A large and enthusiastic school-night audience filled QPAC’s concert hall for an evening of musical hope and healing to raise funds for HEAL (Home of Expressive Arts and Learning); a program that provides creative arts therapy to young people of refugee backgrounds.
Hosted by lawyer, CEO, human rights advocate, and refugee of the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict, Mariam Veiszadeh, the evening provided an eclectic and affecting mix of music to inspire collective belief and soothe the weary soul.
When it can feel like the walls are closing in, connecting through stories and songs has a way of breaking them down, and, following a Welcome to Country and self-written lullaby courtesy of Gudja Kerry, the hope and healing began with the QPAC Chamber Choir performing a sprightly version of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’.
Next was the first of two appearances from the outstanding headliner Mahalia Barnes; her powerful blues-rock vocals lifting the audience to another plane with a rendition of Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’, followed by a long and luscious ‘Ain’t Nobody Else’.
The most unique and captivating performance of the evening followed from JADE; a Brisbane-based ensemble featuring Japanese koto master Takako Haggarty Nishibori, Nepalese tabla virtuoso Dheeraj Shrestha, Australian guitarist Dr Anthony Garcia, and Wakka Wakka didgeridoo and keyboard player David Williams. The quartet played the subtle and stylish ‘Ancient Waters’ and ‘Fishbowl’, with Garcia relating the story of the latter track being written deep in the bowels of QPAC itself in an artist area known as the ‘fishbowl’ to the audience’s appreciation.
Next came Irish band Sásta (meaning ‘happy’ in Gaelic), who are warming up for an upcoming tour of France and Ireland, with the instrumental ‘Ron’s Time’ followed by ‘She Said’, which allowed singer-guitarist Mick Hughes’s deft vocals to come to the fore, before the QPAC Chamber Choir seized the opportunity to promote their upcoming ‘ABBA Evolution’ concert in August with their version of the Swedish legends’ recently released ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’.
Deline Briscoe changed the pace and injected a more direct storytelling approach with her songs ‘Sweet Frangipani’ and ‘Big Law’; the Yalanji woman relating tales of her grandfather’s youth on Palm Island, the sounds and smells of the place and time, and the injustice experienced by her family in a skewed justice system. Soft and mellow the telling of her stories may have began, but when the Cairns-based singer let her voice soar, strength and courage reverberated around the hall.
The expansive stage was quickly filled by roughly 20 members of Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra; the recent Queensland Music Award winners taking the audience on a whimsical journey through a three-track set including highlight ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’. One of Hsu’s trademark instruments, the $27.95 Mitre 10 saw, appeared as part of a fitting finale to the set of surely one of Brisbane’s most innovative groups.
And so, for the grand finale to send gig-goers home feeling healed and hopeful. Mahalia Barnes once again took to the stage to blow the roof off QPAC, performing mighty versions of ‘Three Times and I’m Gone’, ‘Little Light’, which she proudly dedicated to her 13-year-old daughter, and ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which saw the Obscure Orchestra return to the stage. The curtain came down after a final dose of thunder with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, on which all performers from the evening collaborated to form the ultimate Australian super group (for one unique performance only).
On a chilly Tuesday evening, hope and healing never sounded so good.
Nic Griffiths may have been playing music for decades, but he’s never been as excited by a line-up than the one he’s part of now.
The singer-songwriter fronts Brisbane-Gold Coast heavy rock quartet My Kind of Chaos, and despite a few pandemic-related hurdles of late, Griffiths is as keen as ever to get out on the road and rock.
“We were rehearsing, and everything was going great,” he says. “And then the pandemic hit. We spent a lot of money on film clips and getting the album ready, and everything just fell apart. I nearly gave up, but I thought, ‘You know, I’m not gonna’. I kept going and managed to find the band we have now.”
The solidification of the line-up resulted in the completion of debut album ‘The Monster Stirs’; an eight-track collection of hard-driving rock.
“It started with myself and my friend who I’ve been playing music with for 30-odd years,” Griffith says. “We decided to write an album, and when it was finished, we would put a band together. We had this great drummer who brought his mate Mick [Norris], a bass player, and he came and played one song on the album. From there, Mick said ‘I’m in; I wanna be in the band’, so he stuck with us through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the drummer didn’t quite make it. Then, we found Cameron [Appleton-Seymour], our guitarist.”
The completion of the line-up by drummer Rick Zammit was the icing on the cake for Griffiths, taking the band’s musical chops up several notches.
“Only two months ago we found Rick, who just came off tour and was gig-ready,” he says. “He learnt the songs in four hours. When he came in to audition, it was about halfway through the first song that we realised we weren’t auditioning him anymore, he’s auditioning us. We’re happy to say we passed the test. During our rehearsals, I actually forget to sing because I’m admiring his drumrolls so much. The band that I have now is the band I’ve dreamt about my whole life; they are amazing, incredible musicians.”
With the line-up locked in the band’s manager started booking gigs and now the pandemic pains are in the past for Griffiths.
“We get a second crack at it,” he says. “We did pretty good overseas and that, but now we get to tour the album. The response so far has been amazing. It’s such a solid album as it was produced by double-ARIA-award-winner Anton Hagop. He did a fantastic job. We’re going to be touring all next year, for all those who’ve had their double jab.”
Having reached a level of contentment not experienced in recent times, you’d be forgiven for thinking a punk veteran might have mellowed. Not so; Griffith says there’s always something to be peeved about.
“I’ve come from a traditional punk background,” he says. “I was one of those teenage, pissed-off punks from back in the ‘90s. There’s always a bee in my bonnet about something. A lot of my songs are about life experiences. There’s a song on the album called ‘Making Zombies’, which is about the ice epidemic, which is everywhere. There’s a song on there called ‘Stop Running’, which is about me chasing success. There’s a song on there called ‘Euthanasia’, which is self-explanatory. I try not to write empty lyrics; there’s always a message in there. I think it was one of the things that attracted the other guys.”
