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K E S H A The exclusive Australian interview ahead of Bluesfest
The whoâ€™s who of ha ha at Brisbane Comedy Fest
The Aussies making waves on streaming TV
Drag icon and reality TV queen Courtney Act
Credits Publisher Street Press Australia Pty Ltd Group Managing Editor Andrew Mast National Editor – Magazines Mark Neilsen Group Senior Editor/National Arts Editor Maxim Boon Editors Bryget Chrisfield, Daniel Cribb, Neil Griffiths, Velvet Winter
There’s not much of summer left. What is a list nerd to do? Hang at the beach or start on those new year lists?
Assistant Editor/Social Media Co-Ordinator Jessica Dale Editorial Assistant Sam Wall
s it too soon to have started making best-of-2018 lists? The correct answer is “no”. For those of us who are tasked with end-of-year list duties, it’s never too soon to start collating. If you don’t start listing right off the bat it’s easy to forget the pop culture moments that fuelled the lazy hazy days of January and February. An evolving, 12-month log of your cultural habits must be kept updated throughout the year. Then, by the time you come to cobble together that inescapable Year-End-Wrap-Up you won’t spend the next year suffering from, ‘Aaaaaaaargh I left out [insert obscure film/ album title here]’ regret. So it starts now. Poolside on weekends, toilet breaks during work hours, the train commute… Otherwise it’s too easy to forget how much you laughed/cried your way through Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri once the Award Season hype fades away (and the inevitable backlash sets in). You might overlook that time when you peaked to Ty Segall’s take on Every 1’s A Winner (you’ve got 12 months of Like A Version covers to do battle with – and the brain can only retain so many musical remakes at a time). And, it will help you recall the fun that was the little British dramedy The End Of The Fucking World after you’ve binged through at least 50 more bigger budget series as the year ticks over. The first months of 2018 are already delivering some worthy list-making music. Superorganism’s self-titled set proves that last year’s Something For Your MIND wasn’t a oneoff fluke. Suuns and BRMC are keeping psych-gaze fresh (and fuzzy) with new albums. Young Fathers, Gwenno and tUnE-yArDs are throwing out the results of much-anticipated returns to the studio. And already, burgeoning bands Dream Wife and Shame are dropping albums guaranteed to carry their updates on non-commercial genres, riot grrrl and post-punk respectively, to a wider audience. Listing them now. On the local front, in this issue we take a look at listcontender new releases from Alice Ivy, Lowtide, Marlon Williams (we will claim this New Zealander, thank you), Augie March, Ruby Boots, DZ Deathrays, Vance Joy, Sarah Blasko, The Bennies and Hockey Dad. And this is before Kylie Minogue drops a country-inspired long-player to compete for a listing slot. Those best-of notes are already straining. It’s particularly inspiring to witness this month’s new music from Lowtide and Alice Ivy. Lowtide made my Best Of The Year list back in 2011 with their Underneath Tonight/ Memory No 7 single. Seeing them achieve international recognition and continue to second-album stage warms the cockles of a list-maker’s heart. Ivy was cited as one of the ten best local live performers in my 2016 Best Of The Year list. In the interim she became a festival favourite, played international gigs, garnered triple j high rotation and signed a record deal. Now she’s headlining a national tour and producing a ridiculously confident debut album. And, now I can tick writing this piece off my ‘to do’ list.
Gig Guide Henry Gibson firstname.lastname@example.org Senior Contributors Steve Bell, Ross Clelland, Cyclone, Jeff Jenkins Contributors Nic Addenbrooke, Annelise Ball, Emily Blackburn, Melissa Borg, Anthony Carew, Uppy Chatterjee, Roshan Clerke, Shaun Colnan, Brendan Crabb, Guy Davis, Joe Dolan, Jack Doonar, Benny Doyle, Chris Familton, Guido Farnell, Liz Giuffre, Carley Hall, Tobias Handke, Mark Hebblewhite, Samantha Jonscher, Kate Kingsmill, Tim Kroenert, Matt MacMaster, Taylor Marshall, MJ O’Neill, Ben Nicol, Carly Packer, Natasha Pinto, Michael Prebeg, Mick Radojkovic, Jake Sun, Rod Whitfield Senior Photographers Cole Bennetts, Kane Hibberd Photographers Rohan Anderson, Andrew Briscoe, Stephen Booth, Pete Dovgan, Jodie Downie, Simone Fisher, Lucinda Goodwin, Josh Groom, Clare Hawley, Bianca Holderness, Jay Hynes, Dave Kan, Yaseera Moosa, Hayden Nixon, Angela Padovan, Markus Ravik, Bobby Rein, Peter Sharp, Barry Shipplock, Terry Soo, John Stubbs, Bec Taylor
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Andrew Mast Group Managing Editor
T H E S TA R T
Th is month’s best binge-watching
First Aid Kit
Shit we did: Clubbercise
In 2000, Abdulwahab arrived in Australia from Eritrea. Alongside MOMO he cofounded hip hop group DIAFRIX. He is the winner of the 2009 Australian Council for the Arts – Youth Leader Award, and director of Alt Music Group.
Inflatables Guest editorial: Khaled Adulwahab
20 Bluesfest How to navigate your way around the annual music event
The classic acts of Bluesfest Hurray For The Riff Raff And, how she created a superhero
Manchester Orchestra, Cloud Nothings
45 Madelyn Tait
The best arts of the month
Film & TV reviews
50 Brisbane Comedy Festival
Festival trash What promoters are doing to keep our festival locations green
The best LOLs coming your way
The only poo you want floating in your pool
The 39 Steps
Your Town Courtney Act The Aus drag star returns home
Madelyn pursued her lifelong passion for all things music at UTS, where she completed an honours degree in music and sound design. She currently works in a studio as a Junior Sound Engineer and continues to produce her own music in her spare time.
Th is month’s local highlights
Mountain Goat Valley Crawl
The big picture
Aus actors of streaming TV
T H E S TA R T
Joe has been writing professionally since 2014 and with The Music since 2015. A self-confessed comedy nerd, he moved into comedy reviews in late 2016 and reviewed more than 70 shows at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
National tour The National are back in the country for their first full Australian tour since 2014 to promote their recent seventh set, Sleep Well Beast. Catch them on the country’s stages starting 21 Feb.
Fly on the vine R&B’s biggest names have teamed up for the inaugural RNB Vine Days. Staring at the end of last month, the event sees TLC, Boyz II Men, Shaggy, DJ Horizon and YO! MAFIA vineyard hopping until 14 Feb.
Gone fishing Mood Music
The Harpoons’ head out on their east coast tour for latest single Reassurance this 22 Feb. The Melbourne-based electro quartet will play Brisbane and Sydney before wrapping on the home turf in early March.
With their fifth album dropping in mere weeks, Ball Park Music are hitting the road with their last single, Exactly How You Are. The Queenslander’s national run starts in their home city this 23 Feb, the same day the album lands.
Ball Park Music
T H E S TA R T
App of the month:
Time 2: Beat Procrastination
This month’s best binge watching
Are you a serial procrastinator? Well it’s 2018, mate, there’s an app for that. Toss that habit in the trash and say goodnight to the 2am slog with Time 2, an app that incentivises productivity and punishes slackers.
Ash Vs Evil Dead: Season 3
The biggest, baddest, maddest zombie slayer in TV history is back, going toe to toe once again with the forces of darkness. Bruce Campbell’s eternal starring role as Ash Williams is joined this season with a new addition to the franchise, in the guise of longlost daughter Brandy Barr, played by Aussie newcomer Arielle Carver-O’Neill. Airs from Feb 26 on Stan
The Tick: Season 1B Tim Hart
Tim jam Following his recent European run with Stu Larson, Boy & Bear drummer Tim Hart is touring Australia from 3 Feb with his long-awaited second solo album, The Narrow Corner. Catch him at multiple dates in each state.
In a world where superheroes and villains have been fighting it out for decades, mere mortals have little to offer when it comes to fighting crime. Nevertheless, lowly accountant Arthur, played by Brit comic Peter Serafinowicz, pulls on the spandex jumpsuit and hurtles into the fray, proving that brawn
Podcast of the month: Tune in to hear Lena Nahlous and guests like actor Benjamin Law and writer/performer Sunil Badami explore why Australia’s Arts and Cultural sector doesn’t represent Australia’s multicultural communities.
doesn’t always trump brain. Airs from 23 Feb on Amazon Prime
If the trailers are anything to go by, this original series from Netflix is likely to be one of best looking shows of the year. Starring
Joel Kinnaman, this sci-fi detective whodunit explores a future world where the human
Jamaican artist Chronixx hits the country from 21 Feb for shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The reggae songwriter is making the trip with his June-released debut studio album, Chronology, along with “the classics”.
consciousness can be transferred into a new body, allowing mankind to become immortal, albeit not immune to homicide. Airs from 2 Feb on Netflix Photo:s Giulia McGuirran
T H E S TA R T
Dita Von Teese
‘More ‘More ‘More ‘More Laughter peaked at #3 on the ARIA Albums chart and topped the US Billboard Top Alternative Albums and Top Rock albums lists when Paramore dropped it back in May. The trio finally bring it to us live starting 8 Feb.
Teese me Celebrated burlesque performer Dita Von Teese is back in Australia following her sold-out 2016 run with a brand new show, The Art Of The Teese. Teese’s extensive run around the country starts 16 Feb.
Notourious Ahead of the second season premiere of his critically acclaimed US Comedy Central programme, The Jim Jefferies Show, prodigal son Jim Jefferies is coming back home this month for three exclusive standup shows, 23 - 26 Feb.
Th is 15 Feb Australia finally gets a peep at Black Panther, the standalone debut that we’ve been waiting for since Chadwick Boseman’s Prince T’Challa stole our hearts in Captain America: Civil War.
Cool for cats
T H E S TA R T
Sh*t we did With Maxim Boon
A Day On The Green is back at it with an absolutely stacked bill of ‘90s legends. Raise a glass to The Living End, Spiderbait, Veruca Salt, The Lemonheads and more at Australia’s finest wineries from 24 Feb.
Clubbercise Fitness fads are fickle things. No sooner has one get-ripped-quick scheme found favour than another comes along with fresh promises of the body George Maple
Following her raved about run supporting NZ super star Lorde, George Maple is doing her own headline tour with her latest single and the title track from her debut full-length, Lover. Catch her ‘round the country starting 16 Feb.
beautiful. F45 – a high intensity circuit training regime lasting just three-quarters of an hour – is one of the trendiest ways to get in shape at present, but for those who prefer their exercise in disguise, a new upbeat take on traditional aerobics may be just the thing you’ve been looking for. Buzz around Clubbercise is on the up in Australia, following the meteoric popularity of this night club inspired, dance-fuelled fitness craze in the UK. To flashing strobes and pumping EDM
After dropping single Spray Paint Love with the news that they would be coming for Oz, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are finally en route. Catch the electric English punks around the country from 5 Feb.
anthems, dumbbells are switched for glow sticks and the familiar calisthenics are replaced with high-energy dance moves. Since the concept landed Down Under in January, fitness studios around the country have been scrambling Dream Wife
to get on the bandwagon, with new ventures popping up in cities across the country. But is Clubbercise worth making a song and dance about, or is it all hype on the night? We put on our dancing shoes and took a twirl to find out.
The Verdict As soon as the lights dim, Technotronic’s Pump Up The Jam blares across the sound system, and the class goes wild. There’s a vibe of excitement in the space as we crack our glow-sticks and prepare to boogie. It’s a full house, and it’s clear there are groups of friends who have come together, as much for a laugh as for the exercise. It’s a savvy move: flying solo and painfully sober, I can’t shake the feeling that this would be way more fun if I was a little off my chops with my mates. The music selection is on point, for me at least; the playlist of bumper to bumper bangers is clearly aimed at a generation who did their clubbing in the early 2000s, with a few recent
remixes thrown in for good measure. It’s definitely a great workout, but I’m not convinced it’s more than a one-time
One of the festival season’s biggest events gets busy around the nation in early February. Head to Laneway Festival to catch Dream Wife, Anderson .Paak, The Internet and just about everyone else on one huge line-up.
T H E S TA R T
novelty - you’ll get a super snatched bod, but probably also tinnitus.
The self-worth of young Australians with diverse cultural heritage is being dangerously eroded by race-baiting. Music can offer a solution. A generation of young Australians of colour are being dismissed or demonised by scaremongering reports of gang culture in African communities. But as one half of hip hop duo Diafrix, Khaled Abdulwahab, writes, celebrating diversity and finding healthy outlets for self-expression can empower and encourage social change.
ple, with different cultural and ethnic viewpoints, who aren’t just turning out the typical mainstream music that gets played on commercial radio. We want to challenge and champion young artists who are actually representing the youth of today, from as many different backgrounds and cultures as possible. For a lot of these young artists, who are making incredible, authentic music, the existing pathways to success are blocked. Major labels dismiss them as not fitting a “target market”, and that can just be because of the way they dress or look. So, we mentor them and help them understand the mechanics and politics of the music business. We work with them so they develop into the artists they want to be. And by doing this, what I’ve witnessed first-hand, are young artists getting the confidence to progress on their own, just as Diafrix did. It really proves the importance of giving these young people a goal and a voice, so they can challenge the stereotypes that are dividing our communities. Crucially, this is a matter of being represented truthfully, not just for young, culturally diverse musicians, but also the multicultural crowds who listen to them. They have a voice, but it is easily drowned out by the giant beast of the mainstream media, which creates an image of urban youth culture that is overwhelmingly negative. When you see young people getting really affected by this, who are saying, “We haven’t done anything wrong. We’ve been perfectly good citizens,” it’s tough. But this is where music can be an incredibly valuable resource. At the highest levels of the music industry, you can see this in action; when you go to a Sampa The Great gig, the audience is such an eye opener, the diversity of culture in the genre — it’s not your typical hip hop show where you just see a sea of people wearing baseball hats. I truly believe that music brings belonging and representation. At Alt, by helping these young artists reach their ambitions, just like we did with Diafrix, we’re celebrating another version of Australia, we’re expressing our beliefs and opinions, and proving how much a part of this country we are, despite what politicians have claimed. Culturally diverse communities in Australia are, unfortunately, still very vulnerable to race baiting and reckless stereotyping. But music is a powerful healer.
came to Australia in 2000 when I was 18, as a refugee from Eritrea in Northeast Africa. But where I came from is not the part of my story I want to talk about, because that’s not the part of my story that defines me. Back then, almost two decades ago, music helped me find my place and give me a purpose in my new country. With some encouragement from Joelistics, my duo with MoMO, Diafrix, brought me into the Aussie hip hop scene during a golden era — from around 2000 to 2005 — when some of the powerhouse bands of the genre were coming through. But during that time, there wasn’t that much diversity or multiculturalism represented in Aussie hip hop. In our home suburb of Footscray, which has a massive African community, we were very much welcomed and accepted, but I always knew that staying in that comfort zone wouldn’t be enough. We wanted to reach higher, make our own destiny, and create music that would connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds, not just one. So we chased that goal, and eventually, we were being played on national radio and playing highprofile gigs. Diafrix became a major player on the hip hop scene, even though there weren’t many artists with African backgrounds doing things at that level. But before we had our break, people might have said that hip hop artists like us would never find a footing in Australia. And if we’d listened to those people, we might never have proved them wrong. It’s this same negativity that threatens a lot of young people of colour in Australia today. They are being told — by the media, by politicians — that they are one thing and can never aspire to be something different. The message they are being sent, about their worth and their purpose in this country, which seems entirely based on their cultural origins, is messing with their sense of belonging and taking away their confidence to reach for the things they want. And it’s even harder today to escape those stereotypes; when you look on social media and the way that people are commenting, for a young person that’s already going through those tough teenage years, it’s not hard to see why they are feeling confused and angry. We need to do more to change the way those feelings are being expressed. Th is is one of the reasons why I co-founded Alt Music Group. We believe that there should be more representation of different types of young peo-
“Crucially, this is a matter of being represented truthfully, not just for young, culturally diverse musicians, but also the multicultural crowds who listen to them.”
BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE. FEB 9 THE MUSIC
Rainbows and redemption
Few people have had their lives as publicly exposed as Kesha has in the past few years. Jessica Dale finds out why Rainbow is her most important album yet.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
ooking at Kesha Sebert now verses five years ago, it’s easy to see the difference. Gone is the girl with a face covered in glitter, replaced by a woman that has endured, survived and then thrived following a brutally public few years. Listening to Sebert now compared to her breakthrough hit, Tik Tok, the sound couldn’t be further apart. She’s reconnected to her roots, bringing together a mix of country, pop and rock to produce one of the most acclaimed albums of 2017. Rainbow, her third album and first since 2012’s Warrior, is Sebert’s most honest and vulnerable foray into song writing yet. While the narrative of the album could have easily become dark and forlorn it instead offers a tale of triumph, told with grace, strength, and at times, humour. When asked if it was a deliberate decision to keep the mood light in places, Sebert replies that it wasn’t intentional. “On this album, I really didn’t have any expectations or any plan. Every day I just wanted to go in and write something that felt honest, and I thought less about the audience as I have in the past. Of course, I always want to make my fans happy but this album was different in that I really just wanted to write something for myself, for my soul, and not really think about what the world would think about it after it was done,” she shares. “I wrote this album for myself but it’s dedicated to my fans. Th is album would not exist if it wasn’t for my fan’s unwavering support over the last few years. It is only their love that got me out of bed every day and pushed me into the studio. When I play these songs live, I tell them that every night and it’s a huge celebration every night. My shows have always been a fun-filled, glitter extravaganza but now they also are overflowing with love and meaning. My fans and I made this together!” “At my really low moments, my fans never stopped writing to me and encouraging me. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Especially receiving handwritten letters and pictures from people; I love them all. I try to speak up for those who feel like outcasts in life because that’s how I have always felt and I think that really resonates with some people. We are like a tribe of animals — we are stronger together.”
