Tag Archives: sydney

Feature interview: Boy and Bear are bouncing back

Boy and Bear Paul McBride Scenestr interview

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.”

For Scenestr

Record review: Green Buzzard – Space Man Rodeo (2017, EP)

green-buzzard-space-man-rodeo-ep-cover-art

*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.

For The Brag

Richie Ramone: 1, 2, 3, 4…

richie ramone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richie Ramone plays:

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

Friday 29th April 2016
Wooly Mammoth – Brisbane QLD

Saturday 30th April 2016
Social Club – Sydney NSW

Sunday 1st May 2016
Cherry Rock, Melbourne VIC

For Scenestr

Record review: Australia – Portraits of People, Places and Movies (2016, LP)

australia the band album

There’s a reason it took until just recently for someone to have the gonads to call their band Australia: it’s a moniker that will invite all manner of cliché and lame comment. It’s a good job then that the Sydney group, formed by core members Guy Fenech, Oliver Marlan and Nick Franklin, have the musical chops to give anyone who hears them something else to consider; mainly that they are an indie-pop band with imagination and talent coming out of their ears. The lead single from their debut album, ‘Wake in Fright’, provides one of the best examples of this. A foreboding bass line, Fenech’s crooning, and distorted guitars make for a track that ticks boxes on many levels. There’s big production to match all the big synth numbers, while things get softer on the more sentimental ‘In My Dreams’ and ‘Not the Place I Know’, on which Fenech does a decent melancholy Bowie for an impressive five minutes. The jewel in the stereotypically-antipodean synth-pop crown is the danceable ‘Love is Better’, which brings the ’80s kicking and screaming into the present with unstoppable momentum and a shout-along chorus. Overall, it’s a lot of fun and it’s clear the band doesn’t take itself too seriously despite the lofty name (their T-shirts read “Australia – the band. Not the country, not a country band”). Tip: for best results, type ‘Australia – the band’ when Googling.

For The Brag

Record review: Bad//Dreems – Dogs at Bay (2015, LP)

bad dreems dogs at bay album cover

Ahh; take a deep breath and suck in the smell of stale beer, man sweat and fetid urinals: pub rock is back and it’s as welcome as an icy stubby to a parched throat in the summertime. Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems are perfectly placed to provide Aussie rock with a shot in the arm with this debut album, having put in the hard yards touring at home and overseas and recently soaked the Splendour stage in much of the contents of their rider. The result is their music is no longer left of the dial, as their songwriting hero Paul Westerberg would say, but easily accessible to anyone with a penchant for heart-on-sleeve rock and wonderfully raw live shows. An early highlight is ‘Bogan Pride’, on which frontman Ben Marwe announces “Friday night and I’m five pills deep, I can’t think straight,” before questioning the motives of those overly-muscular boneheads every festival-goer loves to hate. Gutsy singles ‘Cuffed and Collared’ and ‘Dumb Ideas’ provide the rockier moments, but the real magic is to be found among the nostalgic ‘Hume’ and ‘Ghost Gums’; moments of sunburnt Australiana which mark this album as a guitar-rock classic. In true Westerberg style, though, the quartet know a record isn’t complete without at least three minutes of devastating loneliness; provided in the form of ‘My Only Friend’. Top-drawer production by the legendary Mark Opitz helps their honest and often bleak Australian world view come to the fore, on an album that will sound just as good at home as it will down the pub. Tip: best served with a refreshing pint of West End.

For The Brag

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.

For Scenestr

Alex Wilson of sleepmakeswaves: “We’ve always been inspired by punk-rock”

sleepmakeswaves

HAVING a love of maps and map-making might not be the most rock ‘n’ roll thing to admit to, but Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves aren’t your average rock band.

The instrumental post-rock quartet have just released their new album, Love of Cartography, which will take their live performances to a new level, says bassist Alex Wilson.