Despite restrictions being eased and a new album unleashed into the world, Griffiths is not content to sit still just yet.
“We’ve released the first single off the second album already,” he says. “It’s called ‘Calm Down Karen’. I had a run-in with a ‘Karen’ in a store in Pacific Fair. It was ridiculous. She was just screaming, and I came home and wrote that song in two-and-a-half hours. The lyrics just wrote themselves. In hindsight it turned out really well.”
An upcoming run of shows will see the new line-up and material being simultaneously road-tested.
“We’ve got King Lear’s Throne on 28th November,” Griffith says. “Vinnies on the 10th of December, 13th January we’re at the Zoo, and we’ve just picked up our first festival at Jimna Rocks in April. Everything’s just exploded for us.”
Hayden Thorpe isn’t one for pondering the simple things in life.
The 35-year-old Englishman, formerly of the now—defunct Kendal indie darlings Wild Beasts, is much more of a big-picture kind of guy.
As keen to explore the wonders of the minutest chemical reactions in the inner wirings of the mind as he is societal-level shifts in thinking and action, and the vast and unknown wonders of the universe and beyond, the multi-instrumentalist is nothing if not intriguing.
Second album Moondust for My Diamond, a smoothly enchanting 12-track collection of cerebral and propulsive pop featuring production by Nathan Jenkins – aka Bullion – is clear evidence of this. Thorpe’s interests, from science, religion, humanity, the cosmos, sex, temptation, and contemplation of the end of days drip from every pore, filling the record with big questions and the wonder and anxiety of the possibilities of the things we don’t know, poised just out of reach.
It’s enough to make one contemplate several aspects of life and existence, albeit set to a slick soundtrack that builds on the sonic palettes of 2019 debut album Diviner and last year’s Aerial Songs EP.
The tunes are charming and understated but it’s Thorpe’s lyrical themes that prove most beguiling. In Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself”, and Thorpe seems to have been on a grand Vonnegutian journey during the making of these songs. In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine him locking himself away in a dank library for months on end, devouring all manner of obscure texts on philosophy, science and theology, before channelling it all into something he can set his countertenor vocals to.
“I’m an obsessive person but I’m also a person who has fads,” he says. “So, if you combine those two things, you get obsessive fads, into which I entirely immerse myself in practice, writing or theory. It becomes almost carnivorous; I need to imbibe it, put it in myself, become it for a while. I think most of the richness of the words come from there. I’m speaking like it’s quite a brutal process, but it is if you go quite deeply.”
Take lead single ‘The Universe is Always Right’. Probably never before or ever again will references to genies escaping bottles, Excalibur being pulled from stone and ‘cosmic arrows’ be made in a pop song. And certainly not one on an album that sounds as necessary as this. It’s clear from almost the get-go that Thorpe’s influences are many and varied, and he has used them to make surely one of the best albums of 2021.
“For this record, I got interested in Eastern mysticism, yoga and alternative practices,” he says. “My other hobby is science and I realised there are a lot of overlaps between the ways Eastern mysticism sees the universe and how science sees the universe. The difference is science medicalises the body and our emotions, but Eastern mysticism doesn’t; it actually incorporates the body, the mind, and the sense of the universe. Perhaps that is what is lacking in our terminology and our language; this sense of something beyond and how to incorporate the beyond into our very being. What goes on in those language spaces are spells; people are casting spells, and I say that in a very functional way. Casting spells is just an alignment of words; it’s just placing things in order. If you put certain words in a certain order, it elicits a chemical response in the body. It’s a very extraordinary thing. I wonder why all our songs are about love and spirit. Well, actually, it’s that invisible matter that stitches everything together; we can’t quantify it, we just know how we build our reality.”
It was exploring this meeting point between science and religion that led Thorpe to investigate the phenomenon of psychedelic therapy and a pioneering project integrating music and psychedelic drugs; an experience which has found its way most clearly into tracks ‘Suspended Animation’ and ‘Metafeeling’.
“Therapists are using this software while someone is in an induced psychedelic state; probably through psilocybin,” he says. “Basically, musicians contributed to a soundscape that the patient is listening to. I sang and contributed vocals and got really interested in both the practice of how I sing for somebody in that state and what would I do and how to contribute. It made me reflect on what singing is and what making music is. I got interested in it through a seminal book by Michael Pollan, ‘How to Change Your Mind’. It’s so interesting because I think you should always judge a civilisation by its drugs. Capitalism is very much the cocaine society, which is really about enlarging the ego. Whereas, in past civilisations the mushroom or other psychedelics have been the central theme of their civilisation. It’s inverse; actually shrinking the ego or dismantling the sense of self. Maybe we’re at a frontier now; we’re realising we’re all going around being encouraged to be warriors in our own way, going forth and it’s a dog-eat-dog-type world. But it’s clear that is creating so much damage, and it’s not sustainable. Secondly, it fucks the natural world when you do that too. Paul Stamets is one of my hero mycologists and he always states that the earth has already provided the operating manual for how we understand the natural world, and he says it’s psilocybin. We think the human point of view is the ultimate point of view, but I really don’t think that’s the case, personally.”
While a cocktail of energies ooze from Moondust for My Diamond, ensuring it sounds like a record put together by an artist with a simple love for the craft of songwriting on one hand, the flip side of Thorpe’s expansive thinking means he’s never far away from tackling the next big topic.
“We’re living through a reckoning,” he says. “There is a grand narrative of our time, where growth, success and aspiration are somehow virtuous qualities, and that is failing us. That is not working, and I’m so excited about what the music sounds like on the other side of that. If you think about it, music has always been co-opted by power; hymns and church music has always been the property of the church and therefore they have the spiritual ownership over peoples’ lives. Now, when big business owns most of music and hedge fund managers are buying up Bob Dylan songs and all the rest of it, you have to ask what is the spiritual value of songs now? I’m so interested in what is the other side of this; what language and what ways can we speak of the world beyond our own inner story. The legend of our time is absolutely our own inner world. We’re all encouraged to broadcast our every emotion. Songwriters especially, we’re meant to wave the flag of our emotions so boldly, and that’s supposed to be our currency. After a while of doing this, I’m thinking I’m getting more interested in the flagpole than the flag. There’s something beyond that’s worth getting it.”
