It’s been an age between drinks for Tame Impala and Brisbane, and with a sold-out Entertainment Centre clamouring to greet Kevin Parker and the boys, what couldn’t go perfectly right?
First up was local legend-in-the-making Sycco who looked born to do it on a stage this big and received a huge response from an already half-full Entertainment Centre for her efforts, most especially on final track ‘Dribble’.
Next came Genesis Owusu and a lesson in owning a stage by sheer presence and force of personality alongside an energetic vocal performance and some killer lyrics. It’s hard to nail down just one thing that makes the Ghanaian-Australian such a powerful act when he seems to have it all; recent track ‘GTFO’ went down particularly well and lyrically could be Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ for a new generation. There’s absolutely no stopping this guy based on this performance.
The members of Tame Impala saunter onto the stage amid a retina-searing light display, dense dry ice, and reverberating screams of appreciation from a heaving Entertainment Centre, with Parker looking entirely unfazed by the circumstances in which he found himself. This is a band that has grown from its relatively humble WA psych-rock roots to be the international festival headliner it now is, so it’s easy to see why this experience is all in a day’s work for the multi-instrumentalist master. His show takes a simple approach: give the audience what it wants, do it in style, and do it BIG.
This is the ‘Slow Rush’ tour, so that album’s songs feature heavily at all the big moments, including opener ‘One More Year’ and early tracks ‘Borderline’ and ‘Breathe Deeper’. However, having been around for over 14 years and with a back catalogue that most bands would die for, Parker and the gang can pull from all corners of their varied career and strike a chord with anything they pull out of the bag, as with ‘Nangs’, ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, and ‘Elephant’, before which Parker enquires of the crowd’s willingness to “get a little wild” – which it does in spades.
It was during an extended ‘Let it Happen’ that one of the band’s trademark moments comes with the launch of the confetti cannons at the drop, before a chilled-out ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ provided a cool counterpoint. This left only the need for a big finish to top off the show, which came in the form of ‘The Less I Know the Better’ and ‘One More Hour’.
It was all a truly mind-melting visual experience; the lighting was simultaneously mesmerising, trippy, and, at times, almost difficult not to turn away from. But in terms of Australian music, this band’s live experience is up with there with the very best. It definitely wasn’t slow; it definitely WAS a rush.
It’s night three of BIGSOUND 2022 – hands up if you can still feel your legs. No, me neither. What else is to be done but get right into it?
The string of Rage Against the Machine tracks that played over the house system at the Loft gave some indication of what’s to follow when The Riot took to the stage. The Gold Coast quartet is made up of four very different musicians stylistically, but when it all comes together it works beautifully and provides the perfect start to another night of outstanding music.
Over at the Outpost, Selve laid down some catchy grooves and upbeat vibes before a hugely appreciate audience with the levels of throwaway fun right on the money. Led by Jabbirr Jabbirr man Loki Liddle, the band provided one of the highlights of the evening early on; all killer synths and even more killer basslines, joined by much-loved Auslan interpreter Mikey Webb. A finale of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ lifted hearts and spirits – these guys deserve a lot of attention from all the best people.
In the mall, Blute’s was once again packed to sardine levels as Platonic Sex took to the stage. The buzz around the Brisbane alt-rock four-piece was palpable, and early track ‘Devil’s Advocate’; all about letting go of the ball and chain of toxic masculinity showed why.
Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage was similarly rammed for an assured performance from Beckah Amani, who played a clutch of songs from her recently released EP, including the excellent ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, highlighting the singer-songwriter’s passion for ethical fashion choices and tackling climate change. The towering ‘Standards’ elicited enthusiastic audience participation Radio Ga Ga-style as Amani repeated “For a black woman like me / I’m standing up for my needs” alongside some deft guitar licks.
At O’Skulligans, up-and-coming folkie Sam Windley performed songs that appear soft and lovely on first listen but are laced with confusion and pain through the lyrics, while over at BLVD, Brisbane’s Yb grinned from ear to ear amid a smooth set of genre-bending indie/pop gems and tight musicianship.
Dallas Woods promised he was “gonna take you all home to the East Kimberley” amid several audience interactions sprinkled through the Noongar rapper’s set at Summa House. Early track ‘Colorblind’ from the recent ‘Julie’s Boy’ EP hit home hard, and when joined by both members of Fly Boy Jack (who impressively upped the swear count immediately), the set kicked up several gears towards an epic finish.
