Record review: The Jezabels – The Brink (2014, LP)

Sydney quartet The Jezabels have become such an integral part of the Australian indie-rock landscape that it’s easy to forget that their debut album is just a little over two years old. While much of their time has been spent overseas since that well-received debut, The Jezabels are back with a bang and treating their Australian fans to an album release over two weeks before the rest of the world, and that can only be good news for us.

Intense, brooding and full of their trademark grandeur, The Brink picks up where Prisoner left off, albeit with slightly darker undertones and a few new sounds. Soaring anthems are what The Jezabels do best, and ‘Look of Love’, ‘The End’, ‘No Country’ and the title track are the best examples, while ‘Angles of Fire’ adds a touch of Kraftwerk-esque synths and ‘Psychotherapy’ is the token slow-burner.

Hayley Mary’s voice is the unquestionable highlight and places her near the top of the pile of Australian female vocalists plying their trade right now, and when everything else seemingly falls into place so easily, it makes for another strong showing from one of the country’s best exports.

Record review: Papa Pilko And The Binrats – Third Time Lucky (2013, EP)

Sydney septet Papa Pilko And The Binrats describe their music as wild blues and slick swingin’ country rock ‘n’ roll with horns. Add to that a uniquely Australian approach to sleazy, boozy song-writing and a charismatic frontman not afraid to make a fool of himself and you have a band that tick all the right boxes for entertainment value alone. This four-track EP is the band’s third in barely eighteen months, and sees the hard-drinkin’, bar-room brawlin’ bunch get loose and lewd over the course of a short fourteen minutes. The baritone sax gives the start of opener ‘Poor Boy’ a beat-down, depression-era feel before the full horn section kicks in and the song takes off in swinging fashion. Singer and head Binrat Cyrus ‘Papa’ Pilko must have been hitting the sarsaparilla pretty hard lately, as he’s sounding much more throatily gruff than on the band’s two previous efforts, but it all adds to the downright dirty tone of the record. “I come home at 10am and I open up the door. We start out in the bedroom and then down on the bathroom floor,” he cheekily sings on ‘Woman In Black’, and you can tell he probably means it. The only bad point about this EP is that it doesn’t quite do the band justice; you have to catch them live to fully appreciate their raucously loose act and the spectacle of Pilko acting like an amiable madman. That being said, these songs swing and roll with infectious vigour. (Independent)

Interview: Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys

Bed Wettin Bad Boys

This Labour Day weekend is not only a three-day affair, but Goodgod Small Club is celebrating turning three with a birthday bash filled with more musical talent than you can shake a stick at. On the bill are Sydney’s brilliantly shambolic punks Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys. We chat to Nic and Ben about their plans for the gig and life as a ‘Bad Boy.

I have to start by asking you about the band name. How did you settle on Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys?

Nic: The same way all good bands get their name, a ouiji board ceremony with celebrity magician David Bowie.

Shortly you’ll be playing the Goodgod’s third birthday party. What can BWBB fans expect from the show?

Nic: A pretty similar set to most BWBB sets: eight or so loud rock songs, with one or two mishaps and maybe a bit of jive-talk. As Adam Lewis and the Goodgod team have taken care of promotion and organisation very well we don’t have to worry about back line, parking, figuring out the door split etc., so we may even be a little more relaxed than usual. When your band is called Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys you’ve pretty much got to create most the shows you play. So thanks Adam for asking! I’m looking forward to plugging in and playing for once in my friggin’ life and having very few other responsibilities.

Ben: Today some people at work said they’re going to come to the show. I have a distinct professional, as opposed to social, way of dealing with things. Expect accountability, micromanagement, responsibility, outcome measures.

You’ve just played the BIGSOUND festival in Brisbane, and got pretty great reviews. How was the show for you? What other bands stood out for you?

B: BIGSOUND was the one time as a band we got a few perks. They put on a free barbecue during the day after we played. We got to watch cable TV. A guy let us borrow a drum key. It was a great few days. We played an all ages show at Tym’s Guitar Store with Songs, and it was good to see a bunch of young people at the show having fun, in a place like Fortitude Valley, which can be really draining in every way.

N: I don’t want to talk about it, ’twas a strange few days. Glad we did it though as it showed the industry you don’t have to be a caricature of a human to be in a band.

It’s practically impossible to find a written description of your music – including Pitchfork’s – that doesn’t mention The Replacements. How much of an influence were they on your musical development? What other bands have shaped how you write and play music?

