count, I want to lift people up help them realise that they can achieve their dreams as well.”
Here’s an artist whose tastes and ambitions span all of the larger-than-life figures in the rock and roll pantheon. ‘B4IDie’ is the lead single from Trent-Jean’s upcoming EP, due for release sometime later this year. Recorded at Perth’s Poons Head Studio, Michel was unstinting in his praise for studio maestro, Rob Grant, saying, “Rob’s love, guidance and genius was paramount to the unlocking of what Trent-Jean is. He is more than just my engineer, and friend, he is family.”
Talking further about the recording sessions, Michel said, “We ended up staying until at the studio until five one morning, Dan, Josh, Brontë and I, and we just watched videos of the legends, like Led Zeppelin doing Madison Square Garden, Fleetwood Mac. We were watching all these live shows.” Michel has high ambition for his band and, certainly with their live shows, they perform as if their lives depend on it. Not too many bands at this early stage in their career know the value of performance, but Trent-Jean certainly do.
Listening to Michel speak about his heroes and influences, I was struck by the size of his ambition, asking whether his ultimate goal is to reach their dizzying heights.
“I don’t want to stop until I have. I’ve lost the care of what people have to say, negatively, about my music. With this EP, it’s where Trent-Jean has given no f**ks about what people have to say about the art and about me as a person. It’s all about owning your individuality and all that makes you eccentric and how the creator made me.
“I knew that when I went into this some people in my community were going to say that Trent is the spawn of Satan or something, but I know where I want to go, and I know who I am, I don’t need to apologise to anybody because I know where my heart’s at and I know where my band’s hearts are at. I love them so much and they’ve got my back, enough to follow my crazy direction. Which I’m very grateful for.
“I’m very blessed to have a fantastic team behind me, so let us embark to spark a fire wild enough to warm the heart of this world.”