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Feature Interview: Winston McCall of Parkway Drive

Parkway Drive

Sixteen years and six albums into his glittering career, Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall isn’t about to start taking anything for granted.

“From day one, we’ve always had to prove ourselves,” he says. “We’ve always said in interviews that we just go out there and do what we do, but, now having sat back and looked at it, the place we’re at now is literally the last place anyone would have expected for this band, including ourselves.”

Sixth album ‘Reverence’, released in May last year, pushed the band’s creative ambition further than ever before and has brought not only exciting new avenues and achievements, but additional pressure to the Byron Bay metallers.

“The past 12 months has been crazy; like a complete time-warp,” McCall says. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of touring and the band has grown so much in that time that I forget the fact it’s only been a year since [‘Reverence’ came out]. It’s been the biggest release of the band’s career and we’ve reached several milestones in the past 12 months. These are things we never even thought we would see and they just rolled over, one after the other. It’s been busy and hectic; so hectic. We’ve had three major injuries within the band in the past 12 months, we’ve played the biggest headline shows we’ve ever played in every continent we’ve played in, then we’ve played the biggest festival appearances and biggest shows of our lives.”

Written and conceived around a dark period for the band, ‘Reverence’ was informed by personal tragedy and loss, and took the five-piece’s music into sometimes difficult yet often ground-breaking territory.

“All of that writing and stuff happened, we brought the record out during that whole ongoing thing, and I guess it’s just a part of life.” McCall says. “It’s something that never leaves you, that loss. It gets easier the amount of time you put between when it happens and now, I guess. You carry it with you all the time and you see it through different lenses and shades as you go. In that respect, dealing with it is going well, but you always have a relationship with it. That’s probably the best way to describe it.”

After a heavy few months spent touring Europe and the States, where McCall says he was offered crack in a diner before food was even mentioned, the band will play its only Australian shows of 2019 at Good Things Festival; a trio of dates which stand out for several reasons.

“It’s our first time being able to headline a major Australian festival,” he says. “And it’s really cool to see heavy and alternative music making a resurgence in festivals in Australia because it’s such a massive thing and it’s such a massive community. It’s been underplayed in the past as a lot of people think it’s a small amount of people in this country who enjoy this music, which is so far from the truth it’s insane. So it’s really nice. So many people in the past have seen the local Australian scene of lesser or less of a commodity than an overseas name, and for us to be able to make a statement by being in that slot is a massive, massive deal. It’s going to be fucking awesome and we’re pumped.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live show when the band lands for the December run of shows. Inspiration for the visual spectacular that is a Parkway Drive gig can come from almost anywhere, McCall says.

“We’ve retained creative control over every single aspect of this band, which means there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it. If you have the drive to create something more, we have a very large canvas, but that means you have to have the imagination to fill it. Ideas come from everything: other bands, theatre, music, film, videos, from literally just walking around spaces, architecture and anything from the past. We’re taking an interest in what our lighting guy is doing and work with him to create something so we know what the physical and emotional impact of the stage show are. It takes a hell of a lot, but being able to couple your music with something you know will heighten the experience is a very powerful experience. At the end of the day, when you rock up to a gig, you know it’s very different to just watching your favourite band play your favourite song. We want it to do things that create moments that are worthy of your time.”

While they’ve come a long way from that Byron Bay backstreet to being a major player in Australian and world metal, McCall and Parkway Drive will likely continue aiming to prove themselves for some time to come.

“Years ago, nobody was saying Parkway was going to be able to get as big as we are, play the songs we play, create the music we do, put on the shows we put on and have the actual imagination to do that,” McCall says. “We’ve had 16 years’ worth of pressure and this has been the year we’ve realised we can do this and we have the space to create something using our imaginations, rather than just be in survival mode. So there’s more pressure, but we’re also aware of what the pressure is, and how to deal with it better. There’s been a hell of a lot of people who say we’re one thing and we’ll never be anything else, or we’ve been left out of many equations, which is fine. But it helps us realise the fact we were aware of that status the entire time, and it’s something we’ve been trying to smash. It’s nice to know we’ve been able to do that. It’s been a very interesting experience.”

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Live review: BIGSOUND Live – Brisbane – Night three (5/9/19)

With livers running at 200% capacity and the memories of a normal routine feeling distant and fuzzy, it’s time to dust ourselves off and give it another crack at Bigsound’s third official night of live music.

First up at Crowbar Black is Towns, playing their twelfth show since Saturday. The Adelaide duo immediately set the scene for a tip-top evening with a charismatic, funny and skilful set of punk/pop/rock numbers. “I’m so fucking happy!” says frontman Aston Valadares, grinning ear to ear, before throwing a bunch of t-shirts into the audience, Oprah-style. A medley of television themes, including ‘Home and Away’, ‘Round the Twist, ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ and ‘Friends’ provide a fun counterpoint to their admittedly “little sad” track, ‘Bleach’.

towns bigsound live brisbane 2019
Towns

Over at Black Bear Lodge, Sunbeam Sound Machine’s Nick Sowersby and his band are making a gentler, more blissed-out sound, including tracks from new record, ‘Goodness Gracious’. ‘Talking Distance’ goes over particularly well in a venue that is perfect for the intimate feel of the group’s music.

