Review: The Beautiful Girls

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Beautiful Girls, Animal Ventura & Mesmeriser
The Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 16th December, 2017

In the sweltering Sydney summer, the ice cool reprieve of The Metro Theatre’s ample air conditioning was a welcome starter to an evening that promised rays of Morning Sun.

To start the night off, the swaggering, lackadaisical tunes of Mesmeriser, the likes of which you’d expect to hear wafting across the sand dunes late on a summers day, set the tone early. Their chilled beach rock vibe with solid melodies with smooth vocals made them a natural match for The Beautiful Girls 15 Year Learn Yourself / Morning Sun Anniversary tour. A confident, solid set jam packed with tracks to warm up the growing crowd.

Taking a slight turn away from the beach feel, the funky vibe of Animal Ventura got the crowd moving. I love watching musicians use looping pedals well, and watching Aragones use one with a drum pad make a rich loop was nothing to sniff at. His vibrant guitar and vocals gave a contemporary feel to an indie singer songwriter sensibility. His musical treatment gives an uplifting feel to his sound, with vocal stylings reminiscent some of my favourite Jamie Callum tracks.

Just watching him build the loop for ‘Jungle’ was entrancing and then the delicate acoustic guitar danced over the basey loop giving it all a lightness and colourfulness. His vocals shifted to a more sultry tone trickling over the intricacies if the music below it. Transitioning again for the next song, in to a reggae beat demonstrating a stylistic breadth without skipping a beat, brought up comparisons to the likes Xavier Rudd’s rhythm heavy tracks.

So we know that back in 2012, The Beautiful Girls called it a day. Only it’s worth marking special anniversaries so seeing them for a 15th Anniversary was a fun affair for all.

Kicking off the set with title track ‘Morning Sun’ a more electric undertone to the indie acoustic sensibilities lifted the lyrics to a higher level of clarity and connection with the enraptured audience. From the outset, it was all confidence and cool, with the now large crowd rocking along and singing the choruses. Although it’s been a while between tours, their instrumentals lets them groove and connect with each other with subdued showmanship.

Upping the tempo with a heavy drum intro and setting the scene for a party vibe, ’10:10′ had the crowd going while showcasing their great indie rock solos. The rockier party sound continued with ‘Don’t Wait’ with the lyrics punctuated, rapping across The Metro in a fiery staccato. Even though the trio have been away from the stage for a while, they are still great at connecting with each other through their instruments, tone and staging, and translate that harmony to the crowd with gusto. So much so, that when it came to ‘#1 Style’, they had the crowd exploding with anticipation.

Of course, the crowd were there to hear some of their favourites how we remember them, so as McHugh switched to his acoustic, we knew some nostalgia was nigh. With a beautiful deep resonating riff the crowd recognised ‘Lose Yourself’ and the great showcase unleashed vocal styles reaching into higher registers, then rumbling along along below.

Familiar opening chords, to the crowds delight, announced a rousing rendition of ‘Dela’ and had a Paul Kelly-esque storytelling sensibility and the crowd eloquently singing along, and when ‘Periscopes’ arrived the crowd visibly swelled to greet an old favourite with crystal clarity to each lyric sung. To keep the momentum going, ‘Let’s Take The Long Way Home’ treated the audience to an impromptu harmonica replacement as McHugh had forgotten to bring his instrument and instead the crowd were urged to freestyle their own rendition of some jazz harmonica. Hilarity ensued.

And of course, and The Beautiful Girls gig could never be complete without ‘Music’ taking over the entire space, with the crowd singing word for word and McHugh hoping he can pull off some kind of 1980s hip hop over the eager audience singing.

It was clear they were delighted to be back on home turf, hailing from the northern beaches of Sydney. The production and planning for their show was evident, with striking lighting and great performances across the board. It was clear that even though the years have passed, they are still very comfortable and at home on stage. The Beautiful Girls continue to be a great band to see. The show demonstrated the great variety to their style, built out of years of experiences and recent space to grow their back catalogue to a new maturity. It was a night transporting us all to the tropics and a more reggae come Caribbean tone to their current musicality.

The whole show hangs together cohesively with common tones and styles echoing through all three acts, but with enough diversity between them to allow each act to feel fresh and different. For a bit of nostalgia, a guaranteed dance and every opportunity to sing along, you can still catch The Beautiful Girls on their 15th Anniversary Learn Yourself/ Morning Sun tour. If you’re looking for a fun, chilled vibe with a side serve of summer, this is the tour for you.

For more photos of the show, see Stuart Bucknell Photography‘s Timber and Steel Facebook Album.

