FBi Radio’s “Out of the Box” – October 22, 2015

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In October of 2015, I was asked to be a guest on Out of the Box, a one-hour lunchtime program every Thursday on Sydney community station FBi Radio. The premise of the show, which was hosted at the time by the absolutely delightful Ash Berdebes, is to look at a person’s life through the music that they love; with the guest programming eight songs that mean something to them. I was honoured to be asked on the show – which has also featured really cool guests like Paul MacThe Umbilical BrothersÓlafur Arnalds and Evelyn Morris aka Pikelet – but I was fretting quite a bit over what to choose. I think I put together a fairly solid and diverse list; all songs that meant something huge to me at different parts of my life.

Here are the songs I chose. You can also listen to the entire hour, which features a pretty honest chat with yours truly, by streaming it through FBi’s Radio On Demand by clicking here.

A huge thank you to Ash for asking me on and for her producer, Rachel, for doing a great job. I worship this station, and couldn’t believe my luck that I got to be involved with a show.

***

Sesame Street – Imagine That

I picked this song for two reasons. The first is that it is the first song I remember truly loving and knowing all of the words to. I would have been three, maybe four when I first heard it. I was fascinated by all of the music on Sesame Street – Jim Henson would go on to become one of the biggest parts of my upbringing, through both Sesame Street and the Muppets. I think the reason that this song stuck out to me was that it was about using your imagination but also remembering that being you is the best because no-one else can be exactly like you. Ernie sings it, and I’ve always loved Ernie almost entirely because of this song. There’s also “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” which also clocked me square in the feels. I forgot about this song for a few years and then rediscovered it. The day that I did I cried and cried and cried. It all came flooding back to me. I also picked this song because I knew for a fact that it would have never been played on FBi before.

The Cruel Sea – Takin’ All Day

The Cruel Sea were the first band I ever saw live. I bought Over Easy when I was eight years old because I liked the cover. I later saw this video on rage and felt very grown-up for liking an “adult” band playing bluesy rock music. I wanted to play drums, so I wrote to Jim Elliott, the band’s drummer, via their PO box. He wrote back and we stayed in touch for many years. In 2002, they announced a show in St. George’s Basin. My dad took me – even though it was an over-18s gig – and I got to meet Jim and had a poster signed by the entire band which is still on my wall to this day. James Cruickshank recently passed away, and I know a lot of people are rediscovering The Cruel Sea – I hope this helps.

The Forest – The Bear

Flash forward to 2008. I’m in my final year of high school and a lot is going on – I’ve discovered that I have Asperger’s, having been diagnosed as a child but never told; I’ve ostensibly come out as bisexual at a Catholic high school and I’m angry, confused, lonely and trying to find sense in what’s happening in my life. Around this time, I see a band play at a local community hall called The Forest. They’re a “skramz” (emo/post-hardcore/indie) band from rural Queensland. Although they identify as Christian and I was quite outspoken against Christianity (high school rebel!), their music was so intense and passionate that it got through to me. As long as I treated the imagery as just that, we had an understanding.

I bought their self-titled, homemade EP that night. Every day before my final HSC exams, I would play it as loudly as I possibly could – somedays I’d even scream along if I was walking by myself. Javed, the band’s lead singer, works in video games now and lives in Sydney with his wife and his beautiful daughter. He may be done with this band, but I’ll forever be grateful to him for that EP and getting me through that time in my life.

Parades – Hunters

I loved Parades. More than I’ve loved a lot of bands. To this day, I have no idea why they put up with me – I was probably so annoying and so clingy. Still, they became friends – really good friends. People I trusted and cared about and wanted to hang out with. foreign tapes was another album that got me through a lot – a major break-up, more struggles with anxiety, the utter loneliness of my uni degree. The hours of travel I undertook to see these guys play – eight times in total before they split – was always made worth it.

I picked this song from the album because I once screamed the “SO IT GOES ON ENDLESSLY” part so loud I started crying. In the front row. These two other guys thought I was crazy. I lost myself in the moment. Parades allowed me to do that. I wish they were still around.

Lemuria – Mechanical

2012 features the worst thing that has ever happened to me – the untimely and accidental death of my mother to a one-person car crash in April – as well as the best week of my entire life – going to one major international gig a day from Monday November 12 to Sunday November 18; seeing Radiohead, Refused, Beck, Silversun Pickups in Adelaide, Ben Folds Five in Adelaide, Harvest in Sydney and Coldplay. The soundtrack to both of these parts of my life was the album Get Better by Lemuria. I discovered the band through a random blog some years before but had never properly given them a listen until one of their songs came on shuffle not long after my mother’s passing. It helped me through and was there for me whenever I needed it – there were weeks where it was all that I listened to. It made me feel like there were others out there that were just as lost and confused as I was.

Getting to meet Lemuria when the came to Australia in 2014 was such a huge thing for me. Nearly broke down telling them what their music meant to me. One of the highlights of my life was getting to sing “Lipstick” from Get Better with the band at Black Wire Records. I chose the last song from the album because of all the times I have screamed along the “SHUT UP” refrain until I literally couldn’t anymore; as well as it being a highlight of their show at Hermann’s Bar – surrounded by friends singing along so loudly that Sheena, the band’s singer, gave up singing into the mic and just let us carry it.

mowgli – Slowburn

Cameron Smith, Curtis Smith, Dave Muratore, Eleanor Shepherd and Jay Borchard have all been friends of mine for quite awhile. Eleanor, the bass player, I’ve known since we were in primary school. I met Cameron in 2008, watching his old band Epitomes play every other weekend. Dave was brought in as the lead guitarist for a band I was playing with at the end of 2009; a few months after meeting Jay for the first time at a La Dispute show – which is, ironically enough, the same situation in which I met Curtis, Cameron’s brother, in 2011 to complete the set.

I bring up the fact that I am friends with all of them – even though Curtis is no longer in the band – purely because I want to state that the fact I think mowgli are one of the best bands this country has produced in the 21st century is not because they are my mates. It’s because their music speaks to me on the same way that The Forest did all those years ago – they capture my rage and my passion and my disconnect from the world around me. I have seen mowgli play live over twenty times, and each time I am utterly blown away by their talents. This was my favourite song of 2013 by a considerable margin – I still rank it as one of my all-time favourite songs. I think everything about it is perfect.

