Kevin Mitchell can't believe it has been a decade since he welcomed his alter ego, Bob Evans, into the world with 2003 debut album Suburban Kid.

"That record does seem pretty ancient," the Jebediah frontman says. "It's like an old photograph. I look at that record and go, I know that's me. I know I'm the guy who made that record but there's so much distance now. It's like looking at another person."

The suburban kid is all grown up. Mitchell and his wife, Kristen, shifted from Perth to Melbourne in 2008, issuing the aptly titled final part of his so-called suburban trilogy, Goodnight, Bull Creek!, the following year.

The musician made a successful return to Jebediah for their Kosciuszko album two years ago and now the 35-year-old is dusting off Bob Evans for the next chapter, excellent fourth album Familiar Stranger.

Today the couple live in Deer Park in Melbourne's inner-west with their 18-month- old daughter, Ella, and the garage-cum-studio where Mitchell is conducting interviews for his latest solo outing. "It's the best man cave I've ever had," he jokes.

Despite Familiar Stranger being heralded by the single Don't Wanna Grow Up Anymore, Mitchell says the album is not about embracing maturity. The songs were inspired by fatherhood and the passing of a member of his extended family.

"This record is a philosophical album about life and death, so I guess themes of growing up are a part of that," he says.

Don't Wanna Grow Up Anymore bears a passing resemblance to the Blur song, Coffee and TV, something Mitchell has copped with good humour, adding he reckons his 2009 single, Pasha Bulker, was more of a rip-off.

"Blur's one of my favourite bands," he laughs. "If I'm going to sound like something, I'm more than happy for it to be Blur."

Another of Mitchell's heroes is Beck, so he was absolutely stoked to get the American alternative rock hero's regular drummer Joey Waronker over to Melbourne to play on Familiar Stranger.

Mitchell can thank whoever does the seating arrangements at the APRA Awards for leading him to the star percussionist.

"I was sat next to this guy called Tony Buchen, a producer from Sydney. We got chatting and I was telling him about this record I was working on and I said something about the drums and Joey Waronker, that kind of style, and he was like 'I know Joey Waronker, we've worked together and he's my friend'."

As it turns out, Waronker and Buchen - a handy bass player - formed a very impressive rhythm section. Louis Macklin, from Melbourne rockers 67 Special, played keys on the album, while San Cisco's Scarlett Stevens and R&B singer Jade MacRae contributed vocals.

"I've got Joey, I've got Tony, I've got Louis - it's like the f…ing Godfather," Mitchell says in a fair approximation of Tony Soprano.

Mitchell and his gang worked with producer Dean Reid (Marina and the Diamonds, Mystery Jets) in Melbourne's Sing Sing studios, where Jebediah recorded their first two albums, 1997's Slightly Odway and 1999's Of Someday Shambles.

"It was really cool because I never thought I would record in such a nice studio ever again, I thought those days were well and truly over," Mitchell says.

"I've got such great memories of the place and when you first walk in the door there, the first plaque you see, closest to the door, is a Jebediah platinum record.

"I thought 'I wonder if this is what they do whenever somebody comes in to record? I wonder if when I leave, that plaque gets taken off and replaced with somebody else?'"

The 12-track album is released today, with little Ella's favourite track the upbeat latest single, Go - a song that carries the clearest echoes of Jebediah's hyperactive alt-rock sound.

"She'll probably be more of a Jebediah fan than a Bob Evans fan, until she gets older," Mitchell chuckles.

"We had Abbey Road playing on a little boom box that sits in her room and one album will sustain her for a month before it gets changed," he continues.

"With Ella, if she gets into a song, she just wants to hear that song over and over and over again. It's hard getting her to listen to different stuff. She latches on to one thing."

Sounds like she's got a career in Australian commercial radio with that attitude, though she's showing impeccable taste by putting Paul McCartney's Oh! Darling on high rotation this month.

"That could have something to do with me and the way I sing it to her," Mitchell says. "I think my enthusiasm for that song could have rubbed off on her."

Soon Mitchell will leave Deer Park to tour Familiar Stranger with a four-piece backing band featuring Buchen on bass, Malcolm Clark (The Sleepy Jackson) on drums, Davey Lane (You Am I) on guitar and James Fleming on keys.

The new Bob Evans band has played three shows so far, two of them at the Tamworth Country Music Festival, which tickles Mitchell as "it's my least country album, by a country mile".

"I tour to sleep now," he adds. "You know, that's what happens when you're a musician after you have kids.

"I used to go on tour to stay up all night, now I go on tour to get some sleep. So I'm going to be touring as much as possible."

Bob Evans plays Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, on May 2, the Bakery on May 3 and the Prince of Wales, Bunbury, on May 4. Tickets from Oztix and nowbaking.com.au.

The West Australian

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