T H E C O M E DY I S S U E Knock knock. Who’s there? More than 600 comedians, that’s who! INSIDE
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Did someone mention Barnaby Joyce?
Assistant Editor/Social Media Co-Ordinator Jessica Dale
oes anyone else feel like they lost most of February to Barnaby Joyce? For a solid two weeks there seemed to be nothing more important than refreshing the Twitter search field for Barnaby Joyce updates. For a full fortnight Australia almost forgot about Donald Trump. I guess it’s good for the Australian scandal industry to support the occasional local political controversy. Like many Australians who were following the Joyce trail, and let’s assume anyone who has read this far is across the gruesome details, it wasn’t the morality of his affair with a staffer that kept me glued to the unfolding saga but rather the hypocrisy of it all and the alleged cronyism. And, the stories just kept coming. There was an overwhelming amount of words being churned out about Joyce. I was reading it all. A seemingly non-stop torrent of thoughtpieces and exclusive reveals. I even watched Parliament Question Time for the FIRST. TIME. EVER. It also marked the deepest dive I had ever taken into Twitter (and I already got accused of spending waaaaay too much time snooping around Twitter threads). I was obsessing over certain Twitter users’ own obsessions with Joyce. On Twitter, gob-smacking allegations were being made that are only now making their way into the MSM (ah yeah, I soon worked out that’s the tweeting shortcut for mainstream media). Most may well have no merit, but it was too late. I just couldn’t look away. I also learnt to admire Australian Twitter. We thumbed global social media tropes and avoided any kind of ‘something-gate’ hashtags. Instead of #Barnabygate or #Joycegate we got #Barnababy, #beetrooter and, the post-Barnaby-affair trender, #bonkban. That’s the kind of Aussie innovation we like to celebrate here. But, y’know, in an artistic form. Th is month we’ve chatted with Vance Joy, Bleeding Knees Club and Heaps Good Friends. And we’re very excited to have also caught up with Superorganism - one of the most talked about new bands of recent times. Their multi-national line-up represents Australia (alongside the UK, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) and they have created one of the year’s most exciting albums so far. Make it one of your first March listens. We also feature the stunning work of Aus photographer Byron Spencer and welcome back expat former editor Kris Swales who has penned an essay about his experience at India’s Magnetic Fields festival. So, hopefully we have enough to keep you occupied now that Barnaby Joyce has slipped to the backbenches.
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This month Editor’s Letter
Millie Millgate Executive Producer of SOUNDS AUSTRALIA,
The month’s best binge watching
Shit we did: psychic life coaching
Bleeding Knees Club, Heaps Good Friends
mental in the growth of Australian music worldwide, having overseen the marketing,
Hockey Dad We grab a nice cuppa and catch up with the surf rock duo from Windang
The Comedy Issue
We get mellow and yellow with five of this year’s MICF headliners
DeAnne Smith, Jean Tong, Urzila Carlson
networking and showcasing activity undertaken at 55 different events in 56 cities, across
Prophets Of Rage, Lowtide, Superorganism
The big picture: Byron Spencer
eating flies when he fell ass-backwards into
Dita von Teese
When comedy gets political
Young stand-ups on the rise
an Assistant Editor position at The Music. He’s looked low-key stressed out ever since. He is also a co-host on smash hit pod-
Arch Enemy, Rag N Bone, Benjamin Booker
Magnetic Fields Music Festivals
All white on the night? We ask four top comics: does Aussie stand-up need more cultural diversity?
Sam Wall Sam Wall was writing stories about brain-
20 countries since 2009.
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird Jim Gaffigan
the Australian music industry at key international music events. She has been instru-
The heroes of ha ha
Millie is responsible for the representation of
cast The Lashes.
Your Town 40 124
Port Fairy Folk Festival
The Power 50
Alannah Maher Alannah is a freelance journalist & writer with
a focus on arts and culture, a strong belief in the power of storytelling, and an insatiable inquisitiveness about the human experience.
The 2018 edition The Music presents its annual count down of the biggest influencers in Aussie music.
Guest editorial: Millie Millgate
Brunswick Music Festival
HOWZAT: Festival Hall
T H E S TA R T
She loves a good yarn and is passionate about taking the cringe out of culture.
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LeJend Jen Cloher is taking her hit self-titled album on the road from 10 Mar. The Melbourne singer-songwriter will start at Perth’s Rosemount Hotel and wrap at Sydney’s Lansdowne Hotel at the end of the month.
Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami
Kamassive As well as appearing at Golden Plains and WOMADelaide, US musician and composer Kamasi Washington will perform intimate headline gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane this month.
Krule intentions King Krule’s pre-Golden Plains tour starts on 5 Mar at Enmore Theatre. It’s his first Australian trip since 2014 and due to overwhelming demand he’s already had to add dates and upgrade venues in Melbourne and Sydney. Kamasi Washington
T H E S TA R T
Locke it in
Jess Locke embarks on the single tour for Dangerous, the latest single from last year’s Universe LP, from 1 Mar. Locke will stop in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, finishing in Perth on 10 Mar.
Comedy giant Kevin Hart has announced he’s coming Down Under with The Kevin Hart Irresponsible tour in December. On his last tour Hart became the the first comedian to sell out an NFL stadium, and this time he’s performing 360º in- the-round.
Stream dreams This month’s best binge watching Jessica Jones, Season 2
Marvel’s shabby anti-heroine is returning to our screens, ready to kick some butt while serving you stank-face. Netflix’s fortunes as far as its Marvel franchises are concerned have been somewhat chequered, with its adaptations of The Defenders and Iron Fist both failing to impress. We’re keeping everything crossed that the return of Ms Jones breaks this losing streak. Streams from 8 Mar on Netflix
Film: Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami Grace Jones: Bloodlight & Bami opens around Australia 8 Mar. Taking an intimate peek behind the curtain to reveal the personal world of a music, pop culture and fashion icon, director Sophie Fiennes’ latest is a must-see.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Season 2
An unrecognisable Neil Patrick Harris easily held his own against Jim Carrey’s iconic cinematic incarnation of Lemony Snicket’s super villain, Count Olaf. In the muchPhase
anticipated second season, Olaf continues his scheming campaign against the beleaguered-yet-brilliant Baudelaire orphans.
While this sounds a lot like Season 1, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
French company MWM have developed a new product called Phase that lets you play and scratch records without a needle or tonearm. Phase wirelessly translates a record’s movements into timecode, which you can then play digitally.
Streams from 30 Mar on Netflix
This musical coming-of-age story from the
Film: Red Sparrow
producers of Broadway mega-hit Hamilton is inspired by the true story of a devoted drama teacher who takes over a school’s failing
Red Sparrow opens nationally on 1 Mar. The thrilling drama sees a prima ballerinaturned-Russian spy and assassin Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) and CIA agent Nathaniel Nash (Joel Edgerton) go head to head.
theatre department. And, yes, we realise this sounds suspiciously like Glee, but expect far grittier and more relatable storytelling in addition to the show tunes and jazz hands. Streams from 14 Mar on Stan
T H E S TA R T
Well cello, Bill
Podcast of the month: Reply All
Bill “Groundhog Day, Ghostbustin’-ass” Murray is coming in November. Along with renowned cellist Jan Vogler, the living legend will do a show that “communicates the bridges artists have built between America and Europe”. Sounds weird. We can’t wait.
Plumbing the depth and breadth of the internet, hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman present wonderfully weird stories about how technology shapes us . You’ll laugh, cry and develop paranoid delusions.
Whole new ball game Bill Murray & Friends
On voyage We’re finally getting a visit from George Ezra after he had to postpone last year’s Antipodean odean tour. The UK singer-songwriter will play three east coast shows starting ting 6 Mar with support from Melbourne’s own Ainslie Wills.
App of the month: Quartz Looking a for an easier way ay to get your world news? Quartz is a “digitally gitally native news outlet”, which means they’ve hey’ve developed a way to deliver current nt affairs - via messages, photos, GIFs and links, ks, etc - without making your eyes es glaze over.
T H E S TA R T
Cub Sport are currently on a massive world tour. They’ll make seven stops around Oz through March before leaving us for North America with their highly acclaimed 2017 album, BATS, featuring certified hits such as O Lord and Chasin’.
Sh*t we did With Maxim Boon
Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins and New York hip-hop duo The Underachievers will hit Australian shores on 24 Mar for their a co-headline tour. The massive double bill will be supported by emerging Aussie favourite Brado.
Psychic Life Coaching Are you a bit of a mess? Are your finances cooked? Is your love life non-existent? The answers to your many woes may be written in the stars – or on the other end of a premiumrate phone line. Throughout time, there have been those individuals who have possessed the gift to divine the future. In times of yore, they may
Into the Woodes
have been burnt as witches. Of course, we now know that witches don’t exist. Psychic mediums, however, that’s a different story. These gifted few can now use their mystic powers to help regular folk like you or I to
Woodes kicks off her east coast tour on 2 Mar. The producer, singer and songwriter will hit Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to share her second EP Golden Hour for the first time with Seavera plus local supports.
figure out our shit and for a measly few bucks we can contact these communers with the cosmos day or night, through the miracle of telecommunications. So, whether you’re having a major existential crisis or just a bit of an off afternoon, a psychic might just be the sidekick to help you shake the funk that’s been keeping you down – provided you have enough credit on your phone.
The Verdict I will admit, that when it comes to new-agey hocus pocus such as this, I’m a bit of a sceptic. But in the interest of fairness, I entered into this enterprise with my mind, and all my chakras, as open as possible. As I dial the number for PTV Australia – the nation’s most widely viewed psychic TV network – my teeth are gritted. I’m connected to Ms Tique, who I’m told is one of the channel’s most popular psychics. Clearly the universe is working in my favour tonight. But far from the hokey, husky-voiced amdram I had anticipated from a tele-medium, Ms Tique is a larrikin delight! “Don’t you worry darl,” she croons down the phone and her
Lek it like that
patter is certainly working as I chit chat about the problems I’m facing (mostly invented, to ensure value for money) in my tempestuous life. I’m prepared to take notes, so I can put into
Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman is back in town on 9 Mar. He’s playing dates with Grizzly Bear, headline shows in solo mode and with his band, and he’ll also stop in at Tasmania’s A Festival Called Panama. Jens Lekman
T H E S TA R T
action whatever the spirit realm deems beneficial, but it turns out psychic life coaching is a doddle. A tarot reading reveals that money is headed my way and my unluckiness in love will soon be over. “You just keep doing what you’re doing, my sweetheart,” Ms Tique reassures me. I haven’t the heart to tell her I’m happily married. Maybe a ghost can Whoopi Goldberg her on my behalf?
Here come the Start warming up your laughing tackle and preapre for a bloody big rib tickling, as Melbourne International Comedy Festival is once again serving up more yuks, chortles and guffaws than you can shake a ruddy big stick at. Anne-Marie Peard, Alannah Maher and Velvet Winter join some of this year’s headliners, Cal Wilson, Emily Tresidder, Tessa Waters, Laura Davis and Showko, for a pre-fest chuckle. Cover and feature pics by Giulia McGuaran.
y her own admission, Cal Wilson has made some terrible decisions in life — from poor relationship choices, to covering her entire face in a moisturiser made from bee venom (only remembering after her skin began to tingle that she has an allergy to bees), to the ‘90s — yes, the whole decade. In her latest stand-up tour, Wilson is tapping into some Hindsight to make sense of everything she’s ever done and asks, “Can we really learn from our mistakes?” “I don’t know if I’ve ever really learned from hindsight,” she confesses. “People say ‘with the benefit of hindsight I wouldn’t have done this or done that’. I feel like you only have the luxury of saying that because we can’t change the past.” One of the most recognisable faces of the stage and screen (with a hairstyle that could rival Rhys Nicholson’s as the most iconic coloured pixie cut in Australian comedy), Wilson’s humour is underpinned by her sharp wit and the curious, hilarious inner workings of her mind. She routinely sends audiences into a frenzy of mirth with her observations about the everyday, family life, and navigating the delightful strangeness of the Australian lexicon as a Kiwi expat; she’s not here to fuck spiders. In her new material, Wilson has vowed to push past her comfort zone. Last year’s tour of Things I’ve Never Said saw her test out this gutsy move to the fanfare of sell-out comedy festival shows around the country. This year, you can expect to see the comedian more opinionated than we’ve seen her before. “I’ve spent a long time not really saying anything that matters to me,” she disclosed. “I’ve realised that it’s far more interesting when you hear how someone really feels about something. I think it’s that vulnerability of saying something truthful.” Drawing on some of the more pivotal forks in the road she’s reached, Hindsight will see Wilson reflecting on the times she wishes she’d spoken up. Tales of some of the more questionable experiences she’s had as a woman sit alongside deliciously embarrassing mishaps as she dares dial up the feminism and address the #MeToo movement and its place in her industry, and further.
I’m talking about stuff that matters more to me I’m rediscovering the joy of performing. I’m just loving being on stage, its such a treat and I just feel so fortunate that I’ve been doing this for years now and I’m still so excited to go to work.”
“There’s a new awareness of people’s behaviour, and you’re starting to see that in the stories that are coming out now,” she said. “I think the spotlight is on our industry because obviously entertainment is the most visible, but this is definitely a moment that I hope is happening everywhere, I hope people are starting to call out other people on their behaviour.”
Emily Tressida “I’ve realised that it’s far more interesting when you hear how someone really feels about something.”
here was a really utopian version of the show where I did this grand speech at the end saying, ‘Don’t worry about your hang-ups, let go of them,’” laughs Emily Tresidder. In the process of developing her latest show, No, You Hang Up, the Melbourne-viaSydney comic found that she’d taken a small concept and evolved it into a far-reaching topic that anyone could relate to. This new hour of stand-up finds the silver lining in the irritants, big or small, that stick in your craw or put a bee in your bonnet. “It started as just dumb stuff that can really irritate you. Some people have problems with public transport, people walking too slowly — those little things that can really ruin your day. It’s about exploring that stuff in a very light-hearted, very fun sort of way. Actually, it’s morphed into just being accepting of these things. I don’t think I would get rid of any of my hang-ups, I’d just like to be better at dealing with them. You don’t want to get rid of what shits you because it makes you who you are, in a sense. And I look at stand-up a lot as an extension of your being.” This is how Tresidder explains her own personal brand of comedy, a unique and malleable style that too often gets tarred by the one-size-fits-all brush of ‘Female Comedian’. “I think it’s an interesting dichotomy because the entire time I’ve been in comedy, my objective has been to be equal. When I first started, if I was on a line-up with a bunch of dudes, I just wanted to be seen as just another person on the line-up. Unfortunately, because it is what it is, it’s not like that. If you are the only woman on the line-up, you are seen as ‘the female comic’ and that’s not
Using storytelling in a cathartic way is not something that is new to Wilson’s comedy. She’s earned a cult following as the Melbourne host of the story sharing podcast sensation The Moth, and her ongoing co-hosting work on fan-favourite podcast The Guilty Feminist has given her a platform to craft the difficult balance of tackling big issues while remaining “funny as fuck”. “For me comedy is a way of dealing with stuff that is unpleasant or uncomfortable, and if you can turn it into something positive then you’ve kind of claimed that story, and turned something negative into a positive,” she explains. The Cal Wilson of today has more trust in herself, her material, and her audience than she ever has before — and it’s going to be a delight to witness. “Now that
something that you can ever get away from.” Having cut her teeth in the intimidating open-mic scene of Sydney, Tresidder has experienced firsthand the kind of culture that has plagued women in Australian comedy. “I came up in Sydney and I think that’s a very bro environment. I found that quite difficult because if you don’t assimilate to be one of the bros then you sort of set yourself up as an outlier. You have to keep your career momentum up in an environment like that. It’s tough.” Despite the setbacks, Tresidder is confident that the tide is beginning to turn, as the Australian comedy scene evolves to be more inclusive. “I think Melbourne is a really beautiful place for that, everyone is trying to make line-ups more equal and recently there’s been more female comics on line-ups than males, which I find really exciting. But it’s definitely harder, I think. It’s difficult, but I think the future of Australian comedy is bright. They’re putting their eggs in the female comic’s basket and that is wonderful.”
Tessa Waters n addition to her new solo show Volcano, Tessa Waters is also appearing in the return of the sold-out-at-so-manyfestivals, sequinned #glasmtavism of Glittery Clittery with the Fringe Wives Club trio. With her unashamed positivity, it isn’t hard to guess why she’s a champion of raising female visibility and awareness. But even though she’s been creating this brand of comedy for ten years, and even though “feminism is so hot right now”, she’s unsure about being branded a “feminist comedian”. “I am a feminist and it’s the foundation of my work, but I am a comedian first and foremost; sometimes I talk about issues, sometimes I talk about farts ... I’m also a queer comedian and a rurally-grown-up comedian.” Waters understands the label “hook” as people wanting to “feel comfortable about you”. While her focus is always her audience’s “joy and enjoyment” and finding what makes
(Left to right) Cal Wilson, Emily Tresidder, Tessa Waters, Laura Davis and Showko
an individual laugh — “it’s like magic” — she wants them to be surprised by their reactions rather than feel comfortable. “I’m really interested in expanding audiences and getting into non-lefty-brunch spaces; having the conversations I want to have behind enemy lines.” She says having a female following is “the best; you feel tenfeet tall.” But she also recalls gigs playing to “blokely blokes” who were “barking at us for the first ten minutes,” but then eventually emerged from Glittery Clittery saying, “I didn’t think I’d like that but, yeah!” and “We’re feminists now.” “They still said ‘great tits’, so it’s baby steps — but they were ok with the tits being powerful.” While the titular character she created for WOMANz (2015) was a “feminist goddess from the stars”, Waters’ work since, including 2017’s Fully Sik, has been more personal. “I consciously made a decision to be myself and see if I could get that same level of power and charisma that Womanz had as myself. I feel like I had more to say as myself.” Volcano includes plenty of clowning and improvisation — Waters’ comedy is joyously physical — but it’s also tapped into touchingly intimate thinking, exploring the comic’s link to her great-grandmother, who saved people from an exploding volcano. “It’s a story of bravery and courage and a woman stepping outside the mould. There are feminist issues in there, but it’s a really funny and stupid show with me being a dickhead for an hour.” She’s very happy being “super silly and super glam,” and knows that it’s “taken me a long time to really nut out my niche”. So, she’s most excited to see an “amazing” shift in how emerging women comedians are telling their personal stories in their own voices: “Even if they don’t know the answers, they are confident about the questions they are asking. It’s like: this is where we play, this is what we do and I can do this. And everyone’s like ‘Yeah! You can do that, and we’re going to come and see it and support it’. “You don’t have to fight so hard just to get in the room. Now you’re in the room and you can fight for what you want to say and figure out how you’re going to say it.
aura Davis is bringing her 2015 MICF Golden Gibbo-winning Ghost Machine back to this year’s festival. With more than a decade’s experience as a comedian and writer, she’s excited by the “trend of these lovely uncompromising female voices” in comedy, but feels conflicted because “female is still considered a genre rather than a gender”. “Imagine how much female comics love comedy” that they choose to do it, she explains, adding that she loves the artform because it creates an “intimacy of personality alongside your views”. But Davis spent her “early-20s in scary bars with scary men doing weird gigs”. Here, she was often the only woman on the line-up, rarely got a “choice spot”, was paid “a little bit less” and she had to “deal with all the punters who tell you that women aren’t funny and that you’ve got great tits, or you just need to shut up”. She’s relieved to
rience in the field - but, by that point, I have their money.” Ghost Machine was followed by Marco Polo in 2016, “a feminist manifesto disguised”, and 2017’s critically acclaimed Cake In The Rain, “a whole bunch of political material and ideology”. Both had the support of the industry, reviewers and paying punters, who she wants to leave feeling “empowered and uplifted” and knowing “they can do something”. “It’s important to me to tell stories about myself from my perspective. It’s important to have my voice - that was so hard to say... But being able to speak on political events from a young-female perspective is important and to talk about deep, human things such as existential crises and mental health and everything from that perspective that we normally see being disregarded.”
