Eskimo Joe founders MacLeod and Temperley were school mates at John Curtin Senior High School. Temperley left school at sixteen to concentrate on writing music, moving into a share house with Simon Leach, who played bass guitar in a funk band called Carpet. The other members were his brother Stuart on drums and guitarist Joel Quartermain—all three were former students at Hollywood Senior High School. When Temperley joined Carpet they changed the name to Freud's Pillow. The band performed around Perth and Fremantle from 1995 to 1998, and released an EP Pleasure Puppy in 1997; MacLeod, although not a member, is credited with co-writing "Mr Hoek" on the EP. Despite their modest popularity, Quartermain and Temperley were unhappy with the band's musical style. While recording the EP, Temperley started jamming for a side project with MacLeod, writing several short and simple pop–punk songs. They auditioned a number of drummers and eventually settled on Quartermain, who they believed was more musical.
Formed as an alternative rock group in 1997 in East Fremantle, Eskimo Joe was initially a side project of Freud's Pillow, with MacLeod on guitar, Quartermain on drums and guitar, and Temperley on bass guitar and vocals. Eskimo Joe's first gig was in August 1997 at the University of Western Australia, in a local heat for the National Campus Band Competition—they proceeded to the state final in Perth and then the national final in Sydney. For winning the national final, they were awarded a place at the 1997 Livid Festival in Brisbane and a studio recording session in Sydney.
Freud's Pillow officially split within a few months of Eskimo Joes' win. Simon Leach eventually formed Little Birdy in 2002, while Stuart played drums for One Horse Town and later for The Bank Holidays. In April 1998, Eskimo Joe recorded their debut release the Sweater EP. Its title track, "Sweater", received significant airplay on national Australian radio station Triple J and reached No. 33 on the station's Hottest 100 of 1998.
After touring for numerous months, Eskimo Joe returned to the studio and, in 1999, issued a second EP, the self-titled Eskimo Joe. Two tracks, "Ruby Wednesday" and "Turn Up Your Stereo", were voted into the Triple J Hottest 100 of that year. The band were voted into the No. 2 position on the 'Brightest Hope' list by the readers of Rolling Stone (Australia).
Eskimo Joe signed with Universal Records' alternative offshoot Modular, in 1999. They recorded their debut album, Girl, with producer Ed Buller (Ben Lee, Pulp, Suede). It reached No. 29 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified gold. Tracks such as "Who Sold Her Out" and "Planet Earth" received airplay on Triple J, with the former reaching the top 100 on the ARIA Singles Chart and the latter listed at No. 31 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2001. Some tracks featured on TV series, The Secret Life of Us. Rock music journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, compared the album to their earlier work, "The nonsensical songs about stereos, alcohol and farting were replaced by Beatlesque highly relatable songs about the ups and downs about the day-to-day life". The band's live shows began to incorporate keyboards and an extra guitar. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2001, the band's single, "Wake Up", with a promotional clip by Ben Saunders, won the 'Best Video' category.
Despite Girl being a top 30 album and earning a gold record, Modular ended the band's contract. Eskimo Joe signed with Festival Mushroom Records in 2002. They recorded their second album, A Song Is a City, produced by Paul McKercher and mixed by Nick Launay, in 2003. Released in May 2004, it peaked at No. 2 and, by 2006, achieved double platinum status. For live shows, Quartermain switched to guitar and Paul Keenan – also from Fremantle – played drums. At the time of the album's release, Temperley explained:
The lead single "From the Sea" reached the top 40 in March 2004, and was number-one on the Triple J Net 50. It was used as the backing track for a series of TV ads for the West Coast Eagles Football Club. "Smoke" was released as the second single and was listed in the top 5 on Triple J's Net 50 in May. The third single, "Older Than You", became their second top 50 ARIA Singles Chart hit after they performed it at the ARIA Music Awards of 2004 in October. At the ceremony, A Song Is a City won two awards for 'Producer of the Year' and 'Engineer of the Year' for both McKercher and Eskimo Joe. A fourth single, "Life Is Better with You", was issued in December.
In August 2005, the Eskimo Joe DVD was released with all the film clips for tracks from the Eskimo Joe EP and the first two albums, a feature length documentary, a collection of live performances, and some rare tracks, including "Sweater". They won 'Best Group' at the ARIA Music Awards of 2005 for "Older Than You".
