INTERVIEW: Stonefield (AUS), February 2011

I was a very big and very vocal early supporter of Stonefield. I dug what they were about, I loved their energy and I found them to be really exciting. Derivative? Sure, but sometimes that’s what you want – a bit of familiarity and some energy in it. We’ve since fallen out of love – I found both their debut album and headlining show at the Annandale last year to be quite disappointing. Maybe it was only fun when we were younger? Whatever the case, Amy was a quietly reserved and very sweet young lady to interview – probably the youngest person I’ve interviewed apart from maybe Adrian from Northlane? I think so. So yeah, this is from a much brighter time for the Findlay kids – for my money, anyway.

– DJY, October 2014

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Amy Findlay is hanging out at her cousin’s house in regional Victoria – “Just relaxing, taking a break,” she says. Probably what most girls her age would be doing on a Monday afternoon during school holidays. With that said, it is here where the similarities between her and other girls ends. Give this girl a microphone, a drum set and a couple of siblings and she’ll show you Stonefield – one of the younger collective voices heard in Australian music right now, but easily one of the most exciting.

Having blitzed the competition of triple j’s Unearthed High contest under their former name of Iotah, the band scored high rotation on the station with tracks like Through the Clover and Foreign Lover, both of which were re-recorded for the band’s debut EP. For such a young band, it seems like it has all come to Stonefield quite naturally – and Findlay herself is quick to validate this hypothesis.

“We’ve always been interested in music,” says Amy, the eldest of the four sisters that make up the group. “Because we grew up in a country town, there wasn’t very much available in terms of music lessons – so we took dance lessons and singing lessons and things like that. Luckily for us, about five and a half years ago, a music teacher actually moved in next door to us! We all started playing around the same time – and, as soon as we could, started playing together as a band; ’cause we figured ‘why not?’”

Why not, indeed. Following a rapidly-growing interest in Iotah – now Stonefield after not wanting to be confused with Sydney performer iOTA – the band recorded the bulk of the Through the Clover EP at Atlantic Studios in the south of Melbourne. “That was really fun,” recalls Findlay. “The studio was really cool, too. There was heaps of old equipment – a Hammond organ, Leslie speakers, stuff like that.” The only track from Through the Clover not to be recorded at Atlantic was the title track itself, the stomping rocker with which you are most likely to be familiar with out of the band’s work. That track was recorded in triple j’s very own studio as a part of the aforementioned Unearthed High competition. Findlay also holds fond memories of this session, too – “It was amazing!” she says. “The studio was just incredible; and to work with Greg Wales was such a fun experience.”

With its glass-shattering lead vocals and crashing major chords, there is a very good reason Through the Clover is the band’s most popular song. Surely the group knew they were onto something during the songwriting process of that little number? Findlay is a little bashful, but eventually put this forward: “Y’know when you’re playing or writing a song, and you’d be smiling because you feel so good about it? That’s kind of what happened with that song.” Fair enough and all, but there’s just gotta be more to it than that! Perhaps the answer lies within the songwriting process, which Amy herself is happy to explain.

“Generally, it starts whenever one of us has an idea – whether it’s lyrics or a melody or whatever,” she says. “We just muck around with it, try a whole heap of different stuff and just jam. It’s the best way to get our ideas out there.” Hey, it’s worked so far, why mess with it? “Definitely,” says Amy with a giggle.

Outside of the studio, the band – rounded out by Hannah on guitar, Sarah on keyboards and the youngest, Holly, on bass – have also been honing their live chops. Of late, their biggest gig has been opening the Pyramid Rock festival, the annual Phillip Island festival. “We were pretty scared that there wasn’t going to be anyone there,” admits Amy. “But because a lot of people camped the night before, I think they were ready to see the first band. So there was a good turnout, and it was lots of fun. It was probably the biggest stage we’ve ever played on, too, so it was cool and challenging for us to try and fill that space.”

It won’t be the last time the girls of Stonefield will be filling big spaces – March sees the band taking to the Pushover festival alongside acts such as Children Collide and Violent Soho; while later this year the band will make their first ever trip overseas to perform at the Great Escape festival in May and what many perceive to be the best festival in the world, the Glastonbury Festival, in June. “That’s probably the biggest thing that’s happening this year,” says Amy with a nervous quiver in her tone. She might sound daunted by the big things ahead for Stonefield, but with a talent like theirs you can be sure they’ve got little to worry about.

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

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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: 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

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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.