You can catch The Beautiful Girls on tour at:

Thur 28 DecWoodford Folk Festival, Woodfordia QLD – TICKETS
Thur 4 JanMiami Marketta, Miami QLD – TICKETS
Fri 5 JanThe Northern, Byron Bay NSW – TICKETS
Sat 6 JanThe Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour NSW – TICKETS
Sun 7 JanCambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW – TICKETS
Thur 11 JanVilla Noosa, Sunshine Coast QLD – TICKETS
Fri 12 JanThe Zoo, Brisbane QLD – TICKETS
Fri 19 JanWesternport Hotel, San Remo  VIC – TICKETS RSVP
Sat 20 Jan – Corner Hotel, Richmond VIC – TICKETS
Sun 21 Jan – Grand Hotel, Mornington VIC – TICKETS

The Gum Ball Interview: Kim Churchill

Photo by Lester Jones

Today is the day that Kim Churchill’s latest single, Breakneck Speed, is released and the start of his Australian Tour. We’re looking forward to catching Kim at The Gum Ball next weekend for the official unveiling of his new live show.

So, we thought we’d catch up with Kim in the lead up to his tour.

Your music journey has certainly been epic – from living out of your van and gigging around Australia to now travelling the world most of the year. What’s the biggest difference for you between the early days for you and your lifestyle now? 

Honestly not a lot. I still spend a lot of time in the back of my van. I still surf everyday. I still play music everyday. It’s rad and it works. I am probably a bit more focussed and I dunno what you’d call it – ‘professional’ perhaps. I mean I guess that equates to ‘I drink less beer now’ haha. 

You’ve been a regular at so many Australian festivals like BluesFest and The Gum Ball – what kind of festival do you prefer – the big festivals with international guests, or the small, predominantly local act festivals, and why?

Well this is a cop-out answer but both. Big international festivals are exciting and inspiring and you get to see large scale bands play enormous shows. Smaller festivals have all your friends and they play just as brilliantly and are just as inspiring. I couldn’t do without either. 

Where is home now? Where do you find yourself longing to return to and spend most of your time?

Newcastle. The junkyard. Between the two I’m pretty much at home. I love that crew and I love the beach in Newy. If I’m away I really so find myself longing to get back. One day I might live there. 

What’s your biggest dream for your music? Where are you hoping your journey to take you?

Everywhere! Coffee houses In Turkey, stadiums in South America, beach bars in French Polynesia. I dunno I wanna see it all and be the soundtrack to a million different scenes. 

You’ve performed at The Gum Ball a few times now, how have you seen the festival grow and change? And what advice would you give to a first time Gum Ball attendee?

It’s one of my favourite festivals because it has maintained its integrity as it has grown. It’s still got all the beautiful vibes, people, trees, tents, beers and loving connection that it had back when I first went. I know it’s getting bigger and bigger but they really have their heads screwed on and I think it will be something I want to go to for most of my life 🙂 

Kim Churchill plays on Saturday 22nd April at The Gum Ball (Dashville, Belford, Hunter Valley NSW).

Tickets are still available to buy online.

Kim Churchill’s remaining tour dates are:

Thursday 20th April – Astor Hotel, Goulburn NSW
Friday 21st April – Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club, Shoalhaven Heads NSW
Thursday 18th May – Old Museum, Brisbane QLD
Friday 19th May – Meat Market, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 20th May – Verbruggen Hall, Sydney NSW
Saturday 3rd June – Fremantle Town Hall, Perth WA

Interview: The Beez (Germany) 2014 Australian Tour

The Beez
Image Courtesy of The Beez

The Beez are one of many international folk bands who make Australia a regular part of their touring itinerary. In 2013, they toured as here as a duet with the Don’t Mention The Wall show, but are returning with the full band in January to bring their pop/folk/originals/parody repertoire down under again.

Bill Quinn spoke with Peter D’Elia from Berlin on the eve of the tour about what Australian audiences can expect.

Bill Quinn: You’re heading back to Australia; it’s been a regular visit for you over the years, hasn’t it?

Peter D’Elia: Yes, it’s my fifth time and it’s the sixth time for the band. Rob Rayner (guitar and vocals) is from North Sydney. He likes to get back home, and what’s a better way to visit your home than to mix it with your work? Which is hopefully your pleasure!

BQ: So it’s more than just trying to get away from a Berlin winter!

PD: Our work here does get slow in the winter. So yes, it’s great to get away from a Berlin winter and if work is slow, you might as well be able to visit your friends and family, be in good weather, and actually have some work to do.

BQ: Going back to 2013, it was an unusual year for The Beez in terms of line-up, wasn’t it?