At Sound Garden, bass player turned produced Tentendo described his BIGSOUND experience as “full-on, as I’m pretty introvert”, while producing an instantly classy, instantly catchy, instantly danceable, and instantly generally bloody impressive set of dance tracks alongside his keyboard player and drummer. What a find.
At the Loft, Jerome Farah set about unleashing something particularly special – even among so much bright talent over the past three days. From the second the Melburnian opened his lungs it was a show-stopper; the former dancer moved from smooth soul to soaring strength to rap and back again with ludicrous ease. “When my hair isn’t in braids, it’s in a huge afro,” he explains, mocking the constant requests from people wanting to touch it before ‘Afro’ kicks in. The lyric line “Why you gotta go and do that for? Please, white boy, don’t touch my afro” is delivered with humour and power, and the audience reacted with appreciation in spades. This was one of the best performances of the festival, and the perfect point to call it a day for this reviewer.
Now it’s time for that sweet, sweet sleep. Thank you and good night.
It’s BIGSOUND night two of three – are you all hanging in there?
First up at Tomcat was Ok Hotel, who, despite being at only 75% capacity due to the loss of guitarist Lucy to illness (“She’s alive and well – we promise!”), delivered a powerful set of grunge-rock-vibed goodness mixed with some sweet melodies and a ramshackle charm. Their final track ‘Life is Crazy (Like That)’ hit home hard and reassured an appreciative audience that BIGSOUND was alive and kicking for a second night.
Over at Summa House Old Mervs delivered a more laid-back, easy-and-breezy vibe, while, at the Zoo, the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band got into some seriously funky jams; proving themselves to be an early highlight of the second night of the festival. The seven-piece Arnhem Land collective took a large and appreciative audience on a winding journey through a set of depth, heart and top-notch musicality; and they only got better as they went on. The maestro Gurruwiwi himself, looking effortlessly cool seated at the front of the stage in dark sunglasses, led the way through a captivating collection of tracks sung in Yolngu Matha.
At Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage, Teenage Dads gathered quite the crowd and set about immediately going down a storm; all hip-wiggling, fist-pumping cringe in only the best ways possible. “It’s just a name. Don’t ask that question. It’s getting stale”, advises singer Jordan, pre-empting the very thought most likely on everyone’s minds.
At EC Venue, Flyboy Jack was spitting rhymes to a bouncing audience in what felt like one of those BIGSOUND moments you’ll tell people about in years to come. The quartet operated in perfect harmony, delivering cutting lyrics with a vibe that only drew a bigger crowd the longer the set lasted.
The ebb and flow nature of movement between BIGSOUND venues means you can’t always get where you want as crowds gather and melt away, and the influx of people towards Teenage Joans unfortunately made the Loft unattainable for this reviewer. Based on the fervour for the band they must be doing something special.
Back at the Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage, the Rions seemed to have added even more people to an already heaving crowd left over from Teenage Dads; there was barely enough room to turn around in the cosy upstairs venue. The impossibly-young-looking but musically adept triple j Unearthed High winners delivered a slick set of indie-rock richness and marked themselves as ones to watch – with impressive ’70s-style moustaches to boot.
At Prince Consort, Selfish Sons set about treating the pub gig setup almost like a stadium rock affair; all “Hey BIGSOUND, how we feeling?” and “Get your hands in the air, BIGSOUND!” call-outs, and, having already supported acts of the stature of The Kid Laroi, it’s probably clear why. The Brisbane trio worked hard and had a blast and, as a result, the audience had a blast too.
At Summa House, it was time for a big night two finale, and it came in the form of an epic performance from Butchulla rapper Birdz, accompanied by Fred Leone on vocals and didgeridoo. Opener ‘Aussie Aussie’ hit harder than anything on show so far, as did mid-set highlight ‘Fly’, before an all-conquering ‘Bagi-la-m Bargan’ closed out a punch-to-the-guts set of power, pride, and truth-telling in a BIGSOUND moment up there with the best.
One more day to go: let’s keep the BIGSOUND train a-rollin’ for another 24 hours.
Back in the flesh for the first time since 2019 and celebrating its 21st birthday this year, BIGSOUND is back with a bang and then some in 2022.
