Matt Okine | The Hat Game MICF 2018

In the quest to avoid complacency, Matt Okine has worn many hats. The last few years have seen him move between mediums, from radio airwaves, free to air television, and subscription streaming service, Stan.

Although he’s conscious to never get stuck doing one thing, comedy keeps drawing him back. The Hat Game is his seventh stand up show, and he’s got no plans to hang up that particular cap.

“[Performing comedy] is just something that I continue to look forward to, every night, over and over. It’s so exciting to go up on stage and just talk shit to audiences from all over the world,” says Okine. “Radio, it just sort of goes out into the world, and really you’re just two idiots in a room talking rubbish. With standup, you’re still one idiot in a room talking rubbish, but at least there’s 300 other people that are going along for the ride as well.”

All that Okine loves about stand up comedy is a stark contrast to the qualities of radio, a medium through which many may have first discovered Okine’s voice. Alongside Alex Dyson, Okine presented Triple J’s prestigious breakfast slot from 2014 to 2016, before leaving at the height of the show’s popularity. “I don’t want to get stuck in one place; it wasn’t because it stopped being fun. Alex and I felt like the show was in a really good place and we didn’t want to lose that spark.”

That being said, Okine is quick to point out he’s not ruled out the possibility of jumping back in the booth alongside his on-air partner. “Alex and I talk about it all the time. I think it’s more a question of when rather than whether we will. But who knows, I might end up in LA working in a coffee shop as another failed actor.”

So far, however, his acting career is far from a failure. Okine co-wrote and starred in the Stan series The Other Guy, an adaption of his award-winning semi-autobiographical stand up show of the same name. The experience of creating a show that pushed the boundaries with its approach to sex and relationships has coloured his latest stand-up show in a way that he admits is a little more risqué than his usual style.

“I talk about doing my first sex scene, which is a terrifying thing. You have to pretend to cum in front of a room of film and TV people. There’s a camera guy there, and sound guy and a makeup lady. And I’m standing there pretending to cum. What if the way that I cum was fucking weird? And I thought it was normal?”

These changes are what drive him, living and dying by his own sword – even if that sword is simulating orgasm on stage.

“I wanted to make a show this year that feels like a Matt Okine show, but doesn’t at the same time. There are people that have seen every single show – there’s this girl, Dani, who comes every year with her mum, and when I’m writing a show I always think about someone like Dani…because I don’t want her to feel like she saw this show three years ago. I feel there’s a real ability for comics to do that, to basically rewrite the same recipe using slightly different ingredients.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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Foster the People | An improvisational tone

Isom Innis, keyboardist of Foster the People, brims with excitement, having just received the news that the Australian population had voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

Though a remarkably joyous moment, he’s innately aware the landmark result follows not only months of campaigning during the actual polling period, but lifetimes of discrimination and pain for members of the LGBTQI+ community.

At the same time, the entertainment industry is in the spotlight for its abuse of sexual violence and assault towards women, and the leader of the USA is a man who’s on the record bragging about such behaviour. It’s exactly this harsh reality and political climate that inspired the indie darlings’ third album, Sacred Hearts Club, directed by the band’s lyricist, Mark Foster.

“Mark’s lyrics on the album are a response to everything that’s going on around the world. We’re experiencing divisiveness worldwide. We’re experiencing the same trends of nationalism and racism, all these horrible things around the world, not just in America,” Innis says.

The resulting record is far from downbeat, though his explanation of the inspiration may lead you to expect otherwise. In the same vein as their breakout hit, 2011’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, they’ve taken difficult and complex subject matter, and created something glossy and groovy. And that’s exactly what they set out to do.

“We wanted to turn around and make a record that celebrates life, that’s joyful and that says love is bigger than politics,” Innis says.

In their attempt to create something that broke away from themes of pain, their music took on a hypnotic tone – both musically and lyrically.

“It’s a dancier, more hip hop driven record than any of our previous works,” Innis says. “It was really exciting to create these grooves, and create these beats that take you out of your head, and almost hypnotise you. There’s something hypnotic about a beat you want to dance to. That was the foundation of the record.”

