Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Bedroom Philosopher interview (2010)


Melbourne Music's 2010 calendar is all about getting some pretty fresh ideas up and out there all in the name of nurturing our local talent. Events ranging from an awards ceremony for independent bands, to live street performances and stage musicals will run all throughout the city. Literally moving amongst the festivities, for his Live On The Tracks tram performance, will be none other than Justin Heazlewood's side-splitting alter-ego, The Bedroom Philosopher fresh off his Songs From The 86 Tram tour. He and his band of mis-fits known as The Awkwardstra will be emerging from the bedroom to share their particular brand of philosophy with Melbourne's commuters on board the 86, 96, 112 and City Circle trams at the request of Metlink and Yarra Trams.

Before Justin packs his guitar, public transport meanderings and gold-plated Myki and heads off to the station, he discusses iPods, private loos, dead chooks and owning his new tag. "I guess I turned myself into the poster-boy for public transport, so it seems logical I'd get the call to do this." Justin shrugs. "I was the obvious choice, wasn't I?" He adds cheekily. "Also I think Melbourne really needed another festival, things were getting a bit dull around the place, so it's nice that people will finally have something to do for a change."

Comparing live music venues to trams is a long stretch, but Justin happily runs with the notion. "I see it as a bit like The Tote crossed with a rollercoaster," he smiles. "People seem to be able to source alcohol pretty easily and it's got pretty good opening hours. The only downside is I won't be getting a curtained off area or private toilet, alas." Justin adds. "Also I'm gonna have to get used to people leaving during the gig, without taking it personally. My hope is that people find it so utterly captivating that they stay on board all the way to Bundoora." It's here that Justin prompts a possible concern that he'll in effect be competing with the scourge of public transport – the iPod army. So what plans does he have to distract his audience from their world of mp3 entertainment? "I was thinking maybe everyone could download my album to their iPod's and listen to it while I mime. I think that'd be quite a good post-modern gesture." He giggles. "Also because each track on the album corresponds to the suburbs the tram travels to, it'd be great if those actual characters from the songs get on the tram at the right intervals creating a kind of living film clip." The city tram is of course a haven for budding musicians in search of a captive audience – the singing driver has struck on many a visit in my own travels, not to mention the odd overzealous busker down the back. So what, I wonder, are Justin's thoughts on impromptu Awkwardstra wannabes? "Actually I'm really looking forward to the Smith Street leg of the journey – there's always the chance some dude with a harmonica might jump in, but in reality, we're a pretty reserved bunch in Australia." He pauses. "Whenever anything slightly unusual happens on a tram people tend to bury their faces in their books, so I hope that the good old combination of comedy and music will help ease some of that tension."

Justin, in standard Bedroom Philosopher mode, continues on a sharp witted analogy most commuters could surely identify with. "I think tram travel as like a detention for adults." He muses. "For ten minutes you have to sit in this room with other people you don't know and think about what you've done that day. I'm not saying it's a bad thing really, I mean they're pretty safe places to be when you think about it. It's not as if someone's gonna go nuts and hi-jack the tram and go for a joyride to Canberra." He adds in a mock aggressors tone; "We taking over this tram – we're going to Bundoora and then to docklands and then back to Bundoora again… And we're gonna keep going back and forth until our demands are met!"

Only at this point is there even a hint Justin's about to crack himself up. To get back on track, he bullshits masterfully about a cinema great that never was. "Did you know the original draft of Speed was set in Australia on a runaway tram?" He adds casually, "Only the bomb was set to go off if the tram went over five kph." He further reveals, "The psychopath was going to be played by Yahoo Serious, with Bill Hunter and Georgie Parker as the protagonists." Apart from re-casting trashy half-imagined films, through his recent single and video Northcote (So Hungover), Justin essentially revealed how he likes to spend his time on a long tram trip -  by casting himself as the as a tragic hipster making his way home from the "Fitzroy Anti-social Club". I question where his well honed fly-on-a-wall interest stems from. "I just find people watching endlessly fascinating - which is probably a bit creepy - but I wouldn't have written half the material I had if it weren't for many years absorbing people on a daily basis." He adds. "I see the trams as a kind of free theatre and as an artist it's a really good resource to tap in to. Plus you get to hear the best stories." He recalls. "One I heard that sticks in my mind was about a woman who apparently got on board with a live chicken and the driver said she couldn't bring a live animal on the tram, and so thought about it for a sec, and just broke it's neck!"