MacLeod arranged for the band to produce their third album, Black Fingernails, Red Wine, themselves which "shifted the emphasis from the songs and their performance to an over-all sound". Its title track, "Black Fingernails, Red Wine", released in May 2006, which peaked at No. 6, became their first Top 10 single. The song also reached No. 1 on ARIA's digital track chart. The album followed in June and debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart. It spent 51 weeks in the Top 50 and achieved four times platinum status. Its second single, "Sarah", was issued in September and peaked at No. 12. The B-sides are live and acoustic versions of "Black Fingernails, Red Wine" and a cover of the Pixies' "Hey" recorded for Triple J's Like a Version collection. The third single "New York" was released early in 2007 and reached No. 26. The fourth single, "Breaking Up", attained the top 100. In August, "Black Fingernails, Red Wine", was issued as the band's debut United States single. The fifth Australian single, "London Bombs", was released in October as a digital only single. The song was awarded first place in the 'Performance Category' at the 2007 International Songwriting Competition. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2006, Eskimo Joe were nominated for nine awards and won four. Black Fingernails, Red Wine won 'Producer of the Year' for Eskimo Joe and 'Engineer of the Year' for Matt Lovell, "Black Fingernails, Red Wine" won 'Single of the Year' and Eskimo Joe won 'Best Music DVD'.
Their fourth studio album, Inshalla, appeared in May 2009. The group had played tracks at gigs prior to its release, including the title track, "Inshalla". The term, insha'Allah is Arabic for 'God willing' which Temperley had heard during a visit to Egypt. According to Nimmervoll, "The album was put together in the same spirit, instead of the extremelely [sic] focused record they had wanted with Black Fingernails, Red Wine with Inshalla Eskimo Joe let the songs and the music take them wherever they led". The lead single, "Foreign Land", was issued in April and peaked at No. 13. Inshalla became the band's second album to debut at No. 1, and remained in the charts for 17 weeks. It was nominated at the ARIA Music Awards of 2009 for 'Album of the Year'. The second single, "Losing Friends Over Love", released in June failed to chart. However, the third single, "Don't Let Me Down", which was released in September, reached No. 50.
They recorded their fifth album, Ghosts of the Past, in February 2011 at The Grove Studios in Sydney and the new Wasteland Studios in O'Connor, which is owned by the band under their own label, Dirt Diamonds. In May, the group announced that Ghosts of the Past was due for release on 12 August. It has the band aiming for more honesty and less polish than "Inshalla". The album will contain 12 new songs. Some tracks include "Love Is a Drug", "Itch", "Running", "Speeding Car", "When We Were Kids" and "Gave It All Away". The first single from the album "Love Is a Drug" was first performed at 2011 Southbound Music Festival in Busselton and was released on iTunes on 24 June.
To record the band's sixth album, a fundraising campaign was launched through the Pozible website (a service also used by fellow Australian musician, Clare Bowditch for her Big Hearted Business initiative)—Pozible is self described as "a crowdfunding platform and community-building tool for creative projects and ideas. It was developed to help people raise funds, realise their aspirations and make great things possible." As of 8 February 2013, the campaign had raised AUS$60,636 in pledges, with 12 hours to go, above the initial target of AUS$40,000—the campaign commenced in November 2012. In its subscriber newsletter, the band revealed that:
The decision to crowd fund the new album has allowed the band to take a fresh approach with the new album and work unhindered to create the strongest possible new work. With all of the generosity and support the band has received, the campaign has been successful and the band are now looking forward to beginning work on the album in March.
The band also offered previews of the pre-production process for the sixth album on its official YouTube channel—the first preview was published on 17 December 2012, while subsequent video segments were published on 14 January 2013 and 28 January 2013.
As of 19 August 2013, two songs from the Wastelands album are publicly available on the Internet: "Running Out Of Needs" and "Got What You Need". Following the release of "Got What You Need", the band stated, "It doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before so we think people will be quite surprised by where we’ve headed." The scheduled release date for Wastelands is 20 September 2013.
Temperley revealed in a mid-September, pre-album release interview that the band felt "dusty" following the decreased popularity of Ghosts of the Past. He explained, "We needed a third party to come in so we could just be a band" and stated that the band was motivated to hire producer Burke Reid after he admitted that he was not a fan of their music. Temperley also provided insight into the album's musical influences, citing Leonard Cohen and stating, "I always refer back to the sounds I have always loved and for me Beck and LCD Soundsystem are where it's at." Two synthesizers that belonged to Temperley, a Jupiter 4 and a Roland Compurhythm 100, were used during the entire recording process.