The four members of the band share a passion for the genre, and the beats that the record is built upon are rich in hip hop influences. The beat-driven album is a fresh sound for the band, and a growth from their extremely well-known earlier work. The change is something the band certainly felt they needed.

“Whenever you sit down to make music, especially when you make a record, you have to chase your instincts, you have to chase what’s inspiring, and what you’re 100 per cent passionate about. And for us, hip hop is a really special genre of music. It refuses to be characterised, and it takes in so many different influences,” Innis says.

Though Innis has been playing with Foster the People since 2009, Sacred Hearts Club is the first album in which he’s billed as an official member. He jokes that he and Sean Cimino, who is also billed as a core band member for the first time on this record, have always been a part of the band, this is just the first time they’re in the promo photos.

Innis co-wrote on the band’s sophomore album, 2014’s Supermodel, but Sacred Hearts Club is the first record he’s contributed to from the ground up. Though a difference to the band’s previous work is palpable, that change was largely born off-the-cuff, and without planning.
 
Sacred Hearts Club is a record that’s born out of experimentation and improvisation. It’s a beat and groove driven record,” Innis says. “‘Loyal Like Sid & Nancy’ was the first idea that we got really excited about. It started as this atonal dance beat that I’d made. I showed it to Mark and he instantly responded by playing these orchestral chords – really the polar opposite of how you would expect someone to respond. These chords became the bridge of the song. That became a really important moment, not just musically, but lyrically on the record. It set the tone for how we wanted to finish the album. We really applied some of the sonic textures that we captured in that song across the board.

“A lot of happy accidents we stumbled upon just by opening ourselves up, chasing ideas, and following things wherever they were going to go,” Innis says.

It seems an apt way to write a record celebrating life in the midst of a rocky political climate.

Life is nothing if not improvisational.
Originally published in Beat Magazine. 

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HAIM | Strong women, new music

“We’re really feeling like strong women right now. Bosses of our own fate. Making our own music, not taking shit from anybody – writing every word, every chord and every song.”

In a time where feminism is commodified across not only the music industry, but the creative sphere as a whole, it’s encouraging to see strong women making their mark and pushing for their place in the industry.

Ahead of their sophomore release Something to Tell You, Danielle Haim’s triumphant proclamation of female empowerment on behalf of herself and her two sisters, Este and Alana – whom together make up HAIM – is more than fitting. Since their formation, the musical sisterhood has worked on honing their craft, developing into an exciting and an extremely experienced touring outfit.

The multi-instrumentalist sisters meld their charm and effortless style alongside impressive and ambitious arrangements to create a harmonic and deftly punctuated mix of pop, folk and rock.

It’s been four years since HAIM released their smash hit debut album Days are Gone, years that have seen the sisters tour extensively across the globe. But before the band became instantly recognisable for their catchy tunes, they were touring, going so far as to have performed as a family band alongside their parents – Von Trapp style – in their even younger years.

Stepping off the road and into a somewhat more stable life wasn’t an effortless transition. The end of the tour – and of that chapter of their lives – had the young women face the reality of not having a place to live. Checking out of the hotel – in the style of any young person looking for some security – the trio returned to a familiar stomping ground. Their parent’s house.

“After everything we had done it felt nice to be back – to go home and go to my childhood room,” says Danielle. “We rehearsed there every day for seven or eight years, dreaming of playing Saturday Night Live. To go back there now is very surreal. It’s so fucking crazy.”

Filled with those memories of their younger years perfecting the craft, the space was a perfect fit. The living room of their family home still set up as a rehearsal space, instruments and electronics all ready to go, the very same room featured in their first music video, 2012’s Forever.

It took months of work in that very living room before the foundation of Little of Your Love came together, setting things for their sophomore album in motion.

“When we wrote that, it felt like, ‘Hey, we still know how to do this. It’s happening.’ Then we finally got the ball rolling.”

Coming of age is a source of inspiration for many artists, and for good reason. The advent of age is the progression of a story, and with age comes the maturity and experience to push oneself.