People watching can be a hazardous activity. I'm sure most of us have played a rousing game of 'trying-not-to-get-noticed-by-the-crazed-drunk-bloke', but Justin claims, despite his cracking commentary on Songs From The 86 Tram, he's not there to judge. "The thing is I am wary of becoming this retro bohemian looking down from his ivory tower, but the tram is a really equalizing arena I think. People kind of use the space for their own purpose in a way, whether it's to tell their life story to a stranger or break a chook's neck, everyone's on even ground I suppose." He adds thoughtfully, "I guess I am guilty of using it to my advantage as an observer and songwriter but its all relative really." Melbourne's trams certainly are fertile places for the imagination whether you're faced with little stimulus or grabs of overlapping conversations and colourful behaviour. If you're along for the ride, you'll find yourself among the company of slumbering/observing/participating/judging commuters not unlike yourself. Justin, naturally enough has a final philosophy on the topic. "I think it's important to remember, you can never really know a man until you've sat a mile on his tram line."  


Lior interview (2010)


Sydney artist Lior's move to Melbourne last year and 12 month stint spent re-tailoring his song-writer's suit have resulted a glorious third album, Tumbling Into The Dawn. He's reconnected with his band following his hugely popular solo Shadows & Light tour, and is set to take his new - still proudly independent - set to the masses.

Lior's well rested now that his 'brand' has legs and work means more music-making than publicity. His debut album Autumn Flow and follow-up Corner Of An Endless Road won him global praise, and his latest offering is set to continue that seamless record. Perhaps a less grueling schedule is the reason, but a blossoming optimism is undeniably present on Tumbling Towards The Dawn. Lior describes. "I think there was quite a bit of melancholy about the last album, but I'd say this one's pretty bitter-sweet rather than being overly optimistic. A lot of my songs are about everyday struggle, but I think this album is more direct and less about mood. I wanted to make the songs jump out and speak for themselves rather than hide their emotions." Making album number three, Lior claims he felt a green-light to 'take it easy'.

"You know, this is my third album, so it was time to try new things and there was a feeling of 'okay, I don't have to prove myself anymore I've gotten past the second album test'. I know a lot more about the recording process, I've become a better songwriter over the years and I allowed myself to have that bit extra confidence this time around." He continues. "Also I guess the first two albums were made during a pretty manic five years, so at the end of the last tour I kind of took a load of time off and tried to challenge myself as a song writer again, and the result of that is an album that moves around quite a bit more I think." Lior took his rest seriously before decided on where to go on album number three. He continues. "I isolated myself as much as possible because I've discovered it takes my mind about two days to fully switch into a creative zone." He explains, "In terms of why the album jumps around stylistically, I was really just trying to avoid repeating myself too much." For this album, Lior's new approach brought with it a few changes in behaviour behind the scenes. He describes. "I wrote most of the album on piano, whereas I'd always used my guitar in the past, so that really forced me to make everything I was writing have a stronger melody. Guitar lets you have a lot more subtlety, and I wanted to get away from that sort of, smaller sound."

Lior's songs, This Old Love, Daniel and I'll Forget You have become his signature tunes over time. Their common thread is memorable simplicity with the slightest of musical backing, in the vein of Damien Rice. He makes the point. "I identify as a singer mostly - that's my main instrument, along with song-writing, but I'm a musician lastly because I'm much more confident singing and writing than playing anything." He laughs. "I much prefer to surround myself with musicians who can play their instruments well rather than trying to do everything myself, because that frees me up to just be a vocalist which is what I enjoy most." He adds. "What always drew me to music was the art of song writing. I spend most of my time on lyrics and really only play guitar or piano to build the basic track around what I'm writing." He continues. "It's an obsession for me to write, but I think it has to be if you want to get better at it." What often resonates with Lior's fans are his clearly defined stories of the relatable moments that make up life. When I point out to him, he never allows himself to get 'too morose' or too 'celebratory' he responds. "I think it's a reflection of my personality, the whole yin and yang thing resonates a lot with me. It wouldn't feel right to do a completely dark record or a sickly sweet one." He says. "When I started singing and playing guitar, I automatically had this fantasy world unfold before me and I could make any situation happen in a song, and always thought it's too easy to just go with extremes, like all bleak or all joyful – life just isn't like that."