“The whole album title came from a discussion that me and our guitarist Otto [Wicks-Green] were having about how we really love maps,” he says. “We wrote a couple of songs on acoustic guitars and we were trying to come up with some sort of mid-western indie-rock meets Kurt Vile kind of side-project called Love of Cartography, and it never eventuated. When we were actually trying to come up with names for this record, it just kind of stuck, and it’s this whole metaphor of map-making as a touring band, but also being at a time of your life where you’re making maps for the rest of your time on this earth as well. It’s got a bit of mystery and hopefully people can take something away from it in an individual way as well.”

It’s been three years since the band’s debut album, and in that time they’ve racked up eight Australian tours, three European tours, a US tour and an appearance at SWSW; experiences which affected the making of Love of Cartography, Wilson says.

“One of the things was we realised was that a lot of what matters to us these days is our live performances. We started getting this idea that we wanted to reflect the energy and importance that we placed onto the live show, and there was a conscious effort to balance that new-found obsession with the live performance and making a record in the studio. I don’t think we would have been brought to that place or developed the capability to do that record had we not spent so much time playing our old songs on the road and finding out what about them worked live and what was more a studio kind of thing. It’s interesting for an instrumental post-rock band, because so much of the power of the music comes out of that sternum-rattling volume we can get out of a big PA. I like to think we got closer this time that we did before.”

Turning to their fans for help to make the album is an approach that could have gone either way, but luckily a crowd-funding campaign paid off – and then some.

“It all comes down to the economics of being in a band at our level,” Wilson says. “We’re not trying to put the boot into any fans at all, but the realistic thing is that people don’t pay as much money for your music as they used to, but they’re still demanding the same level of quality. We thought long and hard about it, and decided on balance that it would be possible to run a campaign in an honest and authentic way, and deliver extra quality and that step up people want. It was an interesting process for us because we always came out of a DIY scene and had done everything up to that point off our own backs, so it was a bit of a change to the way we saw ourselves as a band. On the plus side, there was the amount of support and goodwill we got; we asked for $25,000 and I was on the edge of my seat thinking ‘what if this is a total failure and absolutely bombs?’ So, to actually overshoot that and wind up with $30,000 to spend alongside what we were putting in ourselves, it was an amazing, gratifying experience that blew us away. But it’s that Spiderman thing: with great power comes great responsibility.”

So, how have four guys with no vocalist managed to engage with so many audiences around the world?

“What we’ve tried to do is create a physical vibe between the four of us on-stage,” Wilson says. “I think we’ve always been inspired by punk-rock in that way; the sort of bands that were really big influences on me and Jonathan [Khor, guitar] were old post-hardcore bands like Alexisonfire and At The Drive-In. Even though they had vocalists, the lyrics were never so much the point. It was more about the energy of four young men trying to leave a bucket of sweat on the stage and hopefully break a few things in the process.”

The band are currently in the middle of the Australian leg of their tour, with one eye on a homecoming show to rap up the jaunt.

“We’re really looking forward to finishing up the tour on August 16th at Manning Bar,” Wilson says. “We’ve had a lot of good times there before and it’ll be really great. We want to try to get back to Europe later in the year and do some shows. This is the first time we’re doing a serious, worldwide, coordinated album release, so from my perspective it’s all new territory. I’m just waiting to see what happens.”

SLEEPMAKESWAVES PLAY MANNING BAR AUG 16. LOVE OF CARTOGRAPHY IS OUT NOW.

For The Brag

Interview: Sam Lockwood of the Jezabels

jezabels

SOME bands have got sass by the spadeful and The Jezabels are at the top of the pile of such bands: quite simply, they are Australian music royalty. Their 2011 debut Prisoner hit number two on the ARIA album chart; a feat matched by this year’s majestic follow-up The Brink. We chat with lead guitarist Sam Lockwood prior to their much-anticipated appearance at Splendour in the Grass.

Your first show was in 2007 was at a Battle of the Bands competition at a Sydney university. Just recently you played at the Sydney Opera House. Has the Jezabels conquered Sydney, so to speak?

No-one can conquer Sydney. It’s too wild a beast. But I can say we felt like we’d conquered something from when we sold out the Hopetoun Hotel a few years ago. Ever since then Sydney has been really good to us. So I guess instead of conquering, we feel like we owe Sydney a great performance whenever we return.