At the Elephant, Reliqa vocalist Monique Pym is more into demanding intimacy from her enthusiastic audience. “Tell someone you love them – the person right next to you!” she suggests, to awkward glances from strangers taking in the Gosford collective. Pym is a powerhouse of energy with a towering voice that must place Reliqa as one of the most exciting young metal bands in the country.

Reliqa Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Reliqa

Mermaidens are certainly not the demanding types at the Ivory Tusk, saying they “don’t want to get in trouble” if they play over their timeslot, although they do mention their new album being out tomorrow (6th September) several times. They do exactly as their bio describes, and do it extremely well – all dreamy vocals, hypnotic guitars and more charm than you can poke your hangover at.

Mermaidens Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Mermaidens

At the Outpost, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers are simultaneously expressing their gratitude for the presence of a sizeable crowd, generating considerable industry buzz, displaying their Canberra home-town pride and playing a collection of rock and alternative numbers like its some of the best parts of the ’90s all over again. ‘I Like That You Like That’ is their best song and marks them as serious contenders.

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers bigsound live brisbane 2019
Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers

Following a solid first-night show, the draw towards Laura Imbruglia at Black Bear Lodge is almost irresistible, and going against some imagined principle/protocol/ethic/whatever of Bigsound and seeing the same artist twice suddenly doesn’t seem in any way criminal. The Melburnian and her band, the Bin Chickens, are, quite simply, a class act. ‘Tricks’ and ‘Carry You Around’ allow lead guitarist Alex MacRae to flex his considerable chops as the quartet settle into a potent groove for another evening-winning set.

Laura Imbruglia Bigsound Live Brisbane 2019
Laura Imbruglia and the Bin Chickens

What a bloody great three nights of live music.

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Live review: London Grammar + Guests – Riverstage, Brisbane – 23/9/17

Billed as Brisbane Festival’s “marquee music event”, the five-act line-up of London Grammar, James Vincent McMorrow, The Kite String Tangle, Mansionair and Wafia provided perfect vibes for a chilled evening at Brisbane’s Riverstage on Saturday (23rd September).

London Grammar Brisbane Riverstage September 2017

With the tunes kicking off at 4pm in scorching sunshine, and running for close to six hours, the atmosphere was not unlike a mini festival, with the comforting aroma of Dagwood dogs and mid-strength beer reinforcing the feeling.

Wafia is a rare talent whose vocal power is more than enough to fill the amphitheatre, while Mansionair play a slick set and get a big response with ‘Hold Me Down’.

Hometown boy Danny Harley of The Kite String Tangle is delighted to be playing Riverstage for the first time, as he tells us twice. The sun aptly drops over the horizon as he plays ‘Illuminate’, but it’s his final track ‘Arcadia’ which is the perfect ending to the best set of the day thus far.

But hold on, the best set of the day is immediately bested, as things get international-class with James Vincent McMorrow. The Irishman’s soulful delivery is just about perfect on ‘Get Low’ and ‘National’, while the towering ‘Cavalier’ provides a goosebump-y moment or four.

London Grammar are all darkness and mystique as they take to a sparsely-lit stage and singer Hannah Reid begins proceedings with ‘Rooting For You’. It’s a controlled start, but one that grabs the audience’s attention and ensures it stays firmly on the band for the rest of the night.

‘Rooting For You’ perfectly rolls into ‘Flickers’, and while the trio’s sound is somehow both delicate and huge simultaneously, it is, of course, Reid’s ethereal, choral tones that are the highlight of the set.

‘Wasting My Young Years’ precedes a cheery rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for guitarist Dan Rothman, who is turning 28. A cake appears from somewhere and Reid asks the audience to confirm how young and handsome he is before pointing out how cake is bad for her vocal cords, “just like everything else delicious”. Boo hoo.

‘Hey Now’ receives perhaps the biggest response of the evening. It fills the amphitheatre from the river to the hot-dog stand and back again, as a captivated audience sings along. Conclusion: London Grammar’s music is built for big spaces.

The gig/mini festival vibes are over by the Brisbane City Council-approved 10pm, leaving plenty of time for reflecting on what was a pretty damn good day of music.

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Book review: ‘Live Wire’ – Mary Renshaw, John D’Arcy and Gabby D’Arcy (2015)

Bon Scott live wire

YOU could be forgiven for thinking the story of AC/DC and Bon Scott has been pretty well covered in print, and any further books could be deemed unnecessary.

He may have been arguably the greatest Australian rock singer and frontman of all time, but he died 35 years ago, and his story’s been told, right? Wrong.

Scott’s life as the frontman of AC/DC is indeed well documented, but less well-known is the ‘long way to the top’ he travelled to get to the point of global success, before tragically dying in his sleep after a heavy alcohol binge. Scott earned his keep in bands very different to AC/DC before hitting the big time; most prominently bubblegum pop outfit The Valentines in the late sixties, and prog-rockers Fraternity in the early seventies. Ex-wife Irene Thornton’s book, My Bon Scott, released last year, covers the Fraternity era in wonderful detail, so it’s fitting that this title reads almost like a companion piece to that publication, while covering Scott’s earlier Valentines-era life with an affectionate and nostalgic approach.