It's notable that Lior, despite his rapid rise to fame was never pushed by a label. In fact he readily admits that he 'made it up as he went along', and only in hindsight realises his obscene good luck. "I wasn't the savviest bloke growing up, I never knew at all how to go about making a career in music. It was only much later when I wanted to get my first album that I realised I was just going to have to learn to do it myself." He adds. "Offers to sign to labels came in pretty quick once I was featured on Triple J and that, but the appeal was lost on me because I already a profile and people turning up to my shows, so I couldn't see what they could offer me that I didn't already have, except for maybe a big budget video featuring me being fired out of a cannon." He laughs. "Having said that, being fired out of a cannon is still one of my main goals."

Last year, Lior embellished his live shows with a shadow-play performance designed by artists Stephen Mushin and Anna Parry. Visual representations of his songs were created on a grand scale for the Shadows & Light tour. But does the project have a future? "I kind of feel like moving onto something else now, but there is talk of doing a tour with some of the orchestras next year and if that happens, I'd be inclined to get that happening again." He continues a little non-plussed. "Although having a visual side to the concerts is great and everything, but I'm not really fussed about laser lights and explosions to be honest. I think that can be seen as an insecurity, like saying the music's not good enough to stand on its own, and I better have something else happening to keep people's attention."


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Suzanne Vega interview (2010)

New York native Suzanne Vega, after 26 years of capturing the gritty tales of her city across seven albums, has re-emerged with a series of acoustic offerings of familiar stories. The four planned releases (two of which are completed) revisit Vega's character-driven narratives carefully catalogued into four overall themes; Love Songs, People & Places, States Of Being and Songs Of Family. Drawing music from her debut self-titled album right through to 2007's Beauty & Crime, Vega's turn away from simply releasing studio-polished tunes follows years of on-tour re-shaping of her hits including; Marlene On The Wall, Luka and Tom's Diner

The project follows her divorce from producer, Mitchell Froom, who's two Vega albums where her heaviest in terms of layered noise. Could this 'unplugging' be seen as Suzanne reclaiming her songs from stifling production? Vega – the straight-talking New Yorker – is pragmatic in her response.  "No, this is just how I've been performing a lot of these songs live for a long time now, so it feels right to actually get them recorded in that way." The first two volumes capture love and witness songs, with the "darker stuff" to come on volumes three and four. "Blood Makes Noise and songs of that ilk will be on the next volume." Vega assures. As for what prompts Vega to get as dark, as she does on Blood Makes Noise – a song that recounts the imagined agony of a hypochondriac, she offers. "Well I've always thought, Suzanne, you've gotta have a Morrissey song you know!" She laughs. 

A lot of fans where introduced to Vega's music through her break-through single, Luka. Many will recall the storyteller warming to an abused child living in her apartment building, and note the beginning of a run of frequently confronting tales from the singer. Its Vega's fascinations with these less flattering sides to human nature have perhaps kept her out of the mainstream. "Oh I know that's the truth." She smiles, "Certain subjects just make people uncomfortable, I know but the song writers I've always loved are the ones who can go really dark. Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan – those guys go dark as anyone could want." Suzanne explains, "I try and write about what I want to hear, and if you're trying to cover the full spectrum of human experiences, you can't just ignore what's uncomfortable, it makes no sense to me."

