Category Archives: Music

An Interview Which I’m Still Quite Proud Of

Mainly because I somehow managed to ask Husky Gawenda somewhat intelligent questions about his band and literary influences, instead of for his cousin’s phone number.* It went up over at Bobbysix.com well, quite some time ago now, but I thought I’d throw it on here as well because it’s Friday night and I’ve panicked about the number of things on, managed not to go to any of them and found myself drinking the remnants of a bottle of wine which my housemate managed to throw on me at dinner and writing, instead.

“I’d say we’re about songs.” It’s a deceptively simple explanation from Husky Gawenda when asked to define his band and their music. Variously described as indie folk and harmonic pop, favourably compared to the likes of Fleet Foxes and Boy & Bear, Husky have certain a knack for creating gentle melodies that nonetheless stay with you all day. Single History’s Door received extensive radio play on both triple j and Sydney’s FBi, as well as some recent lovin’ in the Bobbysix End Of Year Reviews, and with good reason: it’s an almost perfectly-crafted modern folk offering, sparking all sorts of comparisons with such a range of artists it leaves Gawenda faintly bemused. “I’m always so surprised by how people describe us and the different bands we’re compared to. I don’t always agree or hear the influence and sometimes it’s somebody whose music I’ve never actually heard, but I don’t think there’s any point being precious about it. People will listen to music and want to categorise it. It’s human nature.”

“I can say whatever I want about the songs I write and the sort of music we play, but in the end it doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what you think, it matters what the people who come to our shows think.” It’s an almost postmodern attitude – the death of the author/songwriter in favour of the audience’s interpretation. When I mention this, Husky laughs and admits “Well my father’s a writer and my mother’s an English teacher, so literature and writing was a big part of my upbringing and part of my life as far back as I remember. I grew up reading the classics, novel-wise. Most of the 20th century classics, as well as 19th century English and Russian literature, and a bunch of poets – Dylan Thomas, Wordsworth, those sort of guys. There are musicians as well, who are as much poets as they are songwriters; Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, even Paul Simon.” These early literary influences certainly come through in his music, expressed through a strong lyrical component to the songs on debut long-player Forever So.

Recorded in a backyard bungalow in Melbourne’s northern suburbs which the band spent late nights soundproofing themselves with the aid of Youtube tutorials, it was an album Husky says, “we really wanted time and space to record”. Well, that and the fact that before scoring a spot at Pushover Festival thanks to a triple j Unearthed competition, Gawenda admits they were fairly unknown and thus hadn’t the cash to hire a studio and producer. “We wanted the luxury to be able to record songs that we won’t necessarily use. To take the time to write, develop and arrange the album. If we went into a studio and were paying by the hour we wouldn’t be able to do that. It was a mixture of getting the sound we wanted, and just not having the money to record in a proper studio.”

Looking back on their success over the last year, it seems Husky won’t be running into the same problems again. “I think what Unearthed does for bands like us is incredible. It does exactly what it’s supposed to, which is to bring bands to the attention of the public that otherwise nobody would hear of. That’s the beauty of the platform that triple j has, they can pick bands out of near obscurity, and put them on the radio.” Since the release of Forever So in late October, Husky spent some time touring before the busy summer festival season, where they’ve found the crowds, “really embracing and responsive”. Husky notes that the festival circuit is an equally important way for emerging bands to establish themselves. “You get exposed to people who might not know you that well or might not otherwise have come to your show. They discover you for the first time and you get to meet all these people that you otherwise wouldn’t have met. I think festivals are great for all bands, but especially for newish bands like us.”

Having seen them at Woodford Folk Festival over the New Year, I can attest to the fact that they put on a charming live performance which has certainly added to a fan base that has grown exponentially over the past year. Offering something a little different from the current crop of fingerpicking, harmonising folk acts, they’ve attracted praise from high places – triple j’s Richard Kingsmill, for instance, described them as “pure class.” This is something which Husky attributes in part to the varying musical backgrounds within the band. “I think the jazz training that they’ve done over the years have influenced them and it’s certainly added to their ability as musicians,” he says of bandmates Evan Tweedie, Luke Collins and cousin Gideon Preiss.

Despite spending a lot of time together growing up in quite a creative family, Husky says he and Gideon, “didn’t really formally play music together until about three years ago. We spent a lot of time listening to music and going to gigs together, but he was on a different path for those early years. He was playing in a lot  of jazz bands and I was kind of just writing songs. Then, about three years ago, we decided to get together and have a play and see how that went.” It seems things have panned out fairly well so far, and Husky agrees. “Even from the beginning it felt right, and it’s never stopped feeling like that.”

*He dances like a beautiful dork, plays keys like a fucking boss and harmonises in a way that makes me gush embarrassingly like a schoolgirl. Or a groupie. Neither of which are optimal. 

