Bridie Connellan


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JAMAICA: ALL GOOD THINGS END IN ‘A (ISSUE 380, SEPTEMBER 20, 2010)

Jamaica have never been to Jamaica. They don’t even play reggae. They’re Parisian locals who are about as French as French can be so, well, what’s with the band name? “Three reasons,” answers vocalist Antoine Hilaire. “Firstly, it was available. Second, we wanted a name directly related to a place. And third, we wanted a name that ended in ‘A’.. Like ‘Madonna’, or ‘Nirvana’. All good things end in ‘A’.” Fair enough, really.

Hilaire is doing a une superbe job of stereotyping himself when we talk: heavily accented and smoking a carefree cigarette, he’s taking in the French rays of soleil, sipping un café atop une terrasse in a Parisian petite ruelle. But the duo themselves (completed by Florent Lyonnet) are anything but a typecast. “The sound we have come up with is very classic,” he says. “We didn’t try to make a danceable record, it just happened that people liked our rhythm.”

As one of the more traditionally guitar-based artists within the Ed Banger universe, Jamaica teamed up with the likes of Grammy award-winner Xavier de Rosnay of Justice and infamous American producer Peter Franco (Daft Punk), to produce one playful and heartfelt musical catch. “We were really happy to help those young guys get some exposure,” he says, laughing. “Actually the process was very simple; we had one song to make good enough to propose to those two, and we’d been friends with Xavier for a while so we knew about the sorts of things he wanted to record.” With no access to bass amps or electronic keyboards for the duo’s sampler, Franco and de Rosnay enforced a ‘no synths’ rule for the production – a mindset that successfully lifted them out of the throng of their genre. “We don’t play synth onstage, and we were a bit bored by the bass lines everyone was conjuring. That general WEEEP WEEEP WEEEP is on every track from Katy Perry to the newest indie bands. So we decided to leave the disco beats and the synths aside.”

“I think the closer a relationship with a sole second member, the easier it is to make music,” he says, when we talk about the pair’s pairing. “When there are too many opinions in the room it becomes difficult to get anything done. I think you should have passionate conversations about how a song should be played – it’s never bad to argue about that – but we want things to be exactly what we want. A third or fourth member would be a bit of a drag. Oh, also, we can only afford two people on the road.”

Unfortunately for the two friends, their recent single has misconstrued their music taste – ‘I Think I Like U 2’ has been confused by many as a proclamation of love for Irish stadium rock. “Ah, Bono could be listening so I won’t say more about that – at least not on record,” he laughs. “When we were making the songs we listened to a lot of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U”, and noticed that not a lot of people use a number and a letter in a song title. If Prince was doing it, why couldn’t we? We are big Prince fans, and nobody had dared to have that kind of song title. Generally if nobody dares, we think it’s cool.”

This kind of anti-trend mantra has fared well for the duo, with their American-esque twang of indie pop evading the kind of gimmicky electronic/rock/jangle fusion so common in contemporary French sounds. “We don’t try to redefine cool – it’s about being real,” he says.  “We love 10CC, Television and The Police, who aren’t cool at all, not by a long stretch. I hope people recognise the hard work, authenticity and attention to detail on this record and really understand the complexity behind this uncool kind of pop.” Nous le ferons, Monsieur Hilaire, nous le ferons.

Who: Jamaica
What: No Problem is out now through Shock

TOKYO POLICE CLUB: CHEWY POP (ISSUE 380, SEPTMEBER 20, 2010)

“I’m sorry, I’m in a van,” Dave Monks says, explaining the noise that crowds our phonecall. “I’m back in the homeland, at my parents house. I’m going to help my sister move into her apartment tonight.” The Homeland is Newmarket, Canada – where the frontman of uber-hyped Tokyo Police Club is taking some well-earned “me time” after two solid months of touring and album promo. “I am exhausted, but I like to keep active when I get home” he says. “[Newmarket] is actually extremely mellow, but when I’m in town I want to see people, hang out with my friends and make it very action packed.”

Supporting the likes of Passion Pit and Weezer, and snagging spots at Pop Montreal, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza is one thing – but scooting across the world and back by the headlining seat of their own name, with spots on Letterman and (oddly) Desperate Housewives, is quite another. Monks admits that taking their live show abroad keeps both food and fire in their bellies. “I mean [touring is] definitely where our Benjamins come from… not that we have Benjamins in Canada,” he clarifies. “Touring is what frees you up from relying on radioplay and sales – but really, we just love getting out there and making a connection with people. So many good things are brought into your life when you travel.”

In the face of their well-received (yet somewhat temperamental) debut, TPC’s brand new follow-up Champ displays an undeniable positivity and sparkle for the Canadian outfit. It’s a jaunty upbeat edge, visually exposed in the wondrously sweet film clip for ‘Wait Up (Boots of Danger)’, which depicts a troupe of neighbourhood pets getting their bounce on at a canine pool party. “My friend Mike had this great idea: wouldn’t a great video just be a whole bunch of dogs having a really great time, since that accounts for about 50% of all YouTube content? It came about in the flash of a day – they were all amazing actor-dogs, and the woman looking after them could teach them little things, and get them to stand on diving boards in a certain way…”

For their Australian release, the band have signed to Dew Process – and if you donate through the label website you download the clip for free, with 100% of all proceeds going to the RSPCA. “We all love dogs,” Monks tells me, “and as a band we feel we should dedicate our time towards something we care about. I think it’s important to choose causes that you have a direct relation to.” So there’ll be no Band Aid-style themed track about canines then? “Ahh no, we canned the dog tune song.” Our loss, certainly.

With a cache of live favourites and something of a signature sound, the release of Champ expressed the foursome’s penchant for crafting infectious grabs of wistful sunshine – as Billboard described, “The brilliance is in the brevity.” For Monk, short fizzy pop is hardy undesirable – he sees the prospect of cultivating a virtuosic electronic guitar/synth fusion of extended textures and timbres as downright boring. “Pop songs are a format that generally package time,” he says. “What can you really say in three minutes? I don’t like jammers, and I don’t like ten-minute drum loops that degrade over an entire track.”

In his somewhat upbeat Oberst-post-Bright Eyes drawl, Monks is half-heartedly keen to defend the snappy nature of his four piece – the majority of Champ fails to breach the four-minute mark. Their second track ‘Favourite Colour’ sits pretty at 2:38, and their entire first EP comprised of a mere 16 minute flash. The man is intrigued when I suggest the lads actually sound very Sydney, but it turns out that’s because he thought I said ‘singy’. “S-i-n-g-y, is a word we actually use. ‘Songy’ is also a very valid descriptor in our band,” he says. “I also think songs can not be songy – like, I wouldn’t really describe Kraftwerk as very ‘songy’, despite the fact they have songs.” It’s here where the wordsmith side of Monks starts to reveal itself, as he proceeds to define the German electronica masters as “pointy” and Tokyo Police Club’s new album as “chewy”. “We’ve got some good stuff there for a meal and it tastes good, but you can chew on it, and stick with it a while.”

Monks & Co are about to head off once more on a huge headlining tour – no Aussie dates as yet, but fingers crossed and breath baited… With such a globally located band-name, by the end of our chat the intrigue has reached breaking point: so much touring, but have they ever visited a Tokyo Police Club? “Well, kind of,” Monks laughs. “We were in Tokyo and there was a little police outpost; a drive-thru station; a toll booth with a cop in it. We took a photo outside, and then got escorted off the premises…” So the band moniker hasn’t got much of a heartfelt hold? “Ah, that would be a question to ask my 18-year-old self. I can’t tell you why we’re called that; I can only tell you that we are called that. In the greater scheme of things, there are way worse band names than ‘Tokyo Police Club’.” There’s truth in that. Chumbawumba is a case in point.

Who: Tokyo Police Club
What: Champ is out now through Dew Process

LIVE REVIEW: KLAXONS, CANYONS & PARADES @ ENMORE THEATRE, SEPTEMBER 2 (ISSUE 380, SEPTMBER 20, 2010)

The rolling wonderment of Sydney four-plus-more-piece Parades tears out of the stage in a rapid succession of beautifully structured creativity. In every way shape and form, these guys just get youth, from sound to spirit to a sonic understanding of what makes a captivating tune. Tonight, they’re followed by Sydney (via Perth) kit Canyons – who proceed to express the subtlety that a down-tempo duo can bring. Their sound proves a warm and welcome opener, for both new hangers-on and the original day-glo Klaxonites that have come out in force tonight…

The anticipation of something extraordinary is a source of anxiety for many a Klaxon-devotee, and the tremor of anticipation is hardly assisted by a lengthy delay before the headliners arrive… After a dramatic, silhouetted set-up, the British tour de force finally take the stage, after a foot shuffling bout of waiting waiting waiting drinking waiting watching wishing. But when the monochrome-clad Klaxons saunter to the stage it’s all worth it – the room revels in an explosive rendition of heavier grit-filled new track ‘Flashover’.

But as if to reassure us that the evening is hardly just for Surfing The Void newcomers, an immediate follow-up of ‘As Above, So Below’ from debut Myths Of The Near Future conjures so much emotion that approximately 4.5 couples designate my periphery as prime macking real estate. The Brits hold on to the format, alternating between the kicks of their newer, crisper sound and the more anomalous adventures of their debut – and they hold a rather majestic presence, too. There are some cavernous echoes, as ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ sits gingerly next to the likes of anthemic hand-holder ‘Venusia’, and the huge single ‘Echoes’; the outer regions and new horizons of their sound have certainly melded for the best…

The supportive crowd give Jamie Reynolds and James Righton every reason to sing their throats out, and they do so with distinct improvement since their last visit to The Enmore. They dedicate the excitable favourite (and anticipated woo-er) ‘Golden Skans’ to the diversely gyrating crowd – who promptly hail for an encore. And encore they do, coming back with a two-toned bookend of ‘Surfing The Void’ and favourite danthem (danceanthem) ‘Atlantis to Interzone’.

Now sure, their consistent thanks was expected; sure, their token awarding of “best crowd ever” was enough to hurl a glo-stick at their well-groomed mugs; but when you’re trotting home in a burgundy poncho glittered with good tunes, dance perspiration and a teenage smile on your twenty-something dial, you may easily pity those fools who forgot how to enjoy Klaxons…

L

LITTLE RED: THE END OF AN ERA (ISSUE 379, SEPTEMBER 13, 2010)

Percussionist Taka Honda is showing few signs of the chipper, buoyant presence he exhibits on stage; he’s a little under the weather, and a little more inclined to be watching Humphrey Bogart films than chatting to journos. The life of Melbourne five-piece Little Red must rock a little too hard.

Instructed by their debut album to Listen to Little Red, Australia did just that, and liked what they heard. Tearing up the ARIA charts and gracing the almost every summer festival (as well as increasingly larger venues), the quintet originally won hearts with a refreshingly classic take on 60s garage pop, with woo-oohs and handclaps to spare. New single ’Rock It‘ and sophomore LP Midnight Remember boast a sultry, 80s-throwback, bass-heavy slickness, suggesting that the band have perhaps moved on from the be-bopping party pop of vintage crowd favourites such as ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Little Annie’. But despite the new spin on their infectious sound, Honda points out the obvious: change is growth. “It feels pretty natural to reach that sound,” says Honda. “It’s not like the record came out and BANG, we’re completely different- there was a three-year gap between the first record and this one so it’s certainly a progression.”

Bunkering down in the bushlands of NSW with producer Scott Horscroft (Temper Trap, Silverchair), the recording of Midnight Remember not only proved a satisfying artistic experience, but a bonding one, and an assurance that the band is nursing no Lennon/McCartney rifts. “If we didn’t get along we would quit,” Honda says bluntly. “We couldn’t tour together if we hated each other. But then again I don’t know, the Beatles were at each other’s throats all the time but they kept making great records so… maybe we should hate each other to make a better album…” He reconsiders quickly. “No, no, no, that doesn’t work for us.”

The infamous difficulty of the Second Album doesn’t seem to bother Honda either. “I think second album syndrome only comes when you’ve sold six million copies of your first record,” he says. “We didn’t sell that much; it wasn’t like [Jet’s debut] Get Born which sold six million copies around the world. We didn’t have that pressure.” Suggesting that Listen to Little Red was more a friendly introduction than a declaration of artistic purpose, Honda firmly believes this newbie may be a means to undo the 60s typecasting that followed the debut. “People change and we’re a bit older,” he says. “We always wanted to sound unique, so a new record is a good chance to stop being pigeonholed as a sixties retro band. I don’t think we liked that.”

In any event, like Starr, Moon and Bonham before him, Honda’s role as the drummer is a key ingredient in the sound that launched Little Red into the spotlight. However, for the Japanese-born percussionist the role of band backbone is purely musical. “Do I keep everyone on track? Perhaps not on a personal level. In daily life, and on tour I’m the baby, I’m pretty disorganised. But musically I do try.” For someone who claims to simply keep things rolling onstage, Honda is a savvy muso who knows when he’s being taken for a ride. With a glowing appraisal of their current label Liberation, this percussionist certainly recognises when an independent label is going the distance for Little Red. “Liberation signed us because they like us,” he explains. “If you’re dealing with a major you’re up against ten bands, and all they have to do is find one band amongst them. As for the other nine bands, they really don’t care. Independent labels can’t really afford to lose money on bands so they really work for you, and they’re going to push you.”

After selling over 25,000 copies of their debut in Australia, the fivesome flew the coop with a mission to the UK. There Honda and his comrades scored an exclusive signing to British label Lucky Numbers, and enjoyed a run of sold-out London performances. But despite such a positive reception on their inaugural jaunt abroad, Honda concedes that it’s tough to crack the UK market, particularly as irregular visitors. “It was fun, but it’s really hard to make an impact there,” he says. “Our songs get played on the radio there but still there are so many bands and so many things going on, and it becomes difficult to stay afloat. When we first went [to the UK] we sold out our album launch and enjoyed the radio play, but the second time people had forgotten us. You really need a constant presence to make them remember.”

Thus with a renewed dedication to their doting Australian audiences, Little Red are on the cusp of a national tour that will take the sharp-dressed five to such exotic locales of Eumundi, Launceston and the Barossa Valley – a regional mission these cats are only too keen to tackle. “We actually called our booking agent and made sure we could play everywhere,” says Honda. “I think Australia is much easier to please, all you need is to get played on triple j and that’s it. But I would say I’m very grateful for Australian fans.” Honda is in a refreshingly honest mood – my admiring comment on their perennially rad threads is met with the bubble-bursting admission that their clothes are free. “Really I don’t fucking care what I wear, I guess we’re trapped in a trend half the time,” says Honda. Nevertheless, it’s worth mentioning that the man does work a sparkly sweater like it ain’t no thang.

Who: Little Red
What: Midnight Remember is out September 10 on Liberation

GROOVE ARMADA: KEEPING IT CURRENT (SEPTEMBER 13, 2010)

With a swaggering Brit drawl and a disposition he claims is a “little ratty around the edges”, Andy Cato sounds downright knackered. With Poland on the previous Friday, Barcelona on Saturday, and a nice little kip at Ibiza’s Space Terrace on Sunday, no-one could ever accuse Groove Armada of being undercommitted. “It’s festival season over here, it’s non-stop,” he mutters. “You could say it was a fairly active weekend.”

Cato’s uber-Cockney understatements come fast and hectic. As one half of London’s veteran big beat dynamos, the thirty-something-year-old is showing fatigue but no signs of slowing down, with fresh new albumBlack Light proving the Armada has yet to sink. “We just tend to start and not stop until we’ve done what we wanted,” he says. “This is an album that’s been coming for about twelve years.”

It’s been three years since their last LP, but after thirteen years in the business it’s understandable that Cato and Tom Findlay would take a bit of time to rediscover their creative drive. “We got to the point where we weren’t excited by a lot of things that had gone before; our sound had had its time,” says Cato. “But now we’re totally reenergised by our potential.” In saying this Cato expresses a nicely logical pop sensibility – it’s reasonable to want to keep things current. “I think there’s always been a sort of Groove Armada thread through the years, but it’s not as though we’ve only ever had one particular style,” he says. “We’ve always had songs that go from a ballad with Richie Havens to ‘Superstylin’; I mean it’s a pretty broad church. When people start talking about how different the new album is, it’s probably because it’s properly song-based. The fact that it’s one consistent sound is probably the greatest change of all.”

The changing GA aesthetic, Cato says, is more indicative of personal experimentation than pandering to label pressure for a sound du jour. “It’s not about keeping yourself relevant for someone else’s benefit,” he says. “Now more than ever, you need to be in a situation where you’re about to walk on stage and you think, this is the best music I’ve ever written. This is the most exciting music I’ve ever written. When you’re doing the kind of schedules that we do, you need to have that kind of confidence, otherwise what’s the point, really?”

With Black Light still drying on shelves, the duo made the decision to release a festival special LP – the aptly named White Light; a recording of live versions of new tracks, and older GA classics. “When we play live we always completely rewrite versions of the tracks,” he says. “Over the years we’ve had some amazing versions of songs onstage, and as soon as the tour finishes they’re just gone, sort of lost forever.” The majority of live tracks come from the pair’s new record, lending weight to Cato’s statement that the GA live show is the ‘best it’s ever been’. “This new album was a new start for us, a new sound,” he says. “There’s something about these live versions of Black Light songs that have just been sounding… electric.”

For Cato, the process of putting together White Light was a fastidious experiment in fusing performance with production. The duo laid their combination of collaborative electronica with live musicians on record – and the bold sound of Black Light finds itself toting some of the most interesting and admittedly unexpected names to flick the switch. With the record sporting a lot of production credits from Australia’s Nick Littlemore (Pnau, Empire of the Sun), the real surprise was the exclusive appearance of Bryan Ferry and his signature Roxy Music sound on the downtempo progression of ‘Shameless’. The partnership was apparently born from a six-degrees sort of connection. “The venture actually came from a fantastically named photographer named Robert Ashley Spark,” Cato recalls. “He’s always surrounded by Brazilian beauties, and one day he was on a beach in Sydney, as usual surrounded by a fine collection of women. I went to say hello to him and we got talking, so he fixed up a dinner for us and Bryan when we got back to London. Four dinners and a bit of persuasion later, Bryan was up for it.”

For the Black Light leg of their worldwide assault, the lads have been joined on record and onstage by dynamic vocal tutor Becky Jones (SaintSaviour), a London leading lady of lycra.  “Rebecca is incredible; she goes onstage and she’s like a female David Bowie,” Cato laughs. “She is pulling off these costumes and bounding onstage in things that you couldn’t even imagine… She’s got that proper X Factor- when you walk onstage and everything changes. She becomes this sort of character you’ve got to see to believe.”

But no spandex for the two Armada fellows? “Well, I’m six foot eight, I think a catsuit would be a really bad idea,” Cato demurs. “Although I did get caught once DJing at a drag and bondage party when the car broke down, and we had to explain ourselves while we waited for the police…”

The Groove Armada juggernaut of grinding, working dancetranceromance is cherished unwaveringly by Australian audiences, and they’ll be bringing it all back to Sydney for this year’s Parklife festival. “We have this great relationship with people over your way – we always go the extra yard to make sure that when we come over, things are absolutely firing. It’s a brilliant cycle. There’s definitely something special in the air.” We’re looking forward to it, Mr Cato – now it’s time to get some sleep, innit.

Who: Groove Armada
With: Missy Elliot, Soulwax, The Dandy Warhols, Kele, Mix Master Mike, Sinden and more
What: Parklife 2010 @ Kippax Lake, Moore Park
When: Sunday October 3

KLAXONS: WEIRD POP AND SPACE CAT (SEPTEMBER, 6, 2010)

If James Righton had his way, Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills would seriously consider sponsorship options. “Oh man, that’s my favourite place in the world,” he tells me. “That’s where we source our rider when we’re in Sydney – we always get a little selection of bits and pieces…”

The keyboardist for UK nu-rave-post-punk-intergalactic-genre-spanning-whatevers Klaxons is taking some time on a Wednesday morning to choose a year’s worth of reading material and get through some interviews. As we chat he’s horizontal – “watching a bit of internet”, scouring Amazon, and stocking up on Michelle Welbeck books in a bid to prepare himself for the lengthy world tour that’ll see him in Sydney on Thursday.

With their sophomore album Surfing The Void only just settled on Australian shelves, Klaxons are back from the obscurity of their light hiatus. “I guess we’ve been away from people’s minds for a bit, but that only means the album build-up has been quite powerful for the people who loved the first,” he tells me. “It’s hard to know what will happen with this one; all we know is that we’ve made a really great record that we all absolutely love.”

It’s been a hard journey for Klaxons. The foursome’s follow-up to their debut smash Myths Of The Near Future found itself initially turfed by their own label. In March 2009 Polydor ordered the group to re-record parts of their hard work; UK press reported the sound was deemed “too experimental” and quite simply “a really dense, psychedelic record” ill-fitting with Klaxons’ branding. “Apparently we make pop music, weird pop music, and now we’re not afraid of continuing to do that,” he tells me. So with their second album, Klaxons compromised.

Righton tells me the band were “quite naïve musically” in the lead-up to their debut Myths and that flash-in-the-pan nu-rave thing that seemed to follow. “We were making it all up really as we went along. It worked, and we made the most of it at the time – but we’ve connected with people this time around, and we couldn’t really do the same thing [again].” WhileMyths sent the crowds into delirious spins of electrified wonderment, oooweeeing to ‘Golden Skans’ with fluoro fervor, Righton claims that for the follow-up the quartet have progressed beyond their symbolic identification with extraterrestrial Partay Magick. “I think we have moved past being a concept,” he agrees. “I mean the concept is still there, but with [Myths] the concept was all that was really there. We weren’t a band, we were an idea.”

Outlandish ideas still remain at the forefront of Klaxon’s philosophy – illustrated famously by the astronaut feline splashed across the album’s cover. “It’s Space Cat!” Righton laughs. “There was a very similar image on the desktop while we were recording, so we’d always call out ‘SPACE CAT!’ during takes. It was an homage.” The band used vocalist Jamie Reynold’s cat Orphee for the shoot, which Righton claims was intended as a little dig at the avalanche of cosmic covers which followed their debut release. And boy did they nab one apathetic kitty. “After our first album, a lot of artists and bands started using a lot of space imagery – but our image is a cat who’s been to space and really couldn’t care less about it,” he muses. “I mean look at his face, look at the indifference…”

The recording of Surfing the Void wrapped up back in February, and the quartet have spent the time between then and now previewing the album at exclusive club dates and European festivals. “It’s better than it’s ever been,” Righton tells me. “I’ve got amazing company, I’m in an amazing headspace, we’re all just really happy people. The recording process brought us even closer, and it’s really great to be in a position where we’re just loving each other’s company. We live as a batch.”

Producing the latest album was “The Godfather of Nu Metal” Ross Robinson (Sepultura, Slipknot, Machine Head, The Cure). Klaxons could certainly have been turned into something of a heavier thrash outfit by his hands, but Righton tells me the influence only lit a match under their electronic feet. “I don’t really see [Surfing] as a heavy record – I think there’s a little bit more depth, that’s all,” he says. “It’s live, the drums drive it and there’s none of us playing to a click or a syncopated beat. It’s very much about capturing a moment – there’s no heavy editing or attempts to auto-tune. We wanted to put a bit of a fire into the music, an intention. It’s all real.”

The first taste offered from Surfing is the sickeningly addictive single ‘Echoes’, and its accompanying video – a wash of 90s-esque pastel Egyptian desert. It was the first clip that Klaxons made outside a studio. “It’s actually a location I stumbled across on holiday,” Righton recalls dreamily. “In Western Egypt there’s this incredible phenomenon where all these white sandforms have gradually materialised, so it really tied in with the otherworldliness and natural wonders which appear on the record.” Shooting from sunrise to sunset was nothing short of enlightening for the four, although Righton admits that stovepipes, blazers and sand are not the most temperature-friendly fusion. “You know, it’s not easy running in that heat on the desert,” he tells me. I point out that Phar Lap trained on sand dunes, and Righton replies that they imagine their stint to Oz will hardly go without its fitness merits. “If you see us running towards Ayers Rock, you know what we’re there for.” To work off that Bourke Street, yeah?

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS (COVER FEATURE ISSUE 369, JULY 5, 2010)

One of these days, musicians are going to run out of reasons to thank Brian Eno. On the cusp of releasing a second album with her electronic trio School of Seven Bells, Alejandra Deheza is moderately hungover, chilling at home in Brooklyn and keen on paying her dues. Thus, for the title of the experimentally-laden latest offering Disconnect From Desire, she says thankyou.

“Those words actually came from an Oblique Strategy on a pack of cards that Eno came up with,” she says. “They’re little phrases of creative solutions to put a different perspective on your problem. To ‘disconnect from desire’ was just everything I wanted to say. ” Admitting girlish squeals would dominate any meeting with Eno himself, Deheza says an encounter with the creative mind behind their album title would inevitably turn to interrogation. “I’d just try to pick his brain. Like why? Why Brian? Why disconnect with desire? I want to know your ideas. Yeah I would probably just try and talk to him for hours and be really annoying.” Well Eno old boy, the ball is in your park.

