Tag Archives: melbourne

Feature Interview: Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari Australia 2019

Sixteen years and five albums into its career, Enter Shikari is a band comfortable with expressing itself in unique and refreshing ways.

Nowhere is this more clear than on latest single, the upbeat ‘Stop the Clocks’ – a song that took the band to a new creative space, says frontman Rou Reynolds.

“’Stop the Clocks’ was one of the longest and strangest writing periods,” Reynolds says. “With a lot of our albums, we’ve released standalone singles. [Fifth album] The Spark, for some reason, seemed to take on a bigger and longer lifespan and we wanted to give it its own space and era. Even the recording process changed its guise and atmosphere a few times. It was a difficult song to make sure we nailed. It felt like it was quite a ‘summer’ track as well, so it was nice to release in summer. With negative emotion, you can get to the core of it easier, but with positive emotion it can seem trite or bubblegum-y. You can fail to encapsulate the positive passion that you’re trying to get across. So, in those moments you have to really think about it so it doesn’t come across too contrived, cheesy or obvious.”

After a long period of heavy touring on the back of The Spark, released in 2017, the UK quartet will arrive on Australian shores to play Good Things Festival in December.

“Australia is always one of the best places to perform,” Reynolds says. “First of all, we go there when it’s winter up in the northern hemisphere, so that’s nice. It’s a kind of nice mixture between the UK and America – it has a lot of the good points of both. The shows are always amazing as well. There’s a passion and energy we always look forward to. We haven’t played there in quite a while, or at least it feels like a while and we’re very much looking forward to getting back. I’m not bad with the heat, but Rory, our guitarist, definitely struggles with things.”

Since that widely-acclaimed release, the band has been honing its already considerable live skills with tours in some not-so-obvious places.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Reynolds says. “We got to go and do eight shows in Russia, which took us out of the normal cities we play – Moscow, St Petersburg, and all the way really far east to Lake Baikal [in Siberia] to bits of nature I never thought I’d see. It was incredible. I think they just appreciate bands that actually go there. Every country has its bad aspects, politically, but there’s an energy there that we probably don’t find anywhere else. The shows can get to such an ecstatic level, ever since we first played there. We just got back from America, where we did a stint across Texas, the east coast and Canada. Then we were back at Reading and Leeds in the UK for the first time in five years, which felt almost like a homecoming.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live experience when the band lands for the December run of shows, and possibly with some unique surprises thrown in.

“We’re so naturally fidgety that we have to keep the show moving forward,” Reynolds says. “We’ll throw in remixes of songs or mash up different songs together or re-imaginations of songs. It’s one of the most important things about the band, because people want to see an honestly passionate show. Nobody wants to see a band that’s been on tour for three months playing the same set, because it’s just boring. I think we’re just relentlessly progressive in everything we do, so the show keeps progressing as well. We hopefully can make people feel all sorts of things.”

The band are working feverishly on album number six, Reynolds says.

“We’ve started the next album,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages but there’s a good wealth of new music now. With every album, the first stage is just sheer panic as you’re coming to terms with the fact there is this beast that has to be reared and that can be disorientating and imposing. But once you get started and get bearings and direction, it becomes and fun and you get over the sheer anxiety of the project. That’s where we are now. The plan is to have it out next year.”

For Mixdown

Record review: Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher (2017, LP)

jen cloher album cover

It’s been four long years since Jen Cloher’s last solo album, and while she’s been far from idle or out of our collective eyeline in that time, it’s bloody good to have her back putting out new material of her own. That’s because 2017, and everybody involved with it, needs a healthy dose of Jen Cloher’s fire, and if you don’t feel like you’ve had a savage, if eloquently-delivered, kick to the pants after a run-through of these excellent 11 songs, then you’re probably not wearing any pants and you should do something about that immediately. When she’s not using Rolling Stones lyrics to weave tales of missing her partner while she’s on tour on lead single ‘Forget Myself’ or meandering in perfectly off-kilter fashion while questioning the Australian dream on ‘Regional Echo’, she’s raining blows on the “feral right” on ‘Analysis Paralysis’, and the over-privileged and (gasp!) music critics on ‘Shoegazers’. It’s all well and truly called-for, and Cloher delivers on every track, while her other half is pretty damn handy on lead gee-tar, too. We should be happy Jen Cloher is on our side. What an outstanding album.

