Watch the New Quintessential Doll Video, “Take Your Medication”

Quintessaential Doll
Image Courtesy of Quintessential Doll

Quintessential Doll’s “Take Your Medication” is a musical commentary of today’s overly-medicated, anxiety-ridden society. This animated music video uses surreal carnival imagery to highlight the whimsical nature of the song whilst drawing on the sinister connotations of the story by using silhouettes of ominous characters. “Take Your Medication” is from the Let Not the Monsters Destroy Me EP.

Interview: Tom Lee-Richards (Catch Release)

Tom Lee-Richards
Image Courtesy of Catch Release

With the Timber and Steel presented Scott Matthew tour kicking off next month we thought it was time to chat with the support, Tom Lee-Richards, about his Catch Release project.

Janine Estoesta: So, Catch Release has to really stand out to me mainly for your beat-boxing – how did that even begin?

Tom Lee-Richards: Hi there! Thanks. Beat boxing or Catch Release? I’ll start with beat boxing. I can’t remember. I know I was experimenting, making weird and kinda gross noises when I was six years old-entertaining myself I guess and I didn’t stop. Fast forward to being 13 and I’m humming the Rocky theme song whilst doing drum roles with a back beat with other parts of my mouth. Don’t know how I got there. Now I’m experimenting, making weird and kinda gross noises. Feels right as another texture in the band.

Catch Release started a few years ago. At first it was about exploring a lot of sounds that influenced all of the players probably with more of a lean towards a world music kinda space vibe. Then it changed.

JE: How did you come to have a violin and french horn in Catch Release’s sound?

TL-R: As songs started to develop a cohesive style we recorded a few songs. French horn and violin felt right for one of the more nostalgic, hopeful songs along with clarinet and cello. We put on a big gig (if we’re talking the amount of players in the band) and realised how grand the sound could be. The most essential instruments seemed to be the odd pairing of Violin and French horn and we got in contact with Tim Hannah (french horn) and Navin Gulavita (bass). Never looked

JE: What is the story behind Asleep Is A Friend Of Mine? Any standout muses?

TL-R: The EP is a journey. Some songs are hopeful, some are idealistic. Some bare honesty in there too and darkness. Asleep is a Friend of Mine is part of a lyric from the song “Chasing Ideas” referring to getting lost in your own thoughts, anxieties and searching for things you don’t need. Is that giving too much away? Muses, hmm now that would be telling. Yes. Short answer no. Ha!

JE: What is cooking for Catch Release as a collective and you as a solo this year?

TL-R: Catch Release will definitely be getting back in the studio later this year. I’m really happy with how the whole sound comes together and the guys are some lovely dudes.

As for me, I’m currently in the studio with the guitar and rhythm base laid down for my favourite new track. It’s for a solo project. I’m very excited to be launching a number of singles and actually creating a place you can find me on the interwebs this year. I’m going to be busy. And then there’s this Scott Matthew tour! What a unique artist. Humbled to be part of the tour and looking forward to meeting him.

JE: Any collaborations in the horizon?

TL-R: That’s one of the things I’m most excited about this year. I’m collaborating with Countbounce, a phenomenal producer right now. He has a really fresh sound and has worked with some of my favourite Australian acts. Having fun throwing ideas up!

Also just had a taste of collaboration, singing duets with Philemon. She has a beautiful sound. I’m always singing with Monique Shelford. Watch out for her too. We have a lot of fun together on stage acting like dicks.

JE: Is your solo project more of a stripped version of Catch Release or are you wanting to head in a different direction with it?

TL-R: The solo songs I have written lately are different. Simpler, with more of a vocal focus perhaps but influenced by Catch Release for sure. The instrumentation involved is wide open right now though. That’s the coolest part. I am just looking to match the mood of the songs and add what seems like it’s got to be there. I’ll let you know Janine!

JE: Can we expect an Australian tour from Catch Release soon?

TL-R: Soon, I dunno but when I’m up in Sydney and Brisbane to support Scott Matthew I will be booking some more gigs. That could be the start of touring one way or the other.

JE: What is your take on chocolate milkshakes?

TL-R: Shit. Not shit. Really good. Can I pretend I’m Vegan and say some soy shakes are also amazing. I could live on an Island with only juice-Banana and Mango. For a bit.

Tom Lee-Richards’ Catch Release project will be supporting Scott Matthew’s upcoming Timber and Steel presented tour. The full list of dates are below:

Sunday 11th May – Brew, Brisbane, QLD
Monday 12th May – Mandala Organic Arts Cafe, Gold Coast, QLD
Tuesday 13th May – Pure Pop Records, Melbourne, VIC
Wednesday 14th May – The Toff In Town, Melbourne, VIC
Sunday 18th May – The Vanguard, Sydney, NSW

Interview: An Evening With Scott Matthew

Scott Matthew
Image Courtesy of Scott Matthew

As a person heavily embedded in the music industry, winding up at far too many gigs than my wallet can handle, in places that my 2012 self could not even fathom, I still find it incredibly difficult to breathe any word to justly describe Scott Matthew and his beautiful music.

Initially receiving critical acclaim for his collective – Elva Snow – in the early 2000‘s, Matthew has since truly become one of the most important artists of our time. Both in the sense of tangible success and the deep and longlasting connection he seems to have with all who listen to his music.

Ladies, gentlemen, Timelords, Countesses, punters, artists and fellow lovers of music – this is an evening with Scott Matthew.

Phono Pop Festival. European Summer. Incredible Line-up. Russelsheim: smallest and kitsch-est town I have ever seen. Matthew was one of the headline acts for this rather underrated festival, held in what seemed like the space between four abandoned warehouses from the fifties. Most people that we had met had Matthew as one of their “must-see” acts, with most of the patrons coming from Frankfurt. Though at first the audience seemed quite small for a festival, it had grown substantially by the second and final day, filling most spaces, but still having enough room to move. Around the hour before Matthew was due to play, we had heard news that he had just landed in Frankfurt and was en route. In front of the smaller and more intimate stage, what was just space was soon filled with long and iridescent benches in anticipation for Matthew’s set.

|| Janine Estoesta: The tour. So, you’re doing a lot of festivals?

Scott Matthew: We’re doing some festivals, not a lot. I mean, this tour is very kind of minimal. My record just came out and then the real tour will start at the end of October. So, this is just kind of like an interim tour. We’re doing some shows in Portugal, some shows in Italy and now doing some in Germany and Austria. But, only for like three and a half weeks.||

Coming from a country where good festivals are scarce and attendees are sometimes ruthless, I was perplexed at first. Though, as the crowd inevitably began to occupy the benches and the cold bitumen, I must admit this incited some intense “warm fuzzies” and respect for German punters and music lovers. Observing them every now and then during sets, they were either singing along to these artists as though the songs were theirs, or just listening. Only a euphoric smile adorning their face and and a tall pint of beer in their hand. Ah, bliss.

|| JE: That’s crazy. And then, selling out Berlin-

SM: We did!

JE: How do you feel about that?

SM: I feel pretty good about it actually, thank you very much! (laughs)

JE: (Laughs) Yes, cultural epicentre. You’re huge here in Europe, is it a huge contrast to New York?

SM: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, it’s a little bit Jekyll and Hyde in the way that things are really lovely here and in New York it’s like it’s pretty much nothing, actually (laughs). It’s a little bit of a mind fuck when I need to kind of have self worth and this stuff validates me and I really love to do it, it’s kind of my life path. When I live in New York and I’m kind of like struggling to know who I am, or whatever. It’s a bit tough, but then you know, I leave so often, I’m kind of in Europe for half the year. So, it kind of makes me, you know, go ‘OK, got myself and I get to do this.’