With an excited tone of passionate pride, Deheza’s enthusiasm for punters to hear the trio’s newest sound indicates a more confident and expressive SVIIB since 2008’s debut LP Alpinisms- a record characterised by more reclusive surrealism. “It’s funny a lot of people have been telling me that this record is a little more spacious than Alpinisms, which was a bunch of what I would like to call ‘sound clouds’,” she says. “I’m so proud of that record, but I think this time we’re approaching things more directly; we didn’t fill it up so much.”

Named after a possibly fictitious South American pickpocket academy, School of Seven Bells stems from the vivid imagination of Benjamin Curtis and sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of Secret Machines and On!Air!Library! respectively. The ten-tracks of the newbie were recorded at the group’s home studio before being produced by band member Curtis and mixed by Grammy Award-winning producer Jack Joseph Puig in LA. The second record from the School not only shows a diverse cache of genre-spanning within their electronic sphere, but Deheza claims everything comes down to narrative. “We were really going for a record that you could listen to from the beginning to the end,” she says. “I really miss the idea of an ‘album’. There are stories, there’s a plot, it’s like a movie.”

Any film stemming from this record is guaranteed to be largely autobiographical, as Deheza claims such a start-to-finish track order was a logical result of life experience. “I mean we wrote a few things here and there but I think because the songs documented so much of what has been going on in our lives, it just went in sequence,” she says. “[The new album] really is a film of the past year for us.”

The past year has certainly proved something worth documenting as whirlwind tours abroad saw the trio supporting the likes of the White Lies, Blonde Redhead, Bat For Lashes and Kite. But in the most Kerouacian sense this month Deheza sees their battered suitcases piled on the sidewalk again.  The three have come to accept the reality of being artists – the road is life.

“Being on tour for months on end affects your life in every way,” she says with an exhausted laugh that can only be anticipating the long months ahead. “It’s an upheaval. It’s not a negative thing, but that constant movement forces you to look at your life on a really close level. You’re extremely invested and involved in what you’re doing at that particular moment.”

With a four-month touring stretch still in store for 2010, Deheza says a lack of foresight is the way to avoid an existential meltdown. “It’s such a trap,” she says. “It’s so hard to stay in the present to fully experience where you’re at at that moment, it’s like there’s this constant development going on in your head and it’s nothing to do with what’s going on right now. We just miss so much.”

Like much of their mystical sounds and iconography, the latest spell from Deheza and her counterparts totes a cryptically placed ‘sigil’ as the focus of album art, a magical figure supposedly used to harness momentary energy and spiritual power. But with such deeply thoughtful textures entwined with fantastical lyrical ideas, the temptation to slap a label of ‘dream-pop’ on the sound of the three musicians is often too easy for reviews and record company schpiels. Deheza, however, claims she never really thought about it that way. “The people who say that are usually the ones who like ‘dream-pop’,” she says. “Our sounds are just… ‘pop’ songs to me.  My definition of pop is a singable melody. It’s something that anyone can sing, something that can be remembered.”

Well then, let the wild rumpus begin. The opening single ‘Windstorm’ is lightyears ahead in catchy radio playability than the trio’s previous releases, as such a strikingly upbeat single embodies the kind of memorable mainstream this vocalist seems rather fond of now. But despite a sound that finds itself labelled in the realms of avant-garde experimentalism, Deheza cites unlikely yet highly appropriate influences as the wind beneath her wings, from post-punkers Echo and the Bunnymen to the Cure. “I think that’s the ultimate pop music,” she says. “Those are songs, you know I really miss that. Basic Disintegration. That record. That, from front to back, is a film. It’s beautiful, you’re just… mesmerised.”

But being beautifully mesmerising can certainly have its downfalls. With Deheza sharing vocal duties with identical sister Claudia, every twin joke has annoyingly found itself thrown her way since their beginnings in 2008. But with dual harmonies and a penchant for uniquely paired choral vocals this twinship have to admit their thoughts can indeed be as similar as their faces.

“Well all jokes aside, it’s a weird kind of mental language that twins have,” Deheza says. “I don’t think you ever really have to fully express something. [Your twin] automatically knows what you’re trying to say without saying it. I feel like a lot of that translates really well into music because it’s really hard to describe a sound to somebody. So working with Claudia I don’t really have to try that hard. She gets it, and she knows where I’m coming from.”

But with such a wombmate Olsen-connection linking the two sisters on a creatively attuned wavelength, how does their third musketeer Benjamin Curtis mesh with group fusion? “Really well, I mean Benjamin was in a band with his brother so he’s very familiar with the whole sibling thing,” she says. “I think we have a connection for that reason, but [in the beginning] it was just an immediate fit. We’re very close and respect each other enough to know that if there is a criticism it’s just for the benefit of the song. That’s hard to get over when you’ve got brothers and sisters because they’re always extra sensitive. But we’re not five anymore, fighting with each other over who gets to watch what on TV. Now it’s time to get our heads down.”

With the trio slated to hit up the sunny stages of Sydney and Splendour in the Grass in late July, Deheza hopes this little field trip will put the ‘tourist’ in ‘tour’ and actually give the threesome something to write home about.  “The last time we went to Australia was probably during one of the most intense touring periods that we had had, so it was kind of like a bizarre dream the whole time,” she says. “This time we’re going to have fun, I think we’ll have more time to hang out. Last time we only had time to visit the art gallery.” And if that fails? Simply take another Eno card.


FAUX PAS (ISSUE 367, JUNE 21, 2010)

For an engineer of moody electronics, Tim Shiel aka Faux Pas is an unexpectedly jolly sort. Amidst a “violent” stretch of Victorian weather, this Melbournian local finds himself quite happily nostalgic on a gloomy Thursday afternoon, his thoughts turning as imaginative as his tunes. “I don’t know if you ever did this when you were a kid, tear up pieces of paper and run them down the drain, but it’s time to have a race,” he says. “We had a really long gutter at my high school and when we were bored in the country we’d make little planes or bits of origami and battle them down the gutters with sticks.”

If only time permitted. With a gunning new album Noiseworks, this one-man tour de force is finding life as a multi-tasking music magnate just grand. As a joint release between Sensory Projects/Inertia and Shiel’s own brand Heroics, the second LP for this Melbournian is already proving a chance to hear the ‘extended editions’ of existing singles, with shorter more palatable versions of releases “Chasing Waterfalls” and “Silver Line” surfacing for fans.

But when he’s not playing music, he’s talking about it, and as the newest breakfast presenter for community radio 3RRR with Fee B-Squared and Ben Birchall, Shiel’s love of Melbourne creativity stems far beyond hand-folded vessels in gutters. But as the voice of independent music, Shiel claims he feels moderately odd about his careers crossing paths and believes distance maintains some sort of credibility. “When I’m on air, I’m never Faux Pas, it’s always just Tim,” he says. “I’m always going to great pains to keep them separate.”

With ‘bits and pieces’ a way of describing both his career and his music, Shiel has cultivated a uniquely futuristic sound since his 2006 debut Entropy Begins At Home. But for a forward thinker, Shiel finds musical apples hardly fall far from the tree. “I started making music when I found some instruments left over from my dad’s foray into music-making in the 80s. He had a band called Crystal Clear; they recorded in their bedroom and never played a gig.” Shiel’s ventures into musical fusion have thus carried on another stubborn family trait; he just wont play live.

“I just haven’t figured it out,” he says. “I really like making music, I really enjoy the production process. But I’ve never had a background in performance, I’ve never played in bands that have done gigs and I’ve never been a DJ. It’s not really something I think a lot about … except for the fact that I get asked about it a lot now.”

So he’s not playing live, he’s conjuring virtual instruments, and the solo operation comes from a personal computer; so who is Faux Pas actually making music for? “Always myself,” says Shiel. “It’s just a means to satisfy my internal logic. I’m never really thinking about how anyone else might enjoy it, which might sound selfish but some would argue it’s the only way to make music that’s genuine or original.”

As an avid remixer of sorts, Shiel has shaken up a host of Australian acts including Paul Dempsey, Rat Vs. Possum, Aleks and The Ramps, Pikelet, and Gotye. But this mash-up afficionado got creatively newsworthy recently with a remix of the 7:30 Report theme song, a cheeky number in the face of Pendulum’s ABC News mix he claims was just for kicks. “It was the day after Kevin Rudd was on the 7:30 Report with Kerry O’Brien, and he got his back up a little bit. He said something to Kerry along the lines of ‘You know mate we’re not all sitting in 7:30 Report Land.’ The idea of there being this mystical place called 7:30 Report Land, I figured they needed some kind of national anthem.”

With a thriving blog, regular Tweets and a determination to upload weekly demos, remixing Kerry’s auburn fuzz is but one illustration of Shiel’s creative humour. “The 7:30 Report was the week after I remixed the theme from Gilmore Girls,” he says. “I think I might have gotten myself into a TV Theme mode,” And thus, the challenge was placed; Full House? “Oh the first line from that theme song, ‘Whatever happened to predictability?’ What a great line, it’s almost a philosophy. I think it’s a call to enforce some kind of normalcy that perhaps Full House is meant to represent. There’s a discussion here to be had.” Sure there is, but for now, to the gutter. We’ve got boats to race.

LIVE REVIEWS: SUPER WILD HORSES + DEAD FARMERS + STRAIGHT ARROWS + GOLDEN STAPH

@ EXCELSIOR, SURRY HILLS, 24/7/10 (ISSUE 373, AUGUST 2, 2010)

The best thing about the Excelsior is how god damn 1970s Manchester it feels. Brews a-flowin’, walls sardining the masses, shitty bowling club ceiling-chic and floortiles in picture frames. Right like, innit fookin’ ace ye dig?

Opening acts came quick and dirty, with classic punks Golden Staph opening with a punch, no-nonsense beat and a great frock. With a DIY brusqueness that saw the Perth crew release four-track cassettes this year, frontlady Amber Gempton lead the way for a ‘fuck you’ and a ‘thanks for stoppin’ by’ with a style that was nothing short of raz. (raz – adj. Manchester idiom, something good/great). Raz, indeed.

With Sydney lo-fi outfit Straight Arrows similarly charging earlybirds with what was described in the crowd as ‘the lovechild of the Clash and the Mighty Boosh’, fellow locals Dead Farmers stepped up the culminating punkful atmos, bringing out the fans amidst the absently interested. Oh look, we may as well do this properly. In caps. AMP ON A MILK CRATE, YELLING, LOTS OF YELLING, THREE GUYS, GUNNING GRAND SOUND, BASS BASS BASS, BEAT, ‘TUDE, PSYCH! And scene.

With punters crammed like a pack o’ foals in a bitty corral, by the tenth hour things promised to get Wild. As Melbournian duo Amy Franz and Hayley McKee wandered onstage in matching Stranglers and oversized blouses, Super Wild Horses finally had the chance to embody the hype their local media frenzy has garnered in the last month.

Despite their yells! and heys!, these headlining ladies are darlings masquerading as punksters, adorably requesting an increase in volume of the ‘thingy’. With a show-and-tell of the treats from their highly plugged debut LP Fifteen, a record produced by Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring), expectations of this Victorian duo were notably high.

With a request to crank vocals, this instrument-swapping pair tote a straightforward Brit-punk power-chord philosophy, as their sole innovation comes with the decision to play a maraca on a guitar. Mess (both on and offstage) nicely supplemented the garage thrust of single ‘Golden Town’ and ‘Standing On The Corner’, as enviro-bags strewn across the tiny digs and shattered glass stage right craft organised disarray. These girls do punk, prettily, as their blunt-fringed demure rings of X-Ray Spex, the Slits, and Bratmobile wardrobing at American Apparel.

Emblematic of this post-feminist Riot Grrrl hurrah was the well-received ‘Mess Around’, a stripped-down expression of sexual lib that quickens, peaks and slows with wailing vocals to illustrate accordingly. They are woman, hear them raw. However Franz and McKee’s minimalist punk delivery is actually downright sweet, as banter was consistently accented with a need to “thank Harriet and Ange for letting us sleep at their place”. With punters nodding furiously, the duo took a turn for the beachside underground with a new song ‘Waikiki Romance’, conjured in the loungeroom of their hosts. This curve for upbeat pastures followed with a much more palatably sinister late Paisley Underground Bangles-esque sound. Jangly pop at its best.

As an unanticipated encore conjured another unheard number from this infanting duo, the forecast for Super Wild Horses seems irrelevant as their ‘of-the-moment’ sound defies the need to look further than the gig at hand. ‘Girly punk’ seems to be a common and oxymoronic label for this lo-fi sledge of sound as their distorted meanderings into overdrive project an angry sense of 1976 that sends conservative ears reeling. Feck it lads, time to chip, we’re cabbaged.

LIVE REVIEWS:  LITTLE RED + BIG SCARY + WONS PHREELY
@ OXFORD ART FACTORY, 17/7/10
(ISSUE 369, JULY, 2010)

‘Tis a rough art indeed, selecting support acts. Similar yet hardly counterfeit, complementary but never overshadowing, same same but different. As usual Oxford Art, you flipping nailed it. Whatta trifecta.

To appease the brewing exciteable masses, Perth lad Wons Phreely proved a satisfying appetizer, particularly as the first course was served with a side of sweets. No, really. Actual sweets. Well golly one recalls this troubadour’s half a decade ago when this scamp was scuffing around the Abercrombie carpets with his lovely ‘Rules of Nature’ EP. But with a new jaunty, beat-driven sound emanating from single ‘The World Has A Bank Account’, this solo philosopher is certainly still west of hatred though slightly east of love, only now he gots groove.

With security already finding a hefty challenge in preventing stairs from becoming a vantage point, something Big Scary was a-massiní with the Melbourne duo of such a frightening name taking the stage. But the only thing fearsome here was this grand little duoís remarkable ability to fuse mind, melody and mystique with what they call “their own shit to worry about”. With four ‘seasonal’ EPs under release throughout this year, the night caught the pair in an crisp Winterly zone, with a wondrous little jaunt in “Lullabies, Lies and Goodbyes” that certainly snowballed the online hype the two have already cultivated. With hypnotic genre-jumps, Tom Iansek and Jo Syme are masters of adaptability, meandering effortlessly between twee sweet acoustica and a rock-out, particularly when Ray Charles gets a cover. Despite their ability to keep things quaint, ‘This Weight’ saw Iansek decidedly wailsome, yo-yoing nicely between crooner, and gunning growler. Watch this space.

Hearing the headlining fivesome often described as ‘reliable’ certainly set the bar for Melbournian popmongers Little Red, with their playful melodies and energy claiming a rep to uphold on this Sydneyian Saturday. But with an entrance of darling  “It’s Alright” blasting doubts away, expectations for the five kicked off with a jaunt and a jive. Cue appropriately outlandish screams of fandom. With a new record fresh from the streets of Londonia, it’s clear LittleRed have had enough of the Lennon McCartney gimmick and returned with something infinitely more slick and strutworthy. Like a good single launch, “Rock It” proved a rowdy crowd-pleaser- a stripped-back party tune that nicely lacks the embellishment so many sophomore releases tote. Less ELO, more Super Furry Animals-meets-Spoon, these larrikins put an edge on their 50s cola bottlespin without losing any momentum, with the ever-jolly beats and infectious grin from percussionist Taka Honda creating one helluva ruckus.

Admirably, despite their shiny new goods, the fivesome of frivolous group-love hardly ignored their fanbase with favourites “Little Annie” and “Coca Cola” sending shoulders shimmying and some tripper in yellow Keds studying his own shoe movements meticulously near the exit. If Little Red are indeed a reliable little order, consider me a regular. Despite being festival favourites with a coveted spot at Splendour next week, one can’t help but feel Little Red do much better indoors, with their infectious bubble of doo-wop poppin’ about the walls like a 1950s TV slot. This was one old-fashioned shindiggus with big old sparkly bobbysocks. Ramma lamma ding dong, Little Red rocked it.

ALBUM REVIEWS: MONTPELIER EP

Online, Montpelier once called themselves ‘electro-synth’. Sorry lads, how incorrect. Let’s stick with the horrid term ‘piano-indie’ for now while we work on another galvanizing term. Apologies.

Recording in Hollywood with US producer Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe & The Zeros, Yves Klein Blue), nothing unradioworthy was ever going to come of this debut self-titled EP, but with subtlety and honest intent Brisbane 4-piece Montpelier somehow manage to keep things True Blue. There is a lovely young Oz element to this six-track selection of playable youth-anthems, a testament that epic nostalgia indie can still draw a tear.

Opening track ‘The Rafters’ and follower ‘Take A Picture’ instantly stir a deliciously classic brew of indie piano pop that (astonishingly) reek of earnest sincerity. Like a sentimental Ben Folds, such initial tunes charge out Temper Trap-esque drumbeats and alternating notes like an indecisive mind. Standout ‘Girl’ blends vocalist Greg Chiapello’s somewhat sentimental lyrics with a genuine pang of sorrow to craft a lovely and stripped-back musical meditation that pristinely captures tragic loss and fourteen year-old love.

While harmonies are a crucial element in portraying emotion in these quaint little ditties, the strength in Montpelier’s EP lies in melody- the ability to create memorable chart-worthy tunes. For enthusiasts of Ryan and Marissa’s tumultuously self-obsessed meanderings, it sure is difficult to deny this poignant little snack of OC pensiveness, as final track ‘Fireworks’ listens lika teen drama pre-credits clincher. This is heartfelt return-to-hometown music, the kind of tracks that inevitably invoke self-reflection and nostalgic nods to the year 1998.

Ben Lee holding hands with Angus Stone on a Californian cliff where the winds of youth blow away any aroma of complacency.

3/5

INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE SILENTS- SUN A BUZZ (ISSUE 367, JUNE 21, 2010)

It must be a somewhat frustrating sensation being tipped as ‘ones to watch’ since 2002 but for Perth locals The Silents, eight years worth of anticipation has only increased the foursome’s volume, amplification, and ability to get trippy. Recorded and produced in a cushy cabana on the coast of South-Western Australia, Sun A Buzz is a record that values prolonged substance over standout singles.

In the face of previous EP releases, this recording is clean, mature and developed; garage with polish and reverb, the kind of brooding cascade that only comes with trial and error. Admittedly, leading track ‘The Snail’, stands in jarring opposition to the tone of the other eight parcels of musical drama, but in this sense the three-minute blast provides a punchy opener, and live crowd pleaser.

In the best and least monotonous sense, a large amount of numbers may provoke slumber; the mesmerising trance induced by droning guitars and echoing vocals certainly invite the 3am listener to turn off the mind, relax, and float downstream. The intriguingly entitled ‘Kingdom, Abhor, Sea’ and ‘Serpents Tprch’ exude an almost a Doors-esque quality to the swaggering verses and vocal licks, until gunning rock choruses thrust more force than a Morrison pout. The trip meanders but nicely avoids virtuosic spiralling.

Sun A Buzz is a self-determining sound from a band staking out their niche in a scene quite momentarily dominated by catchy motifs and danceable ditties. With a freedom to experiment, the artistic prowess of this long-serving group has not only brought their sound to a new level of professionalism, but has made the foursome, well… a whole lot braver.

Trippy and trance-inducing, this Perth export is best delivered pensively to the ears around 2:55am. Avec candle.

3/5

LIVE REVIEWS:  COMMUNION: Seabellies + Cameras + Pluto Jonze + Lanie Lane + Wade Jackson (ISSUE 367, JUNE 21, 2010)

Melt Bar, Kings Cross

To disappoint, this Communion is not the 1976 horror film starring Brooke Shields. Rats. This UK night instigated by Ben Lovett and Kevin Jones (Mumford & Sons) washed up on Australian shores in January with an ambition to fuss over new Oz acts. With stomping ground GoodGod Small Club taking a ‘momentary hiatus’, the June chapter of Communion was set to get all A&R on y’all in new digs at Melt. And in true Brit fashion, it was flipping freezing.

For early arrivers, Wade Jackson provided one jolly intro spree, blending an untreated Dylan-esque honesty with a raw upbeat twang-pop. Glamour gal Lanie Lane subsequently expressed a quirky 1957 storytelling panache that was nothing short of transfixing, seductive and anachronistic, swiftly warming the frozen feet and hearts of onlookers. But for those with more moody thoughts on which to dwell, Sydney local Pluto Jonze provided ponderous material for sundown. This tall, TropScore-winning, intriguing figure brought a more mellow psychedelic Gotye-esque turn for the frosty Wednesday.

Despite sound glitches and feedback agony, spirits were high and scotch rocks a-chinkin’. Cue Cameras; the local four-piece no one quite knows how to watch live, yet. Darlings of Sydney’s darkened corners and major stages, this progressive group haunted with vaudevillian militaristic beats and an alt-rock edge delicately described nearby as the ‘colourful vomit of Sonic Youth’. Split personality garage sound, Cameras claim a duo-vox between blunt-fringed belle Eleanor Dunlop and her 2IC Fraser Harvey, a dimension proving both a unique schtick and a conflicting element. Exciting, remarkable, captivating music, or to paraphrase the philosopher Craig David, Cameras were slicker than your average.

The problem with holding a night in a venue lined with well-loved leather couches, is the temptation for attendees to remain veged, and as such the headlining sound was received by four loners across the floorboards. But with limp fairy lights in toe, Newcastle headliners the Seabellies alleviated the final wait with a wink, a Sweet Child O’ Mine riff and a ‘thanks for staying’.

With a sound bigger than the venue, these award-nabbing, cusp-riding Novocastrians are continuously awarded Arcade Fire comparisons, a resemblance hard to avoid when there’s more epicry onstage than a Spike Jonze soundtrack. Finally harbouring debut alb um By Limbo Lake, everything about this well-oiled machine is bright, rousing and potential-laden, from frontman Kyle Grenell’s vocal lines of gritty anguish, to multi-instrumentalist Stephanie Setz’s golden notes of metallophone, melodica, keys, and sax. Cramped yet content, the sextet’s textured tautness in new single “Young Cubs” proved their sound has matured like a fig since Triple J-fuelled beginnings in 2006, and meandered to something tighter, catchier, crispier. God bless.

If the object of the game was to celebrate and discover, Communion sure nailed the June stars of Sydney’s stages, and showed those Mumford kids sure know how to source the ones to watch. Alas, on a frosty Wednesday eve in a dubious back alley of the Cross, if only more people would show up to confession. Amen.

LIVE REVIEWS: SKIPPING GIRL VINEGAR @ RAVAL, The Mac, Saturday June 19 (ISSUE 368, JUNE 27, 2010)

If singalongs are any indication of a fanship’s loyalty, Melbourne folk pop outfit Skipping Girl Vinegar have some seriously dedicated warblers in toe. Atop the grungy underskirts of the Macquarie Hotel, the congested yet content crowd of Raval shuffled amongst chintz furniture, the flicker of tealights, glistening whiskey sours, and a stained-glass parrot. Red velvet, cyan light and cricket sounds later, the foursome and friends were met with roaring applause from what could easily have passed for a large family gathering.

With their old-world country twang merrily filling the oversized loungeroom, drummer Chris Helm showed more enthusiasm than the large majority of percussionists, with an opening ramble of the gang’s latest single ‘One Long Week’ exuding more energy than a Pomeranian in a jumping castle. Now forestry is the SGV stage set shtick. Hell, deers and pines can sure sell CD jackets and Diva necklaces these days. However twee props hold the propensity for such to swing away from darling Grates-esque aesthetica to being well, awfully cringeworthy. Whether it was the lack of space, the room ambience, or the cynicism of such a reviewer, the addition of faux owls, doves and vines onstage just seemed to fall short of being an effective addition to the performance. However the difficulty of expressing any negative sentiments towards these lo-fi larrikins, is the annoyance of moral conscience – they’re just so damn nice. They even baked. On with it.

If folk music has a penchant for natural creativity, these Melbournians certainly get resourceful with their instrumentation, as frontman Mark Lang quizzed his audience, “Has anyone got any good junk?” Kicking off gentle noodler “Fly Little Bird” with the grating of a telephone dial found in Tasmania, onlookers chose to laugh gleefully despite the seriousness of the song. Nevertheless, with a limply swaying cymbal and a bottle filled with rocks found on the side of the road in Yass a few days earlier, this creative crew are proving what kids discovered long ago- ‘instrument’ is term subject to interpretation. Slower numbers “Wandered” and other heartwrenchers from debut album Sift The Noise expressed a more vulnerable troubadouric nature, as such expressions of nomadic loneliness expressed a rare kind of heart-on-sleeve candor. Painting vivid portraits of the fantastical and realistic, Lang & Co’s adventures were only enhanced by one poignant moment when the frontman decided to hand out op-shop copies of Salt N Pepa.

If the evening’s love-in proved one thing for SGV, the sheer fan support for this Melbournian troupe was truly encouraging. As the sardined attic of the Mac emptied and the band distributed home-made brownies, it is difficult to recall local artists more considerate of those who cheer on their tales, even when Lang forgets the words. Nothing says audience appreciation like a batch o’ baked goods.

THROW SHAPES:

PVT :: VOWELS ARE OVERRATED ANYWAY

…29.06.10

Laurence Pike, like most misunderstood drummers is pretty tired of answering three questions: describe your sound, what can we expect from your live show, and how was London. So we’re going to talk snacks. “Sorry I’m just eating a sesame snap, that was a really inappropriate thing to eat while I’m talking to you,” he says, or at least attempts to. “Ah, how I do love sesame snaps.”

But hold up munch boy. You seem to be missing a few vowels.