The shift in sound was, in part, powered by the collaborations that help shape the record. Listening to the album’s first single, Praying — a song Sebert says is “about redemption, about never giving up on yourself, and forgiving those who have hurt you” — it was apparent early on that this record would be different from Sebert’s earlier works. “Writing this album, I tried to make music that sounded more like the music I listen to for pleasure. I’ve studied the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s my whole life but always felt intimidated to try to make music the way my idols did,” she shares. “On this record I said, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to try to make songs the way that bands like The Beach Boys and Iggy Pop did and see what happens’. I can’t predict who is going to like something, but I was proud that I really tried to make this whole album relying mainly on real instruments and minimising the amount of computer sounds on the songs.” “I’ve definitely grown as an artist but that wild spirit from my youth has never and will never fade,” explains Sebert when asked how her older tracks will fit in with her new repertoire. “Many of those early pop songs I wrote have the same ‘don’t give a fuck’ mentality as the faster more Stooges, punk-influenced songs on Rainbow. When I play those old songs live now, I have reinterpreted them with my band into more dirty rock ‘n’ roll songs... Come to my show to check it out. I love playing my old hits like Tik Tok and We R Who We R and we play them with an intensity and drive that, in my mind, takes them to the next level.” Working with the likes of Eagles Of Death Metal, Ryan Lewis, The Dap-Kings Horns, Ben Folds and the incomparable Dolly Parton for Rainbow was something certainly not lost on Sebert. “I am honoured to have so many amazing collaborators on this album. Every one of them are friends or personal idols or both,” she explains. “Working on this album was very organic and free flowing. I actually asked my friends Eagles Of Death Metal to play on my song Let ‘Em Talk and then we were working and they heard Boogie Feet and they were like ‘let’s do that too!’. It was all very unplanned. “Growing up in Tennessee, Dolly has been one of my idols for my entire life — ask me how many times I’ve been to Dollywood?... A lot! — and my mom wrote one of her hits
“I feel like I’m being seen as my true self by the world for the first time on this album...”
and it’s always been a dream for me to sing that song with her. I always thought it was just a dream but when she agreed to do a duet with me on Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You) was one of the best days of my life.” One particular standout is the anthemic Woman, which focuses on the power of being female; a topic that is particularly relevant and timely in 2018. “I have always and I will always stand up for equality for all people on Earth. It doesn’t matter what your skin colour is, your sexual preference, gender identity, or anything else. We all deserve to have the same basic human rights and opportunities as anyone else and I will stand up for that until the day I die,” explains Sebert when asked how important she thinks songs like Woman are in empowering the next generation. “I was inspired to write the song one day when I was feeling especially frustrated at having a President who has been so disrespectful to women. The song Woman was written from a place of strength because, you know what, women are the ones who create life. We are the ones who determine if the human race will continue for another generation or not. We are strong and we need to realise and assert our strength in the world.” What has followed the release of Rainbow has been a huge reaction from music critics and fans alike, rewarded with Grammy nominations for Best Vocal Pop Album and Best Pop Solo Performance. “I am beyond humbled and honoured to be nominated and to be able to perform on the Grammy stage. It’s even more special that the Recording Academy has chosen to include me for this album, which is the most honest and vulnerable album I’ve ever made,” shares Sebert. “I feel like I’m being seen as my true self by the world for the first time on this album and it’s the greatest gift in the world to have it received so well. It’s a testament to the power of just being yourself unapologetically.”
Kesha plays Bluesfest and sideshows from 25 Mar.
Inside Bluesfest The Byron Bay Bluesfest offers a veritable feast of music over the course of the Easter long weekend, but within its vast boundaries, there’s plenty to keep you entertained away from the tunes, finds out Samuel J Fell. Pics by Josh Groom
hose of you who’ve patronised the Byron Bay Bluesfest will know how big it is — and how much bigger it seems to get each year. Next month, as it runs for the 29th time, the festival will boast some 200 performances across its stages over the course of five days. And of course, as has always been its MO, it’s not just a blues festival — the music runs the gamut, painting Bluesfest as a true music lover’s event, something for everyone, everyone finding something. It’s important to realise however that Bluesfest is a marathon, not a sprint. Aside from the sheer size of the site itself, we’re talking five days. One must pace oneself. Give yourself time to traverse the site from stage to stage; don’t drink too much beer on Thursday night, therefore hampering your Friday experience. Many of us have learnt the hard way over the years. We’re older now though. Wiser. Something else many have learnt as Bluesfest has gone from humble beginnings at the old Arts Factory, through its growth at Red Devil Park, Belongil Fields, and for the past eight years at its now permanent site at the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm, is that it’s about more than just the music. Within the festival boundaries is a cornucopia of things to see, do, eat, drink and immerse oneself in, coexisting alongside the plethora of sounds from all around. It’d be remiss, first up, not to mention the opportunity to imbibe a brew or two. Numerous bars dot the site, all offering your standard festival fare — beer, wine, spirits in a can, soft drinks and water, along with the odd boutique creation like cider or craft beer. Bluesfest knows how to make this work too, and so you buy your tickets, then exchange them at the bar for your tipple of choice, which makes for short queues, or at least fast moving ones. Hot tip, you’re going to have some beers anyway, so buy all your tickets at the start — you can take them back if you don’t use them. Last year, the festival trialled a loadable chip on wristbands,
where you could load up money and scan it to pay. Anything left over was then credited back to your account. It’s also worth noting the festival has a very strict alcohol policy, so bring your ID and don’t be a dickhead, otherwise you will be ejected. The festival also provides, near each exit, free breath-testing which you’d be advised to take advantage of if you’re driving and in any doubt as to how high your BAC might be. Feeling the pinch after a couple of days doing it hard? Head over to the massage stall and book yourself in for some serious relaxation. Many festivals offer this experience
your epic musical journey. The fact there are far more places to actually sit, even if it’s wet, is a big plus, and something worth its weight in gold. Which brings us to perhaps the biggest part of the festival outside of the music itself — the food. Having attended every festival since 2003, I can say that I’ve not even come close to sampling all that’s on offer, over 100 stalls showcasing each year. Th is is one of Bluesfest’s strong points; the range of food stalls is truly staggering. There is absolutely something for everyone whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian, or anything in between, want something healthy or something to clog an artery. A selection: Govindas’ is vego cuisine that’s guaranteed to satisfy and fill you right up. Byron Pies, quality pies and sausage rolls a step above the rest. A hot tip here, drop by on the final day. Most years they’ve got a lot of stock left and you can usually pick up two pies for the price of one. And on the Monday, haggard from five days of music, you want two pies. Langos, Hungarian snap-fried bread, a personal favourite — a big, fried disc of bread with a stack of cheese and sauce on top. It’s madness, but a taste like no other. You’ll also find Greek, Brazilian, Thai, Vietnamese, a whole host of foods from around the world, from humble hot beef rolls with gravy and chips to European desserts and the like. Speaking of which, one just doesn’t go to Bluesfest without picking up at least five Byron Bay Organic Donuts. These things are out of control, the only downside being you will have to queue to get some as they’re so damn delicious and popular. There is, of course, more. Too many different dishes to list, which is almost as much fun as discovering new music — discovering new food. Food and music go hand in hand, and Bluesfest know this well. It’s all part of the experience, as is everything that happens within these boundaries over the five days, making Bluesfest one of the best festivals in the world, hands down.
“There is absolutely something for everyone whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian, or anything in between.”
these days, and it’s now not uncommon to see people face down on tables and incorporating a bit of quiet into their festival time. Bluesfest regularly showcases a number of instrument makers too, both local and from elsewhere around the country. Cigar-box guitars are a favourite these days, and there’s usually ample opportunity to sit and chat with the artisans, have a strum, perhaps even pick up a four-stringed bargain. As the festival has grown, so too has the opportunity to convert certain sections of the site into their own little communities. Beer gardens are now a regular feature, somewhere you can grab a drink with some mates, sit down in some shade, regroup and recoup as you plan the next leg of
Class acts Bluesfest has pulled together some of the most influential musicians of the last half-century, some of which are sure to provide serious once-in-a-lifetime moments. Here’s a short list of the must-see classic acts heading to Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm.
If it makes you happy, we’d like to start this list with the one and only Sheryl Crow, a woman with as many Grammys as a cat has lives. If you made it through the mid ‘90s and early ‘00s without getting All I Wanna Do stuck in your head, or any of her other inescapable singles, then surprise! You were actually dead the whole time. So sorry we had to Shyamalan you like this. Since exploding into the international consciousness with her debut LP Tuesday Night Music Club, Crow has dabbled in acting, soundtracking and country music, sold albums in the tens of millions, and collaborated or performed with everyone (Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Prince, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, et al). She’s showing no signs of when she’ll stop churning out the goods, either; last year’s Be Myself was declared a return to Crow’s “fierce rock-queen glory”. She’s a bona fide pop rock icon and it’s been way too long between drinks.
It might actually be illegal to compile a list along the lines of best singers and/or frontmen without including Robert Plant. We’ve never seen anyone hauled off to the chokey or anything, but then we’ve never seen one without him either. Please let us know if you do, they’re probably worth a bit of coin. Like misprinted stamps. Heavy mag Hit Parader even crowned Plant the “Greatest Metal Vocalist of All Time”, despite his regular insistence that Led Zeppelin had nothing to do with the genre. Back in 2015, he was also the vocalist chosen in UK radio station Planet Rock’s poll for the ‘ideal supergroup’. In fact, of the infinite possible combinations of singers, guitarists, bassists and drummers plucked from the pantheon of rock’n’roll, the masses managed to independently choose the exact line-up of Zep. It’s an English station with the word ‘rock’ in the title so the results may be a little skewed, but it’s still impressive for someone to be so genuinely synonymous with their art form.
Ms Lauryn Hill
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers
Goodness, when Bluesfest said it had another headliner hidden up its sleeve who could’ve guessed they were planning to drop R&B icon Ms Lauryn Hill on us. And on the 20th anniversary of her seminal solo album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, no less. It’s pretty impossible to deny the lasting impact of Ms Lauryn Hill, both as one-third of hip hop powerhouse Fugees and in her solo career. Even dogged by personal controversy, Hill has had, in the words of collaborator John Legend, a “blend of toughness and soulfulness, melody and swagger” that “people are still trying to capture”. Th is will be only be Ms Hill’s second trip to our shores, following from debut Down Under run in 2014, and it might be a while until we see her again. Without a doubt it’s going to be one of the most memorable set of the fest, so make sure you’re front and centre.
Aaaahhh freak out! Nile Rodgers is coming! Producer, songwriter, composer, arranger, guitarist; since forming legendary funk/disco outfit Chic with Bernard Edwards in the late-’70s, Rodgers has been influencing music in one form or another. He co-wrote absolute classics like I’m Coming Out for Diana Ross and We Are Family for Sister Sledge. He headed production on several Bowie albums including Let’s Dance, as well as Like A Virgin for Madonna and Duran Duran’s Notorious. Moving closer to 2018, his writing and guitar work on Daft Punk’s last LP Random Access Memories, Get Lucky in particular, snagged him three Grammys, and after being nominated 11 times he and his band were finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year. If nothing else, we guarantee that the dancefloor is going to reach boiling point when Le Freak hits the atmosphere.
Best crack out the tissues, there aren’t many artists that can twang the heartstrings the way Lionel Richie does. Hello is a straight up, unabashed tear-jerker, while Endless Love and My Love, delivered with just the right amount of sap, are bound to induce weepy-eyed handholding, slow dancing and lingering looks among festival-going couples. Of course, it’s not all shots to the feels, you don’t become one of the best-selling artists of all time by being a one-trick pony. If coverage of Richie’s Glastonbury set a couple years ago is anything to go by, we’re tipping All Night Long and Dancing On The Ceiling are going to be some of the funnest/silliest moments to be had Bluesfest 2018. Fingers crossed he goes for the seven and a half minute 12” version on the latter.
Steering through troubled waters For Hurray For The Riff Raff’s sixth album The Navigator, singersongwriter Alynda Segarra returned to her roots in The Bronx. She tells Steve Bell that sometimes you need to leave to appreciate home.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
he music that New York-bred, New Orleans-based artist Alynda Segarra has been crafting for the last decade under the guise of Hurray For The Riff Raff has always been targeted at those marginalised by society, whether by class, gender, sexuality, race or any other defining character that may set a person apart from mainstream society. For her sixth full-length album The Navigator, Segarra honed her sights specifically on the home she left as a teenager to travel the railroads around America: specifically the gentrification of The Bronx and how this has affected the sizable Puerto Rican community who call that New York borough their home. To achieve this task, Segarra constructed a fictional character named Navita Milagros Negron - the titular “Navigator” - and placed her in a sci-fi-inspired dystopia to both examine the root of the problems as she envisaged them and also quest for potential solutions. She hadn’t set out to make a quasi-conceptual album, but that’s where she ended up by following her muse. “It’s funny because you spend a lot of time making an album and sometimes by the time it releases you’re already onto your next idea, and you have to tour an album while being in this place of thinking about the next one,” Segarra reflects. “So by the time [2014’s] Small Town Heroes was released I was thinking about The Navigator, and just thinking about how I wanted to grow and change musically. I felt this desire to definitely get in touch with my past and my ancestry, and the idea of the conceptual album and kind of the character going down this Ziggy Stardust type of route just felt like a more creative way, and felt like what I was ready for. “For some reason it got me more in touch with myself, and who I was as a kid and the place I grew up in, in order to make this story around it. Also with making albums, I love concepts and ideas: I feel like it doesn’t have to be an explicit musical but I love the idea that there’s this other story going on and all of the songs are kinda the soundtrack to this inner-story. “I really like albums like that, which you can get lost in, so it made it a lot more exciting and inspiring for me when I felt that I was sorta stuck musically.” The character of Navita, while heavily based on Segarra’s own life experiences also allowed her to approach the subject in far broader brush strokes than pure autobiography would allow.
“Oh definitely,” the singer agrees. “With the main character Navita I wanted to create kind of a superhero. I felt like I wanted to create a character who was like everything I was striving to be, and who was braver than me and tougher than me. I wanted to create this character who represented who I was when I was a kid and who would also go through this change that I wanted to go through: I wanted to get to this place of pride and knowledge, and I wanted to get more in touch with my ancestors and do them proud. “So I created her thinking about how tough I feel - like I was when I was younger - and also it was really a nice experience to try to teach her a lesson - but it was teaching me a lesson - and it was a really great way to just look back on when I left home and try to make sense of it and create this [The] Wizard Of Oz-esque story. “It really felt like when I was a kid I left home - I woke up and all I wanted was to just get away from everything: from my identity, from my family and from the city that I grew up in. And I went as far away as I could. Then when I came back everything I knew had already changed and was kind of missing. I realised how much I’d left, and realised how much I had and how rich my culture is.” Remarkably, this quest for identity seems magnified exponentially with the current political tumult being experienced in America, especially in relation to immigrant populations. “Oh yeah,” Segarra sighs. “There’s a lot of themes that I was thinking about when I was making the album that now seem so magnified, definitely identity and intersectionality. The Navigator is also this concept of people who are constantly having to move through these barriers, and constantly never quite fitting into boxes - we live in this intersection of all these identities, so how do you just fully be who you are and how do you try to experience some sense of freedom when there’s so many barricades and so many borders that are constantly being built around you and which separate you from other human beings and separate you from parts of yourself and your past and what you want your future to be? “Then there’s less vague concepts, such as now the topic of Puerto Rico itself is so big and what the people there are going through and how they’re not being treated like full US citizens. And there’s so much talk about immigration and deportation, there’s so many people that are saying, ‘Where are all of my people going to go? We’re supposed to leave now because this President feels like we’re not worthy and feels that we don’t contribute?’ So I was thinking about these things so much, but at the time I never thought Donald Trump was going to win! “The whole time I thought people would be going, ‘Why are you still talking about the wall when Donald’s gone?’, but that was wishful thinking and I didn’t know how bad of a state we were actually in. Now I feel that it’s so much more important for me to play this music and think about these sorts of things and just really try to spread these ideas and just ask questions. “That’s what I love about music, you can really ask a lot of questions and it makes people think in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s attacking. People can sit and listen to a song and really think about something when nobody is around, and it’s just them and their soul, and I think that’s why music makes a difference.”
“There’s so much talk about immigration and deportation, there’s so many people that are saying, ‘Where are all of my people going to go?’”
Hurray For The Riff Raff plays Bluesfest and sideshows from 24 Mar.
