The Top 100 Songs of 2014, Part One: 100 – 81

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We’re back once again with a retrospective on the year that was. Here are the 100 songs that made my year – not only the building blocks for my musical experiences, but my personal ones too. It’s been a pretty amazing time to be a music fan, as all of these songs will attest to.

Before you go any further, I compiled a supplementary playlist of 50 songs I really enjoyed in 2014 that just missed out on the top 100. You can stream it over at Spotify by either clicking here or streaming directly below:

Once again, I have to preface that you are completely allowed to not enjoy all of the songs on offer here. Or even any of them, for that matter. I do put it to you, however, that nothing here is “wrong” just because you’re not a fan of it personally or if something you do like doesn’t appear. If you feel so strongly, why not make a list of your own? I double dare you.

It begins…

– David James Young, December 2014

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100. Corpus – Awash with Monotone

Feeling everything and nothing all at the same time. It’s truly one of the more difficult feelings to describe; leaving Sydney duo Corpus to enter the colour scheme and add a little synaesthesia to the mix of their cathartic, tense blend of third-wave post-hardcore and millennium-turn alt-rock. It projects a sense of distance and immediate proximity; of immeasurable loss and momentous gain. Not telling you all – and yet, in doing so, telling more than one might have ever suspected. “Awash with Monotone” is stuck in a moment – and, thanks to some masterful songcraft, it comes out alive.

99. Childish Gambino – Sober

Donald Glover is gonna just keep on doing Donald Glover. You get the feeling that he was going to be doing that anyway, regardless of whether anyone was listening or not. After ending out 2013 with because the internet, which folks either destroyed or called album of the year, the artist formerly known as Troy dropped both a mixtape and a new EP within immediate succession of one another. This end-of-summer rnb bliss release proved to be the pick of the litter, particularly when the pitch-shifted outro throws a smart, avant-garde curveball. Now we’re so high.

98. The Felice Brothers – Cherry Licorice

“I don’t care if it sounds ridic’lous!” sneers Ian Felice after announcing that the song’s title is all he’s interested in chewing on. Nor should he – as a matter of fact, “Cherry Licorice” could well be one of the most carefree songs of the year. Landing somewhere in the middle between Bob Dylan and Bright Eyes, there’s a simple joy to be had here: With its warm accordion and jangly guitar, the brothers offered up some particularly pleasant confectionery. Bonus points for rhyming ‘ladies and gents’ with ‘excrement,’ while we’re at it.

97. Die! Die! Die! – Get Hit

Two words. Six letters. An endless cycle of repetition. After awhile, “Get Hit” becomes more than a song title and a chorus – it’s a mantra; a cathartic cry out at those that are holding you back or holding you down. It exists on a vicious cycle, and there’s no getting off. Each snare roll sounds like a haymaker to the jaw, while Andrew Wilson laments over the ultra-violence with radiating guitar noise. The Dunedin natives have rarely sounded this dark, this brooding or this flat-out furious on record before. Furthermore, they’ve rarely sounded this good.

96. Chet Faker – Cigarettes and Loneliness

We all know what a love song sounds like. You’ve heard them on the radio, you’ve sung along to them… hell, you might have even written a couple yourself. This, conversely, is what a “love without love” song sounds like. Faker revels in his thinly-veiled non-chalance during the track’s verses before letting a bit of that heartbreak out as the song progresses – a little bit here and there, until he’s basically on his knees and openly mourning his failed, unrequited love without love. “Cigarettes and Loneliness” is the sound of a man falling apart.

95. Jacob feat. Luke Hughes – Floors

Much like Nicholas Cage, “Floors” is gone in 60 seconds. It does a lot more in that time, however, than Cage ever managed with that lousy remake of his. Odes to a life on the road are nothing new (what’s up, Willie Nelson?), but the vantage point of knowing that there’s always a show to be playing somewhere adds hope and a new perspective into the mix. Luke Hughes, frontman for the late, great Thesis, subsequently bowls the track over entirely with a roared refrain that is delivered with both love and hate. That’s touring for you.

94. Pixies – Snakes

If you asked “How many people thought the new Pixies album was terrible?” you’d get a raised hand from more or less everyone in the room. Were you to follow that up with “How many people actually heard the new Pixies album?,” however, the majority of those hands would be gone from the air. Yes, the proto-grunge legends somehow ended up as underdogs in 2014; but amid the backlash came this left-of-centre gem. Boasting some outstanding guitar work from Joey Santiago and some classic Black Francis weirdness, there was more to the Pixies 2.0 than met the eye.

93. Angus & Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow

In their time away from the shared spotlight, both Angus and Julia released solo albums. While both had their merits, they also proved that there’s something truly special about their work together. The songwriting is stronger, the vocals tessellate brilliantly and the left knows exactly what the right is doing at all times. It’s as if they exist in a hive mind. It would certainly explain how a track like “Heart Beats Slow” comes so naturally to the siblings – with its drawn-out groove and reggae-tinged rhythm, it brought in the gentle breeze of familiarity and sent us sailing once again.

92. Broken Bells – After the Disco

10 years removed from The Grey Album, Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton is still finding new ways to push the proverbial envelope and challenge his listeners in his approach to both songwriting and production. Indeed, “After the Disco” almost sounds like one of his famed mash-ups – a dash of the Shins, a Chic beat, some prog-rock keys and a Queen bass-line. A potential mess, the song instead lets its colours run into something truly beautiful. What was initially thought to be a one-off between Burton and James Mercer back in 2010 has found life again – and what a life.

91. Passenger – Heart’s on Fire

It may be clear to all and sundry that a certain song stands as what pushed humble busker Mike Rosenberg into international superstar Passenger. The cracks certainly began to show, however, with this live favourite – often performed alongside Ed Sheeran and inevitably one of the more tender, beautiful moments of any Passenger set. Its premise is one that’s so simple, it could have come from anywhere – Cut Copy even attempted it several years prior with the apostrophe removed. That is, of course, until Rosenberg begins to sing. It’s clear, then, that it came from the heart. Directly.

90. Angus & Julia Stone – A Heartbreak

The Stones are often classified under the banner of folk rock, but it’s rare that a song of theirs is able to be considered as more of the latter than the former. That’s where “A Heartbreak” emerges, here serving as both the opening number to their self-titled third LP and a potential mission statement. The song is simply resplendent in its aphotic corners, muted guitars and stomping drums. The blunt yet understated lyrical content further indulges the two in their collective darkside – at the very least, they indicate that we’re not on that big jet plane anymore.

89. La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell

Elly Jackson arrived late in the game of the 2000s – figuratively within its final months – but was there just in time to drop in classics of the decade such as “In For the Kill” and “Bulletproof.” There weren’t any new classics to be found on La Roux’s second album, but there didn’t need to be. Honestly, Jackson simply sounded happy to be back making music under the moniker again. Here, she further immerses herself in synth-pop with flourishes of early Depeche Mode, a pinch of ABC and some classic La Roux ambiguity. It feels like home once again.