“It’s important to me to tell stories about myself from my perspective. It’s important to have my voice.”
“My master said, ‘Don’t copy me; if you copy me you will never be better than me.’”
see that gigs are becoming “a little bit fairer and safer”. Davis is currently working something of a dream job, as a writer on the ABC’s Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell. But Ghost Machine was written in a “desperate dark place”. “I was really struggling with chronic pain I was incurring from a job that I couldn’t afford to quit.” She continued to work in this hotel job and perform shows - a not-uncommon reality for many jobbing comedians. She was getting “really lovely reviews” and a lot of industry support, but was still making a financial loss when she performed. “I would hand out flyers and get stuck in conversations with people saying, ‘But you don’t look funny’. Or more people would just refuse the flyer because of who was handing it out and the fact that it had my own face on it, and people would go, ‘No, thank you’.” This led to Ghost Machine, a show about her own existential crises, performed under a sheet. She also took images of her face and body off her flyers to stop people deciding to see her work based on “an expectation of what a female comic is”. The reaction to the “Ghost... flyer” was noticeably different. “They’d go, ‘Oh, what’s this then?’. I’m sorry to trick them - it’s not a ghost, it’s a woman with a decade of expe-
howko Showfukutei came to standup and performance in her 30s after a career that included a psychology degree, teaching road safety with a puppet at a police station, and working in radio in Japan and Singapore. Her latest show is called Absolutely Normal, which, of course, it isn’t. Such an eclectic professional background has seen Showfukutei clock up a similarly impressive number of air miles;
she’s lived in Japan, Canada, Singapore, the UK and Australia. She began performing stand-up about 15 years ago in London, where she moved to be closer to a Rakugo master she wanted to learn from. Rakugo is a 400-year-old form of Japanese storytelling — from the same period as Shakespeare — where a performer sits alone on a stage. The only way to become a Rakugo storyteller is to be accepted by a master/teacher for a three-year apprenticeship. There are currently only about 1,500 Rakugo performers and very few are women. Showfukutei — who was given her performance name at the end of her apprenticeship — is one of the rare performers who live and work outside of Japan. “In the beginning, it was so hard — just like women in stand-up comedy.” When she began performing stand-up, people would boo, maybe because “women and even Asians were not beca mainstream”, Showfukutei suggests. so m So, like in comedy, women in Rakugo change traditions in order to tell their stochan ries. The stories are “meant for men”, so Showfukutei changed main characters to Show women. “You have to make them laugh... so wom I also l have to change the punchline,” Showfukutei explains, because there are stories with “sexual harassment and discrimination” that came from a time when “men dominated society”. “And jokes from 400 years ago don’t work,” she points out. Although some Rakugo performers maintain tradition, Showfukutei learned to be innovative. “My master said, ‘Don’t copy me; if you copy me you will never be better than me.’” She had to “create [her] own material” and is the only Rakugo performer that uses puppets (that she makes her self) and ventriloquism. With stage outfits that include a leopard-print kimono and with her pink hair, Showfukutei also rejects the idea that Japanese women have to become “beige” and “all look the same” once they are married and have children. Even more unique is how she’s blending stand-up with Rakugo traditions. “In Japan, people say, ‘Don’t talk about yourself; you are not funny.’ But in stand-up you’re taught to talk about your core self”. She also talks to her audience; “In Japan, that’s prohibited.” Showfukutei explains how she moved from telling “basic jokes from Japan”, like knock-knock gags, to using more intimate narratives in her comedy. “I talked about myself and my experience, they laughed — so, OKAY!”. Her next sets were about Japanese toilets, but now her work is much more personal. She talks about her “bad experiences” because some people “have similar experiences and can relate to it and maybe I give them hope or encourage them or make them happy. Nothing is wasted.”
Cal Wilson presents Hindsight from 29 Mar at Victoria Hotel; Emily Tresidder presents No, You Hang Up! from 29 Mar at Imperial Hotel; Tessa Waters presents Volcano from 29 Mar at The Greek Centre; Laura Davis presents Ghost Machine from 28 Mar at The Butterfly Club; Showko presents Absolutely Normal from 10 Apr at Malthouse Theatre.
It must be funny in a rich man’s world Ahead of her long-awaited return to Australia this autumn, Canadian comedian DeAnne Smith talks to Velvet Winter about the last taboo in comedy, the perfect job and blocking out the haters.
would like to see a lot of change.” These are the first words that DeAnne Smith says to me when I get her on the phone. Granted, she’s referencing the fact that we’re technically calling her from the future (sort of) as we catch her, several time-zones behind us, in her home of Toronto, Canada. Nevertheless, the comment holds gravity in an increasingly volatile present. The first thing Smith is doing to facilitate this change is talking about comedy’s last taboo: money. Smith’s new show, Worth It, is billed as a “post-industrial, consumerbased, sustainable comedy show for the new economy.” If this summary seems a little light on LOLs, Smith assures me it’s a topic that’s ripe for standup. “I think for me, as I move deeper and deeper into comedy and further away from the nine-to-five world, I’ve realised how little I personally value money,” Smith says. “I have so many people that have jobs that they hate, because they have to qualify for a mortgage. So part of the idea for the show was kinda to come to terms with the very idea of money.” The comedian has had a distant relationship with the concept of gainful employment, even before she delved into the notoriously unpredictable late-night profession of stand-up comedy. “When I first started comedy I was nannying during the day, which was technically a nine-to-five but it didn’t feel like it ‘cause it was an absolute joy. It was just the best, it didn’t even feel like a job,” Smith beams. “I have this thing I say in my act where there’s a fine line between radical and pathetic, where a friend said to me once in wonderment, ‘You’ve never had a nine-to-five job,’ and I was like, ‘No, but I also don’t have savings or work ethic so there’s also that!’” Those who aren’t as familiar with Smith’s work might recognise her from her ultra-viral 2017 Gala spot that has clocked up a staggering 46 million views on Facebook to date. Simply titled “Straight men, step up your game”, it triggered a cacophony of ‘not all men’ reactions that Smith — in her own way — welcomed. “I think men aren’t used to being criticised at all. I kind of enjoy when those comments do crop up on something like that, because I feel like it furthers my point, which was just: men need to be nicer to women. That was essentially it and there was even a line in it that where I say, ‘I’m not talking to all men, I’m just talking to those of you that are feeling defensive,’ which is really true. However, Smith didn’t let the haters into her world. “Truthfully, I know some people kind of get off on noticing comments, good or bad, you know, some people screencap stuff from their haters and I really don’t engage with it. I’m pretty blissfully unaware; I assume that it’s happening but it’s really not a part of my world. I think about punching up not punching down. I think about that a lot with what I say, so if someone becomes upset it’s usually on them.” Smith isn’t out to offend or enrage, in fact, she steers away from comedy that swings too close to either side of the political spectrum, especially in a post-Trump era. “If there’s any kind of anti-Trump comedy, it’s not going to be edgy or ruffle peoples’ feathers, really. I think that in some ways it can turn into this thing, which is something that I don’t enjoy. It’s less like a comedy show and more like a rally, where someone onstage says something to be agreed with and then everybody in the audience agrees with it, but it’s kind of the dominant view anyway. You know, ‘Gay people should have rights,’ or, ‘Racism is bad,’ and everyone is like, ‘Yeeeeah!’ And it’s like, ‘Of course! Of course, to both of those things.’” Smith maintains that a political stance is not the point of her comedy, but something that can come naturally within the push-pull of the audience. “Tension is inherently a part of the act. Often I’m in front of the crowd where I’m different, so there’s often an automatic tension. I am just me onstage, and that’s a complete and complex person and, obviously, I have a political point of view. But it’s comedy, so we’re all there to laugh and have a good time. I have this swing from the absurd to also having a political point, but I try not to analyse what I do too much.” Ultimately, after wounding man-boys, avoiding nine-to-fives and diplomatically negotiating political comedy, Smith points towards a simple, but very important, reason why Australian audiences need to come and see her in 2018. “I’ve left my little adorable dog at home and the audience needs to fill that gap for me. They need to make it worth it that I’ve abandoned my little five-pound pup at home.”
Live and let live A surprise indie hit of 2017, Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit, is challenging the “bury your gays” storyline all too common in mainstream media. The show’s creator, Jean Tong, tells Maxim Boon about two queer starcrossed lovers who finally get to live.
elbourne boasts one of the most thriving independent theatre scenes in Australia, but that’s not to say that all indie productions are
equally accomplished. Nor should that be the point of this grassroots art; the realm of independent and fringe performance is a space to take risks, experiment and grow from failures. This was perhaps the expectation of Melbourne-based playwright Jean Tong, when her subversive queer musical Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit premiered last year at the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival, serendipitously on the same day, November 14, that the results of the same-sex marriage survey were announced. But
received as a commendable fledgling effort by a novice theatre-maker, the maturity
sophistication of the show wowed critics and audiences alike. During its soldout debut run, it charmed Melbourne’s theatregoers with its no-frills stagecraft and
steeped in a whip-smart critique of the way queer characters are mistreated in mainstream entertainment. The scale of this success took its creator completely by surprise. “I’d expected it to connect with queer members of the audience, especially post-survey. I knew there were a lot of people who were just desperate and needed to hear this kind of story. But I didn’t expect to resonate as strongly as it did,” Tong admits. “I thought the reviews would be a bit like, ‘This is really great... for the community. The show itself is average.’ So, getting some great reviews about the actual material of the show was kind of a shock — but a nice shock.” Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and inspired by the “bury your gays” trope — a common plot point for queer characters in mainstream storytelling that inevitably sees them die in various tragic circumstances — Tong and her collaborators set out to tell a story that actively confronted this stereotype. “As creators, I don’t think it’s enough just to say, ‘This is a problem.’ It’s like, if we actually have the skills to make a show about it, why don’t we?” One of the production’s most powerful assets is its musical theatre format, which according to Tong, was something of a happy accident. “We didn’t really go into the project thinking, ‘Let’s make a great musical.’ It was more that we had a bunch of really talented people who had musical theatre backgrounds, so it happened quite organically: ‘Ok, so I guess we’re making a musical,’” she explains.
DeAnne Smith presents Worth It from 29 Mar at Greek Centre
“But it proved to be a really helpful medium. Because musicals are already so theatrical, we could make it really meta,
we could have a chorus who could comment on the action, but in a way that was fun and immediately engaging. And it also made us really unique — I mean, how many well-known musicals have queer women in the leading roles?” In addition to wrestling with the “bury your gays” conundrum, Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit also challenges another major shortcoming of the mainstream depiction of the queer community: the lack of people of colour. With just one white cast member, Tong aimed to “flip that tokenistic role that a lot of people colour are expected to play.” “The group I made the show with, This Colour Nation, had made another show about the lack of diversity in the theatre scene called, The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being. But that was a show that critiqued the lack of people of colour, so innately, it became a show about whiteness. So with Romeo, we wanted to make something that took out
Study buddy South African-born, New Zealand-based Urzila Carlson is one of the most perennially adored acts of MICF, and in her latest show, she’s taking aim at the world of pseudoscience. Alannah Maher joins the comic in the fifth toilet cubicle.
rzila Carlson has some very strong feelings about the phrase “studies have shown”. Firstly, she is yet to ever hear these words announce something that doesn’t sound completely ridiculous (“Studies have shown your dog is happier than your cat!”). Secondly, she is very concerned about who on earth is actually conducting some of these so-called studies. Especially the researchers who studied the effects of cocaine on honeybees — “I mean, how do you even cut a line for a honeybee? ...Surely that is not consensual?” In her latest tour, Urzila is taking aim at “studies have shown” and tearing down the utter ludicrousness attached to this dubious area of science. However, she does have some suggestions of her own for studies, even factoring in multiple variables when completing her own research on which cubicle in a row of available public toilets is the best one (it’s always the fifth cubicle, by the way). She is yet to discover, however, what kind of animal raises someone who chooses to take the cubicle right next to yours when all the others are free. A favourite regular ring-in in Australia, this effortlessly likable South-African-viaNew-Zealander has already sold-out five Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows since making her comedy debut in 2008 on a dare. While her endless string of sell-out headliners and penchant for popping up on every other television panel show
Margot Tanjutco and Louisa Wall star in Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit
the question of whiteness altogether,” Tong says. “Because, in all honestly, we thought, ‘Fuck it. What do we want to talk about if we don’t want to talk about race? That is all we get asked about. So that cross-pollinated with the ‘bury your gays’ idea, and when those two concepts collided, it became this really uplifting process of telling a story about queer women, who fall in love. And they actually get to live this time.”
Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit plays from 28 Mar at Malthouse Theatre.
on the box could be enough to make other comedians squirm with envy, Urzila’s success is far from effortless. She wrote Studies Have Shown while in the midst of touring one show and dreaming up another. “Writing comedy is a lot like making a little wooden keychain,” she explained. “It’s a good keychain, but a little one. You cut down an entire oak tree for it, and then you start whittling away at it... then eventually you’re just stuck with this little two-centimetre by half-a-centimetre key chain.” Not one for “muddying the waters” by testing new material in dribs and drabs, Urzila will only ever debut a show in full. No matter how silly the premise of the show may seem, a take-home message is never something that gets lost in the offcuts. “I’m in a very privileged position to talk to a lot of people almost on a daily basis. So I always try to include something good for you, it’s almost like your mum putting vegetables in your favourite food, and you don’t realise until you’re older,” she said. She isn’t afraid to get personal. In her last show, Carlson spoke candidly about pregnancy loss and the grief (and eventual joy) she and her wife have experienced. Th is year, another taboo issue will find some visibility amongst the jokes. “My job is to make sure they the audience have a good time and forget about their troubles for that hour... But then if I can sneak something in, some spinach in the meatballs, then why not?” Urzila’s warmth and positivity has gathered her not only a solid fan base, but an army of strangers who just want to be her friend. “I get hugged a lot,” she disclosed, and she couldn’t be happier about it. “I used to work in advertising where nobody was happy to see anyone in the morning. We were happier about our coffee machine than about each other. Now people are genuinely happy to see me, I can see their faces light up, and it’s the best!”
Urzila Carlson presents Studies Have Shown ?from 29 Mar at the Forum Theatre.
It’s time for some comedy comebacks
A beginner’s guide to MICF
Last year was a great MICF season, but sometimes, even our best comedians need down time and in 2017,some of our fave funny people dropped a BRB. But don’t worry, comedy fans, they’re back!
New to the joys of navigating the nation’s biggest comedy festival? Don’t worry, this ain’t our first rodeo! Here are our pro tips for getting the best from the fest.
Kitty Flanagan: Smashing While Flanagan was on deck to host the MICF Gala (and a ripper of a job she did too), she didn’t have a solo show at last year’s MICF. So, as you can imagine, we’re chomping at the bit to see her latest hour of stand-up perfection, in which Professor Flanagan will be schooling her audience on everything from love songs to sex, chimps, algorithms, clowns and physics! What’s more, she’s been touring the show for a few months now, so by the time it rolls into town, it’s sure to be a well-oiled piece of precision comedy engineering. We reckon this is likely to be one of the best shows of the season, so get ye to the box office (or at least log on to the MICF website) before all the tickets get snapped up.
Take the flyer Of course, you’re going to want to catch the big, famous headliners – there’s a reason why they’re so damn popular: they’re fucking hilarious! But don’t forget the little guys. Outside Melbourne Town Hall or around Trades Hall, you’re likely to have someone, with a slightly manic look in their eyes, thrust a flyer at you. Take it, and go to the show. Yes, you might see something that’s a bit rough or in need of some polishing. But you might just see the show that wins Best Newcomer. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
From 10 Apr at the Athenaeum Theatre
Zoe Coombs Marr: Bossy Boom
Check out the small spaces
In 2016, Coombs Marr spit our sides with the awesome hilarity of her gender-bending masterpiece Trigger Warning, and picked up the coveted Barry Award in the process. Last year, she spread the love by joining forces with cabaret icons Ursula Martinez and Adrienne Truscott, creating Wild Bore, a genre defying thesis on the nature of modern critique (it was way funnier than I’m making it sound). 2018 sees this genius of Australian comedy make her return to stand-up, albeit with a very different vibe to the award-winning character comedy of her last two solo outings. Expect Coombs Marr playing nothing but Coombs Marr: shut up and take my money, I say!
You would be amazed at how resourceful the venue boffins at MICF can be, with just a couple of trips to Bunnings, a slightly elastic attitude to what constitutes “too warm for human life,” and a handful reasonably roomy broom cupboards. There are heaps of pop-up comedy clubs wedged into nooks, crannies, crevices, cracks, and all manner of surprising spaces across the city, and they are well worth checking out. Some of last year’s best gigs – shows like the incredible Aaron Chen’s The Infinite Faces Of Chenny Baby, Erin Hutchinson’s Please Come Closer, Don’t Touch Me, or Claire Sullivan’s I Wish I Owned A Hotel For Dogs, took place in venues such
From 29 Mar at Melbourne Town Hall
as these. Don’t miss out because you’re a size queen, ya feel me?
Celia Pacquola: All Talk Laugh (even if it’s not always funny)
Spare a thought, dear reader, for Pacquola’s poor mantle piece, which must be groaning under the weight of the shedload of comedy awards she’s picked up during her stellar career, including top gongs from MICF and Edinburgh Festival. Last year, Pacquola was busy working on her utterly brilliant TV show Rosehaven, alongside everyone’s favourite ranger, Luke McGregor. Luckyfor us, she’s finally found the time to get back to live performance, and we cannot wait to hear every syllable, consonant and glottal stop of All Talk. So far, Pacquola’s publicity is keeping up the mystique, with very few beans spilt about what we can expect from the show. But seriously, who cares? Whatever she says, it’s guaranteed to be hilarious.
MICF is the World Cup of comedy, but that also means that some teams go out in the qualifiers. Ok, I’ve taken this metaphor as far as it will go. My point is, you may just catch a comedian on a night when the jokes just ain’t landing, and there is nothing so awful as a silent stand-up gig. So, be kind, crack a giggle, and remember, it ain’t as easy as it looks. All comedians, even the creme de la creme, have bombed at one time or another. So don’t be that guy who heckles someone when they’re off their game. That’s like stomping on a pillow case full of puppies,
From 28 Mar at The Comedy Theatre
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Seven Gaﬃgans for the price of one US comic superstar Jim Gaffigan is all about keeping it in the family. Ahead of his nationwide tour, he chats to Joe Dolan about travelling with his wife and five kids in tow, the nuances of comedy and writing jokes with his better half.