Morcheeba wasn’t built in a day After Paul Godfrey left the fold, it took Morcheeba a year and a half to reclaim their name. Skye Edwards tells Cyclone that, creatively, the band is “a lot more fun” without him.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
he British band Morcheeba could be the true survivors of trip hop, even as their music has transcended it. Over the past two decades, they’ve presented eight boldly distinct albums, as many as Massive Attack and Portishead combined. But Morcheeba have also had their dramas, with endless personnel changes. Indeed, as the group’s remaining members, frontwoman Skye Edwards and guitarist Ross Godfrey, briefly dubbed themselves SKYE | ROSS following the departure of Ross’ older brother Paul, their chief producer. Yet, happily, when the combo headline Bluesfest 2018, it’ll be as Morcheeba. “We have reclaimed the name,” Edwards announces. “We were SKYE | ROSS for, I guess, a year and a half while they were just sorting out legalities with Paul, who’s no longer part of the band. So Ross and I are now Morcheeba again.” The story behind Morcheeba’s formation is that the Godfreys - with Paul a b-boy/turntablist/beatmaker and Ross a multi-instrumentalist rocker - encountered Edwards - an undiscovered quiet-storm vocalist - at a party. Signing to China Records at the height of the UK’s trip hop boom, Morcheeba generated buzz with 1996’s cult debut Who Can You Trust?, home to Trigger Hippie. The Londoners experienced their greatest commercial success with the sequel, Big Calm, which veered into dub-reggae, blues and folk. In the 2000s, Morcheeba consolidated a mainstream profile with Fragments Of Freedom, which spawned their biggest hit in Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day. They started reaching out to guest rappers like Biz Markie. However, Edwards felt constrained, writing melodies but never lyrics, which Paul territorialised. Possibly inevitably, she left for a solo career. In 2006 Edwards delivered the ballad-oriented Mind How You Go, which was largely recorded with Madonna-cohort Patrick Leonard (dude was credited on Like A Prayer). She had a European hit with Love Show. Meanwhile, Morcheeba attracted Daisy Martey from Noonday Underground as their replacement singer. She only lasted one album, The Antidote, which lead to legal turmoil. The Godfreys switched approach with Dive Deep and featured multiple vocalists: folk-rocker Judie Tzuke elevating
the adult-contemporary Enjoy The Ride. Eventually, they persuaded Edwards to rejoin Morcheeba for 2010’s widely promoted Blood Like Lemonade. Morcheeba had long been popular with Hollywood music programmers and the album’s title track would be synced for the vampire TV show True Blood. Alas, by now, Paul and Ross were clashing. Paul finally quit after 2013’s Head Up High. Reportedly, he proposed that Ross and Edwards buy out his stake in the Morcheeba brand name for a small fortune. They decided to alter their handle instead. Two years ago, the duo aired their most live-sounding LP, SKYE | ROSS. Ross joked that Morcheeba’s bio was like “a soap opera”. The 2018 version of Morcheeba is sanguine, Edwards assures. “It seems that things flow a little more and there’s certainly less conflicts in the studio. But we still sound like Morcheeba. It’s still myself singing; Ross on guitar. He’s now producing... But, creatively, it’s a lot more fun.” She pens the lyrics. The Godfreys have averted any Gallagher-level public feuding. Inherently a studio guy, Paul is running a recording complex in Hastings on England’s South Coast and DJing. Says Edwards, “He’s not involved in Morcheeba, as far as creating the music - and, the live side of things, he hasn’t been on tour with us for at least 14 years. So it just feels quite normal for him to not be there.” And Morcheeba are preparing to drop album nine. “We finished it just before Christmas,” Edwards reveals. “The aim is to try and release it in May, just before the [Northern] summer. We’ve got a few up-tempo, summery songs on there. One of them actually starts with the lyric, ‘It’s summertime’!” Morcheeba have a collab with the legendary UK hip hopper Roots Manuva and Edwards duets with French icon Benjamin Biolay, known outside of the Gallic world for briefly romancing Vanessa Paradis. Edwards is mulling over album titles. “We did have a title, but we’re changing it,” she laughs. “We need to come up with a new one by tomorrow!” Today, Morcheeba’s music is simultaneously amorphous and continuous, akin to electronic psychedelia (although they’ve performed at New York’s Afropunk Festival). The
“It’s funny, but I always struggle to describe the sound if I meet somebody new and you get onto the subject of, ‘What do you do?’ or, ‘I’m in a band’.”
outfit is routinely classified as “chill-out”. “It’s funny, but I always struggle to describe the sound if I meet somebody new and you get onto the subject of, ‘What do you do?’ or, ‘I’m in a band’,” Edwards ponders. “If they’ve not heard of Morcheeba, then I usually direct them to YouTube or Spotify and they can make up their own mind. I don’t really have the words to describe our sound, so I leave it up to journalists to do that.” Trip hop was once perceived as just another ‘90s club trend, but its influence is now pervasive in contemporary urban culture with all those subliminal avant-soulsters and cloud rappers. Weirdly, FKA Twigs is deemed to be trip hop. Not that Edwards would know. “I don’t really listen to what’s happening on the radio, as such. I hear stuff coming out of my [older] daughter’s room, she’s 19. But I mostly listen to pod talks.” Ironically, Morcheeba’s current live incarnation is more of a family affair than ever. Edwards’ husband, Steve Gordon, plays bass (they met when he gigged with the band circa Fragments Of Freedom). And the couple’s offspring Jaega is Morcheeba’s drummer. “We needed a new drummer and Ross suggested my son Jaega play drums. He was playing drums in his own band, but he’d only been playing for two years so I was quite apprehensive and wasn’t even sure about the idea. But Ross said, ‘Let’s give him a chance.’ [Jaega] was 18 at the time and Ross said, ‘Hey, I was 18 when I first was in Morcheeba!’ So my husband and son went into our garage and they rehearsed for three months, every day, going through the songs... Of course, the songs were in his blood, anyway. I was pregnant with him when we recorded Who Can You Trust? and he’s been on tour with us from a young age. He’s a natural.” Remarkably, Edwards is still forging a solo path - last issuing In A Low Light in 2015 - between her commitments to Morcheeba and raising four kids with Gordon. Morcheeba performed at 2014’s Bluesfest, where they were inspired by a co-headliner. “We got to see Gary Clark [Jr], we watched him at the side of the stage,” Edwards enthuses. This Easter, they’ll preview material. “There will be probably about four new songs from the new album. But, when you do festivals, people really like to hear your ‘best of’.”
Morcheeba plays Bluesfest and sideshows from 29 Mar.
Paradise lost: just what can be done to lessen the environmental impact of music festivals?
Music festivals are fast gaining a reputation for being places of reckless abandonment — abandonment of camping equipment and garbage, that is. Jessica Dale meets the people trailblazing a greener way to fest.
magine you’re out camping with your mates, sitting in your somewhat comfortable folding chair, cooking on the fire, beers in hand. The time comes to pack up and head home. There are no rubbish bins around so your mate just decides to leave their garbage scattered around the campsite. Would you A: Call your mate out for littering and causing harm to the native surroundings? Or B: Just ignore it and head on home? We’re going to bank that nine out of ten of you would fall into category A. So then, what happens to the one that chooses B? You may think “well, how much harm can one person really do?” While the impact of one rogue camper isn’t all that serious, the impact of that person one thousand times over is; and that’s exactly what happened at this year’s Lost Paradise festival in the NSW Glenworth Valley, which was left in appaling condition by littering festivalgoers who ignored the standard leave-notrace etiquette. One person who’s working to improve situations like that left behind at Lost Paradise is Tim Hollo, founder of Green Music Australia. “Green Music Australia has been around for a few years now and what we’re trying to do is two things really; one is obviously, quite directly, work with the music industry at all sorts of levels to help reduce the environmental impact of the industry,” explains Hollo. “So that’s things like waste streams, energy use, shifting to renewable energy, transport, looking at greener options for transport to and from gigs and festivals, that kind of thing. But at the same time, what’s really central to what we’re trying to achieve is to be really conscious of
who we are as musicians and what our role actually is.” “As musicians, we’re in this incredibly privileged position of being pretty damn influential in our society. So really, what we’re trying to do is not just reduce our own environmental impact because, to be frank, we’re not the coal industry,” he laughs. “We’re not the aluminium industry, we’re not a massive, massive polluter but by taking the lead ourselves we can have a huge influence in the way other people think about environmental behaviour. But that’s really, more deeply, what we’re trying to achieve. So take a look, our main campaign is working on single-use plastics. Trying to get single-use plastic water bottles, primarily, and cups out of the music scene. What we’re really trying to do there is reduce that huge waste stream, number one, because it’s hugely problematic. But then number two is to kind of bring that idea into people’s faces, in the context of music gigs and festivals. By saying this disposable culture is not cool, we’re doing our bit to try to get rid of it.” “I think what’s really interesting is that what we notice when we see the positive but most of us don’t actually notice when we see the opposite. But it’s nonetheless hugely influential. If you go to see a musician that you love and you see them between songs, lean down, pick up a plastic water bottle and drain it and toss it aside, that really sends a powerful message that that’s an OK thing to do or a cool thing to do. And the same goes at festivals, you know, if you’re walking around a festival late in the evening and there’s a sea of rubbish everywhere, you might feel a little bit annoyed by it, or if you’re somebody like me you might get pretty pissed off by it, but most people wander through it and it
just feels like what it is and that’s part of the exciting memory, in fact, of the festival. And that idea that rubbish is around gets normalised. It becomes what’s OK, and that then leads to a whole lot of bigger issues... People have started to leave tents behind, and rubbish behind and things, and I think there’s a very direct link there.” Hollo puts this shift in attitude down to two main factors; young people now have more money than previous generations, and manufacturing is pumping out more product than ever before. “Equipment itself has become a lot cheaper: you can buy $20 tents and that didn’t used to be a thing. So while that’s a great thing in terms of access, it’s really problematic that if they’re so cheap, they become disposable. That’s one of the factors, that’s not really something we address,” he says. “We need to work around it in different ways. One factor I do believe is that there’s more disposable income around. We’re wealthier than we used to be and that brings with it a certain amount of disposable tendencies, I guess, and always has. It’s been slowly progressing but when I was first starting to go to festivals, most of us didn’t have the kind of cash that we could splash around like that; that you could just spend some money on a tent and then just throw it away. [They] weren’t as cheap but we also just didn’t have that cash. “But then a really important part of it is that this disposable culture has just kind of gotten into so many layers. Plastic water bottles, plastic straws everywhere, and in our general lives, but really very, very much at festivals too. Th is idea that you turn up with your credit card and you can just
get everything there and then just throw it away there, that didn’t used to be the case. And I think we as musicians and as a music industry, actually have an incredibly important role to play there in turning that culture around...” While musicians do play a huge role in this change, it is, of course, festival organisers themselves that need to own up to the issue and impart change where they can. A great example of what can be done can be found just over the Queensland border at Woodfordia, home of the annual Woodford Folk Festival. “I think it’s got to do with what our Festival Director, Bill Hauritz has said to me... His desire is that ‘after the festival, our planet is a little better off, rather than worse off,’” explains Woodfordia’s Environmental Projects Officer Sandra Tuszynska. “I think it starts with the people that are the organisers.” Woodford differs from a lot of other music festivals, in that so much of their ethos and identity is wrapped up in the environment in which the festival is held. Because of this, caring for the land has always been a huge part of the way the event runs. “In 2003, a decision was made to not take waste off-site and thus not contribute to landfill, so we started creating an environment with composting facilities for stall holders, so that we could take the bulk of it and process it on-site. That cuts down transport emissions and costs as well,” says Tuszynska of just one of the festival’s many ecological initiatives. “Th is is what Bill says: ‘It’s our duty to protect the land. Not even to protect it, but to use it responsibly.’”
People are fucking shit! People are really annoying and frustrating.’” The singer/guitarist already had a chorus melody in his head, but says the lyrical inspiration materialised while he was going for a run. “It’s the most close to heart, lyrically, song that I’ve written on this record,” he observes. Even though Bloody Lovely still oozes with sinister rock’n’roll riffs, fans may notice a slight shift in tempo. “One thing I do like about this record is that it’s really good to walk to and there are certain places where, like, it’s a strut thing,” Parsons acknowledges, “and I really like that. So even the newer stuff that we’re doing, it’s, like, finding that nice bpm where you can cruise down the street on your way to work to it. So, not everything has to be thrashing out in the moshpit; it’s kinda nice to have songs that you can powerwalk or dance to, you know?” These days, both DZ Deathrays members are based in different states: Parsons in Sydney and Ridley in Brisbane. When asked what sort of impact this had on their songwriting for Bloody Lovely, Ridley chuckles, “It’s probably why it took four years!” DZ Deathrays recently wrapped up appearances on the touring Falls Festival line-up and managed to score a selfie with Daryl Braithwaite. “Oh, yeah, Dazza!” Ridley extols. “That was at Falls, Perth. The Australian bands - everyone was like, ‘Oh, guys, Dazza!’ [laughs] You know, secretly spying on him, watching what he’s doing. But he was a legend!” So how was The Horses received? “He extended it,” Parsons reveals. “It’s probably about six, seven minutes [long]... It’s a banger!” Given that Braithwaite didn’t write The Horses, our discussion turns to cover versions and the fact that sometimes it’s not until you actually try to play someone else’s song that you realise its degree of difficulty. “It’s like trying to play drums to Toto,” Ridley offers. “Africa, I can’t even play it! When you hear the song, you don’t even think of how most of the time the drum beat is so, like, hard and technical.” Parsons mentions another Toto track Rosanna and the drummer stresses, “I can’t play their stuff!” Time’s up, but we need to know how the shot on the Bloody Lovely album cover was captured. Tell us about the jumping dog? “She belongs to the owners of the [Love, Tilly Devine] bar,” Parsons reveals on the shoot location. “And someone was just throwing a ball... She’d just flip out and jump and sorta miss it. The ball actually was originally right between Simon and my head.” (Said ball’s since been Photoshopped out.) “But that shot was one of 600 shots. Well, in all honesty, Simon and I look like we’re half-cockeyed and if there’s a dog jumping in the picture then that has to be the one, you know? [laughs].”
Bloody lovely evil fun Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley of DZ Deathrays sit down with Bryget Chrisfield to discuss Daryl Braithwaite selfies, trying to play Toto songs and jumping dogs.
e hopped in the car before and we were on the radio!” DZ Deathrays frontman Shane Parsons enthuses. We’ve commandeered a sequestered booth inside Fitzroy’s hip Bar Liberty and rosé is our chosen refreshment of the day. The duo, which is rounded out by Simon Ridley on drums, are visibly stoked that their third album Bloody Lovely is ready to drop and we just need to know in what sort of context Parsons’ girlfriend’s dad uses the ocker phrase that inspired the title of the band’s third album. “If he had this wine he’d be like [takes a sip], ‘It’s bloody lovely, isn’t it?’” Parsons explains. “He uses it all the time... [When] Simon and I first started a band we were like, ‘Alright. How do you describe our music? Evil fun’... And then it’s kinda like, ‘Oh, Bloody Lovely will be a bit like that.’ And then just, you know, no one else has got a record called Bloody Lovely,” he laughs. We’re tipping old mate must be loving the attention as well. “I don’t think he knows,” Parsons admits. “[My girlfriend’s] mum is more internet savvy, so she’ll, like, read the interviews and she’ll see stuff on Twitter and she’ll go, ‘Did you know the boys named the album after what you say?’ And he’ll go, ‘Oh, really? Okay.’” Two Bloody Lovely album tracks have already dropped and blown our faces off: Shred For Summer landed last August and was followed up by Total Meltdown in November. The accompanying music videos for both of these singles were directed by SPOD. Ridley says, “It’s just: ‘Leave it to you, Mister SPOD, and you can do what you want!’” But this scribe’s favourite track from Bloody Lovely at the moment is Like People, which is basically a list of things that annoy Parsons recited over a curly riff that echoes the verse melody and thunderous, ever-changing drum patterns. When this opinion is shared, Ridley marvels, “Aaayyy, that’s the next single!” and Parsons admits he is actually reeling off “things that kind of piss [him] off”. “Not just things that happened to me, but things that happened to other people,” he clarifies, “and, yeah! I was like, ‘You know what?
“’You know what? People are fucking shit! People are really annoying and frustrating.’”
Bloody Lovely (I Oh You!) is out this month.
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Together in electric dreams Through her Alice Ivy project, Annika Schmarsel hopes to inspire more young females to pursue their beatmaking dreams and infiltrate the electronic music scene, she tells Cyclone.
lice Ivy (aka Annika Schmarsel) is one of the breakout acts in Australia’s post-EDM scene. She’s now launching her first album, I’m Dreaming, behind cult singles like Touch, Almost Here and Get Me A Drink. But the Melbourne musician, producer and vocalist has a secret past as a teen star. Kinda. Schmarsel’s story begins in Geelong, the Victorian port city historically associated with (hard) rock. “It was a pretty dope place to grow up in,” she recalls, fresh from Falls Festival dates. Strumming the guitar by 12, Schmarsel joined an exceptional high school band, Sweethearts - extant since 1989 at Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College. “It was allgirls, which is fucking rad,” Schmarsel enthuses, dropping her trademark expression. “Everyone was under 18. We did Motown and soul covers. We got to tour Europe and played really dope festivals around Australia all the time. During that time, I played at Montreux Jazz Festival and [Italy’s] Porretta Soul Festival.” Indeed, in 2012 Schmarsel was interviewed for an article in The Age on the international phenom. All that formative experience proved invaluable later. On graduation, Schmarsel departed Geelong for Melbourne to “start afresh”. (“I’m fully like a Brunswick girl now,” she quips.) Enrolling in a music industry course at RMIT, Schmarsel was exposed to electronic technology and, specifically, beatmaking. One assignment required her to remix Queen. “I guess, at first, I was really shy about it, because I’m coming from a guitar background. I’ve never produced before; I’ve never used music software. [But] I sort of gave it a crack and I really enjoyed it.” In fact, Schmarsel had already been vibing to samplebased music in The Avalanches. “I actually came across their first record, Since I Left You, when I was about 15,
because I bought it by accident,” she laughs. Schmarsel had popped into JB Hi-Fi to purchase The Antlers’ broody Hospice, but scooped up the wrong CD from the ‘A’ section. “I was like, ‘Oh, shhh - this isn’t The Antlers! What is this?’” Today she invariably cites the Aussie plunderphonics masters as an influence, together with soulful beatmakers J Dilla and Onra. Newly confident, Schmarsel started cutting solo music on Ableton Live. “That’s when I realised that I wanted to do that: I wanted to go down the more electronic path.” In 2016 she generated buzz with Touch and Almost Here, both singles featuring the Jamie Cullum-endorsed blues diva Georgia van Etten - another ex-Sweetheart. Last year, Schmarsel aired Get Me A Drink with rising singer E^ST plus Melbourne rapper Charlie Th reads. The triple j fave has also gigged solidly here and abroad. She played 2017’s Splendour In The Grass and supported Billie Eilish. Schmarsel’s Dew Process debut album, I’m Dreaming, is the culmination of a massive musical expansion. The beatmaker describes the Alice Ivy sound as “a collage” and, with her album, she introduces the glitchy, atmospheric and euphoric qualities of contemporary Antipodean electronica to groovy soul, funk, disco, hip hop and breaks. “The best part of making my kind of music, and working by myself, is that it’s all me. If I wanna go down a different path, I can just do that with my music.” Although Schmarsel herself sings on I’m Dreaming, she’s curated a credible roster of local guest vocalists including the aforementioned van Etten, MC Cazeaux OSLO and electro-popster Bertie Blackman (leading the latest single Chasing Stars). Constantly writing, Schmarsel collaborates with fellow artists while touring. “I always make sure that I have a mini little recording rig on the road.”
“I actually came across their first record, Since I Left You, when I was about 15, because I bought it by accident.”