While Thorpe contents himself with pondering many of the existential questions in life, he’s also a realist, and understands that being able to find the time and headspace to write and record new music, never mind release an album, during a global pandemic and in the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, is an achievement in itself.
“I think this moment does feel like one of the more extreme frontiers of record-releasing, bearing everything in mind,” he says. “The sheer manpower and force of will to bring music out now is significant, so I’m really proud that the work has emerged as it has. I’m surprised by the album; it’s unlikely. It’s emerged in unexpected ways and brought me unforeseen adventures, and for that I’m grateful. In the UK there’s definitely a kind of crosshair going on with the Brexit situation for musicians and the pandemic; but also, just the cultural landscape; the value system in which music works now. It’s been transformed. The metrics by which people judge value means that it’s nothing other than bold and chaotic to follow your music into that black hole. I believe in songs; their potency, their ability to convert a magical substance within the body. It’s also an extraordinary thing to devote most of your waking hours to obtain a level of beauty. That’s not to be too high-minded; it’s a form of utmost expression and at its fullest realisation, a moment of beauty. The dissonance of a functional human being as well as someone who is entirely entangled with the machinery of making music is probably the challenge, but the more I make music in my life things get even simpler and you don’t need much at all if you have your devotions.”
His live band includes Frank Ocean’s bass player, Ben Reed, drummer Fabian Prynn, and saxophonist Chris Duffin, who, Thorpe says, will allow him to “live out all my Springsteen fantasies”. A tour of Europe and the UK is on the cards for early 2022.
“It’s been four years since I played with a band,” he says. “Our first gig was an extraordinary sensation to feel that music again. I really like the practicality and theoretical way of doing gigs, which is me and a laptop going around, but it doesn’t have that virility that I want. I’m going to go forward with this killer band, which is a fabulous thing to be doing. I really want to live this one out properly.”
If Moondust for My Diamond is any indication, it’s sure to be a hell of a trip.
The past couple of years have been slow for so many musicians, but beloved Australian singer-songwriter Sara Storer has been quietly productive behind the scenes.
The multiple Golden Guitar-winner has been spending the time putting together a wealth of new material before her appearance at Groundwater Country Music Festival.
“I released my new album the year before COVID hit and managed to get a lot of my touring out of the way and get the album out there,” she says. “Then we moved to Darwin early in 2020 and that was the start of COVID, and of all places to have moved to, the territory is pretty damn good when it comes to lockdowns and everything else. While the music industry shut down and there wasn’t much work at all in 2020. But, for me, it was just good timing for me. So, I’ve been writing, and I’ve got enough for a new album. My focus will be on that for next year; to get in and record somewhere and get the new album out.”
The story of the 48-year-old Victorian’s seven albums follows the former teacher’s eventful life, and her next release is progressing steadily.
“Every album is a diary of where I am, how I’m feeling, and what’s going on in my life,” she says. “For this [upcoming] album, I moved back to the Territory, and we leased a little place out at Adelaide River, about an hour away from Darwin. We had a beautiful little cabin there and I did some songwriting out there. So, there are songs about being back in Darwin and what that brings to me personally. Also, just little stories I’ve heard along the way over the past couple of years. If I hear a story I’ll write it down, and that gives me a number of songs. I can write them, sing them, and record them and then not go back to them for a while. So, what I need to do now is look at what I’ve got and look at what works best as a collective, rather than just having bits and pieces here and there.
Storer does what feels natural to her; following a long line of Australian singer-songwriters telling real-life stories of real-life people and places.
“I grew up on a farm, so I have a bit of a soft spot for our people and our country,” she says. “Country music originated from people writing about people out working on the land and their stories, and I do like writing about our characters in the bush and this great country. As an Australian, I grew up listening to John Williamson and what I love about his work was that he sung about Australia with a lot of pride and used everyday Aussie slang from his world and put it into a song. Aussies can be pretty ‘ocker’ but it still sits beautifully to me, as that’s how we talk, that’s how we greet each other, and that’s our characters. So I like to try to be as descriptive as that in my music, about our beautiful place and, of course, singing with an Aussie accent is important, as it would be pretty silly if I was singing about, say Dubbo for example, in an American accent. Listening back to my earlier stuff, I sound very Australian. I do love the Aussie voice in a song and you have to be authentic; it works well with my songs, themes and subjects and it’s how I’ve always sung.”
Storer will play the upcoming Groundwater Country Music Festival, which runs from 12th to 14th November. The 2019 event saw 73,000 people descend on Broadbeach for the free three-day extravaganza of all things country. This year’s festival features 44 acts, including Adam Brand, Natalie Pearson, Troy Cassar-Daly, Caitlyn Shadbolt and many more.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” Storer says. “I got to play at a big event about a month ago, using a full band. It had been a long time since I’d done that, and I was nervous and excited, but gee, it was good to do that. It was so good to be back on stage with a full band, big, beautiful crowd, and everyone is just there to finally hear some music and do the festival thing again. I can only imagine Groundwater will be bigger and better than ever. I’ve got a really good feeling that it’s going to be a big success. I love music and country music and catching up with friends too.”
Tex Perkins is arguably one of the hardest working people in Australian music, and a true survivor at that.