88. Ed Sheeran – Don’t

The second single from Sheeran’s chart-smashing x (say it “multiply”) raised a lot of questions to a lot of different people. “Is it about Taylor?” openly pondered the screaming teenage girls that make up a fair slice of the pie chart detailing his demographic. “Is it about Ellie?” tweeted the twenty-somethings supposedly above teen fandom and yet unable to help themselves in a little gossip. The most important question came, though, from true pop afficionados: “Exactly what more will it take to prove that this kid isn’t fucking around?” A career-best single from a career that is still yet blooming.

87. Hockey Dad – Beach House

The term “sports-montage rock” is often used as derogatory slang for lifeless, paint-by-numbers music that blends into the background of tackling, goal-scoring and cheering footage. This is only being brought up to preface something that must be said without any intent to insult: “Beach House” needs to be incorporated into a skate video and it needs to be done post-haste. This scorcher is a blend of Vampire Weekend hooks (“Ay! Ay! Ay!”), Wavves guitar tone and bounding, youthful exuberance. Oh, and it would be totes wicked rad if there were some kickflips to go with it.

86. Postblue – Pig

Kids have seemingly always been in bands that ape the musical stylings of a movement they either weren’t alive for or are far too young to remember directly. This, of course, doesn’t mean that those acts should be directly dismissed – it’s not the influences, per se, but what a band does with them. In regards to Melbourne-via-Byron’s Postblue, it means taking the definitive traits of the grunge era – snarling vocals, Big Muff pedal stomps and smart loud-quiet-loud dynamics – and wheezing some fresh air into them. It’s been done, sure, but right now no-one’s doing it better.

85. Latham’s Grip – Anyone Else

Anyone who’s been in a rock band can attest to that unbeatable moment where an instrumental break is being jammed upon, the eyes connect around the room and, without a word being said, it just keeps on going. That’s a huge part of “Anyone Else,” and it makes the song all that much stronger. Where many bands would cut off, Latham’s Grip push until they get through to the other side. It works wonders on what’s already an exceptional cut of garage-dwelling alt-rock. “All I’ve got is who I am,” laments vocalist Jesse Hepplewhite at one point. Sometimes, that’s more than enough.

84. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah feat. Matt Berninger – Coming Down

Where did we lose Alec Ounsworth? The foundations of the little Brooklyn band that could came crumbling sometime after 2007’s Some Loud Thunder, but its leader never gave up hope – even when figuratively the entire band left. The road to redemption begins here, with what is easily the project’s strongest single since “Satan Said Dance.” A buzzing rhythm section matches up with churning post-punk guitar as Ounsworth pours his peculiar brand of paranoia over the top. Later, The National’s Matt Berninger turns up to offer an even gloomier viewpoint; and the class of 2005 lives on somehow.

83. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

Mark Ronson rocking up all non-chalantly with a single in November is basically like that Bill Murray cameo in Space Jam – you didn’t see it coming and it took most of the run-time to actually happen, but it’s what you’re going to remember it for. Along for the ride is your boy Bruno Mars – once a fedora-tipping lovesick puppy, now a swagged-out smooth operator calling the shots. “Uptown Funk” is Prince, it’s Sly and the Family Stone and it’s James Brown, but there’s something more important about it. It’s the trumpets sounding the return of the king.

82. FKA twigs – Two Weeks

This ain’t no Grizzly Bear cover. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around. Over a dizzying, clattered trap beat, twigs approaches her lover in the song’s lyrics with all the subtlety and nuance of a Prince record – the mix makes it feel as though she’s practically singing directly into his ear and we’re eavesdroppers. Who’d have guessed that an ode to stoned, bestial sex would wind up as one of the sexiest-sounding songs of the year? FKA twigs has rightfully emerged atop the throne after some promising leadups to her debut. Your move, motherfuckers.

81. Röyksopp & Robyn – Sayit

Scandinavians having sex with robots? Sure, why not. An adults-only sequel to the pairing’s original collaboration, 2007’s “Girl and the Robot,” things get decidedly hot and heavy this time around – even with a strictly limited amount of words actually being spoken. It’s all in the beat – hammering, propulsive and incessant; mercilessly pounding away on the bass drum to ensure there’s not a single second across the five-minute runtime when you’re not a sweaty, dancing mess. If ever you needed proof that these three are a match made in Heaven, here it is. Let’s get freaky.

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80 – 61

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INTERVIEW: Ladyhawke (NZ/UK), June 2012

I think I became a bigger Ladyhawke fan after I found out we were on the same team. This is the only time I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing another Aspie, and it felt pretty fantastic to be able to discuss the creative process with her knowing that she’d probably had a lot of the same issues as me. It really lifted the mood and brought a lot of honesty to the interview, as well. She still had a lot of issues with her live show when I saw her the following month, but I understood them a lot more this time around. Anyway, Pip’s great. No idea what she’s up to these days. I hope she’s still being creative and embracing her Asperger’s.

– DJY, October 2014

***

It’s hard to pin down Pip Brown – not just because she is constantly on the road, but also in a musical and mental sense as well. The Wellington-via-Sydney-via-London musician best known as Ladyhawke has gone nearly four years between albums, touring incessantly and plotting a follow-up to her eponymous debut. The results have been, at times, drastically different to what has become expected of Brown – and the album Anxiety benefits significantly because of it.

“It’s almost like an inevitable curse that’s placed on every musician,” says Brown, in a London hotel following the conclusion of her U.K. tour. “When success comes with the first record, people will always tell them that they’re going to have trouble with the second one. Even if the album is awesome, some people will find it shit just because it’s a second album. The whole time I was making Anxiety, I was worried about that.” She recalls a particular encounter with a fan that enforced her fears more than she had expected it to. “I had someone come up to me in a shopping mall in New Zealand,” she says, “and they were just gushing – ‘Oh, Ladyhawke! When’s your new album coming out? Is it going to be electro?’ I was wondering why they’d think that; because it isn’t, y’know. That made me think that maybe people wanted me to make an electro record – but I didn’t want to do that. It’s hard to put all that mental stuff aside and just get my own creativity going.”

While Anxiety maintains a “more hooks than a bait shop” approach, its demeanour is suitably darker and occasionally more aggressive than its predecessor. Its inspiration lies in Brown’s desire to wipe the slate clean. There was no point in making Ladyhawke again – that album already exists. “It was just a time in my life when I had toured the first record for two years,” says Pip, “and when I finished, I realised that there was no part of me that wanted to make that album again. I knew that I didn’t want to make ‘Ladyhawke Mark II’ or whatever. I wanted to do something new that would inspire me and interest me in making songs again. I had this idea of trying out some really rocky, grungy sort of tracks. They were still poppy, but the tracks ended up making for a rockier album. Anxiety really just reflects my mindset at the time. I wanted to experiment with sounds that I hadn’t tried on the first album. You’ve got to keep it interesting for yourself.”