The authors are well-placed to be authorities on this particular period of Scott’s life. John D’Arcy is a legendary Australian roadie, who fondly remembers the days of ‘one band, one van, one roadie’ when he worked for the Valentines and shared in all their excesses and squalor living in grotty Melbourne flats in the late sixties. Gabby D’Arcy was a fan of the Valentines from day one, and hung with the band as their career progressed, becoming a long-term friend of Scott’s, and Mary Renshaw was a long-term friend (and sometime mistress) from the Valentines days to his death.

So, is there a lot to tell about a band that is little more than a footnote in the career of a great rock singer? The answer is yes, as the man born Ronald Belford Scott packed several lifetime’s worth of debauchery into his short time on earth. Reading like a personal memoir, Live Wire recounts not only tales of drug busts, groupies, life on the road, fast-living rock ‘n’ rollers, and an Australian music scene gone forever, but the humour and good-natured outlook of a person known as one of the wildest men of rock. Through a series of funny and personal recollections, we see the man who never forgot to write letters to his old friends, always came home to family no matter how long he had been overseas, and ultimately, shuffled off this mortal coil aged only 33. Live Wire is a fitting tribute to an Australian legend.

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Lavazza Italian Film Festival Opening Night – Palace Barracks, Brisbane – 1/10/15

se dio vuole

FROCKS were thrown on, champagne and espresso coffee thrown back, and giftbags hungrily snapped up at the opening night of the Italian Film Festival at Palace Barracks cinema on Thursday (1st October).

A four-screen showing of box office hit Se Dio Vuole (God Willing) entertained a large crowd of Brisbane’s cinephiles, on an occasion when everybody in attendance got into the Mediterranean spirit, whatever their origin.

An introduction by Masterchef contestant Georgia Barnes was followed by a screening of the comedy drama, in which a respected but arrogant senior surgeon and atheist (Marco Giallini) is devastated to learn his only son (Enrico Oetiker) intends to become a priest. Determined to bring down the young father, Don Pietro (Alessandro Gassman), who he believes has brainwashed his son, he goes undercover while his family falls apart around him. The question is will he manage to block what he sees as the worst path his son could take, or see the light himself?

A funny, quirky, and at times politically-incorrect film, Se Dio Vuole provides a light-hearted look at the generation gap, religion and family in modern Italy.

Satisfied by our movie experience, all that was left was to polish off the rest of the Italian-style wine, beer and ice-cream to the sounds of the in-house band, for 2015’s Italian Film Festival to be declared well and truly open.

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival runs until October 18.

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Film review: The Postman’s White Nights (Russia, 2014)

the postmans white nights

A remote Russian village is the setting for renowned director Andrei Konchalovsky’s latest film; the sometimes melancholy, sometimes funny, but always captivating The Postman’s White Nights.

A cast of almost entirely amateur actors stars in a tale of life in a dying lake community, in which the line between script and real life is frequently blurred. Adrift on a sea of loneliness, poverty and vodka, a hardy band of colourful characters have a single link to the outside world: their charismatic postman (the excellent Aleksey Tryapitsyn). Puttering along in his tiny boat, the reformed alcoholic delivers mail, bread and pension money, and when he’s not struggling with his own loneliness and despair, is feebly lusting after old schoolmate Irina (Irina Ermolova), who is set to sell up and move to the city. As a way to become closer to Irina, he strikes up a friendship with her young son Timka (Timur Bondarenko), but the race is on to win Irina’s heart before she finds a job in town.

After his boat engine is stolen, the postman’s identity is gone, and he sinks lower than before, having been told it could takes for a new one to arrive. Just as a conclusion seems certain to come, the film abruptly ends with a long shot of the main characters sitting together on a boat crossing the lake, the postman having failed to get a new motor. It’s a finish that only confirms what is made clear constantly throughout: subtlety underpins everything about this film. From passing reminisces about an abandoned schoolyard to hallucinations about cats and drunken ramblings about longing for a long-demolished orphanage – instances that pass in seconds each – this is a bleak tale of a time, people and place forgotten by modern Russia, yet exist in countless similar villages across the great expanse of the world’s largest nation.

the postmans white nights

Exquisite shots of lakes, fields and sunsets which make up the remote, northern Russian environment are a major highlight in a somewhat grim tale that still manages to retain a level of humour and beauty in the everyday interactions between its characters.

The film bagged the Silver Lion award at the Venice International Film Festival, but was withdrawn from the running for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film due to what Konchalovsky described as the overrated “Hollywoodisation” of movies. Whether this was a good move or not is open to discussion, but one thing is certain: Hollywood’s loss is the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival’s gain.

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Live review: The Foundry Re-Launch – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – 20/8/15

the foundry brisbane

‘G’DAY, it’s been a while,’ read the sign over the door of Fortitude Valley’s newest and coolest live music venue for its official re-launch last night (Thursday 20th), as the Foundry reopened its doors for business after what has seemed like a long wait since its initial March opening.