PD: Yes, we had ‘Sweet Felicia’ [filling in on bass for new mother, Ulischka], originally from Queensland and now living in Victoria. It was a lot of fun, and very different to have a different member.

She had to learn a lot, different kinds of ways of singing and melodies. As a blues musician, she was definitely pointed in another direction with our intricate four-part harmonies.

And for us, it was great fun to do a lot of blues songs. I have another guitar now – a slide guitar – and I was doing a lot of slide playing on her songs, so that was fun for me and for everyone. Definitely for Rob, who loves a lot of rock and blues. For all of us, it was just a different experience, which is good to have sometimes.

BQ: You’ve got a loyal following in Germany. How did they react to having a new member of the band?

PD: It was always positive. Felicia’s a very strong performer; she wins a crowd over.

BQ: It was a temporary fill-in because of Jule/Julishka.

PD: Yeah, her son will already be a year old in February.

BQ: And you’ve been performing in Germany and Europe with the baby on tour?

PD: We’ve had two tours. He’s definitely not crazy about too many hours in the car. So you’ve got to take some breaks, and keep him moving around.

He loves music; he reacts very positively to music.

BQ: He’d have to with those parents [Beez bass player Jule plus sound man and musician Georg].

PD: Two bass player parents! I’m voting him to be more of a drummer, maybe. But some people think he’s going to follow in his parents’ bass-playing steps.

BQ: You’re out here for just short of four months. In the past, you haven’t always had the best experiences in terms of venues, have you?

PD: There was one tour that wasn’t what should have been the next stepping stone. Had it been our first tour we would have been fine with it, but on one tour we were promised some venues that did not happen. It was still enjoyable to be there, but as a band that wants to progress every tour, it was not the stepping stone that it should have been.

Every other tour’s been positive.

We’re doing about five festivals on this tour. Every weekend is busy except the Easter weekend, and I’m sure other things will creep up while we’re there.

BQ: Four months travelling with a very small child – are you all going to be friends at the end of it?

PD: We will! We will!

BQ: And you’re looking forward to going back to some favourite venues and towns?

PD: Yeah, our first show is at Camelot Lounge the night after we arrive and I’m really excited about that. I love that place. They have so many great bands there. My memory of it last time: all the staff there were really great people.

And of course Illawarra Folk Festival’s the next thing. We’ve been there so many times, it’s just like going back to see our friends on the other side of the hemisphere.

Full list of tour dates for The Beez:

Saturday 11th January – Camelot Lounge, Sydney, NSW
Friday 17th to Sunday 19th January – Illawarra Folk Festival, Bulli, NSW
Monday 20th to Saturday 25th January – Tamworth Country Music Festival, NSW
Saturday 1st Febraury – Tilba Winery, NSW
Sunday 2nd February – The Artists Shed, Queanbeyan, NSW
Thursday 6th February – Braidwood Folk Club, NSW
Friday 7th to Sunday 9th February – National Multicultural Festival, ACT
Friday 14th February – Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club, NSW
Saturday 15th February – Blackheath, NSW
Sunday 16th February – Bundanoon, NSW (house concert)
Wednesday 19th February – Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, ACT
Saturday 22nd February – George Kerford Hotel, Beechworth, Vic
Sunday 23rd February – Gerogary, VIC
Friday 28th February – The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, Ocean Grove, Vic
Saturday 1st March – Bendigo Folk Club, Vic
Sunday 2nd March – Mildura Arts Festival, Vic
Friday 7th to Sunday 9th March – Burke and Wills Festival, Mia Mia, Vic
Friday 14th March – Old Mill Flour Gallery, Mildura, Vic
Saturday 15th March – Richmond, Vic
Sunday 16th March – Burrinja Café, Upwey, Vic
Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March – Yackandandah Folk Festival, Vic
Friday 28th March – Taste Canowindra, NSW
Sunday 30th March – Tamworth, NSW (house concert)
Saturday 5th April – Wauchope Arts, NSW
Sunday 6th April – The Royal Exchange, Newcastle, NSW
Tuesday 8th April – Newcastle University, NSW
Friday 11th April – Candelo Arts Society, NSW
Friday 25th to Sunday 27th April – Mount Beauty Music Festival, Vic

Florence and the Machine Touring Aus in May 2012

Image courtesy of Florence and the Machine

The news everyone’s been waiting for is here. UK’s Florence and the Machine will be continuing their love affair with Australia with an extensive tour in May 2012. Since releasing their fantastic sophomore album Ceremonials, Australia hasn’t had much of a chance to see the new tracks live, but with this just released headline tour, only NT and TAS will have to do without. Tickets go on sale on December 7th. Dates are as listed below;

Thursday 17th May – Burswood Dome, Perth, WA
Sunday 20th May – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
Tuesday 22nd May – Entertainment Centre, Adelaide, SA
Thursday 24th May – Entertainment Centre, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 26th May – Riverstage, Brisbane, QLD
Monday 28th May – Vector Arena, Auckland, NZ

Timber and Steel Presents: Wagons & Joe Pug East Coast Tour

Wagons at Bluesfest 2011, Photo by KT Bell

Dust off your boots, the Wagons are rollin’ in to town. Earlier this month we reported that Joe Pug was visiting Australia again to tour with those country misfits, Wagons. Now we’re super excited to announce, that Timber and Steel will be co-presenting the tour!