In an early interview one of you said you had to rework tracks from Prisoner to make them less complicated to play live. How much of an influence did that have when writing The Brink?

Prisoner was the first album where we went a bit experimental with the recording process. But what we didn’t think about was recreating the experimentation live. It’s hard to play five guitar layers at once. So, for The Brink we stripped everything back and tried to recreate our live sounds. It was a very liberating process.

What was it about London that made it a good place to record the album? And were you constantly bumping into other Aussie bands?

I saw Matt Corby at our rehearsal studio and subsequently went to his show and he blew my mind, so that was amazing. We became friends with Michael Tomlinson from Yves Klein Blue as well. There are a fair few Australians over there.

Lachlan Mitchell produced your EPs and your first album. Dan Grech-Marguerat worked on The Brink. How different are their styles of production? When looking for a producer, is it the catalogue of artists they have produced that initially attracts you to them?

They are actually surprisingly similar. I mean I didn’t really notice anything different. The most important thing that a producer needs to be is nice, and both Lachlan and Dan are the most beautiful people you could ever meet. For Dan, we saw that he’d worked with artists like Radiohead, Lana del Rey and the Scissor Sisters. He’d had great experience with pop and alternative stuff, and I think we have elements of both in our music. We felt he could be perfect.

How has The Brink been going down live overseas? Which country’s audience reaction has surprised you the most?

It’s been great. We’ve got awesome fans all over the world now. I’d say Germany is a special place for us. I don’t know why the Germans take to us so well – but honestly, I’ve noticed that Germans are very similar to Australians. Maybe that’s it.

A number of Australian musicians have covered your songs. Is there one that appeals to you most, and why?

Two would stick out for me. Firstly, Josh Pyke’s cover of ‘Endless Summer’ was such a great thing because he was the first big artist to take us out on the road. He’s a good friend and an awesome human. But also Big Scary’s cover of ‘Hurt Me’ was beautiful too. They are also great people and musicians, so that was quite amazing.

You’ve been on the road almost constantly for the past two years. What do you enjoy most about touring and what is the secret to staying sane or at least emotionally and spiritually coherent?

First of all, you don’t really stay that sane. I feel, because we spend our time with the same people constantly, you tend to lose some essential social skills. But it’s seriously amazing. It does get hard, however the hard times are the ones you remember the most.

Who on this year’s Splendour line-up would the entire band most like to share an evening with at a good Byron Bay restaurant?

Geez, I’ll take that one and say Future Islands. We saw them play in London a few years ago and we’re all big fans of theirs. That would be a fun evening, I think.

For Splendour in the Grass 2014

Record review: Lanie Lane – Night Shade (2014, LP)

lanie lane night shade

Ahh, how good it is to have a new album from Lanie Lane. It’s been a long three years since the Sydneysider’s debut To The Horses, in which time she’s supported Jack White and Hall & Oates before falling a little off the radar. Such a break brings with it the chance of new sonic territories being explored, and the first thing that hints at a change in musical direction is the distinct lack of anything rockabilly-related on the cover. ‘I See You’ is the first of several more measured and tender tracks from the 27 year-old, as it quickly becomes clear that this album will go a long way to shaking off the ’50s rockabilly pin-up crown that Lane had previously made for herself. However, while the uptempo bops are seemingly a thing of the past, the restrained nature of Lane’s vocals on a series of ballads and country-pop numbers only serves to make them even more entrancing, as on the soaring ‘La Loba’ and later number ‘Made For It’. Single ‘Celeste’ begins with some wonderfully jangly guitar lines before Lane’s smooth and soulful vocals will make you not give a damn that rockabilly ever existed. ‘No Sound’ is the track closest to the Tarantino-flavoured work of Lanie Lane of old and is most likely to get a bar gig kicking into gear, and while the ten-and-a-half-minute ‘Mother’ perhaps takes the mick, it’s still the slower tracks that sound best. It’ll be interesting to see how Lane pulls these songs off live, and what lies ahead for her in terms of how any future record sounds, but a move this ballsy deserves admiration and support. While Night Shade is a big change in style and might not please everyone, the value of what’s been added is worth many times that of what’s been lost. (Ivy League Records)

For mX

Richard Cartwright of Richard In Your Mind: “If you want to have a spliff in the morning, you can”

richard in your mind

BLUE MOUNTAINS psychedelic/pop quintet Richard In Your Mind have returned with Ponderosa, their most accomplished album to date.