The Smith Street Band – Belly of Your Bedroom

This was included as a shout-out to Poison City Records, the Poison City Weekender and the remarkable friends that I have made through both. I was almost intimidated by the scale of the Weekender at first – I arrived at my first at the age of 21, incredibly anxious, nervous, excited, overjoyed and overwhelmed. I’ve since felt immediately at home there – I almost feel like part of the furniture. The Weekender is a time when I am connected with friends from all over – some that I see every week, some that I only get to see for that weekend. Once all the shows and the side-tours surrounding it are done, it feels like the end of camp to me.

I have made so many great mates through the community that Poison City has created – the fact they have made the queer, anxious yeti (as I sometimes call myself) feel so welcome and so loved speaks volumes about the environment of it. At the centre of the Poison City universe is The Smith Street Band – I chose my favourite song of theirs, which ostensibly deals with being the weaker part of a relationship (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt) and features the vocals of another dear friend, Lucy Wilson.

Georgia Maq – Footscray Station

Since 2009, I have played solo under the name Nothing Rhymes with David. I’ve been lucky enough to share a stage with some remarkable songwriters. None have challenged me in the same way that Georgia Maq has. I find her music endlessly fascinating, remarkably engaging and uniformly brilliant. I see so much in her that she is often too self-deprecating and unaware to see in herself. I fear that she will never, ever know how good she is. Each time I watch her perform, I more or less sit in stunned silence – when I’m not compelled beyond my will to sing along, of course.

I find the storytelling in this song so incredible – it took me a good half a dozen listens to fully comprehend it. Everytime I’m in Melbourne and I find myself out at Footscray station, I think of this song and I can’t help but smile. The first time I saw her live, she couldn’t believe that I knew every word to this song and that I was in the front row singing along. I couldn’t believe I was the only one.

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INTERVIEW: Owen Pallett (CAN), December 2010

I interviewed Owen once before via email back in 2008. It… well, it didn’t go so well. Thankfully, over the phone, Owen was absolutely delightful. He was a really sweet, chirpy kind of guy that provided me with a very easy job of interviewing him. Definitely helped that I was head over heels in love with Heartland, his debut solo album; which has stood the test of time as one of the best albums of the decade thus far. His latest album is pretty exceptional, too. He’s just a fantastic dude. Can’t say enough good things about him. See for yourself!

– DJY, October 2014

***

It’s a cold, blustery day in Toronto, Canada as Owen Pallett takes our interview call, but he’s not about to let it dampen his spirits – especially with his plans over the next couple of months. “I’m really excited about the way that we’ve planned our tour,” says the 31-year-old. We’ve got a week of skiing over in Japan and then we fly down for a little summer vacation in Australia. It’s what I like to do – which is skiing – and what my boyfriend [his manager, Patrick Borjal] likes to do – which is lie on a beach!”

Pallett’s third album, and first under his own name after dropping the Final Fantasy moniker, Heartland, threatened to be the album of the year upon its release – and that was all the way back in January. With nearly twelve months since its release, Pallett still speaks of Heartland with great fondness – although he was initially reluctant to do so.

“At first, when it came out, I was kind of glad to be rid of it,” he admit. “It was a tricky record to make. But now that I have a year-on perspective, I’m feeling really good about it – I feel very proud.” The album, meticulously crafted and several years in the making, revolves around a character by the name of Lewis – a family man and farmer who abandons his life in pursuit of the love of Owen, a character that, by the sounds of things, is the equivalent of a god or deity in Heartland. It’s quite the album to get one’s head around from a conceptual point of view, with many lyrical sections requiring double takes. Interestingly, however, it was never Pallett’s intention to create such a dense, complex work – if anything, he wanted a pop album this time around.

“After I’d made [last album, 2006’s] He Poos Clouds, which was a string quartet, I knew I wanted the next one to be primarily orchestral,” he explains. “I wanted it to really pick on the characteristics of a pop record – specifically, a late seventies/early eighties synth-pop record. I didn’t listen to classical music when I was writing and working on the record – I was absorbing a lot of the pre-digital era synthpop. I really tried to make this record have the feeling of both falling apart and yet also the feeling of mechanism within that genre.”

He rattles off influences such as Can and Depeche Mode (“Particularly Speak and Spell,” he adds) as primary inspiration, as conversation steers back to the album’s characters. Despite song titles such as Lewis Takes Action and the slightly more provocative Lewis Takes Off His Shirt, Pallet himself is quick to downplay the album’s intricate conceptuality. “Conceptually, it’s not really meant to be all that highfalutin or pretentious,” he claims. “I’ve just always wanted to sing from the perspective of ‘the other,’ y’know? From ‘the beloved.’”

His explanation continues: “I simply wanted to make a record where I was singing from the perspective of the object of my desire, rather than specifically singing in my own voice. Even though I felt kind of obliged to be very specific about portraying Lewis and talking about his physical attributes – even from his own perspective – he is simply meant to be what is represented in other people’s songs by…” – he searches for the right word, before coming up with “…baby” – then laughing, adding “…or “shawty.””

Whatever the case, Owen has not only taken notice of readings into the lyrics and concept of Heartland by fans and critics alike, but fully encourages an open interpretation of the entire thing. “When I was making it, I was really trying to make a record that was not maybe necessarily accessible, but one that was going to be appealing – one that wasn’t going to scare people off,” says Pallett. “I’m really flattered when people engage with these songs.”

No doubt many within Australia have been engaging with Heartland since its release, and will be joining Pallett in celebrating its one-year anniversary when the man himself takes to stages across the country next month, including appearances as a part of the Sydney Festival. After taking his time to completely work out a highly technical multi-phonic loop station, which involves sending signals from his instruments across to speakers. Artists as diverse as Jamie Lidell and Autechre also use similar technology in their live performances, yet nothing is quite like the experience of Pallett’s music coming to life.

“I’m in peak condition!” says Pallett with a hearty laugh when asked about his current live set-up. “I’m really excited that my looping is all working now – even though it’s just piano and keyboard, there are actually a lot of channels of sound that I’m creating. When I first started working on it, I hadn’t worked out how to streamline the process and I played the worst show I’ve ever played in Dublin. People thought I was typing with my feet! It’s a pretty intense thing, but at least now I can think about talking to the audience – and maybe even smiling!”