"But you know, I kind of set the (re-interpretations series) albums apart for that reason." She continues. "You've got the love songs one because sometimes you just wanna hear that. You don't wanna know about blood and all that other stuff." She laughs, "But then a song like Caramel, which is a pretty straight forward love song, still gets a lot of different reactions from people." Caramel is doubtlessly a love song, but also one packed with warnings. It describes love as an addiction, and one the author is willing to overlook any bad effects from. Suzanne continues. "I'm a pretty fearless person, I'll tackle anything in a song, and that means confronting myself and being honest about what my own experiences have taught me. I'm not saying everything is about me, in fact a lot of what I write, as you've pointed out, is in the third person. I get other journalists saying, 'you're songs are always so personal, why is that?', so you've picked up on the other side of my writing." She informs me, "The truth is I switch back and forth, which I think comes from when I was younger, I liked the idea of pretending to be other people." Suzanne adds, "I've always disliked the more confessional songs, so I struggle to stay within my own headspace when I'm telling these stories." Suzanne allows herself a quick name-drop to illustrate her point. "I had the opportunity to sit with Leonard Cohen and have breakfast with him, and I remember saying to him, 'you tell the truth in your songs, how do you bare your soul so easily?' and he told me 'you tell the truth, you lie, or you do whatever you have to do to make the song work.'" Vega laughs at the memory. "Of course, he was right. Pretending to be someone else is a lie, but sometimes it's practically the only way I can write. I, as a songwriter have to be the journalist, the censor, or the book and other times I can just be me."

Leonard Cohen makes it sound so easy, but Vega knows he's a tireless slave to his work. "Oh brother, and he wrestles for ages over one or two lines, but that's what makes him so good at his craft." She adds. "I get that struggle too you know, I think that's why my career has lasted so long, because I spend years trying to finish songs." The pending second volume of Vega's re-interpretations CDs – People & Places features a new rendering of her classic 'being-someone-else' tale, Tom's Diner. Aside from earning her legions of fans on its release, the a-capella poem also made the establishment of the same name an icon of New York City. Seinfeld fans will have seen the diner in just about every episode of the program, as it's where the characters always met for lunch and hatched their bizarre schemes. "People used to come from all over and go there because of my song initially, but then Seinfeld kinda made it doubly famous." Suzanne laughs, "I don't know if anyone really thinks of it as 'Tom's Diner' anymore because they changed its name for the show, but for a time at least I can say I put it on the map." 


"Tom's Diner" - also known to Seinfeld fans.

Click to watch:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quan Yeomans (Regurgitator) interview (2010)


Naturally, for the latest Regurgitator "release", there's the now customary twist as the band celebrate 16 years of keeping fans guessing  on what'll-they-do-next? For starters - they're going one better than Radiohead - there's to be no actual CD, no full-page spreads and definitely no glass 'bubbles'. What would've been album number seven, is instead an ongoing series of blogged tracks turning up - as each one is completed - on their official website at no cost. For the most prominent band in Australia to really grasp the potential of various media obsessions, this ain't so surprising. 'Gurge main-man, Quan Yeomans - almost to a flaw – believes his band's move away from the regulation promo-hype surrounding CD releases, is so next year.

Beginning our talk, Quan highlights a rarely discussed risk of leaving behind the world of hard-copy CD releases and what it means to 'move on'. "I've had a lot of time in therapy over digital data loss, so I can still appreciate the more conventional forms of recorded and released music." He laughs, "But I've learned to let go now - it's like relationships, you know. Some you really miss, but its always exciting developing new ones."

The singer's currently in the process of developing a relationship with his new home-town, Melbourne. Quan set up base in Hong Kong last year to record a solo album - Quan The Amateur – but found he had 'commitment issues' with the city. "Hong Kong was just a bit ridiculous for me. It's a great place, but it's also a kind of 'Never-Never Land' where you can go, never grow up and just bum around and have fun. If you're looking for a creative community though, it's very hard to find one like Melbourne has." He continues. "Also I've just moved here so I'm still in that 'new-city-rush' mode, but I have yet to actually get out there and meet new people and really get involved." Quan quickly adds. "Oh, obviously I have lived here before - in that bubble in Federation Square for three weeks - but that didn't do a lot to enhance my Melbourne experience." He laughs.

