Basement Birds have taken Australia by storm in 2010 and as both the year and the band come to a close, Timber and Steel contributor KT Bell trekked to the Woodford Folk Festival to see the folk super group one last time.
Woodford’s Green Room is a chilled out and inspiring space, filled with some of the greatest musicians all jamming and relaxing. It is here that I met the Basement Birds’ Steve Parkin and we strolled out through the light rain for a chat on the the year that has been.
KT Bell: Firstly Steve, I want to congratulate Basement Birds on the many successes this year has brought, including being named multiple times in Timber and Steel’s Top 5 albums for the year.
Steve Parkin: Really? Thanks!
KT: How long has Basement Birds been a plan, from first ideas through to fruition?
SP: Ah, well, Kevin [Mitchell] and I were on the road and spent time jamming and came up with a song called “Waiting for You”. Josh [Pyke] and Kav [Temperley] were also on tour, Josh was supporting Eskimo Joe and they came up with a song, “Reasons”. When we were all together playing these songs for each other and comparing whose was better, we realised that they kind of sounded like the same band. And from there we started joking, “What if we were to put a band together” and it all went from there. That was back in 2006/07, so it’s been a while. We didn’t start looking at it properly until 2008 and then we recorded the album and this year has really been when everything has happened.
KT: At the time, did you have any idea that you would end up playing at Woodford?
SP: No! We had no idea we’d end up playing festivals. Most of us thought we’d do a little tour, something fairly quiet. But, it took on a life of it’s own. I suppose, when you’ve got guys from known bands, it might gain some interest, but what started out as a side project just grew and has become bigger than expected.
KT: What do you think each member of the band brings to the Basement Birds?
SP: We all bring a bit I guess. Kav brings determination and his studio. He’s been the main motivation and drive to actually make it all come together. Josh brings balance and a sense of structure to it all, he’s good with the the recording process and is a great lyricist. Kev is a real troubadour, he brings a real depth of experience and knowledge And me, well, I bring the comedy, I’m the jester I suppose and I make the guys laugh when it’s a bit tense. And we all bring vocals and lyrics together with the musicality.
KT: What do you think you’e learned through the process?
SP: Well, we’re all playing instruments we don’t normally play, I’m playing more keyboard, Kav is playing double bass and we’re all really trying things outside of our normal comfort zone, it’s been really fun. I’ve never been involved in an act that has had so much attention with the record signings, and media, it’s been a real learning experience but fun. It’s really energised all of us and our love of music. It’s been a loose, fun, laid back thing that has energised us for our own bands.
KT: What do you think your achievements have been?
SP: Well, with everyone signed to labels, that took a bit of organising, but we’ve been able to prove that we can do it all independantly. We wrote, recorded, produced and released the album ourselves. The whole process from start to finish has been us, no record labels. We’ve had great management, but no labels. And to think it all started at Kav’s house making up silly bluegrass songs.
KT: Where do you think folk music in Australia is heading?
SP: The nature of folk music, is that it is of and for the people, so there are elements of folk in all music, including things like pop and rock. It’s grown from something that was a really defined movement in the 30s, 40s and 50s as a style and it’s branched out to deliver so much, like Angus and Julia Stone who are siblings and created such great music. Folk is bigger than it ever has been we just don’t always term it ‘folk’. Australia is such a colloquial community, with such mateship and laid back vibe, and since folk is of and for the people, there will always be a sense of folk there in any music.
KT: At Timber and Steel, we like to keep an eye out and support the up and commers – is there anyone we should be keeping an eye on?
SP: Yes! I’ve got a few for you. There’s a guy in Fremantle who has been working really hard and is producing some amazing stuff. Justin Walsh Folk Machine has just released an album Walking to China. It’s a real concept folk album, fantastic, you should definitely check it out. I’m from Perth so a lot of my suggestions are from there and the port being such a working area, it produced amazing music. Check out Merle Fyshwick, he does reat stuff and very folky.
KT: So we’re at Woodford, who are your recommendations to see while I’m here?
SP: Oh, there are so many, I don’t know where to start! Passenger, definitely, they’ll be great [playing today, 5.15 @The Grande and Thurs, 3.15 @ Joyluck Club]. Ray Mann Three are really worth seeing [playing Thurs 8.30 @First Nations, Fri 6.15 @Bazaar and Sat 9.15 @First Nations]. Fourplay are great to see live [playing Thur 1.45 @The Grande, Fri 9.20 @Amphi and Sat 4.30 @Concert]. TinPan Orange are amazing [playing today 9 @The Grande, Thur 2.30 @Concert, Fri 6 @Concert, Sat 3.15 @Concert]. The Beards, oh they’re great too [playing Fri 6.15 @Joyluck Club and Sat 12.30 @Bazaar]
KT: Thanks so much for your time, I look forward to your second last show tonight and I hope you have a great Woodford.
SP: Yeah, it will be great, we’re playing tonight here, having an early night then off on a 6am flight tomorrow to Melbourne to play Pyramid Rock at Phillip Island tomorrow. Then it’s all over.
We can only hope that we might see the Basement Birds again in the future, but in the mean time they will all return with new verve to their own bands. Now off to see Passenger as suggested by Steve, and then to see the Basement Birds second last performance!