On 18 September 2013, the band announced their involvement with a live session using the Soundrop app that is part of the Spotify music website. The session will occur on 20 September 2013, the release date of Wastelands, and will consist of a live chat and a performance of the new album.
In November 2006, Eskimo Joe played at the CMJ Music Festival in New York City, returning to Australia for Southbound in Western Australia and the Falls Festival in Victoria and Tasmania. They performed on all legs of the 2007 Big Day Out concerts. In July, they played at the Australian leg of Live Earth in Sydney. At the end of that month, they had a secret gig in Perth under a pseudonym, The Andy Callison Project, as a warm-up to their US tour. Joining Eskimo Joe's line-up for live shows were Lee Jones on keyboards and Shaun Sibbes on drums. In January 2008, Eskimo Joe performed in New York, Houston and Los Angeles as part of the annual G'day USA – Australia Week. Later that year, the group performed at both the East Coast and West Coast Blues & Roots Festivals (Byron Bay and Fremantle, respectively).
In March 2009, Eskimo Joe performed at the Sound Relief concert at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Sound Relief was a benefit concert for victims of the Victorian Bushfire Crisis and the Queensland floods. Appearing with Eskimo Joe at the Sydney concert were, Coldplay, Hoodoo Gurus, Icehouse, Jet, Josh Pyke, Little Birdy, The Presets, Wolfmother, You Am I and additional artists. Prior to the benefit concert the band played in Perth as The Andy Callison Project.
On 22 August 2012, the band was announced as the opening act for the launch of the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival in Australia.
The 'Winter Warmer' tour was announced in late May 2013 and the band explained that they would be playing acoustically at intimate and unusual venues across Australia. The tour will consist of two-hour acoustic-based shows in which the band will reinterpret a selection of songs from every album in the band's history. Temperley stated: "We've got a few a new songs that we're going to try out acoustically with some re-working of old songs too. We feel really lucky to have such a beautiful and unique venues to do this in."
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Song Is A City album, described by Temperley as a "turning point for myself both personally and musically", Temperley announced a solo Australian tour in June 2014. Temperley explained, "I love it how the whole album works on just an acoustic guitar, and there are so many stories that now, from a safe distance, I’m ready to tell”, in regard to the tour that will occur from July to September 2014. During the tour, Temperley will share the stories that influenced the songs and will also play cover versions of some songs that influenced the album.
In April 2010, Eskimo Joe were announced as the 'number-one ticket-holder' for the Fremantle Football Club, replacing golfer Nick O'Hern. Quartermain joked that they may pen a club song: "We'll give it a crack. We're back here this winter writing our new record so, while we're at it, we may as well knock off a new theme song." The band held the honour until 2012, being replaced by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith.
A National Office for Live Music was launched by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in July 2013 and, as of August 2013, Temperley is the state ambassador for Western Australia.
The core members of Eskimo Joe are:Stuart MacLeod – guitar, backing vocals (1997–present)
Joel Quartermain – drums (on recordings), guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1997–present)
Kavyen Temperley – bass guitar, keyboards, vocals (1997–present)
A number of musicians have played with the band on tour and on recordings. They include:Dan Bull
Fergus Deasey – keyboards/guitar
Paul Keenan – drums
Michael de Grussa – keyboards
Shaun Sibbes – drums
Lee Jones – keyboards
Nic Jonsson – drums
Tony Bourke – keyboards/guitar
2004: A Song Is a City
2006: Black Fingernails, Red Wine
2011: Ghosts of the Past
Eskimo Joe are managed by Catherine Haridy Management.
The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).
The ARIA Music Awards are presented annually from 1987 by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Eskimo Joe have won eight awards from twenty-nine nominations.
The West Australian Music Industry Awards or WAMis are presented annually from 1985 by Western Australian Music Industry Association Inc to recognise local artists.2007 ISC Songwriting Competition (first place in performance) – "London Bombs"
2007 ISC Songwriting Competition (second place in rock) – "Black Fingernails, Red Wine"
2007 ISC Songwriting Competition (honourable mention in rock) – "New York"
2006 Jack Awards, Best Bass Guitarist, Kav Temperley
2006 Channel V, Oz Artist of the Year
2007 MTV Australia Awards, Best Group
2007 MTV Australia Awards, Best Rock Video – "Black Fingernails, Red Wine"
2007 MTV Australia Awards, Download of the Year – "Black Fingernails, Red Wine"