Our conversation wraps with some good-natured humour and some back-and-forth on Australian music (“Tame Impala are Australian, right?”), but perhaps one promise resonates the most: “You guys in Australia are gonna get a good show.” He may have been around for the better part of the last decade, but Owen Pallett is clearly just getting warmed up.

INTERVIEW: Bluejuice (AUS), February 2009

The guys from Bluejuice are one of the best bands to interview. I’ve done it a few times over the years and it’s always a treat – they’re great people, a hard-working band with an outstanding sense of humour and a great set of stories. This was my first interaction with them in that regard, being for The Big O festivities (remember that?). This was also why I spoke to Ben Lee around the same time, albeit accidentally.

Like the Owen Pallett chat, this was done via email; so I had next to no control over it beyond the questions. I was very happy with the results, however. This has dated quite well; what with the MySpace references at all. Good times. So, here is a Q & A of sorts with the band’s bassist, Jamie Cibej; as well as their dearly departed keyboard player, Jerry Craib.

– DJY, April 2014

***

2008 has been and gone; how was it in the Bluejuice camp?
Jerry: 2008 was incredible. We played at over 20 festivals, which was a real privilege… for them. Obviously.

Your Homebake 2008 performance was a fucking triumph; has to be said. That must have really been the icing on the cake for you guys, playing on the main stage of such a big Australian festival?
Jamie: Ha ha – a ‘triumph.’ We don’t have triumphs; we have slow, grinding victories, but thank you. It was amazing to play the main stage at Homebake. It was Ned’s last show with the band, which made things a little sad. The intense heat liquefying our genitals also made things a little sad.

How have things gone since Ned’s departure? Newb settling in well?
Jerry: Our new drummer James Hauptmann has settled in better than a moment of unintentional irony in an Australian reality TV show.

Jamie: Ned was a dead weight. He’s currently in Guatemala extorting crop yields from peasant farmers, or something equally shameful. Booooooo! Hissssss! (Hi Ned.)

When are we going to get to hear some new material from you guys?
Jerry: A new single – very soon. An album – in a couple of months. A Christmas album – end of the year. Best Of – fairly soon after that.

The Big O tour is just around the corner. Are you excited about these shows?
Jerry: My work colleague Lorin asks me that question every day. “Are you excited about such and such..?” No Lorin, I’m not. Not usually until it’s the same morning or at least the same week of the event. Premature excitement is a fool’s game. Of course we’re excited. Put your hands in the air, bitches.

How many of the ‘Juice camp actually attended uni? Will any of the shows bring back some old memories?
Jamie: I’m not sure exactly – I think three of us finished Bachelors of Uselessness. I did mine via correspondence, so I have no memories of campus life. I assume all universities are like those in American frathouse comedies from the 1980s. Bikini water fights and such.

I recently interviewed Ben Lee and he hadn’t heard of you guys before. How do you think you’ll introduce yourselves?
Jerry: Who’s Ben Lee? Catchy name.

Jamie: I hear he digs flowers – maybe we’ll bring him a bunch. Plus, Stav and I have both been to India, so maybe we can break the ice by talking about gurus or burning ghats or aloo palak.

After that comes the Bacardi Express tour. What is the band’s stance on that kind of product placement involved with live music?
Jerry: Let me just take a minute from this FasterLouder interview to have sip of my Toby’s Estate coffee and relax in my Wilkhahn office chair.

Jamie: I dunno – it’s not like the music industry is any less obsessed with capitalist whoring than the alcoholic beverage industry. It kind of depends on the manner of the product placement. There have been a few alcohol company events we’ve done which turn out to be poorly-planned, poorly-attended soulless exercises in shameless plugging. But at least this Bacardi thing has a good idea behind it, and as far as I know it’s free for the (overage) kiddies.

Your four top MySpace friends are Dostoevsky, Erik Satie, Captain Planet and Avril. Who would win in a fatal four-way for the title?
Jamie: Everybody knows that Captain Planet doesn’t kill people, so that puts him at a disadvantage. Avril is too frail for mortal combat. I don’t know too much about Satie’s physical condition (when alive), but if his melancholic minimalist tunes are anything to go by, he’d be a pushover. Dostoevsky lived through a mock execution, and was sent to a Siberian prison – I think he’d know how to handle those other sissies.

INTERVIEW: Trial Kennedy (AUS), January 2009

Not many people gave a shit about Trial Kennedy in the ten years that they were together. This year, people started giving a shit – indirectly, at least. Tim Morrison went on The Voice; and although he didn’t win, he certainly won himself an entirely new fanbase. Funny how things work out like that, isn’t it? Anyway, naturally I was one of the few who gave a resounding shit about TK, particularly around this era; when they’d just dropped one of my favourite albums of 2008 in New Manic Art. This was an email Q&A – admittedly, not ideal at the best of times; but I was fairly happy with the responses given. Worked out alright. Wish I’d properly interviewed them, though. That would have ruled. Ahh well, life goes on.

– DJY, July 2013

***

You had a massive year in 2008. What were some of the highlights in retrospect?

A definite highlight for last year was getting our record New Manic Art out, that’s got to be a lifelong dream for any young upstart. But all in all, the real memorable thing about 2008 was spending plenty of time on the road meeting heaps of people who got into the record and starting to get our creative caps back on to pump out the second record. Trial Kennedy are a band that like to keep busy.

How did you spend NYE? Was there a celebration for a great year, or were plans already being made for the next tour?

Two of the lads spent it up the Eureka tower looking down on the fireworks from above, our guitar tech and our drummer spent it down a beach having a laugh and I played a little fill in cover gig in town. Nothing for TK, but we did have a festival on the 3rd of Jan that was a bit of fun.

We’ve got a couple of really key tours left and then we’ve really being trying to get our heads into writing for the next record and keep the ball rolling.

How do you feel long-time fans (people who were listening to Pictureframe etc) have responded to New Manic Art’s success and the subsequent newfound support from radio and television?

I hope Trial Kennedy fans are right behind us in all of our pursuits. We are a band that obviously want to make music and this band our career but we’re going to do it with our musical integrity and creativity well intact so I hope that people that get into Trial Kennedy at any certain stage will see that.