For The Brag

Record review: Camp Cope – Camp Cope (2016, LP)

camp cope

There are at least two very distinct sides to Melbourne indie-punk trio Camp Cope. One is bruised and broken, while another is defiant and angry, and it’s this juxtaposition that makes their debut record such a captivating release. Spawned from singer-guitarist Georgia Maq’s musical outlet for social commentary and her take on relationships, misogyny, and the degradation of working life, this eight-track effort delights and demands attention in equal measure. Single ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’ is a good starting point and could read as an audacious anti-Trump-and-everything-he-stands-for statement, while ‘Lost (Season One)’ finds Maq railing against the middle-of-the-road. It’s refreshing to hear a band making statements rather than platitudes, and the singer doesn’t hold back with her often brutal lyrics. “I could look at you naked and all I’d see would be anatomy / You’re just bones and insecurity, flesh and electricity to me”, from ‘Flesh and Electricity’ is a prime example, but it’s all carried off with a vulnerability that makes you believe she’s trying to convince herself more than anyone else. It’s not all heavy-themed Debbie Downer-ing either; pop culture and television aficionados will find much to enjoy, with sneaky references to X-Files, Twin Peaks and Lost peppered among the barbs. Like a dowsing rod pointing to primo tuneage, Poison City Records have done it again. If all you anxious punks out there don’t get onto this, you’re stupider than I look.

For The Brag

Record review: GL – Touch (2016, LP)

gl touch

Former Bamboos buddies Graham Pogson (G) and Ella Thompson (L) are a band on a mission. The sound of their debut album lies somewhere in the realm of electro/funk/soul/r&B/pop, and while caring about fitting into an easily-defined category is nowhere near the agenda, the duo’s obvious goal appears to be getting people dancing. This generous 14-song collection will most certainly do that and more, as killer track after killer track is revealed and at no point does the quality take a dip. A constant throughout is the ghost of ’80s electronica, albeit strained through a filter of contemporary Australian pop. ‘Number One’ is perhaps the silkiest track here, while single ‘Hallucinate’ brings the funk and ‘Grip’ the bass. Elsewhere, ‘Scully’ introduces a little menace and ‘Cheap Shot’ is Thriller-era pop with better vocals. Thompson must be a contender for busiest musician of the year, having released a record with Dorsal Fins and a solo album in the past few months, and as with anything she is involved in, her voice which steals the show; she could probably sing pages of the dictionary and her soulful delivery would still melt the hardest of hearts. Touch doesn’t sound like much else being released right now and debut albums shouldn’t be this assured. What the GL have these guys been drinking?

For Beat

Richie Ramone: 1, 2, 3, 4…

richie ramone

THE Ramones kickstarted punk, inspired a generation of kids to pick up guitars, and shook the rock establishment to its core.

Now, forty years after the New York band sang about beating on the brat with a baseball bat, drummer Richie Ramone is keeping their spirit alive with his own blistering punk-rock shows. Ramone touches down in Australia in late April for a run of east coast gigs with promises to play rock ‘n’ roll as loud as it should be.

“I’ll play some of the material from my last record and the one coming out.” Richie says. “Also songs I played with the Ramones back in the day, then I’ll play some Ramones classics. It’s a really good set, you know? It’s a complete Ramones set. In 2013 I played ANZ Stadium with Aerosmith. I had a good time and it’s beautiful over there. I’m really looking forward to this trip.”