JE: Did that kind of contribute to the whole concept that you had for “Unlearned”, with the covers?

SM: Not necessarily, I feel like, you know we kind of, like- on tour we would always perform covers and I’ve always liked singing other peoples’ songs and it just felt like a natural thing to do. And, I felt like, above that I proved myself with three records in Europe and I thought I could be allowed to make a covers record because, I proved myself as a singer-songwriter already. ||

Matthew arrives at Phono Pop not very long before his set. Red wine in hand, cigarette in the other and trying to advise the sound engineers that he does not need much of a sound check. Beside him is his glass and bottle of wine, beside those is guitarist Jürgen Stark. Stage complete. The crowd gives a resounding applause of welcome and what felt like a collective feel of comfort. Even with a slight technical faux pas with his first song, Matthew laughs it off, makes a sarcastic joke and continues…

|| “I do feel joy in my life. I don’t live in that place of my music all the time. Even though, it’s totally always just under the surface. It’s just here (touches chest under vest) and it can come out very easily (laughs).” ||

This was my first time seeing Scott Matthew play live. Every YouTube video that I kept on an endless stream through the years, every scene the he appeared in in Shortbus, all those overplayed CD’s, every glimmer of his voice resonating in the darkest corners of my dreams did not even compare to this moment.

|| JE: And then, I guess stemming from that with Short Bus and Cowboy Bebop and all the soundtracks working with Yoko Kanno. Was doing soundtracks something you were always interested in – because they were from a long time ago?

SM: Yeah, it’s strange, with Yoko Kanno, the Japanese stuff, I was basically just a session singer. And, the first job that I was offered to write songs for a film was Shortbus. And, since then I’ve done a little bit of licensing but, I haven’t really done- I’m not really a musician that composes. You know, I couldn’t do a film score. So, it’s not really on my radar for things to do, but if I get the opportunity, then I’ll try.

JE: So, were you approached with Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell?

SM: John Cameron Mitchell approached me and asked me to write songs for him and, I didn’t know who he was (laughs). He was literally at a party and I said, ‘yes.’ And, it was very organic, you know, it wasn’t like networking or managers or anything. It was just like, you know, it just kind of happened and I was very thankful for that.

JE: Brilliant film.

SM: Yeah- right?! [He] did such a great job – with no money.

JE: Do you perform at a lot of venues like that?

SM: Not really, I mean Shortbus was slightly fictional. I think there was a stage in New York when that existed but, not so much anymore. So, no. I perform occassionally in New York, and when I do that, it’s really good. If I did perform more often it wouldn’t be so good, but when I perform like once every two months, it’s great.

JE: So, the collaboration with Sia – how was that working with her?

SM: How was it working with her? Oh, it was amazing! She’s gorgeous. Oh, my God, she’s incredible. She’s like one of the most, you know, the few famous, really successful musicians that are selfless, you know? And, she was so generous to me and I felt so thankful. I’ve asked a lot of people to collaborate with me, because I admire them, not because they’re famous. And, she was one of the first that said, ‘yes’. Just immediately – like, ‘yeah, of course! I‘ll do it’. Straight up at the little crappy studio that I have in Brooklyn and you know, I didn’t have to pay her, it was all very easy. Yeah, she’s a great singer – Jesus Christ. (laughs)

JE: Is there anyone in the horizon that you would want to collaborate with – everything aside, who would be number one?

SM: Not even everything aside. I’ve been collaborating with a Portuguese composer called Rodrigo Leão and on my latest record there’s a singer called Neil Hannon and he’s from Divine Comedy, a band that I loved from the nineties. And also, another person that collaborated with him was a woman named Beth Gibbons from Portishead and we all got to do a show together in Lisbon and I met them and that’s how I got to work with Neil. But, then Beth had said that she’d do it as well, and so for my latest record I tried to get her to sing on it and obviously not through any fault of her own, she couldn’t do. She was having a baby and she was touring and she was moving house, so she’s my latest, kind of, obsession. And, you know, I’ve been obsessed with her since the early days of Portishead and I think she’s incredible. Beyond that, I think she’s a really lovely person. I think she’s nice.

JE: Are there any unsigned or underground musicians that you’re interested in at the minute?

SM: Well, I’ve got my friends in New York. My friends make music in New York and they’re amazing. And there’s a woman – Holly Miranda – I don’t know if you know her, well yeah, she’s been around for a while and she’s signed to- what’s her label? I can’t remember her label, but one of the most famous labels in Australia. [They] released her album, she didn’t do too well and got dropped, now she’s coming back with a new record and it’s incredible. So, Holly Miranda! And, there’s also Clint Michigan, who’s an amazing sort of singer-songwriter outfit based in folk and incredibly sentimental, about family and drug addiction and really beautiful subjects that are just pure. They’re the most- they’re my favourites. ||

|| “Do you know that my Mum and Dad came on tour with me? It was totally mental. So, Jameson Whisky had this project they were trying to get off the ground. Their project was, “it’s a family business”. And, they’d asked my friend in Berlin to kind of, like, direct this project and it was about photographing fathers and sons. And just, it kind of being like, you know, a documentation of fathers and sons and their relationship and their interaction. My friend Mario said like, ‘well, I want to do that with Scott Matthew and can we fly his father in to do this here in Berlin? Because, he’s on tour and he’s gonna be here?’ And, they’re like, ‘yeah, sure’. And, I asked my Dad and he was like, ‘yeah, I’d to do that, but I won’t go without your mother.’ So then what happened was Mario went back to Jameson Whisky and went, ‘well, we might need two tickets, will you do that?’ And, they said, ‘yeah, it’s kind of expensive but, we’ll do that.’ So, my Mum came as well! And, so my Mum and Dad- I was on tour – so, my Mum and Dad came to Europe and then toured with me for like two weeks. This is crazy.

(Did they love it though?)

They LOVED it. I mean, they’re from the bush in fucking Australia. And, this is like ridiculous for me too, because it was kind of the first time my parents had seen me doing my thing, you know? Usually, when we meet or connect it’s in their world. Or, my old world, and this was a chance for them to see me doing my thing as an adult and as a man that’s, you know, not connected to anything they know. And, it was really special. And then, of course, that lead to my Dad being on my record. My Dad sang with me.” ||

And thus ends, this particular evening with Scott Matthew.

Australian tour coming in 2014 – presented by Galloping Sheep and Ling Ang Film.

Interview: An Afternoon with Mélanie Pain

Melanie Pain
Image Courtesy of Mélanie Pain

On a most beautiful and sun drenched Parisian afternoon in Le Marais, Janine Estoesta met with Mélanie Pain (a front woman for Nouvelle Vague) to discuss her latest album and recent tours. Pain already reaching critical acclaim for her new album and her work as a solo artist, talks of her past work both as her own and with her previous collective.

Janine Estoesta: So, Bye Bye Manchester – you released it last year?

Mélanie Pain: In Australia, yes. It was the first release and I don’t know, it always happens. It was like when I released my first album, I am very close to my producer in Australia and he’s really quick to release things. I send him the album and he says, ‘yeah, it’s OK, I’ll release it in six months.’ And, it’s different timing in Europe, it takes more time and I’m recording more songs and you know, tour a little bit before releasing the album. So, it’s kind of – I release my album one year ago and the same album will be released in France and the UK and in Canada in September. One year apart. In between, it was released in Germany and in Asia.

JE: What is your fan base like in Asia?

MP: It’s good, like, I’m doing really good, but every time I play in Singapore I’ve got a bit of follow up and, I don’t know. It’s just people that like French music and these big events and I really like going there. They’re really receptive to the culture.

