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MUSIC

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After years of doing bands that are really performance art troupes and wrestling classes that are really theatre shows and music videos that are really short films about mortality, I’ve kind of forgotten how to do things with some ordeal-based high concept-y structure. How to do this just cause. So now have a band that’s just a band again, and it’s very slow going to get it all off the ground properly, because I’m still remembering that you can just book gigs to book gigs and play songs just to play songs. This isn’t self-deprecation though, the new band rules.

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I’d always wanted to play at the National Folk Festival (after seeing so many of my friends play really special sets there) but I’d never had a band that was in the right genre pocket. So I applied with the country-fied recordings I did for the second of my EP-In-A-Days and lied that I had a band to play them with,  Once they’d accepted me I had proper artist fees to offer I was able to ask my dream line-up of musicians to join me there for the weekend.

The nucleus of the line-up was Jacq Bradley and Matt Nightingale, a multi-instrumentalist couple who normally play in about six different bands across that festival. Jacq and Matt both embody the stereotype of the calm collected accompanist-who-is-really-the-stealth-bandleader. They have acres of song sense, tons of good humour and throats full of aching beauty. Perfect foils for my melodramatic, fidgety, over-syllable’d, hammy energy. Completing the line-up was the rhythm section from PROM, Sam McNair and Matt Lustri- I was only able to let that band finish up because I already had plans to rope them into this. It was great to let Matt play his actual main instrument of guitar again after nudging him into that two-year side session as a bass player.

I treated the National as Glam Country fantasy camp. We worked up a set of any and all of my songs that could even half-work as country, which included some songs of mine I’ve always really dug and never really got to play live. We played three sets across the weekend and it was everything I had hoped for. I wasn’t planning to push my luck more than that, but to my delight the others all expressed that we should play more gigs.

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My delight and my terror, as my gig-booking fitness has atrophied and the realities of juggling schedules with a bunch of other 30-somethings are stark. But also I’ve been writing Americana-ish ballads and stompers for as long as I’ve been writing and it’s such an indulgent joy to finally get to play them live as one set (turns out I have more upbeat songs about death than even thought I had). Crowd response has been really good and playing with humans like these is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So I’ll probably deal with my angst around it all by writing a four-chord song about it, one ready-made for sick harmonies.

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Photos by Adam Thomas

Lincolns Revival

Quoted From The Facebook Wall Of Nick McCorriston:

‘So I got to know the lads from The Missing Lincolns way back in 2004, through some sort of contact with Dahahoo and a gig they played at The Ground Floor, a pretty gross little dive bar in the heart of Belconnen, now occupied by a Club Lime.

A bunch of us from our little theatre crowd got way into them, I remember myself, MaxJoel and Hadley romping around to their garage punk ditties often, and they had this swagger and confidence to them that was intimidating.

I pored over a 2 track single they put out, Heavyweight Crown backed with Her Alibi, a preview of an unreleased album recorded in Melbourne. After they put out their Righteous Noise opus, they added a second disc with these sessions, called Deliver Us, and as much as the rest of the band will disagree, this is my fave Lincolns material, the cheeky, innocent, wide-eyed Lincolns that I saw live so many times.

When I returned to Canberra in 2015, I got an invite to play bass for one of my favourite Canberra bands ever. I’m a terrible bass player, I have trouble with repetition and I lose my place often, so short rock songs suit me the best, and we’ve got that in spades with all this new(er) material. These songs have been on the shelf for more than 10 years at this point, and I’m really happy to be rocking up to Smith’s Alternative on Friday to play this stuff with some of the best guys I’ve known. check it right here: Missing Lincolns- the Lost Album Live

Cuz when I’m with you I feel like a million bucks.’

Quoted from the Facebook Wall of Luke McGrath:

‘Nick, Chris and I started this band in what, 2002?? 2003? In any case, it’s been a minute, and we are all still best friends which is crazy and beautiful. The first ‘album’ (a bunch of demos really) we recorded was done in Nick’s folks’ living room in Palmerston. It took us three or four Sundays (back then we practiced every Sunday for a few hours, always broken up by a trip to the Gunghalin KFC). I remember being so incredibly proud of those recordings – that shit bumped!

Then we won a Coca-Cola band competition and got to support Magic Dirt at EPIC, which was epic! It was at that show we met our first manager, who paid for us all to go down to Melbourne and record for a week in a proper studio! That was insane – Chris borrowed a kit from the guy from The Living End, I got to play a dozen different guitars including my still favourite, the Starcaster, and we got used to studio life which was mostly sitting around cracking jokes and reading Vice magazine. We made a couple of videos for it and got played on Rage back to back with The Arctic Monkeys two weeks in a row!