After the success of Days are Gone, there was a lot to live up to, an expectation that the sisters seemingly took in their stride.

Returning to the very walls that heard the start of HAIM’s now hugely popular sound was a grounding experience for the sisters, who continue to grow as they work alongside each other. Rather than returning to exactly what they know, they were inspired to push themselves in what makes them unique and grow their sound.

“On the first record we were messing around a lot with production and samples. Now, coming off of three years of touring, we thought, ‘Let’s just go in and record as a band, keep it a little more organic.’ That was a mission statement for the album,” says Danielle.

Ariel Rechtshaid – who produced both of HAIM’s albums – says they’ve achieved their mission statement on Something to Tell You.

“They’re a very different band than on the last record. After three years of touring, they’re on another level. The fundamentals they have are unique,” Rechtshaid says.

“The lyrics have themes of finding strength; of old and new love. There’s loneliness and vulnerability, but also empowerment. We wanted to focus on what is unique about HAIM, and be willing to let them be them.”

Rechstaid recorded the album, and worked alongside Rostam Batamanglij (Vampire Weekend) on the production. The selection of this small team was an integral part of the album’s creation for the band, youngest sister Alana, says.

“With the first record, we learned that you really need to find people to work with that respect your musicality and ideas. Ariel and Rostam both really wanted to celebrate us as sisters and how serious we are about our music.”

Originally published here.

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Brooke Taylor | Finding your way out of the waiting place

“I’ve never felt any sense of belonging anywhere like I do on stage. I love it. It really is that sense of being at home,” Brooke Taylor says as she searches her mind for the explanation of what performing means to her.

“The irony that, as a lyricist or a poet, I have no other way to describe it than I fucking love it,” she laughs with exasperation.

That profoundly precious love, one that surpasses most explanation, has pushed Taylor to perform and play for nearly a decade now. After spending time in Canada and the United Kingdom, the singer/songwriter packed her acoustic guitar with her, and eventually found her way back to her hometown of Melbourne.

Without contacts of notoriety, she initially found the return to Australia’s music capital difficult. Eventually, she used her experience from living abroad to take initiative, approach venues, and book her own gigs, performing routinely across the city.

Despite loving performing, without a merch stand, she felt something missing from her shows. New EP Two, was the remedy.
“I’ve always just written and performed, it never hit me to have it as a product. Performing was something I always did because I love it. But I was always playing and people were into the music, I just had nothing to give them, I’ve never had anything to sell at gigs.”

Choosing to piece together Two and take a practical approach to her role as a musician was spurred on by her previous EP release, a collaboration with Delsinki Records’ Craig Johnston.

“Last year, I made an EP with my friend Craig, and that got some traction, got us spots on some festivals and radio play, and that gave me a kick up the arse to go into the business level of musicianship.”

Creating her first piece of merch, and acknowledging the business side of her chosen career, has seen her come leaps and bounds beyond a creative space she was in not long ago. For several years, her perfectionism got in the way of creating. Taylor fell into a self-proclaimed rut.

“It was so awful,” she says. “I fell into this trap of if it’s not perfect, I was a failure, and then if I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail. So I started playing covers every weekend. And it was good, the money was decent, but it started to corrode my soul. Don’t get me wrong, I love to play covers, and there’s fun that comes from that. I learned to interact with an audience, and it affords me the opportunity to do other things, like touring and travelling,” she says, before pausing, again searching for the right words.

“Have you ever read Oh the Places You’ll Go?” she asks brightly, referring to the Dr. Seuss storybook about the challenging journey of being alive. “I realised, oh my gosh, I’m totally in The Waiting Place. I’m the queen of The Waiting Place.”

In the story, The Waiting Place is an area where people go to wait for something else to happen, wasting away their time, and ceasing to live in the moment.

“I realised that’s bullshit, if you do that nothing happens. I realised that with writing, you’ve got to be okay with most of it being shit. But you need to rifle through the shit to find some gold. And Craig was really instrumental in that, no pun intended,” she finishes.