JE: So, you’ve kind of just been touring this year – it’s kind of like huge blocks isn’t it?

MP: Yep. I’ve been touring non-stop ever since last November, I think. So, I’ve been in Australia in January – great tour – and then, I’ve been to Singapore and then to England and then I don’t really remember. It’s just – I’ve been touring a lot. And, I’ve been to the US for five weeks with Nouvelle Vague. So, on the road non-stop.

JE: So, you’re collaboration with Ed Harcourt. Amazing. How did that come about – did you guys just want to work together?

MP: I’m a big fan of him and I think he didn’t know me (laughs). I’m a really big fan and I just sent him a message on Facebook like, ‘hey. Here I am, I really love your work, I’m in Manchester writing my new album, I don’t know. Maybe, I can come to London and we can meet and we can work together?’ And, he instantly asked me if I wanted to come and spend three days in his studio in London. So, I went there, I didn’t know him, so he picked me up at the Metro station. It was really weird, like, I went from Manchester to London and I got out of the Metro to wait and thought, ‘is this really him? Maybe it’s a joke, maybe it’s a Facebook – maybe, it’s a trick or something.’ I was waiting and suddenly I just saw this guy, all tattoos everywhere, big sunglasses, on a bike and he said, ‘hey! Are you the French girl?’ (laughs) OK, so that’s the real one. And, we’ve been working in his studio for three days and we wrote three songs and we did a duet called “Black Widow” and I invited him to sing with me at a jazz cafe in London in April and we keep kind of trying to work together. He invited me back in a pub to do a support of one gig and he comes to south of France for holidays so we’re probably going to try and meet there. It’s amazing how Facebook – I still can’t believe I just messaged him on Facebook and then meet the real person out of the Metro, he picked me up and then straight to his studio. And, he is a genius. He is a genius.

JE: He is. You guys really compliment each other really well. Was there anyone else that you wanted to collaborate with?

MP: Yeah, I wrote all the songs and then I asked this guy called Albin de la Simone who is kind of getting big in France now. And, he helped me find the sound of the album and everything, he just produced it. I’m really happy to work with him, he’s really famous in France too. He’s a kind of genius as well (laughs). But, on this album, Ed Harcourt was the only one that I wanted to work with as a vocalist because I really wanted “Bye Bye Manchester” to really be my kind of baby. The first album was written with a lot of people, with a lot of “featurings” on it and this one was really more, ‘OK, I’m going to be in a bedroom and write all the songs myself,’ and Ed Harcourt was the exception (laughs). But, I really wanted it to be all personal, because I’ve been working with Nouvelle Vague for ten years, my first album I worked with five or six different people. So, this time was like, ‘OK, this is my album, this is me.’

JE: So, that’s why Bye Bye Manchester sounds so different to “My Name” – with all those influences from other people, is this album definitely Mélanie Pain?

MP: Well, “My Name” is really different. It was two completely different processes. You know, I wasn’t a singer ten years ago. Then, this guy from Nouvelle Vague – I sung a demo for my boyfriend who was looking for a singer for his project, he was a musician. I was always surrounded by musicians, but never really take a mic or played an instrument. And, I recorded this demo and he gave this demo to everyone saying, ‘listen to this track, I’m looking for a female singer.’ And, the guy that was doing Nouvelle Vague at this point called him and said, ‘who’s that girl that was singing on your demo?’ And, he said, ‘oh, that’s my girlfriend! But, she’s not a singer.’ Then, he said, ‘but, I like her voice, can she come?’ That’s how I became a singer, this guy just liked my voice. I came and I recorded the first Nouvelle Vague album with him and then six months later, he called me and said, ‘OK, there’s one gig in Paris, do you want to do it?’ and, I said, ‘yes!’ And then, six months later he said, ‘OK, there’s a tour in America, do you want to do it?’ and I said ‘yes.’ You know, I began like this and while I was touring with Nouvelle Vague people were come with songs for me saying ‘why don’t you sing my song?’ That’s how “My Name” was created. People were coming to me with great songs and I loved it, I wanted to sing it. Then I asked, ‘can I change the words? Can I write my own lyrics?’ and that’s why I think “My Name” is really, lots of musical references because all the people were coming and saying, ‘oh, I see you doing folk, kind of sixties style,’ it was hard with “My Name” to keep a musical direction. It was kind of, I just sang all the songs that I really liked and I wrote two or three songs on the album at the end. But, it was not really, you know – compared to “Bye Bye Manchester” it was so different. I went to Manchester and didn’t listen to any music and I played with my little keyboards and played with what I can, which is nothing – because, I’m not a musician. I kind of found my sounds and my way of writing, just by myself, without any reference or musical knowledge (laughs). It was really on instinct, I was like, ‘OK, that’s what I want to sing.’ Because, I was frustrated at the end of “My Name,” to sing other people’s lyrics and other people’s songs. I need to sing something that is deep inside me, and I’ve been doing that with Nouvelle Vague for years, so I was ready now. I don’t know, I think in the future, I think “Bye Bye Manchester” is the first stone in my career as a writer and singer. Because, it’s the first time I really own all the songs. So, we’ll see how it goes, but I’m really proud (laughs). It’s hard for me to sing my first album songs live and everything.

JE: So, that’s why there were that three year hiatus between My Name and Bye Bye Manchester?

MP: Well, I had a baby as well. Took me a bit more than a year (laughs) and then it took me a big year to get really confident about my writing, because it was hard. And, I kept touring all the way during this period. It was hard for me, that’s why I really felt the need to go into one place without anyone, just in my bedroom with the stuff I bring from Paris and that’s it – I got to write. Ten or fifteen songs and just go. That’s how I did it because it was so hard to be on tour, have a baby, come back, be on tour again and find time in between stuff to just concentrate on writing songs. I think I just had really high expectations. Everything I wrote for six months, I just threw in the bin and thought, “you’re never going to be a writer.” Yeah, I lost faith at some point. I don’t know, I wrote one song, I wrote “7 ou 8 fois” and that’s what I want to do, I found a base that I can build on.

JE: So, what’s the kind of story behind Bye Bye Manchester?

MP: I realised when I was writing all the songs, they were about going somewhere else. Start a new life, kind of this sort of stuff. I called my album Bye Bye Manchester because Manchester is really a city where people are so proud to be Manchurians, you know, Manchester people. They are really proud. Everyone wants to go out, they want to leave Manchester because, the weather is shitty, maybe it’s too strong of an identity city, and sometimes you really feel like you just have to go away and that’s why all the things in my head were gathering in Manchester. And, that’s why I called it “Bye Bye Manchester” because you have to say “bye, bye” to everything you know to kind of, of course, a bit later come back and be strong about where you are and everything. Every song is about this fantasy to go away and you only want to go away because you will be able to come back. So, the song “7 ou 8 fois” it means “seven or eight times I tried to do this, I tried to,” I tried to just move on. It’s this eighth time it worked and I can kind of come back to it. So, it’s kind of this feeling that, deeply, you want to go, but in fact, you don’t want to go – you just want to be happy where you are. I don’t know. Manchester was great for this – my dream was to go into Manchester and write an album. Because, I am a big fan of Morrissey and The Smiths and all these new wave – Joy Division and Buzzcocks – everything down there. To write good music, you have to be English and live in Manchester or Liverpool. And, it’s all about this ambiguity all the time, you know? Why do you want to leave? Why are you really sick of where you are? All the songs are talking about this, and I don’t know. I just realised that I completely said goodbye to my other life, becoming a singer and the fact that it was really important for me to do that and I didn’t know. The fact of deciding this strengthened everything else, so voila. It was all about these feelings. But, it was not really conscious, I really wrote all these songs and at the end I said, “Oh, my God. They’re all talking about-” This song called “Ailleurs” is meaning “Somewhere else” and “Bye Bye Manchester” obviously, “Je Laisse Tomber” means “I quit everything.” And, all these lyrics, they were all talking about the same thing and how important it was for me to take all these big decisions in my life. I was living in South of France and decided to go to Paris, then in Paris, I decided to quit all my work and everything and become a singer and then when I was a singer, I decided to write my own songs. And, all of these decisions are not enough. I have to change to recreate my life and everything. So, that’s it.