Band leader Richard Cartwright explains how it came together and why marching to the beat of your own drum is a good thing, ahead of their Sydney shows.

“People seem to get it,” he says. I think it’s kind of a weird album I guess, although that’s for other people to decide. There are songs on there that stick out like a sore thumb, but we decided we’d keep them on there anyway because that’s what we like and what we wanted to do, and it seems that other people are like ‘it’s great that you did that’ instead of ‘you really messed up the whole thing by doing that’. So, we’ve been pleasantly surprised that people get it, and that’s cool.”

A 14-track collection of psychedelic pop gems mixed and produced by regular cohort SPOD, Ponderosa features woozy instrumentals, waves of percussion and a few surprises.

“There’s one called ‘Good Morning’ and even a little of ‘My Volcano’; they’re kind of synthy and groovy,” Cartwright says. “’Good Morning’ especially has a pitch-shifted and distorted vocal. It’s kind of noisy. We wrote heaps more songs than we put on the album. We basically kind of just chose the best. In making the list, we played around a lot before deciding. There are still heaps of songs we really like that didn’t make it on, but we tried to balance the instrumental tracks in between the songy-songs to make sure people weren’t getting too lost in an instrumental before giving them another kind of stronger-feeling anchored to a proper song. In the long run, there’s an argument for not having too much coherence. I feel like there’s always more work to be done leading up to releasing it, but we’ve had it ready for a little while now, and now it’s not just in our heads, it’s in the world. We wanted to make sure we got it right. It took as long as it did, and once it was finished it was decided we were putting it out in five months, which seemed like ages, but time is on a slope and it goes fast and here we are now. It feels good.”

The singer explains how the off-kilter album found its title after a discussion about the Cartwright family on the American TV Western Bonanza.

“Well, I’m a Cartwright,” he says. “Not that I really grew up watching a lot of Bonanza, but my parents and people in the generation above did grow up with it would talk about Bonanza and start singing the tune to me. It was only recently when my mother came to visit and we were talking about Bonanza that she mentioned that the ranch was called Ponderosa out of the blue, and I thought it was a kick-arse name for something. The whole album is a diverse album; it goes to different places, but in a way this idea of home and trying to describe the different things that stand for a unified whole or the quest for home or something; it’s not specific but it’s a vibe.”

While the influences and variety of sounds on Ponderosa are as eclectic as they come, single ‘Hammered’ is a frolicking ray of sunny pop that pays tribute to daytime indulgence, although Cartwright admits it’s not necessarily about alcohol.

“It depends on what you’re getting hammered on, really,” he says. “With booze you should wait a little bit, until you’ve done something, but if you’ve got the day off, the sun is shining and you want to have a spliff in the morning, you can.”

When he’s not getting loaded in the daytime, Cartwright can probably be found collecting ingredients for dinner, as described on ‘Four Leaf Clover Salad’. But how many four leaf clovers constitute a salad?

“I think it’s the same rule as ‘a few’, so three,” he laughs. “Two is only a couple of four leaf clovers, so obviously you’ll want more, so I’d say three is enough for a little salad. My wife is really good at finding four leaf clovers – she finds them constantly, and the way you get luck is by eating them, or so she tells me. I was walking the dog one day and that concept occurred to me, as I think I did eat a few.”

Expect upcoming Richard In Your Mind shows along the east coast to be heavy with new material.

“To start with, it’s a small eastern tour; Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Byron Bay, Brisbane and stuff. Then, hopefully we’ll play a bunch more shows. We’ve played a couple of shows, mainly focussing on the new songs. We want to make sure a couple of the new songs are more up-to-scratch, but at the moment our set is probably 50 percent new stuff. We’ll try to get it up to about 75 percent new stuff, while keeping songs we’ve always enjoyed playing live as well.”