Discussion of songwriting continues, with Pip revealing a somewhat stubborn eccentricity in her constant rejection of song ideas – no matter how much potential they show, if she doesn’t have that certain feeling about them from the very start of the songwriting process they will be cut. “You tend to know when you start the song,” she affirms. “It’s all about the gut feeling. If I don’t have that feeling about the song, I have to trash it. It has to be gone. That’s one of the ways that I work.” Of course, this is a mindset that discomforts some of the people she has worked with, particularly her co-producer on Anxiety, Pascal Gabriel. “Some producers I’ve worked with are more practical and want to push through on those kind of songs,” she says, “but I feel like if I don’t have that feeling from the start then there is no point pursuing it. Even if I did push through and take the song to a finishing point, I would still feel like it was mediocre. I’d rather trash it and work on something that gives me a buzz. If I’m getting butterflies in my stomach from a bassline, then I’ll stop working on something mediocre on guitar and go towards that.”

“It’s so important that you’re excited about what you’re doing,” she continues emphatically. “You can’t be complacent. You really have to be excited about your own music. Otherwise, what’s the point?” A few listens through Anxiety will suggest that there is plenty to be excited about – from the sour honky-tonk piano of Sunday Drive to the booming bassline of Girl Like Me, it’s a confident and engaging record that explores the wider spectrum of pop music, as heavy on synthesizer as it is on guitar. Perhaps most notable of all is that every last note that you hear is entirely Brown’s vision. “All the instruments recorded on this album was me” she says. “My live band are still just that, they’re all session musicians who come on the road with me. I prefer it that way – that’s part of my process. It’s about picking up an instrument and playing, working a song out. It doesn’t make any sense in my brain to hand that over to someone else when I could do it myself.”

This peculiar drive and heavy investment into the sound of the record, sacrificing interaction with other musicians in order to get the album exactly right, might seem out of the ordinary for a lot of musicians. What’s worth considering, however, is that Brown’s very specific interests and aforementioned need to get rid of unsatisfying songs can be traced back to her Asperger’s. A form of Autism, Brown first spoke publicly about it in an interview with The Guardian in 2008. Although not something widely discussed in relation to Ladyhawke it’s something that Brown speaks passionately about in regards to how it affects her life – as well as how it can completely disorientate a live performance.

“It’s completely unpredictable,” says Brown, explaining what being an Aspergian can mean for a touring musician. “I can be really calm on stage sometimes, but there are others where I feel like I want to vomit. Those times I’ll look down at the setlist and realise that I’m only three songs into the set. It feels like ten years. There’ll be other times when you think you’re on a roll, having a great time, too. So I really can’t predict what’s going to happen, and it’s really annoying. It hasn’t changed, either. People often assume that with all the touring I do, it would just get better over time. It’s still exactly the same.”

It’s these assumptions that continue to frustrate Brown, 33 next month, who was only diagnosed with the syndrome in 2006. “Other people say to me that it just comes with what you do,” she says as our discussion on Asperger’s continues. “’Just deal with it,’ that kind of thing. I think that’s really not fair. As a young person loving music, you simply just sit in your room and you play. All you want to do is play music and play with your friends. You actually don’t even realise what that’s going to be like. You don’t sign up to become a musician for a lot of the things that go with it. You do it because you love music; because you love playing music. All of a sudden, you have to think about doing interviews, which can be quite hard; you have to meet loads of people that you really have no idea what to say to. We’re not actors, we’re musicians. People often lump the two into the same basket. Some of us are still really scared of the limelight, and just want to play music.”

She speaks intently and with an overwhelming vindication on the subject. Outside of discussing the creation of her music, it’s a topic that brings out the most fascinating responses in Pip. “It’s kind of hard to justify myself sometimes, just because I feel like I have to with some people,” she concludes. “I love playing music. I just can’t see myself doing anything else.”

INTERVIEW: Panic! At the Disco (USA), September 2011

You know what? I interviewed a teen crush from one of my favourite bands ever. If had a freak accident the day after submitting this article that meant I could never do a feature article again for whatever reason, I would be 100% okay with that. And yeah, I mean what I said – maybe it was purely contextual, but I will always love P!ATD unconditionally. This was a thrill for me – I remember I had to use my sister’s office at uni in order to do the interview; and then dash out to the ABC Illawarra studios to record an interview with Tom Tilley from Hack on triple j. Yeah, he was interviewing me! Felt pretty damn important that day, I’ll tell you what. In-demand DJY! HA.

– DJY, October 2014

***

A lot has changed for Las Vegas pop chameleons Panic! At The Disco since the last time they visited Australia – so much so, that vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Brendon Urie can scarcely remember how long it has been since they visited. “Oh man,” he says as he begins to rack his brain, “It’s got to have been at least four years – or close to four years or something like that. Too long, anyways!” In that time, the band has gone under a complete transformation – they’ve reinstated the exclamation mark (infuriating Last.FM scrobblers worldwide); lost two of their members in founding guitarist Ryan Ross & bassist Jon Walker and bounced back into the spotlight this year with their third studio album, Vices and Virtues. It’s quite a bit to take in – although Urie, speaking to FasterLouder from Los Angeles, seems to have handled the whole ordeal like a true professional.

“After the split,” he muses, “for the last to years we’ve been touring with Dallon [Weekes, bass] and Ian [Crawford, guitar]. We wanted to make sure that we had people that we genuinely got along with, and not just people that we’d hire for our live shows. We wanted to make it feel more like a band – and, more and more every day, it kind of does. They’re just such talented dudes, and we get along so well. It’s kind of all worked out – we’re really fortunate, that’s for sure.”

Although Weekes and Crawford have settled into the live fold of P!ATD, it’s worth mentioning that Vices and Virtues was recorded entirely by just Urie and drummer Spencer Smith, Urie’s childhood best friend and another founding member of the group back in 2004. Urie maintains that creating the album just as a two-piece was simply something that the pair had to do – a “reclamation” of the band after the schism created with Ross and Walker’s departure (both of whom went on to form the jangle-pop band The Young Veins). It was certainly a challenge for the band, particularly for Urie, when it came to writing the album’s lyrics; something he had never attempted prior to the departure of main writer Ross.