As a member of Beasts of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea, Tex, Don and Charlie, The Fat Rubber Band and others, as well as a finger in the pies of the acting, writing and presenting worlds, Perkins has been working practically non-stop since the early-’80s. Having had many guises over the years; from hard-drinking rocker, Johnny Cash in his ‘The Man in Black’ show, or member of a bonafide Australian super group, as well as simultaneously juggling family life and personal relationships, Perkins isn’t going to be held back by the roadblocks of recent months.
The enigmatic singer-songwriter will be continuing his decades-long relationship with Australian music-lovers when he appears at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Up Late’ series on 20th March as Tex Perkins & Friends; an ensemble including Jez Mead, Lucie Thorne and Christian Pyle.
The latest edition of the popular series is part of GOMA’s ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ exhibition, which examines the ground-breaking designs that shaped one of the most iconic vehicles and features 100 of the greatest motorcycles ever assembled. Included in the outdoor celebration, which runs for two nights at the Maiwar Green at South Bank, are Indigenous rapper and musician JK-47, Brisbane punk/grunge outfit VOIID, and DJs Eamon Sandwith, Paolo and Patience Hodgson. Throw in GOMA’s top-notch bars and food service and you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of delights.
Added to this, Perkins’ year is looking as busy as ever, with appearances pencilled in at Byron Bay Bluesfest in early April and the Gympie Music Muster in late August, and a string of club shows lined up, among others.
But being a rock ‘n’ roll survivor inevitably takes its toll and doesn’t come without its scars. The past couple of years have seen the loss of some of Perkins’ closest friends in the music world, including the Beasts of Bourbon’s bassists Brian Henry Cooper and guitarist Spencer P. Jones, who both passed away from cancer at the ages of just 55 and 61, respectively, and put an end to the much-loved band forever.
Then came COVID, but, not one to stand still or take time out, Perkins put together ‘The Show’; an online concert series recorded and staged not in the pubs and hotels of urban and rural Australia, but in a shed on his country New South Wales property. With the help of family and friends offering expertise in equipment use and setup, recording and editing, the series kept the ever-busy Perkins from getting restless before the re-introduction of the live music show towards the end of 2020.
Now, fresh from lockdown and with a number of shows with Matt Walker under his belt, including a recent show at Kings Beach Tavern on the Sunshine Coast which a Scenestr reviewer described as “ultra-solid”, Perkins is back in the game. It’s a timely return to a natural habitat for the Fender-toting guitar-slinger.
If quality rock and roll performed by one of Australia’s most experienced and respected industry veterans in a moon-lit urban setting is your thing, this one can’t be missed.
Catch Tex Perkins & Friends at GOMA’s ‘Up Late’, Saturday 20th March at 9pm. Tickets via GOMA.
It was a good night for an art-rock hootenanny as Brisbane’s The Stress of Leisure successfully launched their new album, ‘Faux Wave’, before an amped-up audience at Lefty’s.
With COVID restrictions eased just days ago, there was a palpable relief and optimism in the air as ales were sunk, memories of distant gig-going were reawakened, and heads were nodded in time to the quartet’s unique brand of jittery, unconventional and fun sound.
Given much of the lyrical content of the songs to be found on ‘Faux Wave’, with song titles including ‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’, ‘Banker on TV’ and ‘Beat the Tension’, one could be forgiven for thinking this is The Stress of Leisure’s ‘lockdown’ album. This couldn’t be farther from the case.
Indeed, the entire album was recorded in February, just before everyday reality spiralled sharply into the realm of shitshow; possibly making The Stress of Leisure the soothsayers of a generation or simply fortuitous peddlers of exactly the right kind of musical vibe suited to these *cliché warning* unprecedented times.
The show was almost a straightforward run-through of ‘Faux Wave’ from start to finish, with additional tracks including oldie-but-goodie ‘Sex Time’, ‘Thought You Were Young’ and ‘Pulled Pork’; the latter of which frontman Ian Powne declares a work of “genius”, as it’s one of the only songs to tackle “politics, nationalism and pork-barrelling”; not to mention getting shouted at him “any time he walks around New Farm”.
‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’ is dedicated to “Donald over in the States”, while latest single ‘Banker on TV’ and a gloriously ramshackle cover of The Clash’s ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ round off a solid hour of off-kilter rock and pop; leaving an audience riding high on the crest of a wave of ‘faux’; whatever that may be.
Midweek apathy, a relentless downpour and the scourge of lingering pandemic panic weren’t nearly enough to dampen the spirits at Sleaford Mods’ debut Brisbane appearance on Thursday night (12th March).
The English duo, touring Australia for the first time since their 2007 inception, left nothing in the tank after what must be one of the most brutal, hard-hitting, entertaining and darkly funny performances of recent times in these parts.
Speaking of entertaining and funny, Eamon and Josh from Sunshine Coast slackers The Chats provide a solid support slot, even though they do almost nothing of worth other than hit ‘play’ on a playlist, crack a few tins and sit in front of quizzical audience grinning from ear to ear. The award for the most laidback DJ set of all time has just been given.
For Sleaford Mods’ Andrew Fearn and Jason Williamson, not much, it seems, is laidback, although they’re not above taking the piss out of themselves with as much venom as they attack the ruling classes, austerity politics and pop culture.
Opening with ‘The Committee’, ‘McFlurry’ and ‘Fizzy’, Fearn nods and bops behind his laptop that teeters on a battered, old stool, while Williamson vents spleen, sends spittle sprays for seemingly impossible distances, and contorts his body in tune with the tunes while flitting between ranting, rapping and preaching – all liberally sprinkled with a plethora of c-bombs and truth bombs in equal measure.
It’s the no-bullshit nature of the duo’s act, full spectrum of emotions witnessed onstage, badass beats pumped forth by Fearn’s laptop, and utterly acerbic and absorbing vocal and physical performances by Williamson that makes a Sleaford Mods gig a truly unique and necessary experience in 2020.
Through ‘Kebab Spider’, ‘TCR’, ‘Reef of Grief’ and ‘Jobseeker’, the pace doesn’t let up, and the diverse Triffid audience laps it up from beginning to end.