Forming in 1999, the Sydney-by-way-of-London-based experimentally progressive trio Pivot (Dave Miller and brothers Laurence and Richard Pike) recently had a nasty run-in with a US metal outfit of the same name, who challenged the Sydneysiders to a duel if group titles didn’t start a-changin’. In a subsequent statement, Richardclaimed, “It was frustrating and kind of ridiculous, but it became quickly obvious that it was a legal battle in the US we may not even win, and one we just couldn’t afford to lose. So in the end, we weren’t fazed by it.”

Nor should they be. With a new album and feet back on Australian soil as PVT, a few missing letters are hardly going to dampen the spirits of this electronic three piece, as the small change will surely not lower the volume of their amps. As Richard had to add, “Altering the name just seemed to be another step in the process for the record to come out and be heard.”

Change is a call for innovation and such an opportunity has hardly slipped through the gunning electronic fingers of the three Sydney locals. But with recording done and dusted and an upcoming tour to give such a long awaited record a bit of a preview, what on earth is Laurence Pike doing with his days back on Australian shores? “There’s that big gap between the time that you actually finish your job and other people start doing theirs,” he says. “I’ve just been hanging out at home and making soup. Oh and I just went on my honeymoon.”

Pike should consider newlywed bliss a holiday well-deserved, as the success of PVThas certainly dominated his schedule over the past few years. With 2008 seeing the group become the first Australian artists signed to iconic UK label Warp Records(BattlesMaxïmo Park!!!Aphex TwinGrizzly Bear), PVT grabbed a pocketful of notoriety as the release of album O Soundtrack My Heart even saw the trio scoot on tour with electro-hook god Gary Numan. The problem for Pike, however, is the common journalistic act of romanticising this tale.

“People get quite carried away with the romance of Warp Records,” he says, with the explosive conviction of someone being asked the same question for two years. “Like some magic dream factory; we all go there and hang out and play chess withAphex Twin.” Denying accusations Warp artists simply indulge in rounds of golf every Wednesday, Pike’s frustration with run-of-the-mill interviews is transparent, as even repeating his interest in Little Richard is met with a resounding subject change.  “To be honest I’m really bored of answering questions about Warp Records,” he says. “Every, every interview we’ve done for the last two years just wants to talk about the label, and it’s like, well how about we talk about our album?”

Well how about we. Church With No Magic is the latest release from Pike and his merry men, with single ‘Window’ showing the kind of mature and focused sound that only comes with a Londonian adventure or two. “I think Dave living in London for five years has meant exposure to a lot of the electronic club music in London that is quite uniquely localised,” he says. “I think the fact that we’ve done a lot of live playing over the last couple of years has affected the sound, and our approach has shifted to maybe make it a bit more organic than the last record was.” Scooting around more underground English club sounds has certainly only increased the trio’s ability to create new and more innovative structures of sonic originality, with their programmed kind of modernist approach to music production seeing them create a transfixing and mesemerising cache of art music.

But with two years since their last album hit the shelves, does Pike see a difference in the PVT sound without the vowels “I mean vocal prominence is the most obvious difference, though I think there’s a strong connection to the last record at least with the ‘bigness’ of the sound,” he says. “The development is kind of obvious to us because we’ve been plugging at it for a couple of years since we finished the last record. I feel like I’ve been in the doctor’s waiting room for the past six months just waiting for this album, just waiting for the baby to pop out. Once it arrives I’ll probably ask it to move out of home. I’ll be like “GET OUT OF MY LIFE. You ruined my life! Now get out there and make me some money.” ”

Unfortunately for Pike, this money he speaks of doesn’t always buy happiness, particularly when it comes to pre-show riders and his beloved snack he continues to chomp throughout the interview. “I actually asked for sesame snaps to be put on the rider but I don’t think anyone’s ever given them to me, ever, anywhere,” Pikelaments. “But when I play with Jack Ladder, he occasionally goes to the shop and buys me a couple.”

So if sesame snaps are off limits, what Easter Eggs are the highlight of PVT riders? “Oh not really much. Postcards. I like sending postcards when I travel and often you don’t have time to go and find any,” he says. “[On tour] you’re just there for a few hours in the city, then you play, sleep, and then leave the next morning. So we get postcards of the city or region featuring ‘points of interest’. Probably should be asking for litres of vodka or something instead.”

As the trio embark on their Australian tour in August, the possibility of creative riders on home shores grows ever more present, however Pike’s yearnings of pre-show beverages are a little more refined than a bottle of Smirnoff. “I’d love a couple of bottles of French red wine right now I’ll tell you what,” he says. “I was just in France and I went total pig out on the French wine it was amazing.”

Pike’s forays into the European food spectrum hardly remained abroad, as his suitcase found itself a culinary Customs spectacle. “I always bring mustard back, there’s this mustard you can buy in France called Amora which is the cheapest shittiest supermarket mustard but it’s fucking the bomb,” he says. “We didn’t bother trying to bring back cheese, we just came back with a suitcase of French chocolates.”

Talking food is a nice change for PVT’s drummer as Pike shows a certain hostility towards journos who attempt to ask him to assign wondrous adjectives and outlandish descriptions to their undefinable sound. With a resigned sense of annoyance, this percussionist shows a blatant disdain for having to label his own sound. “It’s because people have no fucking idea what we do,” he says. People find it very difficult to make sense of what we do, and we don’t make it easy for them, but who wants music to be easy? For me the big question is when people say ‘describe your sound’. I always feel like saying ‘Fuck off, that’s your job.’ We don’t sit around ‘describing’ it all the time.”

At this point it’s difficult not to ask him. Let’s do.

“Ahh…. ‘Exchanging’? ‘Independent’? [laughs] I don’t know!” Perhaps coining a new word is the only means by which the trio’s electronic sound can be described. Let’s try ‘scubadivery’…

“Is that even a word?” Pike asks. “Sure, lock that one off!”

Scubadivery it is. But despite establishing a general dislike of token interview questions, Pike isn’t ferreting away so soon without a hint of what to expect from a live venture into the Kingdom of PVT. “Um, dragons? I don’t really know, lasers? Everyone likes lasers. If you’re into that.”

Thus with a host of media to please and a tour to anticipate, it’s high time Pike was left to his sesame snaps. “Hey, you don’t need to let me go for that to happen,” he laughs. “I’ve been enjoying them for some time now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed me munching.” With a quick reminder his next interview is live radio, this electronic guru should probably chew faster. “I won’t munch on air, but I might not be able to help myself, I’m a pig for it. A glutton for sesame snaps.”

Good luck with that Laurence.

“Ha! Sure. Good luck with my sickness…”

++

PVT’s new album, Church With No Magic, is due out July 10.

SAM EVERINGHAM :: ON THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MADAM LASH

…08.06.10

Sam Everingham has written a few books, and recently has written one about a lady called Madam Lash, at least to her patrons. To the law, she’s Gretel Pinniger. She’s a dominatrix, fetishist, artst and courtesan, which is not usually the Throw Shapes schtick, you  must understand. The thing is, she’s become quite a personality within the strange underground sexual arts and industry scene. She’s notorious – her establishment, The Kirk – that’s the old church on Cleveland Street near crown – is now home to the best burlesque and aerial school in Sydney.

Sponsored by a rather wealthy ‘patron’, Gretel had a rather generous ‘allowance’ which propelled her in to the world of performance, glamour, sex, drugs, and ridiculous parties, renowned for naked aerial sushi waitress and other such things…

You can imagine, it’s quite a juicy topic for a book. Sam and Gretel became friends after hours of interviews, so it was strange when Gretel didn’t even turn up to the party she threw at The Kirk to launch the book. The official industry launch will be a little less raunchy – it’s being held at the Riverview Hotel in Balmain. They have a book club called the ‘Hill of Content Book Club‘ tonight, at 7pm. Will she turn up? Who knows? Sam wrote us a little statement about the last party, and answered some of Bridie Connellan’s (and Lucy Fokkema’s) questions about the whole story…

++

Gretel and I had been planning the launch of her book for months. Gretelhad a number of requests from which she would not budge – a red carpet out the front, floodlights for the front of the church, to arrive in her originalSTIFF limousine. For a while she insisted on two chaperones in white tuxedos to accompany her  – Allen & Unwin were asked to purchase their outfits.

The red carpet was sourced, sound, lighting and staging booked and paid for, bouncers arranged, waiters booked, alcohol ordered in. Three hundred guests were invited to attend. Friends flew in from Far North Queensland and remote Northern Territory towns to re-unite with the woman they had once loved.  Gretel had ensured her art was prominently hung around every wall. Bondage madams closed their salons for a few hours and took taxis to Gretel’s remodeled Kirk. Photographers from celebrity magazines arrived, eager for shots of the now reclusive figure. Gretel had taken a room at the nearby Medina on Crown to prepare. She would be wearing a red designer dress worth $10,000 for the event. Celebrity hairdresser John Adams worked on her hair and make up

Meanwhile all was far from well. Upset over speculation in the Herald a week earlier about the identity of her un-named patron, Gretel had received the news she had dreaded. A copy of the book had by now been perused by international lawyers from her late patron’s estate. There were scenes – particularly those on pages 131 and 132 – which they took strong objection to. By  attending the launch, she would be seen as endorsing the book’s contents. Gretel’s ongoing financial support from her late patron’s estate was under threat. She was in an impossible position. It was an event she had looked forward to for so long – a re-union with long forgotten friends  – a celebration of live and resilience. Yet by attending she risked losing any future financial security.

As the storm clouds receded over Sydney,  hundreds of guests began to pour into the venue.  Gretel was due to arrive at 6.20pm. At that moment, an online story hit the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. In it Gretel was quoted “Sam Everingham has exaggerated, misrepresented and lied. Some things just didn’t happen, like the story about the dildos and Macquarie University. Oh, well, maybe once, but then you know what the ’70s were like.”

With no sign of Gretel by 6.45pm, the entertainment began anyway. A half-naked young men – a trapeze artist – suspended from the ceiling by ropes coiled and uncoiled his body to a haunting soundtrack. It was followed by a montage of stunning images from Gretel’s life.

Around 7.30pm Gretel’s chauffeur and valet from Florida House appeared on the stage to read a statement to announce she would not be attending. It seemed a characteristically odd mix of her lawyers advice and Gretel’s own unique way of coping.  In it, she said she was “betrayed and degraded” by the book, which was a character assassination. She asked the audience to think of the launch as her wake, announcing she would be reborn the next day as “Alice in Wonderland.

In subsequent days, my voicemails and emails to Gretel remained unanswered. Through her brother I was advised that Gretel’s financial security “had come close to disaster.” It would be impossible for her to honour the remaining public commitments in relation to the book in the next weeks. While disappointed for her friends and admirers who were looking forward to seeing her, I made it clear that I respected her decision and the circumstances that have influenced it.

++

+ As someone obviously really involved and interested in Australian history, why the choice to delve into the obscure life of Madame Lash? Is there a little something about bondage you’re not telling us?
> I’ve always been fascinated by people who have different personas that they ‘wear’ at different times – Also I’ve been interested in eccentrics – those who break or bend the rules.

Cobb & Co’s driving force James Rutherford suffered manic depression, yet hid it from society, despite being locked in an asylum for periods in his business life, and Gordon Barton also had a range of different personas – social activist, bon vivante, underworld fetish player and philosopher- all of which he used in different situations.

Gretel Pinniger’s different personas have included Madam LashThe Immaculate Lash, Senate candidate and more recently Alice in Wonderland. All three of these stories were Australian, had never been told before and most fun of all, and had dirty laundry that needing airing.

+ How did your line of research move from dusty old convict stations in rural Australia, to fetish and dirty, dirty frivolity?
> OK, I admit it, I have always had a fascination for the sexual underbelly of Western cultures – the way people can transform themselves from a suit and tie during the day, to a leather harness at night, to indulge appetites for imaginative sexual games.

+ How did you approach the rather eccentric Madam Lash? Was the introduction successful or moderately fiery?
> A friend I’d met through my partner had ‘created’ her back in the 1970s. He reminded me of where I could find her and I rang her up and invited myself over. That first session was ‘tentative’ and for the first year, she was not prepared to talk deeply about her life, for fear of retribution.

During one of my first interview attempts, it was my error which set the kitchen alight – the stainless steel kettle I had boiling on the stove-top, was in fact electric, with a rubber base.  By the time I returned with the teabags, liquid rubber was dripping onto the floor as flames leapt towards the ceiling. Luckily, Gretel was in the bath and by the time she emerged I had doused the fire and secreted most of the evidence; ‘I owe you a new kettle,’ I confessed.

+ What were your first impressions of The Kirk? Florida House? Try a chaos room?
The Kirk: Stunning, mad artists space with vision and a wow factor.Florida House: An enormous artist’s paradise mixed with fetish undertones, set amidst a lush sub-tropical undergrowth wit chaotic bric a brac and objet d’art everywhere.

+ After spending such an amount of time researching and documenting such a candid figure, do you now see a major difference between sensuality and sexuality? How about ‘taboo’?
> Sexuality, I came to realise, is simply who or what we are attracted to – it can be categorised, at least roughly. Sensuality on the other hand is the secret to Gretel’s success. Those who know how to tap into sensuality (taste, sight, smell, etc) fully, can create hugely erotic scenes and environments. Gretel has been superb at this.

+ Do you think debaucherous activity has become more relatively euphemised and accepted these days, or are society still a bunch of prudes?
> I think in Australia, we’ve become more prudish than we were in the 1980s about debauched behaviour – partly as a response to HIV, and partly due to the over-regulation of public spaces by a risk-averse culture.

+ When Lash ran for the Senate in the 1996 federal elections, how do you think a fusty old parliament would have reacted had she been successful?
> Horrified and bemused…

+ You’ve been described as a “history detective”. Despite being the most amazing career title imaginable, how well do you think this describes your line of work? Can you recall your greatest unearthing?
> If you consider history to include ‘life history’, then yes, it describes my work fairly well. I love to look under the beds of all my subjects. As for my greatest unearthing? For the Lash book, probably finding Gretel’s first great lover, hidden away in an obscure German town (and the stories he was subsequently prepared to share).

+ How appropriate do you see the Riverview as the choice of launch venue? Seems a pretty respectable joint in which to talk sex, scandal and saucy whips?
> I think it’s perfect. Most people do not even start to think about exploring their fetishes until they’ve met their basic needs: a good job, house etc and have achieved some measure of success. Some of Gretel’s wildest fetish friends still live in Balmain…

+ When does pushing the boundaries go too far?
> When other parties are physically injured against their will, and when it impacts negatively on family life.

+ When does any kind of point you might be trying to make get lost in the spectacle of making that point?
> When there’s too much visual stimulus in the spectacle – political Mardi Gras floats can be a good example – often a good political point clouded by far too much glitter…

++

The book launch is at the saucy Riverview Hotel, 29 Birchgrove Road, Balmain, from 7pm. There’s Free membership to the book club and complimentary canapes and finger food.

Oh Ye Denver Birds :: Kerouac’s Musical Children

…23.04.10

To paraphrase/nab directly from Jack Kerouac, the only people for Dominic Stephens are the mad ones; the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’” In a Beat-driven, wonderfully capricious nutshell, this is Brisbane’s newest export: Oh Ye Denver Birds.

On an ironically overcast afternoon on the Sunshine Coast, front man Dominic Stephens is about to join his band mates at the first of their East Coast tour shows in Melbourne and the second in Sydney tonight at Oxford Art Factory. With their first single ‘Walls’ ready for release, this 5-piece has been flagged by Triple J and Rolling Stone as ones to watch, as the previous year has seen them share stage space with the likes of Akron/Family, Castanets, Leader Cheetah and a plethora of homegrown buddies. Oh ye bright young things, how they do fly.

With a sound that dabbles in Sigur Ros, The Dodos, Arcade Fire and even locals Aleks and the Ramps, Stephens and his crew are a fresh and fine example of the wondrous current Australian alternative scene, a surreal jambalaya of ambience and amazement. “I don’t think we’ve been together for a year yet, it’s been really quick,” says Stephens. “It started with me just writing songs in my room, recording them and putting them on the internet, that gradually drew interest and I got asked to play shows. I got some friends together and it’s just grown from there.”

Stephens has recruited one spiffy gang to fill the missing parts of OYDB as Zac Vale, Edward Thomas, Josh Spencer, and Katherine Gough have joined ranks to create a wonderful quintet of likeminded folks. But vastly overwhelmed by masculine prescence, one supposes Gough apparently deserves some femme downtime on tour.  “I feel really sorry for her sometimes,” says Stephens apologetically. “Especially doing these drives down to Melbourne and getting ready [before a show]; it’s all really nice but after a while it gets very guy-ish. It’s a learning curve but we have to respect that I think.”

With more certainly equating with merrier, the group settled on the name Oh Ye Denver Birds as a tribute to a line from Jack Kerouac’s 1951 novel of freedom and frivolity On The Road. But with a moniker that screams youthful poetic frivolity and Ginsberg-esque exclamations, Stephens and his merry crew have given themselves an ambitious role model, with their title referencing a rather famous outburst from Kerouac’s character Carlo Marx.

“There’s just a few things that I come across every now and again that I really love, and that book was one of them,” he says. “Along with some David Lynch work and some movies that just really inspire me, the way [Kerouac] writes and what he did is really interesting and kind of desirable. It’s what I want to do.” With notebooks and thoughts oozing Beat gen credibility for this young Brisbane local, Stephens admires one key feature of this iconic novel that seems to healthily pervade his own art; honesty. “[On The Road] is a very free and true story you know, like it was a stream of consciousness written down on a scroll,” he says. “It was just the honest truth.  I think in terms like that, the truth in music comes out too… maybe. Maybe.”

Defining one’s own sound is always a difficult task, particularly when one wishes to avoid being roped into a ‘scene’ as Stephens assures. With swirling synths and various instruments of technicolour and texture, the frontman denies there was any intention to make music as hypnotic as has resulted, but instead chooses to describe the fivesome’s sound as ‘earthy folk harmony’ music. On record, the results are nothing less than beautiful cascading ambience fused with a delightfully playful arrangement of vocals. With a beautiful use of singing as the crux of their instrumentation, the quartet put an undeniable passion into their folky melodies that wonderfully reinvigorate the art of vox.

“It’s really hard sometimes because not everyone’s always in the mood to sing,” he says. “It’s far easier to sit behind an instrument and play, so I think singing takes a bit more motivation. We try and have a cappella warm-ups and vocal practices just to keep us comfortable with singing together.” Choral jamming fusion has become quite a neat little bonding experience for the group, as Stephens believes creating such arrangements can really create group harmony. “You’re putting a lot of yourself out there and I guess that takes quite a bit of confidence to do that the first time, “ he admits.

But if we’re being Kerouacally honest, these guys are just adorable, and thus Stephens sees a problematic downfall of playing live; are people actually listening to what they’re singing or just staring at their stovepipes? “You have a lot of time to really think about [what you want to express] with recording and get across the certain vibe you want, but often with live music other things are involved and it isn’t as truthful,” he says. “There are more visuals live, there’s more of a ‘coolness’ side of style involved with that, and it all gets in the way of really making a point with your music.”

But whatever point these Brisbaneans are trying to make, music is not their only muse and outlet. With stop motion film clips, beautifully candid press photography, and a stage presence that even makes percussive use of pots and pans, OYDB are one of those marvelously talented crews of creatives who just enjoy every part of the process. “I’m interested in all the different mediums of creativity for sure, I think they’re all so intertwined that they denote the same thing,” says Stephens. “We’re just trying to focus on having that creative control over everything.” A prime example of such artistic integrity comes with the release of the film clip for ‘Here Within Ourselves, Ourselves’, a lovingly crafted journey of Stephens through towns, fields and woodlands told by over 5000 photographs in sequence.

But since Kerouac was no filmmaker, what inspires such visual craftiness?

Twin Peaks, by David Lynch,” says Stephens. “And I watched this animation the other day from 1973 called Fantastic Planet, and it was just so amazing visually, with the drawings and the animations and the soundtrack and the dialogue, that it almost made me want to write a song or an album right then.”

But regardless of such high-brow influences, like any creative type, sweet sweet sustaining moolah is often difficult to come by. “Two of us are currently freeloading, just living at friend’s houses, me and Eddie, and that’s really pretty hard. But it’s good that maybe it goes back on the Jack Kerouac thing,” he says. But more often than not Stephens and his bandmates seem to find these domestic surrounds prime songwriting zones, as inspiration can come more easily from a lawn chair than a mixing desk. “It’s cool, and I think we can be kind of spontaneous because it will be like ‘Dude, this is a cool backyard, let’s do a song in it..’ he says. “It’s just being comfortable. Not being in a studio with a time limit and worrying about things like money, and how good the equipment is, you can just relax and let the real kind of creativity happen I guess. Sometimes it’s just better do a song in a garden.”

For such an optimistic artist, the prospect of criticism seems to come with nerves and apprehension for Stephens, as the idea of being judged holds particular resonance with this quietly spoken young man. When Throw Shapes published a rather dishy little review of Oh Ye Denver Birds a few days ago, Stephens could not have been more stoked. We liked him, we really liked him. And he couldn’t thank us more.

“It was lovely, because all our songs so far all been home recordings, but this was the first time we’ve been to a studio where we were actually like, “We’re going to record a single and we’re going to put it out there and tour it” kind of thing,” he says. “It’s a lot more nerve-wracking this time. So it was just really nice to see that someone liked it.”

Wearing emotions on one’s sleeve in this case sure gets a little sensitive when it comes to critics, as Stephens agrees the wait for reviews is an intimidating task. “I understand that you’re putting something you’ve made out to people’s opinions and views so you’ve got to be ready for people to hate you or love you,” he says. “But when it comes to reviews, it’s really in your face to be reading their opinion.”

Don’t fret just yet little sparrows. With a growing Australian following, these fresh faces on the circuit are sure to please eartanks and eyeballs as they embark on their promotional tour this month. But hell, if everything goes to the dogs, simply suitcase up, crash in someone’s backyard and get Beat. Take it from here Jack;

At dawn I found Carlo. I read some of his enormous journal, slept there, and in the morning, drizzly and gray, tall, six-foot Ed Dunkel came in with Roy Johnson, a handsome kid, and Tom Snark, the clubfooted poolshark. They sat around and listened with abashed smiles as Carlo Marx read them his apocalyptic, mad poetry. I slumped in my chair, finished. “Oh ye Denver birds!” cried Carlo.

Oh ye indeed.

++

Oh Ye Denver Birds play at Oxford Art Factory tonight launching their single, ‘Walls’, supported by Sydney band, Cabins.


Pikelet :: Bigger Than Original Pikelet, Not Yet a Pancake

…22.04.10

Crumpets? Pfft. Muffins? Oh please. Pikelet is the brainchild of Melbournian Evelyn Morris, an original solo project of marvelous synth pop and atmospheric wonderment that upon a second album finds itself supported by the likes of Shags Chamberlain (synths), Tarquin Manek (bass, clarinet, backing vocals) and Matthew Cox (drums) for that little extra snackabout. With a delightfully intriguing niche of sound that toes the line between charming kitschy pop and compelling electronic soundscapes, Morris and her crew are swiftly striking out as ones to watch and follow, particularly as they embark on their Australian tour this month. Praised be humble breakfast foods!

But in the midst of Melbourne’s bustling CBD, even the most seasoned musician may find it difficult to procure any secluded spot for a phone interview, and may thus be attracted by the smallest of hidey-holes to talk shop. But unfortunately today Evelyn Morris keeps getting smacked by doors. As this darling of psychedelic indie synth-pop presumably crouches on a milkcrate of some description simply for a chat, let us spare a thought for her wellbeing and bruised knees.

++

+ How’s your day been?
> Oh you know just been at work all day. I work in a café slash bar called Hell’s Kitchen in the city of Melbourne.

+ Is it actually hell?
> Oh no it’s actually a really nice place to go, sometimes it’s a bit of a hellish place to work but I’ve been there about four and a half years so I must like something about it.

+ Well at least you’re dedicated to your cause. Thanks for having a chat anyway you must be buggered. We’ve been listening to your new album and it’s pretty wonderful. It’s quite different than what you’ve done before with more experimental kind of things, how would you describe your latest album?
> I would say it’s like a bigger version of original Pikelet, with a full band. But sound-wise I don’t know how I would describe it, I mean to be really vague it’s kind of just an exploration and an inquiry into music. That’s kind of what we’re about.

+ Was there anything in particular you intended to accomplish when you started writing it?
> No not at all, the only thing was that the process was different because it involved making parts for other band members and sometimes writing collaboratively with them as well.

+ Was that something you found quite challenging having been a solo artist for so long?
> At first it was very challenging and it took a little while to figure out exactly how to go about things. I found it difficult having come from a background where I only ever wrote collaboratively with other people entirely, and it was difficult for me to learn how to tell new people to do their parts differently. It was usually a bit heated for me because I would feel bad for telling them what to do, which never really makes for successful communication. But we figured it out. It’s taken what about two years but we’ve got a good thing going now.

+ So where did you source your musicians Shags Chamberlain (synths), Tarquin Manek (bass, clarinet, backing vocals) and Matthew Cox (drums), from?
> Just from around Melbourne, I’ve known them all for quite a number of years. Matt drums in a band called Sinking Citizenship which I was a fan of maybe seven years ago. I played in the Ariel Pink band with Shags, he’s this guy from LA who came over here and we played in a backing band together. Shags played bass and I played drums in that band and I just thought he was a really amazing musician with this incredible encyclopedic knowledge of music. Tarquin I’ve known for a while, and as soon as he arrived in Melbourne from Canberra with his band Bum Creek they made a big noise. I just thought they were very bizarre and interesting people.