Schmarsel’s ambitious plans for 2018 will probably necessitate that she finally abandons her day job as a barista. Aside from touring nationally from February, she’ll return to the US - showcasing at SXSW in Austin, Texas. And Schmarsel has a bolder mission. There has long been disquiet about the absence of female producers and Schmarsel wants to change that. Even with her other commitments, she conducts all-female production classes at Melbourne’s Arts Centre. “I feel really, really strongly about this issue in the music industry,” Schmarsel says. “I’ve kind of realised that I am a bit of a role model to a lot of young females. And I feel like the only way to change this [lack of] diversity is by actually putting back into the community, instead of just talking about it.”
I’m Dreaming (Dew Process/Universal) is out this month. Alice Ivy tours from 16 Feb.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
FRIDAY 2 FEBRUARY
ELEGANT SHIVA SATURDAY 3 FEBRUARY
SAT 20 JAN
SUN 8 APR
THUR 25 JAN
FRI 20 APR
FRI 23 FEB
SAT 21 APR
SAT 24 FEB
SUN 22 APR
THUR 1 MAR
TUE 24 APR
FRI 2 MAR
FRI 27 APR
SIX60 WITH NICO & VINZ
SATURDAY 10 FEBRUARY
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The homecoming queen Australia’s most famous drag export since Priscilla, Courtney Act, has taken the world by storm. As she prepares to head back Down Under, she talks finding fame, cult-level fandom, and being part of a drag army with Maxim Boon.
t may well go down as one of the worst wardrobe malfunctions in reality TV history. At the launch of the UK’s latest season of Celebrity Big Brother, as Australian drag megastar, Courtney Act — aka Shane Jenek — descended a staircase in front of a huge crowd and numerous cameras, her stiletto heels caught the hem of her sequined skirt, ripping the garment from her lower half and exposing her bare-naked “tuck” for all the world to see. This epic fashion fail went viral on a global scale, grabbing international headlines, and even leaving some news editors unsure about whether to pixilate the simulated fun zone or reveal it in all its anatomically defiant glory. But if you’re feeling a pang of sympathy for Act in the wake of this apparent humiliation, don’t be fooled — this drag diva is not the ditzy blonde she might sometimes appear. Throughout her career, she’s shown a whipsmart tenacity and an almost myopic strength of purpose that has seen her star rise to the highest heights of the entertainment world. A veteran of reality television, first appearing on the debut season of Australian Idol in 2003 — becoming the first openly gay artist on any Idol franchise in the world, as well as the first to perform in drag — Act’s big break came in 2013 when she reached the finals of season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race. There, she proved herself to be fiercely talented, ferociously driven, and unafraid of showboating to outshining her competition. Five years on, that same fearless determination to stand out from the crowd could very well be the sleight of hand behind her now infamous Big Brother crotch flash; for several days after, Act dominated headlines while her fellow celebrity housemates were largely ignored. This strategic savvy offers a glimpse of Act’s secret weapon: her impressive intelligence. But, while her abilities as a performer and her competitive streak are both traits she’s supremely proud of, it’s not lost on Act that her cerebral side is often overlooked. “Drag Race gave me an audience that I didn’t have before,” she explains. “But then it was kind of up to me to take that audience and build it and inform it about what I actually do. It’s taken quite a while — almost four years. And the funny thing about Drag Race is, that even though it offers an incredible platform and visibility, the audience really only get to see a very limited part of you. So, after my season, I felt like, ‘Yeah, I’m all of those things you see on screen, but there’s so much more to me than that.’” With a globally reaching profile secured following her stint on Drag Race, Act might very well have settled into a career not dissimilar to other alumni of the hit TV talent contest, performing, touring the world and meeting fans. But, while performance is still a major part of Act’s professional life, she’s also sought to capitalise on her brains as well as her beauty. In 2016, Act became a political correspondent for Australian politics and pop-culture site Junkee, covering the American election, including attending a Trump rally in full drag. Most recently, Act has starred in a web series for MTV UK about gender and sexuality,
demystifying the nuances of identity and sexual expression. “It’s just really cool that I get to have that opportunity to speak to people, and that they actually seem to listen and enjoy it,” Act shares. “I remember thinking after Idol, ‘I’ve made it! This is it!’ But then I realised when I went into Drag Race that this was just a stepping stone in my journey — and it’s an amazing one! But really, it’s not a chore for me to champion these issues. I’m just doing what I love to do, because I’m passionate about queer history and identity politics and gender identity and gender theory. It really is what I love.” However, such a fever-pitched level of celebrity comes with drawbacks. Drag Race aficionados have earned a reputation over the years for being intimidatingly zealous with their fandom, especially via social media. It’s a necessary evil for Act, but one she’s not unequipped to handle. “It’s a bit like a cult,” she laughs. “It’s not something like Idol, where you have a big audience but it’s really mainstream. Drag Race fans are a whole lot more niche and they’re incredibly dedicated — I mean, people have their favourite Drag Race queens tattooed on them! “And it’s the fans that have made the show such a phenomenon, but whenever you’re talking about fandom, or social advocacy, or anything that happens online, there’s always a very vocal minority who would have you believe they’re just more representative than they actually are. So, there might be a few vocal people who can be negative or aggressive, especially on social media. But I think it’s always important to remember the majority of Drag fans are just normal people, who really love a TV show. It can get to you, if you let it. I think what kept me strong in that post Drag Race period was my friendship with [fellow season six contestants] Adore, Bianca and Darienne. The four of us are really close, so that was a very welcome support network.” But despite Act’s experience handling the pressures of the limelight, her recent stint in the UK’s latest season of Celebrity Big Brother seems to have taken her by surprise. At the time of publication, Act was the firm favourite to win the show, with the UK rapt by an unexpected bromance — which many believe is fast exiting the friend-zone — between Act (Shane Jenek) and straight former The Apprentice star Andrew Brady. While the will-they-won’t-they affair has scandalised some Big Brother viewers, Act has never been shy of a bit of mainstream subversion. Post Big Brother, Act will be making her return back Down Under. In the upcoming Melbourne leg of Grease: The Arena Experience, she’ll be playing the role of Teen Angel — traditionally a male role, that has in recent years been played by women, but never a drag queen — to audiences 14,000 strong. Under The Covers, Act’s racy cabaret show about the secrets of the bedroom — “It looks at everything we do in bed, from sleeping, to masturbating, to eating, to sex, to eating while masturbating...” — will also grace Australian shores next month. For Act, being in the spotlight, shoulder to shoulder with many other talented drag queens who have brought the art form into the popular consciousness, is a way of shifting the tent poles of what society deems acceptable. “It’s like there’s this army of drag queens surrounding pop culture, like a military blockade, and we’re all marching one step at a time inwards, closer and closer to the middle,” she smiles. “There are queens excelling in comedy, there are queens who are performing burlesque, there are queens who are making performance art or who have a really avant-garde aesthetics. There are queens with different body shapes or ages. All that diversity is so beautiful. It’s amazing to be part of that.”
“It’s like there’s this army of drag queens surrounding pop culture, like a military blockade, and we’re all marching one step at a time inwards, closer and closer to the middle.”
T H E AT R E
Courtney Act’s Under The Covers plays from 29 Mar at Brisbane Powerhouse
Rocking out on the tiles Franz Ferdinand have been fusing rock’n’roll and dance music for 16 years. True to form, Paul Thomson tells Anthony Carew the band’s fifth ‘baby’ is a rock’n’roll record that “sounds pumping through a big club system”.
e wanted to make music that you could dance to, but as a rock’n’roll band,” says Paul Thomson. The 41-year-old Scot is talking about his band, Franz Ferdinand, and the founding goal laid down at their 2002 beginnings. The original members - frontman Alex Kapranos, guitarist Nick McCarthy, bassist Bob Hardy, Thomson on drums - all met in Glasgow, out on the tiles. “We were all going out to this club called Optimo,” recounts Thomson. “Before that, [the Glasgow music scene] was two camps: there were people who went out to gigs and played in bands, and there were people who went out to clubs, who DJ’d and made electronic music. At Optimo, the two crossed over; they’d play disco, The Cramps, The Birthday Party, Joy Division. It was the first place I heard LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge. Peaches played there. So, we were going to that club every Sunday when we started out. And it totally inspired us.” That inspiration still resonates in Franz Ferdinand’s music, as heard on their new fifth LP, Always Ascending.
“It’s a rock’n’roll record, but it sounds pumping through a big club system. It’s really fun to listen to, and I’m really eager for other people to lose themselves in it, like we did making it,” Thomson says. Waiting for an album to come out is “a bit weird”, he offers, the band essentially waiting for the moment when a record “ceases to be yours”. As he puts it, pithily: “[Albums] are like children. They leave the family home, and they’re gone. And hopefully never coming back.” Thomson is speaking from his home in Los Angeles, which is far from Edinburgh, where he grew up “part of a large Catholic family”. He cut his teeth playing in the Glasgow scene; his break was getting the drumming gig in The Yummy Fur, ‘90s alt-rockers in whom Kapranos also played. “Glasgow always has an amazing scene, it has for the past 25 years,” Thomson says. “And, then, every once in a while someone will blow up and become ‘international’; like us, Belle & Sebastian, Chvrches. It’s always interesting to see who [will].” By this point, those memories ended long ago. “I’ve been in Paris more times this year than I’ve been to the South Side of Glasgow in the last ten years,” Thomson admits. The band recorded Always Ascending with Philippe Zdar of Cassius - who’s, notably, worked often with Phoenix - in his Motorbass studio in Paris. It marks the first record since the departure of McCarthy (“We knew he was leaving long before he did,” Thomson offers, “he’d made that decision, we just didn’t make it public.”), and arrives five long years after 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. “We only make records when we really want to make records,” Thomson says. “Fortunately, we’ve got patient fans.” Franz Ferdinand did stay busy in the interim, releasing a collaborative LP with American electro-pop trailblazers Sparks - the band billed as FFS - in 2015. “Originally,” Thomson explains, “we were going to write them a couple
of songs, they were going to write us a couple of songs; sort of like a mutual-appreciation-society of each other’s bands. Then, suddenly, it steamrolled, and we had 18 songs, and we weren’t just finishing them by ourselves, but sending them off to each other, writing new parts, sending them back. Then we got in touch with Domino and said: ‘Um, we’ve kind of made this whole album with Sparks; do you want to put it out?’” After FFS, Kapranos, Hardy, and Thomson set out working Always Ascending as a three-piece. By the time the album was done, they’d added two new members to the band: guitarist Dino Bardot and keyboardist Julian Corrie (aka producer Miaoux Miaoux). Playing alongside these “enthusiastic, younger” musicians “it’s an absolute joy to be on stage”, Thomson says. “I appreciate it now, more than I ever have done.” Especially given that Thomson never thought he, nor his band, would make it. “I never thought it was a viable career option, at any point,” he says. “[Not until] Franz Ferdinand kicked on, which was the last thing any of us expected. We’d been in bands for years. In the underground scene in Glasgow, the whole purpose of a band is that it’s something that you do with your friends. If you put a record out, you’d put out 500 7”s, get everyone to bag them up at your house, and then ‘distribution’ would be you taking them around to indie record stores. You hoped you’d sell all 500, but you never ever did. So, that was what we were thinking we’d do as [Franz Ferdinand]. But, then our manager, who’s still our manager, came up from London to see us play, and he thought he could see something in us. We thought he was a charlatan. But, here we are.”
“Albums are like children. They leave the family home, and they’re gone. And hopefully never coming back.”
Always Ascending (Domino) is out this month
THE BIG PICTURE
Versus Zine #3 Kane Hibberd As one of Aussie music’s most prolific photographers, Kane Hibberd isn’t interested in the quiet life – he’s been braving the decibels of the live music scene since 2005 to shoot the nation’s best talent in their natural element. We get a sneak peek at his latest Versus Zine collaboration, featuring Ecca Vandal. Shooting the great and good of Australia’s live music scene has become the cornerstone of your career. How did you find your way into this niche area? Shooting live music was something that I sort of stumbled upon when I started a small record label with my friends. I used to take a point and shoot camera along to try and get some images for our website. After doing that a few times, I was hooked, but the images I saw in my head were not the results I was seeing on the camera. So I began to try and figure out how, through trial and error, to use a camera manually and also the equipment needed to shoot in those dark rooms. And still to this day, every gig adds to that trial and error process of discovery, finding out what works and what doesn’t. Live music venues are not the easiest places to navigate, even without a camera in hand. What are the main challenges you face when you’re shooting a concert? Each show is different depending on the size, but it’s mainly thrown items and the occasional drunk person invading personal space. For some reason people love to throw things at the artists they worship and have paid money to see! I don’t really have any tricks for avoiding that, it’s all part of the job unfortunately. Most of the time it’s not deliberate, so I don’t take it personally. I just shot a festival on the weekend and managed to not get hit with anything, until the final band where I copped two drinks in the face within minutes. Some did go in my mouth, so that’s a win.
Ecca Vandal and Sampa The Great @ Corner Hotel
Your images capture some incredibly dynamic, almost painterly compositions. Do you know in the moment you’ve captured something special, or do you discover those gems after the fact? Sometimes you know, you see it unfolding through the viewfinder and you know you have it. Other times it’s not until you go back through the images that you see something else that has happened in the frame which you might not have been focused on at the time and adds extra layers of interest to the image.
THE BIG PICTURE
This is the third edition of Versus Zine, supported by Melbourne Bitter, showcasing your work. What can we expect from this latest collection? I feel like this is the best one yet. Ecca Vandal is such a powerhouse on stage but there is also a vulnerable side with Ecca putting herself out there each night. It takes a brave person to put themselves on stage each night, exposing themselves emotionally and putting on such a physical performance, so hopefully this is reflected in the pictures. Telling a story through imagery is what I love to do so I’m incredibly lucky to have the support of Melbourne Bitter and to be able to create Versus as a printed entity. And then to be able to give it away for free is amazing! Versus Zine #3 is available from mid-Feb. Details at versuszine.com
Home And Away alumnus Clementi, who plays Crystal on the third season of UnReal, which looks at the behind-the-scenes machinations on the fictional Bachelor-esque TV series ‘Everlasting’. Clementi’s character is the new girlfriend of Everlasting creator Chet, played by Craig Bierko, and the sizeable age difference between the two prompts many people to view Crystal as, in Clementi’s words, “his midlife crisis choice of partner”. Add to this the tension stemming from the romantic history between Chet and Everlasting’s unscrupulous executive producer Quinn (Constance Zimmer), and the mood gradually reaches boiling point. “Crystal is very friendly, maybe naively so,” says Clementi. “She thinks Quinn will be a friend and maybe even a mentor... and of course she is wrong.” Wary of divulging possible spoilers, Clementi is guarded about discussing Crystal’s part in the big picture of UnReal’s new season. But she’s is effusive when talking about what made her want in. “A lot of what attracted me to Crystal was in fact UnReal itself, and the fact that it was created by two women and the two lead characters, Quinn and Rachel [played by Shiri Appleby], were so strong and complex,” she says. “In this current climate of the entertainment industry, and the world, calling for unity and change, it’s so important to keep breaking barriers and creating strong,
“When I found out I was auditioning for Ash Vs Evil Dead, I thought I’ d better check out the show and I really braced myself, thinking it would be this huge ordeal. And from episode one, I was laughing my head off!”
Arielle Carber-O’Neill as Brandy Barr in Ash Vs Evil Dead
With local actors taking the world by storm, Guy Davis talks to two of the latest Australian talents to bring the thunder: Ash Vs Evil Dead’s Arielle CarverO’Neill and UnReal’s Kassandra Clementi.
was laughing my head off! The comedy of it all makes the most violent and horrific parts really entertaining. I mean, it’s disgusting but it’s not nasty or anything.” Carver-O’Neill’s character Brandy Barr has one goal: get accepted to a good college and get the hell out of her small town of Elk Grove, Michigan. But she’s destined for something far more important (and far bloodier): it turns out that she’s the daughter of demon slayer Ash Williams, played by Bruce Campbell. “So throughout the season she goes on this amazing and very messy journey once she discovers this father she never knew she had,” says Carver-O’Neill. “There are definitely similarities between Brandy and Ash, although she’s in denial about them to begin with! To put it mildly, she’s stuck with this creepy, borderline-alcoholic guy with one hand who keeps saying things like, ‘It wasn’t me who did it, it was the demons!’ That’s gonna take some time for her to warm up to. But they discover some similarities — they’re both incredibly stubborn and they have the same sense of humour, which was so much fun for me and Bruce to play.” Campbell’s a big personality, on and offscreen, but the Ash Vs Evil Dead newcomer quickly found herself in sync with his style. “It was amazing,” says Carver-O’Neill. “He’s a master at what he does — I’ve never seen it before, where someone can walk onto a set and just nail it the first time. And then you can either move on from there or have
cting is a very competitive gig, so landing any role is cause for celebration. But for Australian actors, there’s a certain extra something about getting a part in an international production — I dunno, maybe it’s the sheer thrill of snatching it away from one of those damn foreigners (insert smirky ‘just kidding’ emoticon here), but I would say it’s the validation that comes with competing and succeeding on a larger stage. Taking on the world and winning, so to speak. Australian actors have been doing this for decades, of course, but lately it appears more and more homegrown performers are making names for themselves on a global platform. And for every heavily muscled superhero like Thor: Ragnarok’s Chris Hemsworth and highly touted awards-season contender like I, Tonya’s Margot Robbie, there are a few other Aussie actors hot on their heels, landing eye-catching supporting roles on pay-TV productions and streaming-service series. Take former Home And Away star Samara Weaving, for example, and her wickedly charismatic performance in Netflix’s horror movie The Babysitter. Or Lucy Fry, who went from tangling with outback madman John Jarratt on the first season of the Wolf Creek TV series to tangling with orcs and elves alongside Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in the hit Netflix fantasy Bright, which already has a sequel in the works. And this month, two young Australian actors will be seen in prominent roles on
fun and play around with it. And we had so much fun with it, especially once the relationship between Brandy and Ash improves and you come to see that they’re alike in some ways. I would finish filming for the day and call home because working with Bruce made me miss my own dad so much. I have a lot of love for Bruce.” What’s more, Carver-O’Neill also quickly got into the swing of how one conducts themselves in the world of Ash Vs Evil Dead. “The first thing I did was start brainstorming what my weapon would be,” she smiles. “I had so many different ideas, and I won’t tell you what I came up with — because it’s special — but it’s very cool and I do get to use it a lot. I will tell you, though, that at first I really wanted a baseball bat with embellishments, and by embellishments, I don’t mean glitter and shit. I mean nails.” There was a different kind of female empowerment in store for Adelaide actor and
popular shows returning for their third seasons — Arielle Carver-O’Neill on the gruesome horror-comedy Ash Vs Evil Dead and Kassandra Clementi on the caustic realityTV satire UnReal. Let’s begin with Carver-O’Neill, whose name alone makes her a natural for the Ash Vs Evil Dead cast, who frequently find themselves carving up hostile hordes of ‘Deadite’ monsters. However, the Melbourne actor, whose credits include Neighbours and Worst Year Of My Life, Again!, initially had some misgivings about auditioning for the show. “This is very embarrassing but I was traumatised by Scary Movie when I was 13 — and I know it’s a comedy!” she laughs. “But I actually had nightmares for a week and a half, so that turned me off horror for a bit. But when I found out I was auditioning for Ash Vs Evil Dead, I thought I’d better check out the show and I really braced myself, thinking it would be this huge ordeal. And from episode one, I
Down Under wonders coming up in the TV world
diverse, capable and real female characters... which is what UnReal has been doing from the start. Both Quinn and Rachel are multifaceted, and I think film and television should accurately represent the diversity and quality of women in the real world — their strengths and their imperfections in all their glory.” Indeed, the strong female presence behind the scenes on UnReal, with series stars Zimmer and Appleby and series co-creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro among the many women directing episodes this season, made it “my favourite production to have been a part of”, says Clementi. “It was an incredibly safe and equitable set, with a lot of great women and men involved.”