As you no doubt have noticed from our plentiful coverage, the Melbourne based alt-country outfit have been taking the world by storm with their recent tour of North America and Canada and their fifth album Rumble, Shake and Tumble winning them many new international fans and justifying their nomination for Best Independent Country Album in Australia’s 2011 Jagermeister Independent Music Awards.

If their OS tour is anything to go by, the upcoming tour will be an absolute blast for audiences and anyone game enough to tour with them. Check out this video to see just what kind of antics they got up too during September.

This will be a whirlwind tour that you won’t want to miss!

Tickets can now be purchased online for all shows.

Monday October 31
The Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne (CUP EVE) w/ Joe Pug & more

Friday November 4
Meeniyan Hall, Meeniyan (Henry Wagons solo) w/ Joe Pug & Jordie Lane

Saturday November 5
The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne (Henry Wagons solo) w/ Joe Pug & Jordie Lane

Saturday November 12
The Vanguard, Sydney w/ Joe Pug & March of the Real Fly

Sunday November 13
The Vanguard, Sydney w/ Joe Pug

Review: Josh Pyke Fans First at GoodGod Small Club, Sydney

Josh Pyke Fans First Sydney EditionPhoto by KT Bell

Josh Pyke supported by Jackson McLaren
23 June2011, GoodGod Small Club

I’d never been to the GoodGod Small Club until Josh Pyke decided to host his Fans First Tour Sydney show there. I’d heard of it, I’d heard stories of when Mumford and Sons played at a Communion night there (backing Pete Roe). Just by the name, you would assume it’s a small room, but I hadn’t really conceived just how small, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We rocked up early to grab a bite at The Dip, the cantina style restuarant inhabiting the front bar area of GoodGod. Not a huge menu to choose from, and the meals themselves weren’t enormous, but they were interesting flavour combinations and really damn tasty. With the food being so nice, we decided we had to share a dessert, the cookies and cream, which turned out to be one of the tastiest dessert’s I’ve had in this city. Salted caramel ice cream, that’s all I’m saying. While we were waiting for our dessert to arrive, we noticed a long line of people along the wall all the way out of the club. At this point we realised these were the fans all vying for the best spot in the club, and we were not in that line.

When we finally joined the end of the queue and made our way in to the GoodGod dancetaria room (the ‘Small Club’) we were struck at just how tiny and intimate the venue actually was. There wouldn’t be more than 20m from the stage to the bar, and this night was sold out so the room was quite full of eager fans. The support act, Jackson McLaren, was a friend of Pyke‘s and took to the stage in a black western shirt, looking a little like a young Richie Valens, to woo the crowd. His style was quite relaxed and we often felt we could have been listening to an early Paul Kelly with a mixture of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and even Simon and Garfunkel thrown in there too, just to mix things up. I get the feeling McLaren is still finding his own style and voice, it’s in there, some of it emerges through his current repertoire, and I’m sure it will only further develop as time progresses.

Finally the man of the hour took to the stage. Looking very chilled out and a little bit excited (or maybe that’s anxiety), Josh took to the stage with a huge grin as if greeting a bunch of old friends. It’s been a long time between drinks since the Basement Birds took him away from his solo work, but everyone had a bevvy and were ready for lots of favourites as well as a raft of new tunes. Performing solo, Pyke created the layers in each song by looping sounds from his iPhone, a tambourine, vocals and percussion played on the body of his guitar. It was evident he was having great fun on stage, f*ck-ups and all. The night was packed with many, many old favourites, some I didn’t realise I knew the words to until I was singing along with every other person in the room. He played a great cross section from his back catalogue and the smiles on every face were evident of a great show. 