B: Sometimes I feel as that The Replacements comparison is warranted, but other times it’s just lazy writing, an easy way out. ‘This band is gonna rock you like this band,’ rather than working at writing actually how a band makes you feel.

N: We all agree The Replacements are a great band but I actually don’t think they were that important on our development musically, as in I don’t think any of us use them as a template for our song writing or playing. I do think there’s an underlying philosophy or approach to playing rock ‘n’ roll that we share though, essentially being liberated by punk then drawing from the history of guitar music until it forms into something that feels familiar but isn’t some awful retro-rock revival. I think the huge scope of music I’ve listened to has indirectly shaped how I write and play music as opposed to any specific artist. From (Australian) X to Brian Eno, the behemoths of classic rock to your humble basement rockers.

Moving to Sydney from Cairns must have been an experience. How did you find the move at first, and in what ways did you discover music when you got there?

B: This is a really complex question to answer and I just wrote down a huge answer but didn’t cover anything significant. I’ve been in Sydney for six years now. A quarter of my life. I was back in Cairns a couple of months back and it was the first time since moving to Sydney that I realised what an unbelievably beautiful place it is, visually.

BWBB have a reputation for performing while less-than-sober. What would be included in your ultimate tour rider?

N: Collectively I don’t think we’re ever that drunk playing any more, I mean at least not most of the time. It’s nice to have a few drinks before, while and after playing cause we’re all busy people and it may well be the only time we get to let loose that week. I think people confuse less-than-sober with not being a bunch of timid, top-button-on-shirt-done-up, beige, flaccid indie band. Ya know; being a little bit primal, rock ‘n’ roll as a release, not a fashion show.

B: I feel there’s a real boredom during the three hours between loading in gear to a venue and playing. Don’t drink out of boredom, but sometimes there’s nothing else to do. Drink to celebrate. Hey, we’re a group of friends playing rock ‘n’ roll and at the end of the day there’s no pressure to do any more, any less. I’ll drink to that! (note I’m not a very good guitar player just to clear up reasons why I mess up at times)

N: Tour rider: I’d prefer some type of stout or dark ale opposed to the watery beer usually provided. If we’re talking big dumb music festival that breeds inflated egos: Gin and tonic water. DVD of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Some Lebanese bread and dips. Picture book of baby animals. Music device that plays rap music like Kool Keith, Big L, Tommy Wight III, UGK, Clipse to get me PUMPED UPPPP.

B: For the tour rider, I’m a sweet vermouth man.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

N: Being a Bed Wettin’ Bad Boy feels real easy at the moment. For the first time since Doug joined which was 2 to 3 years ago we don’t really have any set goals or deadlines. We literally have no plans and will just continue to do what we do. Earlier this year we wrote a list of half-song, riffs, home demos and unreleased songs we’d like to re-work or re-visit. Hopefully through the summer we’ll have the time to “work” on them. I say “work” cause I don’t think it’ll feel like work. Playing together has started to feel like second nature and although we’ve been taking it easy post-album launch and tour I think we’ve unknowingly been pretty creatively productive. Once we have a big old list of songs ready to go we’ll think about working towards another record.

B: I was away for four months this year and I guess it’s a bit of catch up still after that. We’re all busy people outside of this band, so we just try do what we can when we can.

TICKETS FOR GOODGOD BIRTHDAY NIGHTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE: http://www.dashtickets.com.au/?/tour/26

Record review: Lime Cordiale – Falling Up The Stairs (2013, EP)

Lime Cordiale

Hailing from the northern beaches of Sydney, indie-pop quintet Lime Cordiale make the kind of pop music that will make you think of summer sun, beach parties, beer, barbecues, and good times. The core of the band consists of brothers Oli and Louis Leimbach and one thing that makes this EP different from most similar indie releases is the frequent addition of brass to the songs, including trumpet and trombone at various points. There’s also a bit of clarinet in there, because why the hell not? It’s indie-pop, but with a touch of ska and world music influences in places.

As the band’s name name suggests, Falling Up The Stairs takes a fresh and sprightly approach to indie-pop, and there’s a definite Australian laid-back and upbeat vibe; this music couldn’t come from anywhere else, and much of the style isn’t too far off that of fellow Sydneysiders Sticky Fingers.

Opener and single ‘Bullshit Aside’ is the best song, and sounds fun and upbeat despite having some fairly heavy lyrics. The playful synths in ‘Famous’ are layered over what is a tight and groovy rhythm section, and the jaunty ‘Sleeping At Your Door’ sounds like it would be pretty amazing played live.