Live performances from Major Leagues, Orphans Orphans, Palms and Dune Rats helped the Wickham Street live venue, arts space and creative studio complex celebrate its return in explosive fashion, in what is another major win for Brisbane’s live music scene.

Many rounds of complimentary drinks and food courtesy of the adjacent Greaser Bar helped a packed house settle in before local lasses (and lad) Major Leagues opened the musical entertainment for the evening with a typically delicate set of pop and shoegaze tracks, with ‘Endless Drain’ sounding particularly good in front of a rapidly growing audience.

Spencer White of local supergroup Orphans Orphans probably had the biggest and most impressive frontman pout on display anywhere in Brisbane during his band’s set, to go with his equally impressive mullet and undeniable lead singer charisma. The quintet – also featuring members of Jungle Giants, Moses Gunn Collective and the Belligerents – put on a wonderfully retro show of ‘60s and ‘70s-tinged pop tracks with clear nods to Jagger, Morrison, and even a little David Johansen.

Orphans Orphans
Orphans Orphans
Palms are a special band. The Sydney quartet seem the type of rough-and-ready gang who would be the most energetic party guests but would probably destroy you in a fight, yet their best songs have titles like ‘Love’ and ‘Don’t Be Ashamed’ – both of which sound fantastic tonight. Despite it being their first gig in over a year, the guys shred with sweaty aplomb, lead by the always-impressive Al Grigg.

Palms
Palms
And so, with the eloquent opening of “We’re Dune Rats, you cunts,” the Brisbane trio let loose a typically shambolic set filled with countless drug references, nudity, offers of sex and C-bombs; basically exactly what has come to be expected from a Dune Rats performance. ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’ is enough to have the audience’s dancing off-tap, while ‘Red Light Green Light’ gets the biggest reaction of the night, leaving DJ Dom Alessio to pick up the pieces.

Dune Rats
Dune Rats
It’s taken a while, but the great news is the Foundry is back and is here to stay this time. There’s already an outstanding list of gigs locked in for the rest of the year, leaving no reason for you to not check it out.

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World Press Photo Opening Night – Brisbane Powerhouse – 7/8/15

THE 58th annual World Press Photo exhibition opened on Friday (7th August) at Brisbane Powerhouse, with another world-class collection of photos to inspire and challenge.

With winners drawn in eight categories from 5,692 photographers in 131 countries, the exhibition provides an opportunity to see some of the world’s best photojournalism of recent months.

The full range of categories includes contemporary issues, daily life, general news, long-term projects, nature, portraits, sports and spot news.

The prestigious World Press Photo of the Year prize went to Dane Mads Nissen, for his touching photo of a gay Russian couple in an intimate embrace in St. Petersburg. Sexual minorities face constant legal and social discrimination in Russia, where being a member of the LGBT community can mean harassment and violence may be a part of everyday life.

Included in the sports section is a shot of the tragic moment Australian cricketer Philip Hughes lay prone seconds after being struck by the cricket ball which killed him, and a lighter moment is provided by a wonderful shot of a father lifting his infant son high enough to see over a fence to catch some Wimbledon tennis action.

An introduction from Brisbane Powerhouse’s Chairman, David Conry, an inspiring speech by Australian First Prize Winner Raphaela Rosella, and wonderful Mediterranean music by locals Mzaza made for an opening evening of appropriate decorum for an event Brisbane is lucky to host.

Get along and check it out.

World Press Photo runs from August 7th-30th at Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm. Entry is free.

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Film review: Last Cab to Darwin (Australia, 2015)

last cab to darwin

BRISBANE’S finest and trendiest film buffs were present on the red carpet for the city’s premiere of the new film by director Jeremy Sims, Last Cab to Darwin, on Sunday night (12th July).

With Sims and star Michael Caton present at Dendy Portside in Hamilton, there was a buzz in the air to welcome what looked on paper to be a promising new addition to Australian film.

In a brief introduction to a packed house, Caton and Sims discussed making the film, with Caton joking about the quality of motor homes the actors and crew stayed in during their seven weeks on the road. “If you dropped the soap in the shower there was no way to pick it up,” he admitted, to peals of laughter.

Sims acknowledged the long process of getting the film funded and made, before Caton cajoled the audience with “If you enjoy the film tell your friends, and if you don’t, shut up!” Cue lots more laughter.

He needn’t have worried, though, as Last Cab to Darwin is an absolute corker of a movie, and can proudly take its place among the pinnacles of Australian film.

Michael Caton, Jeremy Sims (L-R)
Michael Caton, Jeremy Sims (L-R)
Caton plays Rex, a Broken Hill taxi driver, who, having been told he has stomach cancer and has but three months to live, sets off on an epic cross-country trip to Darwin to take advantage of the Northern Territory’s euthanasia laws. In doing so, he leaves behind his sometime-lover and Indigenous neighbour, Polly (the wonderful Ningali Lawford-Wolf), and his mates, who like him, have never left town.

A touching story, told with humour, compassion and tact; Last Cab to Darwin is based on real-life Broken Hill man Max Bell, who was diagnosed with cancer in the 1990s.