Williamson’s lyrics and mannerisms provide many of the highlights, and while Sleaford Mods may be too riddled with complexities and contradictions to be the heroes we need in 2020, anything that gets Brisbane dancing on a cold and rainy Thursday evening is worth the price of a ticket alone. Ten out of ten: should visit again.
Four years spent coming to terms with a debilitating illness hasn’t dampened Boy and Bear frontman Dave Hoskings’ lust for life as the band return home for a national tour.
After a much-publicised struggle with chronic dysbiosis – a microbial imbalance in the gut – Hoskings is enjoying playing and touring as much as ever, despite the journey towards fourth album ‘Suck on Light’ being a tough one.
“Life’s really good,” he says. “[The album] felt like a long time coming and when I listen to it, I’m still happy with it. I think we were able to produce something that we’re really proud of it, and it’s nice to be on this end of the cycle with the record, and we’re thinking about touring and travel. It feels good to be back.”
Hoskings’ accompanying diagnosis of anxiety and depression was also overcome as the multi-ARIA-award-winning band got back to business.
“At the back end of the last record I had kind of fallen to pieces,” Hoskings says. “I had to work out what the hell was going on and that took a bit of time. I’ve been a pretty open book about the whole thing and I’ve come a really long way. I’ve still got some challenges and I’ve still got a way to go, but that’s still moving in the right direction and I just have to stay patient and keep seeing the really effective doctors that I’m seeing. The main thing is that I’m much more comfortable and my functionality is much better. I’m up and I’m working and I’m surfing a bit, so that’s really good.”
The Sydney five-piece will play The Drop festival in Noosa, Newcastle, Manly, Coolangatta, Torquay and Busselton, and a slew of regional and metropolitan shows starting 29 February and ending in May with the completion of their 65-date world tour.
“Touring is going really great,” Hoskings says, “We love playing in Australia, but the world is a really big place and we want to embrace the scope of that – being able to travel, play in festivals and try to compete in these markets is really fun. North America has been great. We haven’t been back to Europe for a little while, but sales have been really strong for this tour, which is kind of heartening, I guess. We’ve been out of the game for a while and you never know whether people might have moved on, but it feels like our core fanbase is really solid. It still feels really odd, in a nice way, that people on the other side of the world who speak a different language are still embracing what we do. We get to travel over there, play and sell out some gigs, which is amazing.”
A love for touring regional areas was established early in the indie-rockers’ eleven-year career.
“Our early years were much more ‘adrenaline’, more excitement and much more partying,” Hoskings says. “Now, we want to pace ourselves a bit. We still love getting up on stage and playing, but the difficult part is all the travel and the lack of sleep and things like that. Each one of us has our own routine and we generally know what we’re getting ourselves into. We do a bit of prep and we feel pretty good about it. If you don’t do the regional shows, you’ve only really got five or six gigs in Australia, in terms of capital cities. But right from the start, we had a discussion with our management and it was definitely something we wanted to do. It’s not always easy touring regional Australia. It has its challenges, but it’s been a really rewarding thing making that decision early, so there are crowds and audiences that are used to us coming. That’s been really good for us, and it feels like people are just welcoming and enjoying the fact we’ve made the effort to get out of the major cities, although we’re hitting Brisbane at the Fortitude Music Hall. That should be really cool; I’ve heard so many great things about the venue.”
‘Suck on Light’ was recorded in Nashville and features themes of overcoming hardships and emerging from the other side with a smile.
“We decided we wanted to work with Collin Depuis and he was based in Nashville,” Hoskings says. “So, it was either we head there or we get him to come to us. Nashville is probably just got the edge on a lot of studios around Australia. There are plenty of great players if you need them and really good musical resources – it’s just a really effective place to record. We would definitely succumb to the fact that we’ve got one foot firmly planted in pop music and, I think, with good pop music, when you dig underneath it, there more complicated things going on. I think that some songs take time and certain things can take a while. But you also don’t want to lose that musical instinct and energy that can come. The whole recording took us about six weeks, so not an extremely long time, but not banging it out either. It can be a bit of a time warp in the studio from 10am to 7pm and you don’t know where the day went. We did try to get out of the studio once a week – even to just chuck a Frisbee around or get on the bikes.”
With a new lease on life and his health conditions under control, Hoskings has been productive.
“I’ve been kind of noodling around with stuff,” he says. “I had some demos, so I set up a file on my computer which just said ‘album five’. I took a photo and sent it to the boys just as a little motivation, I guess. I’ll try to build a body of work over a period of time and I’m already thinking about the fifth record.”
The anticipation and tension in the air was palpable in and around the mosquito and hot chip haven that is the Brisbane Entertainment Centre as the mighty, genre-skipping rockers Tool made their first visit to the town in seven years in support of their highly anticipated fifth album, ‘Fear Inoculum’.
Support came in the form of a brutal and demanding performance by Author & Punisher, also known as San Diegan solo artist Tristan Shone, who delivered a punishing and absorbing set of pounding, industrial drones as the male-dominated, heavily lubricated audience poured into the sold-out, 13,500-capacity venue.
Reports from the quartet’s Sydney and Perth shows spoke of visual spectaculars, a strict camera ban, and a band musically at the peak of its powers, and this show didn’t disappoint on any of those fronts.
Behind blinds surrounding the edge of the stage, the foursome took their spots to an intense outpouring of emotion, kicking off with ‘Fear Inoculum’; the lead single from the album of the same name. It was a special moment for a Brisbane audience who had waited years to see their heroes once more, and it showed.
Singer Maynard James Keenan began as he meant to go on, on a raised platform behind and to the side of Danny Carey’s drum kit, surveying his domain with menace and anticipation, crouching for the most part with his mohawk and punk getup visible as a silhouette against the searing visuals. Bassist Justin Chancellor twisted and twitched as he delivered thundering notes to leave ears ringing for days, while Adam Jones was the epitome of cool as he reeled off the riffs.