A while ago, you posted a MySpace blog talking about every song on the album and their lyrics. The special edition of NMA also comes with a making-of DVD. Relating this to the old saying “A great magician never gives away his tricks,” do you feel a need to be perfectly honest about your music and what it’s about; or are there parts of the behind-the-scenes creation of Trial Kennedy’s music that is best left unspoken?

Some people like to hold their cards close to their chests and that’s cool, but we aren’t afraid of showing people how we create our music, we’re proud of it and we don’t use any secrets or tricks. I think each band is unique because of the members that make up the band and the way that they write, that’s their own formula and recipe that probably wouldn’t work for other bands.

We also personally love seeing how our heroes write the great music they do – check out the Classic Albums series, it’s amazing.

I have to ask about the sample used in Mississippi Burn. I believe it is Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre talking, but others beg to differ. Where is the sample from and what is its purpose in the song?

The sample in that song isn’t Anton Newcombe, but that’s a good little rumour to put out there. The actual voice that you hear on that song is a guy called Tom Tapley who was an assistant engineer at Southern Tracks studios in Atlanta where we recorded the record and the words he speaks are words from an interview with Jeff Buckley talking about art. That song is a lyrical and musical sort of ‘pay your respects’ to Jeff Buckley and how he inspired us and so many others on so many levels.

The Not So New Manic Art tour is currently underway; what prompted this tour on so shortly after coming off the road with TBE?

Like I said before, Trial Kennedy are a band that like to keep busy and we really wanted to get back to some of the towns that we stopped off with TBE and get our full set to them. You have the luxury of longer sets on your own headliners so you can play some album songs and play with a few other little musical interims and stuff, keep it fresh and interesting for the punters and us.

We’re out with Birds Of Tokyo in March and then we’ll most definitely be writing our arses off and pump out a 2nd record. It’s all about momentum and capitalizing on that momentum so this all involves hard work and as much touring as possible.

Do any of you have a Colour Day Tours story of your own (ie wife, children, family, etc) when it comes to touring?

No one in Trial Kennedy is married or have any kids yet but touring is a time that you spend away from your loved ones and you do miss them but we’re lucky in that they all understand that we’re following something that we’re passionate about and maybe one day we can make a career out of it.

After experiencing so many different places on tour throughout the country, would you say you’ve located a most dedicated fanbase somewhere? I know Melbourne may seem an obvious choice, but perhaps there’s somewhere else?

Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but Newcastle and Adelaide always give us plenty of love. Sydney and Perth are close behind and we’ve got Brissy tonight so we’ll see if that changes anything in our favourites.
I’ll keep you posted

Weirdest gig (ie unfitting support slot, drunk crowd)?
We played a gig this year up at Mt Hotham that was a Rock, Skate and Pole party. Young kids skating and stuff, us playing in the middle and then a beautiful pole dancer. Funny stuff!!!

What’s the next step for the band? More shows, or maybe recording? Perhaps even a well deserved break?

No rest for the wicked. As soon as we finish the Not So New Manic Art tour we’re doing Melbourne Big Day Out and a big show out the front of Parliament House on Australia Day, then writing all Feb, out with Birds Of Tokyo in March then write April and hopefully get in the studio as soon as we can to pump out a killer second album.

INTERVIEW: TV on the Radio (USA), December 2008

No need to bullshit about here: TV on the Radio are one of my favourite bands of all time. I’ve seen them live four times, I own and love all of their music and they have been with me for a very, very long time. Nearly ten years, in fact. I’ve grown to love them more and more with every album, reaching fever pitch around the time that 2008’s Dear Science came out. How fitting, then, that this was when I would interview Jaleel Bunton, formerly the band’s drummer and now their bass player following the loss of the late, great Gerard Smith. Jaleel was a very cool cat – he was talkative, engaging and smart. I was beyond stoked with how this one turned out – and even looking at it now, my work here isn’t too bad. Definitely one of the better features I put together around this time.

Smith actually gets a mention in this feature, and I nearly cried reading over it again. He was a remarkable musician, and is dearly missed. TVotR are here at the end of the month for Splendour in the Grass – infuriatingly, not doing any sideshows. Hopefully, we’ll hear some new stuff soon.

– DJY, July 2013

***

“Sorry, man!”

Jaleel Bunton has returned from his promise to be right back, apologising for the noise. “I just entered a very loud rehearsal space.” This is easily forgivable – Jaleel Bunton is a fairly busy guy, consistently on the move. He is one-fifth of Brooklyn-based avant-garde rockers TV on the Radio, who are headed to Australia in early 2009 on the back of their latest album, Dear Science.

Released in September, Science has topped Rolling Stone’s end-of-year list and earned high-ranking positions in many more. It was also the second record that Bunton was an official part of the band as its drummer. Certainly, one could see this as a cementing of the band as a five-piece; and Jaleel himself tends to agree.

“The band started as just Tunde [Adebimpe, lead vocalist] and Dave [Andrew Sitek, guitarist/producer]. From that, it’s now grown into a five-way collaboration – this is the first time where everyone wrote songs for the record. We’re still trying to journey to – œfind ourselves’ as a five-piece, and I think Dear Science was a big step in that direction.”

With tight, groovy jams like Dancing Choose and Golden Age, as well as full-band freakouts like DLZ andHalfway Home plentiful on the new record, Science sounds far more like a band-focused record than their last, 2006’s wildly successful Return to Cookie Mountain. Putting this to Bunton himself, however, reveals a little uncertainty to merit of such ideas.

“One thing I like about this band is that it doesn’t really adhere to the typical band script of – ‘we were best mates in high school, started playing in our garage, rented out a studio’ – we’re not like that,” he muses. “So it wasn’t really a focus to make it more of a band record; it was just a goal to make a record that all five of us that we were proud of. We wanted everyone to participate because we were all individual writers before we met.”

Having said that, there is still certainly lenience towards the core trio – Adebimpe, Sitek and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kyp Malone. When asked which of the three Bunton personally connects with the most when it comes to songwriting, he notes that it really “depends on the song.”

“It’s pretty hard question to answer, y’know…” He pauses, then continues by stating that the band “all works together.” “It’s a little happy home… I mean, we definitely have our issues, but I’m impressed with the fact that everyone is able to keep their egos in check- that’s a part of art.