With 300 performances over three nights to choose from, it’s impossible to be across all the up-and-coming talent on offer, but when there are so many unknown gems to uncover, the only way to do it is to dive right in.
First up was Brisbane-based Talk Heavy at Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage. The quartet opened with a warmly received Acknowledgement of Country before launching into an unholy racket of pop-punk goodness; all catchy, sardonic, and fun. Despite guitarist Pat jokingly exclaiming, “All our songs are about Bret Hart”, a collection of tracks from their upcoming EP, including ‘I Wanna Skate Again’ prove otherwise in a fine start to the evening.
Over at the Prince Consort, Sydney’s Enclave produced an altogether more ominous mood that probably would feel at home in the Road House in Twin Peaks on Halloween. With a darkly engaging frontman whose style and delivery sits somewhere between an intensely brooding Mick Jagger and Brandon Lee’s character in ‘The Crow’, the band is well worth checking out. Single ‘Bloodletting’ is a good entry point for this unique act.
“Hello, BIGSOUND, we’re Future Static,” is the call at Ric’s Backyard as a flurry of high-octane, high-energy heavy rock is let loose on a captivated audience. The likely destruction of dozens of sets of eardrums aside, the Melbourne five-piece’s barrage of noise goes down a storm as singer Amariah Cook proved to be one of the most impressive of the night. Third song of the set and new single ‘Venenosa’ was a highlight.
At the Zoo, Queen P wasn’t blasting the crowd with noise, but winning them over with charm, humour, and confidence, and proving herself to be a star in the making, if she isn’t one already. The diminutive rapper still managed to cajole the audience to get onboard with lines like, “This is BIGSOUND, not small sound!” and the audience responded in spades; most especially during a fun cover of Missy Elliott’s ‘Work It’.
An absolutely rammed Blute’s Bar was the setting for Jem Cassar-Daley’s stylish blend of indie-pop, with the large, buzzing crowd including dad Troy. Opening with ‘Letting Go’ and moving into ‘Like It More’, the singer-songwriter and recent Queensland Music Award winner showed exactly why there’s been so much attention coming her way in recent times.
At Ivory Tusk, the call, “We’re Greatest Hits and we’re here to play them” opens the best performance of the evening based on a vibe of sheer throwaway fun and weirdness alone. The Gold Coast trio blend genres and styles effortlessly, with a sound akin to a synth-drenched sonic scream that puts the hook in you early and doesn’t let go. The vibe of simply wanting to have fun above anything else is a welcome approach at an industry festival, and the discipline of keeping up the schtick for a full 30 minutes is worthy of praise alone. ‘Palm Springs’, a song about “us never going to Palm Springs”, went over particularly nicely. Well played, Greatest Hits.
Around the corner at The Loft, Brisbane’s Hallie pulled off a slick pop masterclass with a set of cleverly crafted songs delivered with a powerful voice alongside a stage presence that belied their youth. Based on this performance, it’s easy to see how their fanbase could go from big to massive in no time at all.
Back at Ivory Tusk, WILSN delivered arguably the most soulful set of the evening. The Melburnian’s bio opener, ‘Possessing the kind of voice that stops you in your tracks’ couldn’t be more on the money; her vocals provided a genuine ‘wow’ moment towards the end of an already talent-filled night of music.
Back at The Loft, the crowd swelled for Noah Dillon, and the Fremantle singer-guitarist delivered in fine style to cap off BIGSOUND night one, with even one or two of the BIGSOUND staff getting side-tracked from their door duties to come in and join in or film the fun. Dillon doesn’t build slowly; opener ‘Alive and Kicking’ got the audience bouncing from the off, following it with ‘Drip Dry’ from the ‘Kill the Dove’ album to keep the party going.
Let’s see what the nights two and three have in store.
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.
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.”
Dusting off hangovers, minor/major exhaustion and the shadow of day jobs brings the second night of BIGSOUND back into focus, and with another outstanding line-up of bands to get the teeth into, the appetite is big for night two of the showcase.
First up at Crowbar is Sydney quartet The Buoys, who blast through a high-octane, “emotional rollercoaster” of a set, with frontwoman Zoe Catterall getting among the audience and getting into the mood by snagging a bite from a punter’s Bloody Mary celery stick between bouts of highly impressive shredding.