Ash Vs Evil Dead airs from 26 Feb on Stan. UnReal airs from 27 Feb on Stan.
While for years it seemed that many local bands strived to sound more exotic than their actual roots, in recent times numerous artists have embraced the Australian side of their sound and succeeded both at home and abroad. “Until this record, we’ve never consciously
Adelaide rockers Grenadiers are imploring fans to
tried to be anything — whether it be, ‘Oh, that
Find Something You Love And Let It Kill You, but frontman
naturally listening to more Australian music
Jesse Coulter admits to Steve Bell that death’s still outside his personal purview.
that’s been a thing in punk and rock for years
sounds too Australian,’ or, ‘That doesn’t sound Australian enough’ — and even on this record that wasn’t really part of it at all, we were just as a reference point and thus were less afraid to let that shine a little bit,” Coulter continues. “It’s cool that people are embracing their natural accent and stuff, but to be fair I think with certain bands: Frenzal Rhomb started in 1991 or something and they’ve got the most ocker accent that’s ever been in music, and you can even go back further to The Radiators and so forth. “And we don’t even sing that overtly in an
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
n brand new third album Find
we’ve obviously moved on a little bit — as
Aussie accent. My accent’s neither here nor
Something You Love And Let It Kill
any band does, you change your sound a
there; depending on the word that I’m say-
You, Adelaide rock trio Grenadiers
bit as you go on — and we’ve tried to inject
ing it might sound particularly Australian or
have subtly refined their sound to reflect their
a bit more of an iconically Australian vibe
not, but it’s not something that jumps out at
love of Australian bands, as well as the over-
into it, and also just harking back to a lot of
you like it does with Courtney Barnett or The
seas outfits they’ve always boasted proudly
Smith Street Band.”
as reference points, though, as frontman Jess
“Whereas with [2015 second album]
Coulter’s lyrics certainly speak directly
Coulter points out, this shift was more due to
Summer the reference points to that might
to the Australian experience, especially on
happenstance rather than planning.
have been The Hives or The Bronx, for this
new tracks such as Suburban Life and Drunk
“There’s not too much of an agenda with
album it’s likely to be Radio Birdman or Mid-
anything we do, really — I guess the agenda
night Oil or something like that. So there’s a
“Definitely, that’s because I don’t really
was to write an album that was better than
bit of a different frame of reference but no
have any other experience so that makes
the last one,” the singer reflects. “Stylistically
real agenda per se.”
sense,” he chuckles. “I’ve never really been
Invaluable experience from unusual opportunities Electronic expermentalist TOKiMONSTA, aka Jennifer Lee, fills Cyclone in on supporting Duran Duran, working with Kelly Rowland and providing make-out music for the Governator himself.
alifornia’s TOKiMONSTA, aka Jennifer Lee, is consistently intriguing. Lee may be known as a tastemaking electronic music experimentalist, but she has also been canvassed by former Destiny’s Child star Kelly Rowland for cutting-edge beats — and toured with ‘80s New Romantics Duran Duran. Th is summer, the extrovert Lee (happy to be addressed as “Toki”) is embarking on her biggest Australian run yet with Laneway Festival. She’ll “hang out” with her sometime collaborator Anderson .Paak (“a really good friend of mine”). Last October, Lee presented the poptastic Lune Rouge, her first full-length album in four years. In late 2015, the DJ/ producer was diagnosed with the neurovascular Moyamoya disease and underwent two brain surgeries — something she only disclosed in September to Pitchfork (Lee shared, too, how a boyfriend “dumped” her). Subliminally, Lune Rouge tells of her remarkable recovery with its dreamy atmospherics. The auteur, who started making instrumental fare, liaised with such vocalists as her ally MNDR, Belgian soulstress Selah Sue, and rappers Isaiah Rashad and Joey Purp. “I guess, to
kind of contextualise this album, it is what I would consider to be the next step, or the next iteration, of myself as an artist,” Lee says of its direction. “It could be shocking for those who are very attached to my earlier work, but I would say that it has been a natural progression.” Notably, the single Don’t Call Me (featuring Yuna) was included in Billboard’s 50 Best Dance/Electronic Songs Of 2017: Critics’ Picks. The product of a Korean-American family living in bayside Torrance, Lee studied piano early. Later, she created abstract hip hop with the FruityLoops computer program. Lee officially became part of the West Coast glitch-hop movement when, in 2010, she released her debut album Midnight Menu on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder. Then, in a surprise turn, she switched to the EDM-oriented Ultra Music for 2013’s Half Shadows (Kool Keith cameoed!). That same year, she circulated her rejected remix of Justin Timberlake’s Suit & Tie to much blog buzz. Soon after, Lee — who’d studied business at uni — launched her own Young Art Records, issuing stopgap projects like the Anderson .Paak-guesting EP Fovere. Along the way, Lee has synced her music to movie and TV shows — Darkest (Dim) bizarrely used for Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger’s action thriller Sabotage. “You know, he’s already pretty elderly at this point, but it was some weird romance scene between him and someone else [English actor Olivia Williams],” Lee laughs. “But I don’t remember the film actually being super-amazing.” Lee embraces unusual opportunities. Wildly, she opened for British new wave heroes Duran Duran (and Nile Rodgers’ Chic) on a North American tour (“an invaluable experience”). She admits that the older audience members were “completely flabbergasted” by her. However, they
weren’t unwelcoming. “The Duran Duran audience base is not overly pretentious. I think that, if they have a good time, they’re definitely willing to express that they’re having a good time.” In 2014, Lee was reportedly producing music for Kelly Rowland, whose most enduring solo hit remains David Guetta’s house banger When Love Takes Over. Alas, the nowTV personality is yet to drop that fifth album. “She still comments on my Instagram and sends me Christmas cards. We still keep in touch,” Lee says. “But I think right now for her — and her career — she seems to be focusing on ‘Kelly Rowland’ as a brand... I think she’s going to double-back into the music and, when she comes around to that, I think we would work on more ideas together. In the past, we had worked on some music that didn’t end up getting cut to... Actually, me and Anderson .Paak did a lot of music for Kelly before he blew up, but she didn’t actually end up recording any of it. But maybe this next time around, when she decides to get back into singing and pushing an album, she’ll reconsider those songs.” At Laneway, Lee will perform music from across her discography live. Today, she’s less about emitting IDM ‘cool’ than connecting with the crowd. “It’s not going to be a DJ set, it’s going to be a journey and an adventure that I hope me and the audience can share together.”
TOKiMONSTA tours from 2 Feb.
overseas for a great period of time or grown up in another country, so the Australian experience is the one that I’ve been privy to. Any musician or artist of any type is really just a filter for the cultural products around them — they suck them all in and then spit them out as a new thing. My frame of reference has been a lot of Australian bands and Australian movies and the country itself and the people, so obviously that’s going to find its way into the music.” The singer himself has described the new record as containing “rock songs about drinking and death”, topics at polar ends of his personal spectrum of life experience. “When I was writing them there wasn’t a conscious common thread at all,” Coulter offers, “but when I finished the lyrics and looked back on them I realised that they were pretty dark in a lot of places, and there were a lot of references to those two things: drinking and death. “Drinking I have a lot of experience with, but death I’ve had no experience and there’s always a lot of fascination with things you know really well or things you don’t know anything about. So I guess that’s the natural cause for them both appearing so much.”
Find Something You Love And Let It Kill You (Green Room Records) is out now. Grenadiers tour from 8 Feb.
The importance of taking a stand In case the title of First Aid Kit’s new album Ruins wasn’t direct enough, Johanna Soderberg tells Anthony Carew about the Swedish sisters’ growing disenchantment with America and the “pure anger” they felt after attending the Women’s March in Portland.
don’t think anyone thought we’d ever sing “I hope you fucking suffer!’ in a song, but it really feels like it was justified,” Johanna Soderberg offers. She says it with a laugh, but First Aid Kit aren’t joking. The song in question was their 2017 single You Are The Problem Here, a fierce rebuke against rape culture and victim blaming released on International Women’s Day. In it, the duo — Johanna, 27, and her sister Klara, 25 — let loose all of their anger; feelings that came to a head early last year when they recorded their newly released fourth album, Ruins, in America, in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. “It’s been a shit year, from the start,” Soderberg says, at the end of ‘17, from her family home in Stockholm a few days before Xmas. Having spent so much time in America — first recording Ruins in Portland, Oregon; later returning to tour the country — they’ve felt their affection for the country starting to ebb. Reared on American music, the sisters’ folkie sound comes steeped in the influence of musicians from The Carter Family through to Fleet Foxes. “We’ve always had this romanticism, this romantic idea of America,” Soderberg laments. “In many ways, that was very naive because it’s always been a very segregated country; a lot of poverty, financial inequality. Before, we felt like there was a real hope and that’s gone now.
That’s a little sad.” In the decade since their debut EP, 2008’s Drunken Trees, Klara had written only one song, her sister thinks, that could be considered remotely political: Hard Believer, from their debut LP, 2010’s The Big Black And The Blue, a dismissal of organised religions. Unleashing something as angry, unflinching and direct as You Are The Problem Here, then, was quite a change. “We were a little scared to release that song,” Soderberg admits. “Mostly because it was really unexpected; it’s really harsh, really angry.” The duo recorded it during the making of Ruins. They’d gone to Portland to record with Tucker Martine, whose work producing albums for Neko Case, My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists and his wife, Laura Veirs, the band loved. The Soderbergs’ father, Benkt, is First Aid Kit’s live sound engineer and he uses Veirs’ 2010 LP July Flame to test PA systems at venues. “So, I think we’ve heard that album every day for the last six years,” Soderberg jokes. Recorded in the snowy days of an Oregon winter, the band wanted to be “more open-minded, not so strictly folksounding” in their approach to Ruins. A rowdy, drunken chorus (filled with their family members) and brass parts on Hem Of Her Dress were inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and elsewhere there’s more electric guitar than on previous records, even “’80s-sounding keyboards”. “We just wanted to have more of a raw, intense, liveperformance feeling,” Soderberg says. Yet, when they laid down You Are The Problem Here, it was a little too raw and intense. “It always just felt like its own thing, like it didn’t really fit on the record,” Soderberg says. “It’s very direct and very political. You can tell by the ending that the performance was fuelled by Donald Trump. We went to the Women’s March in Portland. That song was written out of pure anger. [It] needed to exist, for us. “Whilst it’s not on the album, we’re still playing it live. And, it’s only grown as the year’s gone by, it’s gotten stronger. With the #MeToo campaign, people are really listening to it, taking it to heart; especially when we play it now. When we played it recently — when we were on tour in the US — the whole room was just boiling, you could just feel it in the air. A lot of women in the crowd just started yelling, really responding to it. It’s been very powerful to let those emotions out, to say those things.” First Aid Kit will be bringing it — and their back catalogue of harmony-rich ballads — back to Australia in April for a run of shows that swiftly sold out. “Knowing that there’s such an anticipation makes me very excited,” Soderberg says. She’s interested to hear how the songs on Ruins, written after “Klara had been through a huge break-up”, play to audiences. The sisters never dictate what their songs will be about: “They come to us in the moment and we let them be what they want to be,” Soderberg says. “We can’t really control what we write about. The best songs we’ve ever written have all happened spontaneously, without much calculation.” But, she’s hoping, maybe there’ll be more angry anthems in their future. “With the state of the world, it feels so important to make a stand. Maybe we’ll write more politically themed songs in the future. Why the hell not?”
Ruins (Columbia/Sony) is out now. First Aid Kit tours from 1 Apr.
What’s blowin’ up? Australia clocked up some of the hottest temperatures anywhere in the world last month. So, while autumn may be on the horizon, there’s still plenty left of the summer to enjoy. Before the mercury begins to drop for another year, we suggest you make the most of the season by chillaxing on one of these fine inflatable fashion statements.
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Mining the darkest depths Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull tells Steve Bell about putting everything on the line and embracing the unknown.
“To reach that far with our music, that’s insane to me” Dylan Baldi’s lyrics can seem “pretty depressing”. But, as he tells Anthony Carew, not a Cloud Nothings show goes by without someone saying, ‘This record helped me get through this part of my life’.
or well over a decade now Andy Hull - frontman and founder of Atlanta, Georgia outfit Manchester Orchestra has forged a reputation as a songwriter who’ll go to any length in the service of his craft. Setting out on his creative journey at a tender age, it was Hull’s high-school musings that formed the basis of the band’s early work, their 2006 debut I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child combining abundant hooks and thought-provoking narratives in a manner that placed them firmly alongside bands like Brand New and Death Cab For Cutie at the emotional, nuanced end of the indie-rock spectrum. From there came a series of subtle reinventions: follow-up Mean Everything To Nothing (2009) increased the angst quotient to great effect, 2011’s third full-length Simple Math found Hull delving deep into his own personal back story, while 2014’s Cope was the sound of the band exploring the post-hardcore realms with raucousbut-rewarding results (they even released a companion piece, Hope, reimagining the same songs in strippeddown, acoustic mode). Manchester Orchestra’s acclaimed fifth effort A Black Mile To The Surface ties together all of the disparate threads of their past into one ambitious and cinematic quasi-conceptual piece. The songs are both literate and emotive, and arrangements took the band over a year to
hen Cloud Nothings played Lollapalooza this year, frontman Dylan Baldi found himself unexpectedly moved by the headliner: The Killers. “I didn’t think I was going to know all of their songs,” recounts Baldi, 26. “I was standing there on a hill, quietly singing along to myself... I still knew all the words, too, which was weird. That band had so many hit songs.” Baldi is not the kind of guy “to go to the front of a show and scream along”, but the front rows of Cloud Nothings shows are filled with many a fan hollering along. “To have inspired someone to do that, that’s a pretty cool thing,” Baldi says. “A lot of the lyrics to the songs are pretty depressing. They’re about dark shit, being depressed. So, it is nice to know that other people relate to that. But, I wish other people were happy!” One crowd-favourite, though, has been retired from the set. “There’s certain songs from old records that I don’t like playing, because the lyrics on some of them, they’re a little much. I look back and I’m like ‘Jesus!’” Baldi says. “There’s a song called Quieter Today on Here And Nowhere Else, where the lyrics just sound like something a 15 year old would write in a poetry class, about how he’s angry. And I don’t necessarily feel that bad, like, ever. So, that’s an example of where the lyrics... can just feel funny to sing.” Baldi is in his hometown of Cleveland (“It’s a real underdog city”), in the wake of a tour with Japandroids. He’s spending a day off learning basslines to Speedy Ortiz (fronted by his girlfriend, Sadie Dupuis) songs. Playing and jamming with other people is “fun” for Baldi. “My day job is the
finetune in the studio, Of this album’s change in tone. Hull allows, “It was super-conscious. Cope was the last time I think I was comfortable enough to try and attempt a punk-rock record, what Manchester Orchestra’s punkrock record would be like... I was 25 or 26, and just thought, ‘You know what? This will just be really lame if I try this later’. “That one was the ‘rock record’ because it felt so visceral and real, and I had a blast making that record and Hope, too: both of those albums coinciding with each other was a really great experiment to see all of the different places we could go, but it was also a cleansing of the palate. It was, like, ‘Alright, these are all the places we actually now how to get to, what do we do next?’, and then this [new album] came from that.” Hull also freely admits, however, that he wasn’t precisely sure where he wanted to go until firmly ensconced in the project. “There were a couple of broad statements at the outset, like ‘futuristic folk record’ or ‘folk soul rock record’,” he laughs. “No, there was a lot of aiming for the unknown and aiming for something better than we knew how to achieve and working and working and working until we got close to that, or somewhere close to this unmarked goal. “So there was a lot of failing and a lot of adding on and subtracting - it was a just
a really long process - and also just making sure that we weren’t doing it for the sake of doing it, and making something that was just convoluted or pretentious. “That was a big fear of mine, I just didn’t want it to seem like it was super-forced, like, ‘Here’s our intellectual album! We’ve grown!’ We wanted to show that naturally and let the music speak for itself. But it was also about following instinctual ideas that probably would have been given up on in the past: instead of questioning everything we were like, ‘Fuck it, let’s do it!’” And despite being rapt with the results, Hull recalls that the album’s genesis proved occasionally unnerving. “The whole time we were aware that it was definitely going to make a better memory than an experience, and it totally did,” he offers. “But a lot of it was just worry and anxiety, and hoping that we didn’t screw up the whole thing, really. We just really cared about it a lot, and so - like with anything that you’re really trying to get right - there’s a lot of unknown about it and that’s uncomfortable.”