“Everyone has their different, particular talents,” he continues, focusing on particular examples. “Dave’s a really good producer, it’s something I watch and am really amazed by. And Tunde’s a fantastic melody writer. I work well with everybody with what they’re good at, to answer your question.”

If you have never experienced TVOTR live in any shape or form, you are most certainly in for a surprise. Perhaps the band’s most well-known performance is that of their appearance on Letterman a few years back, playing single Wolf Like Me. The already-dancey track was given a wild, rollicking renovation in the live environment – a credit, in particular, to Bunton’s Bonham-sized drums. Despite the impression that songs likeWolf were meant for the live environment, Jaleel explains that each song that this is simply not the case.

“I grew up studying how to play instruments; but I know a lot of people are limited by what their hands do and not what your mind is doing,” he says, elaborating on different degrees of musicianship. “When TV on the Radio writes or records, we write music to be recorded – as we want to hear it, not as we want to feel it.”

So what changes when it’s time to put the songs in front of a crowd? “It’s the exact opposite,” he states. “We’re more concerned with what it feels like than what it sounds like. This is the first time we’ve had quite a bit of live experience under our belt, making this record, so I think that’s slipped in subconsciously.”

Another staple of TV on the Radio live performances is bassist Gerard Smith’s near-obsessive refusal to face the audience whilst he plays. Jaleel laughs and describes Smith as “one of the single most puzzling enigmas on the planet.”

“There was no moment that made him the person that never turns around on stage – and if it did, it happened a long time before I met him. I will say this,” he continues as if giving an inside scoop, “I HAVE seen him,ONE time, turn around and wink at his girlfriend at the time in the audience. It lasted a matter of four seconds and it blew my mind!”

There is absolutely no doubt here – Jaleel Bunton is a charismatic, friendly and genuinely interesting man. If you missed out on tickets to any of their sideshows, and you are heading along to any of the Big Days Out, don’t miss your chance to catch Bunton in action with TV on the Radio. Hopefully, you’ll be excited as he is to be touring this festival. When asked if he was looking forward to the shows, he replies, “Are you kidding? I can’t believe I’m going to be travelling every day with Neil Young!”

INTERVIEW: Jim Ward (USA), December 2008

*

Funny story about this one: I remember it was scheduled the same day as my orientation day at uni, but I was in no position to say no to interviewing Jim Ward. So, naturally, I got my lunch break and I did my interview at the Uni Bar out the front while a staff member looked on with confusion. Jim was a pensive, thoughtful interviewee; and ended up being a very lovely guy in his own right when I met him not too long after I did this interview at his show at the Annandale. That, fittingly enough, was my first ever Annandale show – I can’t believe I’ve been going to that sumbitch for nearly five years! I’ll always love Jim Ward, no matter what music he’s making. This experience simply solidified that love.

– DJY, July 2013

***

Jim Ward is no stranger to Australian shores. Each time he has come, however, he has brought something different along with him. Back in 2001, it was with genre-defying quintet At The Drive-In, holding down the rhythm section whilst the future Mars Volta leaders Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez threw themselves across the stage.

A few years later, Ward was positioned up the front as his new band, Sparta, warmed up an audience in hot anticipation of Blink 182. Earlier this year, he returned without either band to perform solo and acoustically, as both the opening act for Incubus and one of the many artists featured at the 2008 Soundwave Festival.

Now, just over six months since that appearance, Jim Ward is set to play a number of low-key, intimate shows this month. This time, however, he will be showcasing tracks from his latest project, Sleepercar, and its album West Texas.

“This is definitely music I’ve wanted to make for a while,” he comments on the album’s rootsy, country vibe. “It’s stuff that I love, both in the singer-songwriter format and the band format as well. I’ve been working on it for quite a while, and it seemed like the right time to release it, with Sparta moving into a ‘vacation’ stage… it just seemed like something I wanted to do.”

The entire record is a notable change for Ward; not only as a guitarist (favouring a trusty old acoustic in favour of his Fender Esquire) but as a vocalist. His lower-range storytelling shows scarcely any resemblance to the high-octave scream of “Cut away! Cut away!” in the classic One Armed Scissor.

“It’s stretched my limits,” Ward confesses when asked whether the solo acoustic work has challenged him as a singer. He still remains positive that the challenge of creating entirely different music from his past has paid off. “It’s a good thing to be able to learn new stuff and better yourself,” he muses.

Despite having a new backing band in Sleepercar, with which he has toured with extensively this year, Ward’s visit to Australia is on his lonesome. He makes a point of his experiences of tours without a band, and what you take in as a result of solo touring and travelling.

When asked to comment on the life of the one man show, Ward describes it as “a whole new way of seeing things,” in a slightly weary tone (quite possibly the toll of his extensive tours). “It can get a little lonely at times, but it’s also good to explore your head and think about things… it’s a little selfish to do, but I think it’s an important thing to do sometimes, just to get everything together.”

Anyone who has followed Jim’s career to its full extent will note that he has evolved further and further in independence as a musician and songwriter, developing from a key band member to band leader, and subsequently as a solo musician. Each career step, one could argue that Ward has revealed more and more of his musical identity, his soul.

“Yeah, that’s fair to say,” he responds when presented with this thesis. “I think it’s given me a chance to find myself and explore other music, which you don’t normally get to do when you’re working with other people. Over the years, I’ve definitely found more comfort in making music. It’s definitely broadened my horizons.”

Ward’s work with other musicians, of course, has not come without in-band controversy. Huge creative differences were cited as the reason for ATDI’s demise; as Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala went on to form the Mars Volta. Even when the dust had settled on that one, another personal blow to the Sparta camp came when guitarist Paul Hinojos jumped ship… to join his former Drive-In bandmates in the Mars Volta. Despite such potential grudges still to be held, Ward emphasises that such conflicts of his past is water under the bridge.

“I still talk to them,” he states when questioned about his former bandmates. “They played in El Paso [city of Texas in which ATD-I was formed] the other day and I went to the show. Y’know, you grow up and you move on; but it’s still nice to be reminded where you come from.”

He’s certainly come a long way since releasing Hell Paso as a seventeen year old in At the Drive-In with his college funds. However, it seems very evident from the conversation that has just passed with an intelligent, thoughtful and humble man that his creative streak is far from running out. Ladies and gentlemen, please experience Jim Ward.