Over at Ric’s, Egyptian-Australian Mariam Sawires is impressing in a somewhat more serene fashion; her voice on songs like ‘Together’ – inspired by missing her sister when living in Japan – soars high and marks the nomad vocalist as not only one to watch, but probably deserving of a classier setting than the milk-crate-adorned surrounds of the beloved Valley venue.
Meanwhile, at The Wickham, Sydney rap queen Lauren. riles up an enthusiastic audience by getting in their face before claiming, “I only smoked one bong today!” to a huge roar of appreciation.
At the Brightside, Brisbane’s First Beige have packed out the room and melt into an instantly engaging jam, including a guest trumpeter, while at the Elephant’s crammed back bar, English quartet The Amazons run through a set of polished pop tunes on their first ever Australian gig, and Ainsley Farrell is winning hearts and minds with a classy, lilting and uplifting set at Black Bear Lodge, including new track ‘Dark Spell’.
Downstairs at Crowbar, Melbourne metallers Outright are loudly-and-proudly anything but polished, with powerhouse singer Jelena Goluza taking the classic foot-on-monitor stance between explosions of noise, before Sydney post-punk outfit 100 put in a solid and loose shift in front of an appreciative audience.
Seeing Mambali – from Numbulwar in the Northern Territory – is the perfect way to finish the evening; the Indigenous collective play an exciting, captivating show to a wildly engaged crowd as the evening draws to a close.
The Brisbane duo going international with the help of one of America’s most well-regarded record labels.
Glitter Veils wasn’t always Glitter Veils. Most recently plugging away on the Brisbane dream-pop scene under the moniker YOU, it was in July last year that Luke Zahnleiter and Michael Whitney (also of The Rational Academy and Nite Fields, respectively) were presented with a persuasive argument to change their band name.
Terrible Records got in touch. It was co-founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and is home to Solange, Twin Shadow, Blood Orange, Moses Sumney and Australia’s Kirin J. Callinan, among many others. Terrible suggested the switch to the more memorable and SEO-friendly moniker. It then went on to release Glitter Veils’ album, Figures in Sight, on its Flexible imprint, which focuses on unique debut releases.
After listening to the album it’s easy to see why. Raw, abrasive, deep and mesmeric, the layers of sound play out like an experiment that may or may not reach a conclusion but will be a hell of a ride either way.
Zahnleiter and Whitney, champions of the album format, explain their processes and how they ended up on Terrible.
Was putting Figures in Sight together a complex process?
Michael Whitney: It started off as a bedroom project for me, and then I wanted to play it live. Then Luke came along and we became really good friends. I guess from that initial period it was about two years of writing, recording, restructuring and going back and forth to the studio.
Luke Zahnleiter: We were pretty fastidious and got a bit obsessive in parts of it, but, overall, we’re happy with how it came out and happy that the overall sound has been getting a good response. We’re kind of relieved in a way.
Was it important the album had an overall sound or feel?
LZ: Michael and I listen to similar music and we have quite a varied taste. I think it’s about the feeling and mood we can create in the music. We could attempt to make a style of music, but [the album is] essentially what came out at that period in time. Whatever was impacting our life was funnelled through that.
MW: Luke and I come from pretty different spectrums of how we play instruments, and I think that is reflected in certain ways. The guitar has a similar sound over the whole album. I tend to like a lot of older pop music and stuff like [American composer] Angelo Badalamenti [best known for his work scoring David Lynch’s films].
David Lynch is often mentioned in your reviews. How does that sit with you?
LZ: I’m happy with that. When people say “David Lynch”, I think they mean the Twin Peaks [theme] song [Falling]. I think it’s more of a mood thing.
MW: That kind of tragic beauty.
Describe the moment you heard Terrible was interested.
LZ: When we finished the album we had no idea what we were going to do from that stage. It’s not like we had been playing live. We just got so involved in making the record that we didn’t have a plan of attack afterwards. We just sent it to a bunch of labels – mainly international labels – and kind of hoped for the best. I emailed quite a few with some early mixes. Then Ethan [Silverman] from Terrible emailed. It was very vague – I think it was a one-line response, something like: “This is cool, I’ll sit on this …”. Then three months later we heard from them again, and he got back to us with another vague message saying they wanted to put out two songs on the Flexible imprint, then we figured out a way to put everything out. We wanted to bypass plugging away at the local scene and getting on a local label.