“Hey Brisbane,” said Keenan. “Heard you’ve had a bit of flooding recently. Being so near the ocean and all. Yeah, whatever.”
The setlist remained similar to the band’s two Australian shows thus far, with ‘Ænema’, ‘Parabola’, ‘Schism’, ‘Pneuma’ and ‘7empest’ featuring as part of a relentless wall of sound that the audience lapped up every second of. Almost as entertaining as the show was the venue’s security team’s eagerness and enthusiasm to jump on anyone using their phone, even if not taking photos, and issue a sternly worded warning or eject them from the centre, as signage and PA announcements repeatedly warned of the perils of using video recording equipment at any stage of the occasion.
It didn’t matter, though, as, following surely one of the most intense aural assaults of recent times, hordes of sweaty, black-t-shirt- and cargo short-wearing fans left the Entertainment Centre, hopeful to not have to wait so damn long for next time.
At first glance, Sleaford Mods might seem easy to pigeonhole, but scratch just below the surface and there’s a seething mass of contradictions and complexities ripe for discovery.
The English duo of vocalist Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearn has been aggressively yet cleverly ripping apart the ruling classes, societal norms and austerity-era politics across 13 years and 11 albums, but not everything is as simple as it seems, Williamson says.
“I’m wary of the fact that I don’t have to struggle any more, so sometimes I feel that I’m not the person to ask about frontline politics,” he says. “I personally don’t want to repeat myself on each album by saying how shit everything is, do you know what I mean? At the same time, I want to talk about how shit it is, but you can’t just talk about things in a clichéd manner, because that’s just fucking rude. These things are serious; they affect people. You have to talk about things like that in ways that people will feel. I’m not talking about some fucking bolshy, middle-class audience that just wants to hear you say ‘fuck whoever’, but real fucking connection with misery. It’s a bit of a tightrope; you’ve really got to think about it.”
Embittered rants about unemployment, working life, human rights, pop culture and capitalism layered over punk/hip hop sounds are the duo’s bread and butter. Williamson is hyper-aware of the power of words and forthright about his process of getting his lyrics to the right place.
“I just make sure I’m checking myself because it’s easy to fall down the cliché trap,” he says. “It’s easy to be lazy. If you’re talking about a situation you’ve experienced or a feeling or somebody you don’t like, it’s important to dress that with something that is as potent as how you feel about that subject. [Writing is] cathartic to a certain degree, but I can be a very resentful person, a very bitter person, or full of self-doubt. I’m never fucking happy really [laughs]. You could see me as a successful singer in a successful band, but I’m never content about it. I feel good about myself a lot of the time, but, at the same time, I get pissed off and take things personally when things don’t change. It’s swings and roundabouts, innit?”
Williamson, who has been teetotal for over three years, and Fearn are making their first visit to Australia to play WOMADelaide and a run of shows starting 29 February in Wollongong.
“It was always something we wanted to do but just weren’t in a position before,” Williamson says. “I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot, but, in the past, we would have been literally paying to come over and we’d have no money to take back. We were a grassroots band and we came up together. We were doing it on our own and didn’t really connect with the proper industry until later. It feels like the time spent in Australia will be put to good use, although I can’t fucking be doing with wankers on drugs in my face, talking shit [laughs].”
Wankers aside, Williamson is keen to connect with audiences here, and isn’t worried about his often bleak, UK-centric subject matter resonating with fans in the southern hemisphere.
“People get the gist, do you know what I mean?,” he says. “The music speaks for itself. It’s kind of a universal feeling you get from listening to it. Yeah, the lyrics are a bit alienating, I guess, but, generally speaking, it’s a sound that’s familiar with people. It carries a lot of aspects of sounds that have gone before, but it’s also got a modern, new approach to it as well. Nobody really sounds or operates like us. We’re kind of on our own.”
From busking outside train stations and having to pay to play in Tokyo’s live music venues to becoming a leading light for Asian music internationally, Japanese psych-rockers Kikagaku Moyo have come a long way since their 2012 conception.
The band, whose name translates as ‘geometric patterns’, has toured non-stop, released four albums and two EPs, and spawned a record label in drummer Go Kurasawa’s and guitarist Tomo Katsurada’s co-run Guruguru Brain.
Much of that success was down to early push and pull factors that saw them leave their homeland and discover new communities and audiences abroad, Kurasawa explains.
“When we started, people were beginning to care more about music outside of where they were,” he says. “At that time in Japan, media would see you as either a Japanese band or a foreign band; different things were expected from domestic and international bands. There was a tendency at the time for Asian bands to be like American bands; to sing in perfect English and those kind of pressures. But we’re not from L.A. and I like being different. Also, in Japan at that time, bands had to pay to play, whereas in Australia we found you could get paid, even if it was gas money or dinner money. So, we thought, ‘let’s go to Australia’. It gave us confidence quickly after our first show in Melbourne.”
Guruguru Brain – founded in 2014 – is a major focus for Kurasawa and Katsurada this year, as the label seeks to expand into new territories and make connections internationally; albeit with a focus grounded by a DIY approach and communal aesthetic.
“It’s nice to feel that we’re supporting the community,” Kurasawa says. “This is something I see in Australia because, geographically, it’s so hard to tour in America, so the community has to support each other. That’s kind of what we are trying to do for the Asian music community. This is a big mission for us; even more than the band. The band is nice; hanging out, playing music with friends and touring, but we’re also trying to focus on the label, so we’re meeting new bands from Taiwan and some others. I look for originality and identity in the music. It’s interesting that a garage band from Taiwan can be so original but you can hear influences from, say, New York or Chicago. You can connect over feelings that maybe we grew up listening to the same types of music.”
