ESKIMO Joe frontman Kav Temperley and Little Birdy's Katy Steele go way back.
In their formative years in tight-knit Fremantle the pair become friends as they were attempting etch out a place in the Australian music industry.
There was even a time when Temperley hoped to recruit Steele as a keyboardist for Eskimo Joe's breakthrough second album A Song Is A City.
During the writing of A Song Is A City in 2002-03 bands like The Sleepy Jackson, led by Katy Steele's older brother Luke, End Of Fashion and Gyroscope would regularly jam at Eskimo Joe's rehearsal space in Temperley's back shed.
Katy Steele was among the regular visitors, too.
"We were writing this album with a lot of piano on it and the suggestion was maybe Katy could step in and do some high harmonies because she can sing ridiculously high," Temperley says.
"Somewhere through that process she goes, 'Check out this song I've written'. It was a song called Relapse and it was ridiculously good, so we were like, 'It would be criminal for you to play in our band, you need to form your own band'."
Steele went on to form Little Birdy and Relapse announced the band on the national stage.
Some 20 years later Temperley and Steele have finally come together to release their single, Graduation Day.
Due to the pandemic, both of them found themselves back in Fremantle for the longest period since they were teenagers and it fostered the feelings of nostalgia central to Graduation Day.
"This is a great place to live, but you have to physically pull yourself out and leave otherwise you get caught in this rut of hanging out with the same people you went to high school with and doing the same job your parents did," Temperley says.
"Both Katy and I had that experience and wanted to tell it in song."
The chorus mentions Fremantle's iconic Traffic Bridge, which school kids would regularly jump off and into the river to celebrate leaving high school. Temperley was among those students following a Fremantle rite of passage.
"I realised after I put it out, that maybe I shouldn't be advertising the fact that we used to jump off the old Traffic Bridge just in case I encourage people to do the same thing," he laughs.
"I can see this going on A Current Affair."
Graduation Day is the latest single off Temperley's forthcoming second solo album Machines Of Love and Grace, due for release in September.
Much like Eskimo Joe's A Song Is A City, Machines Of Love and Grace is influenced by living in Fremantle.
"The best records I've ever written is when I've been stranded in Fremantle and can't go anywhere," he says.
"You don't write on the road, you might get some ideas and your head full of stories but you can't put them into songs until you sit down in your jam room and get down to it."
However, Temperley admits he holds a love-hate relationship with his port-side hometown.
"All these stories come up when you're back in your old small home town, it can be stifling and a little claustrophobic, I guess," he says.
"But it also pulls into focus all the things that are important in your life, like the relationships."
Temperley is touring his solo album regionally throughout August before he turns his attention back to Eskimo Joe in September and October.
The band - which also includes Stuart McLeod and Joel Quartermain - are performing their most beloved albums A Song Is A City (2004) and Black Fingernails Red Wine (2006) in their entirety in capital cities.
Temperley says Eskimo Joe were "album heads" back in the day and they laboured over the running order of the tracks on the records and the pieces of music that stitched the songs together.
"For us it's just a chance to honour that and play those songs back-to-back and get into that flow of what we took so much time to get right," he says.
"Hopefully for our fans it's an important moment as well, because they were two very important records for us."
Eskimo Joe haven't released an album since Wastelands in 2013, but in 2020 they dropped the single Say Something, followed by 99 Ways in 2021.
"I'm not sure if we'll jump into a full album at this stage, but you never know, but we'll definitely be working on new music," Temperley says.
Kav Temperley brings his regional tour to Golden Vine, Bendigo (August 4); Our Friends Farm, Tallarook (August 5); Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool (August 6); The Gal, Newcastle (August 10); Drifters Wharf, Gosford (August 11); Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong (August 12) and Canberra Theatre (August 13).
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