“The whole time we were aware that it was definitely going to make a better memory than an experience.”
singer of this band, and I do the interviews... Cloud Nothings takes up most of my time,” he offers. Baldi’s also thinking a lot about the band’s next record, their fifth LP; trying “to figure out what the point of making this record is”. The point of the last record, 2017’s Life Without Sound, was personal: he’d moved to Massachusetts to live with Dupuis, but, away from his friends, and with his girlfriend often on tour, an “all-encompassing” feeling of “loneliness” set in. “I was feeling pretty bad. So, the point was to get out of that, and make a positive-sounding record,” Baldi offers.
“There’s certain songs from old records that I don’t like playing.” Whether albums sound positive or not, the net result at shows is always something cathartic. “I have to yell in front of a crowd of people every time we play a show, so it’s always emotional,” says Baldi. “It’s been what I do for eight years now, so there’s that emotion attached to it, too. It feels important to me, to have this band; it’s the first
Manchester Orchestra tour from 2 Feb.
really meaningful thing I ever did in my life. I got out of high school, went to college and quickly realised college was bad for me. So I started this band and almost right away people were [saying]: ‘I like this’. It’s nice to have people telling you that what you’re doing is cool, that you’re receiving validation and gratification.” Now, Baldi offers, he gets “almost a freakish amount” of validation from others. “Playing to people on the other side of the world, having the ability to reach that far with our music, that’s insane to me. Every show we play I’ll talk to someone who’ll say, ‘Th is record helped me get through this part of my life’.”
Cloud Nothings tour from 22 Feb.
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FEATURED FEBRUARY RELEASES
DZ DEATHRAYS Bloody Lovely (I Oh You)
HOCKEY DAD Blend Inn
(Farmer & The Owl)
CAR SEAT HEADREST Twin Fantasy
The highly-anticipated third album from much-loved Brisbane party starters will no doubt be bloody lovely indeed.
Wollongong rock duo made a huge splash with their debut Boronia and are now ready to take it to the next level.
Prodigious young US rockers go back to the future with a reimagining of their excellent 2011 online only release Twin Fantasy.
MARLON WILLIAMS Make Way For Love
VANCE JOY Nation Of Two
Kiwi-bred troubadour broadens his palette into Roy Orbison territory and opens his heart with incredible results.
Second album from Melbourne Riptide hitmaker puts the microscope on relationships and nails the human condition in the process.
OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK 12/360 Logan Rd Stones Corner (In car park of Stones Corner Hotel)
(07) 3397 0180 sonicsherpa.com.au THE MUSIC
tinerant Kiwi-bred troubadour Marlon Williams has crisscrossed the globe for the past two years on the back of his acclaimed 2015 eponymous debut album, creating a huge and devoted global following for himself in the process. Yet instead of being daunted by the prospect of mass scrutiny for his inevitable follow-up, he retreated to his native Lyttelton on the South Island of New Zealand and penned the calculatedly ambitious cache of songs that comprise his stunning new album Make Way For Love. The most major shift between the two collections is the completely recalibrated musical focus: where on his debut Williams favoured the alt-country realms with flourishes of bluegrass, blues and folk, he’s now gone completely and unreservedly into ‘60s crooner mode, as if he filed away his Gram Parsons and The Byrds records and pulled out a slew of Roy Orbison and Jim Reeves platters in their place. Recorded in North California at Panoramic Studios with producer Noah Georgeson (The Strokes, Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart), they’ve concocted a perfectly stripped-back baroque bedrock, which — abetted by adroit restraint courtesy of his accomplished backing band The Yarra Benders — allows Williams’ incredibly emotive voice to take centre stage where it belongs. Throughout the album his near-impeccable vocals soar and wane with impunity — his childhood choir training gifting him mastery of pitch and harmony — and while the overall result is still a defiantly retro vibe, it’s one that feels decidedly richer and more sonically realised. The other major point of departure on Make Way For Love is the unflinchingly personal nature of the lyrical content. His self-titled effort certainly dealt with weighty topics rife with death and darkness, but they were usually written at a remove (or indeed penned by other people) with fleshed-out
Marlon Williams Make Way For Love Caroline Australia
characters used to inhabit the narratives, while here Williams places himself front and centre as he struggles to make sense of the end of a deep and resonating relationship, and reconcile his new future with now-redundant hopes and expectations. The fact that single Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore finds him duetting with the very person he’s so forlorn about basically redefines pathos, Williams sharing vocals with lifelong friend and former long-term lover Aldous Harding — herself a formidable solo artist of growing renown — who is (presumably) the protagonist in most of these torch songs. Fortunately, Williams is able to find beauty among his loss, with wonderful phrasings such as, “People tell me, ‘Boy you dodged a bullet’/But if only it hit me then I’d know the peace it brings” (piano and voice lament, Love Is A Terrible Thing), “The hard thing about love is that it has to burn or die” (the falsetto and harmony-laden Beautiful Dress) and, “You’re spreading the pain/ Digging holes just to fill them again” (sadly soulful opener Come To Me) sounding impossibly emotive when delivered in his melancholic cadence. Elsewhere, the simply gorgeous melody of What’s Chasing You entirely steals the show, sweeping strings and subtle electronic flourishes fight for attention on The Fire Of Love, Party Boy delivers not-so-veiled threats to a potential love rival over repetitive beats and mournful ballad Can I Call You reeks of a heart freshly ripped asunder. Indeed what makes Make Way For Love so special is that the lovelorn misery inherent in these paeans to heartbreak doesn’t overshadow the unabashed beauty of the arrangement, production and delivery, meaning that through the despair the results prove routinely uplifting rather than deflating. A magnificent second gambit. Steve Bell
Pianos Become The Teeth
Depth Of Field
Rice Is Nice
Wait For Love
One is never quite sure what to expect when Sarah Blasko’s creative spark flares. On this, her sixth LP, Blasko hasn’t tarried too far from her previous album, with a rich ‘80s synth-pop vein running throughout its ten tracks. But it also dips into some darker, more introspective territory this time around; something Blasko is apt to do with her stark word imagery and oftenhaunting, breathy warble. But that’s not to say there’s little light to balance the shade; Depth Of Field is a beautifully rich and complex album that sheds light on yet another facet of Miss Blasko.
Lowtide’s latest is a feet-first affair, like a few crushing seconds of free falling stretched into an afternoon of selfreflection. Gabriel Lewis’ chords burst into the atmosphere with cotton-wool softness, simultaneously surrounding and supporting Anton Jakovljevic’s almost-absentminded percussion and Lucy Buckeridge’s languid strumming and wistful incantations. Full of more body and texture than a luxury latte, Southern Mind is outwardly facing shoegaze at its finest, even if that feels like staring through a foggy window.
If wallowing in sonic melancholy is your thing, then Wait For Love is for you. The fourth from the US post-hardcore outfit is a technically able listen, but it’s also a weighty one, with fuzzy strums and floating melodies across ten tracks that average around the five-minute mark, and which consequently tend to blur into one. The return of singer Kyle Durfey’s newer, more resonant tone is a welcome sound, but its overuse has tidied things up into an ordered, two-tone affair and there’s not much, musically, to break it up.
Seemingly on the verge of spontaneous combustion, the fuzzed-out guitar feedback of opening track It’s So Cruel sets a riotous precedent for the album it leads. Don’t Give A Damn brings it down awhile, showing the dynamic range of Ruby Boots’s acoustic side - reminiscent of Exile On Main St-era Stones - and from there it just sails skyward. Overall the album ranges from tender and vulnerable to fierce and unapologetically assertive, deserving every accolade it is sure to receive. To be listened to often and repeatedly.
Ruby Boots Don’t Talk About It
For more album reviews, go to www.theMusic.com.au
Natural Born Chillers
Farmer & The Owl/Inertia
Blend Inn starts off flat. My Stride, despite its confidence, is a dull, by-the-numbers guitar-pop routine. Fortunately, it gets better. Danny is a late-’90s gem that glides effortlessly into Join The Club, a riveting doubling down on what made us fall in love with these guys the first time ‘round that hurtles towards a mid-album lull. Blend Inn contains the best and worst of Hockey Dad’s burgeoning career, and will probably prove to be a pivotal moment looking back at the end of a hopefully long road for them as a band.
On her debut LP, Melbourne producer Alice Ivy (real name Annika Schmarsel) mimics her literary namesake with a somnambulant trip down the rabbit hole. Schmarsel says the album’s designed to be listened to in its entirety and she has a point; a couple of instrumental cuts (see St Germain with its mantra-like horns) help unify the various tracks into a coherent, hallucinogenic whole. For the most part it is an upbeat trip, although Get Me A Drink, an ode to drowning your sorrows — featuring dual raps from E^ST and Charlie Th reads — is disarmingly acerbic.
Where previous outings dosed up on the good-time party anthems at almost every turn, NBC fleshes out some straighter rock and makes for a more encompassing listen. First single Get High Like An Angel is one of a handful of tracks that still muck around with horns and some sweet guitar licks, yet, “I get high like an angel,” is sung with such conviction that it’s impossible not to peg it down as one of the straighter offerings. Still, offsetting some of this slightly soulsearching lyricism batshit-crazy guitar and shouty vocal antics make for classic, upbeat Bennies gems.
For some, pop might have a reputation for being shallow, cute and fluffy. But for Abbe May it’s a beloved medium with which she has managed to articulate in ways she never could with rock. She has gradually her old blues-rock incarnation to create an altogether new sound. May’s unabashed fondness for R&B shines through here, not least on the dazzlingly smooth opener. Elsewhere May explores issues of sexual identity, detailing the effects of stigmatisation felt at an early age. Despite occasionally confronting material, Fruit remains a seductively smooth product that all but drips with pheromones.
Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
Nation Of Two
I Oh You
Initially written off as a novelty act, time has proven these Liverpudlian scallywags to be long-term players, but this fourth album shows signs of slowing down. It’s to be expected, really. All three Wombats are now family men living in different cities and that separation has robbed the LP of some of their spunk, with only Cheetah Tongue and Lemon To A Knife Fight threatening to punch a hole in the ceiling as you jump on your bed. Redemption comes via I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do, but ends with a rare question for a Wombats album: Was that it!?
Vance Joy retains the epic, acoustic pop sound he’s become known for here on his second album. There’s little departure from the sound or style of his previous releases. Saturday Sun and Lay It On Me, both with a fun, driving, uplifting vibe, rolling snare and big horns, have a similar feel to 2014’s Mess Is Mine. The range of Joy’s strong, emotive voice is well showcased and towards the end of the album, songs like Little Boy and Bonnie & Clyde truly show off his knack for storytelling and lyricism. Th is is the perfect album to soundtrack a lazy Sunday afternoon or a summer road trip.
DZ Deathrays return with their most mature and accomplished album yet. Bloody Lovely is a Molotov cocktail of pulsating riffs, hardhitting percussion and rambunctious vocal delivery, solidifying their reputation as one of Australia’s most dynamic rock outfits. Lead single Shred For Summer encapsulates the band in a nutshell; it’s the fist-pumping crowd-pleaser we’ve come to expect. But as they’ve proven with each release, it’s not all gung-ho party anthems and screaming, such as epic album closer Witchcraft, Pt II, an aggressive outpouring of stimulating noise with a last minute tempo change.
Bootikins was a nickname Roman soldiers gave to the notoriously hedonistic Emperor, Caligula. Augie March’s sixth studio album is dominated by similarly restless characters, most writhing in the gutters of middle age and staring up at the stars of youth, all the tragic comedy being backed up by rich and dynamic suburban folk-rock. A healthy melancholy pervades the record, particularly in The Third Drink, a shimmering cautionary tale of indulgence. Glenn Richards and co bring their trademark depth and vitality to the studio with the late, great Tony Cohen behind the desk.
Christopher H James
‘First rate... you’ll leave the show smiling’ THE TIMES
BRISBANE POWERHOUSE FRI 23 – SUN 25 MARCH
‘A note-perfect hour’
7.45PM (6.45PM SUN)
QPAC IN ASSOCIATION WITH HANDSOME TOURS PRESENTS
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Queensland Theatre Black Is The New White Stories of star crossed lovers have had more reimaginings, revamps and reinventions than just about any romantic trope. And yet, in the hands of the phenomenally talented playwright and Kiki And Kitty star Nakkiah Lui, threadbare fables of forbidden love still have some surprises up their sleeve. This mercilessly funny new satire, skewering Australia’s busted race relations, takes two feuding families, and asks if true love can trump entrenched prejudices. Set during that most drama-rich of occasions, Christmas dinner, this razor-edged rom-com once again reveals Lui’s superb knack for tackling contentious issues with a tongue in the cheek and a tinkle in the eye – no wonder this show sold out during its premiere season in Sydney last year.
From 1 Feb at the Playhouse, QPAC
The best of the Brisbane Comedy Festival
Urzila Carlson Studies Have Shown The South African funny lady is one of the most popular acts on the comedy scene, perennially packing out houses with punters eager to hear her irreverent take on the world. Her gigs sell like hotcakes, so get your tickets quick sticks. From 22 Mar at Powerhouse Theatre
DeAnne Smith Worth It The legendary Canadian comic and selfproclaimed “gentleman elf” is once again gracing our shores with their quirky mix of classic stand-up with a queer perspective. In this latest show, all things money go through Smith’s wringer! From 22 Mar at Rooftop Terrace
Nazeem Hussain No Pain No Hussain It ain’t easy being Nazeem Hussain. In between nailing international gigs in London, Edinburgh, and even China, and braving bush tucker trails on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, he’s been hard at work on this new show. Don’t miss it! From 16 Mar at Powerhouse Theatre
Damien Power Violent Chaos Anyone? There’s a very good reason why Power’s comedy stylings have earned him three consecutive nominations for the Melbourne Comedy Fest’s Best Show gong: he’s very bloody funny. Expect big-brained gags with a political spin. From 27 Feb at Visy Theatre
Celia Pacquola All Talk The star of ABC TV’s Rosehaven returns to the comedy festival circuit with a brand new hour of stand-up. It’s a little-known fact that it’s physically impossible not to love Pacquola’s gags. Why you ask? Because we say so, that’s why!
From 13 Mar at Brisbane Town Hall 6.
Brisbane Comedy Festival Gala If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the embarrassment of riches on offer at this year’s Fest, this one-stop shop of comic delights guarantees to have your sides well and truly split. Featured acts include Sam Taunton, Des Bishop and Urzila Carlson. On Feb 23 at Brisbane City Hall
B R I S B A N E C O M E D Y F E ST I VA L
Film & TV ★★★½
Lady Bird is now screening.
Reviewed by Anthony Carew
ady Bird famously held a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating for months. This doesn’t mean it’s some cinematic masterpiece, more that it’s a film no one can dislike. Greta Gerwig - who co-directed 2008’s Nights And Weekends with Joe Swanberg - moves behind the camera for a shaggy-dog teen-movie set in 2002, in her hometown of Sacramento. Gerwig wanted the film to “feel like a memory”, but it feels more like a coming-of-age flick: the familiar beats of adolescent rebellion, overbearing mothers, fights with best friends, declarations of puppy love, unexciting first sexual experiences, searching for self-identity, the ever-present desire to get out of your stultifying hometown. The universality of these experiences gives Lady Bird a strong currency of identifiability, no matter the age of the audience. But what makes the film beloved is its eye for odd detail, warm familiarity is shot through with cute idiosyncrasy. There’s “hella” as awkwardly adopted slang. Communion wafers as snacks. Home-
coming slow-dances where kids are instructed to leave a gap between bodies, “six inches for the Holy Spirit”. Parents and teachers who’re depressed, dying, unemployed and, worst of all, forced to sit through terrible highschool musicals. Dave Matthews is earnestly embraced; and the letters Gerwig wrote to him, Justin Timberlake and Alanis Morrissette about using their music now live publicly online. They’re plenty charming, as is the footage of Gerwig on set, yelling directions to stars Saoirse Ronan and Lucas Hedges midmontage-making. Oscar-contender films no longer exist in isolation, but have their meaning and worth bounced through the endless echo chamber of the internet. And, just as Lady Bird is liberal with its charms, Gerwig is a charmer; the modern-day conflation of art with artist being a boon for this picture, and its Academy Award potential. At a time in which even a Star Wars movie can engender hostility and division, Lady Bird is a work of unification.
Hard Sun airs on Seven early February.
Reviewed by Guy Davis
s far as hooks go, the new UK police drama Hard Sun, created by Neil Cross of Luther fame, has one with a dark, hard-to-resist allure. You’ve got your traditional mismatched pair of London coppers - he’s a rough-diamond maverick who gets results, she’s seemingly chilly and analytical (but, you know, also gets results) with damage in her past, and they have to work together to take down various wrongdoers. But the ticking-clock aspect of Hard Sun has a louder tick-tock than usual because our duo has also stumbled onto something top secret: documents revealing that an “extinction level event” is scheduled to end the world in five years. Charlie Hicks (Jim Sturgess, ramping up the geezer act a little too much at times) and Elaine Renko (Agyness Deyn, nicely balancing fragility and steel) come into possession of the highly sensitive intel during their investigation into the death of a hacker, and the extreme measures employed by the agents tasked with keeping the bad news under wraps convince them it’s bona fide.
Any attempt to leak the ‘Hard Sun’ dossier is quickly discredited, and shadowy power-broker Grace (Nikki AmukaBird, making good use of the most threatening whisper in the business) uses means fair and foul - mostly foul - to play Charlie and Elaine against one another in a bid to retrieve the info before they find a way to go public. Cross also folds in a few of his favourite grim themes, which will be all too familiar to Luther viewers: cold-blooded maniacs wreaking havoc in unpleasant ways; dirty laundry used as leverage; morally compromised heroes trying to do the right thing and do right by their loved ones. One could poke plenty of holes in Hard Sun if they were so inclined, but the ingenuity and intricacy occasionally displayed by Cross, the slick style of the directors and the all-in energy of the lead cast and supporting players carry it over the odd rough patch. It’s a good, gripping ringside seat for the apocalypse.
Toeing the line between shock and satire Wunderkind comedian Neel Kolhatkar is all grown up, and so is his comedy. Ahead of the premiere of his new show, Live, Velvet Winter caught up with the former stand up prodigy to talk YouTube fame, being controversial, and coping with trolls.