RICHARD IN YOUR MIND PLAY THE LANDSDOWNE FRIDAY OCTOBER 17 AND NEWTOWN FESTIVAL SUNDAY NOVEMBER 9. PONDEROSA IS OUT NOW.

For The Brag

Record review: Mere Women – Your Town (2014, LP)

mere women your town

DIY post-punk trio Mere Women recorded their second album in a cold-storage warehouse, and if ever a record’s surroundings affected the final sound, it’s here.

All hauntingly-focussed vocals, stabbing guitars and dark disdain, Your Town is the type of brutally abrasive collection of songs that would never make sense played in daylight or with anything on your mind except thoughts of anger, helplessness and schadenfreude.

The Sydney trio of keyboardist/singer Amy Wilson, drummer Katrina Byrne and guitarist Flyn Mckinnirey have been knocking around since 2011, and their 2012 debut Old Life earned them acclaim as an underground act worth keeping an eye on. Since then they have honed in on a more cohesive sound that perfectly captures the crushing, claustrophobic feeling of small-town-anywhere in all its depressing glory.

If the title track were a person, it’d be one of those pent-up, vaguely unhinged people you meet on public transport who fill you with equal amounts of intrigue and dread. Single ‘Our Street’ is the musical manifestation of suburban solitude, as Wilson asks “will you still want me when I’m old and frail?” and “will you think of me when I’m cold and pale?” with a jagged pop melody, as Mckinnirey’s relentless riffs flail and stab.

Waiting for the gloom to ease off over ten songs is a long and exhausting process, but by the time closer ‘Moon Creeper’ tries to lull you into a false sense of security with a soft opening 30 seconds, you know it isn’t going to happen, and another Mckinnirey riff proves you right.

Overall, Your Town is a well-crafted and worthwhile album of post-punk, even if after listening to it you’ll want it to creep back into the shadows of the ill-lit warehouse it crawled out of. This is music for dank basements and crushed hopes.

For FasterLouder

Ella Hooper: “It’s been going nuts live”

Ella Hooper

WITH her stint as team captain on Spicks and Specks at an end, former Killing Heidi lead singer Ella Hooper is getting back in touch with her first love; making music.

The 31 year-old’s new single from upcoming album In Tongues is ‘The Red Shoes’; a take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.

“I think it’s so evocative,” she says. “It’s well-covered territory; everyone’s had a go at reinterpreting this tale. I think the biggest influence on me was actually the [1948] film; the beautiful adaptation that was done around the ballet, where the ballerina dances herself to death. It’s about obsession, but remains very delicate and classy with the way it handles it. I think with this whole album, I’m looking at lots of different ways that things can take you over and push you off your natural path, and sometimes that’s a bad thing and sometimes it’s a good thing. ‘The Red Shoes’ is a little bit of both, I think.”

Fans of Killing Heidi will find much to like about the new single, but Hooper says to expect a few new ingredients throughout the record.

“[‘The Red Shoes’] is actually the rockier side of the album,” she says. “It’s not all like this. My first single ‘Low High’ is probably a better indication of the meat of the record, but I really wanted to get ‘The Red Shoes’ out there too because it is my rockier, more anthemic song, and it’s been going nuts live. There’s probably two or three other tracks in this vein, and the rest is more ethereal and a bit more kooky.”

While these are the first tentative steps into a solo career for Hooper, she was able to count on an old friend for support and musical direction.

“There’s definitely a big influence from my producer Jan Skubiszewski,” she says. “He’s Way Of The Eagle; he’s been around for years and has done lots of great stuff. He comes from a more urban background, so that was another reason I wanted to put down the guitar for a bit. I write almost all my stuff on guitar, so I wanted to put that down and get into a studio with Jan to work with some beats and do a couple of things I haven’t done before. He’s my main collaborator on this album and probably the reason why it sounds so different to everything else I’ve ever done.”

With much changing in the day to day life of the radio and TV personality, it was inevitable that her song-writing would be affected, she says.