The rest of those recordings ended up shelved for a while until we recorded our second album with Sam King! Sam wasn’t yet the studio-owning recording tycoon he became – we recorded the album in a kind of annex of his folks’ house. Whereas our previous recordings had been just us, we decided to throw the kitchen sink at this one – we had strings, horns, organ, you name it! For a band that didn’t have a bass player, four people played bass(!) on that album! It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever done, the songs and production are crazy good. We somehow got a song on the cover cd of Australian Guitar Magazine (the song ‘Guitar Fighter’, natch). We released this album with a bonus disc containing the songs we recorded in Melbourne – a double album!

So while we had three albums of recorded material, we were known around town as ‘the band with 100 songs’. Which was true, Nick and I were prolific (still are!). We had earmarked a bunch of those for our next album, but never got around to recording it. I moved away for a few years (Cairns and Edinburgh) and then Chris did the same (Brisbane) – Nick stayed in Canberra, concentrating his power and becoming a doyen of the arts scene.

We’d always planned to record more of those 100 songs – we even earmarked a dozen or so for another album – but got distracted with a zillion other fun and shiny things…

UNTIL NOW. We are going to record our third ‘lost’ album live in less than a week – it feels kinda wild and historic, which it is.’

 

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Quoted From The Facebook Wall Of Nick Delatovic:

‘I have a deep-set hatred of nostalgia, which makes me act weird sometimes. When I had the idea for this show I was conceiving it as a way to declare that the best of The Missing Lincolns is still to come, and I know that it is. I was dumbly unprepared for the outpouring of people’s memories from the past 18-and-a-bit years of the band, and their words about the part we might have played in a chunk of their lives. It’s not a comfortable thing for me to reckon with all that time, and it’s a weird thing to have spent the week rehearsing songs with lyrics written by a much younger Nick, who was both more afraid and more sure about everything than me. But it’s been a good reminder for me that I’ve had the joy of getting to make the exact art that I want, with the best people in the world, for years and years and years now. And that I should relax and notice everything that I have more often. Like maybe tonight. When it’s being recorded for posterity. Lol.’

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Photos by Tiffany Gleeson

 

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It’s usually safe to assume that your art has no real impact on the world around you. Babyfreeze’s obsession with high-concept gigs, like the arctic pajama party that we held in the Commonwealth Park Amphitheatre to launch our two new records (separate post coming about those) are done as our own selfish attempt to make sense of the universe and are best treated as such.

(Pajama party photos by Adam Thomas)

That said, just as we were hitting the limits of WeirdSpace GigShapes that our own brains and the town around us could offer, The Bubble was erected for a series of events in Haig park across the Spring. Artists were invited to Submit to The Bubble in all senses of the word. Really, how are we to take this other than as the inevitable physical reaction to what Babyfreeze has been putting into the universe?

Anyway, enjoy these shots of the Babyfreeze Electropunk Wellness Club, taken by Zev.

My big resolution for 2019 was to sing more. That must be pretty comical to my friends and loved ones as I’m sure that from their perspective I never bloody stop. But working as the ‘Company Singer’ on the Sound and Fury Tour drove home for me that singing is the most purely enjoyable thing that I do, and also that singing ‘standards’ can be every bit as fun as creatively challenging as singing my own stuff.

Matt Lustri is the only musician that I’ve played in as many different projects with as I have with Luke. Matt is a proper virtuosic musician and has objectively the best attitude, particularly when it comes to engaging with music that’s new to him. Introducing Matt to genres he doesn’t know is just the best thing, he’s always so ready to love things and to indulge two-hour YouTube trawls. Plus he absorbs and takes command of the technical aspects of playing different genres so quickly, like disgustingly quickly.

You won’t believe that it was actually Matt’s idea for us to do an act where we play songs from musicals, even I don’t believe that it wasn’t my idea. He floated it way back when PROM was rehearsing our final gig, and I wouldn’t stop singing broadway numbers in every spare second. At the time I laughed it off, probably daunted by the idea of covering songs that were written for full orchestras and the greatest singers of the 20th century.

But now that we’re just doing it the one-guitar-and-two-voices vibe is weirdly what’s making it work (at least for me and the tiny but vocally appreciative audiences of the Smiths Varietals). Reducing these big dramatic numbers down to the lyrics, the chords and my awkwardly over-detailed explanation of their original context kind of creates the gig equivalent of the aforementioned loungeroom YouTube party. Like Matt and I are your two friends excitedly taking you through a playlist of their favourite songs from musicals, without having checked if you’re actually up for that.