Pyke was very friendly and familiar on stage, almost as if mucking around in his lounge room when some friends had popped in. He recognised fans from shows and told stories of how he knew them (one of which had been injured at two shows, hopefully a trend not to be continued). There was the “I Love You” girl who shouted out between songs and Pyke happily replied “I love you too”. We were surprised his set wasn’t peppered with more new material. Of course he played his current single “No One Wants A Lover” which we were all singing along too. Two other new tracks made it in to the set, one of which I can’t remember the name but made me think of sunshine and clouds on a summer’s day. The other, “Factory Fires”, was a really lyrically interesting story with an almost lamentful musical air. While he did occasionally struggle with the technology to create the looping tracks, it eventually turned in to a fun game where silly comments and crazy beats would come together and at one stage Pyke broke out in to a rap… but it didn’t last long.

The night was filled with many sing-along moments. To end the night, and because there isn’t really a “back stage area” at GoodGod, Pyke pretended to head off stage and we all roared for an encore, even though he’d merely stuck his head under the back curtain. He pulled out a new song for us, and promptly forgot the words. The crowd suggested he Google them on his iPhone, but the new album is so tightly under wraps that there was nowhere online he could have found them. Instead he took a request from the crowd and commented he’d need help with the words as he hadn’t played it for around five years. The night wound up with huge cheers and clapping from the room full of fans. We’d all been part of something special, an exclusive peek in to Josh’s world without all the hype and pretense of a large gig. This was Josh as our friend, and that’s why he put the fans first for this mini tour.

With two more show left tonight and tomorrow, fans in Adelaide and Melbourne are set for a real treat. For those who missed out on tickets to the Fans First Tour, the Sparrow’s Only pre-sale tickets are now available for Josh Pyke fan club members. If you haven’t signed up for the mailing list yet, you might want to do it now and get in for tickets before they go on sale to the public on 7th July.

Review: Wagons, “Rumble, Shake and Tumble”

Image courtesy of Wagons

We’ve been dying to get our hands on Wagon‘s new album Rumble, Shake and Tumble for a while and seeing them at Bluesfest only served to whet our appetite for some more Wagons music to sink our teeth in to. I was delighted to open up the CD case (yes, they still come in physical form, can you believe that!?) and pour through the album art which is really cool in an eccentric, Wagons kind of way.

The first thing I can say about Rumble, Shake and Tumble is it’s an incredibly listenable album, I’ve had it on repeat for days and am still loving it. More pointedly, Rumble, Shake and Tumble is full of country beats, folky tales and a few broken hearts for good measure. Kicking off with the infinitely catchy “Downlow”, it’s a strong opening to the entire album, with stunning steel guitar, a hint of romance, some rock guitar riffs and building to a crescendo to top off an altogether lyrically fun and catchy song which to me feels like it should be a summer anthem.

Following up with “I Blew It” the country twang comes in to play with Henry Wagons’ affected country drawl drawing you in to the tale. A lamentful song telling of the loss of the girl of his dreams, it’s toe tapping beats and dinky cow bell make this a really memorable track from which lyrics for the album title are taken. I feel like I should be at a Barn Dance for adults when listening to this track, a firm favourite. “Moon in to the Sun” has a lovely country tempo and slide guitar along with divine harmonies throughout the chorus. It has more of a rolling melody making it really easy to listen too and take your mind off the world.

To hear one of my favourite live tracks recorded is a double edged sword as it may well not live up to it’s live rendition. This was the same concern for Wagons’ however they’ve finally managed to capture “Willie Nelson” on record and do it’s live performance every ounce of justice. Lots of finger picking to start gets you really excited for what’s to come, rich guitars and a full band sound have you bopping along without a care. Using the full band’s voices to support the chorus makes it feel and sound like you re at a live gig rather than listening to a CD.

Wagons’ low rumbling voice is displayed to perfect effect in “Love is Burning”, it’s almost like he is growling rather than singing. It’s a much darker song than the rest and has almost a sinister vibe too it but not in an unpleasant way. It’s like it’s captured that deep gut feeling you get when you know you should or shouldn’t do something but don’t know why. Following up this is a bit of a ballad in “My Daydreams” with some sweet guitar picking and slide. With lyrics ‘hold you in my daydreams’ resonating in my mind, I can’t help but feel there is some lament or homesickness intertwined with this song.

Coming towards the end of the album, the tone continues along the ballad style with “Save Me” feeling a little bit retro country, like something we’d have heard on the radio in the 50s or 60s. It’s a pleading song but avoids religious overtones. It’s a really lovely display of Wagons’ vocals which move in to harmonies to end the song. I felt like i should be singing along to this track, even if i didn’t know all the lyrics. “Follow the Leader” is an interesting song with an almost syncopated opening and lots of drums building in to the chorus. Again, while not knowing the words, it’s incredibly singable. It has a great combination of guitar and drums, and I think there might be an organ in there too. I couldn’t help but feel like the chorus should be on a film soundtrack or possibly a commercial.  It builds such a big sound towards the ended and really kicked things up a notch. This will be a fantastic track live, especially if the break out the sitar as it is on the recorded version.