INTERVIEW: The Bronx (USA), December 2008

It’s the Bronx, you guys. They impale weak fucks for a living. They don’t take no shit from nobody. They’re AWESOME. I learned the easy way – been following these guys and their music since 2004, and they just continue to destroy all in their path. I interviewed Joby Ford and it was… well, it was interesting. I kinda got the feeling that he didn’t like me at the beginning, with some curt and blunt responses. Eventually, though, he warmed up – and we got into a decent enough chat. I love this band, and it was super-cool to chat to Joby. Good times.

– DJY, July 2013

***

“You know how when you put a CD into iTunes, it automatically categorises it?” Joby Ford says in a low-key, slightly bemused drawl. “Our records don’t do that.”

And why is that? “Because of that reason.” To not be categorised in iTunes? “Exactly.”

Odd? Certainly – but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the band Joby Ford plays guitar in, The Bronx. The band have just released their third self-titled record (hereby known as The Bronx III ), which sees the anarchic Californians beef up both their sound and their line-up, thanks to the addition of a second guitarist, Ken Horne. Ford maintains that, despite having a second axe on board, the songwriting process for III really was not all that different.

“Anything you do to a band – changing a member or instrument – changes the musical spectrum completely,” he readily admits. ”[Former bassist] James [Tweedy] is no longer with the band, either; so there was two new members and we had to try and figure out where we fit sonically now.” And did it work? “We took our time and made sure everything was the way it needed to be. And it’s great,” Ford states enthusiastically, before laughing, “Another guitar player means I only have to do half as much!”

The Bronx III is also a departure for the band in terms of the way it was released. The band released this record entirely independently, under their label White Drugs. Ford, especially, seemed especially proud to discuss the band’s independence in regards to the record.

“There’s a lot less crap you don’t have to deal with,” Joby confirms as he weighs up the pros and cons out loud. “It’s a lot easier to do what you want, because you have no one to answer to; but you also have to pay the bills too, which is not always fun.” Regardless, Ford remains largely content as he makes a statement very few bands can honestly make. “I couldn’t be more happy with our place in the musical world right now.”

On the back of The Bronx III, the band is preparing yet another visit to our shores. The band have returned on the back of every single release since 2004, and have even filmed their first live DVD here (Live at the Annandale). The connection that Australian audiences have with the Bronx is not only a boisterous one, but also a somewhat inexplicable one.

“To be honest, I have no idea. I couldn’t tell you,” Ford confesses when asked why Aussie audiences in particular love the Bronx so much. After a momentary silence, he forges a makeshift explanation. “I think, maybe, we respect music and that could be it. The pedigree of music that comes from that country is, pound for pound, some of the best rock, garage and punk I’ve ever heard in my entire life. So to be accepted into that country… I’m not gonna lie, it makes me feel pretty good.”

The band not only has a handful of east coast shows on their Australian agenda, but also an envious spot atop the Meredith Music Festival line-up. “Matt [Caughthran, vocalist] is especially excited about the race – The Gift,” Ford says. “I dunno if you know what that is, but he’s really stoked to see that. He’s got the video camera charged.”

Ford is also quick to praise down under, even with the music put aside. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful country full of very interesting things. You know what the funniest thing about Australia is? I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the UK, but the fact that Australia was deemed a prison island for that country speaks absolute mountains about that culture. The UK? Not great. Australia? AWESOME!”

Of course, the life-on-the-road touring schedule of the Bronx does have its drawbacks. “I’m the only one in the band with a family,” Ford explains. “I have a 17-month old daughter. It’s driving me nuts not seeing her.” Despite the time away from his family, Ford still bravely and admiringly shows dedication to his band. “I cannot wait to go home, and I miss her so much. But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”

So if you’re hungry for some sweaty, unorthodox and decidedly interactive punk rock from five guys who love our country, the Bronx happily welcome you along to their show.

INTERVIEW: Jen Cloher (AUS), November 2008

Funny that I’m revisiting this literally a day after seeing the lady in question live once again. I’ve known Jen for years, and I count her as both a friend and a great inspiration. This interview more or less started that, although we’d briefly met once before in 2007 at a festival featuring Xavier RuddAsh Grunwald and The Audreys. Man, what a time hey? Roots takeover! This interview came prior to the release of Jen’s second studio album, Hidden Hands, which was one of my favourite LPs of 2009. She doesn’t turn out records often, but when she does… look out, son. Them’s some hot rekkids.

This was one of my favourite interviews from around this time – more for what ended up on the cutting room floor, interestingly enough. We were supposed to have a 15-minute interview and we just ended up chatting for a good 30 minutes. She’s just such a warm and interesting person, and I can never be in a bad mood when I’m listening to her music or seeing her live. We’re fortunate to have women like this around, folks. Anyway, enough from me. Let’s read on…

– DJY, July 2013

***

Over the past couple of months, a familiar face has re-entered the collective conscience of Australian music after a momentary lapse into obscurity. For a while, nobody knew where Jen Cloher or her band, the Endless Sea, had gotten to. “I know, right?” the woman herself laughs. “People have been like, – ‘What happened to Jen Cloher? First she was touring and doing shows and then… she wasn’t!’”

The truth of the matter is that there is no big rock star meltdown story, or even in-band fighting. Jen simply took some time away from the limelight to visit her parents. “My parents moved back to New Zealand about fifteen years ago when Mum got work here – they’re Kiwis originally,” she explains. “I made the decision to spend some quality time with them and help out where I could.” Whilst in New Zealand, Jen also came to write the bulk of what would become the Endless Sea’s second album, Hidden Hands. The album’s title – from Cloher’s point of view at least – “sounds a little sinister.” There’s a lot more to it than that, however. “It’s based on a quote by Joseph Campbell, this amazing mythologist. – ‘Follow your bliss, do whatever you are meant to do on this planet. Doors will open where there were no doors before, and you will be lead by a thousand unseen helping hands.’ I love the idea that there are forces beyond what we can see that will help us on our quest.”