+ It is nice to stem from all different types of music in order to create something quite unique.
> I guess I’ve found that’s the case with every band I’ve played in you know. Not everybody comes to music in the same way, I don’t know anyone who has exactly the same ideas about music as me. We’ve got some parallels but generally we feel quite differently about things. It’s like philosopher Hegel said, when you have multiple dimensions you get synthesis.

+ So with all this collaboration, how would you describe your new sound?
> I always have trouble answering that…

CUE TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

+ I lost you when you were just about to describe yourself.
> I guess that’s probably because I don’t really know how to. It was probably a fortunate disconnection.


+ Technology was answering for you?
> Yeah, it’s saying don’t even bother. I have a really hard time with that kind of thing, because playing music is something that I’m good at, while talking about it I’m not.

+ That’s fair enough, you don’t make music just to talk about it.
> Yeah, but you’ve got to do it a little bit. I’m trying to get better but I haven’t really mastered like a one-liner about what I think we actually sound like so I won’t try and stumble my way through it.

+ Well what I got from your new album was storytelling. Was that intentional?
> Well I think it’s a pretty old-fashioned kind of mode, you know songs are really good for telling a story. This time I didn’t just want to sing about what I felt personally, I wanted to try and come up with something a little more creative.

+ Well you’ve also been described as ‘escapist’ music. Is that something you resonate with?
> Oh yeah, that’s something I would definitely understand people saying. It wasn’t really an intention but it ended up being mostly escapism. Like anyone, I have lots of intense feelings now and then, and thoughts about the world that aren’t 100% positive, but you can either get bogged down in those or you can try and imagine some alternate reality.

+ There’s almost a childlike element to your sound too, is your imagination and childhood something you draw upon to craft these kinds of songs?
> I’m not really sure, I think a classical kind of children’s perspective on the world is something that a lot of people would like to get back to, you know the time before you built up all these ideas about what’s real and what’s possible and not possible. So I think that’s a large part of escapism is kind of getting back to a point where you were just discovering the world.

+ So speaking of discovery, you’re about to embark on a bit of a national tour, one part of which is the Ben Sherman Big British Sound. How do you think you relate the sound they’re going for?
> I was actually surprised when they asked me. But I think there’s a pretty massive influence on Pikelet that comes from traditional British music. British folk music, especially from the 60s is one of our major influences and one of my favourite genres of music, which I don’t think is the angle that they’re really going for but that would be how I would see the connection. At the British thing I’m going to play a cover of a band called BOB, my favourite English band but I’m also going to do a cover of a Pulp song I think, because I really love Pulp.

+ So you’re going to gear up in Union Jack mod attire?
> Well actually it’s funny when I was a teen, I was kind of a punk kid slash into ska music and I used to wear these Doc Martens that have Union Jacks on the front. I still have them up on my shelf. I don’t wear them anymore because I don’t feel like I have much of a connection with the Union Jack, and there’s you know various other historical reasons that maybe I’m sort of opposed to it. But I’ll probably go with those.

+ Nice. There was always going to be a reason to bring them out one day.
> Exactly, and I will definitely be keeping them because they were such a big part of my childhood and youth.

+ Well shoes aside, how does your live show differ from what you craft on your album?
> It’s just a little more loud and intense than the album. The album is quite a clean recording whereas live we tend to get quite loud and messy. Sometimes. And I’ve always thought of live and recording to be two different things, so we try to keep the live show a little more loose.

+ You seem to have quite a respect for synthesizers these days.
> Well that’s actually developed out of being friends with Shags. And in fact when I was younger I was really anti-synthesisers and keyboards because I was not really into a lot of the synthesizer music that came out of the 90s.

+ That’s fair enough.
> Yeah, and I hadn’t really developed an appreciation for the 80s either so since I really rediscovered synthesizers from way back in the 70s and 60s, late 60s that is, I found they’re kind of amazing instruments. They can do so much.

+ Are you more on the modern front of sounds or do you prefer vintage synths?
> Definitely more vintage, like the 70s synthesizer sounds are my favourite.

+ So last but not least, how often do you get asked what kind of toppings you like on your pikelets?
> Oh all the time, and I’m always like ‘Ahhh yeah goood question’. It’s not annoying I just roll my eyes a little bit. It’s cute, but it happens a LOT.

+ I refrained because I figured as much.
> Well thankyou.

+ Perhaps you should simply tell people you don’t like them?
> Oh no! I couldn’t do that! That would be a downright lie!

++

Pikelet is launching her album, Stem, at Oxford Art Factory on April 29. Supports are Songs and the Maple Trail.

Flying Foxes :: Winging It

Benjamin Maher has a kinship with Woody Allen. He wouldn’t go to the Oscars if he had the option of playing clarinet on a Monday, made damn good friends with New York City, and just wants to make as much music as he can, some of which will probably suck (his words). But for the frontman for Sydney-based band Flying Foxes, the operational ideals of this eccentric US filmmaker are what really resonate. Maher believes self-promotion is for chumps. “The worst thing about playing music is not playing music,” says Maher. “I really respect how [Allen] doesn’t mess around, he just makes lots and lots of films on very small budgets. That’s cool, he’s committed to art for art’s sake rather than chasing recognition.”

The infectious and well-dressed debut album from Flying Foxes, Ticking Boxes, is just the beginning for this trio’s creative outings, as Maher claims these ten initial tracks are the mere tip of an iceberg of material. The leading lad and his crew nabbed their warm fuzzy of a name from the all too familiar vision of fruit bats swooping past windows in Sydney, a phenomena that particularly irritates those with an album to produce. “I was living right next to Moore Park in an apartment on the fourth floor and flying foxes would literally just fly past our window while we were recording all our demos,” recalls Maher. “They make a horrible screeching sound, the kind that freaks you out at first. I guess that’s kind of what music is as well; one horrible screeching sound.”
The grey-headed flying fox, Pteropus poliocephalus, native to Australia tends to roost in both conventional urban areas as well as more leafy vegetative dwellings. Maher and his merry crew are no exception. With ambitions to experiment with the new licensing and venue laws, this versatile group is hardly opposed to housing live shows in irregular habitats. “If you don’t play on a stage you don’t need a license,” says Maher. “We’re going to play some shows without drums, and I think that opens up a lot more venues. You could basically play anywhere. That’s a little bit exciting.” With most recording already taking place in a strange sort of warehouse, possibilities for creative venues are seemingly endless for Maher & Co. as Sydney beaches are suggested as potential live sites. “Clovelly could be good, it reminds me of Geoffrey Smart paintings,” he says. “So wrong that it’s right.”

Clovelly, New York, the Emergency Ward; storytelling is an intrinsic part of the Flying Foxes ethos as each track on Ticking Boxes serves as a uniquely recounted vignette of Maher’s life. “Napoleon” for example, expresses a narrative of judgment and misinterpretation, as it stems from Christian schoolgirls and boys running amok. “I was driving to my parents house once on a Thursday night and I couldn’t even drive up the street because there were so many drunk people spilling out of the pub across the road from this exclusive Christian private school,” he explains. “I think often there’s a bit of a conflict between our daytime values and our nighttime values. It was bad, I kind of felt like running them over, which was horrible because I’ve been run over myself. It’s a song about how easy it is to be judgmental.”

But judgments aside, “been run over myself” is an understatement. While each little ditty on the Foxes’ debut album has a tale to tell, events get pretty dire and post-punk with ‘Everything Will Change’ as the lyrics recount Maher being horribly injured by a taxi in New York City. “It was a little while ago but it still definitely still affects me closely,” Maher says. “In terms of recovery it’s kind of a long process because I broke eleven bones in total, a bone in my back and both my legs in several places, pelvis, ribs, arms, and cut my head.” Maher spent seven weeks in hospital and still requires a regular dose of physio, but as this vigorously catchy tune recounts, an American blood transfusion could be the ultimate accessory in indie-cred. “I actually had American blood running through my veins,” he says. “It’s like the ultimate inverted commas “cool” accessory to have, so it’s a bit of a piss-take on the whole cultural cringe about the New York fetish that Sydney seems to have.”

Recovery still pending, Maher gets by with a little help from his friends. Collaboration is a key mantra for any Flying Fox, as the line-up for the band has undergone a few shuffles since inception in 2007. “I guess we’re a little bit of a loose rabble of members that changes all the time,” says Maher. “I think more and more now because of the financial situation in the industry it’s harder to commit to one project and have that be your “thing”. But because a lot of people aren’t signed they’re free to do whatever they want, so [collaboration] is kind of this beneficial by-product of an industry that is in chaos. It’s cool, you just play with your friends.” Cameos run rife on Ticking Boxes with vocals from Tanya Horo of Sherlock’s Daughter on ‘Vulture Culture’, mixing tips from electro-guru Spod, and the entire shindig produced by fellow Sydneysider Jordy Lane. “It was a very positive experience, I actually chose [Jordy] after listening to a song on the radio he had recorded himself, “ Maher says. “We heard “Galileo”, thought it was a really good sound, and it turned out is was someone we already knew.”

While originality is certainly a difficult task in the burgeoning Sydney alt-scene, Ticking Boxes is a delightfully listenable spark of indie pop that uses good-natured and playful lyrics to pull everything together. Maher assures his love of words drives a lot of song content, while simultaneously placing a large importance on the art of manipulating your instruments. “The album almost exclusively uses guitars to create the sounds is kind of unique in a retro 80s throwback,” he explains excitedly. “It was fun for us to try and extend that palate of sounds but restrict it to using guitars. I think if you give yourself limitations then you can be a bit more resourceful than having an open slate of instruments to choose from.” Citing his influences as bands who have broken up since the 80s underground from Television to Pavement*to the Smiths, Maher has no qualms keeping their dream alive. “I think it’s kind of a utilitarian way of looking at music,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with continuing the legacy of really great music if there’s no-one there to do it better than you.”

But such an Allen-esque utilitarian ethos is anything to judge by, Flying Foxes certainly take the art for art’s sake mantra ridiculously literally, as their debut album has been made available under a ‘Pay What You Feel’ policy online. “It doesn’t make any financial sense, but I think you struggle to cover costs no matter how you want to go about releasing music at the moment,” he says. “I think there are enough music fans out there who are willing to help you to stay afloat as an artist we’re better off trying to reach those people with a bit of love rather than trying to force the hardsell on them.” As a means to get their music out quickly and accessibly, such a generous stint is attempting to create a reciprocal relationship between listener and artist, although Maher admits his pockets are still a little drafty. “Well…no we haven’t really made any money at all from it, but at least a lot of people have heard it,” he admits. “Life is short and it’s very easy to get sidetracked by the promotional side of things and that’s probably not what we’re best at. We’ll just keep making music and see what happens outside that.” Clarinet on Mondays indeed.

But with an album under their belts, what next for Flying Foxes? Touring? Promotions? Glockenspiel jamboree? Gin? Screw you rock lifestyle, none of the above. “We’re just going straight back to recording,” says Maher. “We’re currently working on three or four different albums and I’m also working on a side project with our guitarist Rachel and an acquaintance who has come from San Francisco via Santiago, Chile. We’re going to try something a bit more collaborative with those guys whereas Flying Foxes tends to be ‘Benjamin and Friends’ basically.” For now, may both Benjamin AND friends steer clear of moving taxis and/or other vehicular impacters. Flying foxes were meant to be airborne, not musicians.

* Yes, yes, all agreed, not so broken up anymore. Hush now

What a whimsical thought, a Sea Priest. The idea of a Neptunian bishop advising one’s movements in life. Forgive me father for many have sinned, pee may or may not have entered the ocean. That’ll be thirty Hail Marys. Absolved, reward: a musical snack from Adelaide’s newest indie-rockers. Hallelujah.

Despite religiously-attuned album titles, the sound of Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! is intrinsically difficult to define, as the quarter’s fusion of edginess, dance and a delicate feminine touch makes them regular genre-spanners, style-hoppers if you will. One is sure to spend the entire first listen frustratingly twiddling thumbs over the poignant musing that they sound like SOMEONE, you just can’t put your finger on WHOM. Gah.

firesantarosafire

The first full-length album from this Adelaidian crew sees David Williams, Sam Stearne, Josh Flavel and Art Zinoviev get a little girly. Much to the possible disgruntlement of the males of this quintet, it sure is impossible to deny what happens to one’s appeal when you bring a femme onboard. Essentially, you win at life. The addition of nonchalantly honeyed feminine vocals from Caitlin Duff add a somewhat dreamy 90s-esque element to the mix, lifting their previously male-dominated grungy distortive sounds into something distinctly more palatable for airwaves and eardrums. With a slightly Yeah Yeah Yeah-esque quality, Duff as a frontwoman toes the line between dynamo and mysteriously aloof chanteuse as tracks such as ‘Test Crowd’ express a perfect dichotomy between male and female vocal dominance. Overlapping, sweetly argumentative, and banterish singsong could, should, and most possibly will come to define F!SR,F!’s edge, and elevate their sound above a male-friends-in-school-make-band-for-kicks aesthetic.

Future musings aside, for this release initial impressions are toasty, with opening number ‘Ghostress’ gunning into a riproaring riff session in the final throngs to foretell the edgy attitude of the remaining tracks. As far as singles go, ‘War Coward’ and subsequent release ‘Little Cowboys, Bad Hombres’ are undeniably catchy, as this kind of sultry rock sound is complemented by boppish beats that work particularly well in a magenta-soaked live setting. Despite quite a full sound, the guitar qualities of the album are quite rough and arid, toting a twangy kind of edge that only serves to enhance the ambiguous nature of its tone. ‘Cold Star’ even veers off into a kind Deep Purple-esque jam of entrancement, with staggered guitar distortion that could even be mistaken for a Who riff, while ‘April/May’ teeters on that kind of troubled indie-rock acoustic that had its day in the mid noughties and is certainly welcome back for a beverage. Cheers! Santa Rosa, Cheers!

As a group that has been ferreting around the tracks since 2006, this album sounds somewhat like something of a progressive collection, finicking out the nicks on each track and perfecting that particular sound to make them strike out. Perhaps such a need for a little something extra is a result of high school formations when music tastes are only half-baked and a certain aesthetic ensues in the form of previous releases You Seize the City, I’ll Seize the Sky and EP Boy, Hush Yr Mouth, Grrl Bare Yr Teeth (2007). Three years later however, these Radelaideans have certainly proven vintage improves with age, and from the sound of this debut album, things are surely set to get distinctly more Fiery. You live, you write, you record, you learn. Potential is a risky way of describing an album, but for F!SR,F!’s  first full-length attempt, Sea Priest seems an exciting stepping stone to something much more… nautically and biblically grand.

++

Bunnies! Falling bunnies! What a visual. Attention grabbed. But seriously, if picture books had soundtracks, Pikelet would be a shoo-in. Lift the flap, pull the tab, absorb some sweet sweet synth. The second album for the brainchild of Melbournian Evelyn Morris could accompany the most captivating pop-up tale, with curious characters, astonishing adventures, and some amazing paper folding combo that will both stun and shake your childhood core. Watch yourself Dear Zoo.

As her previous release similarly expressed, Pikelet is still such an appropriate name for Morris’ small yet resonant sound, holding a unique culinary-musico niche of her own amidst a rather bland plethora of breakfast foods. Simple, sweet, inexpensive, uncomplicated yet unexplainably alluring, fluffy yet wholesome, traditional recipe with a contemporary edge, seriously palatable, abundantly edible, and just a downright excellent idea.

But much like a healthy pike stack, technique is one thing, aesthetics are quite another, particularly when things get syrupy. In this eon of files, folders, and converting to AAC selections, it certainly is rare to take notice of album art, however for Morris’ latest venture everything about the cover of this release is a visual representation of the sound it frames. Artist Celeste Potter’s cartel of falling white rabbits tumble into a hole of sheer wonder and colourful speculation, as the innards reveal a mishmashed hand-drawn kaleidoscope of amazement. Dainty bunny acrobatics thus illustrate a whimsical and lovely portrait of Morris’ sound, a sound that sure deserves pictures. Bunnies! Falling bunnies! And how.

Pikelet’s second album clearly opts for Casios and rich synths rather than her original choice of accordion, loops and solo vocals on, and opts for the art of collaboration rather than a staunchly single effort this time around. With a newly recruited band of Shags Chamberlain (synths), Tarquin Manek (bass, clarinet, backing vocals) and Matthew Cox (drums), Morris’ sound has rallied the manpower to be lifted above and beyond, developing a richness that allows her to stand up and be noticed as something more advanced than a clever loops lordess. In tracks such as the opening ‘Toby Light’, the addition of Manek on backing vocals shows Morris is no longer restricted to the realms of self-harmonising, although one can’t help but suppose such self-reliance was a large part of her original charm. That being said, on tracks such as the beat-heavy ‘Smithereens’ and the undeniably infectious ‘Allergies’, already we are seeing the advantages of Morris branching out and recruiting musicians as the variety of percussion and melody allows each track to stand as a flipping unique objet d’art.

But the best part? Experimentation never overshadows substance. Let’s call it controlled imagination. The kind of key-synthing jaunts found on this newbie for Morris and her merry crew are nothing short of a wondrous journey into one adorably inscrutable psyche, a sweet innocence that implies so many secrets yet gives none away. For once, psych-pop finds itself delivered with a wonderful subtlety.

But the thing to love about Morris, is she looks exactly how she sounds, as her delicately kitsch and oddly elfin demeanour perfectly matches the nature of her delightful psych-pop tunes. Charmingly eerie, and eerily charming, Pikelet’s second sweet darling of a record sports the right dose of strangeness that still invites one to mosey down the rabbit hole and enjoy every minute of the drop. As Morris herself muses in opening number ‘Toby Light’, some things are just ‘shiny and bright, travelling faster than anything else.’ So let’s just enjoy the tumble shall we?

ROLLING STONE:

‘Eddy Current Grab AMP Award’ (RS691 June 2009)

Not having the time to drink at an event in your honour is not particularly emblematic of the punk ethos, but then Eddy Current Suppression Ring are not your standard hard fast rockers. The Melbourne-based group barely had time to think, let alone enjoy a beer as they were announced as winners of the Australian Music Prize for 2008 at a rooftop event on March 20.

The event was held at the Red Bull building in Alexandria, attended by a high-calibre audience of nominees, media, industry reps, and a diverse range of musicians from Renee Geyer to The Scare. With free beer and a well-cooked BBQ, the event not only honoured the prime of Australian music talent, but ensured the winners and nominees could soak up some sun and sausages with their success.

Competition was fierce, with the Melbourne-based group triumphing over such internationally successful acts as The Presets, Beaches, The Drones and Cut Copy on the prestigious AMP shortlist.

ECSR’s 2008 self-produced album Primary Colours took home not only the highly-esteemed industry award, but a considerable cash prize of $30,000. Not the only artists to be recognised, ECSR was joined in celebration of their success by the winner of this year’s Red Bull Award, Jack Ladder. The Sydney musician took home the award ‘In Recognition of Outstanding Potential’ and a prize of $15,000 for his alternative  album Love Is Gone.

2008 proved an unexpectedly successful year for ECSR. The band not only won the Jagermeister AIR award for best independent hard rock/punk album in November, but were shortlisted for Triple J’s J-Award and had their first taste of the ARIAs with a nomination for Best Rock Album in September.

But despite their recent acclaim and industry success, the band remains staunchly enthusiastic about the ethos of DIY music culture. According to Current, the band’s first album cost a mere $300 to produce from their rehearsal room, while the use of a self-service studio for Primary Colours still only drew up $1500 in production costs. Utilising Current’s own label Aarght!, the band have successfully avoided outsourcing, a decision they hope to stick by. “We never owe money to anyone,” says guitarist and producer Mikey Young (aka Eddy Current). “We don’t have a lot of overheads, we don’t have managers and bookers to sell-out to. Our money is actually our money.”

The steamy afternoon AMP event may have heralded whispers of major record labels, but the band is secure in their means of self-production and peer-aid to achieve their own ends. ‘I’d rather use my band to help myself and the [artists] I like. I don’t rule out anything but it’s not as if there are a bunch of dudes with chequebooks at our gigs anyway.’

The band has merely speculative plans of how to spend their Eddy Currency but ideas lean towards production upgrades. “The main thing we’ve wanted to do for the last few years is to get a small studio or rehearsal space together,” says Current. “We record all our own albums and singles, so to have that sort of facility available to us all the time would be like a godsend.”

Sparks of international interest have kept the Suppression Ring rolling with independent releases from US company Goner Records and UK Label Melodic extending the boys’ success beyond Australian shores. But despite previous efforts, the band assures their objectives lie a little closer to home. “We don’t really tour [overseas] that much. We can’t really expect anything if we’re not willing to put ourselves out there.”

While ECSR are grateful for such industry recognition, Current claims the band is merely a hobby that has spun out of control, a hobby that hardly revolves around monetary reward. “If we all turned around and made this into a proper job we might hate it. We still find it fun and that’s the only thing that’s important to us. It’s nice making money when you don’t expect it, we’re not going to chase it.”

‘Switching On Generation Y: Ruby Rose’ (RS 692 July 2009)

Rose surrendered electricity and running water to spend a few solid weeks off the coast of Kenya last summer, volunteering with conservation group Global Vision International to build and educate local communities on sustainable development projects. Teaching English and skills for environmentally-savvy professions, Rose explains that lack of green education is a major cause of resource destruction in these remote villages. “One thing they’re really lacking [in Kenya] at the moment is understanding why it’s important to keep the environment happy,” she says. “That’s what they’re going to eat off, that’s what they’re going to live off. They’re struggling because most kids that have finished school end up being charcoal burners, so they burn trees and sell the coal, or else they become fisherman and overfish the areas.”

With little knowledge of the relation between mangrove destruction and food supply, Rose’s voluntary operation saw ‘green’ as a non-existent concept in small African communities and environmental destruction as an unconscious age-old norm. “They’ve always just seen it as the easiest way, or the quickest way for survival,” she says. But despite Kenyan resources depleting like crazy, Rose assures optimism and positivity are rife within the villagers, a stark contrast to the doom-and-gloom attitudes of Westerners. “People over here are always complaining about something,” she says. “You go over there and they’re not complaining about anything.”

Confronting herself with Kenyan slums and conditions far from the sheen of the MTV offices proved a good shock to the enviro-conscience for Rose, and one that pressed the power of education to promote sustainability back home. “We have been careless and thoughtless about these sorts of things in Australia,” she says. “I think we’re starting to really educate everyone from youth to elderly people about our impact on the environment so far.”

Remarkably, despite skyrocketing into the spotlight for madcap VJ antics and consorting with a Veronica, Rose keeps a firm head on her shoulders and two green booties on the ground. Unlike plenty of celebrity eco-bandwagoners, she actually knows what she’s talking about and believes sustainable practice makes perfect, particularly when it comes to enviro-education. “I’ve always been really big on the environment, “ she says. “I eat organic, I hate anything that comes in a package, I see it as so unnecessary, I recycle things, I use recycled toilet paper, it’s so not as nice as comfortable…soft…perfumed…toilet paper… but I still use it.” Refusing cameras and swanky MTV coverage of her adventure, her green crusade to Kenya was as much about self-discovery as discovering selflessness. “I really wanted to go over to see things put into perspective by the people and living arrangements over there, and [experience] the sort of ambition you sometimes lack when you’re here in the one place for too long.”

Such a trip came at a good time for Rose with the launch of Switch, MTV International’s own global climate change campaign that focuses on small action to bring big change via television and net promotion. With ideas ranging from ethical fashion to ‘ecorazzi’ and the latest in ‘green gossip’, the Switch program aims to discover innovative and quote unquote “cool” ways to live sustainably, a strategy Rose sees as both environmentally effective and inevitably trendy. “It’s just ridiculous, but unfortunately we live in a strange society where things do need to be cool to be acceptable,” she says. “People like John Butler Trio, who have been backing these causes for so many years, are only just noticing a difference in people actually listening and making the effort to follow in the same sort of footsteps.” Having her own face plastered on the screens of MTV, Rose recognises the responsibility of celebrity cause endorsing, and believes those with the power to set enviro trends have a duty to do so. “Most of the people who have a public profile or are public figures spend a lot of time doing things that are based around their own self,” she says. “We live these lives that are very rewarding for ourselves but if we’re not doing anything for other people, then what’s the point?”

‘Power to the Young: Felix Reibl’ (RS 692 July 2009)

Frontman for Melbourne-based band The Cat Empire, Felix Riebl is no ruddy politician. But with the support of Al Gore, Generation Y, and a passion for sustainability that speaks particularly inconvenient truths, this singing percussionist is a regular caped climate change crusader.

After joining forces with Gore and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in 2006 as a ‘climate messenger’, this year has seen the Melbourne musician getting youthful, working with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) on projects such as Switched on Schools and Power Shift, to empower young people to actively engage with climate change initiatives.

Favouring the decision to be proactive rather than reactive, Riebl sees the potential for the planet in the hands of the next generation with AYCC initiatives such as Power Shift providing Australia’s first national youth climate summit. “The generation that’s going to inherit the world should have a chance to vote for the future they’re after,” he says. “Otherwise, they’re going to look back in fifty years and say the writing was on the wall.”