Along the way, Rex not only confronts his fears about death, love, loneliness and family, but meets a range of characters who play a part in his choice of final destination and help him decide if what he is doing is right. Mark Coles Smith is exceptional in his role as Tilly, an Oodnagatta native who dreams of being a professional footy player but battles demons of his own, while Emma Hamilton is superb in her role as an English nurse who has a soft spot for Rex, and screen legend Jacki Weaver plays the Darwin doctor at the end of the line.

Caton, best known for his role as the lovable rogue Darryl Kerrigan in candidate-for-the-most-quotable-Aussie-movie-of-all-time The Castle, is a revelation in the lead role. Scenes which could have been brutal or harrowing are enriched with boyish charm and dry humour solely by his presence. He’s the type of actor who can say more with a flicker of his eyelids than many can in a series of lines, and this performance must be up there with his career best.

Music by Brisbane’s own Ed Kuepper and awe-inspiring wide shots of the inner-Australian landscape are the icing on this particular cinematic cake, meaning Last Cab to Darwin comes highly, highly recommended.

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Josh Pyke: Talented Troubadour

josh pyke

FOR a guy promoting his latest album, Josh Pyke isn’t that fussed talking about it.

In fact, he’s happy to discuss anything but. Is this a trait borne from arrogance, or the humility of a man who lets his music do the talking? The smart money is on the latter.

With ARIA award wins, widespread industry acclaim and legions of fans on his side, Pyke could be forgiven for feeling confident about the release of his upcoming album, But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Instead, the Sydneysider is keeping his feet on the ground and aiming – as always – to connect with his fanbase in the most personal way possible.

“For me, the biggest barometer for success is good touring,” he says. “Last year was the strongest touring I had done in my career. It was incredibly gratifying at that point in my career; ten years in and with four albums at that point. To be playing to 3500 people at a sold-out solo show in Melbourne felt incredible. My hope is to play great shows to people who really want to be there. I want my songs to become part of peoples’ lives in some way. The best feedback I get is when people say one of my songs was played at their wedding or when people get tattoos of my lyrics or something like that. I want to write songs that mean something to people.”

The 37 year-old releases his fifth full-length on July 31, but what’s getting him most impassioned right now is the current state of the creative industries.

“I think about this stuff a lot,” he says. “How can people do their best work and earn a living – even a modest one – that will allow them to do it full-time and become an absolute gun at what they do? The creative industries are passion industries, so [they] don’t pay very well, and you’ll often hear the argument that [people in creative industries] are doing what they love, so why should they get paid at all? It’s just a ridiculous argument, because people value creativity. They value it enough to steal it; they just don’t value how it gets made. I kind of understand that as a consumer, but the only way to counter it is to figure out a way to remunerate artists without having much of an impact on general consumers. As much as subscription services aren’t paying artists huge amounts yet, I’m hopeful they will at some point. I like that fact they offer the consumer a great product and the consumer can feel virtuous in knowing they are paying for what they are consuming, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. But I think as soon as you create the barrier of a payment it makes the consumer not want to do it, and begins the cycle of rhetoric and fucking bullshit like ‘You don’t deserve to get paid,’ ‘You’re doing what you love,’ ‘The labels are the problem,’ and all this stuff. I don’t think it’s really fair that people who aren’t experts in the music industry or being a musician to have such strong opinions on it; it really annoys me, you know? I don’t have really strong opinions on how to be an accountant or a teacher. I think they are really important jobs and I don’t begrudge those people getting paid for what they do because they’re experts at something I can’t do. But you don’t see that in the creative arts, because everybody has an opinion because it’s a subjective thing.”

So what about the small business of that new album? Surely Pyke has something to say about it.

“I feel good,” he says. “I love the record and I feel very proud it and the development it is from my previous stuff. It’s always scary at the same time; basically inviting people to judge it. But I’m super-proud of it and that’s as much assurance as I can have about it.”

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is a heavily thematic story of Pyke’s life over the last couple of years, with many lyrically-rich stories for fans to pick apart.

“I hadn’t given it a lot of thought up until I started being asked about it in interviews,” he says. “I kind of realised that the theme is the idea of there being a line in your life that you have to draw. You either cross over it and it’s a brave thing to do, or it’s a brave thing to not cross over it. How those choices manifest themselves in your life; that seems to be a theme which pops up in a few of the songs. There have been a lot of things that I don’t want to talk about which have inspired a lot of the songs. There was a particular point where there was something affecting my life and I had to decide to deal or not deal with it, and on reflection it’s come up a lot.”

It may have a cover adorned with a picture of Charles Redheffer, the American inventor who claimed to have invented a perpetual motion machine in 1812, but it’s an album heavy with symbolism relevant to today.

“I was looking for a tattoo idea and I liked the idea of an image of something that doesn’t stop,” Pyke says. “When I get tattoos I want them to remind me of something that’s important to me; I thought it was a good thing to [depict] the idea of not stopping and keeping moving forward. Then when I started researching it and I found out there was no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, it was definitely less appealing but it made me think more about that. When I found the story about Redheffer pulling a swifty over everyone I thought of this image of an old man cranking the wheel while eating a sandwich, and I thought it was a good metaphor for what I see is the state of the world; forging ahead without thinking of the future. Politicians aren’t thinking of sustainable ways of living, and I don’t just mean environmentally, but culturally as well. They’ll just win elections and do things that get them across the line now. It also made me think about creativity and my relationship about creativity, and how creativity begets other creativity; it never stops. I don’t know where my songs end up.”