Becoming and singer and writing my own lyrics and own songs was really important to me. I needed to find my way of communicating with these people that were coming to my concerts, so I was, “OK, I have to be true, I don’t want to sing other people’s songs all the time.” So, yeah.

JE: And, that’s obviously how it was in the beginning with Nouvelle Vague?

MP: Yes. I really learnt everything with Nouvelle Vague, I’ve been doing with them a thousand shows, I think. And, everything I know, all the confidence I have on stage is from this experience. As well as all the traveling I did with them, we were traveling all the time everywhere. It was really important. I never traveled before Nouvelle Vague and then suddenly, I was never in Paris. The first five years, when it was really successful, I was just flying everywhere and that really opened my mind about what I really liked. I didn’t want to stay in the same place, I really liked to meet people and be in danger all the time in different environment and different cultural challenges and stuff like this. So, yeah, I think this was really the big impasse for me, to travel and to make my own stuff. So, it’s good.

JE: Bye Bye Manchester really blew my mind away, it was so different. But, now it makes sense, because it’s really you. Which is another thing because you’ve always been this strong female and feminine presence in music. Having major influences like Smiths and Joy Division, would you say that that’s where you’ve gotten your stage presence from?

MP: I don’t know. What was amazing for me, going on stage for the first time in my life, with Nouvelle Vague ten years ago – it’s going to be ten years next year. I never went on stage in my whole life, I never did theatres or anything. And, when I was on stage, it was really natural. I just had to sing the songs and talk to people and make them laugh and just tell them how I feel. I was like, “oh, my god, it’s quite simple.” Like, for me, it was kind of – I was very shy at the point, I wasn’t the person that I am now. I had this strength that I didn’t know about. I could go on stage and be completely comfortable and look in the eyes of the audience and try and see what they want. I was completely okay with them being bored or super happy, or talking, I’m really interested in that. I really like when I sing a song to see, ‘oh, this one is bored, this one is happy (laughs).’ I really like that, I’m not scared if they don’t like me or, shit, I’m not dressed up or whatever. I don’t really think about it, I’m just sharing this unique moment with people and it’s unique. I do a lot of shows, this day is Tuesday and it’s ten-fifteen and this guy is yawning, it’s unique and I’m never going to live that again. I’m like this and I don’t know about having any role model of artists, I just like people that come on stage and you can really see their personality and they are themselves, they’re not building a character or whatever. Oh well, they’re building a character but it’s actually them, but kind of, a stronger version of them. I’m a big fan of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, all these guys they just go on stage and you just want to look at them. And, you’re like, ‘I just want to go and have a beer with them afterward,’ I don’t like people coming on stage and you just don’t know who they are. I don’t know, I really like people where you can really feel their personalities. And, I realised that I could do that, that I can actually do that and be exactly the same. I really remember when I was having my baby, I was touring with him – he was like two months old – and, I was just breastfeeding backstage and just giving the baby to my sister and just going on stage and I was exactly the same person. People were saying, ‘Don’t you need some time to be -?’ and, I was like no, I don’t want to be another person. Like, if I could go on stage with my baby on my breast then I would go. Because, for me music is – well, I’m not this kind of artist where I just want to hide, I just want to be myself.

JE: Now, do you have any underground or unsigned musicians that you’re really interested in, at the moment?

MP: Well, I have a lot of friends that are doing a lot of interesting stuff. They’re all kind of getting signed. Well, there’s not this kind of “signing” event anymore. Like, they’re all releasing their stuff, even if they’re doing it by themselves. I really like this band called Team Ghost, electro stuff. I don’t know, there’s a lot of stuff that I know and like, but underground… I don’t know if it exists anymore. Suddenly, they have a website and they’re all over Facebook and YouTube. I remember I went to a Ben Harper show when he released his first album and I don’t know if he was even big in America at the time, but we were like ten in the venue and all sitting down with Ben Harper in the middle. Oh, my god, this was really underground. And, one year later…

JE: Do you prefer doing smaller and more intimate shows as appose to bigger venues?

MP: I like both, in fact. I’m not such a fan of big venues. Even with Nouvelle Vague when we do big venues. Just in terms of space, it’s a really long way to see the peoples faces and you’re like, ‘what is that?’ So, I’m more into small shows and I don’t know, Sydney Festival was in Town Hall and it’s a beautiful, beautiful venue with one thousand people. This is the biggest that I can kind of like, more than this is just ridiculous. In Paris, I do this little club, I did two shows and then I’m going to do three around September, October and November in this small like two hundred sitting little theatre. And, I really like that, people really listen and you feel you have time. You have your time and your space. Really intimate, I like it.

JE: So, I know that you’re still with Nouvelle Vague but, do you miss that constant group setting?

MP: Mmm… Not for the moment. I like being by myself and kind of controlling everything and it’s faster and quicker and more rewarding (laughs). No, more the moment I just miss the fun with Nouvelle Vague. It’s great conditions and when you tour it’s always a lot of people, it’s always really easy. It’s a bit more complicated with my shows., you really have to try and you really have to set up everything. It’s less comfortable and it’s a lot of work and a lot of energy but, really, I feel so happy when I just tour by myself. I can still do both though and get my balance with the collective and the solo. We’ll see. I’m still amazed that Nouvelle Vague is still touring so much.

JE: Um. So, what’s your take on chocolate milkshakes?

MP: (laughs) If ever I taste a good one, I’ll be happy! I don’t know, it’s always so artificial to me. I want someone to make one for me with real stuff, real chocolate, real milk, real ice-cream. But, I love fruit, so if it’s good, I love it!

Review: Olivier Libaux Uncovered QOTSA

Olivier Libaux

Olivier Libaux Uncovered QOTSA
Silencio, Paris, France
11th July, 2013

“Silencio. Silencio. Silencio!” The cries of Rita in her sleep for the elusive Silencio club in Mulholland Drive. Walking into the Parisian replica, David Lynch’s dreams on film were now rampant and real. Accompanying me was filmmaker, Ling Ang, as we traversed down an innumerable amount of stairs; the only illumination were the lit black and white photographs on the walls. Girls outside begging for entry to the exclusive members only club, claiming previous patronage and dropping names that I did not recognise.

This was our introduction to ‘Olivier Libaux Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age. ‘

Finding our way in the mini labyrinth that is Silencio, we made our way to the bar which was in the room beside the main stage. A stage, might I add, that perfectly resembled a smaller version of the stage in the actual Mulholland Drive film – as Lynch intended. Cocktails in hand, as we entered the main performance room the velvet red curtains instantaneously opened. Before us in this ever-so intimate room was Olivier Libaux (Nouvelle Vague), Nathalie Réaux (Pagan Poetry) and Juliette Paquereau (Diving With Andy).

Considering the somewhat all-star cast, there was very little about the set that I could actually fault. It was my great fortune to have heard the songs of Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age first as a live performance with upstanding female singers like Réaux and Paquereau. Who, in their own respective collectives, have achieved musical and critical acclaim already. In addition to vocals, Réaux was also the percussionist for the evening using a floor tom and other small hand held instruments.