Riebl sees a future population deprived of the chance to fight in advance against the current state of climate chaos. “If there was a missed opportunity to make a change for such a long time, I can imagine future generations would be pretty disillusioned with their forbearers,” he says. Generally ones to inspire celebration and joie de vivre with their infectious Latin-esque rhythms, The Cat Empire’s 2007 single ‘No Longer There’ was the first to expose Riebl’s concerns, questioning the current disposable treatment of Mother Earth and the selfishness of what will be ruined for youth cohorts in decades to come. Riebl and his Cat comrades posed the important question, “What would you leave behind when you’re no longer there?”.

With the upcoming United Nations Copenhagen Climate Change (UNCCC) conference in December, Riebl believes a sense of urgency will test political potential for any real change towards a global environmental agreement. “A government can either be proactive and convince the rest of the world to make a change or they can be cynical, negative and destructive.” Riebl believes the Australian Government should be at the forefront of the debate to establish legally binding commitments, but fumes over Kevin Rudd’s scant ambitions to reduce carbon emissions by 5% in 2020. “Australia’s current targets are just not good enough, they’re holding the world back from a good global climate,” Riebl says. “Australia is like a dead weight in the water to serious change.”

‘The Real Green Shirts: Skinny Nelson and Friends’ (RS 692 July 2009)

As ‘green’ becomes more of a fashion trend than an environmental concern, sometimes it takes an Aussie duo with the right attitude and farming contacts in Turkey to produce legit organic style. Jacqui Alexander and Zachary Midalia, are the brainstrust behind pro-enviro label Skinny Nelson & Friends, a name appropriately based on the idea of seeing beauty in the small things in life, “like a skinny latte on Nelson St”.

While certainly not claiming to save the world one tee at a time, Skinny Nelson smites ‘green’ impostors by developing 100% organic and pesticide free cotton for their mix and match garment range. “We were pretty sick of designers ‘ethically cleansing’ their range with a one off, limited edition 5% organic scarf,” they claim. “We build our brand around our philosophy and not a philosophy around our brand.” Skinny is serious about maintaining what environmental practices they can, using recycled paper for swing tags and generally avoiding the disposable behaviour of the industry. “We have cut the bullshit and made organic accessible to everyone.”

With both sustainable and style-conscious designs, Alexander and Midalia’s debut collection of youthful and genderless efforts is emblematic of how younger buyers are more likely to yield to a green wardrobe. “Buying organic is breaking old habits, it’s harder for the old dogs,” they say. “Youth have the rest of their lives to live in this world, doesn’t it make sense to preserve it?”

‘Green Warriors: Solution or Insanity?’ (RS692 July 2009)

‘Unlikely Fifties Remix Set Hits the Spot’ (RS692 July 2009)


At first it seemed like a pretty standard promo stunt – Ray-Ban pulling together eight of the hottest young acts on the planet to reinterpret classic Fifties and Sixties cuts as part of the launch for the company’s new Clubmaster shades. The result, however, was more than just clever marketing – some seriously good music followed.

With NYC initiating the first of three live events, Black Kids’ bobbysoxing version of The Tammys’ 1964 Egyptian Shumba sent the trendsetters into a Motown pop frenzy. Meanwhile Londoners Ipso Facto rendered an edgy version of Leslie Gore’s 1963 You Don’t Own Me. “We picked this song because it’s quite similar to our style of music, the dark verses and the powerful female vocals,” they say. Similarly, The Kills’ take on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ I Put A Spell On You drew a raw personal edge from the 1957 classic. “It was really Kills, I liked the crazy vocals and how out of control it was,” singer Alison Mosshart says. Partner-in-crime Jamie Hince agrees, “It’s nice to have a bit of fear and not know what the hell you’re doing.”

Joined by UK photographer Dean Chalkley, the tour sought the retro thrills of Beijing in early 2009. For Chinese locals New Pants, lack of familiarity with Bob Kayli’s 1961 Tie Me Tight made their version even more unique. “This is the first time we’ve come into contact with 1960s African American music so it feels quite fresh,” says frontman Peng Lei. “We’ve added a lot of Chinese instrumental tones and New Pants DNA.” The Young Knives’ splendidly English cover of The Exciter’s It’s So Exciting aimed for pure Fifties pop, using a percussive wine bottle and a kazoo to maintain authenticity. “We thought it was a proper throw away kitsch song with a healthy dose of cynicism.”

April saw Milan as the most recent stop of the program, starring Paolo Nutini’s Smokey Joe’s Café and Ladyhawke’s jaunty rockabilly cover of Johnny Cash’s 1956 Get Rhythm. No signs of a CD release as yet, crazy considering the spark of these remasters. It would be a real shame to confine this fine cache of covers to three promotional events and a password wielding website…

‘Short & Sweet: Peaches’ (RS692 July 2009)


PRESENT

Proving that 40 year olds really do have more fun, leotard-toting stage-strutter Peaches aka Merrill Nisker has emerged from the studios with a fresh new record and a list of collaborators to make Parklife punters salivate incessantly. The record, aptly titled I Feel Cream features production collaborations with Digitalism, Soulwax, Drums of Death, and Simian Mobile Disco, and rest assured none of the Peaches’ innuendo-filled wit goes missing from tracks like ‘Mommy Complex’ or ‘Billionaire’ (featuring Shunda K from Yo Majesty). “They’re funny, they make me smile,” she laughs. “There’s a huge history of innuendo, so I just didn’t want to rely on those that were already there. Clichés make you want to make new ones.”

Straying from the edgy rock motifs of Impeach My Bush (2006), Nisker’s newest handiwork shifts significantly into the realm of gritty dirty electroclash, a conscious effort to vary her repertoire. “The minute you use guitars, it gains a certain rock character,” she asserts. “I wanted any rock elements to come out from my voice or from harder electro sounds.”

PAST

With Nisker’s first three albums definitively establishing the brash, naughty and bold personality of Peaches, I Feel Cream is a chance to release a softer side of the electronica queen not previously permitted to listeners. “Now I can let out the secret weapon, singing, and also a sensitive side which I didn’t want to be misconstrued,” she explains. “I just wanted to make sure that people know who I am, what I do, and now I can do whatever I like.”

But despite outlandish stage antics ranging from pants with attached strap-on and Nisker’s favourite costume, “the boobs that sprayed water”, provoking shock and flabbergasted reactions, Peaches claims her intentions were somewhat wholesome. “I’m just trying to bring things into mainstream and pop culture that I thought were missing,” she says. “That shocked people because they were missing, not because I was trying to shock them.”

FUTURE

Previously collaborating with Joan Jett, Josh Homme (QOTSA) and Iggy Pop, Nisker merely has the royalty of pop left on her potential wishlist. Expressing interest in possible future teamwork with renowned exhibitionist Prince, she claims, “Nobody can sing those high notes in those high heels, and shoot juices out of the guitar like [him].” Nisker’s new album completes her tetralogy of musical and sexual exploration, a series of four records that she believes form one giant metaphorical sex act:

Album number one: Teaches of Peaches. Masturbation. I wanted to do everything myself, please myself, write it all myself. Fatherfucker. Easy. Step on a big dildo and chill your macho roll. Impeach My Bush. More like a revolution. Two Guys for Every Girl. Tent in Your Pants. Orgy. And this album, I Feel Cream, get really dressed up nicely, have a nice dinner, eat, and then throw all the dishes off the table, dance on the table and then…do it.”

‘Ben Sherman’s Big British Sound’ (RS Online July 2009)

Ben Sherman

Rolling Stone

Last Friday night saw Sydney’s Paddington Town Hall seize the chance to live up to it’s Londonian name, with the launch of the first Ben Sherman Big British Sound to grace Australian shores.

Saluting our colonising cousins, the evening served to celebrate all things Brit, and the iconic place of the hosting brand in UK popular culture since it’s inception in the 1963. Calling all Mod Squadders.

Appropriately held at Paddington Town Hall, with a myriad of blue, red and white lights illuminating the colonial façade for many a cockney to admire, our hosts for the evening paid particular homage to their beloved national colour scheme, with projections of Union Jacks evoking a yearning for Covent Garden while grand-scale stills of scooters and mopeds incited a need to don a three-piece suit and hot-foot it to Shoreditch.

However, despite the decidedly British feel of the event, line-up choices not only served to celebrate the UK sound, but unexpectedly instilled a sense of pride in the potential of modern Australian artists and their interpretations of Carnaby Street. Hailing from the ‘other’ Newcastle, The Seabellies filled the stage with their warmth, enthusiasm, and utter jolliness that made it refreshing to see a band onstage that are genuinely enjoying themselves. Paying tribute to Rod Stewart’s ‘Young Turks’ was almost confused for an original tune, as the six-piece folk-rock instrument-fest breathed new life into a UK classic with everything from xylophone to harmonica. Organisers were quick to sustain the mood between sets, as one found glee and delight in recognising fillers over the speakers, with every notable artist under Queen Elizabeth II from Joy Division to the Ting-Tings being granted a place on the background music Brit-bender.

Extending the Rod, Sydney man Jack Ladder followed in putting his own twang on ‘Maggie May’ as the hall began to fill, slowly dissolving resemblance of a Year 6 disco. Dredging up relics of English pessimism, Ladder told stories of love and loss to an audience so well-dressed they could have instigated an impromptu Sherman catalogue photoshoot amidst the columned walls.

As punters slowly found themselves unconsciously adding a little Liverpool to their pronunciation, Perth lads from Tame Impala rehashed the psychedelia of 1960s London in a flurry of jams and catchy riffs that had heads bopping and certain members of the crowd gyrating in a not-so-proper manner. Bringing some unadulterated rock back into the picture paid homage to the era of Cream and The Jeff Beck Group which may have thrown the youngish audience, but infectious single ‘Half Glass Full of Wine’ pleased their eardrums all the same

To put the jam on the delightful scone that was this evening of big, British, sounds, Little Red’s head wobbling, clean-cut, downright danceable tunes paid tribute to the epitome of Britishness with a splash of Aussie grit. Their shared mics, spotless beats and twangy strumming acted as a modern leaf out of the Book of Beatles while escaping the trap of unoriginal Brit-pop bandwagoning. With crowd-pleasers ‘Waiting’, ‘Coca-Cola’ and ‘Witch Doctor’ turning the composed punters into giddy twist-and-shouters, the band reminded us how you need not be born in Piccadilly Circus to have a go at the trapeze. Irresistibly good fun and fresh with a penchant for a damn good hook, the boys put a Little Red back into the Union Jacks bouncing around the venue.

With sold-out success and a now proven ability to translate the Ben Sherman celebratory philosophy to an Australian audience, one can see this event becoming something of an institution over the years in the trendy streets of Sydney’s English-named suburbs. A spiffing night out where one and all trounced home feeling rather dapper, hunting for a Lancashire Hotpot, and in need of a cup of Twinings.

‘The Modern Can-Do Woman: Cassie Davis’ (RS693 August 2009)


Chilling with Snoop Dogg and Warren G is just a day at the office for Perth-bred musician Cassie Davis. But with her own record label, two singles sweeping the charts and a DIY ethos to boot, this pint-sized tour de force certainly holds her own amongst the biggest hounds in the business.

Self-producing tracks that sound somewhat like the lovechild of Amy Winehouse and Fergie with a splash of South African soul, even Davis herself has trouble defining herself. “I’m like a Bitzer,” she says. “You take a bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of everything.” Davis’ new single, ‘Differently’, featuring Travis McCoy (Gym Class Heroes) and Phil Fishbone (Fishbone) essentially speaks for itself, advocating a pretty blatant message that this petite blonde Aussie girl is not to be underestimated. “I never just wanted to be ‘an artist’”, she says. “I always wanted be known as ‘a producer’ or ‘a writer’ as well.”

As if working with the likes of hit producers Prinz Board (Black Eyed Peas), Rodney Jerkins (Michael Jackson) and Wayne Wilkins (Kylie) wasn’t enough, on a recent visit to L.A., Davis found herself playing with the big puppies, writing and recording with hip-hop legends Warren G and Snoop Dogg. “[Warren] has been such a hip-hop influence in my life and if you told me three years ago I’d be writing a song and recording with him and Snoop I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s just crazy.”

But music isn’t the only DIY product in the Davis repertoire, with her individual can-do attitude spilling into the wardrobe realm. “I’ll make my own clothes, they’ll be one-off weird creations,” she gushes. “It’s really relaxing to sew a piece, and the fact that no-one else has it, that’s what I like.” Plans for a fashion label are merely speculative at the moment, but with such an eye for individuality, possibilities are not out of the question. “[At school] I was always the weird one that wears all the bizarre clothes,” she says. “So we’ll see, it could be something fun to do in the future.”

‘Artists to Watch: Vorn Doolette’ (RS693 August 2009)


Storytelling is an age-old craft, and one in which Vorn Doolette seems pretty well-versed for a modest Adelaidian. With the recent release of his debut record after stepping solo from acoustic 3-piece One Jam Night, this self-produced South Australian troubadour stands at the forefront of a new wave of Australian folk, with a mature approach to songwriting and a desire to duet with Jesus.  “It would mainly be a publicity stunt,” he says. “Jesus and Me Go To Town”.

From sharks wearing spectacles in hidden caves, to robot cars, catfish, Jessica Alba and dreams of parental homicide, Doolette’s melodic tales muse on the sane and eccentric, a sound he describes as, “Hot cocoa with dark chocolate and chilli flakes by an open fire.” Officially labelling himself ‘Alternative Folk’, Doolette argues against those who find boredom in simple acoustic noodling, defying those who find folk songs a tad tedious. “One man’s pancake is another man’s hat,” he asserts. “Everyone has different taste.” With a voice to rival the sorrowful crooning of Rufus Wainwright or Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, this Melbournian captures the purest forms of stripped-back roots, having no difficulty in translating sentiment or narrative itself. Claiming influence from the likes of Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Nick Cave and his mum, Doolette shows an honest modesty within the rat race of artists today that comes from his own self-deprecation that, “I’m just not as good looking or talented.”

After supporting a host of roots-royalty from Old Man River to Mihirangi, Doolette is striking his own chord and paving a new road for budding folk raconteurs. Reinvigorating folk melodies and fiddle drawls from colonial Australia, this storyteller pays homage to his ancestry, and claims such sentiment is genetic. “My great great great… grandfather was a poet in the gold fields of WA,” he says. “Reading some of his material it was weird how similar it was to the way I write.”

But unlike the bandwagon of ‘organic’ folk artists, Doolette admits a healthy interest in financial rewards for his songwriting efforts, showing a refreshingly realistic attitude to music as a career. “I want to be somebody. I want to be successful. I want to help my family,” he says. “Growing up we never really had that much money so I guess I feel it is important.  I am looking forward to fast cars and helicopters…it’s just around the corner now, I can feel it!”

‘ ‘August’ ‘Chicky Babe’ Prepares New Set of Polished Indie Pop’ (RS694 September 2009), as also featured in the Harbour Agency Press Clippings

Not many 23 year olds would be brave enough to wander the streets of Melbourne toting a sequinned cat mask, lycra leggings and lipsynch into a handycam for the sake of a video clip, but then Catcall has never been one to shy from DIY escapades. “It was a guerrilla shoot and it would have cost like $50 to make,” she laughs. “After the first couple of takes there was no point getting all embarrassed. It was rad fun.”

But despite such tight budgets, Sydneysider Catcall aka Catherine Kelleher is no amateur newbie, self-producing sounds since 2004 with 3-piece experimental no-wave outfit Kiosk, before releasing her own tunes in 2007 under her feline pseudonym. Already turning heads and ears with singles ‘August’ and ‘Chicky Babe’ from her EP ‘Anniversary’ in 2008, Catcall’s eagerly anticipated debut album is set to be one cohesive musical melting pot with production collaborations including local talents Snob Scrilla, Spruce Lee, Shazam and Mailer Daemon.

A treasured Sydney darling, Catcall’s fresh sound won’t stay underground for long with an electronic and vocally unique branch of pop music that certainly packs a punch. “I want my sound it to be international,” she says. “The album tracks are so different from what the EP was. I’m kind of getting out of being just a ‘Sydney-sounding’ person.” This eclectic musician’s stream of influences reads like a pop culture patchwork that stitches Madonna’s lycra with Riot Grrrl leather, fused with a staunch thread of underground indie cred and an addiction to television. “I guess mass musical consumption has led up to this point,” she says. “I would say I’m a pop artist, but I think you can get far too into genres. At the end of the day everything is sitting under one umbrella.”

Supporting tours and watching cartoons backstage with the likes of the Gossip, Yacht, Macromantics and Architecture in Helsinki has certainly put this energetic performer in the line of international sight, with French alt-rockers Phoenix personally selecting this musical go-getter to support their Australian tour in August. “I’m excited because this is the first time that I’m going to perform with the band that I’m putting together,” she explains. “I’ve got Rohan Rebeiro from My Disco playing drums, Dale Packard from Ground Components and Architecture in Helsinki playing keys, and a lovely lady called Nisa Venerosa who played in Fabulous Diamonds on percussion and back-up vocals. It’s going to be an unveiling.”

‘Hockey Do Dance Rock With a Twist’ (RS694 September 2009)


Hockey don’t play hockey. They don’t give a puck about the sport. But they do play ridiculously catchy music and have fun doing it. With a killer debut record and two singles ‘Too Fake’ and ‘Learn to Lose’ sporting a carefree yet clued-in attitude that is undeniably eargrabbing, this American quartet is finally putting the joy back into indie music and getting it right.

While Hockey now calls Portland, Oregon home, the group is a US patchwork, hailing from coast to coast. But with a sound like Julian Casablancas and Talking Heads throwing a disco ball in a Jane Fonda exercise video, these honorary Portlandians are putting another mark on the music map for the city that bred the likes of indie deities Gang of Four, The Dandy Warhols, Modest Mouse, and The Shins. “There’s a whole bunch of diverse kinds of music coming out of [Portland],” says singer Ben Grubin. “You don’t have to do a certain ‘kind’ of music to make it there.”

Despite assumptions, none of the foursome are remotely close to being ice-rink pros, with a far-less athletic ethos behind their sporty bandname. “We named [the band] while we were at school because it was just random and funny,” confesses Grubin. “It was like the kind of band name that you definitely shouldn’t name your band. Now it’s kind of annoying because people can’t find us on the Internet.” UnGooglable or not, the foursome were snapped up by EMI last year for the release of their debut record Mind Chaos,

a self-production that has seen them constantly compared to the likes of New York giants The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem.

But despite such disparate comparisons, Hockey sport the kind of undeniably catchy indie-dance sound (and look) that could be easily confused for a bunch of strapping UK lads. “It’s funny people say that to us. We didn’t try for an English sound, but people in England definitely seem to be responding to it pretty well.” Pretty well is an understatement with European tour dates dominating their schedule for the next few months, including coveted spots at UK festivals including Scotland’s T in the Park, both the Leeds and Reading Festivals, and the hallowed grounds of Glastonbury.

But unlike the bandwagon of indie cats scooting around, Grubin and his pucksters have come to terms with today’s low expectations of originality and style-borrowing, claiming that sometimes uniqueness is overrated. “To us the record is not going for some super innovation, it’s like a very of-the-moment kind of record,” says Grubin. “Innovation is more subtle nowadays if there is a unique voice out there. No-one’s hit on a new genre and we haven’t either but I still feel like a lot of our stories and melodies are just kind of unique to us.” If they are indeed ever accused of being ‘Too Fake’, at least they own it, as much as they own the irrelevant nature of their bandname. “I can’t even skate,” says Grubin. “I play basketball.”

‘Teenage Duo Dash & Will Redefine Indie Pop Angst’ (RS695 October 2009)


“Discard all our boring information. I hate boring information. I don’t wanna be about boring information.  I don’t wanna be about these questions. I’d rather be filmed roller blading and drinking a beer and that could be my interview. And that would represent Dash & Will.”

As one half of this Melbournian duo, Charlotte Thorpe has a thing for accurate representation. Sporting the onstage moniker (‘Dash’) with her partner in crime Josie De Sousa-Reay (‘Will’) has always been about self-expression and fun, a mentality that certainly translates into both their music and live shows. Friends since primary school, these 19 year-olds are generating pop-rock that sure packs a punch, with singles ‘Pick You Up’, ‘Fighting Over Nothing’ and ‘Outta Control’ sending Converse-wearing teensters into a grooving frenzy since 2006. The only problem for this fun-loving twosome: they’ve had to wait too damn long to get their sound out.

With a debut album Up In Something that was supposed to hit shelves last September, the duo’s feelings of creative frustration are hardly unwarranted, particularly when majority of tracks were written by their younger teen selves. “It’s not even a representative of where we’re at now, its really difficult,” says De Sousa-Reay. “We’ve endured so much. These songs are written from when we’re like 14.” Despite being downright catchy chart-pleasers, the girls claim such a delay is almost uncomfortable to listen to. “It’s hard to hear these songs over and over again,” says Thorpe. “You cringe to hear them, and it’s kind of embarrassing.” But regardless of what they feel is a dated sound, it’s all about biding time for Dash & Will, as the world has yet to experience what they’ve been playing and replaying for years. “You’ve gotta remember that a lot of the people out there haven’t heard the songs before,” says De Sousa-Reay. “It’s still brand new to them, even though it’s not brand new to us.”

But despite feeling misrepresented on their debut release, Thorpe has high hopes for future displays of a more current Dash & Will, an identity they say will stem away from blunt-fringed indieness. “We’re pop music!” assures Thorpe. “At the beginning we really wanted to try and be really credible and be as indie as possible, when that’s not really important for me at the moment at all. I just want the music out there.”

Sipping dubiously on drinks tasting like medicine their waiter assures are 450% alcoholic, these primary school buddies can’t seem to decide between the road of maturity or falling to the throngs of kidstuff, particularly between recordings and live performances. “The thing about Dash & Will is I think there should be two personas,” announces Thorpe. “What we are is a big mix of ultimate childishness, real silly onstage wearing crazy sparkly tights. We look like we’re in our bedrooms, like we’re 10 years old jumping around. But we also want the music to be taken seriously, and I think the way we depict our songs is slightly mature… slightly.”

But with energy worthy of putting Red Bull out of business, Dash & Will live shows take on a completely different tact to being grown-up. “I don’t think people take [the live show] seriously, I think they have a good time and go home,” says Thorpe, amidst mature gushes of being “free to get pissed” without having to drive home that day. “The only way that I’m not gonna have a headache today is if I continue drinking all through the day. That’s what I mean, we’re adults, we just look after ourselves in a childish way.”

‘Doves’ (September 2009)


For the last four years, Doves have been nesting. Bundled up in a Cheshire barn, the Manchester-bred musicians successfully slipped off the radar after an intense 2005 schedule that required more than a little P&Q. But with hundreds of songs swirling through the Doves filter, this trio were never content to roost.

Emerging from their self-built studio with a new record they describe as “schizophrenic”, Doves have successfully fought off fourth-album stigma with the release of 2009’s Kingdom of Rust.  “Not many bands get to a fourth album,” says guitarist Jez Williams. “We felt that we had to go in search of something, pull out some different shapes, look for energy that we hadn’t done before.” Such soul-searching took its sweet time with the lads’ last album Some Cities released back in 2005. But a quick fix was never on the cards for these self-producers, with badly needed time taken to grapple with writer’s blocks and the slog of life itself. “We suffered confidence crises, relationship break-ups, deaths,” confesses Williams. “We had a lot of shit thrown at us that hit us bad.” But Williams assures that with a little band-aid, Doves make peace with creative procrastination. “You do start developing a survival technique when you’ve been in a band as long as we have,” he says. “Suddenly this picture emerges in front of you and it’s the most liberating feeling you can have; your fourth album is taking shape and there will be an ending.”

Euphoric and emblematic of Doves’ DNA, Kingdom of Rust even adds splashes of electronica that remind fans of the band’s eighties era as dance group Sub-Sub, scooting around Manchester’s fabled Haçienda nightclub. But despite pleasure in such a lengthy project, closing the studio door was nothing short of emancipating. “Even when we weren’t in the studio the album was on our minds,” Williams sighs. “After four years you’re freed from the ramshackles.” But with a fresh repertoire in the bag, Doves are eager to stretch their touring wings again. “Live, it’s a different animal,” Williams says. “We’re not about recreating what’s on the record. We’re about a sense of spontaneity.” The South Mancunians are set to wash up on Australian shores in July with a national tour and a coveted spot at Splendour in the Grass.

‘Short Stack’ (September 2009)

Choosing a bandname that is distinctly easy for 13-year-old girls to chant may not have been a conscious decision for Short Stack, but capitalising on the frenzied nature of Net-addicted teenage fans could be the smartest decision this bunch of high school punks ever made.

Hailing from Budgewoi on New South Wales’ Central Coast, this teenage trio are sending hype machines haywire, taking out Channel [V]’s OZ Artist Of The Year Award in 2008 over Aussie successes The Presets, The Veronicas and The Getaway Plan, and supporting the national tours of pop-punk pinnacles Simple Plan and Good Charlotte. But if any band truly deserves snaps for online social networking, this three-piece certainly take the Aussie crown, receiving over four million plays on MySpace alone with over one million hits for their ‘contagious’ single ‘Princess’ before it was even released. “We’ve always been in a weird situation because everyone already knows the words to the songs that we’re playing,” explains frontman Shaun Diviney. “I think because we started at such a young age we couldn’t really do the whole pub circuit thing which a lot of Australian bands do so it was the only way we could get our music out to people.” Clever cultivators of online exposure, the group have documented their journey from humble beginnings to red carpets via their YouTube reality sensation Short Stack TV, an avenue of marketing genius that has already received over 1.4 million viewings.  “We saw a whole bunch of shitty reality TV shows and thought we could do a similar thing,” says Diviney. “I think it’s been just such a vital part of our success, because fans feel they can get close to us.”