The only criticism that could be levelled at this EP is that there isn’t an obvious stand-out killer track, but with the band having just played a by-all-accounts killer set at BIGSOUND and with the might of Chugg Entertainment behind them, expect to hear a lot more from Lime Cordiale in the coming months.

FALLING UP THE STAIRS BY LIME CORDIALE IS OUT NOW

Record review: The Preatures – Is This How You Feel? (2013, EP)

The Preatures’ unique blend of pop, rock, and soul has been making waves nationally for the past couple of years, and the Sydney quintet have been the support band of choice for the likes of San Cisco, Deep Sea Arcade, and Haim, but their third EP should be the one to earn them attention of a more global kind. Unashamedly retro-sounding, the five track Is This How You Feel? plunders the best of ’70s radio rock and ’80s pop rhythms, and when added to the vocals of Isabella Manfredi and Gideon Bensen, makes for one of the most anticipated and stylish releases of recent months. Opener and lead single ‘Is This How You Feel?’ takes the band’s previously diverse musical output and filters it directly through the ’70s rock sound, with an extra dollop of the ‘sex factor’ for good measure. When added to the guitar heroics of Jack Moffitt, Manfredi’s Stevie Nicks-esque vocals on ‘Manic Baby’ seem like they could have been lifted from any of the classic Fleetwood Mac albums, while ‘Revelation (So Young)’ sees her in more of a soulful Chrissie Hynde mood, as on previous EP Shaking Hands. Benson takes the lead vocal on the final two tracks, the melancholy and brooding ‘All My Love’ and the excellent closer ‘Dark Times’; a Bob Seger style rocker and possibly the best track on the EP. The band have apparently signed a five album deal with Mercury, so the only question this EP throws up is when will fans get a full-length release from The Preatures? (Mercury)

Interview: Ilias

ilias portrait 2

Hi Ilias, tell me a little about where you grew up, your first memories of hearing music, and what music you listened to growing up?

I grew up in many places: Brazil, Algeria, France, and Indonesia before moving to Australia a few years back. I think my first memories of music are of my mum listening to and loving the Bee Gees very early. I remember being into guitars quite early too. Movies played a big part of my life as a six year-old; I used to watch The Blues Brothers over and over and I remember wondering why John Lee Hooker was in the movie but not on the soundtrack! What kind of six year-old worry about that? Tim Burton’s Batman soundtrack by Prince – I wore that tape out, and I was also obsessed with Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and was hooked on Ennio Morricone’s score for this movie when I was seven or eight. I was probably way too young to be watching that movie!

On your debut album, Somewhere In Time, you wrote, played, and recorded everything yourself, taking several years to do so. Tell me about your writing and recording process; is it something you enjoy or something that can prove difficult?

Writing music is a fairly natural process; I love music and see sounds as colours when I hear it. Music is a refuge, it comes to me at night in dreams sometimes, and it’s always in me. Lyrics are a completely different and fairly excruciating process. Making words fit a melody while still having impact and meaning is the biggest challenge. I read that Burt Bacharach used to obsess for weeks over one syllable fitting one particular note, so I am glad life’s also tough for true geniuses like him. He’s so smooth, I love Burt! I also seem to have a habit of taking ten years to complete certain songs, like ‘Loving You’ or ‘Regret’ from last year’s EP. I wrote those lyrics in 2003 but then I rewrote the melody last year. The demos were sung with a French accent back then!

All recording for this album was done alone. I used various approaches, but I mostly tried to adopt a hypnotic/trance-like state of mind when it came to what was captured. The stuff you hear in old soul/R&B, blues & jazz records, the mysterious aspects of improvisation, how fresh it sounds decades later – that’s what inspires me. It’s something that is seriously lacking in modern music. My songs were composed, but all the guitar solos, bass, piano parts, weird noises, and some of the vocals were improvised on the record. You can really hear that improvisational, jazz/blues inspired approach on ‘If I See You’ and ‘September Memory’.

Which artists have had an influence on your music?

My biggest influences as a singer are Smokey Robinson and Dionne Warwick; their voices are pure magic. I also love ’60s vocal groups like The Ronettes, The Temptations, The Miracles, and The Delfonics. Growing up, my favourite artist was Prince; I dug his guitar playing, his productions, general craziness, and bad attitude. The idea to produce everything and play all the instruments myself for my album is pure Prince madness. Prince and I are not on speaking terms anymore however, I am just hoping he picks up the phone and asks me to produce his next album. Do it, Prince!