In 1983, the then-unknown 26 year-old joined the legendary band just after the release of ‘Subterranean Jungle’, the quartet’s seventh studio album.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Richie says. “Somebody told me they were auditioning drummers, they gave them my name and that’s how it worked. I didn’t know them beforehand, and they called me and I just did the audition like any other audition. It was an amazing thing that I ended up in one of the greatest bands of all time. Right away we hit it off. Joey took me under his wing.”

His song-writing and vocals provided a much-needed new dimension to the band, and Richie went on to appear in over 500 shows. Singer Joey Ramone is quoted as saying Richie “saved the band” when he joined.

“The last two or three records, the last two especially, before ‘Too Tough to Die’ were probably not great records,” Richie says. “When you get a new person in the band, it changes the blood and energises the band. ‘Too Tough to Die’ came out in 1983 and did that. They accepted [my songs]. A good song is a good song, you know? Johnny didn’t want me to have more than one or two songs if he didn’t make the numbers, but they accepted it.”

Dysfunction was allegedly rife within the Ramones, including constant tension between guitarist Johnny and singer Joey, mental illness, drug abuse, and betrayal.

“All of it was exaggerated,” Richie says. “They were one of the most professional bands. We worked, you know? But it’s also like a family that’s together a lot; there’s weird shit going on. But when it came time to play a show, we were all together; we made sure of that. But they wanted to break up many times, I think, but I don’t know what caused them to stop [in the end].”

Since departing the band in 1987, Richie has had an eclectic career in music, including composing classical suites and releasing his debut solo album, ‘Entitled’, in 2013. A follow-up is in the works and is set for release this year.

“I’m my own artist now,” he says. “I have the last name and the Ramones taught me a lot. They gave me direction and taught me about how to respect the fans, and I carry that with me, but I’m my own artist, not the Ramones. I can’t be the Ramones. [The new album] is a fucking really great record and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a Depeche Mode song [‘Enjoy the Silence’] on there, which I really like. I’ll be playing one or two songs from it when I get out there. I don’t like playing a lot of new songs when I’m on tour, so it’ll be only one or two.”

The death of drummer Tommy Ramone in 2014 meant that no founding members of the Ramones are still around, but the spirit of the band is as strong as ever, helped by the ubiquitous Ramones T-shirt and logo.

“There are a lot of new fans,” Richie says. “The thing I see is parents bringing their kids. There’s a fourth generation Ramones thing happening now. Parents want to introduce their kids to good rock ‘n’ roll. There’s tons of fans all over; we’ve got people coming to shows from 65 to 16. But it works. And they’re all wearing the T-shirt [laughs].”

Richie Ramone plays:

Thursday 28th April 2016
Great Northern Hotel – Byron Bay NSW

Friday 29th April 2016
Wooly Mammoth – Brisbane QLD

Saturday 30th April 2016
Social Club – Sydney NSW

Sunday 1st May 2016
Cherry Rock, Melbourne VIC

For Scenestr

Record review: Summer Flake – Hello Friends (2016, LP)

summer flake hello friends

What a pleasure it is to give an album a spin after enjoying a single, and finding out the whole lot is as good as the individual reason you arrived at this place in the first instance. Such is the case with Hello Friends, the excellent second album from Melbourne-via-Adelaide musician Stephanie Crase (formerly of Batrider). The instantly-familiar ’90s guitar-pop sound of single ‘Shoot and Score’ provides a good indication of what’s to be discovered across ten tracks. At first it all sounds so sunny and warm, but there’s darkness just out of shot at many points, and Crase is often in a scathing mood. Opener ‘Son of a Gun’ finds her in such a headspace, but it’s more contemplative than combative, while ‘Make Your Way Back to Me’ is part Sonic Youth, part dream-pop transcendence. The distortion-driven ‘Wine Won’t Wash Away’ is a highlight, while the slow, gentle guitar lines and reflective lyrics of ‘Tumbling Down’ and ‘So Long’ are no less engaging. Crase’s skill is in making it all seem so effortlessly easy, whether it’s witheringly dissecting those around her, switching from loud to quiet à la the Pixies, or peeling off an epic solo, and there’s a lingering feeling she’s not really taking it all seriously, which only adds to the appeal. The musical reference points are clear, but its Crase’s contradictions which make this such an appealing collection of tracks, and there’s much more here than meets the eye.