Mention of the 2004 album, Mish Mash, resulting from the 'Band In A Bubble' exercise, has Quan recoiling at its shortcomings. "I really don't like that album at all." He sighs, "I think that project worked as a social/cultural experience but probably failed as a musical one." He continues. "I do music, and I'm in a band to have bizarre, weird experiences so I'm really pleased that we decided to do that, and (that we) are still pushing ourselves but as far as music goes, the danger is it can come second place to the experiences."
If there's a Regurgitator method at all, it's their willingness to try just about anything musically – but really just for shits and giggles. Whether they're laying down some hip-hop, 2 Live Crew style (Fat Cop); cutesy-ing along like Vengaboys; (Polyester Girl) or thrashing like Big Black (F.S.O.), the sense was always of a band not wanting to be pinned down. That said, Regurgitator's greatest success was undeniably their electro-rock album, Unit, which many believe was their one true peak; Even Quan himself. "I don't think we've really done a great album since Unit, if I'm being brutally honest with myself. I mean I can look at a lot of our work objectively now because when we did the Bubble thing, it made me so aware of how important objectivity is." He explains. "By the end of it, we didn't know what we had made – was it good, bad, or whatever – being in a band already limits your ability to listen to music in a completely non-critical way, which is kind of the curse of the artist."

Sharing front-person duties with Ben Ely in Regurgitator, Quan has always had a second set of ears to run ideas by. However for their new recordings, Ben and Quan are set up in their own separate studios, rarely communicating in person. Quan discusses. "Ben and I probably rely on each other's opinions quite a bit, its true, but at the same time, we rarely agree on what's good." He reveals. "We're very different creatively, but at the same time, we sort of push and pull against each other in a good way. He or I might say, I don't get what you're doing, or I don't like that – and then it's up to you to argue your point and work that bit harder to make them see." Quan adds. "But Ben and I have gotten along so well the last ten years or so that perhaps we don't have the edge we used to, so our decision to kind of work separately means we can't slip into old comforts and end up in another kind of bubble, I suppose."

Talking about Quan's current release method of song-blogging is complex. On one hand, it seems he's very happy with the band's new music; but he also acknowledges, zen-like, the ease at which it could all just be lost in the rush. "That is a risk you take." He reasons. "The way I approach music on-line is searching for anything that appeals to me instantly and getting obsessed about it, but then abandoning it just as quickly for the next thing." He says somewhat coldly. "It's kind of strange, but there are a million bands out there so having any loyalty to one for too long becomes a time management thing."

A loyal 'Gurge fan might be disappointed that there's no physical release of the tracks they've been working on, but Quan has serious doubts that many will even notice. "I only listen to music on-line, 90 percent of young people now only listen to music on-line." He retorts. "It's just the way the market has moved at this point and you gotta move with it." He offers. "Emerging technologies eat into a lot of industries and affect a lot of jobs, it just so happens that it's my job that is being affected now." Quan adds. "I don't think we'll bother making albums anymore in the future. Maybe if there's enough call for it, we'll have limited compilation albums available at the shows, but the album as it was, is a kind of dead concept now."

Quan's decision is clearly a practical one, but was it difficult shifting with the times as a relatively 'vintage' band? "We began when it was all album oriented promotion and hard touring to get your name out there and being on a label was the dream. Now we realise that the business side of it was all crap. Essentially we always felt that we were a punk band, so the DIY approach makes me a lot happier anyway and the (new) music we've produced so far hasn't suffered in any way by not being released on a major label, as far as I can tell."


Click to watch:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Charles Bickford (The Paradise Motel) interview (2010)

The outpouring of sympathy usually reserved for women who lose a new born was never to be offered Lindy Chamberlain. The mother at the centre of Australia's most enduring lost child story faced a rarely seen level scrutiny and criticism following the 1980 death of baby Azaria. Her story of wild dogs in the harsh landscape against one tiny infant seemed almost too horrific to be true, and it was precisely that seed of doubt Lindy's detractors would exploit for years to come. Now, as the news of Chamberlain's innocence is finally to be recorded as the official outcome, focus on the latest Paradise Motel album - which conceptually deals with the event - is sure to be high. Titled Australian Ghost Story, it marks the return, both musically and geographically, of the celebrated masters of song-noir. 