As a fiend for dense lyrical conceits I’ve pushed us towards of lot of words-y numbers, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of picking songs that sell their brilliance in stripped-down form. Musicals from the 30s to the 70s is the bit, which creates the inherent challenge of picking songs that playfully highlight the absurdity of 20th century social values but not the ones that are just gonna straight up distress the audience. So plenty of Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair but less of the Bless Your Beautiful Hide.

 

 

It’s close to a year since I started drumming. I’m happy to say I love it now more than ever. I still have weekly lessons with Sensei Simon, and the songs I have been writing for Lulu and the Tantrums, and now The Ill Feathers – my funk duo with Fossil Rabbit, push me to play increasingly challenging parts.

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For me, guitar is a means to an end – I learnt guitar so I could write songs, not because I wanted to be Jimi Hendrix. But drums is the first instrument I’ve ever wanted to be good at. Drums is the instrument that’s made me want to study the greats and see how they approached it, their techniques and idiosyncrasies. I am a drum nerd now! I want to talk about Gadson’s right hand, or Stubblefield’s left, about how Bill Ward’s jazz background informed the heavy grooves he brought to Black Sabbath. Hell, can we just talk about triplets – like, how good are triplets??? And where else can I put them?

Developing the small muscles used in drumming – wrists and ankles – takes time and discipline. I have some stamina and coordination now but it’s like going to the gym – you won’t see results overnight, or in a week or month. You gotta keep showing up, doing your reps, and from time to time you can look back and see the progress you’ve made. There are things I attempted to learn when I first set out and found inconceivable – now I can do them!

But drums are humbling, and this desire to try something I have no immediate aptitude for, to go into it knowing how long it might take, well, Nick has plenty of things to say about that kinda quest in Single Leg, too.

I have the same goal as when I started – to be Russell Simins, and bring hard-hitting soul and funk beats into a garage rock context. But as I progress, I hope to build enough vocabulary to play along to most things. Drums is not an instrument people learn so they can just play alone – it’s communal, and largely only makes sense when accompanying others. Being a hired gun and playing in someone else’s band is a milestone I want to achieve, but unlike most, it’s not my primary motivation.

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Instead, while Nick’s talked about his increasing willingness to delegate and collaborate – some unnameable drive keeps pushing me in the other direction. Others – Lou, for instance – have suggested it’s the pursuit of complete creative control. But the more I reflect on it, I think it comes from a different place. I think learning drums is part of my yen to understand popular music from the inside out. I am obsessed with the nuts and bolts of creative practice, I enjoy learning how things are made, frequently as much as I enjoy the finished product. I love ‘inside baseball’ – I’ve read nearly every interview on The Paris Review, listened to every Song Exploder – but you never truly know something until you do it. And done remains the engine of more.

I figure it’ll take two more years to feel comfortable. I tend to do these autodidactic sprints in three year bursts – screenwriting, film directing and editing, music production, you could even consider Faux Faux Amis to be one as well, a challenge to myself to be perform lead vocals and guitar in a quote unquote proper rock band. At some point I reach a stage I’m happy with, and then find myself hooking into something else with the same slavish devotion. But I have a feeling I will be working on (and loving) the drums for some time.

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And clock the bass drum! It’s not Purdie’s banners, but it’s a nice flourish. I know from Chris Gleeson – one of my oldest friends and musical collaborators – that being a drummer frequently means not rating a mention in a review or being obscured by everyone else in a gig photo, so I guess in this way at least my trap set will get noticed! The image is by the brilliant pop-culture-obsessed Jess Dudfield – I asked her to do a stylised cartoon version of the cover of Faux Faux Amis’ X. A sloth in a bowtie – slow but fancy – speaks to me a lot!

Photos by Louise McGrath.

Previous posts have highlighted Luke’s generosity and agreeable-ness when it’s comes to me straight-up highjacking our shared creative projects for whatever high-concept cross-artform nonsense I suddenly decide is going to bring unifying sense to both my art practice and my selfhood. It’s one thing when I’m just turning our band into performance art or making him create the hybrid between live music and music video that no-one asked for. But it turns out that there’s an even more entitled level of pushing the friendship that I can take it to!

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Luke has been, even by his standards, churning out sick tracks this last year and a bit. Aside from all the Lion’s Mansion and Tantrums stuff and the Faux Faux record, we’ve got two new Babyfreeze EPs about to come out and he’s ALREADY got enough tracks for a new full-length BFreeze album! So when I was stressing back in May about whether I had enough time to write songs for Hot and Powerful and what the songs would even be like I played it safe and asked him for some beats.