In the true Facebookian sense, the immediate success of Short Stack is indicative of having a large base of ‘Friends’, and maintaining a highly lucrative connection with these fans. “A lot of people see a ‘Myspace band’ as a negative thing,” says Diviney. “But I’m sure back in the 80s if Mötley Crüe could have been on Twitter they would have.” With a self-proclaiming album title like Stack Is The New Black, to be released in August, the trio have no qualms about admitting the of-the-moment nature of their sound. “[The title] was just kind of cocky and I think that’s really what we’re about: being smartarses,” says Diviney. But regardless of sounding remarkably like their pop-punk ancestors Blink 182, All American Rejects, or The Academy Is…, this trio still nevertheless claim to value originality. “Most definitely we wear our influences very heavily on our sleeves,” says Diviney. “That’s definitely how our band kind of came about, just pretty much trying to be Blink 182 in our garage every Sunday afternoon, but I think our music will definitely evolve as we get older.”

Constantly pinned as ‘ones to watch’, the release of their debut album in August will serve to see whether this teen trio will stack up against the hype, particularly in a country so heavily dominated by rock roots. There are certainly people who are fans of our music, but at the same time we’ve got the bad side where people want to beat the shit out of us,” admits Diviney. “I suppose being smartarses doesn’t really help the situation.”

HONI SOIT, THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY (EDITOR)

SOUNDS || JONATHON BOULET (EDITION 13, 2010)

Bridie Connellan wants to meet you in the water, wall-front, whatever.

Jonathan Boulet was once described to me as ‘music to listen to on a ferry.’ Wind whipping through tresses, ephemeral melodies and fleeting moments of ocean spray – if the youthful quandaries of this 21-year-old are the sound of nautical movement, may we all don some boat shoes and an iPod stat.

Self-described as ‘pop’ music (aka ‘anything goes’), this Sydney local’s debut EP successfully harnessed the infectious power of young and idle giddiness which was met with a roaring response across Sydney’s cultural press. Key track “A Community Service Announcement” proved a communally bounding anthem proclaiming, “Here we are, we are, are we on top?” for all to share and bask in keyboard wonderment. As Triple J presenter Dom Alessio asserted, “Hello and welcome to the sound of youth.”

As he soaks up the rays of a glorious Tuesday afternoon, Boulet’s mellow unassuming demeanor is surprising, given his plethora of reasons to develop an ego. Headlining spots at Groovin’ The Moo, Come Together, Creative Sydney and now Splendour In The Grass are the tip of the Bouletberg, with this musical auteur even finding time to self-produce from his garage and get mad props from Kanye West’s blog. The only clincher? He just doesn’t want to do it alone. “I really like having a band around me when I play, I don’t want to take control of everyone on the stage, and I don’t want to direct,” he says. “Opening things up keeps it real.”

At the ripe old age of 21, Boulet shows a humble modesty that sets him apart from the scene

sters, and his recent signing to Modular People (Cut Copy, The Presets, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) has hardly seen him cut to a commercial break. “I’m trying to maintain some sort of grounding. I don’t know if I am or I will succeed but I’m always trying to keep myself in check,” he assures. The man and his crew tote the kind of community found in kids hanging on a suburban street eating Bubble O’Bills in summer. But unlike Every Other Sydney band, this is one uplifting collective consistently thinking fresh. “We’ve got a very big emphasis on thinking differently and trying to avoid the trend to simply launch an album at Oxford Art Factory,” he says. Boulet’s rhythmic endurance stems from his multitasking musical nature, serving as the drummer for Sydney synth-pop outfit Parades. “I really enjoy the contrast,” he says. “Each band is very different and so are the listeners. It’s good to get away from one to the other. I can just sit back on the drums every now and then, rather than worry about what’s happening at the front of the stage.”

Maybe it’s a penchant for group singalongs, maybe it’s a desire to avoid personal exposure, but a closer analysis of Boulet’s youthful lyrics reveals a heavy reliance on the collective term ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. “It’s just a big communal reference,” he says. “I would rather [lyrics] be about the group. I don’t want them to be a big ego trip like, ‘Yeah…well… I’m… awesome.’ When a song becomes about the group and not you, it becomes more real to more people.”

With 2010 already proving flourishing for this Hills District local, Boulet’s next stage is the coveted fields of Woodford at Splendour in the Grass before returning to Sydney for our own Verge Festival on campus. We just hope he doesn’t get too excited up north. “I’m ridiculously excited. If I die the day after Splendour I think I’ll be happy,” he laughs (*Verge Directors wince). But as far as asking Mumford for one of his Sons at the three-day festival, Boulet assures his backstage manners will be strictly profesh. “I’m definitely not a ‘Going Up To Other Bands’ kind of guy,” he says. “It’s got to be the most awkward thing in the world, I wouldn’t know what to say, and the people there really don’t want to meet anyone new. I don’t want to add to their frustrat

ion.”

That’s a story yet to be told, dear Boulet, but with 60 seconds to finish on this sunny PM, perhaps a life-in-a-minute description that defies gravity and reason? “OK picture this. You know on TV when they have those tornado specials and they’re like stormchasers or something? My life is the biggest tornado that they show at the end.” Touché sir, let it whirl.

Jonathon Boulet is playing Splendour in The Grass 31 July-2 August and Verge Festival 1 September.

THE PROFILE || WIL ANDERSON (EDITION 12, 2010)

Bridie Connellan tried to get a word in with Australia’s most controversial comedian. Keyword: tried.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m in my pyjamas. I’ll put on some pants and go and do my show at night but I plan to be in my pyjamas for most of this day.” Nice. It’s a good morning for Australia’s most loved and hated professional comedian.

Moseying around his Melbourne home on a Friday in sleepwear must be a rare treat for Wil Anderson, as the comic sits mid-way through his Wilful Misconduct tour. With Sydney as the last leg, this kind of odd rock-star schedule seems to be moderately messing with his mind. “You know it’s interesting to be home because I’ve essentially been on the road for the last six months,” he says. “It’s like comedian daylight savings time: we work when other people are playing.”

Anderson’s difficulty readjusting to reality after a tour comes to the fore when dealing with the structured machine of television production. With difficulty suppressing his eight-year-old giggle, Anderson is surprisingly candid as he recalls his dealings with network insurance policies.

“Before you get this insurance you have to do a medical, and one of the questions on the form is, ‘In the last year name any time that you have taken illicit drugs and what those drugs might have been?’ And they leave three lines. I was just like… I am a stand-up comedian… who has been on the road pretty much constantly for the last eight months. Ah… I could give you a manilla folder full of what I could best recollect? How about I tell you what I didn’t take? I know I was at my mum’s house this night so I’m pretty sure that Thursday was clear. I AM SMOKING A JOINT AS I’M FILLING IN THIS FORM. PLEASE DO NOT ASK ME ANY MORE QUESTIONS!”

Anderson’s detachment from reality on tour really resonates when he recalls a tale from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that might not go down so well with an OH&S-obsessed producer. “I was at one of the gigs I did, and [the organisers] came up to me at the end and did the classic, ‘Oh mate we don’t have any money.’ I was spewin’ because it was three o’clock in the morning, it was my fifth gig for the night and I was only doing it for the cash, and he goes ‘Oh, we could pay you in drugs.’ In my head I was like, I really wish I could bring back 50 per cent of that for the tax department and 50 per cent for my agent.”

The funny thing is, if Anderson was arrested, no Australian newspaper would be surprised. Holding a rare position as one of Australia’s most popular and controversial comedians, this brazenly outspoken lad just can’t seem to keep his mouth shut. “The thing is, I never consider any of the things that get blown up into controversy to be controversial,” he laughs. “I just assume that everyone thinks the same things that I think.”

This morning Anderson speaks from a $40 Nokia after his iPhone went ‘missing’, or what one may infer as ‘confiscated’ after Tweeting from the Logie Awards last month. His online commentary landed the 36-year-old comic in hot water as his cache of digs included, “When did Sigrid Thornton become Gollum?” and “Hey Dr Harry… That yellow hat is fooling nobody. We all know you are bald.”

Anderson has an obvious interest in “keeping the bastards honest”, dissecting advertising in the The Gruen Transfer, giving current affairs a serve on The Glass House, and generally making a mockery of print news on Good News Week and stand-up performances. But with press watchdogs having a field day after the Tweetfest, this Melburnian local claims he forgets his context. “You’ve gotta readjust the things you talk about onstage,” he laughs. “People are fucking writing in the paper that I made some joke about John Mayer having herpes. I’m like, man, please don’t come to my live show! If you think that’s offensive, you’re not going to like the shit about Hey Dad.”

Anderson’s tone seems one of honest disbelief at the backlash against his comments. “Poor John Mayer, he’ll go home and cry himself to sleep on all his money, wipe up his tears with his millions of dollars and then fall asleep gently nuzzled in the bosom of a supermodel,” he quips. “Honestly, when I made that joke I had a guy on radio say to me ‘How dare you! What were you thinking?’ And I was like ‘Mate, I’ve gotta be honest with you, I was drunk and I couldn’t spell gonorrhoea.’”

Ultimately, Anderson’s attitude seems to boil down to two words: fuck it. “Look, my only loyalty is to my audience,” he says. “My only responsibility is to say what I honestly believe. Some people are trying to be intentionally provocative, but I don’t ever try to do that, I really don’t.” Really? Even when Media Watch’s Jonathon Holmes blares the headline “Night of nights brings out the Twit in us all”? “Ultimately, I think my honesty resonates with the people who believe the same sorts of things, and it pisses off the people who don’t. If Today Tonight, A Current Affair, and the Herald Sun are pissed off at me, I’m probably doing a good job.”

Despite a penchant for attracting the scandal police, Anderson’s early morning responses expose a rather inquisitive and critical mind that is often confused with crassly stirring the pot. Following the Tweet incident, The Daily Telegraph even ran a poll entitled “Is Wil Anderson funny?” with two options: a) Yes, he’s hilarious or b) No, he’s funny like tinea. But in a field as subjective as the entertainment industry, comedy practitioners such as Anderson inevitably find themselves faced with this kind of criticism. “It’s amazing what people get offended by,” he says. “There’s a bit in my new show that was provoked by a woman who wrote me a letter [because she] was offended that I made a joke about a Star Trek buff masturbating on Good News Week. I just found it insanely hilarious that she got upset about the Star Trek masturbation gag but was fine with the [Josef] Fritzl shit.”

A student of the University of Canberra, Anderson chose to divert from his chosen career path as a journalist, a decision he shows little regret about. “I’ve been telling dick jokes to strangers in bars for longer than I went to school,” he says. “So the small window of my life that involved journalism doesn’t really have any influence one way or the other.” But as a comedian who tends to focus his assaults on news, corporate bullshit and current affairs, surely comedy and journalism have found their mutual ground in his mindtank? “Look, I’m gonna be honest with you, the two have blended quite a lot, but I think what attracted me to journalism is that glorious idea of the Fifth [sic] Estate and blah blah blah, but I guess you get older and more cynical about whether the people who control the flow of information ever allow you to actually say what is really going on.”

But where does Anderson see the difference between his comedy and his own work in print, radio and television journalism? His stance could not be more blunt. “Comedy is free speech on speed,” he says, with nonchalant confidence. “I can get on stage and I can say whatever I want, express whatever opinion I want to say and no-one has the right to tell me what to say and what to think.”

But comedy, like journalism, can be a fairly depressing profession, with many comedians suffering varying mood disorders. Anderson, however seems happy with his career decision and sees no point dragging your feet through a hated career. “It wouldn’t have mattered if I was doing journalism or if my job had been cleaning the whipped cream off strippers’ breasts at the end of the night. If I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, I was never going to be happy doing it.”

But with avenues for venting his two cents from radio to television to the stage, does Anderson feel he has a unique means of making his opinion heard? “Certainly, I mean people have such a great fear of comedy,” he says. “‘Comedian Makes Joke’. Is that really a story? [Critics are] scared because comedians are the people who say what they see, and call the bullshit.”

With a twinkle of ironic moral- mongering teetering down the phone line, something says Anderson’s tone is getting philosophical. “All comedy lives in the reality, the gap between what we perceive to be real and what is really happening,” he laughs. “Now that can be politics or it could be the way we treat biscuits. Comedians are the people who say the Devil’s wearing no clothes.”

So when he decides to change out of his pyjamas at some stage today, what’s next for this philosophising, criticising, energising, frivolising larrikin of Australian comedy? A career in politics perhaps? “Nah. As George Clooney once said, ‘I’ve taken too many drugs and had too much sex for all that to come out.’” Parliament, exhale.

DANCE || WRONG PROM (EDITION 12, 2010)

Bridie Connellan got grooving to the group dance to end all group dances.

Unequivocally, I confess to being possibly the most atrocious and most socially inappropriate dance-fiend one is likely to encounter on a space intended for skilled grooving. Indeed, a “d-floor” the coordinated are calling it. Rather. It’s a rare crowd who will allow the likes of the aunty-dance to be an acceptable form of movement and expression, but thankfully for the box-stepping, scissor-splitters amongst us, a big old train warehouse wants to see you (and me, amazingly) work it.

Wrong Prom is a flip-off mass dance- class-slash-party where costumes and delighted echoes of “Oh man they are NOT playing this song!” shimmy around the tin shed of CarriageWorks in Darlington. Early in the evening, attendees are instructed in a group dance routine, as Urban Dance Centre choreographers teach a basic sequence for the masses, before acclaimed DJs spin themed classics into the night. With the initial Flashdance-themed night sending the corrugated roof skywards last month, upcoming installments include dance-film themes Blues Brothers, Grease and Chicago.

The host of next month’s shebang, Sydney-based playwright, actor and MC Drew Fairley, claims what last year was a popular Sydney quirk, has now become more anticipated than Lady Gaga’s breakdown. But where to for those dancers with awkwardness to burn? “I think the thing about Wrong Prom events is that they are very much for the person who watches all those dancing programmes on TV and says ‘I could never do that… but I’d like to’,” Fairley told Honi. “It’s very welcoming and what’s been great is that the people who come along and seem a bit nervous, thinking they’ll just watch, will be on the dance floor on their back doing high kicks and busting out all the things they would never try.”

Jamie Dawn, executive producer at CarriageWorks hopes that inexpensive events such as Wrong Prom will attract students and thrifty arts fanatics, as they attempt to keep entry fees to a minimum. “My vision for the CarriageWorks program is one of accessible, relevant and diverse contemporary cultural experiences,” he told Honi. “People should feel welcome and encouraged to participate, take risks, try new ideas, see new work. In order to do this we need to stay relevant, diverse, welcoming and affordable.”

Quite the old skool hiphopappotamous, “think electric boogaloo with better hair,” Dawson says the next dance-off adventure will be a surefire spirit-lifter for the chilly season. But with the artistic vision of mum-dancing excellence, Dawson believes so-called “daggy dancing” is a universal guilty pleasure. Why? “Because it’s fun,” he says. “Pure, simple, ridiculous celebratory fun. A connection to be made with hundreds of other people all in one room for the same reason – to let our hair down and celebrate the ability to not take ourselves seriously.” Fairley could not agree more: “We put so much emphasis on the way people look, there’s always a bit of a ‘you might meet someone’ feel,” he says. “I think a lot of people just want to go somewhere where it’s actually just about the dancing. That’s what a lot of people really miss in clubs; you can’t just muck around with your friends. People love the opportunity to come in hilarious attire with padded shoulders and a big wig and just shake it, because it’s fun. You don’t have to try and look sexy.”

When funds are scarce and economic downturns are putting people on tight fun budgets, the difficulty for arts spaces and collectives such as CarriageWorks is encouraging punters to put their pennies towards participating in events like Wrong Prom. Dawson, however, doesn’t see a problem. “I think after the excesses of the past few years, people are now looking back to community for a connection, for simplicity and for celebration,” he says. “The further we are removed from face- to-face contact in our everyday lives, the greater this need for connection is. The Arts provides people with a connection, with something tangible and something real.” Real? I’ll give you real. Just watch this hand-jive… See you on the floor, y’all.

Wrong Prom #6 (Blues Brothers) kicks off Wednesday 23 June from 7.30pm at CarriageWorks, 245 Wilson Street, Darlington.

SOUNDS|| THE BAMBOOS (EDITION 12, 2010)

Bridie Connellan asks this Melbourne funk eight-piece for a witness.

Bamboo is a nutritious plant from the grass family Poaceae. Pandas enjoy it. They also enjoy a Melbourne band of the same name. Or possibly would if they were allowed iPods. Or iPands. SEGWAY. Melbourne funk/soul octet the Bamboos just continue to raise the bar since their inception in 2001, a rarity in Australian bands that stay on the loop for almost a decade. A little older, a little wiser, a little more money to play with, the group’s sixth album 4 sees this underrated crew lifting their game and putting a sheen on their sound that kindly encourages one to, in fact, get up offa that thang.

But with such a tightly polished sound that pays obvious homage to the twangs and throwdowns of the seventies soul scene, the temptation to call the Bamboos as vintage as a vinyl jacket has not escaped all critics. “I guess there’s a whole inventory of the genre of funk and soul that is so entrenched in some people’s minds, so it’s easy for us to be pigeonholed in a retro time machine,” says guitarist/vocalist/manager/publicist/multitask champion Lance Ferguson. “There’s an element to what we do that keeps it current. Approaches to mixing and drum sounds, using hip hop MCs on tracks; obviously this wasn’t going on back in 1972.” Such MCing is performed by Japanese American rapper Lyrics Born, whose praise of the eightsome eventually saw him feature on the gang’s latest single “Turn It Up”, a fine fusion example of why the Bamboos are no function- jazz cover band. “[Our collaboration] is kind of a weird story,” says Ferguson. “Australia is one of [Lyrics Born]’s bigger territories, so he was doing an interview with Triple J and said he’d really love to work with the Bamboos. We did this whole musical collaboration over Skype. So I still haven’t actually met him, which weird but we did make some pretty sweet music.”

Of course no grinding groove is complete without the sultry warblings of a fine femme and after five albums the Melbournians finally found a mother voice. 4 sees the decision to place soul queen Kylie Auldist as the frontwoman for keeps, a position amongst seven men she takes no nonsense with. “Kylie’s pretty tough, she’s the one usually terrorising us to be honest,” says Ferguson. Such a powerful female presence has certainly brought the group back to big band roots, where the ladies lead and the fellas heed. But as opposed to the majority of Sly and the Family Stone impersonators hitting the slapbassin’ circuit, Ferguson claims too much of a good thing can sour the soul. “I didn’t actually listen to a lot of funk while I was writing this album,” he says. “ I was trying to draw my influences from different musical areas like psychedelic garage rock bands from the sixties and things like early Kings of Leon and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.” The decision to lap up a little bit o’ Sex On Fire had its benefits back in 2008 when the group released a bossa nova cover of the Leon kids number “King of the Rodeo”, with fellow Melbournian Megan Washington filling in on vocals for what Ferguson calls a “cuter sixties” sort of sound.

2011 will truly test the mind and soul of this bunch, as they head to the US in February. As a bunch of white guys preaching to the homeland of funk, do the Bamboos see any problems with their sound in the States? “It’s like taking a Celtic band to Ireland,” says Ferguson. On the other hand, European press found some particularly interesting ways of describing these strange funk aficionados from the land of pub rock; UK-based Keep On magazine deemed the eight-piece “catchier than a baseball mitt…” while their latest album was described by German Playboy as “eleven dancefloor gems [that will] turn every club into a Finnish sauna within minutes”. Alright Honi, let’s give it a try: more ‘slick’ than an anagram of ‘licks’? The Bamboos make the kind of gritty gyratingly tight beats, voodoo drops and bassline bombs that slap a pair of magenta Ray Bans on James Brown, backhand mainstream pop with a swift slapbass and pack a deep brassy punch that’s showing old souls how it’s really done. Get uppa, get on up. This biz is hot. Panda hot.

The Bamboos’ album 4 is in stores now.

OM NOM NOM ||  maze (EDITION 11, 2010)

Bridie Connellan has a taste of Gordon ‘Fucking’ Ramsay’s fucking Melbourne restaurant.

The art of enjoyable restaurant reviewing as an amateur (before you have to use disguise to make an objective judgment) is making the staff as nervous as possible. Casually mention your publication, preferably a reputable cuisine journal, place a notebook on the table, take a few snaps and watch the nerves (and increased good service) appear. Attending UK rageaholic chef Gordon Ramsay’s newly opened maze (NB. small ‘m’) restaurant in Melbourne’s Crown Metropol was certainly made much more interesting with a friend from a highly regarded travel magazine; spoiled is an understatement. Ethics? Hell, we were starved. And power-hungry.
À la carte is not a menu option here; you sign up for the long haul mini-degustation. From the outset, selection and sides are distinctly Ramsay, with a serving of bread arranged to look like the Sydney Opera House.

With a wink and an accusation of being a ‘token vegetarian’ our host provided the initial delights of luncheon. Beetroot is hot right now, and with Ramsay placing this entrée on both the vegetarian and meat-eater menus, it just had to be nibbled. Behold! Sunhats of marinated beetroot atop turrets of goats curd, cabernet sauvignon vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts. Touché mu’fu’in Ramsay; this ain’t Hells Kitchen after all. For a second entrée nom nom, kitchen knives became paintbrushes, with a splash of enoki mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke chips and finely sliced green beans scattered across the immaculate rectangular plate like a Cubist flowerbed.

Alright, so not all of us chew cud for breakfast and prefer something with a little flesh. With my carnivorous compadre sampling the explosively named lamb cannon and shoulder, cauliflower puree, anchovy, and stinging nettles, word has it things in meat country are wondrous. On the vegie patch, cumin roasted cauliflower was the main attraction, and the elegant way this vegetable was roasted and arranged, with sautéed almonds and jus, was delightfully fresh and perfect for daylight dining. And look it’s a small finnick, but the restaurant who upkeeps water refills gets my mark. Kudos, pourers.

We signed up for three courses, and by gum the sweet tooth was achin’. For the cocoa-alcoholics the lure of a chocolate cremeaux and banana bread, macadamia nuts and pearl barley ice cream was too much to resist. This little baby was one for the collaborative taste sensation, with the best possible result coming from a spoonful comprising all elements.

Unfortunately for Ramsay’s Oz venture, the decision to emulate Australian desserts did little in his favour, as the exotic fruit vacherin, passionfruit and banana sorbet resembled a chewy pavlova while the restaurant heavily markets its version of a ‘lamington’. The successes of maze are instead found where Ramsay has worked with resident New Zealander chef Josh Emett to cultivate that Kitchen Nightmarebranding, rather than trying to put his own spin on Aussie dishes simply for token tourist-pandering sake.

With a décor of rich magentas, greys and blacks, this slick little hub of the Southside is sure to raise the bar of celebrity cheffing in Melbourne, while surprisingly affordable pricing keeps this brightly-lit sunroom accessible to the most blasé cash-strapped student.

Fake it until you make it, budding reviewers.

maze by Gordon Ramsay is now open at Crown Metropol, Southbank, VIC

SOUNDS || VAMPIRE WEEKEND @ HORDERN PAVILLION (EDITION 11, 2010)

The best part about making a rather fetching chandelier the central image of your debut album is how instantly good it will look on stage. Instant props (pun intended). With four twinkling light fixtures punctuating the cavernous expanse of Hordern Pavilion, the aesthetic tweeness of Brooklyn four-piece Vampire Weekend was felt even before the place was full.

With a captivating introduction to the evening, local openers Cloud Control displayed a kind of polished togetherness rare in support acts, and for one extended moment the audience lost track of who they really came to see. With their debut album Bliss Release hitting shelves the next morning, the Sydney foursome could certainly expect some extra buyers after this brilliantly colourful set, a collection of ambient indie gems. Infectious single “Gold Canary” and the newer rolling spooks of “Ghost Story” particularly proved the quality of these Blue Mountaineers.

With a wink, a smile and hands up for Detroit, Vampire Weekend entered the stage to the sounds of DJ Kool’s booming rap extravaganza “Let Me Clear My Throat”. They greeted their adoring throng with beloved Contra number “White Sky”, whirling falsettos sending the excited fans into a cooing rush.

Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2008, the hype and avid following of the band has steadily grown, and the Horden held one of the largest crowds the foursome has tackled in Australia. As Columbia grads, these guys are smart enough to know that punters en masse want to hear songs they know, songs to which they have the lyrics down, and songs they can lose their shit over in spectacularly uncoordinated fashion.

Unfortunately, Hordern was the wrong venue. The shtick of Vampire Weekend lies in their ability to create intimate trinkets of sound, where the smallest guitar twang can change a bridge or chorus into a delightfully incandescent gem. The spacious hangar seemed responsible for diluting the wondrous impact of the foursome’s tales of love, chapsticks and almond drinks. The audience’s intolerance for impulsive musical dexterity came to the fore with the group’s rendition of “Taxi Cab”, where the mood translated into a reason to grab a beverage. This break in singles was a moment of sonic intimacy that was lost in the expanse of the large venue. Keyboard solos from Rostam Batmanglii transported the keen listener into a capsule of dreams and quaint contemplation, but the majority of head boppers seemed unappreciative. A truly beautiful moment in a less than ideal setting.