The combined efforts of sloppy police investigation and the media of the day managed to turn a wild dingo hunt into a slasher-mum thriller, in the process awakening Australian's disinterest in the facts over a possible gory tale. The Paradise Motel come in to the picture 30 years after the event as campfire-story tellers, backed with a chilling soundtrack plump full of suspense. However their exploration of this familiar tale avoids what many Australians were divided on – where to point the finger of blame. The Paradise Motel's founder and songwriter Charles Bickford walks me through his band's unique take on one nightmarish event in our history that never really seemed to go away. "The reason I wanted to make this record is to address the question of what's important to us as Australians and why do we react to things the way we do." He begins. "The second reason is that I've always been interested in examining individuals' lives when they're confronted with extreme experiences. When I put all these ideas together I was very conscious of letting the decision-making process stay in the hands of the judge and jury and avoid accusations of any kind."

The band, after a long hiatus spent living in England, has cruised back into the local landscape, asserting themselves firmly with a set of powerful impressions on Australian Ghost Story. Charles recalls his welcome reconnection to music. "When I came back to Australia a couple of years ago, I found something in me that had been slumbering for so long was suddenly awake again. Then it was just a question of talking to the others in the band and I think we all agreed there was some unfinished business." Yet recording together again after an eleven year gap, meant finding the right environment to fully capture The Paradise Motel's renewed fervour. Charles explains. "The idea for the record and the period in which we recorded it was such a short space of time, so it was really important for us to get the mood right. We chose a place in Warburton (rural Victoria) - which was just a barn really - because it was a very beautiful, spooky and still place which we thought suited the material."

Although the album was Charles's pet, it also proved to have a healthy uniting factor for the group. He continues. "Paradise Motel is such a collaborative thing, I really just had this loose idea about a group of stories involving people who were perhaps linked by that event and everyone responded to the idea - and responded musically which was brilliant. The whole thing seemed to assert itself, if you like, and we didn't have to really talk about it that much." He adds. "Plus it was a really tough time for the band with our friend passing away." The Paradise Motel's original drummer, Damien Hill, died at the end of 2008. "That helped propel us into this project I think." He adds further. "There was definitely an energy in the band that had to be harnessed, but I wouldn't really want to examine it much more closely than that."

Although a new currently shelved record had been completed prior to Australian Ghost Story, Bickford explains he was moved to get a long-held interest in the story of Azaria out of his system. "I've been thinking about making a record based on this story for a very long time - Probably 12, 13 years - and the material came together I guess in a very short period because it had already been developing in the back of my mind." Charles remembers. "The event took place in 1980 and it had seared itself into my childhood memory, even though I didn't understand the subtleties of what was going on, all I knew was this terrible thing happened and everyone was talking about it."

Bickford approached his version of the events from a spectral observer's angle. There are references to recorded events, but mostly his songs etch out perspectives from those indirectly involved. "I was interested in the lives of the characters around the central event, and the paranoia Australians tended to harbour towards outsiders." The Chamberlains belonged to a relatively small religious denomination, making them in effect outsiders to the particularly singular faith most Australians of the day grew up with. "With the track Stations Of The Cross, I did touch on the religious aspect of her story - I think religion is something that can certainly feed our suspicions - but also I was interested in our childlike tendency to always be wondering what's actually lurking in the scrub, and when it does emerge will it be a little bit different from us."

The Chamberlain story is handled with great care through Bickford's words, but the album takes the listener much further than the central psychodrama. It also holds a mirror up to Australia, circa the 1980s. "I was trying to portray a nation that seemed to be buzzing, yet slumbering at the same time." He pauses for thought, "(It was) sure of itself but seemingly without a specific identity." To maintain the objectivity important to critiquing bygone events, Charles resisted engaging in too much fact finding about the case details to avoid slipping into a potential narrative. "I kept a journal over a few years and picked out just little bits of information that I thought were interesting, but the last thing I wanted to do was sit at the computer and google the facts." He adds. "I just tried to remember the event from my childhood and rely on that alone to inform the songs. I mean a lot of the record is about an imaginary life as well - like the possibilities had things turned out differently."

