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Byron Shire
January 26, 2022

Sweet Sweet Music

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sweetjeanSime Nugent and Alice Keath are Sweet Jean.  Their music ranges from stark to gothic, hazy and melodic.

They play electro and acoustic guitars, banjo, keys and auto harp with razor-sharp harmonies at the centre of it all. They spoke with The Echo leading up to their gig at Bello Winter Music this weekend and in a few weeks at Club Mullum.

So, tell me about recording your latest album Monday to Friday – what was the feel that you were going for with this one?

For our first album Dear Departure we were focusing on happy-sad. For Monday to Friday we wanted to bring big-small to the table. We wanted to balance more expansive synth-driven songs about things like space exploration, with more jangly, deadpan tracks about the minutiae of everyday life. 

Are you aware of making whole album feels or do you like to go track by track?

We aim for each album to be coherent and live in its own world. Our first album was quite pastoral, with string arrangements and acoustic instruments set against more contemporary production approaches. Then we made a mini-album of completely stripped-back songs, without any bells and whistles. We started writing a lot of the songs for our new album Monday to Friday in our home studio by building sonic landscapes and pushing the songs across those landscape rather than a more linear approach to developing the songs. 

What are you like in the recording process: like a painter, do you know when to finish? How hard is it to down tools and walk away? Do you ever overdo something and then end up taking it right back to the raw beginnings?

We worked on Monday to Friday over about a year and a half, chipping away at the songs, demos, arrangements and production. This allowed us to sit with certain versions of the songs, and make changes where necessary, but we were aware not to overcook certain elements of the production and let the songs speak for themselves. The good thing about working with demos and building songs bit by bit in the studio is that you can always try things and then strip them away if they don’t sit right. With some songs we knew exactly what we wanted them to sound like from the outset, but with others there was a lot of experimentation, trial and error. 

What are the narratives you draw on for your music?

For Dear Departure we focused a lot on other people in other times and places. For Monday to Friday we really wanted to focus on the here and now, and some of the significant and insignificant things that were rolling around us. A lot of the songs on Monday to Friday speak to the contrast between the vast and the minuscule, facts and feelings; growing up and realising how fallible our beliefs, memories, and aspirations are in a post-Santa reality, and where to look for that wonder we all seem to need once we realise we’re just monkeys wearing runners. The narratives on Monday to Friday range from standing on the roadside at closing time to landing a space probe on a comet. 

How about your songwriting process? How do you make a song, seemingly out of nothing!

There’s always a spark for every song, even if it doesn’t land anywhere near where it first started. Sometimes one of us will bring a chord progression and some words to the table, and we’ll work on the final structure together; other times we’ll set about writing a song about a specific idea, and work on the elements together; and sometimes a song will get built with loops and layers in the studio. 

What are the biggest challenges for you when it comes to songwriting?

It’s a constant challenge trying to wrestle the ideas and sounds you have in your head into a cohesive and immediate song, but that’s half of the fun! 

What should we expect for your upcoming shows in Bello and in Mullum?

We’ll be playing as a duo for our Bello shows, so we’ll be playing a range of material from our new album, and some of the more trad folk material we love. We’ll be bringing our band to Mullum, and we’re looking forward to bringing some of the fuller textures from Monday to Friday to that show.

Sweet Jean play Mullum Ex-Services Club, Mullumbimby, Saturday 16 July, and are featured at


7–10 July.


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