“Obviously, I want to come back to Australia as much as possible, and part of that is about making sure audiences leave going, ‘I want to see him again.’”
merican comic Jim Gaffigan is the quintessential family man. So much so, he’s bringing his children down to Australia with him for his national tour - all five of them. “Oh, it’s chaos,” he laughs of touring with the full complement of the Gaffigan clan, “but I don’t want to be away from them. I think it’s totally worth the one billion dollars or whatever to bring them down. I feel like this time we’re doing it right. I mean, you can’t do Australia right in the time that I’m going to be down, but I’m really excited. We’re going to the Barrier Reef, and the kids are excited to see a kangaroo and hold a koala. It’s very exciting to come down with my family.” Gaffigan’s wife Jeannie is also along for the ride, providing more than just moral support. The pair have been working together on the comedian’s material since the early stages of their relationship, and she’s now an integral part of Gaffigan’s creative process. “It’s a secret weapon,” he boasts of their unique bond. “I think all comedians are very self-contained, so a secret weapon is this additional point of view on topics. You know, having just one more insight on a topic is invaluable. She’s amazing at the editing, too. She’ll see a part of my act and go, ‘Th is is confusing, you’re saying it like this when you really mean it like this.’ It’s like having your own personal director.” He also says it was an instinctive move to write together. “We were dating, and I was on a television show where I had quite a big acting part, and she was kind of assisting me and coaching me in that. Then she started coming to my shows, and there was this shift that naturally occurred where we started talking about ideas and it became
very apparent that we were this partnership in writing as well as in life. Particularly in my second stand-up special, she was pregnant with our third or second kid, and I was just constantly drilling her with questions and ideas. It would be dishonest for me to say that we aren’t writing partners as well.” Gaffigan also says of what his wife brings to the table, “The collaboration, it all becomes a bit of a blur. She might have an idea that I might execute on stage, or she might have an improvement on what I have written. There’s nothing completely self-contained with us.” Gaffigan is somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to comedy, a trait hard to avoid after over 20 years in the business. However, the stand-up is always ready to move with the times. “It’s interesting,” he says of his evolution as a comedian, “because you could talk to one person and they’d say, ‘He does stuff about food and being lazy,’ and another person might go, ‘Oh, he talks about his kids all the time,’ and then it could be something totally different again to someone else. So the topics are always evolving, and now I’m on my seventh hour of stand-up, so the contributions are varying. “But different audiences are capable of different collaborative experiences, you know? Like, I live in New York in the city, so I’ll play a lot of clubs, then I do shows in Brooklyn that used to be called ‘alternative shows’ but I don’t even know what they’re called now... Anyway, those shows would sort of purify the material and clean up some of the stuff that, to be honest, I didn’t really want to say anyway.” Gaffigan is also acutely aware of the finer details in comedy, and how much changes when he goes around the world,
saying, “It’s impossible to make a show completely international, you know? I’ll be thrilled if I have my first show and I hear myself say something and know that the reference doesn’t work. Then I’ll adjust it for the second show, and it’ll be clarified. Obviously, I want to come back to Australia as much as possible, and part of that is about making sure audiences leave going, ‘I want to see him again.’ “Sometimes it’s about the language surrounding something, or the brevity of something, and that’s the powerful thing to a joke. In English-speaking countries, that’s what can become crumbly. There’s Comedy a musicality to comedy, and throwing in that other version, that translated version, can change the musicality of how it flows. It can be awkward to them as an audience and to you as a performer. But I’ve been doing this long enough now that those misunderstandings and miscommunications can be an opportunity as well. It can mean I can learn from it and can even be a funny moment of authenticity. I think I was nervous initially, addressing that change. I was like, ‘How do I go about confronting these issues,’ you know? “Pay some up-andNow, I don’t know if it’s confidence or exhaustion, but I’m havcomer to take the ing a good time.” bullet for you.”
Amos Gill What’s the best way to warm up the crowd at a gig?
Where Have I Been All Your Life plays from 29 Mar at Chinese Museum Laundry Room
Jim Gaffigan Live plays 2 Apr at Melbourne Town Hall
Down to clown There’s more to the art of clowning than meets the eye, as comic mavericks Demi Lardner, Tom Walker and Neal Portenza share with Maxim Boon.
lowns. They’re creepy, scary and occasionally homicidal. But are they funny? You could be forgiven for thinking they’re 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 multi-awardwinning 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 storydriven 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 standup,” 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. I bloody love it!” Absurdist, highly physical storytelling - the favoured medium of the traditional clown - 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 show through multiple short sets, road-testing 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 decision and rolled out one of her most elaborate skits - Gavin’s secret stash - at the prestigious Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala, in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 people. “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 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, where training in classical clowning is part of the curriculum) is a fully qualified, accredited, card-carrying clown. His last show, which had the characteristically nonsensical title Beep Boop, was a pungent cocktail of white-knuckle, freak-eyed physical comedy and barely contained prop gags, with plenty of wincing audience participation for good measure. Walker’s comedy stylings are extreme to say the least and, by any objective measure, his show should have left punters running for the door (in fact, Beep Boop did indeed feature a running counter for the number of walk-outs during its Melbourne Comedy Festival run). But thanks to Walker’s sheer strength of purpose and his innately hilarious charisma, Beep Boop stood out as one of 2017’s most electrifying and original comedy shows. And the secret of Walker’s near-inexplicable success? “I think 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 onstage 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 addition to his clowning creds, Walker is a notably skilled improviser, a talent he has put to excellent use as a cast member on the Australian franchise of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. His solo outings, however, have required a far more meticulous level of preparation. 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 (quite literally), 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-a-half of my life. When I finally came up with the hook of revealing it, it was basically out of pure desperation. But actually, 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.” Josh Ladgrove has taken his unique brand of character comedy to another level altogether, letting his anarchic alter ego Dr Professor Neal Portenza become the only persona he now unleashes on stage. “I think all comedians play a character, but it’s usually yourself playing an amped-up version of yourself,” he observes. “I was doing the same thing - Josh as Mr Fire or Mr Slow-Motion. And I had all these crazy ideas swirling around my head, but I just wasn’t sure how to make those characters work as myself. So, back in 2010, I got the idea [of] creating this weird little alternate personality, which kind of came together in pieces. Like, my mum bought me a red beret and I thought, ‘Oh, it would be funny if I looked like an old-school villain.’ A while later I lost my voice a bit and it got this raspiness to it, and my friend thought that was pretty funny, so I incorporated that into Neal. I think there’s a case to be made about using character comedy as like hiding behind a mask, but now a lot more of myself comes through. Neal and Josh are pretty much the same person.”
Tom Walker presents Honk Honk Honk Honk Honk from 29 Mar at ACMI Studio; Demi Lardner presents I Love Skeleton from 29 Mar at Victoria Hotel; Neal Portenza presents Fafenefenoiby II: Return Of The Ghost Boy from 29 Mar at Melbourne Town Hall
Comedy 101 with:
Neel Kolhatkar What’s the secret to writing a really killer punchline? “It should be layered and zesty like a fine dessert.”
Neel Kolhatkar LIVE plays 21 Apr at The Comic’s Lounge
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This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a giggle Joe Dolan finds out how Arj Barker, Wil Anderson and Andy Zaltzman make comedy while the world seems to crumble around us.
Comedy 101 with:
Becky Lucas What’s the best way to handle hecklers? “Date them, make them fall in love with you, then tell them you were kidding. It’s a long game but it’s the only way they’ll learn.” Cute Funny Smart Sexy Beautiful plays from 29 Mar at Melbourne Town Hall
ouis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World would’ve been a much harder sell were it written in 2017. From Trump to Brexit and everything in between, each passing day feels like another step towards a real-life episode of Black Mirror. If laughter is really the best medicine, the pill is getting harder to swallow and its ingredients harder to cultivate. With the Melbourne International Comedy Festival on its way, Arj Barker, Wil Anderson and Andy Zaltzman are here to try and make sense of it all. While many are looking directly to politics, Barker is taking a slightly different approach. “I think I mention Trump once in this new show,” he confesses, “but I think it’s just generally accepted that he’s the joke. It’s a scary joke and it has some potentially terrifying consequences. I think it’s a little played-out to make fun of him. I kind of assume that 99% of my audience has a similar feeling, so I try to look at everything else out there. Th is
“”When something funny happens, like a political something funny, we treat it with the same importance as an actual political issue.”
show is more about how I’m taking a look at the increase in technology in our lives and how it’s affecting us. That sounds really dry but I’ve made it funny, don’t worry. It’s really about how technology is fucking us up, really. “Th is show covers a few things but one of the larger sections is about how we’re becoming more impatient and demanding and entitled. Basically, it’s how humanity has become shittier thanks to all the convenience that we have. That’s part of the fun though, too, is laughing at all that. Like, even five years ago you’d have been delighted if a taxi showed up in under 15 minutes, now if Uber says it’s going to be more than seven minutes it’s a whole catastrophe.” Anderson, on the other hand, is largely concerned with how our obsession with information is blindsiding our necessity for truth in the news. “We live in a world where the media in particular — and a lot of social media and the things around that — has lead to the point where everything has to be an outrage,” he says. “We see it now with all sorts of movements, you know? Jon Ronson wrote an entire book about it, on dealing with this whole new world where the speed of our public debate has just been ramped-up incredibly by social media and the change in pace by the broader media. What that has lead me to, I think, in a comedic sense, is that when something funny happens, like a political something funny, we treat it with the same importance as an actual political issue, right? So Donald Trump is a perfect example of this, where people
treat this general sweeping statement he makes or something — calling himself the smartest person ever, that kind of thing — they treat it with the same intensity as when he’s accused of sexual assault. They equate the idea that he might’ve colluded with a silent power, or [been] accused of corruption, with some dumb comment about a law or whatever, because we need to feed this media cycle at the same level all the time.
For British satirist Zaltzman, political comedy is made just that little bit clearer by stepping back and disconnecting himself from the international issues. “There’s an element to all that where being an outsider is a very strong comedic position,” he attests. “If you’re coming from the outside to look at politics, to look at things in a different angle, that will give you a different perspective, but you do need to know enough about it and know how to pick the right stories. Without living in a country, you can’t fully understand its politics but there are elements of it that might strike you as absurd or curious. “Of course, you don’t want to go wading in preaching to people about their politics and policies unless you are fully apprised of what is going on, which is quite hard as an outsider. But I think to bring a different perspective on a political situation — because you have an independent voice, you don’t have that sort of baggage of being involved in the country’s politics or having taken a side in it. I mean, you can see it a lot in American satire, now. John [Oliver] as a British voice, Trevor Noah as a South African voice — they’ve brought that outsider view that always gives an interesting comic perspective.”
Arj Barker presents We Need To Talk from 29 Mar at Melbourne Town Hall; Wil Anderson presents Wilegal from 28 Mar at the Comedy Theatre; Andy Zaltzman presents Right Questions, Wrong Answers from 10 Apr at Melbourne Town Hall
All white on the night? Stephanie Tisdell Comedian and member of Aboriginal Comedy Allstars Hopefully, Hope fully, tthe scene is changing. But to me, it’s still very lacking in diverse voices, and specifically, as far as Indigenous representation goes, that’s what’s incredibly low in my opinion. My manager just manages Indigenous artists, and I remember her saying to me once, “Tokenism is only tokenism until it isn’t.” I suppose that’s what it’s all about and that’s why it’s important to have comedians who are prepared to grasp that tokenism to make a point of how it still exists and that it shouldn’t.A big thing for me, is that I represent a story, and it’s an Indigenous story that doesn’t get told much but is very common. So, I think it’s really important not to make any difference between comedy that’s maybe aimed at a white audience and comedy that’s for a black audience. The entire point I’m trying to make is that it’s a difficult line that you walk with one foot in each culture and each race.I’m proud of my Aboriginality, but when I first started out, I was terrified to talk about being Aboriginal. I grew up in Brisbane and I was very aware of the fact that I didn’t have all the answers even though I still wanted to engage with all the questions that people ask you about this and that. I was like, ‘Fuck, I don’t know!” all that kind of shit. So when I first started out, I didn’t want to talk about it because I was fearful of tokenism. And it was only once I did Deadly and got to see what the other acts were doing and what they were saying, that I absolutely fell in love with the platform. And it was after Deadly when I got to go and perform in Scotland, I realised that the uniqueness that I have is an understanding of both sides, of having lived it. That’s how I began to feel a lot more confident about talking about g abo ut my culture on stage.
Nazeem Hussain Comedian There is growing gr diversity on the Australian comedy circuit, but I think the biggest change is in the audience for comedy, who have become incredibly diverse. I think that’s because there are more and more comedians of colour that they can identify with.Personally, for a long time, I never really thought about comedy or stand up because I didn’t see people that looked like me doing it.Naturally, I hope diverse audiences are coming to my gigs because they think I’m funny and that I tell good jokes. But if I’m honest, I’m sure being ‘ethnic’ and looking like them plays a role, in that people come to my shows in the hope that I may tell stories or jokes that they can relate to. There’s something deeply profound and powerful when artists of colour, people like Candy Bowers or Nakkiah Lui, strong black women who are funny, politically uncompromising, and not passive in the least, can also make people think about themselves and the parts of our society
that are problematic.You can’t leave one of their shows feeling the same. They are performers with something they need to say. More than just getting something off their chests, their material is lived and visceral, and you can’t help but feel more than just amused by watching them and being in those audiences.Stand-up is still, I guess, a very whitedominated thing. For me, often when you see a person of colour perform, you feel like they’ve been waiting their whole lives to be able to get that material out. To have a platform to be angry, and own a narrative, on their own terms, without being interrupted or told to be polite. And even if the material isn’t polished, the response from audiences to that sort of authenticity is loud, and it really feels cathartic for everyone. It’s kinda the same vibe you get at a rally or a protest where it’s positive, and you know you’re finally amongst other people who get it, and don’t make you yo ou feel crazy for having your ‘radical thoughts’ ts’.
Once upon a time, “comedian” was a profession almost exclusively for straight, white men. Over time, this bias has receded, and today, Australia’s stand-up scene is a far more inclusive space, where female voices, queer voices, and the voices of comics old and young offer LOLs to suit just about any taste. But does Australian comedy still suffer from a lack of cultural diversity? We asked four of the country’s top comics to give us their personal take on the shifting status quo.
Matt Ford Comedian and one half of Aborigi-LOL There ere’ss not a lot of pathways for young comics from diverse background coming up though the scene to get exposure; it’s still hard to get Aboriginal people to go out and do stand-up comedy at an open mic level. Obviously, it’s easier to get them to go out and do competitions like Deadly Funny, but if they don’t win, even if, you know, they did pretty well, they don’t seem to pursue it at even an amateur level as hard. And I understand that, because your average open mic in a capital city is pretty white dude centric - it’s intimidating.That said, most of my best friends in comedy are white dudes, but that’s because when I started doing stand-up comedy, I won the MICF’s Class Clowns, not Deadly Funny. So I was already initiated into mainstream Aussie comedy before I even knew that my Aboriginality could have anything to do with my stand-up. I did eventually take part in Deadly Funny after I’d been doing comedy for about four or five years. But once I started doing it, I realised that a lot of my friends in comedy would probably be like,
“You don’t want that to define your career, your Aboriginality, as people will see a tokenistic thing to do.”In fact, what I realised is that my Aboriginality is something to be really proud of. I don’t care if anyone thinks it’s tokenistic because I love my culture and I love my comedy so why not fuse them together? There is definitely a change for the better, just generally in Australian culture. I think that the Australia Day conversation felt different this year. But we’ve still got a long way to go. You know, the change-the-date debate goes on to the point where the 20 days leading up to Australia Day becomes just as, if not more, hurtful than the actual day itself. And as a comedian, it’s still difficult for me to engage with that, even though these conversations are about my culture. Like I have one joke, one simple joke, and it’s not an overly political joke about Australia Day, but as soon as I bring up the topic, especially this year, people in the audience are just, they’re like, ‘Oh, don’t go there, don’t go there brother’. ther’.
Wes Snelling Producer Education and Development Programs for MICF What I’ve se seen through producing Class Clowns, which is MICF’s teenage comedy competition, is that the people who are coming up through the ranks of Australian comedy are coming from hugely varied cultural backgrounds, so creating platforms that help these diverse comics reach a wider audience is key.In Melbourne, we can easily access other cultures, because this is such a multi-cultural city. But what’s really exciting for me is that feedback on our Roadshow programme, which tours comedians out of the city, shows that regional audiences also want to hear more from comics with different perspectives, and hear stories from different cultures.Of course, it’s a gradual process, but the cultural make-up of Australian comedy is definitely changing and growing, which makes programmes like Deadly Funny, for example, really rewarding. Creating platforms for people that may be overwhelmed initially by the idea of stand-up, and for audiences who may not be familiar with certain cultures, is how we support the development of a more diverse comedy scene in the future. And it’s also important that we create a nurturing scenario, where there are stepping stone opportunities for developing comedians to potentially have a career in comedy in the long term.As ever, MICF is about celebrating talent, and I keep coming back to Class Clowns, a competition judged purely on the calibre of the performances. Over the past few years, consistently we’re seeing a fantastically diverse range of comedians of different cultures, genders, personal experiences. Comedy is about telling stories and stand-up comedy, in particular, is about talking from what you know, and that’s why I love the medium itself, because it offers a way to engage with another person’s experiences. nces. And I think audiences are hungry for that.
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 standups 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.” The 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. There 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 allin 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, ‘This 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. I
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 working-class 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 Melbournebased Walker? “I didn’t drink coffee before, and now I have cold brew in my house.”
“When I started, I described my style as self-hate erotica. I think the selfloathing has abated now.”
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 it’s only limiting in the way being stuck in your
Danielle Walker presents Bush Rat from Mar 29 at the Vic Hotel; Sam Taunton presents It’s Nice, It’s Modern from 29 Mar at Melbourne Town Hall; Angus Gordon presents Stand Up (Aquatic) from 29 Mar at the Chinese Museum.
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with special guests LEAH SENIOR & EMILY ULMAN
Robust backing for Australian artists has seen the local music economy boom. Now it’s time to double down Millie Millgate, the Executive Producer of SOUNDS AUSTRALIA, believes the Australian music industry is in rude health. But this is no reason to be complacent. To ensure the continued success of Aussie musicians, thriving both at home and abroad, the sector needs further investment to build on a rock-solid foundation.
ometimes I wonder if it’s just a by-product of the perpetual cheerleader role that we play at SOUNDS AUSTRALIA. Presenting and promoting Australian music to the world and our need to consistently be positive and upbeat (pardon the pun) means we believe everything is just great. Turns out that’s not the reason. It’s because things genuinely are. The profile and growth of Australian music over the last decade has been amazing to watch and an even greater joy to have experienced. Need a snapshot? Here’s just the icing. Alex Lahey, Alison Wonderland, Confidence Man, Middle Kids and Tash Sultana have been amongst first announcements and will be hitting iconic festival stages across the world including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Governors Ball in coming months. Alice Ivy, Childsaint, Divide And Dissolve, Hatchie, Jade Imagine, Jess Ribeiro, G Flip, Gordi, Mallrat, Ruby Boots, RVG, Th andi Phoenix and Tori Forsyth are all making their SXSW debut this March. The 2018 APRA Song of the Year shortlist features Ainslie Wills, All Our Exes Live In Texas, Jen Cloher, Jessica Mauboy, Stella Donnelly and Vera Blue while Brooke Ligertwood, Hiatus Kaiyote, Jess Chalker, Sarah Aarons and Sia Furler all received songwriting Grammy Nominations in January. Courtney Barnett’s Avant Gardner has reached 5.7 million views on YouTube while Amy Shark’s Adore just ticked over 30 million plays on Spotify. All of these feats in isolation are significant; cumulatively they are beyond impressive. The results and achievements are considerable and are an absolute testament to the talents of each and every one of the aforementioned artists. It’s not just the award nominations and profiles that have increased though. These artistic achievements are reflected in the economic growth of Australian music. An article in the Australian Financial Review hailed songwriting as “one of Australia’s fastest growing export industries”, citing the $43.5 million royalties earned overseas by APRA AMCOS members in 2016-17, a 13.6% year on year growth and more than double the $21.8 million collected only four years ago. Important to note when acknowledging these successes, however, is the strategic and targeted investment that has been made available to those that have played a role behind the scenes building our artists’ careers and it’s something we can’t take for granted, nor can we rest on our laurels. Although small, Australia enjoys one of the strongest and most sophisticated music industry ecosystems in the world, with multiple initiatives being rolled out in recent years, across State and Federal arts agencies, through dedicated Trade Bodies and Associations and more recently at the hand of commercial corporate and music businesses. By default or design, together they have produced a generation of industry operators and professionals that are taking Australian music to the world! Opportunities for Artist Managers have included Control (a project of AMIN and the AAM), The JB Seed, The AAM’s Co-Pilot Mentorship and Warners / UJTU Programs, Creative Victoria’s Music Passport Fast Track Fellowship Program, which also supports Labels, as does the Release program (coordinated by AMIN and AIR) and The Robert Stigwood Fellowship Program developed by South Australia’s Music Development Office.