From a compositional point of view, I really love & study the music of Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and Brazilian greats like Tom Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Caetano Veloso. I am fascinated by the musical connections linking these specific artists. You can hear that influence on ‘Never Utter The Word Never’, ‘Sometimes I Wonder’, and mostly on my acoustic 2012 EP Somewhere Down The Road. As a young guitarist, I was a huge fan of John Frusciante, Johnny Marr, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, and Radiohead, but my heart will always belong to underappreciated soul/R&B/jazz cats and Motown guitarists like Robert White, Marv Tarplin, and Wah Wah Watson. My favourite jazz guitar player will always be Wes Montgomery. His playing was pure, effortless, unsurpassed genius – another smooth cat!

How does it feel to have your album finished and in the public domain after all that time?

It’s a strange feeling, and it will always be. These songs are so personal and I guess only I know the true meaning and inspirations behind them. It’s a thrill however, when people give me their interpretation of a song, and how much it means to them. I love that.

What has the reaction to your album been like so far?

The album has received praise from a few journalists, mostly overseas and here at home to some extent. It’s been mostly lauded for the originality and uniqueness of it’s sound and compositions, as well as instrumental and vocal prowess. I wish more people could hear it, but being independent & alone, it’s a tough task in today’s overcrowded music market. The album has quite a few complex musical layers and is very different to what’s being put out there today; I think it takes some time to grow on you. People have a fairly short attention span today so it’s a challenge. Still, it seems that most people who take the time to listen to it, end up really falling in love with it, to the point of addiction! I hope it gets discovered by more people in the future. It’s an album that needs to be listened really loud or in the dark, with eyes closed and a good pair of headphones. And also a box of Kleenex!

What is the most prized guitar you own? And which would you like to own the most?

I have a big Gibson acoustic that I got from Texas last year that I love, and a twelve-string Rickenbacker from Brighton, England, but my Gretsch White Falcon is probably my most prized axe. I remember watching ‘Going Inside’ by John Frusciante and Vincent Gallo on MTV back in the day, seeing that wonderful guitar and telling my uncle, one day she’ll be mine! The Gretsch guitar is all over the album and the artwork. It’s a great sounding and inspiring instrument. It can go from jazzy, smooth, and delicate to a rocky growl and rip your ears off. I really love how crystal clear it sounds on ‘Regret’. I still dream of owning a Gibson L5-CES; also known as the king of jazz guitars, but with a starting price of $US10 000, I better become quite famous before I can afford that one. I’m willing to accept all donations!

If you could share a stage with one artist, living or dead, who would it be?

Well, I’ve already shared a stage with Neil Finn of Crowded House twice and he was pretty high on the list. I’ve also been on stage with Prince on French TV when I was 18, but that was just dancing. I am thinking of a beautiful voice; Aaliyah, God rest her soul. If I could also hook up with Minneapolis funk masters The Time, that would be one hell of a jam session. I would just be shaking my money maker all night! In my dream band I’d have James Jamerson (Motown) on bass, and Hal Blaine (Phil Spector, The Beach Boys) on drums. On guitars would be Teenie Hodges (Al Green) and Spanky Alford (D’Angelo/The Roots), and on piano I’d have Lisa Coleman (Prince & The Revolution) with Lisa Germano on keys/violin/vocals. I will also steal Maxwell’s amazing backup singer Latina Webb, and you have the grooviest band ever assembled. It would totally work!

How do you rate the current scene in Australia for musicians like you? What could be done to improve it, if anything?

I am probably the worst person to ask this question. I don’t belong in any scene here. I guess I am just happy doing my own thing musically and being a reclusive freak. Personally, I am not a fan of the macho posturing in some of music out there nowadays. Perhaps it would also be great if new acts spent a few more years honing their skills and discovering and learning about great music before stepping into the spotlight so quickly. There is great energy in some of the music out there today, but I sometimes can’t help but feel that it lacks a bit of musical sophistication and a feminine touch.

What are your plans for the future? Any gigs or recordings in the pipeline?

In the distant future, I would love to step more into a strictly producer role, or even write for a great woman’s voice like Feist. In fact, I am on the way to New York now, where I will produce the next Mary J Blige record (in my dreams!) Movie soundtracks are something I am also interested in working on. In the immediate future, I would like to play select music industry showcases and festivals, both here and overseas. I am looking for a label or management, so I can focus fully on creation and recording. Any special gigs, events, future plans will be announced on my Facebook (http://facebook.com/tamalocal) and Bandcamp (http://ilias.bandcamp.com). Peace.