“It was something that I knew I had to pick up responsibility for,” says Brendon. “I spent basically all of my spare time writing lyrics, and figuring out different ways to convey a message. Musically, though, Spencer and I have been writing together for seven years. The only difference this time around was the necessity of having more ideas for songs. You couldn’t just come in with a thirty-second idea – you had to come in with a two-minute idea. There wasn’t four people to work through these ideas with anymore, it was just the two of us. We had to just show a little more initiative and find out exactly what it was that we wanted out of this record.”

In accordance with their previous releases, P!ATD took yet another dynamic shift in sound from the album prior. Vices and Virtues makes a return to some of the more electronic leanings of their 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, yet have not completely abandoned the more restrained mature pop that was found on 2008’s Pretty. Odd. In a way, Vices can be seen as bridging the proverbial gap between the two records – and it’s very much intentional on behalf of the group itself. Urie points out that there are songs – or, at least, ideas for songs – that stem from songwriting sessions for both Fever and Pretty. When queried as to the idea or song that has been around for the longest, he interestingly points towards the album’s opening track and lead single, The Ballad of Mona Lisa.

“One of us had written down this 45-second idea, maybe eight months after the first record came out,” recalls Urie. “A lot of what came from those sessions is really different to the way that we write now – but, in a way, that’s what made the record what it was. The mix of the old and newer stuff on there really reflected where we were at the time, and where we wanted to go with it.”

Urie, Smith, Crawford and Weekes will all be in Australia this week to headline the Counter-Revolution festivals across the nation – and Urie in particular is hugely enthusiastic about bringing the new P!ATD to Australia for the first time. “We were so bummed when the festival got cancelled,” he says, alluding to the original Soundwave Revolution. “But now we’ve been given this second chance, we’re all so excited to be coming back to Australia and playing for all of you guys.” He also gives a message to fans to expect a bit of classic rock to be thrown into the set. “Lately, on tour we’ve been covering Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas,” he notes. “It’s such a fun song to play, and it’s a great one for everyone to sing along to.” Lay your weary heads to rest, Panic! fans, and don’t you cry no more – they’re back, and hopefully better than ever for all attending the Counter-Revolution.

INTERVIEW: Seeker Lover Keeper (AUS), July 2011

In 2011, I saw Seeker Lover Keeper five times. I also met all three of them and welled up like an infant. It was three of my heroes from the class of 2004 (go check out all of their releases from that year and thank me later) making remarkably beautiful music together. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I get really happy when I think about that time in my life – I was super-close to finishing uni, I felt like I was getting somewhere with my writing and I had this goddamn album! So yeah, I spoke to Sarah Blasko and despite seeing all three of these women in public several times since I have never had the guts to go speak to any of them again. I’d probably bore them to death, anyway.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Anyone can dream up a supergroup, but it’s very rare that these fantasies actually come to fruition. It’s also very rare to see it happen of late outside the field of big, burly rock – anyone for Chickenfoot or Hellyeah? It’s interesting that it’s taken something as left-field and unexpected as Seeker Lover Keeper to break this mould. The collaboration between Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann was first brought to wider attention upon their announcement as a part of the 2011 Splendour in the Grass festival, but the idea of uniting three of Australia’s finest voices has been in the works for quite some time.

“I think I saw Holly play live first – we had a common manager at the time,” says Blasko when asked to recall the origins of her friendship between her counterparts. “Sally, I remember hearing on the radio for the first time and really loving her music – that would have been around the time of her first album. After seeing each other around all the time, I guess it was natural that our friendship developed. We’ve all got a lot in common, and have the same kind of sense of humour. I guess it was only a matter of time.”

It was after a show that Seltmann showed the other two a song she had been working on entitled Rest Your Head On My Shoulder, which would go on to become the final track on the SLK album. “That was really the turning point,” recalls Blasko, “where we all genuinely wanted it to happen. Sally came up with the name, and we scheduled to record not long after all of that.” Considering that Blasko’s last album, As Day Follows Night, was recorded across a month in Stockholm, it certainly came as a notable change to record Seeker Lover Keeper in New York across a fortnight.

“We all wanted to have a really different experience from the last time we all recorded albums,” says Blasko. “We kind of set ourselves a few parameters for this record. We wanted it to be recorded in a really large way. The harmonies, the base of the sound, we just wanted it all to be really natural, really organic. We decided very early on that we wanted it all to be very simple. Kind of like a folk album – I mean, it’s obviously got other elements in there as well, but our sole intention was just to create a simple, beautiful album.”

Mission accomplished. Seeker Lover Keeper is an album of cohesive musicianship, strikingly honest lyrics and kind of freeze-in-tracks, jaw-on-floor close harmony that would normally only come through shared bloodlines. Blasko is particularly enthusiastic about just how liberating it felt to be singing alongside these women, describing it as a “really wonderful” experience. “I think probably the last time I ever really sang like this, in this way, is with my sister when I was really young,” she adds. “In a way, all three of us kind of become children again when we start singing together. It’s a really special, pure thing to do. All of us have had harmonies on our records before – Sally, especially – but I guess we’ve never really had the means to properly replicate our harmonies live. It’s been so fun rehearsing these songs, and finally being able to do it like this.”

Another interesting aspect of Seeker Lover Keeper was its songwriting process. Rather than simply penning songs for themselves to sing, each of the three women wrote songs for the others to sing. Blasko, who sings the most lead vocals out of the three, says that although it was certainly a challenge, the end result was more than rewarding. “I’ve often enjoyed doing covers and things like that,” she comments. “When you sing someone else’s words, you have to put yourself into their mind a bit. You have to draw on your own experience, but you’re struck by these words that you wouldn’t say yourself. It really makes you pay attention to the way it’s been constructed. To me, it was a real pleasure to sing those songs.”

With the role reversed, Blasko emphasises just how amazed she was with what Throsby and Seltmann did with her songs. “It’s really quite amazing to see your songs take on a different meaning when they’re in someone else’s hands,” Sarah notes. “People just have different inflections, different ways of saying the one thing. Hearing Sally do On My Own, I thought she just sounded so sweet and so pure. It was really lovely to hear it done so differently.”

The songs will be brought to life on the band’s first ever tour, extensively taking in most of the east coast of Australia. With Dirty Three drummer Jim White at the helm, Blasko is really excited to be performing songs from the album, as well as each other’s songs. “We’ll definitely throw in a few of our own,” she promises. “It’s going to be really special.”