Having worked with a wide range of Australian musicians, it was only natural that Pyke sought to collaborate on But For All These Shrinking Hearts. Dustin Tebbutt was the first to get the call.

“Dustin is a friend of mine anyway,” Pyke says. “Right towards the end of when I’m making a record, I get to a point when I feel like I’ve done the bulk of the work. I had about 15 songs which I was very happy with, but I think it’s good at that point to step outside your comfort zone and see if you can do any magical last-minute thing when you’re not under pressure. I didn’t know Marcus [Azon], but I was in a café close to my house and I heard this song and thought I would love to write with someone with those sensibilities. I asked the lady at the café and she said it was Jinja Safari. I called up my manager and asked if he could hook me up with a co-write and he said ‘Oh, we just started managing those guys.’ He came over and we wrote a couple of songs, one of which didn’t make it onto the album. It was really comfortable and inspired; I felt that we had a really creative synergy.”

Laughing in the face of the rule warning of working with children and animals, Pyke hired his son to add vocals to the end of ‘Hollering Hearts’.

“He’s four and a half now,” he says. “I had the final mix of the song and thought I just needed something more chant-y at the end. He sang it into my phone and I e-mailed it down to John [Castle, producer]; he put it into the mix and you can definitely hear it in there. It’s a nice moment.”

But For All These Shrinking Hearts is out July 31.

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Andrew Strong: “Touring with the Rolling Stones was one of the highlights”

andrew strong

HE may be best known for being the singer in Ireland’s hardest-working semi-fictional soul band, but Andrew Strong has a voice that can belt out the blues with the best of them.

Thrust into the spotlight at the tender age of 16 when The Commitments movie made him an international star, Dubliner Strong has enjoyed a long and varied career in music. His upcoming headlining slot at Blues on Broadbeach on May 24 will see the 41 year-old return to his roots and the songs that made him famous, but with a healthy dollop of blues ladled on top.

“It’s predominantly a Commitments show,” he says. “Probably 70 percent Commitments. I do some Jimi Hendrix, some Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, some Spencer Davis songs. I went out to Australia about two years ago with this kind of show and it was very popular, so we’ll go out, put on the suits and sing all the Commitments stuff.”

After distancing himself from the Commitments’ music in the years following the 1991 release of the movie, Strong was reunited with the band for their 20-year reunion.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t done this kind of show in 20 years,” he says. “Prior to this I’d been doing my own stuff. Basically what happened was when [the Commitments] got together to do the reunion a couple of years back, there was a strong void there for me to go out and do this kind of show. I enjoyed it, but I thought it’s not the sort of thing I’m going to keep doing, but there are people out there who really wanted to see this kind of show and me sing these songs. So, this will be effectively my last of this kind of show in Australia. This will be my third tour in Australia; I’ve played probably 40 shows doing this ‘Andrew Strong – The Commitments’ show, so when I come back it’ll be more kind of Andrew Strong-themed.”

Strong’s powerful voice and electric live performances have earned him tour slots with Elton John and Lenny Kravitz, as well as an invitation to perform at the Princess of Norway’s wedding.

“There are a lot of things [in my career] I’m very proud of,” he says. “Touring with the Rolling Stones was one of the highlights. It was great to go out on the road for eight shows with them, then come back home and get a call a week later to go out and do a couple more shows; that was a great buzz and a great experience. After I did the movie, for some reason I got a lot of respect from singers across the board. I look at the movie; I did it when I was 16. To be a part of something that, 20 years later, is still kind of relevant is an achievement.”

Strong’s soul and blues credentials were cemented even further when he was asked to perform with the Blues Brothers Band in the nineties; something which came about in a less-than-direct fashion.

“I know Ringo Starr’s kids,” Strong says. “I met them through the guy who wrote the screenplay for The Commitments. Their mother was married to the guy who owned all the Hard Rock Cafes; he sold those and bought all these Houses of Blues. Basically, the Blues Brothers Band were opening all these venues and they asked me would I come over and sing at it, and I thought it would be great. I got the opportunity to sing with Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper and all those guys; we played in L.A. and Boston. It was great, man. It was great to play with those guys. I remember Steve Cropper came up to me in Boston and said ‘Hey man, I was so happy you recorded my songs, because I needed the money.’”

With two Commitments albums, four solo albums and a greatest hits collection under his belt, Strong is looking towards his next release.

“A lot has gone on in my life over the last year or so; I had a son and moved into a new home,” he says. “This year, I really want to focus on new material for a new album. Hopefully by the end of the year or the beginning of next year I’ll have a new record out. When I come back from Australia, I’ll been doing some shows around Europe; some festivals and stuff like that. I also have a side project band, The Bone Yard Boys; we’ve been working together for about eight years, and I’d like to put an album out. I’d be a happy camper if I could come back Down Under and do an Andrew Strong tour next year.”