Libaux seems to have quite a knack for bringing together befitting singers to contribute to his portrayals of these timeless songs. As is true to his style, there is a lot of dissonance and minor key changes that add a kind of beautifully eery and creepy feeling to his songs – they are his songs. Though, this can only be noted as a feeling more than a repetition of previous song structures. You listen to this album (and, I heard it in this set) and you feel the familiarity to the style of Nouvelle Vague’s covers, but they are all distinctly different songs. The similarities and that familiarity that you hear is in the ambience that Libaux manages to deliver every time.

Though, there were songs like, “Go With The Flow,” “No One Knows” and “Medication” that had a subtle signature “French pop” to it, the most stand-out song to me was “I Never Came.” In the original Queens of the Stone Ages version, Josh Homme sings of both internal and palpable turmoil with that of whom he loves. The song diverges into denial and acceptance, anger and salvaging of pride, which Libaux has managed to intensify with his interpretation. As is what I can say for most of the songs in his set, Libaux really taps into the raw feeling of the song and puts it on display. After seeing and hearing this live, I almost felt as though my own mind was being lost and the daunting feeling of that loss was brought to me that night.

What is most deserving of notoriety is Libaux moving from one collective that exclusively covers great musicians and songs to another collective that did so, but with just one band – most songs that were from the same album. I was fortunate to catch the set where both Réaux and Paquereau were the singers. Although they differ quite substantially in vocal styling and ranges, there was a huge complimenting harmony between Paquereau’s melancholic mezzo soprano and Réaux’s tender yet emphatic vocals.

A large part of me wants to label this gig as a very professional one, however, that word is only incited because it was a gig that was delivered by a very gifted and humble group of musicians. One almost felt as though they just came together to play for friends. In such an intimate venue, any mistake or fumbling fingers would have been heard – though, none were. Just talented musicians and singers that made music for a night. There were no theatrics or overly inflamed egos, there was no boisterous crowd. Only music lovers who came to listen to an unforgettable and awe-inspiring set.

Uncovered Queens of the Stone Ages sports on the album another set of impressive female singers such as Morcheeba’s Skye, Clare Manchon of Clare and the Reasons, Inara George of Bird and the Bee and Katharine Whalen of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Review: Byron Bay Bluesfest 2013

Bonnie Raitt
Image Courtesy of Bluesfest

To all the devout fans and readers of Timber and Steel, let me first take the opportunity to apologise for the prolonged amount of time it took to publish this. Please understand the love this article contains and the arduous task of having to coherently put it down on paper.

It was difficult to come down from falling into the rabbit hole and immersing myself in five days of being lost in Wonderland. Accompanying me were two filmmakers, one photographer, a Byron local and two actors. Each set that finished and each tent that we walked out of incited a collective sigh and exhausting swoon. Bluesfest, to me, is the only festival we have that comes even an inch in resemblance to Woodstock – obviously, the air had a tinge of green to it. We came to be time travellers and kids with rampant obsessions being let loose in Tyagarah. From being stuck between men and women of all ages sharing this one experience but in different ways, to being stuck in the car park for two hours. Together, we were all big players in moments that ranged from chaotically erratic to life affirming. Being in the same vicinity as the legends we all grew up with is something that can never justly be put into words. But, here goes – our shared experience, fifteen minutes in our shoes.

Our first taste of Bluesfest, 2013 was of Leonardo’s Bride. Abby Dobson wearing red feather earrings and a tight white dress – ageless. In the midst of their set, Dobson announced that this would be their last ever show and they certainly ended their reign on top. With each song, Dobson would stare intently and intensely into the crowd, as if to look into each individual’s eyes. Being led astray momentarily, I heard “Even When I’m Sleeping” from outside of the tent and ran back to the front to hear Dobson’s flawless vocals accompanied with Dean Manning’s rusty and robust harmony. At one point, they confessed to drinking since 10am and then proceeding to play “Sleepyhead” as though they had just finished writing it and played it to a new audience for the ninth time. Although, admittedly I could listen to Dobson talk all day and night, after seeing and hearing this live, I would much prefer her to lull me to sweet slumber with this voice of unwavering fervour.

Staying in the main tent, Mojo, we caught Skipping Girl Vinegar who were probably one of my favourite bands to catch. Their stage plan was the first thing to note, as they stood side-by-side at the front of the stage. One would think that the drummer, Chris Helm, being placed beside frontman, Mark Lang, would cause some sort of audio chaos, however I feel as though the band are very familiar with this setup. Having never seen Skipping Girl Vinegar live before made this set a real treat, being able to clearly hear the 80’s influence with the obvious variations between male and female vocals. My first impression of the band was, ‘wow, they are so cute,’ and my last impression was, ‘amaze. This is a band full of angsty babes.’ The most standout thing about them was the sheer enthusiasm of Helm, keeping a solid beat whilst having a smile that reminded you of untainted pleasure. Concluding their set, was their “bogan anthem” which had the entire crowd fist pumping the air like true Aussie bogans.

It bewildered me as to how people had time to meander about and it impressed me that they would give up their spots to go to the toilet. We, on the other hand, destroyed our knees, bladders and livers over the course of the five days. When the likes of Glen Hansard and The Frames are due to come on stage, there really is not time for anything else other than the music. With playful banter here and there too – we have a little bit of time for that. As was exemplified by Hansard as he took the stage and brought the Irish sardonic humour to Byron. Backed by a full string section and his busted guitar, the Mojo tent instantly filled up and was teeming with people by the end of his first song. Although Hansard’s humour was a welcome comic relief, it was such a blaring contrast from his music that at times it was difficult to engross myself in his music. All-in-all though, Hansard finishing his set with “Falling Slowly” had the entire crowd forgetting his obscenities and hearing what they all came there for. Outside the tent, inside the tent, every mouth sung along and all eyes remained centre stage.

The humidity and heat were starting to take effect on us, all of us; people were getting restless and aggressive as they weaselled their way to the front of each stage. Admittedly, my friends and I partook in said weaselling. We wanted to have some play in the “search for sugar man,” so many crossed arms were attentively pushed and every small space was utilized as a walkway. The entirety of Bluesfest was one surreal stupor for us all. It was hard to even fathom that Rodriguez was about to come on stage and play for us the songs we did not understand as children and later came to fall in love with as adults.

Initially, it seemed as though he would inanimately play and have no strength to talk as he was escorted on and off the stage. This theory was soon thrown out the window when he began his set. Rodriguez embodied more a worldly man who is an old soul. Between songs, he would come out of nowhere with empowered two to five minute speeches about stopping violence against women – which brought on a bellowing roar from the crowd. He would change between this and something a little more light-hearted.

Rodriguez: I’ll tell you guys a joke. Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse went to a marriage counsellor because Mickey wanted a divorce. The counsellor says, ‘Mickey, you can’t just leave your wife because she’s stupid.’

Mickey replies, ‘I’m not calling her stupid, I said she’s fucking Goofy.’

As what was expected, he started to play “Sugar Man” and the crowd lost all sense of propriety. As most were well aware of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” I feel this had a huge play in the number of those in the audience. All together those who came out of curiosity and intrigue alone along with his fans from the seventies and all who came to be in between. Included in his set was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” which even though was not completely true to how it was originally played, was still worthy of the applause it received.