The AMIN network, APRA AMCOS, the Association of Artist Managers, the Australian Independent Record Labels Association, Music Australia and the PPCA are constantly presenting and delivering year-round artist, industry and audience development programs, such as the Australia Council’s Nashville Songwriter Residency and their partnership with the PPCA to support the creation of new sound recordings. We have AIR’s Indie-Con, APRA’s SongHubs and SongMakers Programs, and the Live Music Office’s Live & Local, while the seven AMIN member associations roll out over 100 professional development workshops annually across the country. Levi’s have partnered with BIGSOUND to create the Levi’s Music Prize, while Virgin Australia have teamed with ARIA for their Emerging Artist Scholarship, both offering invaluable international tour support. The Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition is now one of the world’s most prestigious, and The UNIFIED Grant is empowering the next generation of creatives. APRA’s The Lighthouse Award is granted to a female music manager in Victoria and the Josh Pyke Partnership supports an emerging songwriter/artist. The Hilltop Hoods Initiative invests in an emerging Australian hip hop or soul artist while Shane Nicholson has just announced the inaugural Americana Music Prize to support an aspiring Americana/alt-country artist from Australia. Australia is also home to some of the most progressive and exciting music conference events in the world, including BIGSOUND, Face The Music, EMC Australia and the WAM Festival & Conference, all providing a platform for local artist to reach their next level, while showcasing a wealth of talent to international delegates, made up of key industry buyers, tastemakers and media. The combination of these programs and opportunities has unified our little corner of the global music market in a unique and enviable way, especially when many of these programs were established during a period of critical funding cuts to the Arts in Australia. What is vital, if we are to maintain and, more so, increase growth and successes, is continued support flowing into the sector. These programs have been essential to the evolution of Australian music and the opening of opportunities around the world. Now is the time to double down and capitalise even further on these incredible advances. Some of these key programs have now come to the end of their funding cycle and others are always in a constant state of change and uncertainty, informed by the government of the day. Investment in music needs a permanent seat at the budget table, alongside film and museums. The success shouldn’t mean we’re ok now to divert the support or let it lapse. Rather, the measurable outcomes and visible growth of the sector should, in fact, be recognised and acknowledged with an even deeper engagement and investment from a diverse range of partners. The last decade has shown what can be achieved with a little. Just imagine what we could do with even more.
“The combination of these programs and opportunities has unified our little corner of the global music market in a unique and enviable way.”
Read The Music’s Power 50, starting page 41
“There are no rules” Catching up with Bryget Chrisfield at The Workers Club, where Vance Joy played his first-ever gig with a band, James Keogh says he’s now come to the realisation that he can reference his own life through song, just like Taylor Swift does.
To read the full story head to theMusic.com.au
nside The Workers Club front bar there’s some spontaneous renovations going on, but Vance Joy (actual name: James Keogh) is his usual relaxed, easygoing self as he pulls up a stool on the other side of a bench table. He’s dressed simply in a charcoal T-shirt and is actually so good looking that it’s easy to lose your train of thought while staring at his face. While discussing the writing and recording of his second album, Nation Of Two, we reflect back on old-school artists who would hire recording studios for the songwriting portion of the process as well. “I’ve been in one situation where it was similar to that, in a sense,” Keogh recalls. “So maybe it does bring out the best in you because of that pressure. But I remember putting down the song Mess Is Mine from [debut album] Dream My Life Away, I went in there and I had, like, a one-minute voice memo that I’d given to the producer... and he’s gone, ‘Cool, it feels really good, and surely there’s some awesome chorus that’s gonna be attached to it and it’s gonna be huge.’ And then I was like, ‘Yeah, I think so, but I don’t have that chorus.’ And then I went to the studio in Seattle with that idea, and a couple of other ideas, but I was like, ‘Ok, well, these are the things that we have to work with, first day in the studio, we need to put something down,’ and so I had a coupla things that connected it, and we made the song out of it! And maybe it gave me a taste of what it might’ve been like for those older bands back in the day when they were [writing] in the studio... I remember leaving with that song... and then I remember being like, ‘Oh, I dunno.’ I wasn’t sure at all!” Released in July, 2014, Mess Is Mine peaked at number 37 on the ARIA Singles
Chart, features in the FIFA 15 soundtrack, the American TV show Hart Of Dixie, Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why and the trailer for the 2017 film The Big Sick. So it’s fair to say this song really connected with people. “Yeah, but, like, more than I would ever have expected,” Keogh marvels. But going back to how Keogh approached Nation Of Two, he ponders, “I guess in this album it was very much, like, just chipping away and [the songs would] just come in one by one. And then the last coupla songs I think I wrote over the last year on tour.” So Keogh can quite successfully write songs while on tour? “I do alright,” he hesitates. He spent most of 2015 touring as support act for Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour throughout the US, some parts of Europe and also here in Australia. Keogh didn’t watch Swift’s show every night, did he? “No, no, I mean I watched it quite a few times,” he laughs. “But, um, yeah! You had a lot of down time and you sit in the back of the bus and you kinda think you’ve got some ideas, and you get a lot of, like, riffs and little pieces of songs that you think might be something, like, ‘Th is is definitely something, that feels really good,’ or, ‘That feels like some awesome chorus or something,’ and it’s funny how those songs — they get transformed; either you just start it, or you sing it to someone, and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s ok,’ and you’re like, ‘Oh, wow! I was really expecting that to blow someone’s head off!’ And it doesn’t.” But if there was a winning formula for writing songs, then everyone would always write hits, right? “Yeah, totally,” Keogh agrees. “It’s mysterious and like, yeah! Sometimes the lyrics you think are the cheesiest or
the songs you’re, like, the most shy about are the ones that people like.” In our review of Vance Joy’s show at Margaret Court Arena in April, 2016, we dubbed Keogh “a younger, hotter Paul Kelly”. How does he like that? “Oh, that’s awesome! Yeah, I do like that,” he smiles. On Kelly’s songs, Keogh extols, “They’re like, ‘Oh, wow, direct line to the heart!’” We point out there are actually similarities in Keogh’s songwriting since his songs are often vignettes or snapshots of a period of time spent with a special someone that turned into memories he holds dear. Keogh looks chuffed. When told this scribe’s favourite song on his new album, at the moment, is Little Boy, Keogh graciously accepts the compliment (“Oh, thank you”) before sharing, “It’s probably the most autobiographical story I’ve ever had, like, the first verse is just about me falling off my bike. I probably would’ve been maybe eight or nine, but I fell off my bike and I chipped my front tooth and I kinda knocked myself out momentarily, and a lady came and picked me up... but, yeah! Then I went to the hospital, just to make sure I wasn’t concussed or whatever. But I got a week off school! “It’s funny that I had never written a song [before] that had so many details, or personal details, so it was nice to be able to... If you listen to a big pop artist like Taylor Swift or something, you’re like, ‘Oh, I feel like they’re referencing their life!’ And I’d never done that before and, yeah! I can see how it can work.”
Nation Of Two (Liberation Records) is out now. Vance Joy tours from 14 Sep.
“Sometimes the lyrics you think are the cheesiest or the songs you’re, like, the most shy about are the ones that people like.”
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
Just a boat ride away
Alive and kicking
Cross-cultural supergroup Havana Meets Kingston are returning to Australia. Band members Randy Valentine and Brenda Navarrete discuss singing across borders with Cyclone.
After a killer debut, punk band Bleeding Knees Club nearly ended as quickly as they began. Frontman and founder Alex Wall tells Carley Hall it’s nice to be back “doing it properly” again.
n 2017, the Australian reggae producer Jake “Mista” Savona facilitated a bold project, Havana Meets Kingston: the first full-scale collaboration between musicians from the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Jamaica. Now, following October’s Havana Meets Kingston Sound System tour with charismatic vocalists Randy Valentine (aka Ronald Junior Fritz) and Solis, Savona is touring an all-star Havana Meets Kingston band around Australia. The British-Jamaican Fritz, who leads on the single Carnival, will join Solis, Brenda Navarrete, the influential Sly & Robbie, players from the fabled Buena Vista Social Club and others. Cuba’s buzz Navarrete, who studied percussion (and piano) at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, will sing and play her beloved Yoruba bata drum. “It’ll be a little bit of my world,” she says, via translator from bustling Havana. “I’ll be bringing some of my songs and my percussion. It’s gonna be like a seductive performance and it’s gonna be a great collaboration.” Fritz met Savona, circa 2014, at the One Love Festival “somewhere in an open field in the UK”, he says from his English base. Savona asked the rising star to accompany his eponymous band on an Australian run. They stayed in contact. Savona predominantly recorded Havana Meets Kingston over ten days in 2015 at Havana’s EGREM studios with musicians legendary and emerging alike. He flew in the Jamaican contingent, including Sly & Robbie (alas, Fritz cut his vocals back at London’s JOAT Music Studio). Their mission? To hybridise Jamaica’s sound system culture with Cuban folk and jazz styles, while tracking original and traditional songs. It was in Havana where Savona canvassed Navarrete. She admits that “it was a great surprise” to discover that he was Australian. “They asked me if I could do some recording, some parts. I agreed and said, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’ Then they asked me, ‘Can you rap?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I can rap.’” Navarrete features on the dancehall Heart Of A Lion. The music scenes of Jamaica and Cuba are remarkably distinct despite their proximity and a common origin in the African diaspora. Fritz — who spent his formative years in Jamaica before migrating to the UK — had scant exposure to Cuba’s music because of the Communist country’s political isolation. “Growing up as a child in Jamaica, my only insight into Cuban culture came from the limited view I would get from movies and the small percentage shared
hen Alex Wall answers our call there’s no hint of the tonsillitis
that has apparently plagued the
singer’s two weeks spent recording the new
about Fidel Castro in the news. It was also a part of the language spoken in the unwritten survivors’ guide on the island. Knowing that Cuba was just a boat ride away was always good information to have.” In later years, reggaeton has become popular among Cuba’s youth — even as its decadence irks authorities — and Navarrete is familiar with the related dancehall. “For Cuba, sometimes it’s a little bit complicated because of information coming to us a little bit belatedly, but... I do enjoy this type of music,” she explains. “I’m a follower of music in general, of different styles. We actually know dancehall — we mix it with our own traditions and our own rhythms. But the older generation — the ones who are in their 40s and 50s — may not know it.” Both Fritz and Navarrete have expanding profiles as solo acts. Fritz launched a career as a DJ in 2005, only to segue into becoming a vocalist. He has worked with Major Lazer and, incredibly, cameoed on Wu-Tang Clan’s mythic single-copy album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin after being approached to be “a Jamaican representative for this Top Secret Million Dollar Project”. He teases, “It was so covert that I couldn’t tell you myself what my own track sounded like.” Last year he dropped New Narrative, his second album. Meanwhile, Navarrete has performed with the Latin American ensemble Interactivo. Th is January, she presented her solo debut, Mi Mundo, via Alma Records, about which she notes. “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time.” The two artists emphasise the significance of Havana Meets Kingston as crossexchange. Muses Fritz, “I think, before land masses were to be labelled like pets, we were all here and able to make a habitat from our surroundings. Whatever practices brought man forward to will himself dominion or governance over another rippled off into countries and nations being formed. As beautiful as this is, I still notice the division that came from the lines that were drawn. Music being the spiritual experience that it is, sometimes, if not always, manages to bridge that gap between a people.”
Bleeding Knees Club album. He’s quietly spoken, which is a mild surprise considering the ‘brat punk’ tag the then-two-piece were once branded with. Wall also doesn’t embellish, nor does he shy away from acknowledging past naivete, but it’s obvious he’s more than excited to be back in the studio after a hiatus from the band he started eight years ago.
Havana Meets Kingston tour from 8 Mar.
“I think we’ve just got, like, a few guitar bits to go and then it’s off to get mixed,” Wall says. “I’ve had tonsillitis pretty much the whole time — which sucks — but it didn’t affect my voice. It’s definitely been the longest [time] I’ve spent on any music stuff. Like, it took me a year to write the songs. Usually I write them all in a month or two. “I think because it is our first album back I just wanted to put everything I could into it; picking only the good ones that I write and not even thinking about the ones that I have questions about. It’s been a really slow writing process, but I’m really happy with the songs we’ve got. And this recording we spent two weeks on; our last album we only spent five days on it.” Bleeding Knees Club burst onto a hungry Gold Coast music scene in 2010 with hooky surf and pop-punk tunes Bad Guys and Teenage Girls before taking their chaotic house-party shows around the country and picking up a record deal. Work on their first album Nothing To Do saw them ushered them off to New York and into the hands of
Positive on purpose
Dev Hynes, aka Lightspeed Champion, aka Blood Orange. But as soon as their flame burned bright it seemed to be snuffed out again. Wall isn’t one to play the blame game, but the cynical part of him admits it was an inevitable implosion caused by clashes with the label. “Especially when it came around to wanting to do another album,” he says. “It was just becoming such a hassle to try and do anything new. From the label point of view to people helping — everything just kept getting stuck at the point where we couldn’t do our own thing. I like writing songs and I write songs all the time, and it was so hard to sit on it for two years and not be able to record, so I just had to get away and go and do my own
Emma Fradd of Adelaide’s joyously buoyant dance/pop trio Heaps Good Friends couldn’t be more excited about her band’s upcoming national tour. She tells Joel Lohman about hugs from strangers and the need for positivity in everyday life.
thing and release everything I wanted. “We had never been in a band before so someone would say, ‘Go and do an album,’ and we’d be like, ‘Well, we have to do it the way they want it.’ We just didn’t know. But now it’s nice to be back and doing it properly again.” Time away in the US certainly did yield some fruitful releases for young Wall; his solo project Wax Witches blending genres and scratching the creative itch to strike out on his own and see what came of it. After a few years away and with original Bleeding Knees Club member Jordan Malane handing in his resignation, Wall’s soft spot for his first band saw him return to our shores to pick up three new band members and write a new album, this time in Sydney’s Parliament Studios with Lachlan Mitchell (The Whitlams, The Jezabels, The Vines) with hopes of a release later this year. Rather than wipe the slate clean with a new band name, he insists the spirit of Bleeding Knees Club remains the same even though the members may have changed. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had being in the band,” Wall says. “I feel like we’re in a really nice position, because a lot of people that were into us when we were a buzzy band have grown up and probably aren’t into us anymore. We had fans back then and people were waiting for an album so there was a bit more pressure, but now I don’t think anyone is waiting for a Bleeding Knees album.”
Bleeding Knees Club tour from 28 Mar.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
e’ve only technically been on one tour prior to this,” says Emma Fradd, “and we had a blast. We were a bit spoiled, we were playing much bigger venues. But we’re really excited to have this tour that’s our own. We really love the opening bands that we get to play with. It’ll be a nice little test, because we’ve never headlined; we’ve always been supporting or in the middle of the afternoon on a festival bill or something. I think it’ll be a proud moment for us, it will feel quite special. I kind of like that they’re smaller, more intimate shows. You can get to know people more.” Fradd says that last point is particularly important to Heaps Good Friends. “We kind of make it a thing that we don’t just go to a town to play a show, we want to get in with the crowd and meet the people and get to know them. We don’t just want money or support for our band; we want to build relationships with everyone that we meet and spread the love, I guess. I don’t know if that sounds cheesy or vague. We didn’t even talk about it, really. But, particularly for Nick [O’Connor, bass/vocals] and Dan [Steinert, drums], it’s just who they are; they’re just big bundles of fun.” Fradd knows that not everyone is that way, because it’s not exactly her natural tendency, either. One of her favourite things about being in Heaps Good Friends is their emphasis on spreading fun and joy. “I’m a really deep thinker and I overanalyse things,” she says, “and if I don’t take the time and be intentional about positivity, and things like that, I can just go days without thinking about it. So it’s really great being around the boys, because it comes so natural to them. But I know that there’s a lot of people out there that it doesn’t come so naturally to. And we love love, and want to share that.” It has felt especially important lately to celebrate things like friendship and positivity, Fradd says. Although, as she points out, there’s never a bad time for such things. “I would say at all stages it’s good to share love,” she says, “even if you’re not really feeling it. Just to choose it — choosing to love — and be intentional about those good vibes.” This mission informs every decision the band makes, including naming both their first headlining tour and upcoming EP, Hug Me. Fradd says the title wasn’t necessarily intended as an instruction, but she’s quite happy for fans to take it literally. “Whenever we’re meeting people or anything we always like to have a little hug. Hugs are nice! Who doesn’t love a good hug? Everyone has different love languages, I guess. Not everyone likes physical touch, but something gets released in your brain, you know? For us, we’ve found that it’s really cool and a real positive statement.” Hugging has been made more difficult for the band itself lately, since Fradd relocated to Brisbane while O’Connor and Steinert still live in Adelaide. But she reckons, aside from the obvious logistical difficulties, living in different cities also has its perks for a band. “It’s really cool,” she says. “Obviously we don’t get to be together as much as we’d like, but it means that if we’re in the same place for a weekend, all of our time is really intentionally put towards rehearsing. We say, ‘Okay, we have two days, let’s work on these two songs and add them to the setlist and be really focused about this.’ So it’s fun, it’s like a power weekend. Same with songwriting: ‘We’ve got a day, let’s try and finish this song. Let’s get our heads in the game.’ And it’s really fun to push yourself in that way. If I lived in Adelaide, perhaps we’d dick around a bit more [laughs].”
Heaps Good Friends tour from 23 Mar.
Home and away
he lives of the two young men behind Wollongong rock sensation Hockey Dad were turned on their heads when their 2016 album Boronia — named for the street the two childhood friends grew up in and still live in between growing band obligations — went slow-burn gangbusters, sending them on an ever-busier spiral of tours (both at home and abroad) and festivals, which found them spending less and less time at home. The duo — Zach Stephenson (vocals/guitar) and Billy Fleming (drums/vocals) — were having a blast from a musical perspective but finding it harder and harder to reconcile band life with the experiences of their other mates, which is the inspiration behind the title of their brand new second longplayer, Blend Inn. “It just relates to — like most of the things on the record — how our lives have been different to most of our friends’ 22-year-old lives,” Stephenson reflects, “and how we have to try and have the same life experience, and I guess try to grow up the same way, but you’re always stuck in a hotel in Bumfuck, Texas or something. “And how it’s hard to relate to everyone a little bit when they’re at home doing the same stuff, and you’ve got to try to look the same as everybody else and try to blend in with everybody — it’s a bit tough.” But while reconciling their band and home lives may have proved difficult, musically the guys took the dreaded difficult second album syndrome in their stride, concocting an album that expands upon the indubitable promise offered by the surf-drenched sounds of their debut. “We didn’t really feel any pressure,” Stephenson tells. “We maybe even felt that the pressure was a little bit off this time because we’d already done a record and built up a bit of a fanbase so we could actually just dive into the record and not worry too much about it, I guess. “And I think it felt a little bit more legit recording this one, because we were in a big studio with a producer and we went the whole nine yards so it felt like we had to step it up a little bit. Although we still fucked around a bit in the studio and did everything else exactly the same, so it was mostly pretty natural.”