In some ways, it's hard to believe nobody in Australian music has attempted an album based on such a powerful story, though its artistic potential didn't escape The Paradise Motel, Charles offers. "Well it is a very attractive subject. It basically divided the whole nation, and outside of the sporting field that is a rarity in Australia." Charles explains further. "Look at Sidney Nolan's paintings of Ned Kelly and the bush rangers - they have become so iconic because, like the Chamberlain case, there's a sinister element but they're also very compelling."

It could be argued that leading up her conviction, Lindy Chamberlain was reduced to the status of a savage animal herself. She made the mistake of not openly grieving on camera for Azaria, sparking a media obsession with emotional response as the only true indicator of guilt or innocence. Perhaps a few tears could have spared Lindy years of trauma? Charles responds. "The image of a lost child is a very strong one in any culture. Seemingly in the backs of people's minds were thoughts of 'what if it was my baby' and 'I certainly wouldn't have reacted like she did.'" He adds. "So the story has continued to remain compelling, I think, because the threat hasn't really gone away. There's always that chance another child could fall victim to one of these animals."


Click to watch:

THE PARADISE MOTEL - Brown Snake (video)
(from Australian Ghost Story)

First Aid Kit interview (2010)


With a family in full support of their career and an endorsement from
Fever Ray's Karin, Stockholm's First Aid Kit are primed to break-through - minus the hype usually reserved for adolescent musical acts. Sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg after learning the basics of music from their manager father, developed their own somber anti-folk catalogue. One viral video and an EP (Drunken Trees) in the bag, along with comparisons to Coco Rosie pointed sharply towards a very bright future.

Following their debut album - The Big Black & The Blue – global tour plans, including Australia, were underway. Exciting yes, but elder sister by two years Johanna's just happy to be anywhere outside of Europe. "I haven't heard anything about Australia so I'm excited to check it out." Johanna beams, "We just did a tour of the US and although we played to a lot of people who didn't know us, it went really well. I think they loved it more than European audiences in fact." Johanna exclaims, "European's are a lot more reserved and so it is harder to know if they are really into you." She claims, "But the US was the best, man. We're kind of obsessed with American culture and to play there was a dream come true. But who knows maybe when we come to Australia we will get obsessed with that and it will be even better than America."

Before 2007's debut EP, the sisters had long been practicing harmonies for fun resulting in an eerie a-likeness to their voices. "We'd go round the house singing together all the time, so I suppose subconsciously we have adapted to each others voices." Johanna offers. "Klara started writing the songs, but I would do harmonies with her and work out the melodies and that's how we always write now." Initially First Aid Kit's exposure was entirely internet-based and following a filmed performance of Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. "After that, we put some demos up on MySpace, and a lot of offers started coming through from record labels wanting to sign us."

Karin Dreijer-Andersson (The Knife/Fever Ray), made contact with the girls through their mother who met while dropping their respective kids off at school. Karin's own label Rabid soon became First Aid Kit's home. "We were big fans of Karin's work so it was a really big deal for us when she asked us to be on her label." Johanna explains, "She let us do everything the way we wanted to, and I don't think any other label would allow new acts like us have complete control over our music. Also Karin gave us a lot of advice on the business side of it, because we were being offered a lot of deals. She's become our mentor and role model over the last couple of years because she does everything on her own terms and is a very strong woman."
Along with Karin, Klara and Johanna's immediate family have taken an active role in helping the girls maintain their burgeoning music career. "Our father comes on tour with us as a tour manager and sound engineer, our mother works from home answering e-mails that kind of thing. Plus our brother, whose six years old, plays drums but he's only learning so he won't be touring with us obviously," she laughs. So everyone in my family is really involved with First Aid Kit, and we wouldn't be where we are without their support."

The delicate music First Aid Kit play points toward a harmonious union, perhaps unlike many siblings share and Johanna's keen to enforce there's no cattiness with these sisters. "We never fight at all really because I think we kind of see things the same way." She confirms. "Maybe we might disagree over songs or songwriting - sometimes if we don't know where the songs are going, we might fight about what direction to take them in, you know, but we get along fine generally coz I think we trust each others judgment."