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Record review: DIIV – Is The Is Are (2016, LP)

diiv is the is are

DIIV’s second album marks Zachary Cole-Smith’s return from the brink of career suicide, having been widely labelled a heroin-addled waster since his September 2013 arrest for narcotics possession with his girlfriend, singer/model Sky Ferreira. The project’s debut album Oshin was a somewhat overlooked masterpiece, and it took the frontman and songwriter to kick his drug problems and re-launch himself into writing for this album to even see the light of day. The result is an ambitious double LP that recalls much of the glory of Oshin while expanding deeper into the realms of indie-rock, dream-pop and prog. Droning, relentless riffs, jangling chord progressions, and the whiff of New York hobo chic are again the order of the day, which provide many moments of majesty, most especially on the title track, first single ‘Dopamine’ and second track ‘Under The Sun’. Ferreira makes an appearance on lead vocals on ‘Blue Boredom (Sky’s Song)’, which never really gets going, while the feeling of ‘Mire (Grant’s Song)’ is, as the name suggests, of a singer wallowing in misery, and ‘Take Your Time’ follows the same formula, albeit with much more sombre tones. Overall, the record’s no Oshin on the whole, mostly due to the feeling that fewer tracks could have made it a more attractive package (point in case: the unnecessary, 17-second ‘(Fuck)’) and too much of the latter half of the album sounds like a single, coagulated mass. Nevertheless, Cole-Smith remains both an intriguing figure and indie-rock creative worth keeping an eye on.

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Live review: Rise Against + Clowns + Outright – Brisbane Riverstage – 4/12/15

rise against brisbane riverstage

“This is the sign that it’s been a great gig,” says Tim McIlrath, holding aloft a rancid, steaming trainer which has just landed next to him. Like with everything the Rise Against frontman says or does at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Friday night (4th December), a deafening roar is hurtled stage-wards from a ferocious audience. And after this comment, the shoes keep coming.

Every great gig need to start with great supports, though, and tonight’s show is lucky to have two of them. Melbourne hardcore outfit Outright are first to force the dials into the red with an intense early set. Singer Jelena Goluza will have undoubtedly won her band new fans with an impressively brutal vocal onslaught over a 25-minute set and a passionate speech about domestic violence before the track ‘A City Silent’. Fantastic work Jelena; the music world needs more of you.

Next up is Melbourne’s hardcore/punk gang Clowns, whose frontman Stevie Williams finds himself with a ripped shirt as early as the first song after getting among the audience at front-and-centre. The quartet are typically energetic and charming over a furious 30 minutes; in turn mounting monitors and amps, demanding that some dude “delete his fucking Tinder” and get off his phone, playing monster riff after monster riff, and finally, posing for a photo with their audience. These guys have got to be near the top of the pile in terms of what Australia can offer the genre right now.

As the R, I, S and E are unveiled from beneath their drapes and the steam begins to rise from a heaving crowd in front of the barrier, an obviously up-for-it band get to business with ‘The Great Die-Off’, ‘The Good Left Undone’ and ‘Satellite’ as an opening salvo, with a few hundred metres already run by guitarist Zach Blair and bassist Joe Principe, as they switch position and stances repeatedly. A testosterone-heavy crowd laps up everything coming from the stage and shows its appreciation with the aforementioned soaring shoes, pinging plastic bottles, and a cacophony of tone-deaf vocal accompaniment fit for a footy match.

‘Prayer of the Refugee’ receives a huge response, as does a towering ‘Ready to Fall’, and while McIlrath’s solo section, including ‘Swing Life Away’, takes the sting out of proceedings for a while, a massive finish is assured with ‘Savior’. Rise Against loves Australia and Australia loves them back is the takeaway from this evening.