ANDREW STRONG PLAYS BLUES ON BROADBEACH, MAY 24.

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Review: Heya Launch Party – Fortitude Valley, Brisbane – 27/3/15

heya bar

Heya! It’s a greeting. It’s a song by OutKast. It’s Japanese for room and it’s now the latest addition to the Valley, inspired by the street markets of South East Asia and the alleyways and bars of the Golden Gai in Shinjuku.

So says the literature accompanying the invite to the opening party of Fortitude Valley’s newest drinking den, restaurant and live music venue: Heya Bar, located at 367 Brunswick Street.

Aligning your venue with a platinum-selling pop single, the sublime street food of South East Asia and one of the coolest nightspots around might seem cocksure to some, but after briefly sampling the ambience at the newly-opened venue, this reviewer can confirm that the description of the feel and fare on offer is just about right on the money.

The basement-level venue is at once dark but inviting; with a range of seating areas, each with an ambience of their own. A bar extensively decorated with liquor bottles dangling from above and wallpaper made from vintage comics divides the pool tables and retro video games from the kitchen and live stage, with horseshoe-shaped booths dimly lit by candles inviting punters to sit down and not get up again for several hours.

A range of craft beers, cocktails, ciders and good ol’ Sapporo on tap go down equally as well as the house special; a frozen espresso martini slushie topped with a handsome dollop of cream. Street eats on the evening included sashimi of kingfish and tuna, duck and spiced honey rice paper rolls, mushroom and bacon gyoza, mini crab and corn chiko rolls (perhaps never before has South East Asian and Australian cuisine collided so wonderfully) and the expertly-executed mini cheeseburger spring rolls. I would love to be able to comment on the quality of music on show for the evening, but the high standard and frequency of food being delivered to my table meant I wasn’t moving anywhere for quite an extended period of time (bands who play here in the future – you have major competition here).

Heya Bar’s appeal doesn’t lie in a sense of novelty or peculiarity that’s going to wear off by the second or third visit like a lot of similar venues. Instead, there seems to be enough of a wealth of ideas on offer to make it a prospect for Brisbanites to enjoy for the long-term. Hurrah for Heya.

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Live review: Kingswood + Lurch & Chief + The Belligerents – The Triffid, Brisbane – 21/3/15

kingswood brisbane

SUPER cell storms and flash flooding be damned; when Brisbane wants to enjoy some quality rock, there ain’t no weather going to get in our way.

While a freak afternoon downpour may have put the dampeners on many a punter’s Saturday night plans, a sold-out Triffid hosted a triumphant triplet of bands, each of which is doing great things for Australian music right now.

First up is Brisbane’s own The Belligerents who kick the night into gear and show how much they have come into themselves in the past couple of years. Their penultimate song – and recent single – ‘In My Way’ is a major step forward musically for the band, while Jim Griffin’s space-rock guitar takes their sound to a new, stratospheric level.

Melbourne six-piece Lurch & Chief have got to be one of the most exciting new(-ish) bands in Australia at the moment. Fill the superlative jar up to the brim and let it overflow all down your shirt and fill it up again; these guys are bloody brilliant. The juxtaposition between the towering monster vocals of Hayden Somerville and Lilibeth Hall’s more poised approach is a joy to behold, as Somerville throws his arms and hair around the stage and Hall remains the epitome of cool in the centre. New tracks from their upcoming EP sit well next to the more well-known ‘We Are The Same’ and even their cover of Chris Isaak’s god-awful ‘Wicked Game’ comes off wonderfully.

Kingswood are another band flying high right now, with a new album earning rave reviews, a national tour almost in the can and their biggest home-town shows to date just behind them. After a fitting rock ‘n’ roll delay, the lavishly-maned quartet waste no time getting among the riffs with a hard-hitting opening trio of ‘She’s My Baby’, ‘All Too Much’ and ‘Sucker Punch’, in a blistering opening. Referring to the audience as “beautiful people”, frontman Fergus Linacre teases with the words “and I don’t say the beautiful thing every night”.

Perhaps, though, the real star of Kingswood is guitarist Alex Laska; his driving riffs and soaring solos are the standout feature of this international-quality band, although the four parts are as essential to the make-up of the band as each other. Their top-level song-writing on the recently-released Microscopic Wars is probably best epitomised by ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’; a song that opts for groovy sleaze over rockin’ riffs, their ‘Nightclubbing’ if you like. ‘Tremors’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ go down well with an audience getting into the occasion, while the titanic ‘Ohio’ provokes such a mass sing-along that Linacre hardly needs to bother.

Sometimes you’re lucky to get one band on a bill firing on all cylinders, but this gig provided three. Sometimes it never rains but it pours.

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Live review: Velociraptor + SPOD + White Lodge – The Foundry Official Launch, Brisbane – 6/3/15

the foundry brisbane

Foundry: noun (plural foundries). A workshop or factory for casting metal.