The two best mates from Hockey Dad may be living the dream as they tour the world playing their catchy, surf-drenched garage rock, but, as frontman Zach Stephenson tells Steve Bell, it’s sure given them a different life trajectory than their friends back home. Feature pics by Kane Hibberd.
The “big studio” in question was Robert Lang Studios, 12 miles north of Seattle, where the pair worked with the acclaimed producer John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Cloud Nothings, Sleater-Kinney). “It was a really good experience,” Stephenson offers. “We definitely felt really privileged to be able to go overseas and hang out in Seattle for a few weeks, and just be able to record and bum around. Not many people get the chance to do that so we were pretty stoked. It was good, we felt we really had to make a good record otherwise we won’t ever live it down.” Although Stephenson does concede it was unnerving recording in a room where bands like Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and The Sonics had cut seminal records. “Yeah, it was weird,” he laughs. “It was kinda scary and really humbling, and daunting as well. With some of the stuff that was done there you’d go, ‘Fuck, we’re never going to touch any of that, in terms of songs or the sounds.’ But it was really good inspiration as well, because we’d listen to a record that was done there in the night and hear something cool, and then try to do our own version of that the next day in the same room it was recorded in, which was fun. “And John definitely let us go for it. We’d just jump into it and then he’d come in at a certain time, and tell us where to put something. Definitely with the guitar playing and some of the drums, we were pretty much full throttle — just going at ‘em all the time — and John helped us scale things back and leave some room. “He was good like that and he definitely helped a bit with guitar parts later on — just like where to play things and where not to play things — because we’d just sort of go at it and put too much shit everywhere.” Apart from geography, a slightly altered creative process also affected the finished product. “This record was a little bit different,” Stephenson offers. “Most of the songs I did just at home sort of straight into my laptop, just sort of bumming around with ideas and then making a song. Then I’d send it to Billy and he’d get an idea for it, and think of some drum parts, and then when we’d get the chance we’d get together and jam it out and see if it worked.
“But that’s the thing, sometimes a song never got jammed and we just went into the studio and sort of went to it, which was definitely different to the last record where most of the songs were written by us at rehearsal with each other and jammed out like that. “[The change] was partly because we were busy, then also because I started writing it in summer and it’s fucking hot in my shed where we used to jam — there’s no way we’re playing in there in summer,” he chuckles. “Then I just got comfortable sitting on my computer chair, and it sort of helped because I had so many sounds and ideas that I could just make up second guitar parts and things like that. There’s a lot more of that this time, just sitting at home and overdubbing shit. Then more ideas could be thrown around instead of just having a chord progression and a melody, you could actually put different things in there.” The lyrics, however, hark back to that problem the guys were having juggling their divergent lives in the band and at home. “I guess they reflect just the time that they were all written in and what we were both sorta going through,” Stephenson tells. “We would be on the road for a while and then have a month off at home, and that’s pretty much when I’d write all the songs, so a lot of them have to do with just dealing with shit while you’re on the road and stuff going on at home [when] you can’t really be there, and just that weird feeling of growing up and not actually living in one particular set place for a certain period of time: just being away from it, but just trying to grow up and do your job a bit.” And why does Stephenson feel that Hockey Dad are connecting with people on such a gut level, especially at live shows? “I dunno, we’re just pretty honest and don’t try and bullshit anyone,” he smiles. “And I think the fact that we’re having so much fun playing and touring around all the time might inspire people to just relax a bit and enjoy it.”
Blend Inn (Farmer & The Owl/Inertia) is out now. Hockey Dad tour from 1 Mar.
“We have to try and have the same life experience, and I guess try to grow up the same way, but you’re always stuck in a hotel in Bumfuck, Texas or something.”
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
A chip standing on the shoulders of giants “The world is teetering on the abyss,” guitar maestro Tom Morello of allstar hard rock/hip hop collective Prophets Of Rage says. He talks to Brendan Crabb about not being relegated to nostalgia-act status, the #MeToo campaign and Chris Cornell.
All for one and one is all
nother successful musician instantly becomes a political expert.” That was the criticism recently levelled at Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and currently Prophets Of Rage member Tom Morello by one clearly uninformed punter via Instagram. Among Morello’s alleged infractions was a guitar emblazoned with “Fuck Trump”. The guitar player, who also performs solo as The Nightwatchman, had a zinger of a response. “One does not have to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University to recognise the unethical and inhuman nature of this administration but well, I happen to be an honors grad in political science from Harvard University, so I can confirm that for you [sic],” he wrote. Given Morello’s fiercely leftist values and high-profile activism amid these socially and politically volatile times, how does he feel about social media leaving him more accessible to vitriol from detractors? “People have been vehemently disagreeing with my politics and my band’s politics for a quarter of a century,” he says from his home in Los Angeles. “And to that, I have to say, if you’re making music and you have positions that everybody can agree on, you’re probably making pretty shitty music and you probably have pretty shitty positions.” There’s certainly no fence-sitting from Prophets Of Rage — comprised of the rhythm section from Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave (Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk), Public Enemy’s Chuck D and DJ Lord as well as Cypress Hill’s B-Real — either. The sextet could have focused on earning a lucrative living knocking out predominantly covers-oriented sets. However, this amalgam of heavy rock and hip hop royalty had a Trump administration, racism, homelessness, surveillance and more to dissect on their recent self-titled debut LP.
e didn’t know how it would turn out until we put that first song online,” says ‘Harry’, one
of the members of the eight-person collective Superorganism. The song he’s talking about is Something For Your MIND, which debuted online in January 2017, released minus any bio
Superorganism came together across nations and chat rooms to become one interconnected structure. Guitarist
or background. It quickly picked up steam blogged about everywhere, Frank Ocean and Ezra Koenig spinning it on their radio shows - and, in the absence of any information (“we needed time to be able to come to terms
‘Harry’, aka Chris Young, tells Anthony
with what the project was in our own minds
Carew that that interconnectivity
viduals”), theories abounded as to who was
is the thread running through their debut album.
before we publicised who we were as indibehind its wonky, sample-strewn pop. “We saw loads of people speculating on who it could be, which we found really entertaining and really flattering,” Harry says. “There were all sorts of theories on what prominent musicians it could be. It was like, ‘Well, if you think it’s possible we’re Damon Albarn in disguise, we’ll take that as a massive compliment.’” As Superorganism released more singles - It’s All Good, Nobody Cares, Everybody Wants To Be Famous - they were billed only as “a 17-year-old Japanese girl named Orono
The guitarist politely interjects when it’s suggested that some star-studded projects could be content with “nostalgia act” status. “Th is band formed because of the politics of now. And some of the songs of Rage... and Public Enemy speak to 2017, 2018 much more explicitly than when they were written, like, during the Bill Clinton era. “We put this band together because of the political emergency of these times. Then when we got in the studio, we were like, ‘Well, now it’s time for this band to address — musically and politically — what’s going on.’ There’s a duality to the band. On the one hand, we have the gravitas of our histories and, on the other hand, we’re a brand new band with a chip on our shoulders. And we go out there every night to destroy the crowd. We don’t think anybody should take it for granted that this is a great band. You come to the show and we will kick your fucking ass. “We’ve been the standard-bearers of radical, of revolutionary rock for a long time,” Morello says of some American musicians’ claim that, when they tour overseas, people they encounter are embarrassed for them. “So when we come to town, people know where our convictions lie,” he laughs. “And I think that they’re pleased and relieved, especially outside the United States, to have artists that are going to view the world in a more internationalist way. I mean, dangerous times demand dangerous songs.” Pundits have suggested that — much like the divisive Reagan era fuelled plenty of truly scathing punk, hardcore and hip hop — the current administration could also motivate a new generation of disaffected youth to pick up a guitar or microphone and rail against injustice and inequality. “It’s not specifically important to me that musicians speak out about the times. It’s important to me that people speak out about the times regardless of their vocation.” In that vein, Morello praises the #MeToo social media campaign and the many women who have shared their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment. “I think it’s long overdue. And I think that one of the givens in any work relationship where there’s relationships of power, that sort of culture of sexual harassment, certainly in the United States, is very prevalent. And it’s not just with movie studio heads and congressmen, it’s at every McDonald’s. And the fact that women have been brave enough to step forward... I think it’s all frankly a result of the Trump era, and the way that it has kind of poked the hornet’s nest.”
Prophets Of Rage tour from 22 Mar.
Calm versus the storm Lowtide’s second album is open to some broad interpretations. Bassist and vocalist Lucy Buckeridge tells Sam Wall her take on Southern Mind.
owtide’s music is often described in terms of movement and action, as much as sound. It drives and shifts, glistens or broods, swirls and drifts. Their dense walls of sound conjure powerful-but-often indefinable emotions (although “melancholy” pops up a lot) and the translations they attract reflect of their blend of almost-physical texture and engrossing ambiguity. It’s a feeling they manage to communicate before you even open their second album, Southern Mind, with
its striking diagonal clash of clear green water and filthy brown sea foam on the cover. “I had someone ask me today if it’s wool, or an oil spill,” says vocalist and bassist Lucy Buckeridge, “which we kind of like. And I think it works with the music that we make, which can be ambiguous and, you know, the lyrics aren’t always out the front. You can’t always hear or understand everything we’re saying, but it’s open to interpretation. “We’ve always been really interested in a quiet versus loud dynamic, and exploring that, and I think that’s pretty evident in a lot of the songs that we make. And I just feel like that image, to me, sums up the calm — the calm versus the storm and how they can coexist.” On Southern Mind, they also explore ideas of change and space and direction, particularly in Australia, although Buckeridge says that it was only once the album was well underway that any loose motifs began to emerge. “I mean for me Southern Mind, the lead track, when I was writing the lyrics for that it was about a lot of different things. It was thinking a lot about where we live geographically; the landscape, the vastness. Also, some of the things that are happening here, what was happening overseas. Distances, but also how close things are. “It’s nothing that we were doing intentionally, it sort of was more in retrospect looking back at all the things that we’d written and what was interesting to us when writing it all seemed to have a particular connection, if that makes sense. It’s hard to talk about sometimes when things are just not specific, because it’s just a feeling.” Despite the oblique concepts that arose from Southern Mind, Buckeridge found the writing and recording process was more direct than ever, sharing that “writing music together has become a really natural thing” over Lowtide’s ten years together. “I felt like it was a lot quicker to identify the ideas that we all liked and wanted to work on, and
[we] just sort of followed those paths wherever they would take us. Some things we’d jam on and we just wouldn’t get a vibe and we’d just leave it... I felt like that was a lot easier this time around.” Sonically, Buckeridge says, the biggest difference on Southern Mind was co-vocalist Giles Simon’s shift to a custom Fender 6, Buckeridge and Simon employing dual bass lines on previous releases. With the switch to guitar, Simon’s compositions moved into a space between Gabe Lewis’ guitar and Buckeridge’s bass, rather than opposite it, opening “a whole new sphere” to explore melody in. “It was really exciting, ‘cause we all of a sudden felt like we had a lot more scope to explore than we did previously. But, it wasn’t really a conscious decision that we made either, [Simon] just decided to get the guitar made and then it sort of fit in perfectly with the way that Lowtide works.” Shortly after completing the album, Lowtide quietly announced Simon’s departure, with The Zebras’ Jeremy Cole filling in on vocals, bass and Fender 6 on their Euro/ UK single tour. “Jez is kind of like Wonder Man,” laughs Buckeridge, “you can basically ask him to do anything and he can deliver it.” In the past, the pair’s shared lyricism and harmonies have been a sort of trademark, along with their overlapping bass. Having already moved away from that last aspect, we wonder if Simon’s departure will create another distinct creative shift or whether someone like Cole will continue to stand-in. “We are performing all the songs the way that we would,” says Buckeridge, “so [Cole] sings all the same parts. And I guess when it comes to writing again, that’s something that we’ll look at. We haven’t done any writing in the last few months, since we finished the record, just ‘cause we’ve been getting everything set up. “I’m sure we would work with the same kind of idea. On this record, Giles and I wrote a lot more separately. We would sort of allocate songs where someone would take the lead, and then the other one would come in and flesh out the bits together at the end, but it was a lot more sort of singular a lot of the time. But there are definitely some songs on the album too where it was a full vocal collaboration from start to finish... I think we just haven’t hit that point yet, so I haven’t thought about that too much. But it feels like it would be a natural way to approach it moving forward.”
Lowtide tour from 16 Mar.
who lives in Maine and 7 other people who
mer. She’d discovered the band online - a
thing that wouldn’t be about any individual
live in London”; which was, unbelievably,
YouTube algorithm had taken her from Prin-
but about the pooling of creative minds.”
true. Their teenage singer, Orono Noguchi,
cess Chelsea’s much-clicked The Cigarette
At first, Superorganism recorded and
was indeed attending boarding school in
Duet to a video by The Eversons - and, after
released songs one-by-one, but when early
America. And, with the release of their self-
the show, she befriended them.
attention begot a frenzy of label interest,
That Superorganism’s formative-origin
eventually signing with indie-powerhouse
story involves the internet is telling, because
Domino, they gathered their tunes for a
Although a press release (and much
it became both the way the collective came
proper debut. Young calls the resulting LP an
press) forwards the myth, it only takes some
together and the subject of many of their
“accidental concept record”, the songs that
cursory internet sleuthing to discover the par-
songs. The Eversons had moved to London
sprouted in their “creatively fertile” formative
ticulars. ‘Harry’, it turns out, is Chris Young, an
in that familiar attempt to make it, but found
days all suggesting a singular theme.
English-born, New Zealand-raised 27 year old.
their career stalling, the quartet retreating
“Now, with hindsight, I can hear they’re
He played in a run of Kiwi combos in his salad
into online circles. Tired of the prism of the
all about interconnectivity,” Young offers,
days - Neil Robinson, The Insurgents - before,
rock band, all four members of The Eversons
“whether that’s between us as a group explor-
finally, joining The Eversons. That quartet
threw themselves into a new idea. “You end
ing our own identity, or the fact that the
spent years turning out oft-ridiculous jams for
up creating these little communities with
internet brought us together, or all our own
Lil’ Chief Records (the label run by Jonathan
your friends, even if they largely exist online,”
ideas about the internet that run through the
Bree of The Brunettes), impishly hopping
Young explains. “We wanted to turn that into
songs, or even the way humans interact with
a recording project.”
nature. Interconnectivity is the thread that
titled album now nigh, the other members of Superorganism are coming to light.
In 2015, before the release of their second
With Noguchi in America and the still-
and final LP, 2016’s Stuck In New Zealand,
mysterious Korean member ‘Seoul’ living in
The Eversons ended up on a “totally random
Sydney, they “never considered that [they’d]
tour of Japan” after a local indie promoter dis-
ever play live”, a liberating prospect for the
covered their music online. “We were like, ‘If
former members of The Eversons. “We could
you set up the shows, we’ll come!’, not really
make things as weird and experimental as
believing it was going to happen,” Young
we wanted,” says Young. “Because we were
recounts. In the crowd at a Tokyo show was
including all these different people living in
Superorganism (Domino) is out
Noguchi, who was back in Japan for the sum-
different cities, we wanted to make some-
runs through all the songs.”
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
THE BIG PICTURE
Byron Spencer The Sydney-based fashion and travel photographer and multi-media artist is one of the country’s most versatile snappers. Whether he’s shooting for A-list fashion editorials or in grungy laneways, he’s chasing a story wherever he finds it.
There’s a huge amount of variety in your photography, from beautifully evocative landscapes to high fashion editorials. What connects these different styles? I get really inspired by the idea of fantasy and creating implied worlds in my pictures. I guess that comes from my background studying theatre. I love shots that can tell a story, but it definitely depends on the shoot. Fashion is where I try to be more narrative and elaborate to create that kind of element of fantasy and play. In the documentary stuff, which is some of my favourite work, I like to try and keep it true to what it is, but stylise it slightly more through the actual craft of the photography. I’ve always been influenced a lot by colour and changing light, but occasionally, if I choose to shoot black and white, it’s usually a bit more of a graphic style, with sharp contrast and a lot of dynamic movement. Some of the concepts you shoot are incredibly inventive and intricate. Do you plan out the concepts in advance or find inspiration as you shoot? Depends on what I’m doing. I change my mind all the time about how I like to work – I feel like I go through waves of what inspires me and how I want to challenge myself. When I’m planning fashion things, again, depending on what the overall kind of concept is, I often try to understand what the narrative behind it could be: is the model a girl or boy? Who are they? What makes them tick? Even if that doesn’t necessarily come out in the shot in an explicit way, I like to kind of have an idea at least in the back of my brain of who the subject is, so we can try and create something that is authentic and true to both of us.
Kyle by Byron Spencer
You’re also a multi-media artist, which is a practice you’ve been developing over the past few years, fusing video and music with your photography. How has that part of your creative identity developed? I think I always knew that I was going to push into more multimedia stuff, and digitals and music as well. The music is the final component that I’ve recently introduced. But I felt I needed to win over everyone’s faith in my photography before I could start doing that, because I feel like it really takes a lot of development to build your body of work and refine it. But I think working in a richer range of media really resonates with the kind of vibe I want to project. I hope it’s happy, playful, uplifting, because the fashion photography industry can be fickle and kind of cold. I want people who see my work to feel warm.
THE BIG PICTURE
Discover more of Byron Spencer’s work at spencernotspencer.com
Fight club Everyone knows, the juiciest kind of feud is a celebrity feud. There are literally hundreds of examples of the rich and famous losing their shit and spitting the dummy over what seems, to mere mortals like you and I, to be the most mundane slights. We’d love to share them all, but instead, we humbly submit for your enjoyment a cherry-picked handful of the beefiest celeb beefs from the world of showbiz.
2Pac vs The Notorious BIG
Kim Cattrall vs Sarah Jessica Parker
Unquestionably one of the most well-known and tragic
feuds in hip hop history, the
Sex In The City BBF alter
unsolved murders of rap-
egos, sexually voracious PR
pers 2Pac Shakur and The
guru Samantha Jones and
Notorious BIG in ’96 and
inexplicably well-paid sex-
’97 respectively, revealed a
ploitation columnist Car-
dangerous culture of gang
rie Bradshaw, off camera
violence even at the highest
these two TV icons are infa-
levels of the rap scene. Driven by the East Coast-West Coast rivalry between
mously at each other’s throats. Rumours of a rift on set between the two
LA-based Death Row Records and New York’s Bad Boy Records, both rap-
was finally confirmed when the third instalment of the Sex And The City
pers used their music to goad the other, with increasingly antagonistic
movie franchise imploded, due to Cattrall’s refusal to be part of the project.
insults woven into their lyrics. On 7 Sep 1996, Tupac was mortally wounded
As it seems social media is the cause of all the world’s problems, it comes as
by a drive-by shooter in Las Vegas, making it as far as the University Medical
no surprise that the two got into a particularly bitter spat recently on Insta-
Centre of South Navada, but perishing six days later. Six months later still, in
gram, following the death of Cattrall’s brother. Parker’s attempts at a public
what has been largely accepted as a revenge killing, Notorious BIG was also
consolation were interpreted by a grieving Cattrall as “exploitation”, adding,
gunned down by a drive-by shooter, while in Los Angeles. Neither assailant
“Your continuous reaching out is a painful reminder of how cruel you really
was ever caught.
were then and now.” Ouch!