Why bypass the local route?
LZ: We wanted as many people as possible to hear the album – that’s my main goal.
MW: We were sending it to labels that were probably above our heads, but we tried anyway. I just want to make really great albums. The live thing has almost been an afterthought with this last record.
LZ: We’ve both played in bands before and done local gigs and touring, and it’s exhausting to do that, and you’re not really getting much exposure. It’s usually the same people who come to shows locally, and we just wanted to get a broader audience.
How does it feel to have Solange, Twin Shadow and Blood Orange as labelmates?
MW: It’s a great roster and I love Blood Orange and Solange’s album. It’s something to aspire to – to make albums in a certain way and to push us even further.
LZ: We’re definitely in good company and it’s a great label. I remember that Twin Shadow album from 2010 or 2011 – their first full-length. I used to love that album. To think we’re now with the same company is a really good feeling. There are some great artists on Flexible, too.
Any international touring plans?
LZ: We’ve got a few Melbourne shows coming up, but internationally, we’ll see how it pans out. It’s definitely something we’d both like to do, especially in America. Having Terrible on our side to help is a good position to be in.
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.
*Knock, knock*. Who’s there? It’s 2017 and it’s time to wake up, you lazy cretins. Hammering on the door of chez Green Buzzard with such platitudes would likely bring about at least two reactions. One: scrambling to hit the OFF switch on The Charlatans’ Greatest Hits playing on the CD player, and two: fear on such an unprecedented level that their already-significant desire to die and be reincarnated in the pop landscape of 1995 would be multiplied many times. You see, they are a band so scared of NOW that their brand of indie-pop, although masquerading under the guise of being faithful/respectful/reverent to the lineage, could be tossed into any or all of the piles of irredeemable turgidity floating aimlessly in the cesspools of the mainstream. Ten tracks pass by in a blur of guitar-pop lightness: ‘Tear My Heart Away’, ‘Space Control’ and ‘Hypnotized’ are perhaps the most tedious. While ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘IDWK’ have some redeemable moments, the jaw-aching yawns begin with lead single ‘Do You Ever Glow’ and the Buzzard quickly loses it buzz. If postponing the future by suckling at the festering teat of Britpop is your thing, get your sickly, bleeding gums around this.
The Philadelphian singer, songwriter, producer, and purveyor of delectably laid-back indie-folk tunes has been a guest in our country a smattering of times, but he’s got his audience pretty well sussed.
“I think Australians, in general, really feel music,” he says. “It’s a record nerd, gut-level or emotional thing; maybe an obsessive thing, which is very similar to the way I am. But there’s also a ball-busting, bullshit artist type of thing they can tap into, and [they] can have a good laugh. I feel they are really serious about music but also they can just bullshit and bust balls; they’re both equal. You know how to fuck with somebody to show that you love them. I feel a lot of Australians have those kinds of humour and emotions, you know?”
The 36 year-old will tour Australia solo for the first time in February and March, leaving his band The Violators at home. Successful previous sojourns and a recent surge in popularity here mean the idea of playing venues and shows the size of Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Taronga Zoo and Golden Plains Festival doesn’t faze him.
“I’ve been to Australia enough – this will be the fourth time coming up – to feel like it won’t make a difference,” he says. “I’ll be zoning out; kind of in my comfort zone. I’m sort of comfortable over there because, I don’t know, I’m just used to it over there. With The Violators we try to mix it up with keyboards and stuff like that, but [this time] I’ll just be by myself and my acoustic. I’m sure I’ll bring a banjo. Maybe one day I’ll have more of band with more instruments than a four-piece. I like to just go out, zone out, and not try to recreate the record.”
After leaving The War on Drugs, which he founded with long-term friend Adam Granduciel, and releasing his debut record in 2008, Vile has released six solo records and a collection of EPs of top-drawer folk, rock and psychedelia, with each record marking a musical and thematic progression from the last.
“I’m usually most proud of my newest album,” he says. “But that wears off once I start working on a new record. I look back and am proud of them all, but I would say maybe most of all ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; all those songs have a similar melancholia in the lyrics – there was a good theme going on there. The next few records obviously had themes going on too, but there is an interesting melancholic tone to ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; I can go back and listen to that one. There’s something about it. I wouldn’t say I’m most proud of it, but it’s some kind of statement.”
