Interview: A Rainy Afternoon With Bobby Alu

Bobby Alu
Image Courtesy of Bobby Alu

Nothing can be said about Brisbane’s music scene nowadays that isn’t anything but a great thing. Janine Estoesta had the chance to catch up with Bobby Alu in the quaint little suburb of West End in the midst of ceaseless rain and locals that loved to revel in such an endearing neighbourhood. Spend a little time with Bobby Alu on a very beautiful rainy afternoon in Brisbane…

Janine Estoesta: So, you’ve been killing it – amazing live, the band and your stage presence.

Bobby Alu: Oh, I appreciate that. Yeah, it’s been fun. Yeah, it’s kind of getting to a – kind of – a really good stage at the moment. We’re recording another album, a new album and that just – everything’s just kind of falling into place a bit. It’s not like – it all feels nice. Everyone, the vibes are great, you know. Like anything it’s hard work, but all the hard work got a lot of return. Yeah, it’s wicked.

JE: So, you have those festivals coming up too. Like, The Apollo Bay Music Festival – have you played there before?

BA: I have, yeah, with Oka last year. I was so into it, it was awesome. Yeah, so Oka, we played the main stage maybe the Friday or Saturday night and we did a gig in the pub as well. I just remember it being cold that weekend, it was freezing. But, I do remember – this would be great for Bobby and the organisers contacted me end of last year. And, I was like ‘shit, yeah!’ so yeah, it worked out well.

JE: Incidentally, my friend and I were at Jet Black Cat this morning and the woman who owns it loves you and your music –

BA: Yeah! Shannon!

JE: Yeah! Have you played there yet?

BA: No, not yet. We will definitely. I got a single launch coming up in April, that’ll be the time that we’ll be hooking up. Yeah and she is awesome, what she’s started – that’s old school.

JE: I’m really glad that you’ll be playing there.

BA: Yeah, I love to support those little businesses and just hip shit that’s happening.

JE: It’s such an intimate venue – would it be a full band?

BA: We just probably do a little – everyone would have a uke or something. We chop and change.

JE: Yeah, I saw the one you put up on Facebook the other day, which was just the drum solo.

BA: Oh yeah, yeah. That was cool, eh?

JE: Aboslutely. Did you just wing that?

BA: No, I taught them that. I just thought we would try it out; it’s a big part of my life. That was one of the first instruments that I learned. My mum found this little old newspaper clipping that she posted on her Facebook to try and embarrass me. It’s a picture of me like dressed up in like traditional Samoan gear when I was three years old. [And] There was this full article about – I don’t really remember it and I was playing the drums. I was like ‘holy crap, I completely forgot about that’, so yeah, we put that – I put that into the set and we did a few songs and the crowd lost it at the noise. It’s insane, they were fully into it. Yeah, gonna do it a bit more, a few more beats and we’ll throw it into the set.

JE: So, do you predominantly identify yourself as a drummer or a singer or ukulele?

BA: Well, my whole life would have been a drummer and I think which is partly why this past year and so forth has been quite amazing for me because I feel like I’ve switched over. Because, I’ve always written songs and sung for recreation – yeah, just with writing and ukulele and stuff [and] I kind of feel like I’ve come into myself a lot with Bobby Alu, especially now with the new album. Yeah, so it’s quite exciting, you know, two years ago I would’ve said I was predominantly a drummer but now, things are different.

JE: Is it a cultural thing – is that where it all kind of stems from?

BA: Yeah, I guess so. It definitely stems from my roots, like where my mum’s from and I grew up – you know music’s no big deal. It’s just like – it’s just around in the house, just kind of listening. Or, when there’s a birthday people just grab a guitar and have a jam, so like, yeah I guess it does stem from that but it’s no big deal. It’s just a way to communicate for me – it’s just what I love to do. I love to play music and I love to write songs and I love to share music and play music with my friends.

JE: So, it’s kind of like just a whole big jam?

BA: Yeah, exactly. It’s a lifestyle, and you know, where the choices I’ve made have been lifestyle choices. This is what I enjoy doing and it’s all I wanna do. Yeah, I feel quite lucky to have found that and I will do my darndest and my best to make sure that that happens all the time.