Sinead O’Connor vs Frank Sinatra
Donald Trump vs The World
One of the more obscure celebrity feuds existed between Irish songstress
Vast dossiers (and not the ones about Russian piss parties) could be commit-
Sinead O’Connor and the ultimate crooner, “old blue eyes” Sinatra. On the
ted to writing about the great sprawl of enemies old mate Don has acquired
American leg of her I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got tour, in 1991, O’Connor
over the years. Some are innocent enough: years before he became the leader
threatened to pull out of a New Jersey performance after the venue insisted
of the free world, in 2006, Trump locked horns with Rosie O’Donnell, after she
on playing the American national anthem. According to an LA Times report,
branded him a “snake-oil salesman”, for allowing disgraced Miss USA winner
O’Connor claimed she had “a policy of not having national anthems played
Tara Conner to keep her crown, despite drug and alcohol scandals. Ture to
before my concerts in any country, including my own, because they have
form, Trump branded “nice fat little Rosie” O’Donnell “a real loser”. Ghastly as
nothing to do with music in general”. The next evening, as Sinatra played
that is, it pales into comparison to some of Trump’s potentially world-ending
the very same venue, the
tantrums, most notably with
Vegas icon claimed, “I’d
North Korean dictator Kim
like to kick her in the ass!”
Jong-Un. Trumped deemed
Later that year, in an inter-
it ideal timing, upon the iso-
view with Esquire Maga-
lationist regime’s successful
zine, O’Connor insisted it
test firing of a ballistic missile
wouldn’t be a fair fight: “I
capable of firing a nuclear
can’t hit this man back –
warhead to the US mainland
he’s like 78 years of age. I’d
(and Australia) to taunt the
probably kill him!”
Korean autocrat, calling him “little rocket man”. So, if you have any feuds on the boil, best go bury the hatchet and kiss and make-up, before the Trumpocolypse starts.
C U LT U R E
TT H HE E M MU US S II C C
M MA AR RC CH H
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
Fuelled by personal moments of connection Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird frontman Lachlan Rose can’t wait to slot a vinyl copy of his band’s debut album within his record collection alongside records by his favourite musicians, Rod Whitfield learns.
eleasing a debut album is always a time of great excitement mixed with gnawing nerves and clawing selfdoubt for the album’s creators. Drawing their name from a line in the movie American Beauty, Melbourne-based psychedelic/alternative popsters Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird are set to release their first-ever long-player, and lead singer and main man Lachlan Rose is experiencing a whole gamut of disparate feelings. “There’s a definite degree of nervousness,” he admits. “You put everything into making a record, but it’s quite a private process. Only a couple of people hear it and you kinda think you’re doing a good job, but then you get to the end and there’s just that feeling of, ‘Oh, my god! There’s a good chance that this is the worst record that anyone’s ever made’. “Hopefully that’s not the case, but there’s always that voice. In general, we are so excited.” There is also often a pure self-indulgent element that goes along with releasing a debut, the fulfilment of childhood fantasies, and Rose is experiencing a fair chunk of that in the lead-up to the release as well. “I’ve been
imagining holding a piece of vinyl that I’ve made since I was eight years old,” he laughs. “So from a selfish standpoint that’s going to be a nice milestone and especially just slotting it into my record collection with all my other favourite records. “There’s always a feeling of gratitude towards our favourite musicians for producing what they do, and the feeling of contributing something to that pool of work, and this might be that record for someone else that’s a really profound feeling.” The band have released two previous EPs and anyone familiar with those works is going to be pleasantly surprised with the development and evolution of their sound when they experience Electric Brown. Rose is confident that people will hear a band that has established its identity and knows exactly what it is doing. “The EPs were really just my first take on recording at all,” he states. “The songs are always getting more expansive. This record was the first time we really had extended time in the studio to really work out a sound and make a lot of mistakes, and discard things and so on. “You can hear a lot of exploration in those first two EPs, what I’d like to think
people are getting from the record is a pretty realised kind of sound.” Something else listeners may notice is just how old-school the recording and instrumentation sounds while still, amazingly, managing to sound current. “Our producer and I are really obsessed with a lot of the instruments that were made in the ‘70s,” he says. “And while the songs are about all these various themes, we wanted to remain consistent in using all these instruments to create something new. “When people hear the record, I’d like to think that people will be able to identify that that’s the Cousin Tony... sound; that sonic palette is what really stands out about us.” By the time this feature is out in the world, the band will have announced a huge run of dates across the nation in support of the album. Longer term, Rose tells us that the band actually have a combination of major long-term goals for themselves and also smaller, more personal ones: goals and experiences that don’t actually involve playing huge shows, making big money and being a rock star. “One of our goals would be getting to tour and travel the world with [the album],”
he says. “But also, we’re lucky to occasionally have these moments where people reach out to us, whether it’s personally or otherwise. Just to keep having those personal moments of connection where someone will say - it might be just something really mundane like, ‘I brush my teeth to this song every morning,’ or, ‘This song helped me through a really hard time’. If we can just keep having those moments, that’s just like petrol for us; that’s really all we need. “We are already where we need to be, in that sense.”
Electric Brown (Double Drummer/Sony) is out this month. Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird tour from 22 Mar.
“Just to keep having those personal moments of connection where someone will say - it might be just something really mundane like, ‘I brush my teeth to this song every morning’... that’s really all we need.”
3 APRIL RIVERSIDE THEATRE PERTH 4 APRIL ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE THEATRE ADELAIDE 6 APRIL MARGARET COURT ARENA MELBOURNE 7 APRIL ICC THEATRE SYDNEY
She aims to Teese Burlesque megastar Dita von Teese is considered one of the world’s most beautiful — and risque — icons. But it wasn’t always so. She tells Maxim Boon about her transformation from small-town girl to pin-up visionary.
n the late ‘80s, in the small Michigan city of West Branch, Heather Sweet, a seemingly unremarkable teen girl with dirty blonde hair, found herself staring longingly at the great supermodels of the day, perhaps wishing to be more like them, perhaps convinced that she never could be. Of course, that girl could scarcely have imagined how this moment of self-conscious introspection would eventually propel her to global stardom. Some 30 years later, Heather Sweet is better known by another name: Dita von Teese. “I felt like I didn’t have many role models of beauty or sensuality that I could relate to when I was growing up. I was a pretty mediocre looking blonde kid from a farming town, and I would look at these beautiful models like Elle McPherson and Cindy Crawford — at the time it was all about natural beauty and what you were born with. I was just like, ‘I don’t have that,’” she recalls. “So, I looked to the past because I thought I could maybe create that. I think that that’s one of the things that really rings true for other people who have been drawn to the burlesque and pin-up aesthetic, because it doesn’t depend on your body shape, age, or ethnicity. Th is is something that adds glamour and beauty for anyone. It’s become a place of diversity and acceptance and inclusivity. Some of the best, best performers I work with are not the traditionally most beautiful.” Dita von Teese could most easily be described as the world’s most celebrated burlesque performer, but this summary falls far short of capturing the true scope of her abilities. Part performer, part impresario, part entrepreneur, part icon, von Teese’s career has been one of consistently defying labels. More than being merely a model, she has been the muse for some of the world’s top designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Zac Posen and Christian Louboutin, who custom makes all the shoes von Teese wears on stage. More than being just a sex symbol, she has championed a new identity of sensual expression, or as von Teese has dubbed it, “eccentric glamour,” which celebrates female empowerment and gender nonconformity. More than being only a performer, she has transformed herself into a worldwide brand, synonymous with the popular resurgence of burlesque and retro pinup beauty. But, while Heather Sweet’s transformation from awkward teen to global phenomenon is an extraordinar y story, it’s also a
tale of grit and tenacity. Today, von Teese may be the darling of the fashion elite, a powerful design and beauty brand, and a symbol of sexual power, but this status has been hard won. “I feel like through my career, which started in the early ‘90s, and the way it’s evolved now, my audience has definitely shifted and changed,” she shares. “I used to be strictly under the male gaze, as a Playboy model and one of the first pin-up girls with an adult-themed website. I’ve definitely experienced all of it, but I’m really grateful that I live in a time right now where burlesque has become kind of an unlikely, modern feminist movement, and a place of celebration for sensuality and strength.” Unsurprisingly, there is a subversive side to von Teese, that has survived her transition from the fringes of the fetish scene to the entertainment mainstream. Th is is perhaps most playfully expressed in her stage productions, in which she has often collaborated with drag artists who share a simpatico affinity for the feminine illusion that underpins burlesque. These include the corset-wearing RuPaul’s Drag Race champion, Violet Chachki, and genderfluid model Raja. “I’ve always loved having an element in my performances that kind of confuses people,” she explains with a smile. “It’s always been important to me to have different representations of beauty on stage. But really, above all, I honestly look for the most showstopping performers in the world. Fortunately, a lot of the very, very best are not these pretty little pin-up girls that are a size zero. They’re just not. The thing is, I’ve found that the most interesting ones are really kind of forging their own paths, and doing their own thing.” Von Teese reveals a flash of her steely head for business as we discuss the explosion of burlesque performers around the world in recent years, hoping to follow in her high-heeled, Swarovski encrusted footsteps. “I have girls all the time that are like, ‘I want to be in your show,’ and then they’ll send me a picture of themselves, and they look like they’re just imitating everything that I do. I’m like, ‘Well, why would I put that in my show? I want to see something I haven’t seen before. I want my mind blown.’ If my mind is blown, then the audience’s mind is going to be blown. It’s that simple.” Of course, any degree of popularity is inevitably accompanied by a backlash, and von Teese’s stardom has been no exception. “I’ve opened up a newspaper before, and this hasn’t happened in a long time, but I’ve opened up the newspaper to read about how what I’m doing is anti-feminist. I had one thing where I was performing in London, and someone was up in arms trying to shut it down, saying it was just about men ogling women. But honestly, a lot of people that point the finger and immediately say that what I do is anti-feminist, their argument doesn’t hold up. It usually just makes them look a little bit dim and uninformed about what’s going on in the world of burlesque and pin-up, and what it represents. I often think about — well I call it the ‘so-called’ these days — but what’s known as ‘The Golden Age of Burlesque’, from the 1930s and ‘40s. I really don’t think it can really be considered “The Golden Age” anymore. If you look how far we’ve come, and the meaning behind burlesque, and how people are inspired by it, I think we’re living through ‘The Golden Age’ right now. Back then it was entertainment for men. It was a man’s opportunity to see a live, naked girl taking her clothes off.” It’s touching and humbling to hear von Teese speak with such passion about the new movement of sex-positive self-expression she’s pioneered via a craft that might otherwise have been dismissed as cheap smut or a dead art form. Heather Sweet’s journey may have begun as a quest for beauty, but it isn’t hard to imagine von Teese — the blond locks of her youth now a lustrous jet black, framing a flawless alabaster complexion and cherry red lip — telling her younger self to dream so much bigger. “I’ve been very forthcoming about why I started doing this in the first place, and what my purpose is behind it. And being forthcoming about why I started doing this in the first place, and how that could maybe resonate or help other people that maybe feel like I did.”
“I want my mind blown. If my mind is blown, then the audience’s mind is going to be blown. It’s that simple.”
The Art Of The Teese plays from 1 Mar at the Palais Theatre
WE CAN’T ENSURE YOU’LL NAIL EVERY CHORD, BUT WE CAN INSURE YOUR GUITAR. Get a quote in 30 seconds racv.com.au
Human after all Rag’n’Bone Man (Rory Graham to his nearest and dearest) hates “having lots and lots of pictures taken in a big media setting”, but loves “genius” Damon Albarn to bits, he tells Cyclone.
he life of the British hip hop blues singer Rag’n’Bone Man (aka Rory Graham) changed forever when in mid-2016 he aired his gospel ballad Human. After years of grinding in the underground, and working by day as a carer for children with special needs, he became a pop star. Th is new level of success has necessitated significant adjustment, yet Graham is amiably chill. “Yeah, it’s another level,” he acknowledges. “It’s kinda the same, just much, much faster and everything is just a bit more crazy. I’m kind of used to it. I take everything in my stride. I’m pretty grounded. Nothing much fazes me, really. The only thing that really gets to me is things that I feel uncomfortable with. I think the more time you spend in the music industry, you realise you don’t have to do everything. I’ve become very good at saying ‘No’ and not in a diva-ish sense, but in a sense of I’m not 18 and I don’t have to adhere to peer pressure. If I feel totally uncomfortable doing something, I don’t have to do it. Th ings like having lots and lots of pictures taken in a big media setting makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable, so I just say, ‘No, I don’t wanna do any more’. Everything else is pretty cool. I love to perform, I live for it, so I feel very lucky. Actually, I don’t take anything for granted.” Indeed, Graham was even happy to don a Christmas jumper as a celebrity guest on The Last Leg alongside Mad Men actor Jon Hamm. Hailing from Uckfield, East Sussex, Graham came up in the Brighton scene. Initially a teen MC embracing hip hop and drum’n’bass, he started singing blues at the encouragement of his dad. Later, Graham linked with old schoolmate Mark Crew, then producing Bastille’s Bad Blood. Crew recruited him for his fledgling Best Laid Plans Records. Graham issued EPs like 2014’s Wolves, developing his urban-blues. He asked the emerging Long Beach, California MC Vince Staples to cut a verse over the internet for Hell Yeah. “It’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever done,” Graham says. The Wolves title-track was synced as the theme to the cult TV show New Blood.
Following Human’s breakthrough, the new Sony signing won both 2017’s BRITs Critics’ Choice Award and British Breakthrough Act. In early 2017, Graham presented his debut album, also entitled Human. In the UK it struck #1 and is now multi-platinum, Graham proclaimed the male Adele. Astonishingly, amid the madness, he and his longtime girlfriend welcomed their first child, a son, Reuben, in September. And Graham has just celebrated his 33rd birthday. “We had a good time,” he chuckles. “We had a party, so it was a lot of fun.” Graham is progressing on a second album, which is reportedly more band-oriented. “I’m right in the middle of a big period of writing in my studio in South London,” he affirms. “I’m actually having the best time writing music at the moment. I’ve become really creative in my time off. I had a nice month off over December.” Between projects, Graham tracked vocals for Gorillaz’ Humanz - appearing on the deluxe edition’s The Apprentice with Ray BLK and Zebra Katz. As a Blur and Gorillaz super-fan, he was chuffed to hang with Damon Albarn. In Albarn’s studio, Graham found himself sitting at the same piano as the late Bobby Womack. “He’s a wonderful man, is Damon. He really is. He’s everything that I wanted him to be. He’s a bit nutty. He’s a proper rock’n’roll star, is Damon Albarn, but he’s a genius. It was really, really inspiring coming into his world and seeing the way he worked and the way he writes music and writes lyrics. He’s totally bonkers, but I love him to bits. He’s amazing.” Graham, who played 2017’s Splendour In The Grass, is returning for Bluesfest. “I’m bringing my full band set-up, ‘cause I wanted to. Th is probably means we’re not gonna make any money out of the Australian tour, but it’s more important that it sounds good! So I’ve got a full soul band set-up and I brought my brass players with me. It’s gonna be a huge sound, hopefully. I’m gonna play probably a fair amount of songs off the [Human] record, but I’m gonna play some new songs, too, and hopefully they’ll go down well.”
Patience is a virtue
Rag’n’Bone Man plays Bluesfest and sideshows from 27 Mar.
Time to come clean Alissa White-Gluz, frontwoman for melodic death metal titans Arch Enemy, talks to Brendan Crabb about clean vocals, the late Warrel Dane and her solo record.
The powerful rock’n’roll favoured by emerging songsmith Benjamin Booker may be primitive and incendiary, but he tells Steve Bell how the best way to find inspiration is to chill out and let life do the heavy lifting.
oung US singersongwriter Benjamin Booker turned a lot of heads when his eponymous debut album arrived back in 2014. It’s primal mixture of blues, punk and soul that sounds raw and vital, announcing the arrival of a fierce new talent. Fast-forward a few years and Booker - emboldened by experience on the road and honing his skill sets - played his second gambit Witness in mid-2017, the new collection far more polished and adding new elements such as soul and gospel into the mix. But while it’s a slightly more refined batch of songs, it’s still defiantly and recognisably emanating from the same artist, Booker explaining that his unique sound was origi-
nally the result of a happy musical accident while studying journalism at college. “When I was first making stuff I was living in a small college town in Gainesville, Florida and there were a bunch of folk-punk bands coming out of there at the time, just bands mixing roots music and punk. And then I was also into Otis Redding and stuff, and I think it was just a clear line of, ‘What if you did those soul melodies and things placed over this music that you’re listening to now?’” he laughs. “I think one day I literally thought about that and the songs came not long after that, and it worked! It was really crazy.” The self-titled album garnered Booker critical acclaim and found him sharing stages with names such as Jack White and Courtney Barnett, and rocking out on late-night talk shows, but those experiences didn’t make the task any easier when it came to knuckling down for album number two. “I think it’s just always hard to write albums, dude,” he chuckles. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who’s complaining, because it’s the easiest job in the world, but I would say that for, like, 18 months it’s the easiest job in the world and then you have to spend the next few months writing an album, and it’s just, like, the hardest thing. “Making stuff is hard, and I think what I’ve learned from listening to other people and just from doing it more is that you really can’t force it. You really have to sit back and wait for things to come to you because when you really try to sit down and just crank out a song it always sucks - at least for me, it always sucks. “So, yeah, I was having a rough time but I think that that’s what happened - I ended up just waiting and not thinking about it and taking a vacation, and then I ended up doing the whole album on that vacation. I think that’s
“I think that if you want to make an album that’s worth anything, that’s truthful or just like has any sort of artistic merit, it’s important for me to go deeper. “
he Music converses with Arch Enemy’s
The track represents incremen-
powerhouse Canadian vocalist Alissa
tal progress for a band often derid-
White-Gluz the day after the death
ed for adhering to the formula,
of former Nevermore singer Warrel Dane.
and has seemingly puzzled some.
Aside from being label-mates, Arch Enemy
However, those who had heard the
shredder Jeff Loomis also formerly played
former The Agonist vocalist and
alongside Dane in Nevermore and Sanctu-
Kamelot guest — handpicked by her
ary. Unsurprisingly, the wound is still raw for
predecessor, and now Arch Enemy
manager Angela Gossow — sing
“Oh my God, that was shocking,” she says
cleanly on other projects wouldn’t
from Montreal. “All of us, but especially of
have been astonished by her prow-
course Jeff, are going through a tough time
ess in that regard. “It’s surprising to
right now. Just sending huge condolences
me how many people didn’t think
and deepest sympathies to his family and
that was me singing,” the vocalist
friends. And fans of course, myself included.
laughs. “Like a lot of people actually
Because that was way too young, and not
were like, ‘Wait, who’s that?’ And
something we expected. I just think it’s very
I’m like, ‘It’s me,’” she laughs again.
unfortunate, and if anything, I hope that this
“They’re like, ‘Who’s the guest? It
happening can maybe help maybe some
doesn’t say in the album who it is.’
other people that are struggling, and maybe
I’m like, ‘There’s no guest, it’s me.’
show them that they need to maybe take control of their lives..”
the way I’m going to approach it from now, definitely just relax and wait for it to come.” The vacation in question found Booker decamping to Mexico City to escape the tumultuous times unveiling in his homeland. “I went down without plans for making a record, I’d just brought my guitar just in case, and I was reading a book and I think that was what opened things,” he reflects. “I was reading a book called White Noise [by Don DeLillo] and there was a quote that said, ‘What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation,’ and I was, like, ‘Oh, damn, that’s what I should be making this record about: the facts that I don’t want to talk about’. “Just the things in your life that are really difficult to deal with - I think that if you want to make an album that’s worth anything, that’s truthful or just like has any sort of artistic merit, it’s important for me to go deeper. So I took out some paper and wrote down a bullet-pointed list of things I wanted to address in my own life and that kind of became the outline for the album, just the basis of it, and it all came together after that.”