Not keen to rest on his laurels, and despite 2015’s ‘b’lieve I’m goin down’ not having been played in Australia yet, the hard-working Vile has already started on its follow-up.
“I’ve been in and out of the studio throughout this touring cycle because I feel like the last two records, in particular, took so long out of the touring cycle,” he says. “I don’t want to just get lost in this dark, black cocoon world in the studio. So I’ve been going in and out of the studio between touring for that reason. I probably have about half of the songs for the next record in some form. I think [fans] will recognise the sound; it’s not like it’s a drastically different record, but there’s always evolution. I think there’s a steady American roots thing going on in my music, and I don’t mean that it’s going to come out like ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ or something too country, but it’ll be some kind of roots scenario. I’ve always been into country and have been getting more into it lately. I read Jerry Lee Lewis’s biography – ‘Hellfire’ by Nick Tosches and George Jones’ autobiography. Since then I’ve basically been out of control reading about nerdy music things; especially Nick Tosches. I guess I’ve been a bit obsessed since my record came out.”
With talk of music nerdiness and an obvious knowledge of music history and lineage, Vile could be assumed to be a hardcore musicologist and collector. The truth is more interesting, however.
“I prefer to not have too many obscure records,” he says. “I have old country, blues and soul records. The stuff I get into is usually popular at one time or another. These days, if I go to the record store the records I want only cost two dollars or something anyways; ‘Country’s Greatest Hits’ or something. I usually space out and don’t even know what comes out in a particular year, but my buddy Luke Roberts put out a record which was great. Heron Oblivion’s record was great. I’ve had my head in the clouds listening to a lot of old music.”
Despite constant touring and having critically-acclaimed albums on his resume, the amiable Vile keeps his feet on the ground. As recently as 2009 he was working in a brewery while recording his third album.
“The constants are my two little daughters and my wife,” he says. “We just moved to a bigger house. It’s not a mansion, although it feels like it because I’ve never had any room my whole life. We’re also keeping our little house so I can go back to my roots and record there. So my everyday life lately has been carting things between these two houses and driving around. I’m pretty comfortable driving around in general, listening to music and zoning out. I’ve also done some little side projects. I did some songs with Courtney Barnett when I was in Australia last time; I’m not sure when they’ll come out or anything. I recorded in Nashville with a bunch of legendary old dudes. I’ve been in the studio with the Violators and I’ve been getting my home studio together, so I’ve kind of got my hands on a lot of different things and it’s all coming along.”
With 2017 mere days away, February comes quickly for Kurt Vile fans.
“The Violators are playing New Year’s at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, and a couple more shows in New York and Boston,” he says. “We have one more tour around Florida late January, then that lines me up to go solo and see you guys.”
Kurt Vile plays Taronga Zoo on Friday 3rd March and QPAC on Thursday 9th March
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.
It’s been three years coming, but Emma Louise’s second album is finally here and there are questions to be answered. What has changed in the singer-songwriter’s world since her first EP in 2011 and debut album two years later? Is the Brisbane-based artist still comfortable laying her soul bare in her songs? And what exactly is a Supercry?
Given the amount of time Australian and international audiences have been appreciating her considerable talents since she won a state-wide songwriter’s prize at just 16, Emma Louise already feels like a veteran of Australian music. Perhaps it’s the timelessness of her indie-pop tracks, again apparent on Supercry, that make her feel like an old-timer in these parts, despite being barely 25. Perhaps it’s the quality and depth of her lyrics, which yet again sound like they’ve been written by someone with decades behind them in the singer-songwriter business.
What’s changed between releases is simultaneously not much and just about everything: her voice is as delicate and engrossing as ever, but the drama is ratcheted up several notches from past releases; no doubt a result of a few more years of life experience.
‘West End Kids’, with a tip of the hat to Brisbane’s left-leaning community south of the river, is sparse and nostalgic, ‘Talk Baby Talk’ is an emotion-charged last roll of the relationship dice, ‘Everything Will Be Fine’ sees the singer in self-assurance mode, as does ‘Illuminate’, which sees her declare “I know I’m braver than this”. The mood is grand and graceful throughout, even if it walks a fine line between triumphant and troubled along the way.
Now, Supercry isn’t Saturday night listening; it won’t get you pumped up for a big night. It will, however, soothe your tortured soul and ease you into a state of transcendence within no time at all. By the end of a first listen it’s still not clear exactly what a Supercry is, but with this collection of songs, Emma Louise has cemented her place as one of Australia’s finest young songwriters.
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?
HE’S perhaps most well-known as the son of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, but seven-time Grammy Award-winner Ziggy Marley is a major musical force in his own right, as well as being one of the nicest guys in the business.
Marley has just released his sixth solo studio album, Ziggy Marley, and explains how the record is not only the latest chapter in his career, but continues to carry the message of positivity fans of his father’s music will recognise.
Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel having just released it?
I feel good. I feel like it’s the record I wanted to release with the words I wanted to say. I think it shows some progress, you know? It shows what I’ve learnt through my whole musical journey. I like it.
Many of the themes are of togetherness and unity. What influences your writing in this way?
It’s because that’s the solution, you know? Why do we never put the solution into what we do? We don’t just want to talk about problems, we want to talk about solutions: love, unity and peace. That’s the only way the world is going to survive. Even though we talk about other things on the record, we always come back to solutions.
Is writing like this a reaction to the many divisive people on the world stage right now, or would you write like that anyway?
It’s a reaction to my reality, which is this world. It’s what I see and what I feel around me. This world is small now; everything that happens affects me. Whether it be something in Syria or in my back yard, I’m affected by these things. I’m inspired to speak and say what I feel about these things. I say what I’m inspired to say and that’s just how it is.
Is it difficult to be consistently positive?
It used to be difficult sometimes. But for this record, I am sure of love being the winner. I am sure of it, I am positive of it. If the guys who want to fight wars and divide people can succeed in their dreams, why can’t we who want peace and love succeed in our dreams? So their actions really show that our actions can succeed. If they can make wars and division happen, we can make peace and love happen. Of course we can make it happen. I know that.
Is there any extra pressure with this album, given your last won a Grammy?
No, I don’t think about the Grammy. Sometimes a critic might say something that shows they understand what I’m trying to say, and then I might think about it [laughs].
How important is it for you to release the record on your own label?
The way the industry is now, it’s the only way I can do it, because the Internet and streaming means I am not selling CDs; most people stream their music now. So I don’t need a big record company to do that for me. I’m satisfied with where I am, and I know what my place is and what I have to say. The freedom to be able to say it is very important, and I’m very happy that we’re independent.
Is there any significance in releasing a self-titled album at this point in your career?
I don’t know the reason. Things happen for a reason and sometimes you don’t know why. Eventually you’ll find out, and I’m still waiting to find out why it’s called Ziggy Marley. We tried everything else and that’s what came up. Who know why that happened? Usually we give it a title from the album; my last album was called Fly Rasta because we had a song called ‘Fly Rasta’. Love is My Religion and Wild and Free [were the same]. Normally I feel those songs fit and I feel good, but for this record, for some reason, none of the names gave the feeling that they fit, you know? So we just went with Ziggy Marley.
Being the son of the most well-known and loved reggae artist of all time: what are the pros and cons?
People love my father and they love me, but I think they also love me because of who I am too and what I’m doing. I hope I’m adding to the philosophy, idea and legacy. We get a lot of love. And the cons? It doesn’t even matter to me. What it is, it is, I get through life and don’t study that. I just deal in love; that’s all I’ve got [laughs].
When can we expect to see you in Australia?
Right now, I’m starting a U.S. and South American tour, but next year we would like to come down to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I’m looking forward to coming down and playing some music for the Australian people.
Would you prefer a festival or your own shows?
I would prefer a festival because you can get to more people. I would prefer to play to more people as that’s how I can get the message across. But we can do it any size, big or small.
Byron Bay Bluesfest could be pretty perfect for you.
Yeah, that’s always nice.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’m touring, I’m putting out a cookbook soon, I did some acting on an American TV series called Hawaii 5-0; I might do that again, I don’t know. But mostly touring.
What is the cookbook you’re doing?
It’s a cookbook done by me and my wife and some friends of ours. We’re putting together a cookbook with some Caribbean-infused recipes, you know? It’s organic cooking.
What’s your specialty?
It’s oatmeal, man [laughs]. But I mix up a lot of stuff in there, it’s not just oatmeal.