“I do like to push the boundaries and the line. I like to see how far I can push that line and sometimes I do go over it but that’s the nature of what I do.”
e may only be 23 years old, but Neel Kolhatkar has been a part of the Australian comedy scene for almost a decade. When he was 15 he took out Class Clowns, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s annual national competition for teenaged stand-ups, and since then, he’s gone from strength to strength, racking up millions of followers online and touring the country with solo shows. Most recently, his TV sitcom, Virgin Bush, has been commissioned by ABC Comedy. Never one to shy away from a hot topic, Kolhatkar has built his brand on being brutally honest about topics that most comics wouldn’t dream of touching. He chalks up this fearlessness to his early start, when he quite literally had nothing to lose. “I think, funnily enough, starting so young actually gave me a license to really write without any boundaries. I felt like I had nothing to prove, at the time I wasn’t thinking about it as a career so I just really went for it and wrote about whatever I thought was funny and what I thought was relevant to me at the time,” Kolhatkar explains. “I didn’t hold back and I really think that helped me now. I think I’ve kept that as I’ve gone on over the last eight to ten years. It’s actually helped me quite a lot.” Satirising everything from feminists to “fuck bois”, all you have to do is take one look at Kolhatkar’s back catalogue of online content to see that he’s not afraid to ruffle some feathers. Or, as one anony-
mous YouTube user succinctly put it, “He triggers all.” When I mention this comment, Neel laughs. “I try to remain pretty unbiased, particularly now when we’re in a polarised political and cultural climate. I try to, I won’t say attack but, lampoon both sides on the spectrum as much as possible. Th at doesn’t just relate to politics, I try to take aim at everyone, including myself, especially myself. I suppose I trigger all; I do like to push the boundaries and the line. I like to see how far I can push that line and sometimes I do go over it but that’s the nature of what I do.” As Kolhatkar’s comedy has evolved so has his audience, but not always in the right ways. Scrolling down the same YouTube comments will reveal a tidal wave of “cuck”, “snowflake” and the ever-maddening “libtard”. Th is is not the intended impact of Kolhatkar’s many-layered satire but an unfortunate and frustrating sideeffect, as well as something that has long plagued the comedian. “I’ve thought about that a lot and I know that’s an issue I do have to deal with. There’s really not a lot I can do because I do like to create satire and heavy-handed irony,” he sighs. “I can’t really force my content to be a bit more simplistic to suit some people that might not be able to understand. I strive to create comedy that’s multifaceted and layered to some degree. If they can’t see the irony or satire in some of the things I do, they take it at face value. Hopefully they’re still enjoying it but they’re getting the wrong message out of it. But I like to think they’re the minority and for the most part, people get there’s more to what I do.” Despite what the minority of online trolls latch onto as theirs, Kolhatkar is optimistic about how his audience is growing alongside him. “I was very one-dimensional when I started YouTube. Even though I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it, I know I put out content that would have a hard time going viral today in today’s online media space. I really wanted to get that monkey off my back of being a onetrick pony. At first there was a little bit of backlash from my fans, I think they were a little
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bit confused. But eventually, they came to understand that I do a lot of different comedy. Those are the fans I really appreciate. I might do some of those videos as a throwback because I enjoy them and they’re fun but doing shows is what I’m concentrating on now.” Despite the devil’s advocate position he sometimes takes with his comedy, Kolhatkar maintains that he’s never in it for the shock value. “I wouldn’t explore a controversial topic just for the sake of being controversial, only if I had something unique and interesting to say. Th at’s something I’d like to reiterate because I think there are a few comedians out there are on the brand of, “Oh, he’s controversial.” I really try to say something. There might be some parts that are shocking to the audience but it wouldn’t be controversial for the sake of it. I think that’s the beauty of stand up: you can explore the topics and people don’t immediately switch off because it’s humour.”
Neel Kolhatkar’s Live plays 11 March at Powerhouse Theatre.
Taking off the training wheels Danielle Walker, Sam Taunton and Angus Gordon have climbed the ranks of the keen comic amateurs to become three of Australia’s newest professional stand-ups. Joe Dolan chats to the young talents about leaving the school of hard knock-knocks and becoming certified ha-harchitects.
hile the road to success is a long one for those making their start in comedy, what comes next can be even more taxing. For post-fledgling stand-ups Danielle Walker, Sam Taunton and Angus Gordon — and dozens more like them — graduating from amateur to professional comic means no more messing around. After all, being funny is a serious business. “I’ve probably jumped in far faster than anyone should,” says Taunton, “but I’ve managed not to be called out yet.” Th e Sydney-based comic says of writing his second show, It’s Nice, It’s Modern, “The first show was this build up of good material that I could form into a show that way. But this time, I just had this one little idea, one little bit that I started doing at gigs, and then it’s grown and grown until I was ready to do it as a show.” Walker, on the other hand, is where Taunton was just one year ago. Bush Rat is her first ever solo show, and while she’s rich with material, the Queensland-born comedian knows she still needs to take risks. “I used to get excited about doing comedy because I wanted to get on stage and make people laugh. But now I know that I can do that. The high for me now comes when I write a brand new bit and trying to make people laugh with that,” she explains. Gordon, who took home the coveted Best Newcomer gong at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, is also unique in circumstance: “When I started, I described my style as self-hate erotica. I think the self-loathing has abated now, but my comedy is perhaps, still at its core, an exploration of violence. If there is a difference, it’s one that reflects my growth as a person between 19 and 25.” Though the trio have put in the hard yards, slumming the open mic and unpaid circuits, they assert that the biggest change in their comedy comes from realising the value of sticking to your guns. “It’s about what’s fun for me, too” Walker says confidently. “Like, the silly jokes for me are the most fun. Th ere are jokes that I like that have the hard-hitting punchlines and it really means something, but also it’s not as fun as the image of a pig dressed up inside the Pope-mobile.” Gordon says of his own upbringing in the craft, “I jumped all-in to comedy from the get-go. I would perform or go to gigs to watch every night of the week, so I think it very quickly just felt like, ‘Th is is just what I do now.’”
Conversely, Taunton has an awareness of audiences that many do not initially consider: “When you start out, you don’t really realise that people can laugh and you’re actually not being that funny. You can be funny and make people laugh with something that is genuinely funny and relevant to you, or you can do this sort of trickery with hacky jokes or whatever, and people will laugh, even though you’re not actually being funny,” he explains. “What I’m doing now is what I actually think is funny. When I started I would just do anything that would make people laugh, whereas now I feel like I’m really saying something. It’s all dumb stories but I’m actually saying something and it’s actually interesting.” Gordon adds on this subject, “My first gig went very badly.
“When I started, I described my style as self-hate erotica. I think the self-loathing has abated now.”
I completely froze on stage, like I felt like I couldn’t physically speak for about 30 seconds. But once I got my first, very sympathetic, laugh, I was ok.” While the three are some of the most unique voices in Aus comedy, there are times when even they admit that being true to yourself is not as straightforward as it may seem. “When you start, you are just ripping other people off,” confesses Taunton. “If you’re consuming comedy in that way, you’re always taking things on board, and you get influenced in the same way as any kind of work. But it’s just a lot more visible with comedy.” Gordon laughs, “I write jokes I think would work better for other people fairly regularly,” before adding, “I think comedy is an exploration of who you are as a person, so
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it’s only limiting in the way being stuck in your own body and with your personality can sometimes feel like a trap.” “I think I was lucky in that I never really watched much stand-up before I did it myself,” Walker says of her own journey in comedy. “I think a lot of people are like, ‘I want to be Bill Burr! I want to be Bill Hicks!’ like, why would anyone want a Homebrand version of that?” Taunton says that the antidote to accidental imitation is just good old-fashioned hard work. “There’s no other way around it,” he affirms. “It’s really about the flight hours you put in. It’s doing that apprenticeship, getting up and slogging it every night and getting better and better until you get very comfortable on stage, and you feel like you can just roll with the punches.” Walker agrees, adding, “Because I’ve had the experiences on stage over the last few years, I’m more confident in my abilities. I have the confidence in any new material to go out and do it and know the crowd will most likely back me.” For Gordon, any stray from his original surroundings is a good thing. “I moved to Melbourne for more stage time and I think to try and escape the Brisbane Pokie dens where I started doing comedy. I think in my head I am still playing for workingclass audiences who implicitly understand what I’m doing but are not entertained by it. If there is anything interesting about what I do, it’s that struggle.” As the comedic scene around them rapidly changes, Walker, Taunton and Gordon are able to look back on their passage into their chosen profession and know just how much they’ve changed. For Taunton, it’s simple: “I’m a lot funnier now... I think.” For Gordon, “I don’t think there is a huge difference in tone, but maybe more maturity?” And for the Melbourne-based Walker? “I didn’t drink coffee before, and now I have cold brew in my house.”
Danielle Walker, Sam Taunton & Angus Gordon play Brisbane Comedy Festival from 27 Feb.
Down to clown There’s more to the art of clowning than meets the eye, as comic mavericks Demi Lardner, Tom Walker and Zoe Coombs Marr share with Maxim Boon.
lowns. They’re creepy, scary, and occasionally murderous. But are they funny? You could be forgiven for thinking not, but some of Australia’s brightest comedy talents are here to make you think again. While the red-nosed, big-shoed archetype is what immediately springs to mind when we picture these circus staples, the 21st-century equivalent is an altogether different beast. Take, for example, Demi Lardner. The 28-year-old, multi-award-winning comic, and self-proclaimed “horrid little troll in a boy-skin”, delivers a mercurial mix of zinging one-liners and surrealist theatre, weaving familiar punchlines into a story-driven fabric of character comedy — most notably, a stepdad alter ego named Gavin. “The character stuff is always what I wanted to be doing, so when I introduced Gavin in my last show [Look What You Made Me Do] I saw that as my ticket out of stand-up. I’d really had it with conventional comedy, and I thought, ‘Okay. If this show works out then I can do what I’ve always wanted to do.’ Because honestly, I’m not good at stand-up,” she laughs. “So I saw doing this character, being this old dude, as a kind of ripcord! And now I’ve pulled it, I get to be this big fucking idiot on stage, and I bloody love it!” Absurdist storytelling may well be the zone of comedy where Lardner is most comfortable, but it does come with certain disadvantages. Most stand-ups hone a major hour show through multiple short sets, roadtesting gags and refining their form over several months. But with character-driven comedy and other forms of clowning requiring a complicated and often lengthy setup, the opportunities to test out material are fewer and farther between. So, when Lardner found herself with precious little stage-time to trial her last show, she made a bold choice and rolled out one of her most elaborate skits — Gavin’s secret stash — at the prestigious Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala. “Oh man, that was the most nerve-wracking thing I think I’ve ever done,” she admits. “Like, I hadn’t been able to test it at all before that, because I had no way of fitting it into a regular stand up set. So my only indication that it might be funny was from feedback from mates.” Fortunately for Lardner, the sketch, which involves a lot of scrambling over the audience, was a resounding hit. “It was a big risk, but I’m glad it paid off. If it had gone tits up I’d probably have ripped up the rest of my show!” Another maverick jester toeing a fine line between comedy genius and clinical
insanity is 2017 Barry Award-nominee Tom Walker, who, having studied at the revered Ecole Philippe Gaulier (the highly prestigious French academy of theatre craft, including classical clowning) is Australia’s only full qualified clown. His last show, characteristically entitled Beep Boop, was a cocktail of white-knuckle, freak-eyed physical comedy and barely contained prop gags, with plenty of wincing audience participation for good measure. By any objective measure, his show should have left punters running for the door. But Walker’s sheer strength of purpose and innately hilarious charisma made it one of the season’s most electrifying shows. “I think
“I felt like it was an unfunny joke that I was doing intentionally, and that’s one of the central principles of comedy: manufacture a failure, then save it.” a lot of comedy to me is just embracing silliness. I have this natural born talent where I’m an extremely bad stand-up comedian, so the things I do on stage are really things that I find funny,” he admits. While his training is impressively wellheeled, Walker’s comedy is largely powered by instinct, he insists. “The thing is, I don’t actually know what’s going to be funny. I just have a hunch and I go for it. So, I might buy a prop on the assumption that there’s something funny about it, and then I’ll play with it and try and bring an idea to the stage and try it out. What that actually means is that I have a cupboard at home that is close to overflowing with unfunny, useless objects. But every now and then you happen upon something that is just the right balance of silly and interesting.” In what was arguably the most committed punchline of any show from 2017’s comedy festival season, Walker shaved the top of his head for a visual punchline at the climax of his show. To keep the gambit under wraps, he was forced to wear a beanie through 2017’s unseasonably warm autumn. “My resolution for this year is to make a show that doesn’t ruin my life quite so comprehensively,” he laughs “I did that shaved head bit purely because I was
like, ‘There’s something funny here.’ Then once it was already too late, I didn’t have something funny for it and it was the worst month and half of my life. When I finally came up with the hook of revealing it, it was basically out of pure desperation. But actually, there’s a really great comedy pay off in that. That bit in my show, I felt like it was an unfunny joke that I was doing intentionally, and that’s one of the central principles of comedy: manufacture a failure, then save it.” Despite a strangely believable punchline in her Barry Award-winning 2016 show, Trigger Warning, comedian and theatre-maker Zoe Coombs Marr has not attended the Ecole Philippe Gaulier. But nonetheless, she feels an affinity for the spirit of clowning. After a year collaborating with cabaret firebrands Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott on the infallibly brilliant Wild Bore, Coombs Marr is returning to the stand-up stage in 2017 with a brand-new show, Bossy Bottom. “I started doing stand-up and theatre at around the same time, and there are parts of both art forms that I really love. I’m so attracted to the simplicity of stand-up, but the possibilities of what you can do with an audience through theatre are really exciting. And clowning has a foot in both camps,” she notes. In her last stand-up show, Coombs Marr conjured a chauvinistic alter ego named Dave, using this hyper-macho bullshit artist to lampoon a particularly odious and outdated form of misogyny. But this year, the comic is getting back to basics. “It’s about paring that back and actually being able to just connect a little more directly with the audience. A character acts as a bit of a screen between you and an audience, it keeps you at arm’s length,” she explains. “I’m actually kind of obsessed with the audience. I’ve always been real obsessed with the audience, so this show’s going to be all about them. I actually think of the audience as a weird entity, like it’s my mate or something. I’m always really pleased to see them.”
Zoe Coombs Marr presents Bossy Bottom from 14 Mar, Tom Walker presents Honk Honk Honk Honk Honk from 20 Mar, Demi Lardner presents I Love Skeleton from 23 Mar, at Brisbane Powerhouse
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The train has left the station Staging a farcical adaption of Hitcock’s proto-thiller masterpiece The 39 Steps was never going to be simple. Director Jon Halpin and Production Designer Ailsa Paterson tell Stephen A Russell how they turned four people into a cast of hundreds.
master of cinematic suspense, Alfred Hitchcock’s trail-blazing The 39 Steps (1935), loosely adapted from the John Buchan novel of the same name, is oft cited as the birth of the thriller as we know it today. Starring Robert Donat as Richard Hannay, an innocent man wrongly fingered for murderous treason after the assassination of an undercover spy, it featured cloak and dagger machinations by a mysterious organisation, an aerial pursuit and a daring train escape long before Sean Connery brought Ian Fleming’s Bond to life. But despite its revered cinematic creds, when Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation, directed by Jon Halpin, relocates from a smash hit run in Adelaide to Queensland Theatre’s Cremorne, Brisbanites will experience a drama of a very different tone. “They are two very different animals in their intent,” chuckles Halpin, a stalwart of Brisbane’s theatre scene. “The film was designed to thrill, though there was comedy in it, within the impossible dilemmas Hannay finds himself in. Whereas the play is taking all of that earnestness and turning it on its head and making it hilarious.” Much of that promised hilarity is wrought from four actors — Hugh Parker as Hannay, Liz Buchanan as the three female leads, including archetypal Hitchcock blonde Pamela, and Leon Cain and Bryan Probets as everyone else — portraying a whopping 139 characters with a lowfi array of props and make-shift on the hop scene changes. “There’s a thrill for the audience in that the play is moving faster than the actors can, so they are constantly a beat behind the action, the prop isn’t there or their costume isn’t quite right or they’ve chosen the wrong accent for this character,” Halpin laughs. “All of these are quite deliberate in reality, but to the audience they are hilarious accidents.” Barlow’s re-tooling of the book-turnedclassic movie also upends a celebrated Hitchcock tradition in the red herring MacGuffin. “Which in the movie is the 39 Steps,” Halpin notes. “It doesn’t really matter what that is, but that’s what Hannay has to find out in order to relieve himself of this terror. The real story is the love story between Hannay and Pamela and how they end up together.” In this frenetic stage re-telling, it’s this unlikely romance, with Pamela portrayed
by Madeleine Carroll in the movie, that fulfils this function. “The love story is the MacGuffin in order to get to this ridiculous series of attempts at action sequences,” Halpin says. “Barlow has taken that concept but inverted it for comic realisation. The love story is still there and we play it as truthfully as we can, but it’s a little oasis of calm in amongst this chaos and ridiculousness that happens all around it.” Production Designer Ailsa Paterson has had to come up with some particularly ingenious ways to recreate Hannay’s flight from London to the Scottish highlands in a way that the teeny four-strong cast can conjure from a small revolving set, a plethora of props, smart light and sound design from David Murray and Stuart Day respectively and a whole lot of enthusiastically encouraged imagination. “We’re really embracing those tricks where you see the mechanics of it but through a little bit of theatre sleight of hand we can create quite magical effects with very little technical work,” Paterson says. “People come in not quite realising that it’s a farcical version of Hitchcock and then suddenly realise that a cast of four are playing over 100 characters and it’s a very fun piece.” Perhaps the most visually arresting moment in Hitchcock’s adaptation is Hannay evading police capture by fleeing from a train and hiding outside, clinging to the hulking red-painted steel structure of the Forth Bridge. While the filmmaker shot some location work, his set designers recreated part of the Scottish landmark in the studio for that memorable close-up. Paterson’s take is a little more low-fi, particularly given the Cremorne is a good bit smaller again than Adelaide’s Playhouse, ruling out scenery fly cues. “The premise is that Hannay has been redecorating his apartment, so the stage is going to be littered with a lot of stacked up furniture covered in drop sheets,” she reveals. “So two A-form ladders will have a third straight ladder spanning them, and that becomes the Forth Bridge structure. We’ll get some haze going quickly while Hugh hangs from that.” Fun physical theatre ensues, with Patterson heavily involved in the rehearsal room, plotting out the show’s many swift changes, but always with a flexible outlook deferring to the cast. “Part of the challenge has been designing a set that provides solutions for all of these scenes but allows the
actors to devise a lot in the rehearsal room. It’s very important they have the freedom to create from that playground.” Stoked to have been asked to re-cast the show with a dream Brisbane theatre line-up, and Halpin waxes lyrical about all four, the director says that he’s just as excited staging The 39 Steps second time around. For all Barlow’s humorous tinkering, a Hitchcockian core remains. “You see very radical interpretations of Shakespeare, but the core of those plays can’t be broken,” he says. “They can withstand a lot of tinkering and similarly with this play. There’s still a thrill for the audience and gasps when the reveals happen. People are with Hannay for that journey when he’s the pursued man. That thrill still lives through the nonsense and that’s a tribute to the genius of Hitchcock, and to the cleverness of Patrick Barlow.”