JE: So, in terms of unknown artist, do you have any favourites?

BA: Yeah, well in the sort of like – yeah, I’m into heaps of different styles of music but in my kind of style, where Bobby Alu has kind of been pigeon holed, in the sort of reggae-roots sort of genre, there’s a really good scene in Brisbane. There’s a couple of bands that are doing really well and we’re kind of building a little scene together – a band called Kingfisha and they’re going to be playing at Apollo Bay. They just released a record and they’re playing in WOMAD, I think next weekend, they’re good friends of mine. They’re really just great – amazing. Singer, Anthony (Forrest), is one of the best voices in Australia by far, you know, just the tone, effortless, really great to listen to, I really like them. I really like Kingfisha. But, there’s just so much – there’s endless stuff, you know?
Yeah, there’s just so much shit going on that you don’t even know about too. Yeah, Brisbane – but also, every city’s got their little, you know – but yeah, Brisbane is just great.

JE: Yeah, I love Kingfisha. They’re actually doing a few gigs in Melbourne and also, Dubmarine.

BA: Yeah, Dubmarine. Yeah, Dubmarine’s in the pocket there, Dubmarine’s great – they’ve got some new stuff coming out. Yeah, we’re all just – there’s a big group of us. We watch each other evolve in the past five years and kind of like, [it’s] beyond the music now. It’s friendship as well, you know, I think we all get pretty happy when another one is successful or breaks out. We’re all supportive and it’s great to know that your friends are doing well.
Yeah, because it’s quite tough when you’re trying to start out, you know, the roots genre is quite popular but it’s not that popular. Australia’s quite a small area and it’s hard to make ends meet. But, you know, we all know how hard it can be – big ups. We all help each other out.

JE: And, touring all around the world, you are pretty well received everywhere. [Even] that first gig that you played with Bob Dylan and Ben Harper in the line-up at Bluesfest.

BA: Yeah, our dressing room was next to Ziggy Marley’s and that was a bit surreal. I remember, like, one of the earlier Blues Festivals around 2003 or four, I saw Ben Harper play and I was like, “shit, I’d love to play that festival,” you know? And, that was at the beginning of when I really wanted to do music and I started doing it, worked with heaps of different bands and then had my own sort of project. Then, all of the sudden I was on the same stage. Yeah, it was pretty overwhelming, you know? [I was] Very grateful to be able to do it. I guess now progressing from a sort of up and coming young artist to getting more work out there and pretty much doing what we do and that’s what we’re going to do, keep making music, play music. [And] you know, if we get to headline those stages then – bam.

JE: So, are you thinking of going international again?

BA: Yeah, definitely. Like I said before, I made a bit of a lifestyle choice and you know, really, really love traveling. I love sharing my culture and Aussie culture and the band’s – just our thing globally. There are so many cool things around the world and just to be able to share your stuff – it’s just amazing. You know, that’s pretty much it for me, we’ll release this record and then we’ll try and get overseas. We’ll go to the places where the music will really fit, like California coast and Canada in summer – traveling the world. As much as you make those lifestyle choices, you gotta be realistic, you know? Yeah, we’ll just do what we do and eventually we’ll get there. Yeah, it’s all a bit surprising, it kind of all just happened; you know it’s a lot of hard work, but we’re up for it. We’re just trying to get all these new songs out, one step at a time. As long as we’re enjoying it, it seems to be the formula. When you’re enjoying it other people are.

JE: Now, do you have any guilty pleasures?

BA: Guilty pleasures … Well, let me see. I love video games! Yeah, I know that a lot of people – I can understand why people think they’re a waste of time. I kind of see it as “switch off” time and I believe the switching off is as important as switching on. So, yeah I would quite happily – I love having a plan and smashing it. But, when putting that stuff aside, I also believe in wasting a week – it’s the same with movies, I can watch any bad movies. I love bad movies. I love the stuff that you can just switch your mind off. Yeah, like chick flicks. I’m not the sort of person that watches a film then gets real pissed off if it’s really shit.