For Scenestr

Record review: Rolling Blackouts – Talk Tight (2015, EP)

rolling blackouts talk tight

Most of us, at one time or another, have wanted to take off across some dusty plain with nothing but a faithful old heeler on the passenger seat, one sunburned arm hanging out the driver’s window and maybe a couple of cartons of brews in the back. Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts might have made just the EP for such a trip: Talk Tight is a five-track effort of guitar pop with so many links to the McLennan-Forster songbook of 1988 that it could almost be mistaken for a period piece. A compliment so heady shouldn’t be handed out willy-nilly, of course, but in this case it’s deserved; the young band’s jangly guitar sound is some seriously top-drawer Australiana. It’s pretty laidback going in the most part, though, so it’s a ride we’re all welcome to come along on. Opener ‘Wither With You’ gets the motor started and wheels rolling with a plenty of guitar hooks, before lead single ‘Wide Eyes’ cleans out the cobwebs of its fuzzy opening with an all-guns-blazing alt-country climax. ‘Heard You’re Moving’ is a straightforward and charming guitar-pop number that cleverly takes a minute before the vocals kick in, while ‘Clean Slate’ gets all garage-jam massive before breaking back down to where it started, before ‘Tender is the Neck’ closes the deal with a tenderness that is both unexpected and welcome. If you like your indie-rock freewheeling and chock full of charm, these boys have you covered.

For The Brag

Going Swimming: “If you’re having fun, people have fun with you”

going swimming band

Melbourne monster-punk upstarts Going Swimming are on a mission, and it involves a heavy helping of the F word, an excellent debut album and an upcoming national tour. Hold the language warning, though, as singer Nick Leggatt explains exactly what the F makes his band tick.

“If you’re having fun, people have fun with you,” says Leggatt. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We try to play shows that we think are going to be fun, with bands we like; shows we think we would want to go to, not just any old show. And I can’t see us [writing about] any subjects too hard-hitting or anything. One of the guys tracked a demo the other day that was about three-and-a-half minutes and we accused him of writing an epic.”

The quartet have taken three years to release a debut LP, after Leggatt and guitarist Aswin Lakshman spent time in several bands together since meeting at school. Wanting to play music which better reflected the tunes they listened to, they formed Going Swimming with bassist Callan Trewenack and drummer Ben Barclay. The result is the hot-off-the-press Deadtime Stories; a 12-track collection of raucous garage, surf and punk tracks, executed with a healthy dose of piss-taking posturing.

“The four of us have all been a lot more serious bands [with] longer songs [which were] a bit more wanky,” says Leggatt. “We wanted to be in a band that didn’t take ourselves too seriously. We recorded a few tracks as demos and put out a five-track EP in 2013, which we did ourselves. We played as many shows as we could and put out a couple of double A-side singles later that year. We thought it was time to put all our new songs into an album, and thought it wouldn’t take us very long; being a very no-fuss, lo-fi recording. The whole recording process took us a lot longer than we thought. We probably laid down the drums tracks maybe 15 months ago, and between drum tracks and tracking everything ourselves, the tendency is to get a bit lazy. Three of us live together as well, and we thought it would come together quicker than it did, but we got there in the end and we’re stoked to put it out and move on to play the newer stuff. Progressing as a band has felt pretty natural; we’re still enjoying it and having fun.”

Not quite garage and not quite punk, the band might have invented a genre of their own: monster-punk. It’s a fitting description for not only the Goosebumps-inspired album cover and title, but the often-ramshackle way they attack their music.