Kikagaku Moyo’s mind-bending sounds range from hard-rocking psych to mellow, sitar-drenched folk and much more in between, and every live experience is a very different beast, with about 20 to 30 per cent of the show being improvised. The band will tour New Zealand and Australia beginning 28 February, with a show at the Croxton Bandroom on 4 March.
“Every day we change the setlist and we have songs that can change and become improvs,” Kurasawa says. “We just kind of have to see what we feel, and it depends on how the song is affected by the atmosphere and the audience setting etc. This will be our third time touring Australia. The first time we came was in 2013 when we had just started the band, so it’s really nice to come back to where it all started in terms of touring. Last time we played Gizzfest, we connected with lots of audiences and other bands. It’s a very nostalgic and special place for us. I think we are going to stay in Japan after this Australian tour to do some writing. We will record this year and hopefully [a new record] will be finished this year. Since we are self-releasing we can do it any time we want. There is no pressure.”
New album. New tour. Same debauchery. Dune Rats are back, baby.
If ever a band lived every day like tomorrow was the apocalypse, it’s the Brisbane trio, who are almost as well known for their off-stage antics as for their catchy garage rock and punk gems.
Being a bunch of hot messes hasn’t held them back, though. In fact, it’s probably still their biggest catalyst as they hurtle towards their tenth year together. Just maybe, however, there are hints the band are growing up in ways not even they might have expected.
Set for release in January, third album, ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ steps into new territory for the group, says bassist Brett Jansch.
“Nobody is Peter Pan and stays young forever,” he says. “Because we write together, we want to write about things we actually give a shit about, and when you get a little bit older, your life is changing. Not everyone wants to hear another song about cocaine and Scott Greens and shit, you know what I mean? I like when albums by bands I love are different and they take it in a new direction.”
The band avoided difficult-second-album-syndrome with the wild success of ‘The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit’, which hit number one in the ARIA charts upon its January 2017 release, but such a lofty achievement isn’t taken too seriously in the Dune Rats camp.
“Different album, different things,” Jansch says. “It was rad that that album went to number one, but let’s see how this one goes. I think the songs are way better on this one that the last one. That’s not to say the last one was shit, but it’s just the evolution of the band and not trying to fall back on the same way to write a tune or the same things to write about. We’re pretty psyched. It’s taken a long time; we finished recording at the end of January this year and I’m fucking psyched about how it turned out.”
The band took time out to record with long-time friend and collaborator James Tidswell of Violent Soho on production duties.
“It was probably one of the most laid-back recordings we’ve ever done,” Jansch says. “We wrote the songs pretty quickly, then when we went to record, we went to the Grove, which is a studio at the Central Coast in New South Wales. It’s a place where you live there and record there as well, so we were constantly churning the album over and getting it done, while we were having beers and shit. It was a very pleasurable recording experience.”
With a large and loyal following built from years of criss-crossing Australia and putting in serious mileage overseas, the band is in a solid position to capitalise with ‘Hurry Up and Wait’, set for release on 31st January via Ratbag Records.
The record pays homage to the group’s whirlwind touring life and associated excesses, among other strange and wonderful tales.
And while they may be a little older they aren’t necessarily that much wiser, recently telling triple j of the story behind latest single ‘Crazy’ being one of the excess and indulgence they have become (in)famous for.
“’Crazy’ is one of our heavier songs that we wrote over in LA when we were surrounded by a lot of excess,” singer Danny Beaus said. “Everyone is doing anything and everything because it’s available, whether it’s taking drugs, eating shitty food or being surrounded by technology. All this stuff at the end of the day, whilst awesome at the time, doesn’t leave you any better off even if it feels that way in the moment. We didn’t set out to make a big album, or a polished album, or an album about partying because the last one did alright, or an album not about partying because we want to get away from that. It’s just writing about different stuff in our lives. It was always just going to be Dunies.”
Following a European jaunt, the trio are hitting the road for an Australia tour starting in February, taking in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with support from Ruby Fields, Northern Beaches indie-rockers Dear Seattle, and Wollongong three-piece Totty.
“[Europe has] been a blast; such a good time,” Jansch says. “It hasn’t been that real relentless touring like in the past when we’ve done 30 shows in two months in the UK or the States. We’ve kind of just been blagging through cities we’ve loved and the shows have been really, really fun. [Back home], I hope people can get they and check out Totty, and stay the whole night. The whole night will be full of enjoyable music and good times, and stepping up into venues of that size will be awesome for us. Hopefully that means 3000 people having a good time, so I hope it’s a great place for people to get loose and sing along.”
It was a night of big hits, storytelling, sequinned blazers and a masterclass of musicianship as Elton John and his band brought their Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to Brisbane on a humid, midweek evening.
The 72-year-old may be around halfway through a 300-odd-show run for a tour which began in September 2018, but the energy level didn’t let up for over two and a half hours as the British Knight Bachelor showed he still has the Midas touch when it comes to mesmerising an audience – a task the old master has been succeeding at for close to 50 years.
A lack of supporting artist made little difference to the palpable level of anticipation echoing around the dated walls of the Boondall venue as an army of Elton diehards found their seats while adjusting flashing glam-era spectacles, removing layers of glitzy clothing and chomping on boxes of hot chips with eyes affixed to the big screens for signs of movement on their hero’s part (kudos to the tour team for the acknowledgement of the Turrbal and Yugara people as the Traditional Owners of the area).
If anyone was feeling a tad lethargic or in the depths of a midweek funk, the first few bars of “Bennie and the Jets” changed all that. Its delivery was one of power, poise and nonchalance; tossed off by a master in perfect control of his realm and with nothing to prove. The fact that we were witnessing a man who has created some of the most perfect pop hits for several decades hit like an embarrassing reminder that we shouldn’t have expected anything other than utter brilliance.