JE: I have to ask this to everyone, because I am in love, but what’s your take on chocolate milk?

BA: Love it. Absolutely love it. The thing with chocolate milk is I prefer it out of a carton, as appose to a plastic bottle.

JE: Like, Big M?
BA: Big M, yeah that’s alright. I’m an Oaks man myself. Yeah, I love Oaks only out of a carton, out of a plastic bottle is not the same. It’s something about the carton as appose to plastic. I love chocolate milk, I would just smash it.

JE: And, do you fish? You strike me as a fisher.

BA: I don’t do much fishing, no. but, I like the idea of it and I think at a stage in my life I’ll be a fisherman – yeah, definitely. I really like the idea of kind of fending for yourself a bit, you know? Kind of, I just like the fact of sitting in a boat on the ocean, casting a line out and getting a fish would be great. Actually, I was in Broome, maybe September last year, and the guy that picked us up from the airport took us fishing. Down near James Price Point – we caught a few and went and cooked it up and just ate it right then and there and it was just – it was nice. My future [laughs].
But yeah, life’s crazy at the moment, you know, I like to take it slow – but, man. We’re really consumed by this new album, you know and touring with other bands.

JE: Yeah, absolutely. With the new album, do you have a tentative date for release?

BA: Yeah, September/October.

JE: Will you be launching that here (Brisbane)?

BA: Nationally! So, we’ll do that. For now, there’s going to be few gigs in April here, then Byron, down in Tassie and Western Australia and finishing up at Apollo Bay, then my home town the Gold Coast. Nice little run.

JE: Do you have collaborations in the mix or anyone that you would want to sit down with and do collaboration with?

BA: Yeah, I do actually! For now, the new album, just collaborating with my band, I think the difference between my first album and this one was that the first album I did was completely solo. It was a bit of an experiment. I played all the instruments, trying to figure out what would happen and it all kind of started something – which was awesome. Now, I’ve got this amazing band that are my mates and Paulie B [Bromley] who’s the producer and the guitarist in the band. He just finished up playing with The Beautiful Girls and his other band was George. He’s a great friend and very humble and amazing, he’s got a good knack for it, he’s very good at it and he’s a mate, so we’ll be making music together for the rest of our lives. Good to have him on board. And then, he has a mate who has been a friend for thirty years and plays bass in my band. Then there’s my drummer, a drummer called Grant – his nickname is ‘Ding Dong’ – he used to play for a band called Ray Mann Three, a band from Sydney and he’s a really good mate. We’re a big supporter of Ray Mann stuff. So yeah, that’s my collaboration, good little mix. Between that, that’s the core, so we’re writing together and playing together. There’s a heap of other artists. I got a lot of respect for Mat McHugh, you know, he fronts The Beautiful Girls – oh well, he is The Beautiful Girls. Had a few good conversations with Mat, he’s one of those musos that seems to play it from his own bat, you know, original music for over a decade, for ages. He always writes good songs, I’ve got a lot of respect for him. You know, we’ve talked about jamming in the future. And, of course, my band mates from Oka and we had a jam with Xavier [Rudd] last week, so Xavier’s in the mix there. We’re just jamming.

Bobby Alu’s “You Know” Single Tour dates are below:

Friday 5th April – Nayri Niara Festival, Bruny Island, TAS
Sunday 14th April – Hotel Brunswick, NSW
Friday 19th April – The Joynt, Brisbane, QLD
Saturday 20th April – Big Pineapple Festival, Woombye, QLD
Friday 26th – Sunday 28th – Apollo Bay Music Festical, VIC
Saturday 4th May – Mandala Arts Café, Gold Coast, QLD

1 Comment

  1. March 22, 2013 at 15:18

    […] “It’s kind of getting to a – kind of – a really good stage at the moment. We’re recording another album, a new album and that just – everything’s just kind of falling into place a bit. It’s not like – it all feels nice. Everyone, the vibes are great, you know. Like anything it’s hard work, but all the hard work got a lot of return” – Bobby Alu chats to Janine Estoesta. Interview here […]

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