“People are with Hannay for that journey when he’s the pursued man. That thrill still lives through the nonsense and that’s a tribute to the genius of Hitchcock.”
The 39 Steps plays from 24 Feb at Cremorne Theatre.
Leon Cain and Hugh Parker star in this madcap comic take on the Hitchcock classic
T H E AT R E
FEATURED FEBRUARY RELEASES
DZ DEATHRAYS Bloody Lovely (I Oh You)
HOCKEY DAD Blend Inn
(Farmer & The Owl)
CAR SEAT HEADREST Twin Fantasy
The highly-anticipated third album from much-loved Brisbane party starters will no doubt be bloody lovely indeed.
Wollongong rock duo made a huge splash with their debut Boronia and are now ready to take it to the next level.
Prodigious young US rockers go back to the future with a reimagining of their excellent 2011 online only release Twin Fantasy.
MARLON WILLIAMS Make Way For Love
VANCE JOY Nation Of Two
Kiwi-bred troubadour broadens his palette into Roy Orbison territory and opens his heart with incredible results.
Second album from Melbourne Riptide hitmaker puts the microscope on relationships and nails the human condition in the process.
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(07) 3397 0180 sonicsherpa.com.au
Pic: Nice Biscuit
The Mountain Goat Valley Crawl One day, seven venues, 35 bands; it can only mean one thing - The Mountain Goat Valley Crawl is back, baby! Its third year is bigger than ever so get maps up and game plans down, as unless you’ve got a Time-Turner in your back pocket you’re not going to see everything across Fortitude Valley. With that in mind make sure you’re at The Foundry for Nice Biscuit. Their blissful dream-psych boogies would be a guaranteed highlight even without the matching jumpsuits.
17 Feb, multiple venues.
New eats on the street
Ol’ School What’s better than good old fashioned fish and chips? Maybe with a potato cake or a battered sav? Well the blokes behind beloved local Vietnamese joint Hello Please, Maris Cook as Dan Ward, have joined forces with head chef Jesse Stevens to give the classic feed a fresh, fancy twist at Ol’ School down on Hope Street.
The Coop Bistro’s $3 Taco Night The Coop Bistro has launched a (crazy) cheap taco night every Thursday dubbed Bueno Bueno. If the words ‘three’, ‘dollar’ and ‘tacos’ (there are seven options) uttered in quick succession don’t get you excited then we don’t really know what will.
Legobar People have made functioning pancake machines, guitars, chainsaws and amusement parks out of Lego, so really it was only a matter of time before some madman used the world’s top plastic brick to build a watering hole. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until Autumn for the adults-only popup, but get on the waiting list now.
Could Chronixx be this generation’s answer to Bob Marley? Jamaica’s Chronixx (aka Jamar McNaughton) has been hailed as a new Bob Marley — and the saviour of roots reggae. But, as Cyclone finds out, the modest star is more interested in saving humanity.
his summer McNaughton and his band, Zincfence Redemption, will return to Australia behind 2017’s debut album, Chronology — having first toured in late 2014. “The audiences are good,” McNaughton remembers. “It was like being in a different world, kind of. The atmosphere felt different than anywhere else I’ve ever been. So it was nice. I enjoyed it.” Significantly, he visited the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, engaging directly with Indigenous Australians. “It’s a sad thing, whenever I am in a country such as Australia, to know that over centuries the administration of the actual country has just failed miserably to really rebalance the climate — to make it better for the Indigenous people.” The Spanish Town native entered the music industry by following his artist father, Chronicle (Jamar McNaughton, Sr). “Little Chronicle” sang and then produced riddims. He developed a fresh Caribbean fusion of dub, dancehall, ragga, soul and hip hop — shaped by his Rastafari philosophy. In 2011, McNaughton dropped his inaugural EP, Hooked On Chronixx. But, three years later, it was The Dread & Terrible Project that put him in the Billboard Reggae Charts. McNaughton also blessed Protoje’s hit Who Knows, remixed into a drum’n’bass banger by Shy FX. The reggae revivalist has attracted influential fans, including Major Lazer, who showcased him on the mixtape Start A Fyah alongside Walshy Fire. McNaughton guested on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon after the program’s host encountered him on holiday in Jamaica. In 2016, he opened for The Stone Roses (and Public Enemy) at the first of several arena gigs in Manchester, Ian Brown personally inviting him. And McNaughton performed at a MusiCares benefit in New York to honour another buff: U2 bassist Adam Clayton. McNaughton, 25, received a Grammy nom for Chronology. Yet even this precocious musician found his debut a learning experience — and McNaughton’s creative “process” has changed accordingly. “Making that record taught me a lot of patience with myself,” he ponders. “Ever since I released Chronology, I’ve been less active — as far as going into the studio every day to force myself to make music. I was never a person to force myself, but I did a lot of times. Making this album taught me that it’s actually better to co-operate with your own creativity, rather than try to exploit it — be your own field general.”
McNaughton is popular in the wider hip hop community. He’s turned up on both of Joey Bada$$’s albums (and Little Simz’ art grime Stillness In Wonderland). Nonetheless, McNaughton is perturbed by the rampant materialism in hip hop as well as dancehall (he has fronted an Adidas campaign, but a culturally attuned one). McNaughton alludes to a pervasive “ignorance” and “spiritual poverty” — the latter affecting an individual’s selfworth. “My only hope for hip hop, and dancehall, is that it can become a vehicle for more positive vibrations,” he says. “More music that is more uplifting, because humanity don’t need to be pushed down any further in the media — it’s too far down to push ourselves down any further!” Linked to the Rastafari movement, reggae is traditionally about empowering the African diaspora. However, in the dancehall sub-genre, ‘deejays’ (MCs) would introduce contradictory themes — notably that of violence, leading to the descriptor “murder music”. Since Buju Banton’s controversial ‘80s track Boom Bye Bye, dancehall has come under fire from international LGBTQIA+ activists for homophobic lyrics. Last year, Foreign Correspondent’s Eric Campbell investigated that prejudice, tracing its origins to Jamaica’s legacy of conservative Christianity, patriarchy and colonialism. While acknowledging the issue of homophobia, McNaughton maintains that larger systemic inequalities must be addressed first. He sees homophobia as a byproduct. “I think we have some real problems, in that way, but reggae music is one of the only things that can help humanity with these problems,” he reasons. “So we shouldn’t become distracted, trying to figure out things that humanity will figure out on its own eventually.” And, ultimately, that is McNaughton’s message to his fellow artists: to not compound social inequality but focus on positive change. “It’s very selfish, as somebody who is blessed with exceptional talent, to use your resources and your time and your money to deal with certain matters that are detrimental to the general progress of all human beings.”
“I think we have some real problems, in that way, but reggae music is one of the only things that can help humanity with these problems.”
Chronixx tours from 21 Feb.
Group therapy We missed our chance to catch Grouplove last year when illness grounded the outfit. They promised we wouldn’t have to wait long for new dates though and they weren’t wrong. The LA indie rockers hit The Triffid on 9 Feb.
Havana Meets Kingston
This month’s highlights
Best of both worlds
Peter Milton Walsh played his first solo show at The Junk Bar back in 2015 and since then it’s become a bit of a tradition for him. The founder of seminal Brisbane outfit The Apartments returns to the venue this 3 Feb.
Peter Milton Walsh
It’s a Walsh
The 15-piece, Cuban-Jamaican supergroup Havana Meets Kingston are bringing their historic blend of roots reggae, dub and dancehall, son, salsa and rumba to The Tivoli on 8 Mar.
Hear WAAX Local punk rockers WAAX have been deservedly killing it of late and on 28 Feb they’ll be supporting legendary Illinois emos Fall Out Boy at Riverstage. It’s all ages as well, so bring the munchkins.
Obliv large Ne Obliviscaris are coming to town! The Melbourne heavies are touring their recent third full-length, Urn, and they’re planning to stop at The Triffid on 17 Feb.
Scaling great heights Taking over seven of our favourite Fortitude Valley hangouts, Mountain Goat Valley Crawl hosts such an ace array of acts this year that we thought we’d help you out with some sounds to prioritise.
Philadelphia Grand Jury Remember these cats? They scored a rad nickname, The Philly Jays, and are responsible for that ridiculously infectious Going To The Casino (Tomorrow Night) song. After exploring different artistic projects for a bit, the band returned to our ears with a new album Summer Of Doom (2015) and now, as the Philly Jays are bound to sing on the night, “What could possibly go wrong?”.
The Gooch Palms
Miss watching this ridiculously awesome Perth band at your own risk, because they’re definitely going places! Their album’s called Groundbreaking Masterpiece, which ain’t a lie. These legends boast lashings of punk ‘tude and their tunes are not devoid of humour. Just trust us on this one. BOAT SHOW are everything you ever wished for all in the one band and their song Cis White Boy is bound to be a set highlight.
Jess Locke’s Insta description: “Melbourne based sad pop.” If you rate The Smith Street Band, you might also wanna know that Locke is one of their touring band members! The music she plays is jangly, melancholy and contemplative. A perfect breather from the more energetic live experiences, Locke makes music to sway to with arms firmly placed around mates.
We just love those white overalls The Gooch Palms wear in some of their promo pics, which have been customised with handdrawn sexy bits. And we also love the duo’s rambunctious live vibe. If you enter The Gooch Palms moshpit, you may wanna get some steel-capped boots on your feet. Oh, also, guitarist/vocalist Leroy Macqueen once told The Music, “I have a really small dick”.
Mountain Goat Valley Crawl takes place on Sat 17 Feb
Toss the bouquet Looking for a special way to spend Valentine’s with that special someone? Here are a few ways to make sure Cupid’s arrow hits the bull’s eye without resorting to hiring a rowboat.
Big fan of movie dates, but want to blow the
You don’t have to give all of your Valentine’s
Valentine’s is a bullshit day invented by
Financial security? Tight bod? Basic hygiene?
roof off for Valentine’s? Easy as, just head
love to one person. If you’re feeling gener-
Hallmark to raise the cost of envelopes and
Hah! Hah say we! Everybody knows the real
over to Moonlight Cinema where you and
ous you can take your date night funds and
rub salt in singles’ wounds. We all know it.
key to being sexy is a big, fat brain, thick with
your SO can scoff popcorn under the stars.
put them towards Cupid’s Undie Run, a
So instead of blowing your dough on uppity
knowledge and dripping with wisdom. That’s
They’re playing The Greatest Showman
1.5km jog through the CBD to raise money
weeds and a box of diabetes, head to River-
why instead of going to a fancy restaurant or
on Valentine’s, which… is actually kind of a
and awareness for the Children’s Tumour
stage on Valentine’s and communicate your
hiking or showering on Valentine’s Day like
weird choice. Maybe go Tuesday and catch
Foundation. Donate $60 to take part in the
disdain for the whole situation by whipping
those other idiots you should head down to
Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the film that invented
city wide streak on 18 Feb for the rare chance
your head around for a while. American
Queensland Museum & Sciencentre and get
smooching in the rain. Actually Thursday is
to combine good deeds and public nudity.
melodic hardcore outfit Rise Against have
some learning in you. At the moment they’ve
recent hit romance Call Me By Your Name,
Plus, if you’re one of the first 2,000 people on
been kind enough to visit for the occasion
got Perception Deception, an exhibition of
which the best pic Oscar nod.
board you get some free Bonds jocks.
and they’re backed up by Bare Bones, Pagan
“mind melting illusions [and] sensory sensa-
and Berri Txarrak.
tions” that will mess with the way that sexy brain works.
For the latest live reviews go to themusic.com.au
Parkway Drive @ The Tivoli. Pics: Bobby Rein.
The Byron Bay metallers celebrated a decade of their seminal Horizons album with a massive summer tour featuring a setlist of its songs and more.
“Anyone would think their third consecutive sold-out show would be the most sedate of all, given it’s Monday night - not so, seemingly, once the opening chugs of Begin, um, begin.” - Carley Hall
The xx @ Riverstage. Pic: Yassera Moosa
The xx marked one year since the reIease of their I See You album on their Australian tour.
“The xx’s signature twin vocals entwine like lovers’ limbs and are beautifully showcased in Lips.” - Jack Doonar
Joey Bada$$ @ Eatons Hill Hotel. Pics: Bianca Holderness
In town for Melbourne’s Sugar Mountain Festival, Brisbane didn’t miss out when the rapper, still only in his early 20s, hit Eatons Hill Hotel.
“Bada$$ releases the hammer with AllAmerikkkan Bada$$’s Rockabye Baby, spilling his verses like hot coffee.” - Rip Nicholson
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Australia’s #1 music news site
*Nielson audit October 2017
the best and the worst of the month’s zeitgeist
The lashes Front
Margo Robbie Oscar nod
Gadsby the great
Happy birthday Ellen
The croc croaked
Low blow McLachlan
Oz’s Margot Robbie is fast becoming the hottest talent in Hollywood, cemented by her first Oscar nom for the Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya. A mate of Robbie’s posted the moment the star got the news, while in a Sydney nightclub, and we’re not crying, there’s just something in our eyes...
Since Barry Award-winning comic Hannah Gadsby took top gong at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, demand to see her hilarious and heartbreaking show Nanette has been overwhelming. But if you missed it, worry not. Netflix will be streaming the show real soon.
The queen of American talk shows, Ellen DeGeneres, is only bloody well 60! The comedy icon and star of Finding Dory clocked in her sixth decade in January, and we want to know the secret of her youth! Of course, we’re not the only ones: Twitter, quite predictably, also lost its shit.
Cheers and jeers rang out across the internet recently when news of a Crocodile Dundee reboot was announced. Just one problem: Crocodile Dundee: The Son Of A Legend Returns Home, which was purported to star Chris Hemsworth and Danny McBride, was a big fat hoax.
Multiple allegations of sexual misconduct were reported in January by costars of Craig McLachlan in a production of Rocky Horror Show. McLachlan doubled down, claiming his accusers were seeking “notoriety”. Oi, Craig. Time to learn the meaning of “Mea Culpa”.
Plastic surgery addicted Rodrigo Alves, who has dubbed himself “The Human Ken Doll”, but actually looks more like a melted off-brand Bratz doll, has had four ribs removed in his latest surgical stunt. What’s more, he still has the off-cuts, displaying them on UK TV recently.
The final thought Words by Maxim Boon
Political hot potatoes are the new clickbait. You won’t believe what happened next!
elcome to the golden age of outrage. It’s a reaction that has become as familiar a daily fixture as our morning flat white, as each new day inevitably reveals a plethora of shit shows for our scandal-hungry delectation. But such
easy access to outrage is leading to a kind of emotional opioid crisis: as our daily dependency grows our sensitivity to the outrageous is being dulled. Th is has proven a godsend for the world’s most powerful lunatic (you know who I’m talking about), for which it seems to be both the cause of and solution to his many PR blunders. Even as the masses huddled around copies of Michael Wolff’s chronicle of a White House in chaos, Fire And Fury, a reliable stream of Trump brand crazy was quick to steal the so-dubbed “explosive” book’s thunder. Now, a few weeks since the bestseller was rushed to stores in defiance of a toothless cease and desist order, the world has already turned its gaze to the next steaming pile of freshly dumped batshit. Soz Mike, but you’re old news. And, because we live in a capitalist society, demand must be met by supply. Thus, the media have obliged the public’s growing habit by favouring stories that are tailormade to raise the hackles. And who can blame them? Ours is a culture ruled by the meritocracy of big numbers. In an age where self-worth can be carefully quantified and tracked by the number of double taps and retweets, it’s little wonder that ideas are often judged not by their rigour or insight, but by their popularity. Once upon a time, there were a few handy tricks up the media’s sleeve to drive digital traffic and so be deemed the best
at mediating. For a while, it was listicles. Then came the ever so handy headline, “You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!” But in recent years, as various media outlets have become polarised to their respective political margins, the public appetite for such trite gambits has waned, and a thirst for a political pearl-clutching variety of clickbait has taken its place. Consequently, certain spheres of reporting that may previously have been outside the wheelhouse of pop-culture media have now become part of their demographic’s Venn diagram. Th is isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but one recent example of journalistic butterfingers has shone a light on a problematic experience gap in the way certain stories are reported. On 14 January, Babe.net, an online magazine aimed at young women, published a shockingly graphic account of a sexual encounter between an anonymous 23-year-old source, referred to as “Grace”, and comedian Aziz Ansari. Controversy over the lack of journalistic good practice in the piece blew up, smearing all parties — Babe.net, Ansari, and “Grace” — and in the process blighted what could and should have been a vital part of an important conversation. The piece no doubt brought in the clicks even as condemnation swelled, so it begs the question, what, in the era of “Fake News”, is more important: notoriety or getting it right?
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The Music is a free, monthly magazine distributed throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. From local insights and insider knowledge to in...
Published on Jan 30, 2018
The Music is a free, monthly magazine distributed throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. From local insights and insider knowledge to in...