Benjamin Booker plays Bluesfest and sideshows from 29 Mar.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
“That was surprising to me, because it’s funny how small our “The nature of the solo album is that
It was a tragic conclusion to an otherwise
worlds are until they expand. I’m sure that my
kind of how we are too. We aren’t of the opin-
banner year for the Swedish metallers. After
world right now is still really small because
ion that we have to stay stuck in a box.”
unleashing a live set captured at Germany’s
I’m in the metal world. I don’t know anything
The group’s strenuous touring schedule
labels, no precedents. I know people are
none-more-metal Wacken Open Air festival,
about the R&B world, for example. So it’s still
in support of Will To Power aside — 2018 will
getting impatient, and I am too, but I only
they also released studio effort Will To Power,
my little bubble is what I know about. But I
feature their return to Australia as part of the
want to release good stuff, and I don’t want
White-Gluz’s second album fronting Arch
was under the impression that everybody
inaugural Download Festival — White-Gluz
to rush it. So I’m going to release it when
Enemy. High-octane metal remains the quin-
knew that I did clean singing, but that actu-
hopes to scrape together sufficient time for
tet’s stock-in-trade, but having almost entire-
ally wasn’t the case. Surprisingly, Reason To
her solo project. “That is something that I am
ly eschewed clean vocals prior, the record’s
Believe has been amongst the favourites so
doing whenever I have a little bit of time off
curiosity piece is their first “ballad”, Reason To
far... a lot of people really love the song. A lot
from Arch Enemy. The issue is that I usually
Believe. It features White-Gluz’s grunts and
of people are like, ‘Yeah, it’s clean singing and
only have like maybe a week off every few
that’s weird for Arch Enemy, but I like it.’ That’s
months,” she laughs.
of just artistic creation, very free-form, no
Arch Enemy tour from 23 Mar.
We went to a festival in a 17thcentury Indian palace
India’s Magnetic Fields Festival is about the journey AND the destination, writes Kris Swales. Seeing legends drop jungle bangers in a desert on a crisp Monday morning is an unexpected bonus.
ometimes, assessing the relative merits of a festival is as easy as deducing how difficult it is to get there. There’s the peak-hour crawl out of Brisbane or Sydney that’ll eventually land you in the rolling green hills outside of Byron Bay for Splendour In The Grass; the wind farm-lined highway several hours out of LA that signals your imminent arrival at Indio’s Empire Polo Club for Coachella, or the even more epic journey to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. And then there’s the 250-kilometre odyssey from Delhi to remote Alsisar, a seemingly insignificant speck on the Rajasthan map for 51 weeks of the year, which gets its chance in the spotlight for Magnetic Fields Festival’s annual three-day takeover. After seven hours of highways, flyways and byways, dodging goats and high beam-flashing trucks on haze-heavy roads that at times resemble an abandoned construction site on the moon, the faint glimmer of a spotlight reaching into the sky from the Alsisar Mahal is like discovering a desert oasis. A short navigation through some humble cement domiciles and you’ve suddenly arrived, what feels like a ghost town giving way to the home of Magnetic Fields once you round one final corner. Pop-up food stalls haphazardly blend into each other on the stretch leading up to Alsisar Mahal, although you have to dodge unauthorised spruikers attempting to relieve your wallet of an exorbitant parking fee first. Th is somewhat chaotic ‘real India’ main street separates the walled festival grounds from the impressive desert camp that has sprung up beside it. Magnetic Fields passes the pivotal ‘vibe’ test before you’ve gotten close to darkening the door of the dancefloor, which you’ll share with Bollywood directors and A-list WAGs, South Indian film stars, clean-cut foreign backpackers and grizzled acid casualties, all mingling with India’s burgeoning young middle class. Delhi ensemble The Ska Vengers are closing the Bira 91 South stage on the lawn adjacent to the palace, the Friday night dancefloor still easing into proceedings. The vibe is laidback and friendly, and space is plentiful; if Magnetic Fields does continue to grow, you’d hope it’s in the breadth of entertainment on offer rather than the number of punters, which feels comfortably perfect somewhere in the low thousands. The musical program moves sequentially across the stages, so you’re never in a mid-set rush from one arena to the next. At Magnetic Fields, clashes essentially don’t exist. So as the Bira stage wraps up, the bass bins of the Red Bull Music Academy stage warm up with Bangalore, um, stalwart Stalvart John unleashing a selection of house and disco so funky that wrapping up with Lola’s Theme is the only logical conclusion. And the entire palace (save perhaps the ornately furnished formal dining room) is your playground, so you can enjoy his sounds from the middle of the courtyard, or any vantage point you fancy staking out on the top terrace if you’ve self-insulated from Alsisar’s brisk night air.
“... Millions of rupees worth of audio technology are no match for a passionate dude wielding four sticks.”
ay two breaks across the Bedouin tent site slowly. A thin layer of mist still lingers in the laneways at 10am; by the time you trudge past Desert Oasis stage for your second coffee an hour later, the sun has burnt the last layers away and blue skies signal the brief arrival of shorts weather. Five hours from midday, local selector Emote is on the decks beneath the camo net-draped dancefloor, moving haphazardly through esoteric electronica pumped through a sound system so finely tuned it could trigger tinnitus in a 20-kilometre radius. A handful of hardy souls bounce wistfully through the afternoon as Emote gives way to Berlin-based wonky tech slinger She’s Drunk, although most are gathered around the nearby picnic tables loading up on pizza, curry and mojitos. Clued-in punters have already staked out the best vantage points on the Alsisar Mahal terrace as the sun begins its slow descent over the campgrounds and behind a cluster of hillocks in the west. Mumbai producer Sandunes delivers one of the sets of the festival on Sundowner stage once darkness has fallen, her live performance more playful and propulsive than her impressive recorded output prepares you for. The highlights keep unfolding across Saturday and Sunday — Four Tet coaxing the sounds of New Energy and Beautiful Rewind out of his live battle station to an adoring crowd; the male-female combo who fronted The Ska Vengers sounding much more at home dishing out vintage dubplates to the Sunday Desert Oasis crowd in their BFR Sound System guise; the earnest, poignant hilarity of Thai funk meets Tarantino soundtrack via a Houston casino lounge bar of adorable Texan trio Khruangbin; Machinedrum getting hyperkinetic as fuck. But the real rockstars of Magnetic Fields perform to a crowd of just 30 atop Alsisar Mahal’s highest vantage point as the Saturday night chill begins to set in. Introduced by Abhimanyu Alsisar — the Raja of Khetri and patron saint of Magnetic Fields — from beneath a wide-brimmed hat that would make Pharrell Williams envious, the group of virtuosos has been drawn from across Rajasthan and neighbouring Gujarat into a supergroup of traditional Indian classical music. The frontman-elect wails ethereally from behind his harmonium, eliciting nervous singalongs from the assembled Gens X and Y for a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan classic and roars of delight for the climactic song about India’s royal state, its title loosely translating to “this land she weeps”. One track earlier, the drummers’ demands to jam are finally met. The Raja’s ‘Man Friday’ is a constant presence on the dholak, content to play second fiddle to the consummate showman wielding the khartal — a Rajasthani percussive instrument that consists of two sets of two wood sheets roughly the size of a 15-centimetre school ruler, clattered rapidly together in each hand. Their call-and-response rings out across the rooftop as the throbbing RBMA speaker stacks soundcheck below, the khartal walla rising from his crouching position to gyrate more vigorously with each ensuing solo to an enraptured crowd, proving once and for all that millions of rupees worth of audio technology are no match for a passionate dude wielding four sticks.
Magnetic Fields Festival is held at Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan (India) every December. Go to http://magneticfields.in/ for more details.
ome bands hit the pop-culture sweet spot just at the right time, igniting and reflecting the spirit of a generation before burning out and fading away. Others hang around, soldiering on with diminishing returns — a loyal fanbase in tow — cushioning their middle-aged bank accounts. There are also those acts who have that moment in the spotlight, vacate the pedestal but then re-emerge years down the track with the essence of their creativity still intact; bands like The Afghan Whigs, SleaterKinney and Dinosaur Jr. Kim Deal, of course, tasted the rewards of that with the resurrected Pixies, but the scale and dynamics of that band clearly didn’t suit her. There were new and fairly wellreceived The Breeders albums in the interim years — Title TK (2002) and Mountain Battles (2008) — but after reconvening the line-up from their seminal 1993 album Last Splash (Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson) for its 20th anniversary celebrations, it became clear that there was still a spark and desire to write and record new material. All Nerve could just as easily have been titled ‘All Verve’, for it’s an album that captures some of the joie de vivre of Last Splash, tempers it with the perspective of age and is filled with sardonic swagger, obtuse wordplay and a musical dynamism that rarely becomes anything other than pure Breeders. The first single Wait In The Car throws a sly nod to the drum rimshots at the start of their most famous song Cannonball before being overrun with cascading guitar distortion and downstrokes. Deal sings of embracing inspiration and intuition, and screw the consequences. That theme continues in the title track as she sings, “I won’t stop/I will run
The Breeders All Nerve 4AD/Remote Control
How To Socialise & Make Friends
While he flew to America and isolated himself to write his previous record, this time Alex Gow wrote and recorded in Australia, working once again with producer Scott Horscroft. As a result, this new album shares its lush and orchestral qualities with its predecessor. The quality of the arrangements is undeniable. However, rather than serving as effective juxtaposition for Gow’s surrealist songwriting experiments, the music is occasionally a reminder of just how seriously he’s trying not to take himself. Thankfully, there are enough transcendent moments throughout the album to offer redemption.
The Mercury Prize-winning Scottish trio wrote and recorded Cocoa Sugar over the course of a year in the band’s basement studio. It certainly has that subterranean, lo-fi sound they’ve tinkered with over the course of three albums. Cocoa Sugar has hidden depths though, as successive listens peel back surprising new layers. Cocoa Sugar is a good example of what can organically flourish when the pressure’s off. Journeying inward, Young Fathers have patiently developed a sound and songcraft that is entirely and unmistakably their own. Christopher H James
you down/I’m all nerve,” alluding to both determination and obsessive personality traits. MetaGoth shifts musical gears into a world of Joy Division and Bauhaus with its brooding and foreboding rhythm section. It’s the least ‘Breeders’ song on the album but suits them, especially given there’s always been an element of post-punk deconstruction running through their music. The Breeders consistently show an ability to balance the punkish rush with prettier, more meditative moments. The verses of Spacewoman do just that with a delicacy and spaciousness that makes the crunch and stomp of the chorus even more rewarding. There are shades of Courtney Barnett’s sound on Walking With A Killer as the song meanders along, decorated with a quasi-psychedelia similar to early The Smashing Pumpkins. Archangel’s Thunderbird is a rare misfire, lacking direction and seemingly laid out on a drum pattern but then never building on it. Relief comes in the form of Dawn: Making An Effort with its billowing, gauzy, shoegaze guitars. It’s like a lost ‘50s pop song, filtered and reimagined via a ghostly transmission. Their trademark blend of heavy, raw guitars and spectral, almost naive, melodies return on the monstrous-sounding Skinhead #2 before Blues At The Acropolis finds Deal referencing false-hero worship and perhaps bemoaning the watering down and dissipation of artistic worth. Thankfully, a quarter of a century after crafting Last Splash, The Breeders have the nerve and the creative impulse to again inject some life and imagination into rock music.
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird Electric Brown
Poison City Records
It’s the combination of melodic bass lines, raw vocals that evoke a deep emotional response, honest, powerful lyrics and authentic storytelling that makes the second album from band Camp Cope so strong. The trio are vocal and effective advocates of ending gender disparity and sexual assault within music and the nine songs on the album are rich with messages and meaning. The trio are undoubtedly great musicians and songwriters, and How To Socialise & Make Friends is a definite reflection of that.
Th is Melbourne-based five-piece have done something rather special their debut LP. In utilising old school instrumentation, production techniques and songwriting style, they have created an album that is highly distinctive. It sounds like an album for 2018 audiences that was written and recorded in 1973. It’s obvious much care, hard work and attention has been put into every facet of this album’s creation. And the end result is quite stunning. If you dig on beautifully crafted, indie-sounding pop, this record is absolutely for you.
For more album reviews, go to www.theMusic.com.au
If I Said Only So Far I Take It Back
It’s been almost a decade since singer-songwriter Mia Dyson decamped to America. Now she’s doubled down on her longheld fascination with the States’ rich musical heritage by recording her sixth album at Portside Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The resulting collection is both sonically stripped-back and wilfully diverse, southern rock tones pulsing through tunes like sultry rocker Nothing, while an ‘80s classic rock vibe permeates catchy single Fool, and up-tempo toe-tapper Diamonds betrays Dyson’s guitar-slinger background.
Flowertruck haul around a pretty particular kind of sensibility. It’s a brand of impassioned nonchalance that has less to do with apathy and more to do with a sort of lackadaisical confidence drenched in a summer pop malaise. The group’s debut LP seems to have grown directly from their first EP Dirt, deploying the same mixture of buoyant melodies and melancholic deliveries, but the overall sound is fuller and more mature without losing the seed of what made it worth cultivating. Confident and considerately paced, Mostly Sunny is the start of a bright future.
The world didn’t react very kindly to The Sword’s last album. And to be fair, it wasn’t surprising given it consisted of a hodgepodge of southern fried rock instead of the fuzzed out stoner/ doom that the band’s considerable fan base expected. The Sword’s sixth album starts off promisingly, but overall Used Future won’t do much to recover lost fans — the peaks of the record don’t match the band’s earlier work, and the rest see the band continue on a very uncertain path. It will be very interesting to see whether The Sword can weather yet more disappointed long-term fans.
The Perth four-piece’s debut album is as refreshingly breezy as the Freo Doctor on a stinking hot day, infectious tracks like the cheerfully world-weary Feelin’ Old and the relentless jangle of Long Comedown setting the tone. There are sporadic horns throughout and strings embellish relatively maudlin closer Last Ciggie, but their default setting is upbeat indie rock, and the regular contrast with frontman Ben Arnold’s gritty observations only adds genuine substance.
What So Not
Not All The Beautiful Things
Sweat It Out/Warner
Sydney buzz band Big White return with their second LP, Street Talk. It’s frothy and crisp, and has a vibrant inner warmth. Post-punk can sound brittle, but Street Talk nails the fine line between rebellious angst and guileless optimism. There’s more than a nod to the early work of The Cure, excellent vocalist Cody Munro Moore offering a sunny interpretation of Robert Smith’s melodramatic caterwaul. Production is light and polished, letting the best version of the band speak for itself. Street Talk has all the hallmarks of the third or fourth album from a far more seasoned outfit.
Notorious for his epic live sets, What So Not (aka Emoh Instead aka Chris Emerson) solidifies his electronic mark with debut full-length, Not All The Beautiful Things. Not All The Beautiful Things allows each track to inhabit its own unique flavour — the perfect blend between the electronic familiar and refreshing innovation. Th rough a myriad of influences and emotion, What So Not’s maturity as an artist and ear for collaboration has allowed his established sound to flourish, creating something for everyone. A well-curated, well-rounded work on a bed of exquisite production.
Psych-rockers Ocean Alley deliver a colourful, full-length second album, Chiaroscuro. Single Confidence presents a whomping bass line that intertwines the track’s tight marriage of hoarse electric guitar and straight drums. Dream sequence Knees engulfs a relaxed nature through its streams of gliding electric guitar that ebb and flow across a beautiful, fluctuating vocal. As the album’s title suggests, this work explores both light and shade. In a confident step forward, Ocean Alley have crafted a seamless blend of the two within their constantly evolving melting pot of psychedelic and surf rock.
Melbourne’s Press Club has fast gained traction as a solid live act, and their debut album certainly maintains that hype. Late Teens proves there’s a whole lot more to Press Club. Let It Fall pulls the live energy the band are known for into the studio, while Stay Low is the perfect album closer. Late Teens offers an exciting new perspective on the group, while still allowing room to grow. It’s a gallant start from a band with a lot of promise.
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Portt Fairy Fairy Folk Folk F Festival estiva al Portt Fairy Fai airy ry Folk F Festival will flood its coastal location with wit ih folk, folk lk k, roots, blues, jazz, country and bluegrass for the 42nd d time ti ime this 9-12 Mar. You’ll see bands performing on flatbed ttrucks, rucks, in churches and halls, and there’s free entertainment Green o Fiddlers’ on Fid iddl dler dl ers G ers’ Gre reen and the Railway Stage. There will be comedy, edy y, street y, sstr trree eett performers, perf rfor forme meers m rs, cr ccraft aft and market stalls, and even an Irish-themed Iris Ir isshh-th them med Shebeen She hebe beeen en tent wheree separate sepa se pa rate ‘shopfronts’ ‘sh sh hop pfr fron onts on tss’ such suc as Scruffy as Sc uf Scr uffy fy Duffys Duf ufffys deal snacks. snaack cks. And, And nd, d off course, cou ourse, rse, there theere re will will be world performances Steve Poltz, Mental Anyw wo r d class rl clas cl asss perf as pe erforma m ncess ffrom ma rom St ro S tev evee Po ollttz, Menta al As As Any ything, Archie thin th ng, A Archi hiee Roach, hi Roaach, Black Ro Blaack k Sorrows Sorro S ows ws aand nd more. m .
Driving Miss Brown
A passionate defender of the saxophone’s suitability for music of all genres, YolanDa Brown is also working towards acquiring her licence as a racing car driver. She tells Cyclone the fact that her tour coincides with our Formula 1 Grand Prix is “a dream come true”.
After 42 years Port Fairy Folk Festival still knows how to keep things fresh. Here’s a few things outside of the usual fest formula to check out.
Theme team One of our favourite PFFF traditions is the themed concerts, which sees them pick’n’mixing their always-enviable roster for different one-off concepts. This year The Port Gospel Session looks proper cool, with Kerri Simpson leading The Band Who Knew Too
Much and some A-list cameos.