Flying Scribble interview (2010)

Percussionist Gray Taylor and singer/keyboardist Louise Terry formed Flying Scribble as a vehicle for the Melbourne based girls' love of make-it-up-as-you-go music. The emphasis is on happy accidents, atmosphere and mood created through mixing ethereal singing with clatter-percussion. Their signature move is to take the bare basics and push it as far as their 'no rules' approach will go, which leads to engaging and surprising melodies fighting for supremacy against some wicked crunching beats.

Today as the girls are driving back from Adelaide, a not-very-shy Gray Taylor shares a peak into the world of Flying Scribble starting with their perfect long-drive soundtrack. "All we've been listening to is '50s and '60s do-wop ladies as we're pinging along the highway." She laughs. "Listening to that music is just like going to a different time and place." Off the road, it's clear this duo is feasting on some much wilder fruits if their debut album – We Are Chameleon - is any indication.  "I listen mostly to programmed beats and vocal stuff, but Louise and I have really broad tastes." Gray asserts. "But I don't think our music is really any reflection of what we listen to. It's far too weird!"
Louise and Gray have thrown out the book on how bands usually operate. Trialling bizarre recording techniques and often employing a first-take approach is Flying Scribble's ideal way to create. "Sometimes Louise and I don't see each other for weeks." Gray continues. "It's kind of like we're both enrolled in our own universities and we just meet up to swap ideas, so we're really free to explore our individual contributions to the music." For the sessions that produced We Are Chameleon, intent on getting her drum sound right, Gray explains she even put the dog out of its home in an effort to find the right result. "I use an electronic drum kit, which has this very clean sound, so I needed something to offset that." She adds. "I got these old tweeters and isolated them in the dog kennel with an amp, and covered them in a blanket to get that crunchy, rougher sound you hear in our album." The question is if the tweeters went in the kennel… where did the woofers go? "The woofers went into the elevator shaft at my warehouse actually." Gray confirms, "You can kind of hear the bass-y sound I recorded in there way down in the mix, but I fried the amplifier in the end, so it wasn't a complete success."

The process of creation it seems is equal too, or even more important than the result for Gray. "I think there is an organic hap-hazardness in our sound that isn't forced or faked because sometimes I just go fuck it, I'm not doing it again – the first take will have to do, I don't care if it's not perfect or whatever." She exclaims. "The world needs more imperfections because you know everyone's obsessed with photoshopped finishes." Gray's words are misleading in that the work is by no means sloppy. In fact, her fascination with discovery and passion for her instrument is far from lazy. "I've got a collection of really beautiful old drums ranging from the '20s to the '40s. My favourite snare drum's called a Radio King which dates back to 1940 – I call him grandpa." Gray laughs, "He (grandpa) really taught me how to ride a horse. I got him and was like, oh I have a cool drum now, and then I hit him and he went 'is that all you got?'… I had to really work hard for him."

The mixing on Flying Scribble's debut album was done by Cornel Wilczek – who's better known as Qua. Gray describes why he was the right man for the task. "He was perfect for us as a producer because he comes from that same world of organic/electronic experimentation." She adds. "I actually played drums on his record, but how we met was I jumped on stage with him at a party two years ago and I said; I'm usually pretty monogamous, but if you ask nicely I'll play drums with you." She laughs. "He was really into the idea and before I knew it I had volunteered."

The band can take or leave elaborate stage presentation; "We're really lucky because Flying Scribble is kind of daydream music where you get to make your own mind films while we make the soundtrack." Gray claims. However the album launch is billed as an audio/visual spectacle. True to form though, Gray is happiest not knowing what to expect herself. "This tour coming up will be the first time we have attempted to co-ordinate our music with live visuals, so have no idea how that will go." She adds. "We are having a lady improvise lights and projections and that sort of thing while we play, but I like to keep myself in the dark about it so that when it happens I'm surprised by it." She grins, adding. "Everything's more fun when it's unexpected I think."