Recorded at Woodstock Studios in St. Kilda – which was, up until recently, owned by Joe Camilleri of Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons – Hidden Hands was swiftly recorded live over a period of seven days. The band chose once again to work with engineer Paul McKercher, who has also worked with artists like Sarah Blasko and Augie March. “We worked with him again because we were really happy with his work on the first album,” says Cloher. It is also interesting to note that Cloher herself, as well as singer-songwriter/touring partner Laura Jean, undertook the album’s production duties. “She’s a really great musician,” Jen enthuses. “I’ve stolen her to play some piano and sing, as an honorary member of the Endless Sea.”

Jean’s inclusion in the Endless Sea is one of three new additions to the Endless Sea line-up, which now tallies up as a septuplet. The others are Biddy Connor, a viola/musical saw player who also performs as part of Laura Jean’s Eden Land Band, and Tom Healy, a guitarist that Cloher met during her time in New Zealand. So what’s changed this time around for Cloher’s music? “The differences between the first and second albums are worlds apart,” she says emphatically. Elaborating on this statement leads Cloher to compare and contrast her two works back to back. “Our last album (2006’s ARIA-nominated Dead Wood Falls) was kind of based around lovelorn characters, and it had a distant romantic, blurred-around-the-edges kind of thing about it. It was very much your singer-songwriter album. You could hear that these were songs that I’d written by myself in my bedroom.” And now? “This record is much more of a ‘band’ album because we really developed our own sound a lot with all the touring that we did. When I was writing these songs, I was very conscious that I was writing these songs to a band’s strength.”

Conversation moves to what Jen was writing about during her time in New Zealand. “It’s not about romantic love or lost love. It’s about…” She takes a moment to attempt a vivid description, but shrugs and jokingly comes up with, “…big stuff”. By ‘big stuff,’ of course, Cloher means “mortality, relationships, family, friends, creativity… Really, when I was writing the album, I thought that the most important thing was that these songs were true to me right now.” With this in mind, it must be asked if there is a song that means the most to Cloher out of her sophomore batch. After a moment of thinking out loud (“They all are, so much,” she sighs), she chooses a song called Watch Me Disappear. Written about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, she says that the song deals with watching someone very close to you succumb to the illness. “It’s death itself,” Cloher states. “It’s watching someone lose their memory, their concept of time… it’s a really weird disease.”

Certainly, even with a fuller and more realised band sound, this is the sound of a singer-songwriter tacking very personal yet universal issues. If you haven’t yet already, don’t miss an opportunity to bear witness to two of contemporary Australian music’s most formidable talents and hear the beginning stages of what is certain to be a popular release of 2009, Hidden Hands.

INTERVIEW: theredsunband (AUS), October 2008

My second interview and the first one that ever got published. They decided to hold out on the Adam Green feature so that it would get timed correctly with Meredith. I wasn’t complaining – people were gonna read my stuff, man! Holy shit. Sarah Kelly and I are… well, not friends, but we’re certainly acquaintances. Having seen her through several guises over the years – most recently with the excellent Good Heavens – I’ve always had a great appreciation for her songwriting.

She remains one of the more underrated performers in this country, but you’d never have guessed that by the way I interviewed her. I was a really big fan of theredsunband, particularly their Peapod record. Throw on any jam from that record and I’m immediately in a good place. As an interviewee, she was a little reserved and softly-spoken, but that was fine. It reflected her overall nature – and besides, I wouldn’t have exactly warmed up to some dorky teenager mouthbreathing down the phone, either.

– DJY, July 2013

***

You’d be forgiven for not remembering Sydney alternative rock trio theredsunband in 2008. Even on the band’s own terms, it’s been quite a while since they gently rocked our worlds with 2005’s Peapod. They subsequently played around the nation with countless Aussie and international acts, including one support slot for the legendary Sonic Youth. The obvious question, thus, to put to Sarah Kelly (guitarist, vocalist and brains behind theredsunband) is why exactly it had taken so long for their return in the form of their new record, The Shiralee.

“We actually recorded the album two years after Peapod ,” she explains. “It took a little longer to release, because we weren’t really sure of how we were gonna do it.” What followed was a refreshing and classically DIY mission of releasing The Shiralee: pay for the entire recording out of pocket (thanks to a lengthy 32-stop van trek across the country in 2005 and a songwriting grant) and release it independently through their own new label. “It’s been a really good experience, I’ve liked the whole thing a lot,” Kelly happily comments. “You learn a lot of different things about stuff that goes on that you don’t really notice when you’re on a record label.”

Kelly’s inspiration in her songwriting for the sophomore release stemmed from the Shiralee itself. Translating to “burden” in an Aboriginal dialect that even Kelly herself is unaware of, the book is, according to Kelly, “basically about this man wondering around in the outback.” Further independent research on the matter revealed the book’s plot to be somewhat deeper than this, depicting a man’s relationship with his child and the stressful ways of the outback Australian life. Regardless, it appears that theredsunband’s sound has mused upon the Shiralee’s environment rather than its characters.

“It’s a very spacious record,” says Sarah, before adding, “We spent a lot of time on the road, and I kind of think you can hear that on this album.” A request for further elaboration on this statement ironically presents further ambiguity. “It’s hard to explain. I don’t think you can necessarily explain why certain imagery comes into your head when you hear songs.”

True enough – especially when talk turns to what Toby Martin, singer and guitarist of long-serving Sydneysiders Youth Group, thinks of the record. “He told me that when he listens to that record, he gets a sense of a really huge, open space in the desert with lots of tiny little people walking around,” Kelly explains with a laugh. “That’s such an awesome thing to say.”

Australia will have their chance to experience this desert-sized sound for the first time as theredsunband team up with Youth Group for what looks to be one of the bigger Australian tours of this year. A double header, the tour takes the bands to a myriad of interesting regional places in addition to the capital cities – several of which neither band has ever been to.

“Neither of us has played in Wagga Wagga, or Currumbin or Noosa,” says Kelly as she tries to think of the places which the tour will take her. “I’m really looking forward to those shows and going to those places. We’ve played in quite a few unusual spots over the years, and tours like this are a really good opportunity.”

The tour was conceived after both Kelly and Martin appeared on the hugely popular SBS pub trivia show RocKwiz. The two battled it out as the guests on opposing teams, to be united later in the night with a surprisingly brilliant version of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Sometimes Always. Martin took Jim Reid’s part, while Kelly did her best Hope Sandoval. Afterwards, discussing the touring plans for both camp’s new records (The Shiralee and Youth Group’s fourth release, The Night Is Ours, respectively), it was decided that “it would be great fun to do a tour together.”

“We’ve known various members of Youth Group for a very long time,” recalls Sarah, briefly before our conversation turns sweetly anecdotal. “I think the first time we ever played together was in 2002,” she continues. “That was [sister and keyboardist] Lizzie’s first show with the band. She was only 16 back then! Luckily, she had a fake ID under the name of Roxanne.”

‘Roxanne’ has long since grown up and established herself as the backbone of theredsunband sound, with warmly-toned organ and simple yet effective percussion such as the tambourine. It may seem a cliche to ask, but one can’t help but be intrigued as to whether it is difficult having a younger sibling on board in the band.

“People ask that all the time,” Kelly offers casually. “It’s not difficult at all. She’s a very calm person, always very cool. If anyone ever chucks a tantrum, it’s gonna be me!”

INTERVIEW: Adam Green (USA), November 2008

Although this was my second interview feature posted for FasterLouder, it actually turned out to be my first-ever interview. So there’s a piece of history here, kids! I was really, really nervous going into this one – not only was I doing my first interview, I was speaking to New York legend Adam Green. He was a pretty big deal for me back then, and to some extent he is now as well. I can still sing a stack of his songs off by heart, and I’ve always had a soft spot for his music.

So, did I have anything to worry about in retrospect? Not at all. Adam was, to this day, one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever spoken to. He’s naturally charismatic and eccentric, and it made for some absolutely killer quotes. The feature itself is a little choppy, but I’d develop my style over time – and this was as decent a start-off as any.

– DJY, July 2013

***

Some musicians are uncomfortable speaking to complete strangers about the music they have put their heart and soul into, and will often be a little rude or unfriendly. Not New York’s anti-folk poet laureate Adam Green, however. The second we are connected, I am welcomed by a very enthusiastic “Holy shit!”, followed by a very intimate detailing of the night before.

“I never get hungover – I don’t know why,” he explains as if speaking casually to a close friend. “But I feel like I’m in a state of euphoria as I walk around!” Green’s night involved going to a friend’s house and drinking at a fake bar that a friend had built within their house – an adventure that may seem out of the ordinary to most. Green enthuses, however, that he is “always looking for new things to be a part of”- a trait many musicians these days just can’t flaunt.

But there’s a lot more to Adam Green than his late-night antics. By day, Adam Green makes music. Great music, too. Since starting out with fellow oddball Kimya Dawson in the now-revered Moldy Peaches (yes, from the Juno soundtrack), Green has gone on to a low-key yet fruitful and entertaining solo career.

Earlier this year, his fifth solo album, Sixes and Sevens, was quietly launched to generally positive acclaim. The album is a collection of short, sweet and diverse pop music that he is decidedly proud of. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says of the record, his first since 2006’s Jacket Full of Danger. The first track on the album in particular, entitled Festival Song, is a bold and self-described “bombastic” artistic statement that derived, ironically, out of an uncomfortable fear.

“I never liked playing the festivals,” he explains. “I didn’t understand it. I was just someone who went to festivals – I used to get a lot of nerves before going on.” The solution? “I thought of making up a song up that I could open up at a festival with, and it would build up the show to be alright. That’s what the song started as.”

Another noticeable aspect of Festival Song is its starkly different vocals – light years away from Green’s distinctive liquored croon. “The more angry and lonely and defeated that I sang this motherfucking song, it just sounded shit-punk-better.” This led Adam to unconventionally sing the song worse with each and every recording. “I feel sort of like a vampire,” he muses in the most casual way one can say they feel like a vampire. “I’ve always wanted people to see me as more Goth, and they never do! I think people now know I wanna suck their fucking blood.”

A vivid imagination? Certainly – but anyone who has listened closely to Adam’s smart, abstract and often slightly ridiculous way with words in his music would expect nothing less. Ask him the tales of any of the characters featured in his songs, and you’ll receive a glowing, in-depth anecdote. Talk of Carolina (“her lips taste just like sunk ships/But her breasts taste just like breakfast”) brings up memories of the eponymous character of the song slinking around her apartment – “Like a cat”, he emphasises. He also tells of the abusive relationship between her and an unknown friend of his. “He perceived her soul to be made of farts and shit – it was just a piece of trash, and he told me so.”

Shifting talk to Emily (“Baby, when I get you on that Persian rug/That’s the kind of movie I’ve been dreaming of”) elicits an entirely different, far more upbeat response. “What a lovely, lovely woman she is,” he says happily. “She came to my concert once looking like Goldilocks!”

With such fascinatingly weird and wonderful stories to tell, it’s natural to be inquisitive of the driving forces behind the man’s lyrics. When it comes to his inspiration, however, Green blames not a musician, book or writer – but a voice in his head. A voice, he reveals, that has been getting him into a spot of trouble.

“I’ve been pissing off strangers lately,” he states matter-of-factly, claiming that not everyone “gets” him and his little lyric-inspiring voice. “It’s my own fault, I think. I always think people can understand where I’m coming from – but then I say something and it offends them, and before I know it they’re crying and their boyfriend wants to kick my arse. Some people just don’t like my tone.”

Certainly, Adam isn’t going to impress everyone in his travels. Having said that, he’s still certainly acquired quite a devoted cult fan-base for his particular brand of indie pop. One country in particular that has warmed to Green’s style, interestingly enough, is Germany. “I think, at first, it was just because of my good looks,” he says in regards to this unnatural phenomenon. “They’re probably so boring, that I just make a boring thing and they like it.”

Green’s touring schedule has taken him to various hot-spots around the globe for years, with his Australian visit finally on the horizon. The tour sees Green taking the best of both worlds – a high billing at Meredith Music Festival in December, and three far more intimate east coast shows. When asked which scale show he prefers, he confesses that he will just “go where he is told”. “If someone says I have to play a monkey cage in an Egyptian zoo… y’know, I’ll give it a shot.”

Certainly the semi-ironic boldness of this statement, the eccentricity of our conversation and the genuine lightning strike of brilliance that comes through the Adam Green discography is certain to culminate in these upcoming shows. The tour will surely intrigue many – including Green.

“Who’s Meredith, anyway?” he asks me.

“Is she cute?”