Now, as you may have noticed, I have not made any indication as to which days anyone has played. When the lack of phone reception or battery became an obvious factor to us from day one, the only thing that we came to take note of was our meeting spot of ‘M9.’ My friends had carved this into my memory and days and time were unnoticed. For all of the instances we have ever said, ‘man, I wish I had a soundtrack to my life,’ this came true when we would take minutes out of the day to gorge on the surprisingly delicious festival food provided to us. Included in these moments away was even a spontaneous morning we spent in Byron having pints and conversations with locals and fellow festival goers. By this point, it was hard to imagine the world outside of Byron Bay existing and moving onward.

Back to Wonderland, being the incredibly vertically challenged person that I am, getting into the tent away from the pelleting rain was not on the cards for me. Although at the time, it seemed like a great idea, I disbanded from my friends to find a better spot to watch Santana. There was no chance of this. Instead, I chose to join the other devoted fans in the rain that were just as naive as me in not bringing any form of protection to thwart it. This became irrelevant as soon as he started playing. Santana’s lead vocalists, Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay, were a brilliant treat filling in the shoes of legendary voices like Rob Thomas and Wyclef Jean during the show. We came to know and take for granted this large and varied band setup then, here, seeing each expression of love and passion on their faces. The kind of musicians that now seem so rare, I eventually welcomed the pouring rain just to see those eyes. Inside the tent and definitely outside of it, I heard Santana all around me with fans singing along in unison and devouring his signature complex and endless riffs.

Unfortunately, due to so many inevitable clashes, we caught only a small part of Iggy and The Stooges. However, we made it just in time for Iggy Pop telling the audience to ‘get on stage and dance with The Stooges’ – oh, excellent. This drove those on stage and those in the audience wild. This was a fairly standard show for The Stooges as they paraded a shirtless Pop and gave the crowd what they wanted, plain dirty rock.

Now, Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters was a definite highlight. For all of you who were there for Bluesfest or caught one of his sideshows, I know you would agree with me here. You are conditioned and familiar with Robert Plant as the voice of Led Zeppelin and having this sound in your head that seems irrevocable. Though, you also deeply love the band, so you should know better. True to form, Plant delivered. The Sensational Space Shifters having quite a psychedelic feel to them combined with Plant driving the whole thing brought old classics like “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker” back to life, but reincarnated. Forty years on and he still manages to bring people to their knees in awe with inscrutable innovation. With lights coming from the stage and places beyond it, amplified by the crowd losing all inhibition, I felt tears well up in my eyes.

Almost ashamedly, Bluesfest was the first time that I had heard of Blind Boys of Alabama and I shudder to think of what I would be had I not seen them. Being around since the 1930’s and being the brand of Gospel Blues that I delight in, their set proved to be one very unforgettable hour of splendour. Setting the whole tent off in uplifted, unrestrained and exalted dancing, blind “boys” Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore, Eric McKinnie with dashingly charming guitarist Joey Williams proved that blues is not a dead musical variety.

When we came around to see Roger Hodgson, I had met an older couple in the mosh and judging by their expression of elation and the way they held each other you just knew – they were there from the beginning. We talked about this deep love for Supertramp and could barely contain ourselves with anticipation. Post this discussion and close to the lead up to Hodgson getting on stage, they assured me that they would be a barricade around me so that no more of these ten-foot giant fans could stand in front of me.

As incredibly cliché as it may sound, “Breakfast In America” and “Dreamer” were definitely the highlight of his set. Not just because they were the most famous Supertramp songs, but they had the entire crowd dancing their own dance, jumping, screaming, being taken somewhere they only knew. Spending a good portion of the set with my eyes closed, there was still the feeling of this veil of pure love over the entire tent. Since my friends were amazing enough to let me stand in front of them for most of the festival, I looked back during “Breakfast In America” to see them losing it all, I looked back at the older couple and the woman and I grabbed each other’s arms, almost in fear of losing ourselves. Hodgson on stage brought me to the realisation of what distinguishes this era of rock to ours now. Forty years on and his integrity is still intact, that charismatic smile of his as he oversees the sea of people he has connected with for decades.

Bonnie Raitt was probably who I was most excited about. From the line-up, it may have seemed odd but, the way she is live and the way that she connects with her audience is just phenomenal. I left my friends to eat outside the tent as I tried to weasel my way through to the front, however, it proved that most people had the same idea and created a kind of blockade with no space for even me to push through. For a woman in her early sixties, Raitt sure knows how to pull a crowd and keep them there. Among most of the other musical legends alongside her at this festival, Raitt has been performing for more years than I have been in existence, so you come to expect a certain ease and comfort she has on stage. You would hear these constant bouts of fevered exclamations, like ‘I love you, Bonnie!’ or ‘Yeah, Bonnie!’ And, upon her encore, she took a seat and expectations came to fruition when she spoke of the beauty of the next ballad – queue “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The entire tent stood still, which was appropriate for the intensity of the crowds’ fixated attention on one spot.

Paul Simon – what a God. Ruining the punch line, a man who plays a full set and receives three encores is a man to commend. Simon had a somewhat melancholic and earnest demeanour, which we soon found out had been caused by the passing of good friend and co-producer, Phil Ramone. Quite apropos was Simon’s tribute to his friend in playing “Slip Slidin’ Away” (Of which Ramone had co-produced). At this point, I turned around to my own friend, held her and said, ‘this is happening.’

Though, with this in mind, Simon still made a point to mention that he wanted everyone to be dancing. A mixture of classics and songs from his Graceland album set the audience on fire. As I earlier mentioned, he incited three encores and seemingly perpetual cheering. One of my favourite things about Bluesfest is the intergenerational mix, which was clear on the final night where the Mojo tent played host to the likes of Paul Simon. Backed by a full band of skilful and multi-instrumentalist musicians, Simon’s poetry not only came to life but came to us all individually and embraced us. There was a particular spot that we kept to in the Mojo tent where we had a glimmer of phone reception and I immediately texted my Mother and Father who were the reason for my Simon and Garfunkel adoration. Simon playing tracks like “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “The Sound of Silence” and closing with “The Boxer” in a way completed my life. In contrast to some of the other sets we caught, there was a surprisingly large amount of room to dance and loudly sing along.

This was the only way to end Bluesfest for me. When we had left the tent after Simon’s epic set, we trailed out flustered and speechless.

Festival Director, Peter Noble, has something to be proud of, indeed. This was a great year and having a fully sold out festival with satisfied faces made the insufferable portaloos and broken shoes worth every second.

Review: Tehachapi – Last Ever Show

Image Courtesy of Tehachapi

The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne VIC
24th March, 2013

There are only a few rare and treasured moments when one stumbles upon musicians that truly transcend all expectation of contemporary music and build a farm in our hearts. In the short life of a Generation Y-er, we have been blessed with the likes of Jeff Buckley, The Mars Volta, Radiohead, John Frusciante, Mogwai, Blonde Redhead – just to name a minimal few. Within such a list is Tehachapi.

Having just moved to Melbourne around the time Tehachapi were an emerging band and being present for their final show was nothing short of a privilege and an honour. Accompanied by local musician Lauren Moore and spying Beloved Elk in the crowd, those new to this brand of music would have collapsed from over-gasping.

Unfortunately, we were too late to catch Strangers From Now On and Amanita. Though, making it just in time for Matt Kelly’s set was nothing short of a miracle. The line-up for this perfect afternoon on The Evelyn Rooftop left me in a truly dreamy stupor, with an incredibly apropos soundtrack.

Backed with a full band and string quartet, Matt Kelly begun his set. With a striking resemblance to the late Jeff Buckley in his vocals, he soon proved the stylistic difference quite quickly. Incorporating a vocal stompbox for most of his set and being backed by a string quartet (two cellos, two violins) created a fullness of sound that turned his humble poetry into an emphatic gesture.