The final two tracks round out the album beautifully. “Life’s too Short” utilises Wagons’ moody deep voice in combination with a really upbeat folky country tempo. A song of lessons learned, it has a lovely melody with great guitar riffs twanging throughout. There’s even a whistling break for all of those who like a good tune to whistle. This track is like a combination of a folk chorus and country sound. Finally “Mary Lou” takes us home. With a banjo plucking opening and ominous vocals reminiscent of a Nick Cave track, it has a really evocative instrumental combination behind it. The echo effect is haunting and to finish of the entire album, the song seems to disappear and be resurrected as a secret acoustic track at the very end.

Rumble, Shake and Tumble is an altogether delightful album which has benefited from the dedicated time Wagons’ was able to put towards shaping these tracks. From writing all the way through to production, it’s apparent that significant thought and effort has gone in to creating a wonderful listening experience. Wagons are currently touring around the country with WA, ACT, NSW, QLD and VIC all still to host the lovable stage antics of this not to be missed act. Do what you can to catch them live and if you haven’t got a copy of their album Rumble, Shake and Tumble already, grab one at a gig and have them sign it, not only will you have a great time chatting to the band, but you’ll have a rather valuable album in years to come – these guys are on the up!

Bluesfest Interview: Bobby Long

Bluesfest Monday
Photo and interview by KT Bell

Bobby Long has been making quite an impression here in Australia and overseas. We managed to grab a few minutes with him during his time at Bluesfest.

KT Bell: I’m sitting here with Bobby Long, now you played twice here at Bluesfest, and it’s your first time to Australia – how are you finding Australia?
Bobby Long: I think the people are the nicest people I’ve ever run in to. Really sweet and on a musical level, the crowds have been great. For a first time over here, it’s exceeded my expectations.
KT: A responsive crowd?
BL: Yeah, really great and it’s really exciting. The way that people are grabbing hold of the record, they’re listening to it and it’s just been so positive, I really think that this is going to be a good stronghold for me in the future years, which is really great. And it’s nice that it’s really beautiful too, and the beach, it’s great!
KT: There are a few people who make Bluesfest their regular trip to Australia, like Eric Bibb

BL: Yeah, I met Eric Bibb the other day actually, he’s lovely, and I supported Michael Franti last summer in America and it’s a regular thing for him. I supported Rodrigo y Gabriela and they come back, it’s great. I mean, one year and you feel a bit guilty because you’re working but it feels like a bit of a holiday. I’m sure you’re busier than I am, coz I just play and then do an hour of interviews and what not, and then I get to go and lie on the beach a lot – I haven’t done that yet, but you get to chill out and it’s beautiful weather. Usually at festivals in England it’s raining the whole time, and I heard this is the first time it hasn’t rained in 3 years or something, so it’s just great.

KT: Now, you said yesterday that you managed to leave your harmonica holder on a beach, was that an Aussie beach?
BL: [laughs] That was just a lie! I didn’t know where I left it and didn’t want to confess.
KT: Let’s just say it was Bondi Beach?
BL: [laughs] Yeah! Yeah, I left it on Bondi Beach! I buried it and couldn’t find where I buried it!

KT: So your debut album only recently came out in Australia, how was the writing and recording process for you?
BL: The writing was over the space of, some songs are two years old and some are relatively new. One of the songs I wrote in the studio, a lot of it was done on the road, I’ve been on the road for the last two years or so. But the recording process was incredible. I worked this really amazing piece with Liam Watson at Toe Rag and we all just jumped in a room and recorded it as a complete analogue record, straight to tape, and we just all jumped in a room and did it all live. It was really great, for a first album, I felt in control of what I was doing which is most important. I got to work with some great people and it was just a great experience, really fun.

Bluesfest SundayPlaying at Bluesfest on Easter Sunday

KT: How long are you in Australia and what else are you going to be doing while you’re here?
BL: I did two shows with Rodrigo y Gabriela before in Sydney and Melbourne and I did this show somewhere else and I can’t remember the name of where I did it, at a place called Lizotte’s, which is great, and a really great turn out, like 100 people which is incredible. And then, I’m going to Sydney tomorrow, and I’ve got a show in Sydney and Melbourne, I think I’ve got a show in Brisbane, then I go back to New York for a week, then I’m back out!
KT: Wow, you do a lot of tours!
BL: Yeah, I’m on tour a lot, I have like a blind enthusiasm for it, and I like playing a lot. I just want to work hard and make use of this opportunity I’ve got, so I’m out a lot, not any more than anybody else or anything, but I like being on the road and I like touring so my label makes use of that.