“It’s a bit of a break-up record; it’s a tough one. It’s about Saturn returning, which is that astrological phase when you reach your late twenties in which everything you’re not meant to take into adulthood is ripped away from you or falls away, and you have to redefine yourself. I ended a long-term relationship and changed my working situation. You know, I’ve always been in bands with my brother and this is the very first time I haven’t worked with him. There has been so much change, and a lot of it has been scary and a little bit painful, even though I know it’s right. So the album is about going through those things to come out better on the other side.”

Hooper will play release shows in Sydney and Melbourne to air the new solo material, but don’t be surprised if she pops up in other projects any time soon.

“I’m focussing on the future,” she says. “There will be the two singles we’ve put out already, ‘Low High’ and ‘Häxan’, and ‘The Red Shoes’. We also like to chuck in a couple of interesting covers, because I do know it’s hard for a crowd to sit through a whole set of brand new music. We like to throw in anything from Fleetwood Mac to strange country songs. I already do miss [being in a band]. I miss hiding in the band and being part of a whole thing. I have an amazing backing band now, who I feel very close to. They’re fantastic musicians, and will be touring with me for the Sydney and Melbourne shows. I sort of feel like I have created a bit of a band around me, but I definitely look forward to other side projects where it’s not under my name; where I can just be a character amongst other characters again.”

Her stint on the rebooted Spicks and Specks came to an abrupt finish with the recent announcement that ABC wouldn’t be recommissioning the show, but Hooper remains upbeat.

“I would definitely love to do more [TV work],” she says. “It was just the most amazing opportunity, and it was really sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’m hoping to keep looking at things in that arena. At the end of the day, it was just not up to us and we’ve all had to practice letting go, and I’ve had so many nice comments about the show. I’m a big one for trying to get more music on television; I just think it’s crazy there’s so little. We have the fantastic RocKwiz, which I’ve been really involved with, and Spicks was a another really great way to get more music on TV. I’m passionate about that, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to be involved in something that gets more music on TV.”

Although the show is a big loss to Hooper and lovers of music on television, don’t expect to catch her putting her feet up and taking things easy.

“Music isn’t how I pay the rent any more,” she says. “I do a lot of other things as well. I’ve got my radio show on Sunday nights all over the country on Austereo. I also host a program called The Telstra Road To Discovery, which is a song-writing search for the next great generation of song-writers; that kicks off in a month’s time and goes through the second half of the year. I’m also doing a few other things that I can’t talk about yet; some more mentorship and song-writing projects. I’ll also be writing some music for an event in the countryside where I come from, so I’ll be quite busy. Oh yeah, and releasing my album [laughs].”

Ella Hooper plays:
Newtown Social, Sydney – July 17
Shebeen, Melbourne – July 18

For Beat and The Brag

Record review: Straight Arrows – Rising (2014, LP)

straight arrows rising

Even on record, Sydney’s Straight Arrows sound like a band you want to party with. Semi-strict devotees of the original wave of ’60s garage-rock they may be, but they’ve also got more than enough primal middle-fingers-to-the-air punk attitude to make sure their second album smells more like beer and sweat than it does of nostalgia.

Not that nostalgia is necessarily a bad thing; it just sounds better when it’s run through the musical meat grinder that is Straight Arrows’ perfectly primitive guitar thrashing, barely discernible vocals and so-lo-fi-they’re-almost-non-existent bass lines.

The breakneck ‘Can’t Stand It’ immediately harks back to the classic garage bands of the ’60s, while the 90-second ‘Rotten Teeth’ is appropriately titled to be the most ‘punk’ song here. Single ‘Petrified’ catches singer and Arrows mainman Owen Penglis in a more measured mood, before the song grinds to a halt, broken and battered by the waves of messy surf guitar spattered all over the final minute.

‘Without Ya’ is an anomaly in that a prominent, driving bass-line features for the first time, with the end result benefiting hugely in what could almost be called a groovy fashion, recalling much more of a West Coast garage vibe than anything else here, but the most pleasant surprise is that there isn’t only reverb-laden garage-rock on Rising, as might be expected. At times the path trails off on tangents with strange or dark undertones, as on the introductory track and ‘Fruit of the Forest’.