“When you’re really honest, painfully honest, about what you’re saying, and you can lyrically come up with it and say it to someone, you’ll find there’s at least one person in the audience who relates to it.

“That’s what I love about songwriting. And when you can get a musician to work alongside you and their music compliments that track, that’s the best, it’s magic. I imagine it’s how surfers feel, or skydivers when they’re flying.”

Not content to sing only words by other musicians,
or stay at home playing guitar in her kitchen;
Brooke Taylor flees to the stage, to the place she calls home,
One of the many wonderful places she’ll go.

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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My face is in print | Claire Morley Q&A with Beat Magazine

Usually I’m the one asking the questions, but the lovely people at Beat wanted to hear all about me for some strange reason.

Here’s my some snippets of my Q&A and an adorable picture of Daisy the dog. To unlock he rest of the answers, click here.

What do you do at Beat? I talk to people, artists, bands, event organisers, and all kinds of interesting people, and then write all about it for your reading pleasure. I also write reviews of live shows, and sometimes albums.

Best story you’ve ever written?
 The cover story I wrote on The Smith Street Band was insanely special to write from start to finish. I’m incredibly proud of the message I had the privilege of communicating about mental health and vulnerability with the help of Wil Wagner, and I took so many copies of the magazine to keep forever.

Three likes?
 
Three dislikes?
 
Got any special talents or party tricks for us?

Dream occupation, if money wasn’t a thing?

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HoMie | Homelessness in Melbourne and the Pathway Program

“I was curious as to why people were living in this situation, how they got there in the most liveable city in the world,” Marcus Crook says.

Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but it brought to life a passion within Crook and Nick Pearce. After meeting in 2013, they bonded over their shared passion for tackling homelessness.

Together, they founded HoMie – Homeless of Melbourne Incorporated Enterprises – a streetwear and social justice enterprise that provides employment and training opportunities, and new clothing to people experiencing homelessness through their Fitzroy store.

Though prior to this, neither had any experience working with homeless people – Crook dabbled in photography, and Pearce in media and communications. They simply took to the streets to talk to Melbourne’s homeless population, sharing the stories of the people they spoke to on their Facebook page, Homelessness in Melbourne.

“The conversations really opened our eyes to the fact that the stereotypical drug addict or alcoholic didn’t fit into the reality of who these people were. We wanted to dispel those preconceived notions and provide more insight into the fact that everyone has their own stories. It was confronting how close we were at times, or anyone could be, to that situation,” Pearce says.

That anyone could become homeless or in need at any time is a sobering thought. Of the 100,000 people who experience homelessness each night in Melbourne, only 6,000 are living rough.

“There’s 94,000 plus who we don’t see, who are couch surfing or living in their cars or supported accommodations. What we’re really advocating for is, there’s almost somewhat of a bigger issue behind closed doors, and we need to talk about that, and how to help these people.” Read more

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MAYA | What After Now?

Maya’s rich jazzy vocals are instantaneously striking for their beauty and individuality. Her unique sound, a mix of electronic and acoustic elements, is largely a product of her background, a cultural cocktail of Australian, African American and Hungarian roots.

“I have so many different aspects to my culture, and it builds such a versatile sound. It’s really meant that I’ve never felt like I have to be stuck to one way. As I get older, as this world changes, it makes me happier. The weirder, the better.”

Maya – real name, Maya Weiss – has not always been so content in herself, and is quick to admit she’s fallen victim to pressures to fit in and bullying over her 22 years on the planet. It’s only over the last three years, since leaving school, that she claims to have progressed beyond those feelings of self doubt.

“A lot of my childhood I really tried to change myself. I dyed my hair, I told people I was a freak. I never wanted to be in my own skin. But bullying, and all the aspects of that experience make for a stronger person.”

Her latest single What After Now is a anthem for living in the moment, something she felt compelled to write in response to the constant grind for more that underlines so much of the modern age.

“It means to live in the moment, to be free in who you are, to not stress so much. It’s a song to remind people that you can’t control our future but we can control our present.” Read more