INTERVIEW: Liam Finn (NZ), June 2011

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I got into Sean Lennon way before John. Similarly, I was proper obsessed with Liam before by true appreciation for all things Neil kicked in. Not a diss at either John or Neil, but I feel their sons were too oft-maligned over the years. They’re incredibly worthwhile artists in their own right; and I still count I’ll Be Lightning as one of the best albums of the 2000s. I remember this being an interesting interview to do, as I literally had to do it on the train while it was pissing down raining. The fact that I was able to catch anything that Liam was saying is nothing short of a miracle. I put it down to my phenomenal note-taking that this article exists.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Like father, like son. Everywhere that Liam Finn goes, he always seems to take the weather with him. “It’s not seriously raining over there, is it?” he asks of Australian skies with more than a hint of disappointment. “It’s been miserable over here in London, and I was hoping for a bit of sun when I got in.” It’s an obvious gag to start us off, sure, but let the comparisons between Neil and Liam Finn end there. From his cleanshaven, youthful days in Betchadupa to his scraggly bearded solo glory that saw him touring with Pearl Jam and playing on David Letterman, Liam has come a significantly long way as an artist in his own right. After a wildly successful debut album in 2006’s I’ll Be Lightning and a follow-up EP in 2009, Champagne in Seashells (a collaboration with fellow rock offspring Eliza-Jane Barnes), Finn has spent the past twelve months or so focusing on his new album, FOMO.

“I just shackled down in a little beach house where I grew up, in Piha,” recalls Finn, “and just tried to make sense of what’s been happening in the past few years. It was a massive change of pace, after spending so long on the road. I almost completely forgot what living at home was actually like.” Interestingly, it was in this time away from extensive touring that Finn began developing the idea of FOMO – an acronym for “fear of missing out.” It’s a universal and transcendent feeling, a state of mind that can be hard to shake when friends and relatives are overseas. It’s one that particularly resonates for Finn – not only are both his parents touring the world as one half of Pajama Club, many of his closest friends are also travelling musicians that are constantly their fair share of travelling.

“When it all becomes electronic, just talking and sharing things over Facebook and Twitter and that, you kind of feel like everyone is out achieving something great with their lives, out exploring the world,” says Finn. “It’s funny, because that’s probably how some of my friends felt when I spent so much time away on tour, but as soon as I’m locked away and recording this album it starts happening to me. I guess it worked in inspiring me to continue writing, and it also made me appreciate my surroundings. I tried not to focus too much on the negative aspects, as I think we should never truly wish to be anywhere else apart from where we are.”

Finn points to two tracks on FOMO which perhaps best summarise his feelings – Neurotic World and Roll of the Eye. Of the former, he recalls it lyrically attempting to deal with “coming back down to earth,” as Finn puts it, after spending so long abroad and finally returning home. The latter is a bit more of an international affair, as Finn penned the track about his homeland while he was in New York. It documents a love/hate relationship with New Zealand, where Finn sings of how “your dreams die slow in the arms of your comfort zone,” but also how his infatuation with the country leads him to think that “in my head/I’ll be buried there.” “That’s one that came really quickly,” says Liam of the songwriting process. “I guess it was just everything that I felt about New Zealand, which made it easy to write. I think it was also having that outside perspective on it, being away from it when I was writing it. Finishing the song in the studio in Auckland felt really natural and organic, in a way.”

As with I’ll Be Lightning, Finn plays everything on the album himself aside from a few minor parts. He is quick to emphasise, however, that this was not originally his intention. “I’d been jamming with a bunch of guys that I was hoping to have on the album,” says Finn. “It just ended up being one of those things where I knew that the only way I was going to get out the exact sound that I had worked out for the songs in my head, then I would have to do the arrangements and instruments myself. Tell you what, though, it was more than a little uncomfortable to have to try and tell the other guys that!”

Thankfully, the end result of FOMO was certainly worth any awkward shooing that Liam may have had to do. It’s a layered, mysterious and engaging pop album that presents a variety of sides and styles that Finn is capable of. There’s jangly chiming guitar pop like single Cold Feet and Don’t Even Know Your Name, the swampy, breathless oddity of The Struggle, all the way up to the throwback psychedelia that encapsulates closer Jump Your Bones. Even with such a myriad of styles on display, Finn himself notes that there has been a mixed reaction to the direction taken on this album.

“It’s interesting, actually, that some people have said that this album is more downbeat than I’ll Be Lightning,” says Finn. “When I was writing this album, I couldn’t help but feel like this was much more of an upbeat album. It’s not always a positive one, sure, but there’s a great energy in these recordings that I feel hasn’t really made an appearance in my material before. I guess the only tracks I’d done before that really had that kind of energy were tracks like Second Chance or Lead Balloon – but in the grand scheme of things, those tracks were kind of anomalies.”

Finn will tour Australia this August for the first time since November of 2009, where he and Barnes opened for Pearl Jam’s stadium tour. Barnes will join the tour as a part of Liam’s new backing band, tentatively titled “the Come Agains.” “EJ was such a big part of making this new sound and helping develop my sound in-between I’ll Be Lightning and now, so I’m really excited that she is going to be involved again,” enthuses Finn. “I’m really looking forward to these shows, definitely.”

INTERVIEW: Rolo Tomassi (UK), December 2010

I discovered this band by pure chance at a Soundwave some years ago and I’ve dug them ever since. A consistently weird and generally wonderful band that exist on the outside of every genre they blend into their music – and that’s just fine by them. I’ve met the Spence siblings from the band several times, including at their Australian tour last year. They’re incredibly polite and charming folk. That’s all I have to say on the matter, really. 

– DJY, October 2014

***

There was plenty to see and do at this year’s Soundwave festival, but for those who managed to sneak in early, one new band was the talk of the early hours of the festivities. That band was arty British post-hardcore kids Rolo Tomassi, with a deceptively attractive frontwoman in Eva Spence who went on to screech and howl like some kind of rabid dog; as well as having at least half of the members leaping off the stage to crowdsurf at one point or another. Love them or hate them, they certainly generated a reputation, turning many perfect strangers into huge fans.

“For us, it’s the most important thing in the world to do good live shows,” says Eva’s brother James Spence, the band’s keyboardist and co-lead vocalist. “We started the band to play shows more than anything, and we strive to be as good as we can be – tight, as energetic and as aggressive and imposing as we can be without wanting to alienate anyone. We just want to be fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

Working up from D.I.Y. shows and home-made cassette demos, the band evolved from a project between the Spence siblings to expand into the quintet that it is today. The band have two albums under their belt – the latest of which, Cosmology, was released in May of this year, produced by former M.I.A. and Santigold collaborator Diplo. In spite of Cosmology arguably being the band’s most technical and intrinsic work to date, the band were fully confident in their abilities to translate this to the live environment.

“It’s easier for it to be difficult to play than to worry it won’t sound good live,” Spence says. “Essentially, if something’s difficult, we can always practice it for ourselves. I think that’s the main difference between the first and the second record – there were some songs on the first record that we had to modify to play live, and none of us were really happy with that. We wanted to take what we’d done on the record and play that live and make a bigger energy, rather than change the songs. I think the difficult songs on the new album, we’ve mastered and can be realised in their full potential when we play them now.”