Perhaps, the most standout song for Kelly was “Grand Design,” with a seemingly deceptive structure. Upon first hearing this song, you feel there to be a lack of a crescendo to the succinct and repeated beating of the floor toms, however, Kelly cleverly builds the songs layers slowly. Firstly, introducing himself as a solitary guitarist and gently following him is the string section, the beating floor toms hit and finally altogether with the piano. Wherein you find the true culminating moment is in the last minute of the song.

Enter Tehachapi.

Most of the crowd is seated on the ground, sipping their beer and blowing smoke into the fresh air. Anthony Cook, Laura Christoforidis, Constantine Stefanou and James Ruse get on stage; everyone claps with excitement and gives them their well-deserved uproarious welcome. Guitarist, Anthony Cook, asks everyone to stand up for the “last time” we will be able to dance to Tehachapi.

Starting off their set with “Land of Four Seasons” from their latest EP, with the same title. The band and crowd dancing and swaying, eyes closed and an incredibly euphoric smile from frontman, Constantine Stefanou. With a much more upbeat track in comparison to their other songs, it is still equally as intense and remaining in the psychedelia/alternative rock genre that Tehachapi are known for. A great way to start the gig.

We move onto the band’s debut EP “(100)” – released in early 2010. Cook taking the lead vocals in “Missing Men,” which played a huge contrast to Constantine’s deep and driving voice. If bands and musicians fit into an evolution chart, Tehachapi would fall somewhere between The Vines and Mars Volta.

“Sighing Eyes” exemplifies the comparisons I had made earlier. To those whose first experience of Tehachapi was this show, you will have been exposed to the two, three and four part harmonies that this collective delivers – impeccably. It was difficult to place Stefanou as the frontman when the four play such crucial and important parts to the entire sound and imagery of Tehachapi.

However, I did enjoy Stefanou’s banter with his fellow band members and also with the audience between songs, which was always witty, casual and humorous. This allowed the seemingly impromptu cover of Spice Girls’ “Stop” after this song appropriate, without taking away from the earnest and genuine body of their set.

Though there are about ninety three things I want to mention about the intricate guitar riffs and melodic dissonance, the “clean” distortion and beautiful anguish, these are all palpable factors of Tehachapi. These are the reasons why we fell in love in the first place and why we will continue to listen decades on and on in the future. “Stars are Dying” being one of the biggest points of reference for this. Being an instrumental song, it could possibly be much more effective in storytelling than some of their other songs with lyrics.

The main thing I want to make a point of is the unique style in which drummer Laura Christoforidis sings. Her vocal style immediately reminded me of the way in which the Saudi Arabians, Egyptians and Lebanese sing, both traditionally and in their more popular modern music. Similar to Lior’s vocal style in “Bedouin Song.” Christoforidis channels this very difficult style of singing so effortlessly throughout “Winds of Motion.” Having Stefanou harmonise with his voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Ian Curtis, Christoforidis’ melisma was truly something I only wish I could paint across my walls and listen to in my dreams.

There seems to be a plethora of sound floating about and around the place, where we as people seem to confuse what is actual quality and what is not. Self-appointed reincarnates of Kurt Cobain and bands that compare themselves to The Smiths come to the harsh realization of truth upon coming across bands like Tehachapi. Devoid of anything trite or contrived, you hear the influence of the greatest musicians of our time but, then they become the greatest innovators of our time.

Now, we move right along to “Numbered Lovers,” which is this reviewer’s favourite Tehachapi song, so I understand that this fragment could seem rather bias. With lyrics like “she lies in her bed, she sighs and she says, ‘it’s over’” as the song comes to an allegro climax, it was difficult not to completely lose myself in this song. It is one of those songs that come along and you find you listen to it over and over again for years, sometimes weeks and months at a time. Other times, sporadically. You feel a strong connection and revelation, however, feeling disconnected at the same time. Not from the music, but from your own lost moments as a disposable lover.

Not unlike all of Tehachapi’s songs, there is a natural flow and a painfully clear chemistry here. The constant layering in songs from four very extraordinary musicians leaves the listener torn between methodically planned sound and silence and beautifully tormented noise strewn across their floor. “Numbered Lovers” comes together as a simple story of heartache, conveyed in a succinct but rather emotive three and a half minute song. With a clear melody playing throughout, you firstly hear this being played by a lone guitar as an introduction, building up its slow force with heavy distortion and an almost extreme anxiety in vocals. At the close of this song, in the last thirty seconds, you again hear the soft lone guitar playing the melody as a defeated ex-lover.

Finally, we reach the last song of the set – “Her Love is a Mountain, Truth in Her Fountain.” A long time fan, adorned in leather, spikes and tattoos, scurries to the front of the crowd and passionately screams at Stefanou, “you are not fucking breaking up!” Every set of hands on that rooftop clapped like giants. This epic twenty minute song broke halfway through to house another song. Stefanou loses control on stage, all instruments blaring as though fighting each other, for each other. After this psychedelic, music-making-love jam starts to fizzle, the song smoothly rolls its way back into “Her Love is a Mountain, Truth in Her Fountain.” It was obvious to all those who were present that a deep love and connection was had in this band, as all members had a look of unadulterated elation and cheek-to-cheek smiles throughout this perfectly timed song.

What a way to end the life of Tehachapi and end their last ever gig. It is extremely difficult to really take this song in its whole entirety after just one listen. There is so much going on all the time that you kind of need several sets of ears to properly catch every fragment and appreciate every bar of notes. Everything that Tehachapi is comprised of comes out, the insanely intricate guitar riffs, the flawless pitch of their four-part harmonies, the funk that bass should have, the long drawn out words that were carefully placed into a lyrical masterpiece. All of which, strung together, lacked convolution and confusion. We are left only with the feeling of natural highs induced by the music and nothing else.

It has been an unbelievable four years of Tehachapi. This gig was a quite a sad farewell to a collective of musicians who prove that there is still evolution in music. However, this is also a very happy occasion also, as I have the opportunity to share this with you.

Thank you for wading in the “Sweet Water” with me.

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

Interview: An Afternoon With Bob Evans

Bob Evans
Image Courtesy of Bob Evans

Coming up to his long-awaited tour, Janine Estoesta had the opportunity to have a leisurely chat with Kevin Mitchell, AKA Bob Evans, on fragments about his music, upcoming tours and his great abhorrence of cheese Twisties.

Having just released the new film clip for his single “Go” be sure to catch Bob Evans, one of Australia’s finest on his national Familiar Stranger tour.

Janine Estoesta: Thanks for taking the time to talk today! So, Moomba this weekend – fairly classic Melbourne event, are you excited to be a part of it?

Kevin Mitchell: Being a newcomer to Melbourne, I’ve only lived here a couple a few years, so I’ve never been to Moomba before. I know from all my Melbourne friends, they all – when you mention Moomba, it conjures up a lot of childhood memories, that kind of thing. So, yeah, it should be fun.

JE: Absolutely. So, your upcoming national tour, you are playing a few iconic venues, is there a place or venue in particular that you are looking forward to playing?

KM: Yeah, well there’s a venue up in Cairns, it’s called The Tanks Art Centre. It’s an old – it’s just a great big round cement tank that was used during World War II, to store – well I don’t know it was used to store, maybe oil or petrol or fuel or something. [And] Now, they’ve converted it into this art space, this venue and it’s completely unique, it’s always really fun to visit and you know, because it’s up in Cairns too, it’s way up in North Queensland in the tropics. It’s just a very unique place, so that one definitely springs to mind and then there’s – I’ll be playing a lot of old favourites, there’s The Corner [Hotel] in Melbourne. I’ve played that place so many times, you know, over fifteen years [and] there’s a real familiarity with that place that I like.