“All the Girls Love Alice” followed quickly, before the man himself addresses his people. “We hope you like what you see and what you hear,” he says, before launching into “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Border Song”; the latter before which he takes the opportunity to relate how Aretha Franklin’s decision to record it in the early ’70s gave him and co-songwriter Bernie Taupin great confidence as young musicians. This is the first of many such reminiscences and nods to the skills and input of Taupin of the night.
The anthemic “Tiny Dancer”, as fifth song in a 25-song set, is almost thrown away without a care, but not before getting the biggest response of the evening with a spine-tingling sing-along in the 13,000-capacity venue. It’s a similar situation for “Rocket Man” in eighth position, although the band take their time with the classic track; each taking a masterful solo to transform it into an extended, bluesy jam. Elton takes his bows and laps up the adulation between hits, and a genuine connection is felt between performer and audience.
There may be moments for the diehards only, including “Burn Down the Mission”, and patches of lower intensity that follow, but towards the pointy end of the show, the hits start rolling again, with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “I’m Still Standing” and “Crocodile Rock” which perfectly set up an encore of “Your Song” and obvious closer “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
The overall feeling as the frenetic applause finally fades and the satisfied hordes dissipate into the night is that they just don’t make them like Sir Elton any more.
They may have been around since 1965 and have an average age of 63, but German hard rock royalty Scorpions are planning to tear Australian audiences a new one when they co-headline with Whitesnake in a few weeks.
The five-piece, perhaps best known for their 14-million-selling, 1991 power ballad ‘Wind of Change’, will have been on their ‘Crazy World’ tour for close to three years by the time they arrive for shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on 19th, 22nd and 24th February respectively.
Founder member, 71-year-old rhythm guitarist Rudolf Schenker, can’t wait to reconnect with fans here, speaking of previous visits and chances to reconnect with the enthusiasm and vitality of someone a third of his age.
“We’re coming back because we love it so much,” he says. “I remember that in 1992 we had a fantastic offer to go to Australia, but my friends were so tired from touring after one and a half years on the road with the [original] ‘Crazy World’ tour, and we had a number one or number two hit in Australia with ‘Wind of Change’, and I said, ‘let’s get this done’. But we were tired and people couldn’t be convinced, and now we have the possibility. In 2016 we played some shows there with Def Leppard and we had a great experience there. That was the reason we said to our agents that before we go into the studio to make a new album, we would like to do another tour in Australia to heat up the market, then the offer to go and co-headline with Whitesnake came up.”
The two bands make perfect sense as co-headliners, having known each other for decades and recently having played monumental festivals together.
“We played with Whitesnake already this year in Brazil”, Schenker says. “We played Rock in Rio with the Chili Peppers, Iron Maiden, Muse, Imagine Dragons and our friends Bon Jovi, and [the festival] voted us the best act in Rock in Rio for 2019! That’s pretty good for a band that has been on the road for over 50 years.”
Founded in 1978 by former Deep Purple singer, David Coverdale, Whitesnake arrive in Australia on the back of the release of thirteenth album, Flesh & Blood, released in May. It’s been 12 years since they last played here.
“We get on so well together with Whitesnake as we have been friends for years,” Schenker says. “They are great people. I remember, in the old days, the headliners would try to fuck over the openers because they were afraid they would be better than them. Our way is different. We want to be the best; there’s no question about this, but we are friends and our bands, Whitesnake and Scorpions, have a crossover in fanbase. In the end, we have the possibility to convince the audience that the whole night was a great package and send them home happy. It needs to be the whole evening, the whole show, all the bands being fantastic. In the old days, rock and roll was a rough and tough kind of music, but, these days, David Coverdale is a gentleman onstage.”
‘Wind of Change’, which describes the breakdown of the former USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall, became, for millions, the political anthem that accompanied the reunification of Europe after 50 years of division. Schenker sees it differently.
“’Wind of Change’ became the soundtrack to the most peaceful revolution on earth”, he says. “But we didn’t see the song as a political statement; we saw it as a human being statement or a statement of hope. We hope that people – human beings – can find a way to live together in peace. As our planet becomes smaller and smaller, we need to have the right way to bring people together and not against each other. The reason we are on the ‘Crazy World’ tour now is like when we were on the ‘Crazy World’ tour 30 years ago. Then, it was crazy in a positive way, with the Berlin Wall coming down and two big worlds coming together and making some peaceful decisions, but now, we are looking at a crazy world in a more negative way. We are always two steps forward, one backwards. In the ’60s and ’70s we started travelling around the world to show people that Germans weren’t bringing war; they were bringing love, peace and rock and roll. That’s the reason we were one of the first rock bands to play in Russia; to show people that music is a very important part in life. Mozart said, ‘What would be the world without music?’ and he is right. Music is the best communication you can have.”
The permanent addition of former Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee in 2016 provided a welcome shot in the arm after James Kottak’s dismissal for alcoholism. The band’s live performance has benefitted in new and unexpected ways, Schenker says.
“We were fighting very hard to get James back into the band,” he says. “We were hoping that we could keep him in the band, but after bringing him into a rehab kind of place to get him away from drinking, people were telling us that he needed more time than we could give him. Matthias [Jabs – lead guitarist] said that Motörhead had been friends with us since they opened for us in 1974 in Blackburn, England. When we got the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they were there and we became friends. When Lemmy was very sick, I went to his dressing room to see him and I congratulated him for 40 years of Motörhead being together, and he congratulated me for 50 years of Scorpions being together. We were close, and when Lemmy died around Christmas, Matthias had the idea to ask Mikkey Dee. I called him, and he has always been a Scorpions fan. I can tell you, when Mikkey Dee was on the drums during our first rehearsal, I had to kick my ass again because it was a very strong attack he takes and he makes me a more effective rhythm guitar player. The right riff with the right edge is the way I play, and this is the way he plays his drums. We always have fun when we play every show. It’s fun to be onstage and kicking each other’s ass – people can see that and they are impressed. They can see that, even though those fucking bastards are 70 years old, they’re still rocking like a hurricane!”