With the Australian penchant for violently burly anthems, the rousing chorus of “Blake’s Got a New Face” was perfectly catered to by lead singer Ezra Koenig; “We don’t have to explain it. You just sing.”

The band’s image of being preppy collegiates was brought home by a roaring rendition of “Campus”, and Koenig acknowledged his main fan source: “This one’s for all the students.” Conjuring images of pressed polo shirts, Ivy League lawns and suppressed love between textbooks, the jaunt transitioned with precision into the perfectly palatable favourite “Oxford Comma”. “A-Punk” sent the well-dressed crowd into a ska-soaked Carribean cantina with shoulder shimmies abounding.

The spontaneity of live performance is certainly not a main concern for this group of tightly rehearsed musicians. The fool who attends a Vampire Weekend concert in hope of anything more than two minute blasts of album content is swiftly disappointed, and with snugly regimented rhythms and beat control from Chris Tomson, the delivery of favourites such as “Holiday” showed an almost mathematical quality to their packages of sound.

Fortunately for the cynics amongst the bopping mass, the four-piece encored with gusto, with the beautifully nailed zest of “Horchata” paving the way for “Mansard Roof” to cap off the night. With grins bouncing around the shed like a kaleidoscopic bout of good vibes, Koenig coolly announced a mildly predictable final farewell with a spray of “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”.

With a magenta edge completing this rainbow of sound, each colour of this infectious quartet’s set was expected and wonderfully anticipated. It seems the thing one must accept is that the beauty of Vampire Weekend lies in their ability to create safe sonic packages. Nothing new, nothing virtuosic, nothing unheard; just good, clean, tight, brilliant, favourite jumper fun.

SOUNDS || KYÜ (EDITION 11, 2010)

Bridie Connellan joins the queue to speak with the Sydney musical duo.

Like shoes and socks, tea and cake, port and starboard, some things are meant to just go well together. Freya Berkhout and Alyx Dennison will finish each other’s sentences thank you very much. With a xylophone solo.

For the symbiotic parts of Sydney musical duo Kyü, success has come with streamers, as performances at last year’s High & Dry Festival, This Is Not Art and the upcoming Creative Sydney have made party hats a necessary addition to their already colourful wardrobes. Dennison insists the duo would hardly exist if not for the fierce competition of the 2009 USU Band Comp, a contest that saw their powerfully eccentric and unique set trounce 48 other acts for the crown. “We wouldn’t have written those songs if it wasn’t for Band Comp; we needed material worthy to compete,” she says. “We had the incentive to write music when we otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Despite assumptions of a biological relationship, the pair only met recently in English class, battling through ENGL1025 Fiction, Film and Power a year and a half ago. “Everyone thinks that we grew up together,” laughs Dennison. As Berkhout helps Dennison (on crutches) through the grounds of Sydney Uni, the kinship between the two is palpable and that bond also shines in their collaborative songwriting. “A lot of the time we write a song before we even touch an instrument,” says Dennison. “We’ll talk about it and say what we want. It’s just we’re very much on the same wavelength and have a very deep understanding of one another. When we’re together it just works.” Berkhout agrees, claiming neither could sleep the night they created their first song ‘Sunny in Splodges’. “It’s hard to describe; the first songs we wrote together I actually can’t remember writing them.”

Kyü’s influences are relatively eclectic, as they cite “daggy Canadian harpists”, Bollywood superstars, indie grizzlies, and British composers as but a few of their inspirations. This translates into a sound that is similarly undefinable. With Berkhout majoring in Hindi and Dennison having an affinity with philosophy, the two are hardly shy about wearing their diverse influences on their sleeves. “I guess our music is a lovechild of music that we’re passionate about,” says Dennison. “We make music that we’d want to be listening to.”

But with such an uncommon sound in the Sydney music scene, it is not surprising that reviews are a point of contention for the duo. With their debut album set for release and inevitable judgement, Kyü are certainly not fans of cynical critics in creative circles. Berkhout and Dennison just don’t see the point of negative comment. “I never understood reviews even before we were making music,” says Berkhout. “I’ve never understood why people feel as though they have license to criticise something in the public domain. I think it’s great if you’re encouraging people to listen to something and saying this is great, have a listen, but when you’re making the judgement for people, I find that aspect of the music industry completely baffling.”

They needn’t pay any attention to naysayers. Kyü’s layered and textured sound expresses a unique fusion of style, as they blend world sounds, Indian mantras and Celtic classical roots in one fine explosion of wonderment. Rolling percussion accents the serene reverberating vocals as the duo transports the listener into an ether of Björk-ish sonic bliss. The only question left for such a sound… where to listen? According to Berkhout and Dennison, their music is a good accompaniment to walking and sleeping. As they say, smiling in sync, listen to it “somewhere contemplative.”

SOUNDS || DAPPLED CITIES (EDITION 11, 2010)

Bridie Connellan chats with Tim Derricourt.

With all this talk of student multitaskers juggling stage and studies, it’s about time we got a word in from some alumni. Cheeky, jetsetting, catchy alumni. Five-piece indie darlings Dappled Cities have been around the tracks since they were Periwinkle at Sydney Grammar School in 1997 (bless!) and with the release of their third album offering,Zounds, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Runners-up in the 2001 USU Band Comp, these Sydney Uni kids have graduated in style with apparently the only song they still play from their days on campus being “Peach”, their very first single. From the streets of London town, Honi managed to nab guitarist Tim Derricourt for a speedy cup of Earl Grey as the group scoots around the UK before their Australian tour in June. Bring us back a scone.

Well hey, what’s shakin’ in the UK?

Loads: pathetic games of football, wild nights out at transvestite bars and copious amounts of liquid in pint-sized glasses.

Well since we’re shouting out from Sydney Uni, was there a nice little campus tale to the beginnings of Dappled Cities?

We met at high school. But we were in the Sydney Uni Band Comp. I think we lost to that guy that wrote “free tha refugees” on his hand on Big Brother.

Bummer, but I think you guys are a little better off. Having made music together since high school, have you noticed a change in the way you work as a group?

Yeah. We used to be all uptight about making tunes but now we’re older and more relaxed. We now generally write music on the various yacht parties we are attending around the world and email each one’s parts to the others and finish it off when we all get together for our Swedish sauna week.

Quite a life for once-struggling students! Well, back on our shores you’re curating an art exhibition when you return in June. Would you mind explaining the ideas behind this, and why you think your music matches art?

We commissioned 24 artists to create a work of art inspired by the tracks on Zounds and we held an exhibition for the media for the release of the album last August. We thought it was finally time people got to see the art works so our lovely management team has been busy setting up a sweet public showing ready for when we get home.

Considering your roots, do you think Sydney has a particular vibe as a creative hub?

It’s pretty varied I guess. There is no scene like you have in Melbourne but more disparate small scenes that occasionally interact. That said, we are always inspired by new bands that pop up about the place.

Besides your Winter Tour for 2010, what’s next for Dappled Cities?

We are launching an incredible live DVD which is a recording we made of us recreating our entire album Zounds in full, but stripped back, and a little experimental. Then we take off back to the UK for some summer touring action and head to LA to start work on our fourth record. And heaps of yacht parties.

Ah bless, enjoy.

SOUNDS || IN A SENTENCE (EDITION 7, 2010)

Bridie Connellan is succinct in her sentiments.

MGMT – Congratulations

Surprisingly first-rate psych-trip of radio-unfriendly hallucinatory wonderment for the US duo usually suited to soundtracking Bonds ads.

The Futureheads – The Chaos

Feckin’ Brit gunnin’ riffs ‘n’ totes endie shite yah, the fourth album from this foursome is good clean fun dipped in sweet, sweet petrol.

The Checks – Alice By The Moon

Somewhat mediocre Kiwi indie band gets mildly better after an 18-month stint in London; still moderately resemble the repetitive drivel of Jet.

The National – High Violet

Third time’s a charm and a treat for this relatively anonymous Noo Yawk crew, with their trio of albums mounting in the sound of a (more) despondent Interpol reading a prophetic novel about a vagabond in an attic or something similarly ambiguously mysteriously AWESOME.

Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders – Red Light Fever

Drummer sticks it to Foo Fighters fans, fusing a harmonic spoonful of Eagles with 30mL of Queen and a splash of Thin Lizzy in a slightly feeble second solo attempt to nab a suntan outside a Grohling shadow.

Parades – Foreign Tapes

Birthday dinner for the ears; special, rarity, local delicacy, helluva treat.

Rat Vs Possum – Daughter of Sunshine

A wondrous meander through a minature zoo inside a circuitboard on the top of a mountain of sequins holding a fluorescent castanet.

Seja – We Have Secrets But Nobody Cares

Better off without Regurgitator, German-born synth goddess gets her bono vox on, WELL.

Purple Sneakers DJs – We Mix You Dance

Gin, sweat and a cheeky texta on a wallpapered toilet wall; the core elements of one gloriously trashy Utopia.

KE$HA – Animal

Greasy black roots, smudged Rimmel, stale brews; this travesty is the musical equivalent of straddling an oiled-up narwhal in a pit of tipsy alarm clocks and to answer your question, no, the party don’t stop.

PAGES || NME (EDITION 7, 2010)

Time to give the UK’s most notoriously image-conscious publication a little once-over. As one who enjoys newly refurbished layouts a little too much to let this baby slide, New Musical Express let’s have a good look at you.

Everyone needs haircuts, and considering image is the crux of this cultural artifact, British music magazine NME is no exception. The aptly titled publication New Music Express has been revamped for 2010, with a fresh editor and a scheme for tackling dwindling circulation figures. Poor NME. Circulation has dropped two-thirds since 1990. Sure sucks to be printing in the midst of an online revolution.

Since its inception in 1952, NME has come to embody the youthful obsession with music those “hip young gunslingers” (their words circa 1976) just seem to dig. NME established the first British music chart in print. It coined the term ‘Britpop’ in the 90s. And it has single-handedly kept Pete Doherty in some oddly revered spotlight for years.

In its first big revamp since the decision to go glossy in 2003, the new-look rag has come a long way since it began as a newsprint, and has even grabbed headlines from The Guardian newspaper. The seven-year reign of editor Conor McNicholas ebbed with the succession of Krissi Murison in July 2009. First female editor – flip yeah you did. Thus, in a dramatic refurbishment of design, sections and typography, Murison and her team have responded to “extensive reader research” and marked the occasion with 10 Special Edition Covers featuring the likes of MIALCD SoundsystemJack White, and Foals. Really, any publication to feature Rhianna with a sequined vulture on her shoulder has got to be worth the £2.30.

The use of stripped-back black and white for the interior layout has created a significantly classier publication with the right amount of colour splashes rescuing these pages from looking as cheap as Ke$ha’s hair extensions. A small yet noteworthy decision came with a paper change to that perfect ply balance between floppy tabloid trash and matte finish art mag. Thus, without stripping itself of the rock and/or roll stickiness of sex, drugs and textual sweat on which the magazine has hedged its reputation, this new sheen simply screams progress. While any publication revamp can usually indicate a decline in circulation and sale (coughOystercouh), Murison clearly means business. Sweet, sweet, typographical business.

It’s high time NME left 1990 at the door, as the Acid House and Madchester crazes swept this weekly press like a 24 Hour Party Person. But while previously the site of Happy Mondays nu-rave self-indulgence, the new-look NME is surprisingly and eloquently not shit. Overhauling the traditionally garish red logo in favour of a more streamlined font, the change also allows this publication to throw off the shackles of its socialist days when the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 made editors see Red.

Now sure, design and schmickness is sure to re-jig interest in this historically iconic press at least for a little while, but the real test will come with the new editorial stance on blatant bias and favouritism. The magazine itself has a long history of both “band bashing”, and corporate vested interests with Kasabian, The Killers and The Libertines debatably owing their careers to its pages, and the recent tabloid style turning a number of readers off indefinitely.

However, with a distinctly varied cache of artists launching the face-lift, all hope lies in Murison’s ability to pull NME’s head out of it’s own arse. For the meantime, content and writing quality still needs work, but at least the foundations are laid for wha t could pull itself together as something relevant to music readers and artists. The pulse ain’t dead yet y’all. It’s still prime for hip young gunslingers.


THE GAUNTLET (EDITION 6, 2010)

THE CHALLENGE: Spend only $2 a day for an entire week

THE RULES:

• The $2 cannot carry over and a new amount begins each day. • Eftpos and credit cards must be surrendered to a safekeeper.

• No requests (i.e. ‘Friend, please buy me a coffee for I am feeling faint.’) • Charity is acceptable if not requested • No paybacks or lends

• The $2 may be improved upon over the course of the day but only through gambling

your precious coin or finding money.

On the dawning day of frugal fun, there were serious doubts about my survival. Naysayers hush! Undoubtedly this exercise was going to be about priorities, for example whether a cup of tea had more value than a bag of rice, or if I was willing to beg a bartender for a $2 G&T.

Day 1. It was time to talk this over with someone who would undoubtedly see this as a ‘character building’ experience. Over a cider with Daddy-O, a by-rule of this challenge was thus established;

I could disclose the nature of the challenge to others. Essentially this had the effect of inducing more pity, yet less social awkwardness. I wouldn’t have to order water over a beer with foot- shuffling embarrassment.

With 40c remaining, walking home was the only financial option. The evening meal saw every vegetable in the house roasted including the mysterious onions on top of the fridge which possibly saw the Obama election. Frugal mezze.

Day 2. Discovery of an old Travel Ten = win. Ants consume leftover avocado = fail. After two days, it was evident that pity was a force to both exploit and feel terrible about. Several dear friends took the ‘sad and sorry’ approach and purchased me coffee for my sustenance. But this kind of charity was not to be tolerated. To the supermarket!

One carrot, a can of soup, and a bottle of tonic later, things were looking up.

Day 3. I discovered a relatively untapped resource: graduations. With at least four ceremonies per Friday, free sandwiches and champagne flow in the Quad, all you need do is embrace someone in a gown and you’re fed and drunk.

The success of this mission was largely due to mid-semester break and my installment at the workplace, where the temptation to spend was replaced by preoccupation with the unappetizing stench of customers. With a mere carrot and a bread roll my body began to move past hungry. By 9pm I had salvaged the remnants of a friend’s manky rice. Classy. Sufficient.

Day 4. Prime nourishment for nada. A skerrick of goat’s fetta, a smidgeon of brownie, a slice of Pink Lady; Saturday markets are what dollar-hoarders call ‘life de high’. At the midway point of this thrifty task, I was hedging all bets on a friend’s birthday that evening, with a yoghurt and a surprise charity coffee comprising daily nutrition. So with the prospect of cake for dinner, my final sustenance was two red frogs.

Day 5. What childhood dreams are made of: cake for breakfast. With Edition 5 of Honi in the bag and a fine reason to celebrate, ‘twas time to be muy muy borracho with a fellow editor throwing a Mexican feast of sheer wonderment. My mother would be horrified if I were to go empty-handed, thus the priority today was being a good guest. My precious coin found itself dedicated to corn chips, with the delightful addition of a housemate’s leftover lemons. But beverages you say? Found my Peach Juice in the SRC from months ago. Still in date. Score. Suckers, you drank it.

Day 6. Now, when you only have a $2 coin in your pocket (not $2 and a savings account) prices become bold and leering. You can’t afford a coffee. You can’t afford a beer. You can’t afford a sandwich. You cannot physically pay for and place money on the counter for something above this amount, despite the natural assurance that if all else fails, just put it on credit.

Hence why it sucks even more when your thriftyness is thwarted. The flipping ants stole my Mexican doggie bag. Bastards. Time to try and improve on today’s cash. With little faith in poker machines, I trusted a Scratchie. Imagine that, a $20,000 win in the week I spent less than an hour’s wage. But you know what ‘Big Top’? Screw you. The failure induced me to give 30c to a homeless guy. Weakened but not defeated by the morning’s scratch, I was determined to cook a household dinner. And did. 60c pasta provided a meal of Spartan kings for my entire hut. Just try and break my spirits now, ‘Big Top’.

Day 7. The final throng of dollar duo budgetry. A little lesson in café etiquette for the cash-depleted. I needed to use a local haunt for study but I would need to purchase something to sit. But after accidentally counting out only $1.50 in change for the day, my faith in human clemency was restored as my hosts took pity and sold me a cut-price biscuit. After this lavish purchase, a final effort of being a dirty dirty barnacle involved pilfering fries from a buddy’s Manning burger, with mustard being a saucy luxury. This glamourous lifestyle was swiftly losing its schmick saving sheen.

But at last, enter Wednesday. Cashed up y’all. With the return of my plastic, the week of woe was done and dusted. First mission on the day of dawning- must buy breakfast for all who assisted me along the way. It seems spending only $14 in one week is dandy if you have generous buddies around to nourish you but it makes you feel like a moocher. Did I even learn anything? Next time, no charity and no freeloading. Now I just can’t bring myself to pay any higher than $5 for a meal.

THE COIN & THE DAMAGE DONE

Day #1: $1.60 bus ticket Day #2: $2.00 carrot, soup, bottle of tonic Day #3: $1.00 carrot & bread roll, $1 towards half-finished rice Day #4: $1.60 yoghurt, $0.20 2 x red frogs Day #5: $2.00 packet of corn chips Day #6: $1.10 Scratchie, $0.60 pasta, $0.30 for homeless guy Day #7: $1.50 shortbread cookie

TOTAL SPENDINGS: $12.90 in 7 days.

Nice.

UNI NEWS || Sir Charles Nicholson, you bastard (EDITION 6, 2010)

Bridie Connellan unmasks the true identity of the University of Sydney founder.

New research into the real identity of the co-founder of the University of Sydney has revealed Sir Charles Nicholson was in fact the illegitimate child of a labourer’s daughter, and not the landed gentry he has been assumed to descend from.

Michael Turner, Senior Curator of the Nicholson Museum has published a brief version of his findings in the Sydney University Museums newsletter in an article entitled ‘Mystery on the Yorkshire Moors: The Humble Origins of a Great Man’. Originally armed only with

details of Nicholson’s medical degree from Edinburgh University from which he graduated in 1833, Turner’s three- year investigation into Nicholson’s past has revealed Australia’s first hereditary Baronet was in fact not a descendant of the distinguished Nicholson family of Bedale, Yorkshire, but in truth the bastard child of Barbara Ascough, a labourer’s daughter. Nicholson was born ‘Isaac Ascough’ and was born in the small English hamlet of Iburndale, which Turner describes as “a thousand light years from the landed gentry of Bedale”. Nicholson’s wife Sarah notes in a previously unseen personal memoir, “My husband was always reticent about anything connected with himself and his family,” and Turner argues that such lowly origins were an “exceedingly good reason” for his discretion.

Turner’s research was based on several trips to the US and UK to liase with distant descendants of Nicholson, his wife and mother. Uncovering the identity of Nicholson’s father is an ongoing task, as Turner says, “Work continues, but there are some intriguing possibilities to follow up, the very stuff of a Jane Austen novel.” However despite a sense of romantic idealism in this field, Turner’s speculation ends with a staunch admiration for an orphaned child who managed to obtain a medical degree, co-found a University, succeed as the first speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and receive a knighthood. The question Turner poses quite fittingly; “What then had inspired the man to such greatness?”

Turner’s research since 2007 has also developed the currently-showing exhibition Nicholson: Man and Museum at the aptly-named Nicholson museum, which marks the 200th anniversary of the founder’s birth in 1808. The showcase of this ambiguous figure’s artefacts and paraphernalia runs until December 2010.

With current speculation as to the amount of students admitted to the university from disadvantaged socio- economic circumstances, the revelation that the University’s founder was in fact an illegitimate child of working class descent comes at a rather coincidentally interesting time. Whether the Sydney University marketing and public relations team have flagged this yet is merely hypothetical.

SOUNDS || EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS (EDITION 5, 2010)

Bridie Connellan rocks out with her sock out at Edward Sharpe’s live Metro concert.

Last week, I saw Jesus. Tall guy right? Affable sort? Beardy? Lengthy white kaftan-esque garment, slightly unwashed, inevitably draws people to his feet? Rousing? Moderately aloof yet endearing? You know the cove. Oh sweet Revelations, it’s just Edward Sharpe. Then again, same difference really.

Edward Sharpe is Alexander Ebert, a somewhat enigmatic frontman whose roots lie in electronic indie with the group Ima Robot. The fabled tale of his midlife re-think saw him banish negativity and cynicism from his mindtank and craft the imaginary character of Edward Sharpe as some sort of healing shaman for the masses. Alongside his pixie of a partner (in both crimes of do-gooding and romance) Jade Castrinos, the pair took to the road in a big white bus, eventually coming ‘Home’ to a ridiculously infectious hit single. The accompanying album Up From Below could not bring more joy if it was made of marzipan. Grab a bunch of jolly musos, slap them with a collective moniker of Magnetic Zeros, and make some downright blissful sounds. Simple. Happy. Beautiful.

Thus, at the first of two Sydney shows for the troupe, it wasn’t difficult to be drawn to the cult of the Magnetic Zeros. The collective nature of the 11-piece band rang bells of an Arcade Fire-esque quality, as the uber-jam atmos should have been an impetus for audience hoedowning. I say should, because these Sydneyslicker iceblocks sure took their time warming to the shindig. Frustratingly, with their awkward mumbling over lyrics to lesser- known singles ‘40 Day Dream’ and ‘Kisses Over Babylon’, the majority of Triple J-bandwagoners were waiting for just one thing. Castrinos called to her man mid-show, ‘Come on Alexander, let’s go “Home”.’ From the first whistled notes of this signature track, spectators brushed off those icy gig-frosticles, sending the Metro into one Woodstockian lovefest that dared not keep a straight face. Tambourines at the ready, whistle lips prepped, there is a darn good reason this sock hoppin’ rhubarb of a song brings such joy, particularly as the whimsical banter of the bridge strayed into a jolly commentary on purple socks. Holy, moley, me oh my, ‘twas grand.

The only problem with having a hell of a gun of a hit single, is finding something to follow it up with live. The task seemed daunting for the Zeros as they exchanged glances and ‘huh’s’ in a kind of nervous stupor, but the solution swiftly made itself apparent; let’s just chill. It sure takes a special kind of artist to entice Metro attendees to sit on the theatre’s dirty dirty floor just for a singalong, but after the single hoedown it sure was time for a little sit and contemplation, as a sweetly captivating Kumbaya scene ensued. The messiah and his family decided there weren’t enough of them onstage and thus rallied a few lucky punters to join them in communal embrace. Of course the allowance of patrons onstage will always bring that one guy who holds his arms up, phone in one palm, beer in the other, burling the lyrics to a soft folk ballad like it was Muse, and nodding his head to a beat that does not, in fact, exist. However, for the most part, the addition of a few extra tone-deaf voices in the onstage mics was nothing short of heartwarming and downright pleasant. Swaying and clapping without much decorum to speak of, there was truly nowhere else this cynic cared to be.

The innocent romance between the two vocalists put audience hands in hands, heads on shoulders, and even grins on security guard dials, as Jade and Alexander played the part of ‘adorably- loved-up-duo’ so divinely that even the most apathetic singles in the room surely felt their bliss. Hot and heavy pumpkin pie to boot, as their lyrics suggest Edward Sharpe and his bunch of Magnetic Zeros truly were the apple of the audience’s eye. Accordions, acoustics, accentuations on Southern drawls, this was Alabama, Arkansaw and animated adventure nicely wrapped in a manky kaftan and a floral frock. Amen, Edward Sharpe. Amen.

FLAG || THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER (US EDITION 4, 2010)

Bridie Connellan salutes you.

Life as an official US flag must be fairly freeblowin’ with official codes for folding storage, specifics as to how much gold fringing can indeed infringe on you, and rumours that a lass called Betsy sewed you first. I pledge allegiance to praising such a skerrick of material. She fine.

Design is striking and multi-purpose, whether for the use of a US marine uniform, a Bruce Springsteen album cover, a Lady Gaga dance outfit, a doggie bandana, a historic pose at Iwo Jima or a West Wing opening sequence. Starry, spangly, epic. Captain America didn’t nab that colour scheme for nothing y’all. And sure, as a flag, when Lenny Kravitz, Miley Cyrus and Madonna choose to lip-sync in front of your sweet self, it’s either time to give yourself massive props or throw yourself in a shredder. But hey, if it was good enough for US Congress in 1777, it’s good enough for MTV.

Talk of Illuminati, Freemasons and conspiracy symbolism also permeates more sophisticated analyses of such a cultural banner, with 13 horizontal stripes proving too suspicious to pass as mere colonies against the British monarchy. But this high- flyer doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, not even its own (apart from that pesky old Flag Act) and should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation. But the beauty of the US flag is its direct correlation with the national anthem, an advisable element of any national flutterer really. Literally a banner of Starry Spangles, it’s hard to deny the patriotic merits of serenading one’s national symbol, particularly when the words “play ball” swiftly ensue.