Whether it was sculpted in sound/moulded in music/forged in the fires of rock ‘n’ roll (that’s my bad foundry puns exhausted), the newest and most promising live music venue in Brisbane has risen from the ashes (not literally) of the old Prince Consort Backpackers on Wickham Street in Fortitude Valley. It was Friday’s official launch party that gave people a chance to check out a new and potentially important part of their social lives. Thankfully, expectations were exceeded.

The first and most important thing to note about the Foundry is that it’s not just another bar with a stage. Besides the live music area and room for 300 punters, there’s a deck overlooking the Elephant pub, pool tables, arcade games, a creative hub of offices and studios, a spacious green room and accommodation for travelling artists. For those of us who care, it’s good to know that there’s a sustainable plan in place to ensure the Foundry remains an ongoing concern for the long-term, but for everyone else, it’s just good to know there’s a pretty cool new joint in which to chuck back some brews and see some bands on a Friday night. This particular Friday night would feature White Lodge, SPOD and Velociraptor.

With the words “Congratulations, Brisbane. I’m back!” SPOD bounded onto the stage and began with a rant at White Lodge’s “rookie mistake” of leaving their pedals onstage and unguarded, before dishing out bags of pork crackle to eager punters. Appropriately introducing ‘Deadshits’ as being “for all you guys up the back having chats like cunts,” the Sydneysider made it obvious he’s in fine, fighting form, before taking a swing at Andrew WK by pointing out his second song ‘Makin’ Party’ was written in 1996, five years before ‘Party Hard’. Other tidbits of wisdom from the mouth of the man include “Robert Downey Jr’s face is like my arse: perfect,” before Jeremy Neale joined in the offbeat brilliance on ‘Couple of Drinks’ and lyrics were forgotten on his closing track. Brilliant.

I was recently chatting with a mate about the consistent quality of acts booked at the weekly Trainspotters gigs at the Grand Central Hotel in Brisbane city, and the exchange contained a sentence along the lines of “Whoever is booking the bands really knows their shit and should be bought a pint.” It turns out that shit-knower is Patrick Balfe, who will be filling the same role for the Foundry as part of a three-man leadership team with building manager Brett Gibson and venue manager (and impressively-moustachioed Velociraptor geetar-guy) Corey Herekiuha. All signs point to promising.

It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that Velociraptor themselves be the band to headline. I count nine members onstage (I think), and all their usual charm and energy is present, as Jeremy Neale leads them through ‘In the Springtime’, ‘Robocop’ and ‘Sleep With the Fishes’, or “the hits”, as he refers to them. Although it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen them – they have a guy on guitar I don’t recognise, who looks like he’s never shaved – they’ve lost none of their rabid zeal, despite key members having things like running a new bar to worry about.

The thing is, though, this event isn’t really about the music; it’s about the venue, and the Foundry has all the ingredients to be up there with the best small live music joints in Brisbane. Get among its Facebook events page and go see for yourself.

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Live review: Marilyn Manson + Apocalyptica + Deathstars – The Tivoli, Brisbane – 27/2/15

marilyn manson brisbane

BY NOW you’ve seen all the headlines, heard the gossip and checked out the grainy Instagram footage.

So let’s cut to the chase here: this gig will forever be remembered as the one in which Johnny Depp popped his pirate-y headband around the curtain and joined Marilyn Manson for his Sidewave encore.

The 51 year-old – in the country to shoot the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series – already made an appearance at this week’s Foo Fighters gig, and while he may have given a Brisbane audience much more than they could have hoped for, it’s shock rocker Manson who should be most grateful to the actor for putting some much needed shine on an otherwise lethargic and forgetful performance.

After a short opening set from Swedish rockers Deathstars and an impressive flurry of intricate, classical-tinged metal tracks from Finnish cello-toting titans Apocalyptica – the latter earning huge cheers from a pumped audience – the lights dim and dark rumblings get the hardcore at front-and-centre excited.

Manson skulks onto the stage with hair looking like he’s been bombing his car down the freeway with his head out the window, as his band open with recent single ‘Deep Six’. While a slow opening building to some sort of release might be expected from Manson, all we mostly get are mumbled vocals and the view of the Pale Emperor’s back throughout ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘mOBSCENE’, as the exalted one seems happy to let his band do most of the work, while he sits back and presumably saves himself for the main event at Soundwave. When he does find it appropriate to put some effort into his vocals he sounds great, but these moments are unfortunately few and far between. Muttering ‘Brisbane, Brisbane, Brisbane’ and pausing like you’re trying to think of something to say about the city between songs isn’t that cool either. Marilyn, we don’t expect some anecdote about how you love the beach at Southbank; we just want to see you play like you mean it, man.

‘Sweet Dreams’ sounds great because it’s simply a damn great song and it’d take someone even more apathetic than Manson to stuff it up, while laidback newer track ‘Third Day of a Seven Day Binge’ at least takes less effort to sound like it’s meant to. An encore – featuring the aforementioned pirate-y one – of ‘The Beautiful People’ is enough to finally get the audience excited as every camera phone in the room suddenly makes an elevated appearance, and while it’s this little episode that will make history, it doesn’t tell the true story of this gig. Manson used to look and sound dangerous, but now he’s just another bored middle-aged guy at a rock concert, albeit one who happens to be holding the microphone.

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