JE: The Tanks Art Centre sounds amazing – how is the sound when you play there?

KM: Yeah! Surprisingly good [laughs], surprisingly good. It’s a really cool place.

JE: Brilliant. Now, in terms of Jebediah, Basement Birds and then yourself as Bob Evans, a solo musician, was there a different kind of sound you were trying to channel with the three different collectives?

KM: Yeah, oh yeah! Definitely. Basement Birds, you know we were just trying to make a rootsy sounding kind of folk record, you know, making four part harmonies. With Jebediah’s last record we were, you know, we had so many years between records we were really trying to recreate ourselves a bit. Do a really adventurous, for us anyway, studio album that wasn’t about trying to capture our live sound. With this Bob Evans record, I was really just trying to start all over again. You know, sort of – I just felt after the last Bob record I sort of closed. It got to the end of the chapter, I really just wanted to start again, without any sort of miming any of that acoustic, alt country, folk stuff that I’d done before. I wanted to make it sound like a progressive sort of pop record. It wasn’t driven by acoustic guitars; it was driven by the rhythm section and used a lot more synthetic sound.

JE: Rolling into that, in terms of Good night, Bull Creek! because of Suburban Kid and Suburban Songbook and being kind of a trilogy, is that the kind of end to that particular trilogy?

KM: Oh, definitely yeah. I knew, as soon as I finished Good night, Bull Creek! that that was the end of that. Yeah, I mean I guess I kind of like the idea of those records being tied together and being their own little thing, you know? I mean, I almost toyed – for a little while there I toyed with the idea of not making any more records as Bob Evans, so that those three records were the only Bob Evans records that were ever going to be made. Start again with a new name and everything, but I was quickly talked out of that [laughs].

JE: Absolutely! That would have been really interesting though, so if you were ever going to that collective or that pseudonym, would you have drastically changed the sound or the style?

KM: Oh, yeah! Well, I mean, that was the idea and that’s what I tried to do with this record.

JE: And, in terms of going back to Perth, how’s the dynamic playing in your home town? Is it a bit more vibrant? I assume you would be very well received when you go back home.

KM: Yeah, I guess Perth – it’s quite different to all the other cities in Australia, it’s a lot more – they’re very parochial in Perth, I think it’s because of the isolation. Perth people champion their own, I think more so than cities in other states. Which is really great but, they also – playing shows in Perth can also be – [sighs]. Sometimes has the most pressure attached because I’ve got family and friends that are there, I don’t know, I know more people in the crowd. Sometimes that can be a bit unnerving when going onstage. I think my favourite type of gig is a gig where I don’t know a single person in the room, you know? And, that might sound strange, if someone hearing that that doesn’t perform would probably assume the more familiar you are with people in the room, the easier it might be – you’ll actually find it’s the opposite. I find it easier to perform to a room full of complete strangers, rather than a room full of people I know.

JE: Absolutely, that’s brilliant. And lastly, any kind of fun quirks or anything we should know about Kevin Mitchell? Any irrational fears? What’s your take on milkshakes, or any secret you have from your childhood?

KM: I can’t eat cheese Twisties, because of my first experience with vomiting was after eating cheese Twisties when I was about four or five. Weird thing is that I, I’m sure that I didn’t vomit because of the cheese Twisties. I think what would have happened is that I ate a pack of cheese Twisties and then just probably ran around and, you know, spewed up regardless of what I’d eaten. But, I’ve always attached that first experience of vomiting with cheese Twisties and ever since – the whole time I was growing up I could never eat them and I’ve never been able to since. As an adult, it doesn’t really matter, cheese Twisties – not a big deal, doesn’t matter. But, as a kid, it was quite noticeable to my friends, so when I would say ‘no’ to cheese Twisties, because as a kid, who says ‘no’ to cheese Twisties, right? So, it goes to shows how powerful an initial experience is of something, positive or negative, just how powerful that can be. Because, it stays with you and for the rest of your life you attach, you keep going back there and keep attaching the subject of that first experience to that feeling.

JE: Wow. Cheese Twisties – so can you eat them now?

KM: No, can’t eat them now. But, I don’t miss them now, I don’t care about it anymore, because you know, I’m thirty-five years old I shouldn’t be interested in any cheese Twisties anyway [laughs].

JE: So, I know Perth or Western Australia as a whole is quite beautiful, do you have any of those secret hiding spots that you kind of just like to run away to or just have some time away?

KM: Oh, geez. Not really, I think – I guess there’s a lot of places that are out of the city and stuff. You gotta go down South to get away from things a bit over there. But, really when you go to Perth, you’re already so fucking far away from everything, you don’t really need to get any further away, right [laughs]? Like, it’s the most isolated city in the world. Nah, I think just being in Perth, you’re away from everything.

JE: Yeah, definitely. Now lastly, what’s your take on strawberry milkshakes?

KM: On strawberry milkshakes? [laughs] I’m quite fond of them. I’m more of a chocolate milkshake guy myself though.

For those of you who are in Melbourne this weekend, be sure to wander down to Moomba Festival this weekend – Bob Evans on Monday 11th of March at 1pm. The full list of dates for Bob Evans’ upcoming tour are below:

Thursday 11th April – Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast, QLD
Friday 12th April – Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, QLD
Saturday 13th April – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
Friday 19th April – Discovery, Darwin, NT
Wednesday 24th April – Hotel New York, Launceston, TAS
Friday 26th April – Republic Bar, Hobart, TAS
Saturday 27th April – Fowlers, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 2nd May – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, WA
Friday 3rd May – The Bakery, Perth, WA
Saturday 4th May – Prince of Wales, Bunbury, WA
Thursday 9th May – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 10th May – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 11th May – Zierholz @ UC, Canberra, ACT
Sunday 12th May – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong, NSW
Thursday 16th May – Yarra Hotel Geelong, VIC
Friday 17th May – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 18th May – Meeniyan Town Hall, Meeniyan, VIC

Captain Apples Gig Review – Open Studio

Captain Apples

Captain Apples
17th February 2013, Open Studio, Melbourne

Upon multiple listens of Captain Apples prior to this long-awaited gig, this collective of six very talented and passionate musicians did not disappoint. In fact, they transcend all expectation and have solidified any reservations for their inevitable success. The combined instruments with interchangeable players of a twelve string guitar, six string, banjo, piano, piano accordion, contrabass (double bass) and percussion, produces a very warm, yet full sound. What was most prominent was the perfect vocal harmony between frontmen Iain Isdale and Richard Wise, who in unison, created a cradlesong for adults and children alike.

With lyrics like “I wish to wash away your fears, I wrote a thousand lulabyes” and “dismounting the high horse, I drown in your kiss”, their music does nothing less of incite feelings of great love and everlasting waltzing. Said waltzing certainly took place by the end of a humid Melbourne evening in the dim red glow of Open Studio, Northcote.

Perhaps, the most standout song was “Lights Of Dover” – with beautiful poetry entwined with a structure that truly exemplifies Valse Nouveau. The gentle and simultaneously prominent three piece drum kit creating a strong body of sound to complement the strings in this song.

The general feel of Captain Apples’ songs remains in the range of andante and allegretto, befitting to the overall demeanor of the band’s distinct sound.

In another time, you could find Captain Apples in nineteenth century Parisian love letters.

Sounds like: Kings of Convenience, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes
If you like this you might like: Taxidermy Hall – “Gambler”
Bottom line: Superb.

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