KT: Do you prefer the big festivals or the more intimate venue shows?
BL: You know, when a festival is well organised and has so many good people, I like playing the big festivals because it’s great and you get the mix of the musicians and check out music. But I like a little bit of everything, it’s been refreshing coming here and playing because it’s a bit different, playing bars and clubs, but I love playing at intimate venues and I got to play at the Troubadour in LA and, pretty much sold that out. And I’ve got to play at similar size venues in America and Europe and it’s nice to have a bit of everything. It’s pretty cool.

KT: Is it daunting playing for the first time in a new country?
BL: Yeah, it is a little, I’ve been really taken aback. And you always go in to a new country thinking grass roots level, and it’s going to be grass roots level for me for the next 2 years or so, or the next 10 years it could be, where you’re fighting to keep your place and fighting to gain new fans. It is a little bit, sometimes, but it’s exciting too. It’s really exciting coming to new places. To come to Australia and work is a great feeling you know.

KT: So what else can we expect to see or hear from you in 2011?
BL: I’m doing a poetry book, like a little book of poems or something. I’m kind of working on it and I kind of want to do it, it’s fairly interesting. I’m not doing it from the point of view of “oh, I’ve just done an album, I can do a poetry book or write a novel”, it’s going to be a very down to earth kind of thing and I’m hopefully going to start recording my next album in the next 6 months which is great. I don’t want to wait around too much. More touring, got to do a music video at some stage which is going to be funny. I’m just going to keep busy and keep my head above water.

KT: Are there any new songs you’ve been writing in Australia that we should keep our ears out for?
BL: I have actually been writing a little bit over here actually, but nothing that’s going to get finished [while here]. I had a day off two days ago and I sat down and started writing, it sounded pretty cool, but I don’t think I’ve got the time to finish it. I’m trying to enjoy myself a little here. I’ll probably take those songs and finish them off when I come home, but I probably will have a few thing that have come out of being here, definitely.
KT: The Byron Bay vibe, eh?
BL: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure I’m going to write like a surf song but it might be slightly happier than my other stuff, hence the sunny atmosphere.

KT: Thank you so much for your time and all the best for the rest of your time in Australia and we look forward to seeing you again soon.
BL: Thank you, cheers!

Interview: The Cat Empire

Harry of The Cat Empire performing at Bluesfest 2011The Cat Empire performing at 2011 Bluesfest – Photo and interview by KT Bell

Without a doubt, one of the most influential and popular Australian acts of the past decade has to be The Cat Empire. Currently touring to celebrate their 10th birthday and delivering a sterling performance at Bluesfest over the Easter weekend, we asked The Cat Empire‘s Harry Angus about the last 10 years, folky influences and how the world of Australian music is changing.