Ahead of its release, fans in Australia were amongst the first to hear cuts from Cosmology road tested properly. Despite only being here for just over a week, Spence still has incredibly fond memories of what was the band’s first ever Australian tour – even going so far as to describe it as a “headfuck.” His voice picks up and the tone of excitement is too outstanding to ignore.

“Flying that far from home across the world to play gigs with our band is just a very, very strange feeling,” he says. “I don’t think any of us ever expected or assumed that we would ever get the opportunity to do something like that, so a lot of the time we were just walking around wide-eyed – we weren’t really sure how to behave or what to do. After getting over the jetlag, we really made the most of the trip, and really explored the place. We could have really been taken aback, but we decided to make the most of it while we were there.”

The tour also saw the band paired up in some Sidewave action with what FasterLouder deemed one of the strangest support acts of all time – Rolo were the opening act for Jane’s Addiction’s headlining shows. “You’re kidding!” says Spence with a laugh when informed of the band making the list. “That’s amazing. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t identify a Jane’s Addiction song if you played it to me. But the name is just one that sticks out – I mean, I knew what Dave Navarro looked like, and I knew who Perry Farrell was – but I wasn’t really familiar with their music; though I knew it was an odd pairing. I consider them the last of the real rock-stars, and we’re a very humble band with really strong D.I.Y. roots – so to see the complete opposite end of the spectrum was something else. They were great shows, though – the crowds were really responsive and cool.”

After working through a tonne of festival dates, as well as coming off tour with a much more fitting support slot – opening for the band’s heroes, The Dillinger Escape Plan – the time is nigh for Rolo Tomassi to make their return to Australian shores as a part of a quadruple bill with other acts from this year’s Soundwave – This Is Hell, Comeback Kid and headliners Architects. The enthusiasm kicks up a notch once more as Spence gears up for his band’s imminent return to our “fair country,” as he puts it.

“Us, Architects and Comeback Kid were all on the same stage,” he recalls. “The drummer from This Is Hell is from England, too, so we got to meet those guys. I’m a fan of that band, so I ended up watching them anyway. It’s gonna be great to catch up with everyone – we all hung out a fair bit on that tour, and we all played some of the same festival dates in Europe, as well. It’s gonna be really nice – there’s gonna be that sense of friendship amongst all the bands, so it won’t be awkward the first few days.”

INTERVIEW: Silversun Pickups (USA), September 2010

When I go back and look at things like this, I find myself increasingly grateful for what I was able to achieve a few years back for a no-name freelancer more or less working for peanuts and some extracurricular uni work. It comes to a head here, where I get to interview the lead singer of one of my all-time favourite bands. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this band means to me, and especially what they meant to me at this point. I think that around this point, I’m starting to find my voice as a features writer, as well. It’s not entirely there yet, but I can really see it in this article. I’ll never not love this band, essentially. This is a good one to revisit.

– DJY, October 2014

***

Call it cabin fever, or ‘brain damage’ from touring as he puts it, but something tells us that Brian Aubert is not quite all there as he calls from his Los Angeles home, barely a week off coming off tour.

“I’m looking at my dog right now – what does it want?” questions the Silversun Pickups frontman. “Food? You wanna eat? Whatcha wanna do? She’s not talking to me – we need some kind of translation device, like the movie Up … although my dog would be all like ‘throw the ball, throw the ball..park! Park! Park! Park! She wouldn’t really be the kind to sit me down and go ‘so, Brian, what do you think of the new Band of Horses record?’”

Okay, so maybe Brian’s losing it just a little, but when you consider the band have been constantly touring for the past year or so on the back of their successful sophomore Swoon, it begins to make a little more sense. The band isn’t particularly sick of the album, either.

“We’re still in somewhat of a love affair with it,” says Aubert when asked to look upon the record in retrospect. “When we hear things like that it’s been out for over a year, it kinda blows our minds. When we’re playing it live, we kinda bounce off a few things, and then you end up bouncing off the things you bounced off a little while ago – it’s important for us to go back to the record and kinda see just how far we strayed.” Aubert also sees Swoon as a very personal album, making the experience all the richer.

“When I listen to Swoon, or even when I’m playing the songs live, I think back to where I was when I was writing it and what was going on. There was a lot going on. The thing is, I don’t feel that way anymore – I understand it, but I can’t quite get to that level of despair. It makes me happy to think that, because it was such a cathartic experience. Because of Swoon, I was able to get through a lot. I’m so happy that I just had something that I could just put things in, and that’s where they lay now.”

Interesting that Aubert – along with bassist Nikki Monniger, Chris Guanlao on drums and keyboardist Joe Lester – now revisits these experiences with countless sold-out audiences across the United States and Europe. Although the touring is considerably more extensive than ever before in the band’s career, Aubert maintains that much less has changed than what one may think. “I feel like this tour essentially picked up where [debut album, 2006’s] Carnavas left off,” he comments.

“That was a big shock for us – we were so excited that Lazy Eye was on the radio, but we just thought it would be ‘that one time’ in our career where we were on the radio. We figured we’d just keep making music, and whoever stuck around, stuck around,” continues Brian. But then we were amazed at how well this record has been doing, and everything just kicked off. The actual touring process, I’ll admit, it’s harder than ever. Although, I think our psyches are more readily prepared for it – personally, anyway; though I’m sure the rest of the band would agree.”

One would hope the group are prepared for their upcoming tour of Australia, opening for the chart-topping aviary Birds of Tokyo on their national tour, as well as stopping at the NSW central coast for the Coaster Festival. Any doubts that the band are ready are swept away the second Aubert is asked if the band are looking forward to the tour: “Oh, GOD, yeah,” he chirps.

“Birds of Tokyo asked us to play, and it’s so nice that they did. The reason we’re there is because they’re bringing us. But yeah, the last club shows that we did you would have had to drag us out of there kicking and screaming. The Annandale in Sydney, the Ding Dong in Melbourne… those were definitely some of our favourite shows of the last world tour. Who knows what’s gonna happen this time around?”

INTERVIEW: OKGO (USA), February 2010

Yeah, yeah, treadmill, yeah, yeah, yeah. OKGO are awesome – they’re a weird and innovative band that are always pushing visual boundaries and occasionally pushing their musical ones as well. This chat was Tim, their bassist, was surprisingly fantastic – he was just in a great mood; and the interview flowed really well. Hopefully, they’ll have a new record out soon.

– DJY, April 2014

***

“Greetings from Copenhagen!” reports an enthusiastic and talkative Tim Norwind, bassist and backing vocalist of Chicago band OK GO. Yes, kids, “the treadmill band” are back. Only this time the band aren’t playing anything that sounds like Here It Goes Again. In the five years since the release of their last record, the breakthrough Oh No, a lot has changed in terms of how the band creates their music.