Party animals Even off the stage there’s always plenty to see at PFFF. Among this year’s installations and roving performers are illuminated circus
olanDa Brown is a hyper-slashie. She is a saxophonist, composer and broadcaster. Even musically, she fuses jazz, soul and reggae — inventing the “posh reggae” genre. But the vivacious Brit is also serious about motor racing. “I just love it!” Brown raves. “It’s such a wonderful experience of being there in the car, out on the track, in control. There’s something about it that is very addictive — you just wanna get back out there.” Brown is returning to Australia for her first full national tour with a full band through March, coinciding with Melbourne’s Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, “Which is a dream come true for me,” she says. Brown enthuses about 2017’s exclusive week-long residency at Melbourne’s feted jazz club Bird’s Basement, recalling the “energetic” audiences. “They were up, they were singing, they were dancing — and exactly what I wanted and what I needed. So I’m looking forward to coming back — no pressure now!” Born in Barking, London, to Jamaican parents, Brown picked up several instruments (piano, violin, drums), but stuck with the saxophone primarily because it was “portable”. “For me, there was a big difference with using your voice [voicing techniques] to create the sounds — it felt emotive and very therapeutic, actually.” In the ‘90s the saxophone was sadly deemed unfashionable, but that changed with the ‘sax house’ micro-trend in clubdom (and Detroit’s Norma Jean Bell). “I don’t think people have a love/hate relationship with it like Marmite — I don’t know if you have Marmite in Australia?” Brown ponders. Today, while joking about the saxophone’s old association with “the Muzak in the lift”, Brown passionately defends the versatile, iconic instrument. “I think it’s great that now it’s not just an element of jazz. You are used to hearing the saxophone everywhere, which is lovely because then you turn up at, like, a hip hop show, or if you turn up to a soul show as a guest — it’s not out of place at all. Rock, the same. It’s not out of place anywhere, in any genre... It’s a great feeling, a great experience, playing the saxophone. It’s really gonna go with everything.” Largely self-trained, Brown didn’t plan on becoming a professional musician. Initially, she followed a scholarly path, completing master’s degrees in
show The Light Fantastic, prima unicyclist Bikerina, the world’s tallest man and his dog,
Management Science and Social Research Methods (Brown now has an honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of East London). In fact, Brown gigged to fund her studies. But, with her popularity as a performer soaring, she reevaluated her vocation. Brown won the MOBO Best Jazz Act award twice consecutively. In 2012, she released a stellar debut album, April Showers May Flowers, independently. After 2016’s extensive Reggae Love Songs tour, for which she was joined by the likes of Destiny’s Child singer Michelle Williams, Brown developed what she’s branded “posh reggae”: a hybrid of jazz, soul and reggae. Last June, Brown unveiled an upbeat second LP, Love Politics War, exploring this “new direction” with co-producer Rick Leon James. She curated prestigious guests including vocalists Raheem Devaughn and The Floacist (of Floetry), and musicians Casey Benjamin (Robert Glasper Experiment), Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy) and Jon Cleary. Above all, the project was shaped by Brown’s travel experiences amid global volatility. “I think it’s very important to be open to those different creative urges, or creative influences, that might come along.” She funded the album with a PledgeMusic campaign, ingenuously offering a ‘Car Race Experience’ package. The industrious Brown has parlayed music into an impressive side-career in broadcasting, in both television and on the radio (she has two in-flight entertainment programs with British Airways). “It’s amazing,” she says. “I just love how, being a musician, you get to meet so many amazing people and you get to have so many wonderful experiences, that you do find that you end up doing a lot of things! It opens you up to different industries, which I love.” Brown is working towards acquiring her licence as a racing car driver, having put it aside when her daughter was born four years ago. “I’m getting back on the track now when we have a gap between the tour dates.” And she’s writing a series of children’s books. Ask Brown about her future aspirations and she nominates another adventure. “Probably flying?” she laughs. YolanDa Brown, pilot — why not?
Yolanda Brown plays Port Fairy Folk Festival and tours from 8 Mar.
Big Rory & Friends, and personable pecker-
The Thin White Ukes
heads Giant Seagulls.
Check The Guide on theMusic.com.au for more details.
You can be heroes Everybody knows learning is the real party, and each year PFFF run workshops on everything from tai chi to Irish set dancing to body percussion. You can even learn the proper way to play Bowie on a ukulele from The Thin White Ukes.
Alex The Astronaut
This month’s highlights
All summer no bummer
Hills Are Alive’s massive tenth anniversary line-up is finally upon us. Ali Barter, The Bennies, Alex The Astronaut, Dear Seattle, Heaps Good Friends, Dorsal Fins and a heap more will bring the fun on 23 Mar at The Farm.
The Coburg Velodrome will host the likes of Tropical Fuck Storm, Bec Sandridge, Baker Boy, WAAX, Ecca Vandal and a stack more on 17 Mar for The Smith Street Band’s inaugural Pool House Party.
Prophets Of Rage
Grace Kindellan with Wet Lips. Pic: Jodie Downie
Old as the hills
Join the revault
Protein-heavy party Meatstock kicks off on 17 Mar at Melbourne Showgrounds with all the beats and eats you could ever want. Tex Perkins, Henry Wagons, The Davidson Brothers and more are providing the tunes.
Download is going off at Flemington Racecourse on 24 Mar. The inaugural Australian leg of the UK rock festival will feature the likes of Korn, Prophets Of Rage, Limp Bizkit, as well as local legends Make Them Suffer and High Tension.
The Australian Music Vault Talks at Arts Centre Melbourne take off on 1 Mar. First on the agenda is Gender Imbalance In The Music Industry with speakers including Wet Lips’ Grace Kindellan, Mohini Hillyer and RMIT’s Dr Catherine Strong.
Kane Hibberd has spent years in the field as one Australian music’s most prolific photographers. In fact, it’s been a decade since he shot Horsell Common for his first cover with us back when we went by the name of Inpress. Happy anniversary, mate!
March has arrived and as usual that means Bluesfest sideshows. Hurray For The Riff Raff, Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, Gomez, Benjamin Booker, Morcheeba and heaps more are coming our way this month.
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Inpress cover, Horsell Common
Ten years of Kane
THE ‘60s JAGUAR. AMERICAN ORIGINAL SERIES. CLASSIC DESIGN MADE NEW.
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Brunswick Music Festival Brunswick is a beautiful, messy mosaic of a place and in their 30th year, Brunswick Music Festival have curated 15 days of music, celebration and discussion that perfectly reflects its home. Here are a few moments you won’t want to miss from 4-18 Mar.
The real MVP Music Victoria is growing all the time. Last year they surpassed a record 1,500 members, ran 26 professional development workshop for 1,000 attendees, facilitated $240,100 in grants as part of the Good Music Neighbours - Acoustic Assessment Grant programs and helped bring the internationally renowned Music Cities Convention to They’re an essential part of our state’s cultural
the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. ecosystem and we’re not the only ones that think so.
In conversation: Masta Ace
Psychic Hysteria showcase
It’s more than exciting enough that Masta Ace is playing two shows as part of BMF, really. But, he’s also doing an In Conversation with local DJ, event curator and radio presenter Mz Rizk, which isn’t so much the icing as a whole, second, equally awesome cake. It’s a unique chance to hear one of the most influential rappers of the ‘Golden Era’ talk about hip hop’s legacy.
Psychic Hysteria are an Australian record and zine label that rock a DIY ethos and a love of local artists, and they’ve handpicked three of their favourites for a BMF showcase. Fair Maiden and Plaster Of Paris are both on board AND it’s one of the last chances you’ll get to see Wet Lips before the punk legends go on indefinite hiatus.
11 Mar, Brunswick Mechanics Institute
17 Mar, Brunswick Mechanics Institute
Angie McMahon Music Victoria are the voice, try and understand it. They look after everyone across the board and when you’re looking for a discount, info session, actual career advice or just a bit of support, they’ll have your back. We are lucky to be in Victoria and have
opportunities like this under our noses.
The world in Brunswick
APRA AMCOS presents: Songwriter Speaks
For their 30th year BMF have truly outdone themselves in bringing the sounds of the world to Melbourne. Ghanaian singer-songwriter and afro-hypno-sonic trendsetter Jojo Abot. Scandinavian indie-folk duo My Bubba. The seven sons of Chicagoan jazz great Phil Cohran, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Desert-blues chanteuse Noura Mint Seymali. The list is huge, make sure you see some of it.
APRA AMCOS’s Songwriter Speaks events are always a masterclass in songwriting, providing insightful glimpses into the creative process of some of Australia’s most successful artists. To celebrate BMF and International Women’s Day, they’ve brought together two uncompromising powerhouses, Ella Hooper and Mojo Juju, with Triple R’s Simon Winkler presenting.
Sam Teskey, The Teskey Brothers Music Victoria are doing great work to support venues and artists and they are giving a voice to under-represented groups in the music community, which is really important too. We’re proud to be MV members.
Wild, Fearless & Free
Wild, Fearless & Free Just when you thought BMF couldn’t get any bigger, last month rolled around and it was announced that the festival was throwing Wild, Fearless & Free. It’s concert to mark and celebrate International Women’s Day, featuring the diverse musical stylings of Stella Angelico, Sophie Koh, Jessica Hitchcock, The Black Sistaz and Kathleen Halloran. PBS 106.7FM presenter DJ Maddy Mac will be on hand to open and close the night.
Sophie Koh I was the recipient of The Age Music Victoria’s Best Female Artist in 2008 and that award changed my life. Joining as a member means that you are instantly connected to the rich music culture, networks, educational
8 Mar, Brunswick Mechanics Institute
programs and play a vital role in continuing Music Victoria’s advocacy efforts.
JOJO ABOT GHANA
Thursday 8 March 8pm–12am Rubix Warehouse With Allysha Joy (solo) and Lady Banton (The Operatives)
Full program and tickets at brunswickmusicfestival.com.au
HOWZAT! Local Music By Jeff Jenkins
Don’t Tear It Down
hat’s the price of a memory? Howzat! was recently chatting with best buddy Cory, who’d just been to see Liam Gallagher at Melbourne’s Festival Hall. “Great gig, shit venue,” he reported. “It’s hot and uncomfortable and the bar is still shit.” “Yeah,” I agreed. “But if they try to pull it down, I’ll be the first person chaining myself to the door.” A week later, The Age broke the story: Festival Hall’s owners plan to demolish the venue and replace it with nearly 200 apartments. The news had Howzat! pondering: When does something bad become good? Should a venue that many people call “Festering Hole” be saved? Mikey Cahill penned an impassioned piece in The Herald Sun. “You’re a hot mess,” he admitted. “And that’s why we keep coming back. You’ve got history, you’ve got stories, you’ve got vibe. So please, stick around for us, Festival Hall.” But industry commentator Paul Cashmere was unmoved. “Promoters have already moved on,” he wrote at Noise11.com. “It is difficult to
Every major Australian act has played at Festival Hall, from Johnny O’Keefe to Gang Of Youths. Midnight Oil last played there on October 17, 1987. Their set included a song from the Species Deceases EP called Progress. It’s dated by the reference to Australia’s population (16 million), and at the time it was hard to imagine a city filled with apartments. But it proved to be a grim forecast. “Manhattanisation is coming,” Peter Garrett predicted. “Open your eyes if you dare. Carry us onto the crossroads, come to your senses and care.” Sixty years ago this month, JO’K’s Shakin’ At The Stadium EP hit the charts, featuring our first rock anthem, Wild One. The Sydney Stadium was demolished in 1970 to make way for a railway line. Cold Chisel had Breakfast At Sweethearts — the Sweethearts cafe is now a McDonald’s. And Frente’s Accidently Kelly Street house has also been torn down. “Some say that’s progress. I say that’s cruel.”
Milestones And Memories 60 YEARS AGO Top 40 radio starts in Australia, at 2UE in Sydney. Johnny O’Keefe’s Shakin At The Stadium EP, featuring Wild One, enters the charts. 40 YEARS AGO Five Gibb songs are in the US Top 10 — Love Is Thicker Than Water, Stayin’ Alive, Emotion, Night Fever and If I Can’t Have You. 30 YEARS AGO Kylie becomes the youngest Gold Logie
Four Festival Hall Moments Molly, the maestro
Festival Hall by Felicity Case-Mejia
justify the business of Festival Hall as an ongoing concern, especially considering that it sits on some of the most valuable land in the city of Melbourne. From an historic or emotional perspective, it will be sad to see Festival Hall go but it makes no sense to keep it standing for sentiment alone.” The Beatles played at four Australian venues on their 1964 tour. Melbourne’s Festival Hall is the last one standing. If we lose part of our cultural history, are we also losing part of ourselves? The proposed closure of The Tote in 2010 prompted the SLAM rally (Save Live Australian Music), which saw 20,000 people take to the streets of Melbourne. “This is our culture, this is our music,” MC Brian Nankervis told the crowd. “They can’t shut us down.” Stephen Cummings countered with a Facebook post about the “much gnashing of teeth from the music industry and inner-city crowd”. “The Tote was a pub,” Cummings wrote. “The Tote is reopening. Pubs open and shut every week.” Are our memories enough, or do we also need a physical reminder? The Festival Hall news came a month after the Victorian government opened the Australian Music Vault, a permanent exhibition celebrating our music history. When a venue has passed its use-by date, do we defend or demolish? Should Festival Hall remain as a rundown reminder of our rock’n’roll past, or should we relocate to the modern amenities of the similarly sized, but unfortunately named, Margaret Court Arena?
We all know Molly was ejected from The Beatles’ Festival Hall show for being overly excited. Five years later, he returned to the venue when Russell Morris was headlining Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds. Molly had organised for John Farrar to conduct the orchestra, but John was sick, so Molly thought he’d realise a childhood dream and become a conductor. “Ready, set, go,” he yelled to the orchestra. “Play!” It was a disaster.
winner. Andy Gibb dies as a result of heart problems, aged 30. 20 YEARS AGO Hunters do the final shows of their farewell tour. 5 YEARS AGO Hermitude’s HyperParadise wins the Australian Music Prize for album of the year.
Joe has to go In 1972, Joe Cocker did two shows on one Friday night at Festival Hall, with the second show at midnight for people who had tickets to Sunday’s show. The government had kicked Joe and his entourage out of the country for drug offences — and they were deported on the Saturday.
I Got Boo Split Enz did their first Australian gig, with Skyhooks, AC/DC and Bob Hudson at Festival Hall on Anzac Day 1975. Tickets cost $2.70. The crowd booed the Enz off stage. Magda Szubanski later confessed to Tim Finn she was one of the Sharpies booing the band.
Speak with Frankness Tired of being hounded by the press, Frank Sinatra delivered a monologue on the Festival Hall stage in 1974, calling journalists everything from bums to parasites, adding that “the broads who work in the press are the hookers of the press”. The journalists’ union demanded an apology, the second Melbourne show was cancelled, and union workers refused to refuel Sinatra’s private jet. The situation was only sorted when the then ACTU leader, Bob Hawke, got involved.
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird — Electric Brown Australia has a fine tradition of bands named after cars — XL Capris, 67 Special, Kingswood, P76 and 78 Saab. Add Melbourne band Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird to the list. Their debut album is a diverse delight, brimming with brooding indie rock.
MAY 17-20, 2018
THE ROBERT CRAY BAND
THE SCREAMING JETS (CAN)
EILEN JEWELL CHARLIE A’COURT SOUTHERN AVENUE KID CONGO AND THE PINK MONKEY BIRDS
BACKSLIDERS LLOYD SPIEGEL
KARL S WILLIAMS 19 TWENTY Karen Lee Andrews JUSTIN YAP BAND BLUES ARCADIA THE SATELLITES MASON RACK BAND DREAMBOOGIE PJ O’BRIEN BAND CHRISTINA CROFTS BAND Toni Swain Benny D Williams TITAN PAYNE AND THE BIG ZYDECO EXPRESS JESSE VALACH PRESENTS BLUES MOUNTAIN SUNNY COAST RUDE BOYS AND MANY MORE
For the latest live reviews go to themusic.com.au
The Preatures @ Melbourne Zoo Pic: Joshua Braybrook
Determined to also let animals enjoy their awesome tunes, The Preatures played for creatures as part of the 2018 Zoo Twilights con-
“By the third song in (Cruel), Manfredi decides to tip an entire bottle of water over her head and shakes out her dripping wet hair to cool down”
- Michael Prebeg Laneway Festival @ Footscray Community Arts Centre Pics: Lucinda Goodwin
Laneway Festival once again assembled a line-up of acts so strong that early entry was a nobrainer and we all left with a slew
“[Dream Wife’s] FUU incorporates a nod to Spice Girls (‘I tell you what I want/What I really, really want’) and sees Mjoll prowling around in her baggie navy trakkies or posing with one foot up on a foldback wedge”
of new band crushes.
- Bryget Chrisfield
Slowdive @ Forum Theatre
“Tonight Slowdive achieve the extremely rare feat of having songs from their reunion album… as warmly received as favourites from their classic period” Anderson Paak
- Joel Lohman
Pic: Jay Hynes
Shoegaze faves Slowdive wowed audiences at their Laneway Festival and sideshow appearances around the country, presenting material from their self-titled fourth LP, which dropped 22 years after its predecessor.
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the best and the worst of the month’s zeitgeist
The lashes Front
The ace of space
Watch and learn
Bye Bye Birdy
Heads, you lose
Early reviews are in and
Netflix have just announced
Cherry Bar in Melbourne
Lady Bird made headlines
According to Gucci’s Fall-
The evidence to support
it’s looking like the Natalie
a reboot for the hokey AF
may lead the charge for new
around the world before
Winter collection, unveiled
expert claims that Donald
Portman helmed Annihila-
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it had even been released
in Milan, the must-have
Trump is a certifiable socio-
tion is something of a sci-fi
Space. The teaser trailer has
to film gigs. It’s a fine line to
for getting the highest
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thriller masterpiece. Frankly,
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toe, so Cherry Bar manage-
Rotten Tomatoes rating
your own severed head!
when a note reminding
we’re not surprised, given
glance it looks promising.
ment have said they’re ok
in history. And yet, despite
Models were sent down the
the President of obvious
Ex Machina creator Alex
But you never know with
with the odd quick snap.
those sweet creds, Universal
runway holding eerily realis-
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Garland was in the director’s
the hit or miss Netflix track
If successful, it may set a
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tic copies of their lopped-off
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precedent that will improve
its Aussie release to drop its
bonces. Why you ask? It’s
met survivors of the Florida
the live gig experience.
rating. Not happy, Jan.
The final thought
Words by Maxim Boon
It’s finally happened. I’m all out of schadenfreude.
’ve written a few times in the past year or so about the sweet, juicy joys of schadenfreude - or in a less fancy vernacular, taking pleasure from another’s misfortune. I’ve whiled away many an hour salivating over headlines about Donald Trump’s latest gaffe, or rubbing my hands together over editorials on the comeuppances of disgraced right-wing
commentators - I damn near flooded my basement reading the savage editing notes on Milo Yiannopoulos’s rejected autobiography, although why publishers Simon & Schuster paid the troll-pro a $255,000 advance is beyond me. But I have to admit, my satisfaction levels in this golden age of schadenfreude are not what they once were. In fact, I’d go so far as to say my days of blissful schadenfreudering are behind me. More and more, that Nelson Muntz ‘ha-ha!’ moment has come at a terrible price. Barnaby Joyce’s recent remarks about the impact public outrage over his love child scandal may have on his new son’s life feel bitterly similar to the pleas made by rainbow families who were appallingly smeared by the Deputy PM during the toxic SSM-debate. The fact Donald Trump needed written notes with consoling remarks, including, “I hear you,” and, “What can I do to make you feel safe?” at a listening session with the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, may be another display of his absence of empathy, but 17 lost lives is a heartbreaking toll to expose this. Obviously, we need these blunders to be reported - it is vital that the public be as informed as possible about the hypocrisy and self-interest of our political elite. But the difference between a laughable lapse
in statesmanship and a warped interpretation of leadership has become disturbingly blurred. Th is seemingly endless barrage of inequality and political corruption could easily leave nothing in its wake but despair. But it’s often in the eye of such terrible storms that a hero emerges to rally and galvanise us. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, became the voice of her generation last month, delivering an extraordinary 12-minute speech at an anti-gun rally just days after she witnessed 14 of her classmates and three of her teachers murdered. “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead, we are up here, standing together because if all our government and President can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers’, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see,” she said, wiping furious tears from her face. It’s a message school-aged Americans have lent their voices to and, finally, their calls for change have reached the highest office in their country. And even as I write this, I feel that same defiant passion stirring inside myself. Her sentiments, while specifically aimed at American gun laws, are just as applicable to any political injustice unfolding before us. The time for smirking from the sidelines is over.
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WWW.NEWWORLDARTISTS.NET THE MUSIC
The Music is a free, monthly magazine distributed throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. From local insights and insider knowledge to in...
Published on Feb 28, 2018
The Music is a free, monthly magazine distributed throughout Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. From local insights and insider knowledge to in...