Kevin Mitchell hasn’t been drinking.
“It was tough - I did fall of the wagon once, but I was given a pass.” It’s hard to give up drinking when you’re a prolific pub rocker, and as he goes on to explain his lapse, it becomes all the more understandable. “I had this gig up in Rockhampton, with Bubsy Marou. They were doing their hometown album launch and they invited me to come up to Rockhampton to play, and I was like, uh… I gotta do that, it sounds like so much fun.”
Only a truly special occasion could throw Mitchell, a man who’s been touring cross-country for the better part of 20 years. His alt-rock group Jebediah released their debut record, ‘Slightly Odway,’ in 1997, and it’s since become something of an Australian rock classic. He’s continued to tour with his old outfit whilst also embarking on a successful solo career as ‘Bob Evans.’ The unremarkable-yet-distinctive moniker aligns perfectly with the suburban romanticism that runs through his now-expansive solo catalogue. His music has taken him from the US and Japan to Toowoomba and Bellingen, entertaining crowds at both famed festivals and back-alley bars. He’s played alongside The Smashing Pumpkins and Powderfinger whilst selling hundreds of thousands of records, a feat few Perth-born upstarts have ever achieved. Despite this, Mitchell’s found comfort on the rock-and-roll rollercoaster, about to hit the road again for yet another Australian tour.
Paving the way is a six-track EP of unreleased material, ‘Zeroes to Heroes,’ which Mitchell is extending as a gift to fans who buy tickets. Though advertised as a collection of demo tracks, the tracks are packed with Bob Evans' signature flair - it’s so effective, in fact, that I felt the need to ask about their amazing quality.
“When I demo at home, you know, just for my own enjoyment, I kind of enjoy going through the same process that I would go through if I was making the record properly.”
Unexpectedly complex string arrangements and bass lines find their way onto his demo cuts, elevating them from simple creative insights to pseudo-studio tracks. Though Mitchell relies on a drum machine, or “a glorified click track,” as he calls it, the demos mask their technical shortfalling with all manner of instrumental excesses.
The ‘Car Boot Sale’ tour announcement came with both the EP and an interesting qualifier - all supporting acts across the 17-show tour were to be female, a detail which Mitchell is eager to discuss. Whilst the announcement prompted murmurs amongst the music community, Mitchell reveals that he’s actually been doing it for “the last five years.” He takes the lack of fanfare as a positive sign.
“I just don’t want my gigs to just be sausage parties where audiences only see guys with guitars. There’s so many guys with guitars - I know that I’m one of them - but there’s so much of that stuff, we hear so much of it. I think women’s voices are underrepresented, I think that’s just a fact… women’s voices are underrepresented in almost every facet of our lives, and the music industry is definitely one of those places.”
Like his ‘Feb Fast’ drinking challenge, Mitchell was motivated by both his political conscience and his own constructive ethos, saying “if you can see something in your life where there’s something you can actually actively do, at the very least, get involved with something that you know is a problem, then you should do it.” These are telling remarks. Mitchell’s no stranger to social advocacy - on a 2013 tour he raised money for the Red Cross, taking donations at the merchandise table. You’ll find mentions of 18-C on his twitter feed, alongside a podcast chat with WA Senator Scott Ludlum. This unwillingness to shy away from the political and perverse shows that Bob Evans is more than just a musician - he’s a force of expression that encapsulates musical storytelling, politics and social responsibilities. That’s not to say he’s humourless - “I’m a guy playing a guitar, I don’t wanna listen to guys play guitar all the time,” quips Mitchell. “I do that shit enough myself!”
His most recent album, 2016’s ‘Car Boot Sale,’ was a defining moment - Mitchell reached a state of career equilibrium, having released five albums with Jebediah and five albums as Bob Evans. As he remembers it, it almost didn’t happen that way. “I started to think that it would be cool for Bob Evans to just be this three-part trilogy, and then just to walk away and leave it. I did toy with that idea, I liked that idea conceptually.” Giving up his title turned out to be harder than expected, and ultimately the alluring conceptual cleanliness was overrun by Mitchell’s attachment to his alter-ego. He retrospectively concedes that the idea of retiring his name “was a little bit driven by fear” - namely, the fear that he “didn’t have further to go.”
As of now, however, Mitchell’s confident he has songs left to sing. “I think those inspirations can come from anywhere, and they continue to come from anywhere. I’ve realised that as long as I keep writing, I’ll always find things to write about.”
Bob Evans Lonesome Highway Tour
THU 20 APR | FRONT BAR, CANBERRA ACT | 18+ no supports
FRI 21 APR | LIZOTTES, NEWCASTLE NSW | 18+ w/ Amy Vee
SAT 22 APR | HARDY'S BAY CLUB, CENTRAL COAST NSW | 18+ no supports
WED 03 MAY | CLARENDON GUEST HOUSE, KATOOMBA NSW | 18+ no supports
FRI 05 MAY | CAMELOT LOUNGE, SYDNEY NSW | 18+ w/ Bree De Rome
SAT 06 MAY | BRASS MONKEY, CRONULLA NSW | 18+ w/ Bree De Rome
SUN 07 MAY | HERITAGE HOTEL, BULLI NSW | 18+ w/ Hannah Park
THU 11 MAY | THE SPOTTED COW, TOOWOOMBA QLD | 18+ w/ Bree De Rome
FRI 12 MAY | 5 CHURCH ST, BELLINGEN NSW | 18+ no supports
SAT 13 MAY | BLACK BEAR LODGE, BRISBANE QLD | 18+ w/ Bree De Rome + Royal & The Southern Echo
THU 01 JUN | BAHA, RYE VIC | 18+ w/ Alana Wilkinson + TBA
FRI 02 JUN | THE CROXTON FRONT BAR, MELBOURNE VIC | 18+ w/ Alana Wilkinson
SAT 03 JUN | WORKERS CLUB, GEELONG VIC | 18+ w/ Alana Wilkinson + Rachael Brennan
THU 08 JUN | GRACE EMILY HOTEL, ADELAIDE SA | 18+ w/ Bec Stevens
FRI 09 JUN | BRIDGE HOTEL, CASTLEMAINE VIC | 18+ no supports