“When you think of the word punk, I don’t think we fit that bill,” Leggatt says. “And we’ve played with a bunch of garage-punk bands, and sometimes we don’t fit that bill either. So, we’re kind of our own little niche, and I think part of that is my vocals; I yell and do weird stuff. Someone came up with monster-punk and we kind of like it. One review called us ‘piss-taking punk’ and I like that, too. I don’t think we were looking for a theme too much [with the album]. To be honest, the tracks are pretty random and a lot of that is to do with the fact whoever writes the demo, they tend to give it a working title. I like to try to riff on the working title and see if I can keep the working title as the final title. It’s not like I have a big scrapbook of heartfelt lyrics I want to put into song. That’s the fun part of it; just writing fun little ditties.”

A quick glance over the Deadtime Stories tracklist reveals an additional level of humour with some creative and funny song titles.

“‘Yoko, Oh No!’ was a tough one as it’s an instrumental,” Leggatt says. “That song has changed titles a million times. At some stage it was called something like ‘YOLO’, but we decided we can’t have that. ‘Cosmonauts and Crosses’ was a riff on the original title, which was something about being a cosmonaut. The lyrics are a bit messed up and all over the place; we almost wrote it as we recorded and I couldn’t get the lyrics right. We got really drunk one night and I just spat out the verses.”

A national tour is locked in for October and November, so expect to be experiencing the F word on a stage near you.

“It’s that fun vibe,” Leggatt says. “We’re pretty loose on stage. We try not to be loose musically, but sometimes that works its way in. Our songs are short and sharp; we smash them out and pack as many songs as we can into a half-hour set. At the same time, we know what it’s like to be a punter and stand there in the crowd and be a bit bored. You don’t want to see anyone yawning, so we get out there and smash it out. We want to leave them wanting more, so hopefully they’ll come to another show. We love touring; it costs us a lot of money, but it’s like a little fun holiday for us.”

DEADTIME STORIES IS OUT NOW. GOING SWIMMING PLAY:

SUN OCT 18 – FRANKIE’S PIZZA
FRI NOV 13 – THE WORKERS CLUB

For The Brag and Beat

Record review: Going Swimming – Deadtime Stories (2015, LP)

Going Swimming Deadtime Stories

Calling your band Going Swimming and putting a song called ‘Shark Attack’ on your debut record can only mean one thing: you see piss-taking as a duty rather than an option. A quick glimpse at the track list provides confirmation: song titles include ‘Yoko, Oh No!’, ‘Cosmonauts and Crosses’ and the supremely satisfying ‘I Think I’ve Been Had, Lads’. Ramshackle garage-punk is the vehicle which takes the Melbourne quartet’s howling horror stories and tales of debauchery on a gutter-bound journey, but while the whole deal threatens to fall apart at any second, the band just about hold it together until the final chords ring out. Single and opener ‘Them Shakes’ wastes no time getting among the surf-punk licks, with lyrics which could pass for both a bedtime story about friendly monsters or a transcript from your latest therapy session; whichever suits the mood. ‘Your Sister’ follows in a similar vein; its commanding and raucous riffs hint at the scrappy punk aesthetic being a construct rather than a necessity, although ‘Whatever Happened to the Plan?’ suggests the contrary. The aforementioned instrumental ‘Yoko, Oh No!’ could have been lifted from an alternative-dimension Rocky Horror, and ‘Careers Counsellor’ finds the gang railing against convention. Nick Leggatt’s tireless bawling and Aswin Lakshman’s red-hot riffs are at the centre of Going Swimming’s piss-taking punk, and make for an album which is frantic, frayed and damn good fun.

For The Brag

Record review: Bully – Feels Like (2015, LP)