Oh say can you see, Uncle Sam sure picked a good’un. With the last of the 50 state stars only added for Hawaii in 1960, this national symbol is historic enough for nostalgia, while geometrically fresh enough to pass for modern sleek. Stripes, stars, bold block colours; gang’s all here for a Party in the USA. Replicas run rife in packaging and promos, with even a gangbusters Sydney student newspaper finding this flag slick enough to put on a masthead. Pop-Tarts releasing an American flag range with blue icing may be a touch too much patriotism for adequate nutrition to handle, however novelty flag toothpicks are, thankfully, not. In an aesthetically pleasing and coincidental addition, the geographical shape of the US continent perfectly fits their own flag. Take that New Zealand.

It’s the vibe, it’s liberty, it’s justice, no… it’s just the vibe. Denmark may have the oldest state flag still in use, Nepal ousted the rectangular flag format in favour of triangular radness, and Libya is the only nation to say “fuck you all – we just want plain green”, but the US of A sure kick it when it comes to fluttering national symbols. Admit it or not, it’s the flag you want on the back of your biker jacket, the side of your Lucky Strikes, the bumper of your wood-paneled Chevrolet. Long may it wave. Props to Old Glory.

CANVAS || GO FONT URSELF* (EDITION 2, 2010)

Bridie Connellan generates some type with Gallery Curator Marty Routledge.

It’s hardly surprising that a former train vandal graffiti artist would have a bit of a fetish for the alphabet. But with three successful exhibitions dedicated to the art of lettering, Glebe curator Marty Routledge is no wordy amateur. With an impressive showcase of local and international typographers, this year’s installment of the increasingly popular Go Font Ur Self* art exhibition is again set to spellcheck you all.

HS: Thanks for having a yarn Marty. So give us the wheres, whens, hows, whos and whys?

MR: Well the Go Font Ur Self* initiative was formed around an idea for a group show with friends of mine that all use type in some shape or form in their

art making process. Naturally, being surrounded by people actively exhibiting work, and having organized and showed in many group shows in the past, it

was an idea I really wanted to come to fruition.

With the support of Peer Group Media, the idea escalated to a 3-stop national tour with an international lineup of some of the world’s most notorious letterheads. Some of the bigger names to date [have included] Above, Espo, Jersey Joe, Jessica Hische, Timba Smits, Daren Newman, Eine, Luca Ionescu, Letman and many many more. So far there have been 44 works exhibited in the GFUS series Chapters 1 through 3. We now begin 2010 with Chapter 4 in the series.

HS: Congrats. So with three shows already under your belt, is there a new vision for this year’s exhibition?

MR: We’re trying to achieve a series of shows that will be a consistent meeting

point for typographers and appreciators to come and see exclusive works that will expand their existing thoughts of the way type is executed. We always like to have a feature installation in the Sydney show, but try to not detract too much from the incredible work submitted into each Chapter. This exhibition will have cold beer and giveaways, as well as our resident DJs Badwives (Viv Kingswood and DJ Crane).

HS: Ah free beer, zing. How else do you gauge artist interest?

MR: It’s amazing how little it hurts to be rejected via email (laughs). It’s a strange feeling when you are bluntly inviting some of your biggest heroes in the lettering game to submit something to sculpt the personality of a project. The project IS THEM. The branding of GFUS is simple and ‘non-themed’ so the artworks and artists ARE the personality of the project.

HS: But where is the value in ‘collecting’ these artworks from all over rather than commissioning a single artist?

MR: In my opinion, in trying to cover typography, it would be a gross misrepresentation of the industry to cover the work of one artist. Typography as a theme seems limitless to me, and the aim is to highlight the work of people who represent different interests in different areas of type, whether it be a treatment styling, focus on letter forms, celebrating classic typesets, wordplays, alphabets, relationships between letterforms etc etc.

HS: Do you think people take fonts and letters for granted?

MR: Well, next time you’re on a high street, look around at how much type is used in that one glance. Shop windows, awnings, road signs, graffiti, slogans on shirts. IT IS EVERYWHERE and it’s this saturation that detracts from the time and love put into each individual creation.

HS: So speaking of type aesthetics, in which font would you prefer this interview to be written in?

MR: Helvetica Neue LT Std – 75 Bold – for Headings. Helvetica Neue LT Std – 45 Light – for answers

Helvetica Neue LT Std – 55 Roman – for questions

HS: And finally, how do you respond to Comic Sans?

MR: With a comical laugh.

Go Font Ur Self* Wednesday 17 March, 6pm Peer Gallery, 153 Bridge Rd, Glebe

THE PROFILE || THE BLACK SEEDS (EDITION 2, 2010)

Bridie Connellan chats reggae and rhyme with guitarist Mike August from The Black Seeds ahead of their upcoming tour.

Cynicism? Old news. Pessimism? Oh please. Save it for Placebo.

11am. A sunny Thursday morning. Birds chirping down the phone all the way from Wellington. A gig next to picnics and ponies. It must be a pretty good life being a Black Seed.

In an industry so decorated by pretension, it’s refreshing to meet a musician who’s just a stand-up dude. Happy to be happy. We should all be so lucky.

The Black Seeds are an infectious 8-piece reggae tour de force, with roots, grooves and stage sweat to boot. On the cusp of their umpteenth Australian tour, the optimism is pouring by the gobletful, and those without a penchant for the lesser-known expression called the ‘smile’ may kindly use the exit to their left. Dey listen to da rhydem of me ‘eart.

Forming back in 1998 has given The Black Seeds quite a run of experience on both the local and international scenes, with four studio albums and a tour history to rival Lonely Planet’s keenest staff member. But with a successful US release last year and countless world tours, are these reggae royals feeling like veterans yet? “I’m starting to, yeah,” laughs August. “It’s just like anything when you’re looking back at how you ‘were’ when you were younger. You just… laugh.”

Despite cruising around the scene for a good few eons, August and his octet are part of a new sound that has found itself strutting ever so coolly with Wellington boots. The New Zealand reggae-revival is a trend that can be traced back to a striking 1979 Bob Marley concert and the rapid growth of Rastafarianism within Maori culture. However August insists such a community support base has only grown in New Zealand in the last ten years. “We’re suddenly very aware that there is this distinctly New Zealand music,” he says, “and we’re actually proud of it, not ashamed of it as we may have been in the past.”

The burgeoning sound of New Zealand reggae and dub is unexpectedly successful, which August attributes to one simple fact: they don’t try to be Bob Marley. “We’re very aware that we’re not Jamaican,” he laughs. “We’re never trying to be Jamaican which lots of reggae bands do, [a sound] which to my ear is quite tragic.”

With the seed of these New Zealand locals spreading swiftly through the pastures of Europe’s toughest sneers, August and his bandmates have found a clear difference between a home crowd and their foreign counterparts. “Kiwis and Aussies are definitely not afraid to get generally pretty loose,” he says. “But French audiences…were real listeners, not huge dancers. It was a bit strange for us, we’re kind of used to people getting involved.”

Reggae of this kind should always be best enjoyed live and loud. But in an ironic twist, this guitarist-turned-producer finds himself most comfortable indoors, hitting that RECORD button. “I just really enjoy how deeply creative recording is,” he admits. “I always really enjoy the technical artistic problems that come up and force you to somehow find a solution.”

But with such underground recording becoming what August describes as a ‘whole new kittle of fesh’, the processes of music-making have become something of a trade-off between nostalgic haunts and schmick sound. Naming their last album in 2007 Into the Dojo, the Black Seeds were truly showing their commitment to a fighting-fit recorded sound, as their original studio space Surgery Studio was actually a converted karate dojo.

Songwriting in a dungeon must surely take its toll. A little Marley, a little Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, a little King Tubby might just be the creative listening muse the afro-beat doctor ordered. But regardless of mainstream reggae and roots influences, August claims the best inspiration comes a little closer to home. “I’m often most inspired by people around me,” he says. “I get really inspired by seeing the process of people making music. It’s nice to be inspired by friends.”

But speaking of friends, this is New Zealand. Surely the band are all Facebooking Peter Jackson from time to time, courting a ewe or two, and it’s likely each is the godson of Neil Finn? No, even better. The Black Seeds proudly claim one half of comedy duo Flight of the Conchords as a former band member. Bret McKenzie, the non-spectacled Conchordite, remains a close friend of the group and even found himself on set with the eight in Vanuatu as they shot a film clip. “I mean he’s a wanted man these days, that’s why he left,” laughs August. “We do catch up with him when we can. Hopefully now he’s finished the second season, we’ll get to see a bit more of him.”

Optimistic about a friend they never see? Positive about a dungeon recording studio? Happy to combat the lack of French head-bopping? Surely there’s one skerrick of pessimism to be found underneath the laidback exterior of this perpetually upbeat guitarist? Perhaps the tolls of touring the world? “Well it’s the sad thing about touring that you never really get to spend any time anywhere, it’s the sad old cliché that you see a bar and a hotel in front of a van,” August says. “BUT [emphasis added] it does give you an idea of places you might like to go back to. I really can’t complain.” Of course you can’t. The Black Seeds: Putting pessimists to shame since 1998. Ah, God bliss New Ziland.

The Black Seeds are touring nationally this month. The Metro Theatre, Sydney, Friday 19 March.

SOUNDS || ANGUS & JULIA STONE, DOWN THE WAY (EDITION 1, 2010)


It sure is hard to be cynical about an album you have waited for with baited breath, but unfortunately ‘not-angry-just-disappointed’ is often the only response one can muster. Sydney locals Angus and Julia Stone have again survived sibling collaboration to release the follow-up to their highly acclaimed debutChocolate and Cigarettes. And yet, it’s just… ok.

Moody and somewhat serene polished folk, the 13 new tracks have something of an overarching sadness, that sheds the optimism of the duos initial release, however such an impression is the only consistent aspect. As a result of touring, globe-hopping and time spent on opposite sides of the planet, the duo have attempted to claim that the varying moods and disjointedness of the album are what make it so unique, however often such a lack of streamlining exposes this patchwork for what it really is; entirely incoherent.

Thirty seconds into the initial track “Hold On’ and things are already sounding very produced. Sure, this is not necessarily a huge downfall, it’s just the reason many fell in love with this duo was their folky authentic roughness and an endearing unrehearsed impression the album could have been recorded in the loungeroom. But with a more powerful musical backing, it would serve the duo well to elevate their lyrical content, however the lack of any excitement in these tracks is just downright disappointing. With clichéd ‘holding’, ‘kissing’, ‘squeezing’ and whatnot comprising most of the rhymes in tracks such as ‘Big Jet Plane’, the unsophisticated beauty of their tales fades into bland uninteresting ‘meh’ zone, as stories become something of just old Angus Stone, singin’ about what he sees. Tracks such as this are almost annoyingly simplistic, with the only thing saving it being the lonely strings that elevate this very basic track to being something remotely emotional.

Lyrics aside, the pair’s sound has similarly copped a simplifying cutback. Tracks such as ‘Black Crow’ and likeable single ‘And The Boys’ tote a steady yet catchy beat that may prove useful for headphone strutting, however the lack of change within the songs makes it quite difficult not to stray in the kingdom of boredom. The beats become almost annoyingly controlled, but maybe this has something to do with a confidence gained by being taken seriously as both artists and producers.

Thankfully, if hope was already lost by the fifth song, more thoughtful tracks such as ‘Santa Monica Dream’ are a dainty doily for the ears. Finally, something uniquely AJS. A perfect travelling song, with serene harmonies and a softly soothing though melancholy aroma, this beautiful little tale of ‘fifteen kids in the backyard drinking wine’ and some dude making pizza in the kitchen, frames a rather tragic farewell to a special someone. One thing these siblings capture perfectly is a propensity to yearn, yearn for love, yearn for love lost, and yearn for a sound that dares to capture such sentiment without coming across like an OC soundtrack.

But if emotion is coming from anywhere, it’s certainly more ovarian. The personalized press release claims “notes, and love, from julia (and angus)”. My, my, brackets sure do speak louder than words. While alternating between the two voices sure gives a break for the senses, tracks such as ‘For You’ re-emphasise the reason people love this duo; Sirenic soft female beauty. The pair’s production mastermind is no stranger to warbling female vocals, with Brad Albetta claiming his rep from extensive work with Martha Wainwright. And boy does it show.

So perhaps ‘disappointing’ is a little harsh. Although subtleties on this album may come across as bland and trite upon first listen, a second hearing does make such sweet nothings pull at the heartstrings, as the cold hearted critic is finally given something to feel. But while there is nothing inexplicably flawed about this charming collection of well-traveled tunes, Down The Way really just seems like a stepping stone to something better.

UNI NEWS|| Drama at SUDS (EDITION 1, 2010)

Bridie Connellan gets her Nancy Drew on.

Despite soaring membership sign-ups, O-Week proved financially devastating for the Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS) as approximately $6000 worth of sign-up fees were stolen from the Cellar Theatre.

A cashbox holding the funds was stolen from the performance space underneath the Holme Building, as it sat in a trolley taken from the SUDS O-Week stall. Cast members of the upcoming production A Czar is Born were unaware of the break-in as they rehearsed for their Week 3 slot.

Normally such a large sum would be banked during O-Week but with Treasurer Houston Ash on tour with SUDS/So What Production’s King Lear at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the hefty amount remained in the company cashbox. Despite laptops, wallets and bags surrounding the box, nothing else was stolen, and the theft was only discovered the following morning as the trolley was wheeled to the stall on Friday.

According to the University of Sydney Union (USU), the Cellar’s insurance policy provides public liability cover but not does cover this type of theft. SUDS has reported the matter to police and campus security, and the USU Facilities Manager is currently questioning cleaners and campus staff about any suspicious activity.

SUDS, like all USU Clubs and Societies, can receive a maximum of $4000 from the USU every year. That renders the theft a serious financial setback. USU Clubs and Societies Assistant Gayda De Mesa says the USU is sympathetic to the club’s cause, but unfortunately their hands are tied. “We leave clubs to be secure and take care of banking, so maybe this is just a lesson to be learned,” she says. “Unfortunately there’s not really a lot we can do.”

According to SUDS President Harriet Gillies, such a blow to funding is likely to affect the way the society is run, and is both an administrative and emotional kick in the teeth. “We stood strongly against VSU [voluntary student unionism] but the sad thing is it took something small and menacing like this to affect us,” she says.

Given the tight-knit nature of the society, it is unfortunate that police suspect an inside job. The suspicion is cultivated by the hidden underground location of The Cellar and the fact that outsiders would be unlikely to have knowledge of the cashbox’s location. According to cast members of A Czar Is Born, the Cellar door was locked overnight, leaving only a small window of opportunity for outsiders whilst the dress rehearsal took place. A Czar Is Born cast members report a small group of unidentified individuals loitering in the clearspace near the Cellar entrance, but familiarity with the space seems essential to the crime. “I would like to think that I can trust everyone in SUDS,” Gillies says. “It truly is a space where trust is a crucial part of stability, and that’s the most upsetting part.”

Fortunately, SUDS has not been completely left in the lurch, with a reserve in the bank to keep them soldiering for now. “As far as I’m aware, SUDS has a fairly healthy bank balance,” says De Mesa. “Something like this isn’t going to kill the club.” As far as short term effects go, the society will still be able to allocate $400 per show, but will have to stall plans for $100 mini grants which were to be allocated for five categories of theatre production (development of new work, hybrid performance, education performance, performance art and staged reading).

Negotiations with USU and fundraising is the next step to rectify the situation, as well as the possibility of approaching alumni for assistance. Club members remain optimistic, with SUDS launching its 2010 season with Deep End Diving in Week 2. Yelling iconically off the Parramatta Road Footbridge, Gillies has a defiant message for thieves: “We’re fighting ninjas, nothing can stop us doing our theatre!”

SOUNDS || THE DODOS  (EDITION 0, 2010)

(OXFORD ART FACTORY, WITH SPECIAL GUESTS THE JOHN STEELE SINGERS)

Dear god it sure is grand to leave a gig feeling blissfully happy once in a while. Despite a Saturday night that sported torrential rain and a generally godawful weather disposition, San Franciscan indie trio The Dodos sure slapped the clouds silly, leaving a rather toasty scene in the depths of Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory, reminding listeners that optimism is not, in fact, dead.

One thing you can always count on at the Factory is punctuality, with local Brisbane supports The John Steel Singers taking the stage smack on time. The enthusiasm and sheer joy exuding from this bunch not only reinstalled  faith that support acts can hold their own, but put a grin on the dial of every moody-looking hipster in the vicinity. With a jolly sound worthy of the finest outdoor hoedown, numbers such as ‘Masochist’ and the outrageously catchy single ‘Rainbow Kraut’ had early-arrivers engulfed in a quirky summer jaunt. With banjos, brass, beats and blazing tales of misdemeanours from animated vocalist Scott Bromiley, the six-piece had certainly prepped a damn fine positivity paddock for the evening.

A red wine and an attempted chat over insanely loud filler tunes later, it’s Dodo time. Vocalist Meric Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber have sure found a spark in newly-recruited vibraphonist Keaton Snyder, as his hypnotic tones brought a magically sanguine delight to the Sydney space that so often finds itself brooding. Dear mother of Ian Curtis, did I see an O.A.F. patron… smile? Ah my mistake, ‘twas just a trick of the oh-so-aesthetically-pleasing magenta and marigold lighting.

Rather than a set-list, the lads showed an intimate trust in their audience, as requests hurled from each angle of the Live Art Space.  Between Long’s confidently endearing vocals on signature tracks such as ‘Fables’ and the clattering, machinic beats of Kroeber and his tambourine feet, the threesome found some sort of infectious connection, particularly with key tracks ‘Ashley’, the mesmerizing ‘Jodi’ and a rather Shins-esque ‘Men’. These creative kids manage to toe the perfect line between cheesy romanticism and actually being just plain sweet, as for many a hand-holder Valentine’s Day had indeed come a tad early.

At the best of times, saving a signature track for the encore can be an unsettling experience for the avid listener, however the reservation of single ‘Red and Purple’ until the last hoorah proved a whimsical and somewhat quirky bookend to a neatly adorable set. Despite breaking three strings and taking a good five minute pause of awkward tuning-time, the SanFran locals found a supportive and sympathetic audience, who hurled verbal hugs to ease the pain of Long twiddling his pegs.

With a burgeoning sound of refined raucousness that meanders between a distinctly happy Grizzly Bear and a more programmed Animal Collective, the Dodos matched their animalistic counterparts in a show of sheer live soundscape wonderment, proving that today’s  alternative indie sounds are anything but prehistoric.

STATE OF THE CITY || PURPLE SNEAKERS (EDITION 0, 2010)

After almost five years of dominating the sticky carpets and couches of Broadway’s Abercrombie Hotel, the iconic ‘Late Late Indie Night’ Purple Sneakers said fond farewells to the venue last month, with a swift shift up the road the following week. With the grotto of grunge finally closing its manky doors in January, the Friday-night favourite of young trashbags has taken a hop, a skip and a jump to Chippendale’s Gladstone Hotel, with the new venue attracting both old and new Sneakers enthusiasts. Onwards with soul-destroying evenings, Jager and Neverending Story Themes.

Sneakers has a new logo, freshly clipped backyard and snazzy haircut. But punters had their doubts about the move, particularly those with a penchant for first-year nostalgia. “Pretty sure my first year at Sydney Uni was defined by the ‘crombie, New Order, second-hand cigarette smoke, and a Belgian called Nicolas,” says one nameless enthusiast. “It was all about the Sunday morning after Sneakers; brewing a strong long black, and trying to work out what the hell happened.”

Event organisers Boundary Sounds have put a rather nice sheen on the new digs, telling the tale of the Gladstone like this: “Back in 1886 an old, poor farmer stumbled across an awesome sparkly rock. Because it made him happy he called it a Glad-stone.” Quaint as that myth is, the shift is in no way a chic upgrade, with the venue holding as much grunge and grit as the last. But Hemmes-slickness is not the point for this Young People Hangout, with Sneakers happily claiming house party status since its launch in 2005. A statement from those in charge read “On behalf of Boundary Sounds and everyone who has ever partied there, thank you to Abercrombie Hotel staff for the raddest times in history, ever.”

Sneakers is not the only popular Late- Night to move house in Sydney, with the Abercrombie’s small-venue struggle also resulting in the departure of regular Saturday event BRITPOP. Frasers Property Group, the kingpins in charge of the development site next door at Carlton United Brewery asked the current tenants to vacate while developing building plans, and have mooted that space may be used for “retail” in the future. But space is not the only issue: hefty licensing fees for late-night operations and expensive security regulations seeing the recent closure iconic venues as Surry Hills’ Hopetoun Hotel. Hoey and Crombie diehards sure had tissues to their eyeliner, with Facebook enthusiasts NegBot exclaiming in outrage “No! This is bollocks! Fuck you industrialisation! *shuns*”

At the risk of sounding like a fun-police naysayer, grunge and inhospitably feral are two disparate concepts. The time to hesitate is through, and badly needed renovations and upkeep to these venues are well overdue. Sadly for the owners of these much-loved hotels, business opportunities fell by the wayside, as lack of sponsorship and income provided little to no funds for crucial improvements. With the rise of Facebook campaigns ‘Save the Abercrombie’ and the like, regulars tend to attach nostalgia to spots that actually serve as better time capsules once they close, as a new host of Sneakers attendees will certainly claim the Gladstone as their own. Rest assured, the last thing on the minds of $10 entry payers on Friday nights is the state of licensing fees, small business regulations and quota policies. Hell, just enjoy your new sticky couch while it lasts.

THE BULL, USU MAGAZINE (EDITOR)

‘The Demise of the Travel Tape’ (Edition13, 2-8 June 2008)

‘Opine: It’s All Been Done’ (Edition 18, Week 5, 25-31 August 2008)

‘Treasures In The Basement: Uncovering Sydney’s Art Stashes’ (Edition 9, Week 9. 4-10 May 2009)

‘Opening the Sketchbook: Comedic Craft-time with Project 52’  (Edition 3, Week 3, 16-22 March 2009)

‘Chai Ho!’ (Edition 9, June 2009)

‘Decline of the Shame Tingles’ (Edition 4, April 2009)

‘Contrary Dairy: The Pet Economy’ (Edition 7, Week 7, 13-19 April 2009)

‘Contrary Dairy: Armouring CityRail’ (Edition 5, Week 5, April 2009)

‘Crimes of Culinary Fraud’ (Edition 7, Week 7, 13-19 April 2009)

‘Eurokitsch!’ (Edition 10, Week 10, 11-17 May 2009)

‘Laughing All The Way To The Bar’ (Edition 14, Week 1, 27 July- 2 August 2009)

‘On the Verge of a Vision’ (Editiom 15, Week 2, 3-9 August 2009)

‘Contrary Dairy: Twin Ignorance’ (Editiom 15, Week 2, 3-9 August 2009)

‘RevuePrevue ’09: Part 1’ (Edition 17, Week 4, 17-23 August 2009)

‘All She Wants…is to Survive This Interview (Sarah Blasko)’ (Edition 17, Week 4, 17-23 August 2009)

‘RevuePrevue ’09: Part 2’ (Edition 18, Week 5, 24-30 August 2009)

‘The Sounds of Verge’ (Edition 19, Week 6, 31 August- 6 September)

‘Jumping of the Bandwagon: 25th Anniversary of Sydney Uni Band Comp’ (Edition 19, Week 6, 31 August- 6 September)

‘W, X, Y and… Zee?’ (Edition 20, Week 7, 7-13 September 2009)

‘Getting Stoned with Richard Frankland’ (Edition 23, Week 10, 5-11 October 2009)

‘The Bull’s Guide to… A Night out: Bar Etiquette’ (Edition 25, Week 12, 19-25 October 2009)

”Tis The Witching Hour’ (Edition 24, Week 11, 12-18 October 2009)

‘Contrary Dairy: Death to Online Ticketing’ (Edition 25, Week 12, 19-25 October 2009)

‘A Plethora of Lionhearts’ (Edition 26, Week 13, 26 October- 1 November 2009)

reviews.

The Fumes- Sundancer (Independent) (RS691 June 2009)

Chairlift- Does You Inspire You (Sony) (RS692 July 2009)

Peaches- I Feel Cream

Vorn Doolette- Self-Titled

Noah and the Whale- First Days of Spring

The xx – xx (RS695 October 2009)

Give Peace A Chance- John & Yoko’s Bed-In For Peace – Photography by Gerry Deiter (RS693 August 2009)

Sarah Blasko- As Day Follows Night (The Bull, Edition 17, Week 4, 17-23 August 2009)

The New Mardi Gras Presents: The Undressing Room (The Bull, Edition 2, 9-15 March 2009)

The 2009 Arts Revue: Murder on the Oriarts Express (Edition 23, Week 10, 5-11 October 2009)

The Snuggie (The Bull, Edition 12, Week 12, 25-31 May 2009)

interviews.

PEACHES

SARAH BLASKO

DOVES

CASSETTE KIDS

RUBY ROSE

THE CAT EMPIRE

HOCKEY

CATCALL

THE BAMBOOS

THE JEZABELS

DAPPLED CITIES

WIL ANDERSON

JONATHON BOULET

SCHOOL OF SEVEN BELLS

KYU

CABINS

PIKELET

OH YE DENVER BIRDS

CASSIE DAVIS

SKINNY NELSON & FRIENDS

YOUTH GROUP

VORN DOOLETTE

THE BLACK SEEDS

MOTHER & FATHER

RICHARD FRANKLAND

WIM



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