This aside, be happy in the knowledge that bands like Straight Arrows – on the whole – don’t exist to take us on long-winded musical journeys into the unknown. They’re here to make us want to jump around like idiots; and thankfully this album more than does the job.

For FasterLouder

Dan Whitford of Cut Copy: “People have really embraced it”

cut copy

IT’S BEEN SOME TIME since Cut Copy played headline shows on home soil, but this is one electronic four-piece who haven’t been sitting still.

Producer, songwriter and vocalist Dan Whitford explains why the upcoming Australian shows are going to be special, and how the band has made new fans in some unexpected places.

“We went to Moscow for the first time,” he says. “We played to a room of 1500 people. It was the same in Lima, Peru; we went there a few weeks ago, and that was a voyage of discovery. But we’ve found that people know our music and we have a fanbase that is excited to see us, so we’ll try to make the effort to get in front of our fans. On one hand, we’ve seen more of the world for ourselves, and on the other we’ve expanded the places we can tour around the world. It’s grown from just doing Australian shows in the beginning to being able to play most places around the world, which is a pretty amazing thing. We were really surprised; I think it’s partly due to people listening on the Internet and that kind of thing. We weren’t aware of any radio play or anything in these places, but obviously people are managing to find our music by other means. When we went to Russia we were kind of amazed that people knew even our first record, which wasn’t our breakthrough and is a bit forgotten or obscure. We found a lot of people requesting songs from that record, and everyone knew all the words; it was quite amazing.”

The band’s latest album, Free Your Mind, was released in November, and it’s one Whitford is keen to introduce to Australian audiences.

“The last time we played in Australia was about three years ago, so we’ve totally revised our show,” he says. “We’ve got a new record out, so we’ll be performing a bunch of stuff from that, and we’ve just got a completely new lighting design, projections and visual stuff as well. Hopefully people will be excited to see something new. We’ve played festivals here in that time, but our last headline show was that long ago; I suppose because we took time to make the new record and this is the first time we’ve been able to book in some headline shows. I’m glad we’ve managed to get it happening again, because obviously we started out in Australia and tour pretty extensively all around the world these days. There are lot of opportunities for us everywhere, but we still love coming home and playing to our longer-serving fans and audiences that have been listening to us for a long time. Often when we play something new people will sort of sit there with a slightly stunned mullet look on their face. They’ll take it in, but not necessarily respond by dancing or anything. We’ve found with this new record that people have really embraced it from the beginning and have responded to the songs as if they have been listening to it for a long time, which is really good. What we look for in terms of a good show is to have people really moving and responding to what we’re doing, and it’s been really good off the bat for the new record.”

Having appeared at just about every major festival in the world, Cut Copy benefit from their music appealing to both dance and indie-rock fans.

“It’s always been a good thing,” Whitford says. “Because we’ve felt that we’ve been able to have a foot in both camps, so to speak. We don’t belong 100 percent to either; we’re strangely between worlds, and sometimes that really does work in our favour. At indie or guitar sort of festivals, playing dance music that’s a bit more energetic or upbeat can make a nice change for people, and at dance festivals where it’s mostly DJs playing, we can come out and play live music and have a more engaging show. Visually, that definitely excites people.”

The frantic pace of the touring cycle doesn’t look to let up for the Melbourne band, with a return to Australia slated for later in the year.

“We’ll be touring for most of the rest of the year,” Whitford says. “With our last record we ended up doing 180 shows in the year, but I don’t think we’re going to try to repeat that this time. Between now and the end of October or November we’ll be doing a bunch of northern hemisphere festivals, then hopefully play a bit more in Australia towards the end of the year if we’re lucky enough to get offered some festivals.”

CUT COPY PLAY:
THE METRO THEATRE, SYDNEY – MAY 8TH
170 RUSSELL, MELBOURNE – MAY 9TH
EATON’S HILL HOTEL, BRISBANE – MAY 10TH

FREE YOUR MIND IS OUT NOW.