He sent me a track called Mannequin and right away I knew that I was gonna horde it for a very specific purpose. The beat and the hooks were super-2018, which means that they were also super-duper 90s, and the whole thing had a gauzy, bittersweet vibe that reminded me of Velvet Rope-era Janet Jackson and also of eating takeaway with your lover in a loungeroom on a rainy day. It was the ultimate romantic sex-jam, the perfect Babyfreeze track to follow up Creation, and I had a vocal melody for it immediately.

More importantly I had flashes of the music video, that I knew would have to be conceived and created at the same time as the song. The video was gonna star myself and my partner Zev and involve us macking on and the whole thing would be a present for them for their 30th birthday. I knew all of that as soon as I heard it, but it took me three months to share this unreasonable package of info with Luke. Nailing the perfect romantic sex-jam lyric aside, I knew I needed to have the video concept at least a bit fleshed out before I asked Luke to go along with it. But what would it be, aside from me crushing on my Honey? Us actually eating takeaway? Cruising around in Zev’s car? Costumes and sets? And how could I keep it a surprise for Zev until the moment it’s happening?

LUKE: The song that became Become started with a chord progression, like most of my stuff. I’m really into ‘neo-soul’ chords at the moment – major 7ths, 9ths, suspended 11ths, whatevers, as long as they’re luuuuush. Those chords are obviously still there on a guitar, but often such hand-stretchers I’ve never utilised them – playing piano or writing midi makes them accessible, and between that and sampling, my songwriting is now in a different place. And that place is often chill – Nick and I joked the next Babyfreeze record might be all ballads, plus Fossil Rabbit and I have started an instrumental ambient funk duo, The Ill Feathers!

Become also incorporates all the little modern pop production tricks and trap flourishes I’ve picked up of late. Taking a cue from master producers like Stargate and others, this is one of the first songs I’ve tried a holistic ‘track and hook’ method – in short, I looped the track and sung some gibberish over the top (imagining I was Dua Lipa helped). I then figured out the notes of what I was singing, and after some re-arranging, that melody became the glockenspiel line you hear woven throughout. It’s a really fast way of coming up with a part – typically a lead vocal line – using it as gilding like we do is a straight-up flex.

When I shared the track with Nick, he was immediately smitten with it, likening it to Jam & Lewis era Janet Jackson. He came back to lay down the vocals sometime later (and crushed it naturally). I love how he floats between mirroring the glockenspiel melody and dovetailing his own around it, beautifully bringing the song together. I added a few production and arrangement tricks to his vocals – doubling them in some parts, adding harmonies in others, some subtle delay and distortion variations – all culled from the Youtube videos on producing I am addicted to, though I’ve eased off slightly on watching them as that time is now taken up with drumming videos!

The final touch was the solo – I had it arranged for Hendrix-esque guitar, but when devdsp came around to experiment with his Eurorack, I thought it might be fun to try it as a beefy modular synth line. It gives it a frosty edge, which I adore. With every bedroom producer using the same plug-ins and synth patches, anything you can use from outside of your DAW stands out. devdsp is getting some incredible sounds out of his rack now and we’re hoping to do lots more with him in the future.

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And then there’s the video, which as above, is entirely Nick’s idea. I just showed up at the appointed time and place, knowing it was to be a single take. I kind of amazed myself with the camerawork – given the option, I delegate that kind of high-pressure shot to a Shane Parsons or such. I lucked out into finding (as we were rolling!) several cool framings that I bounced between. Walking backwards to zoom out at the end was spontaneous but I can’t imagine a better closing. Between that and the edit, it was like that old adage about cooking – use the best quality ingredients and do as little as possible to them. The lighting, the talent, the location were all perfect.

To me, this is the closest we’ve come to chart pop and when we’re ready, I hope to give it a big push. It will also be included on our upcoming full-length DISCO ROOM, an album with all my most recent funkiest and fizziest tunes.

And lastly yes, that’s my sweet baby girl Violet doing my producer tag!

Northside Swag Unit performed a three song mini-set in the middle of Coolio and Housemouse’s single launch last month. Here’s a photo I took for the single artwork.coolio and housemouseThe line-up – slimmed to a core collective of myself, Nick, Coolio and Housemouse – have been getting together the last few months for lyric-writing sessions. In that time, we’ve put words to a six track EP, with three tracks produced by Coolio and three by yours truly. It’s amazing hearing what the guys have come up with over my beats, and the trepidation I had for the lyric-writing sessions was completely unwarranted – they’ve been a blast! The songs are coalescing and everyone is upping their game trying to get the biggest laughs from each other. We’re anticipating a first quarter 2019 drop.

Also during the single launch, voice of the year nominee Evan Buckley and I performed a double bum-rush, jumping up to do Housemouse and Coolio’s respective verses on Where Ma Dawgz At?  I had no idea Evan was getting up as well, which made it even better.