bully feels like

“Invisible handcuffs locked on me, been praying for my period all week,” sings Bully songwriter Alicia Bognanno a few bars into single ‘Trying’. It’s an appropriate glimpse into the mind of the Nashville band’s frontwoman; her lyrics are as honest as they are defiant. With so much to get off her chest, it might be expected that her band’s debut album be overly self-indulgent, but there’s a charming and vulnerable side to Bognanno that, when coupled with the quartet’s grunge-y riffs, makes for an album that rocks in all the right ways. When she’s not gently admitting “I’m just looking for clarity to help me to get through,” she’s yelling “I remember getting too fucked up, and I remember throwing up in your car,” in opener ‘I Remember’. The 25 year-old’s stroppy contempt in ‘Picture’ will speak to anyone who has had their photo taken when they didn’t want to, while lines like “I thought that he would never hit a girl, but I guess you never know” are delivered with a world-weariness of someone who has seen it all. ‘Trash’ is nothing like the New York Dolls number of the same name, but prowls dark corners with its hackles raised, and the title track owes much to Billy Corgan. There’s a whiff of early Replacements in the likes of ‘Six’ and ‘Brainfreeze’, but it’s ultimately Bognanno’s lyrics and delivery which steal the show here. Well worth checking out.

For Beat

Courtney Barnett: “I don’t feel like I’m some sort of amazing superhero or anything”

courtney barnett

MUSICIAN interviews are often challenging affairs, ranging from something like getting blood out of a stone to verbally wrestling a Herculean ego.

Chatting with Courtney Barnett, however, is a laid-back joy from start to finish, such is the singer-songwriter’s honest and down-to-earth nature. This is especially refreshing given the Melburnian has had two massive years since her debut EP was released in 2012, including a North American tour and an appearance on The Tonight Show.

“I have a little moment every now and then, and think how far from this time two years ago my life has changed,” she says. “I try to go away a lot as well, to be myself and collect my thoughts. Playing huge festivals like Glastonbury has been pretty surreal, as has doing TV shows and shit like that – it’s kind of weird and out of my normal world. Even travelling overseas is a big deal for me. I’d never travelled before, I could never afford it; not even for a holiday. But it’s fun; it doesn’t just feel like work. Obviously it is part work, part fun, but it’s pretty cool. We get to experience a bit of the local stuff – I try to go to galleries and go to parks and stuff like that.”

Being labelled a saviour of Australian indie music by certain sections of the music press isn’t something Barnett is keen to take seriously.

“I think there are plenty of great Australian musicians,” she says. “It’s nice when people say stuff like that about me, but there are so many other great bands and great songwriters. I don’t at any point think I’m some weird saviour for Australian music. I’ve got great friends and people who help me and don’t treat me any different and shit like that. I feel like that my feet are on the ground; I don’t feel like I’m some sort of amazing superhero or anything; that’s kind of ridiculous. Coming from here, where everything is smaller, I’ve realised how much I’ve loved being home since I’ve been here.”

An upcoming national tour starting at the tail end of September will mark the first headline shows for Barnett and her band in Australia, but don’t expect her to be getting complacent just because it’s home turf.

“We’ve always been supporting someone else or doing festivals or something, so it’s kind of exciting to finally be able to do that,” she says. “But I treat every show exactly the same – it’s about the music, not who you’re playing to. I feel lucky to go onto any stage and have people listen to my music. It’s actually kind of more nerve-wracking playing to a home crowd or playing to friends and people who know you – I find that way more nerve-wracking than playing to complete strangers. It’ll probably be a really stressful tour [laughs].”

A recent crowd-funding experiment in support of Barnett’s own Milk! Records label lead to the target being reached in double-quick time.

“I was so blown away by that,” she says. “I’ve never done one of those Pozible things, so wasn’t sure if it would work or what, but I was blown away by the support. I never thought that Milk! records would grow into this real community-driven project, and I’ve witnessed so many of the same people buying stuff when we release stuff and coming to the shows and supporting each band that we pick up along the way. It’s become this beautiful little community family thing, so I was pretty moved when it happened straight away, so it was very cool. We were in a position where we had already recorded our songs as we had money from a Christmas show we did last year, but then we needed the money to do the pressing. We had already created the actual thing, so there was less pressure with creation, and it was more like a pre-order – we just didn’t have enough money to print vinyl.”

A record company that existed for a long time only on paper, Milk! has become one of the hottest names in Australian indie music right now.

“I started it just for my own release,” Barnett says. “Just so my CD looked more professional, so more people would listen to it and more people would review it. Nobody took much notice at first and it took a while, then we started helping other musicians and friends and other people started joining in. When we had the Christmas party last year and sold out the Tote, I realised we’d opened up a little door for a community of people who liked the same bands – it was a very special moment.”

With two critically-acclaimed EPs under her belt, now is the time for the long-awaited debut album.

“It’s all recorded and pretty much finished,” she says. “We’re going to release it early next year. I’m just drawing a whole bunch of pictures for the artwork and stuff. I’m really proud of it; I really challenged myself, tried different things and pushed myself to step out of my comfort song-writing zone and lyric-wise. I’m really happy with it; I feel that it’s the next logical step from the last bunch of songs I wrote. We’ve been playing a bunch of the songs on tour, but we want to save a bunch for the actual release.”

COURTNEY BARNETT PLAYS THE CORNER OCT 2, 3 & 4.

For Beat

Record review: Florence + the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015, LP)

florence

I don’t wanna get all overdramatic here, but when the walls keep closing in and we can’t rely on pop music to get us out of a jam, what’ve we really got? Too many bleak hours spent peering through train windows, fixing paper jams and despairing at the ineptitude of our so-called leaders tends to induce the propensity to place one’s hope for mankind in things we know often do us more harm than good: pop records for starters. But the trouble with expectation is the higher it soars, the further and harder it falls. The prospect of Florence + the Machine’s third album being a belter is strong on paper; only a soulless drooler wouldn’t want it to be great. Hell, in these dark days of flaccid stadium-fillers, we need it to be a stone-cold killer; but the crushing reality is it’s a near-flat heartbreaker that will do little to brighten the stale pop horizons of 2015. At times it’s quieter and more introspective than what’s gone before, but that’s not the problem; too much spirit and colour has been wringed out of these songs and hung out to dry by Mumford & Sons and Coldplay producer Markus Dravs, and the line between booming and overblown is crossed too often. The heaven-sent Florence Welch is in fine voice at various points, most impressively on lead single ‘What Kind Of Man’, but overall, this album is just another reminder that the distance between how good you want something to be and how good it actually turns out is often disappointingly great.

For Beat

Record review: Ella Thompson – Janus (2015, LP)

ella thompson janus

Listen up, class: no talking at the back and spit out that gum. Today’s lesson incorporates history, music, a multi-talented Melburnian, and a debut album featuring one of the finest female voices in the country right now. Roman mythology 101 tells us Janus was the god of all beginnings, synonymous with doorways and the opportunities they present. He also had two faces to look towards both the past and present, and at times sported a hipster beard. All of these elements are relatable to the form and feel of Thompson’s excellent debut LP (besides the facial fuzz, obvs.); these songs build on her work with GL, Axolotl, the Bamboos and Dorsal Fins and allow her to flaunt her more-than considerable vocal talents in a solo setting. The two-headed depiction of a revered Roman is apt in that there are several styles and moods present throughout the ten tracks. New psychedelia, ‘80s synth-pop, sparse balladry, and layers of distorted, dreamy loveliness provide the backdrop to Thompson’s tuneful talents. Hazy opener ‘Drift’ and Spector-esque ‘Away Too Long’ seduce and spellbind, whereas first single ‘Arcade’ is a honey-drenched slice of synth-pop cherry pie that oozes contradiction, and things get weird on the six-minute ‘Taller’. However, it’s when Thompson gives her vocals some oomph that the song benefits most, as on second single ‘I Go Over’, much like Dorsal Fins’ excellent ‘Monday Tuesday’. This ain’t no sunny synth-pop record by any stretch, though; there’s misery in many of the lyrics (see closer ‘Losing You’), but despair has never sounded so good. With Janus, Thompson has kicked in the door of her solo career, and it’s open for business and for students of music to enjoy. Do your homework right and get on board.

JANUS IS OUT MAY 24 VIA HUB/CAROLINE

For Beat