“We spent two and a half years touring on the back of the last album, playing songs off our first two albums,” Tim explains. “All those songs are really sort of guitar-centric. We all learned music through guitar, in a way – we just learned a bunch of punk rock songs and then wrote songs using those chords.”

Seems simple enough, and it certainly garnered the band a few major hits along the way. However, the formulaic ways of writing had become stale and dissatisfying.

“In those five years, we just sort of expended all of our rock & roll and our punk rock influences,” says Norwind. “Hitting a big chord on a big guitar plugged into a big amplifier just wasn’t exciting to us anymore. We needed to search for something different.”

This search lead them to Dave Friddmann of Mercury Rev, best known for his production work with MGMT and The Flaming Lips, and resulted in the band’s third album – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, its title a reference to artist  General A.J. Pleasonton. Norwind cannot speak Friddmann’s praises enough, emphasising how different his view of producing and creating music is as opposed to other producers.

“He’s known for his really three-dimensional, psychedelic sonic universes that he creates,” Tim muses. “He kind of let us into his world, and we were allowed to play around his studio – there’s lots of synths and noise machines and Kaossilator pads, things like that.”

So did Norwind have a favourite experiment when recording Blue Sky’s tripped-out, groove-based rock? “I can’t really point to a singular thing that is the sound of the record,” he comments, “but I can point to this kind of universe that you can only really make when you’re working with Dave.”

The band spent approximately six months in the studio with Friddmann, working profusely on every last detail of Blue Colour’s widescreen, technicolour sound that takes in not only influence from Friddmann himself, but early funk, Queen-like harmonies and the logical progressions from the power-pop that was so influential on the first two records. With such intricate work done on creating these multi-faceted tunes, one could easily assume that they would be incredibly difficult to perform away from the studio in a live environment. Not true, says Norwind.

“It’s really surprising to me how well everything mixes together,” he comments on the transferral of Blue Colour’s songs from disc to stage. “It’s interesting to me that as long as we’ve been playing these songs that there was never a shift of energy between the old songs and the new songs. I don’t know if it’s because the new stuff is groovier, but I’ve been really pleasantly surprised to see the songs get a really good reaction live.”

One similarity remains between Oh No and Blue Colour – we have been introduced to the record by a unique and thoroughly enjoyable music video. For Oh No, it was the infamous video for A Million Ways, where the band performed a thoroughly choreographed dance routine to the song in a backyard (“I think the cost of that video was pretty much the tape we used to record it,” Tim laughs).

This time around, the distorted groove of WTF? is the soundtrack to a bizarre, brightly coloured one-take video that prominently features stop-motion photography. It looks incredibly outlandish for an OK Go video, but Norwind insists that the video was actually “insanely cheap.”

“Every prop in it is from the dollar store, and everything you see with stripes we made with gaff tape,” he explains. “All we really needed was a room with a green screen and a couple of computers. It probably looks more expensive than it is, but in actuality we’re just using a computer plug-in and just a few really colourful things.”

With the band’s popularity a few years back circulating almost entirely around their music videos (the Here It Goes Again treadmill video remains one of the most-watched videos in YouTube history), it’s safe to say that OK Go stress importance on them, perceiving it to be a very successful medium to the music itself. Norwind is quick to agree.

“With our band, we go about making videos the same way we go about making music,” he affirms. “It’s just as much part of the definition of being in a band for us. We see them as an art, and we enjoy directing ourselves and coming up with the concepts. It’s part of what we do – it’s fun, and why wouldn’t you want to make a film? That’s more or less how we’ve always looked at it.”

Even though the live show has no treadmills, dance routines or brightly-coloured objects (save for the band’s famously clashing attire), Norwind is still very enthusiastic about the live show. “People’s heads get blown off, and that’s fun to see,” he mentions somewhat ambiguously with a laugh. He’s also quick to point out just how much the band are looking forward to returning to Australia for a series of intimate shows, as well as the Playground Weekender festival.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in Australia, and we’re just happy to be coming back with a new record,” says Tim. “We don’t get down to Australia very often, so it’s always a real treat.” Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to the band’s excellent new album – easily the best out of their three releases – as well as their live show. No WTF? moments, we swear.

INTERVIEW: The Phenomenal Handclap Band (USA), December 2009

Holy hell – I actually interviewed a one-hit wonder band! This is the equivalent of interviewing the Born to Be Alive guy; or the Disco Duck. For those that don’t remember, The Phenomenal Handclap Band were everywhere (read: everywhere) at the end of the 2000s with their roller-disco earworm 15 to 20. I won’t recite any of the lyrics here, dare I awaken the hellbeast that is the song’s catchiness.

All things considered, this was a pretty cool interview. The guy was polite and insightful enough, and I can start to see myself finding my own voice in my features. Let’s dance.

– DJY, April 2014

***

The name Phenomenal Handclap Band might not mean much to you, the name Daniel Collas even less. Break into a disco beat with continuous counting in fives, however, and you’re bound to get some kind of reaction. After all, it’s the Phenomenal Handclap Band themselves – of which Collas is a founding member – that are behind one of the year’s biggest radio hits in 15 to 20.

If you were unfamiliar with the rest of the band’s work, you might suspect that the rest of the band’s sound revolves around a similar formula – hooky, slightly derivative and cheaply catchy. You may be surprised to know, then, just how incorrect this presumption is.

“It’s an anomaly,” Collas states from his New York residency – which he claims is currently “colder than anywhere in Europe” – when quizzed on 15 to 20’s success. “So much so,” he continues, “that I kind of didn’t want to include it on the album. There was back and forth talk about its inclusion, given it was so different to all the other songs.”

Despite Collas’ weariness, he’s still satisfied with the acclaim the song itself has received. His goal is to convert passing interest via the song into something more genuine. “I think it would be really neat for someone to hear that song,” he says (never once referring to the track by its title), “and check out the rest of the record, or come to a show, and see how different it all is to that one song.”

This is a trait that Daniel himself has adhered to in the past, noting that he has a self-described “weird history” of following bands with one distinctive hit that none of their other work has topped – at least, in commercial terms.

“You can tell from that song that there’s a good chance their other songs are going to be pretty cool, too,” he notes, using the example of Swedish band The Cardigans. “Back when they had that song Lovefool, I was already familiar with them, but that song was a really big hit. You can tell by the way that song is recorded and produced and written that their other stuff must have an inkling of something ‘cool’ in there.”

So with 15 to 20 labelled an anomaly, where then does that leave the rest of the work of the Handclap Band? The unique, retro boogie found in their tracks on their self-titled debut record can be traced back to a period of Collas’ very interesting listening experiences when moving back into creating music, after having spent time working as a DJ.

“The stuff I’d been listening to at the time that was really inspiring to me was kind of proto-techno stuff… early eighties dance music that was making heavy use of synthesisers and set sequences,” Collas explains. “I don’t know what it was about it, but it really flicked my switch for me. At the same time, I was also getting into groups like Dungen, and a lot of older bands that they were obviously influenced by – that kind of pastoral, psychedelic rock element.

“I found that those were the only two styles that I wanted to listen to. I had a background in soul music that I predominantly listened to, but at this point all I was really into was either this robotic dance music or this kind of psychedelic rock.”

It’s once Daniel himself explains this bipolar listening habit that the influences behind PHCB’s music begin to make a little more sense and connectivity. “The fact I was into these two styles at either end of the spectrum was really inspiring to me. It even started influencing my DJ sets – I was playing these long, blended sets of Contra or Jo Jo Moroder and people like that, and then I’d put on some Rare Earth or Wool; that kind of thing.”

The seven-piece live band that Collas has been working with have had a huge year of touring, including several European dates and shows with names like Friendly Fires and Franz Ferdinand. Despite the fact that a multitude of New York musicians are credited as having worked on the record – including former Blues Explosion man Jon Spencer and TV on the Radio drummer Jaleel Bunton – Collas maintains that getting the band together for the live aspect of the project wasn’t nearly as difficult as it could have been.

“It didn’t end up being that difficult, as a lot of the key players involved with the record were available to being involved with the live project,” Daniel explains. “We were kind of going the auditioning route to find the singers, because obviously everyone on the record has their own careers to think of. But instead of that, we just had enough people that were willing to do it, and it kind of took shape that way.”

The Phenomenal Handclap Band will see in 2010 with a visit to Australia. Not only is Collas looking forward to experiencing his first visit to our shores – “the natural phenomenon and the wildlife we’re all really looking forward to checking out” – he’s also anticipating the tour dates with fellow New Yorkers, Chairlift. Despite being in similar scenes, the two bands are complete strangers.

“We have some friends in common, but we have never even met them before,” Daniel confesses with a laugh. “It’s funny, because we’ve never played in Australia and we’ve never played with Chairlift, even though they live like a mile away – so we’re not going to meet until we get all the way down to Australia!”

Sure, it’s an odd way of going about things, but with their powers combined, we’ll be sure to be experiencing some very enjoyable shows in the coming weeks.

INTERVIEW: Jonathan Boulet (AUS), December 2009

Ahh, Jono. This is the first time we ever crossed paths – we met properly sometime later in 2010, I believe. I met the Parades guys not long after, and up until his relocation to Berlin I would see Jono around the traps quite a bit. He’s a wonderfully talented man, and someone that I am constantly inspired by. Anyway, I won’t go on too long about this one – I think my excitement is pretty reflective in the writing; as well as Jono’s non-chalance. We’d get a lot more comfortable as the years passed. He’ll have a new record out this year. That’s exciting. This is way back when the first one came out – what a time to be alive!

– DJY, April 2014

***

The contrasts that exist between music and its musician remain as glaring as ever. Take twenty-one year old Sydneysider Jonathan Boulet. Speaking over the phone on an early Friday afternoon, he is shy and somewhat reluctant in his answers – a tough egg to crack, if you will.

Listening to his debut self-titled album, however, we are treated to a display of bright, exuberant and boisterous confidence that slips through every aspect of the music itself. It’s the musical equivalent of a student doing their homework on the bus, handing it in just as the bell rings, and getting full marks. Boulet may be exceptionally late, but he just might have put together the best Australian debut album of 2009.

“I’ve been making music by myself for a long time,” he explains. “Whether it’s been more electronic or more heavy, it started by just playing around on a keyboard. After getting more recording equipment and developing a few more recording skills, it started directing towards what I’m doing now.”

Indeed, Jonathan has had his finger in a variety of different-tasting but equally delicious musical pies. Even for someone so young, he has managed to work his way through a variety of genres and subsequent gig circuits.

“With the [Sydney band] Parades guys,” he makes note, “we started out in a kind of post-punkish band.” The sound? “It was heavy music, but we didn’t really want to sound like everyone else. We’d turn up to gigs in board shorts when everyone else was in tight pants and fringes. We didn’t think we fit in, but somehow we did – it was really weird.”

After working his way through a variety of bands, Jonathan’s creativity has shifted to focus on music under his own name. The album, consisting of songs written over the years up to now, was recorded in Boulet’s garage – he wrote, played and recorded the entire thing on his own.

“I guess the record was free to make,” he comments sheepishly, “but all-up the gear I was using cost about $1500.

“I think independence does help – the whole studio thing is a part of the industry you could just bypass and get a better result,” he responds when questioned about how important his D.I.Y. ethics have been in getting his music out there. “Of course, if you were on a major label backing, you wouldn’t care – you’d have the massive studio and the dollars to afford it. But I think it’s better, doing it yourself – you have more control and you’re more satisfied with the end result.”

It might have taken a while to get the whole thing together, but Boulet’s 2009 certainly hasn’t been garage-bound for its entirety. You might have seen him playing with W.A. wunderkinds Tame Impala or Queensland joy-bringers The Middle East earlier this year, in addition to a handful of his own shows.

He enthuses that Tame Impala are “”just the nicest dudes ever”. “We’d all be happy to play the shows and encourage each other,” he said, before laughing and adding: “We tried to get one of the guys to stage-dive, but they sadly never took the bait.”

He also shares a surreal experience backstage at Sydney University’s Manning Bar, opening for The Middle East. “Before they went on, they went downstairs to do their vocal warm-up. They started singing [Backstreet Boys hit] Backstreet’s Back – and they were doing it in perfect five-part harmony! It was sort of beautiful because it was ringing all the way up the stairs and back down again – it was just amazing.”

If it wasn’t in the live arena, perhaps YouTube may have guided you to the breathtaking video made for Jonathan’s brilliant lead single, A Community Service Announcement. The colourful video was filmed over in New Zealand, an experience Jonathan describes as “amazing – I couldn’t believe how different it was, two hundred metres from where we were standing!”

If this experience wasn’t great enough, imagine finding out that Kanye West was not only happy for you and would let you finish, but also thought you had one of the best videos of all time? West linked the video on his blog, Kanye Universe City, with the all-caps headline “WATCH THIS VIDEO, IT’S FUCKING AMAZING”.

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Jonathan coolly comments in what could be the understatement of the year. “There’s not much more you can say about that. It’s funny, though, how some people don’t care until someone says they should. But, yeah…It’s cool, I’m happy – and the Special Problems guys [who created and directed the video] are getting some exposure out of it.”

Is Jonathan Boulet nervous? Overwhelmed, perhaps? Or just shy? Whatever personality traits he shows, don’t worry about it for a second – once the music of this baby-faced pop whiz graces your ears, not a great deal else is going to matter.