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Oh, the perils of having your playlist on shuffle

Holocene just snuck up on me and I was in tears before Justin Vernon’s particularly desolate vocals even came in. You fucked it, friend.

 

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Patrick James at Hibernian House tonight

If you’ve spent your Sunday rolling around on some warm grass in the park and are looking for a lovely way to cap off your weekend, I can’t recommend highly enough that you get your good self, your friends and some beers down to Hibernian House in a few hours to see Patrick James launch his single Carry On. He’s co-headlining alongside Faith Lee, with support from Tim Hart (Boy and Bear) and it’s only ten bucks for  laid back evening of tunes and BYO good times.

 

There’s still a few tickets available here, otherwise get down there early and grab one on the door.

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Georgia Fair’s ‘All Through Winter’

Sydney duo Ben Riley and Jordan Wilson have released their debut album today, and Bobbysix.com has been kind enough to publish my review. My interview with Ben Riley will be up in the next week or so, as well.

In similarly self congratulatory news, Annabel Crabb tweeted at me today about myrtle leaves (as opposed to lemon myrtle leaves, because she’s not a snob). I made a few high pitched noises but somehow restrained myself from re-tweeting her and publicising our false intimacy to the entire world, because I’m totally cool, professional and unruffled like that.

*edit* Text of the review is now below:

Despite its name, All Through Winter seems destined to be something of a summer soundtrack. A warm breeze, gauzy curtains blowing through an open window and the folk-pop of Sydney’s Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley sit together almost as naturally as their vocal harmonies. Almost, because they’re pretty tight. It’s clear the duo have spent a great deal of time making music together and this ease is evident on their debut album, which is full of the unaffected and enjoyable songs we have come to expect from previous releases.

It’s music that feels familiar, partly due to the inclusion and reworking of songs such as opener Times Fly and Simple Man, which have featured on previous EPs, and partly due to the familiarly pleasant combination of two-part harmonies and acoustic guitar. The album requires a second listen in order to differentiate and appreciate individual songs. The addition of rolling drums on a number of tracks including Blind, which builds to a climactic chorus, and the jaunty Remember Me provide depth to a record which may perhaps be pigeonholed as roadtrip fodder but, to be entirely honest, music doesn’t always have to challenge you. It’s perfectly alright to sit back and thoroughly enjoy this gentle album of at times wistful, at times unabashedly joyful but always skillful songwriting. Put it on when you get home with salty eyelashes and the light sting of sunburn on your limbs and let the recurring themes of nostalgia and the passage of time tie together an album which feels like home.

Radio-friendly single Where You Been? is an upbeat, summery song which characterises their debut in more ways than one – the closing refrain is a reminder that, yes, the best is yet to come for Georgia Fair, if they continue to write to their strengths: sweet and clever songs based on beautiful male harmonies which go together like, well, summer and acoustic folk pop. Which is to say, perfectly.

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Review: Caitlin Park’s ‘Milk Annual’

My very first album review has gone up today on bobbysix.com.  You should maybe wander over and check it out,  along with the rest of the site – a polyglot of music news, reviews and interviews as well as fashion and culture.

*edit* Text of the review is now below:

I must confess that while sampling sounds of unusual provenance makes for an interesting press interview/snippet of information to be bandied about, I often find the technique clunky and frankly irritating. Not so with Caitlin Park. In Milk Annual, she’s crafted a beautiful album full of delicate, thoughtful songs that, despite very professional production, feels entirely handmade.

At this point I could go for a long winded metaphor involving a patchwork quilt of found sounds carefully stitched together with a thread of folksy guitar and gentle vocals, ironed and laid out through production by Liam Judson of Belles Will Ring. But I won’t, because that may seem trite, unnecessary and pretentious, all of which sits uncomfortably with the pared-back simplicity of tracks such as With No Strength To Defend, Be A Ghost or the hand claps, unashamedly catchy hooks and pop sensibilities to be found on single Baby Teeth.

The way she plays guitar makes you think you can see it. You’re intensely aware of her fingers, the process of it, particularly on opener How’s Your Wife? where audible fret noises ground her sampling and use of electronic sounds in an earthier folk tradition. The range of sounds she employs demonstrates not only a curiosity into the nature of language best seen on the Tic Tac Language Song, but also her ambition and ingenuity in the use of the sounds of a match striking in the similarly experimental Match. Wrist. Bird.

Ordinarily I would baulk at the term ‘experimental’ as too often it’s lazy shorthand for ‘people on drugs with a bunch of whistles, old gameboys and access to garage band’ but it’s clear that, after months of collecting such diverse samples, she has indeed experimented with them before carefully layering them with her gentle vocals and accomplished songwriting to piece together a very considered album. You can read her track by track explanation here, if you’d like to know more about her ideas and methodology.

Comprised of songs which are breathtakingly intricate yet remain accessible and, above all, enjoyable,Milk Annual is best listened to accompanied by the smell of grass with sun on the back of your neck.

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