KT Bell: Thank you so much for your time! It’s a real pleasure to interview you for Timber and Steel, as you might know, we are named for your lyrics to ‘The Chariot’.  
Your music and your messages inspire so many, whether it’s musicians inspired by your style, or your fans who take your messages about the world and how we live in it, and begin to live the change you speak of – how does it feel to make such a social impact?
Harry: It always makes you feel good to know that your music has influenced someone else, especially another musician. But I don’t know if I think too much about our social impact… It’s a big wide world, full of worthy things and worthy people. I just concentrate on what I do, which is playing the trumpet and singing…
KT: We recently celebrated Timber and Steel’s 1st birthday and you are celebrating your 10th birthday as The Cat Empire. You’ve certainly seen and experienced a lot in that time (in fact I remember meeting Felix in line for food before your gig at the Yallah Woolshed in about 2004) so what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the music industry/ scene and what advice can you give to us (and our readers) to achieve such longevity?
Harry: Music is always changing – obviously the fashions change, and the era changes, but also, music is like a big conversation. Everyone is contributing to it, some things we pick up and explore, and reshape and change, and other things are left by the side of the road. This is the side of music that doesn’t have anything to do with the word ‘industry’. It’s a cultural conversation that has been going on for thousands of years. The ‘industry’ is a much more recent thing – it popped up some time last century and people say it’s in crisis already – but I don’t really think it matters. There will always be people who play good music, and people who want to listen to music, and people who bring them together.
The most important thing with music is to enjoy yourself. Seriously. You’re practising one of the oldest trades known to man. It’s right back there in the mists of time with prostitution, slavery, and farming, but it’s way more fun.
KT: At Timber and Steel we try to focus on folk music, which has evolved over many years and has certainly reached a new level of popularity and sound in recent years with acts like Mumford and Sons and Angus & Julia Stone taking the world by storm. We recently saw you at Bluesfest and wondered, do you have any past or current folky musicians who influence your music?
Harry: Well, sorry to jump ahead to your next question, but Tinpan Orange, obviously, I dig them, and Em (my wife) is a brilliant songwriter who I’m sure is constantly influencing me. Other than that…. I love Ewan MacColl (past) for his booming voice and his scholarly approach… for something a little bit local I couldn’t recommend Van Walker more highly (my favourite gig of the year so far was Van Walker at the Apollo Bay surf club) and I have also only just discovered the John Meredith collection of Australian field recordings online… that stuff is very moving, very important. That’s real Australian folk music.
KT: We’re fans of the Empire, but we’re also fans of your side projects, Jackson Jackson and Felix and the Phoenix, plus don’t think we haven’t noticed you playing keys for TinPan Orange. Do we have anything to worry about for the future of the Cat Empire? (And if not, how are you going to top 10 years?)
Harry: Eleven years should top ten. But we’ll just keep going until we get sick of it… it’s a good band to be a part of, I don’t see things ending any time soon.
KT: Speaking of TinPan Orange, we’re looking forward to you appearing alongside TinPan Orange, Husky, Jen Cloher, Jordie Lane and Liz Martin in the Storm in a Teacup tour. How does heading out on a tour like this (almost a structured jam session between Melbourne’s biggest and brightest) differ from the usual tours bands do?
Harry: These kinds of shows are fun, because they’re one-off. It’s an occasion, an event. Things happen, collaborations and improvisations, that haven’t happened before, and might not happen again. Take the musicians out of their comfort zones and they’ll play something different. Open up, let loose, share a little, make a mistake, sing a song you’ve never sung before – we get to be more spontaneous.
KT: Finally, Timber and Steel make a great effort to highlight and promote upcoming and emerging acts of the folky persuasion. You always have amazing support acts (I have discovered many favourite bands through your shows), are there any bands that you think we should take a look at or keep an eye on?
Harry: Van Walker, Eagle and the Worm, Leon Thomas, Clairy Brown and the Banging Rackettes. I don’t know if they’re folky but they’re awesome.
KT: Thank you so much for your time and we’re really looking forward to seeing you at your last 10th birthday concerts in Sydney!

The Cat Empire are playing four sold out shows in Sydney this week. If you missed out on tickets, why not catch them headlining the Funk n Grooves Festival on 10 September at Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley with Timber and Steel favourites Ash Grunwald, Lanie Lane plus many more great acts.

Bluesfest Snapshot: Wagons – Plus New Video and Album!

Photo by KT Bell

Australia’s excited about Wagons, it’s true. Their monster tour of Australia kicks off at the end of the month, KT Bell caught one of their sets and Q&A at Bluesfest, and Thom Owen Miles could not be more excited to finally get along and see an act people have been telling him about for yonks.

Their fifth studio album, Rumble, Shake and Tumble, comes out on today, and days ago they released a sneak peak of the album with the single “I Blew It.”

If their set at Bluesfest is anything to go by, and the rumblings coming from the Wagons camp, the new album will be jam packed with all the usual Wagons mischief, cheeky tales and and their outlaw country rock with some inspiration from the Americana music spectrum. One of the great moments in their set was their performance of “Willie Nelson” – a song which has become a much loved live hit, with audiences always singing along, but has always been elusive to capture on record, but with Rumble, Shake and Tumble, Wagons have managed to do just that. Henry Wagons took great delight in telling thrilled audiences about how “Willie Nelson” was finally recorded well enough to do it justice to it’s live performances.

Another Bluesfest highlight was Henry Wagons’ Q&A with Rhythms Magazine where he told of Wagons‘ Hip Hop, how ‘vauguely retarded’ every other attempt at recording “Willie Nelson” turned out, the ups and downs of touring, recording the new album, Dave Graney’s written portrayal of Henry Wagons and KT Bell even managed to ask for a few tales from their SxSW appearance (where 16 gigs in 18 days was nearly too much for the band) and for details of Those Darlins‘ broken arm incident and hopeful return to Australia later this year.

Take a listen below or head over to the Rhythms Magazine website to hear all of their Bluesfest Q&As.

Henry Wagons Q&A

Rumble, Shake and Tumble is available nationally from today, rush out and buy your copy now! If you’re in Melbourne you can drop in to their instore appearance at Basement Discs (24 Block Pl, Melbourne) from 12.30pm today. For those on Twitter, Henry Wagons is offering 100 of his followers a free download with the precious link being made available between 8am – 9am – get tweeting!

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: