Vance Joy | Quietly considering album number two

In a time where gender expectations are being broken down, and heteronormative masculinity is no longer a universally glorified commodity, it’s reasonably powerful to speak to the nearly two metre tall, ex-footballer James Koegh – who you might know better as Vance Joy – about his gentle elegance in his approach to his new album.

“When I would play guitar at the footy club, maybe an opportunity to sing covers, I found that was always me in my natural state. Even though I was playing Fuel’s ‘Shimmer’ and Foo Fighters, playing to the market,” Koegh says.

“I don’t think I’m a particularly blokey guy, except playing football. I don’t really speak the language. So when it comes to banter, and hanging around the club, it was never my comfortable place. I love football and I love the sport, and when I played at school the connections where very strong, but doing [music] feels natural, and I like that I feel comfortable in my own skin,” he says.

There’s no more appropriate title for Vance Joy’s sophomore album than Nation of Two. The album is so very intimate and contained, that it’s easy to feel like a fly on the wall in this pair of lovers’ bedroom.

“I’m glad that’s the feeling you’ve got, that was the desired effect,” says Keogh. “I didn’t set out intentionally to write a gentle, intimate song. I was just writing, and there’s a few songs that were calling out to be recorded in that way.”

The thread of a relationship that ties the album together, inspired by many of Keogh’s romantic experiences, is his favourite kind of narrative to weave.

“It’s the kind of story that grabs me when I’m listening to music or reading books. The songs that penetrate me emotionally are love songs,” Keogh says.

It’s capturing this emotional response that drives him to continue creating. Though many of the lines he croons throughout the record are pained and filled with heartbreak and rich with love, tapping into this emotion is something that Keogh derives a great deal of joy from.

“The most difficult thing for me isn’t the emotional thing, or ‘Oh this is hurting me to sing,’ because I know that happens to other artists, I’ve heard it described that way. But I’m so happy I find something I want to sing my heart out to, even if it’s a sad song, I’m happy that I’ve tapped into something that feels authentic,” Keogh says.

“The difficult part of songwriting for me is finding those little melodies and the right sequence of words that make it feel like a thing, that make it feel more substantial than all those other ideas that don’t even get off the ground.”

With a hugely impressive to-do list, including touring as a support for Taylor Swift, the time between his debut – 2014’s Dream Your Life Away – and his follow up has been a huge learning curve for the 30-year-old. Though he couldn’t find much time to write on the road, he wrote bits and pieces of songs that would eventually create his second record.

“Now, having compiled a bunch of songs that I’m proud of, I feel good about that. You finish touring for an album and see there’s an expanse of time to fill up, and having done that I feel good. I had my head down and focused on that, and it’s a milestone,” Keogh says.

“With this album, compared to the first, every song is special and has its own life. There are songs on the first album that I still love, and I still think they’re some of the best songs I can do, but I think on this new one, there’s a consistency to the lyrics. There’s some real flavour and juiciness to it.

“I feel like I’m repeating lines less so, but I do like to repeat lines. I did some songwriting sessions, but I learned there is no rulebook. And the songs that I’m most proud of are generally the songs I wrote on my own.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

Australian Music Vault Talks | The value of fandom

“As soon as you get music lovers together, they start talking and networking and coming together, and amazing things come out of it.”

The Australian music industry is fuelled and built upon beautiful, personal connections. That spark when music lovers come together, as described by Amy Bennett, the Creative Learning Producer at Arts Centre Melbourne, is what ignited Australian Music Vault to launch a series of talks to run at Arts Centre Melbourne over the course of 2018.

“At the moment, we’re really in a time of conversation and the public contributing to discussions instead of just observing from the outside,” Bennett says.

“I think the music industry are really keen to have a forum where they can present these issues from the general public side. It gives the public a front row seat to the inner workings of the industry, because it can be a bit hard to understand how it works.”

The Australian Music Vault Talks will tackle what it means to be a music fan, roping in mega-fans of the likes of Nick Cave, Crowded House and Kylie Minogue to talk about their obsessions.

But the first talk will see a panel of women from all facets of the industry come together to talk about gender representation in the Australian music industry.

The panel will focus on the path to change the gender imbalance, and the challenges that stand in the way of such a thing. Facilitated by journalist and author Jenny Valentish, the panel features Grace Kindellan of Wet Lips, Mohini Hillyer of Habits, Dr Catherine Strong, who is conducting APRA approved research into gender inequality in the Australian music industry at RMIT University, and Tracee Hutchison from the Music Victoria’s Women’s Advisory Panel.

“It’s a really big one,” says Bennett of the inaugural talk. “There has been a lot of discussion on it. It’s really important to us, to the Australian Music Vault, to make sure there’s equal representation, and we felt we had a role to play. It’s really moving forward at a rapid pace.

Bennett, who is a musician in her own right, is happy to report that she’s definitely seeing a shift in gender representation within the industry. “There are more female mentors available for younger musicians. There are more women who want to be leaders, and show younger women that this can happen,” she says.

“That being said, you still go to gigs and 15 out of 16 people are dudes, so in the music industry, it really needs to stay active. That’s why some of these young musos like Grace (Kindellan) are so important, because they’re actively choosing lineups based on this.”

The Australian Music Vault was launched at Arts Centre Melbourne in 2017. Set to run for three years, the free exhibition is a celebration of the past, present, and future of the Australian music industry, and an insight into the history that has shaped it.

“The idea is to celebrate Australian contemporary music, there’s such a rich history and there’s so many amazing people involved in the history and the present, and obviously the future, but it’s been something that the Victorian Government and us at Arts Centre Melbourne, the music industry, and major stakeholders like Michael Gudinski, have wanted to celebrate for a long time,” Bennett says.

The vault, and these talks, are there to remind the audience that it’s not just musicians who make up the scene, it’s every audience member, and the stories they have to tell.

“When it was announced that Festival Hall would become apartments, that was a change in the city, a change in infrastructure. But what it did, whether or not it’s bad or good, is it made everyone tell their stories of Festival Hall. That’s what we want to encourage,” Bennett says.

We all have stories of Festival Hall, of our youth, no matter how recent that was. “The members of the music industry are really passionate about a lot of issues that are a massive part of their everyday lives.

“Having these talks helps to give wider context for these issues. We want it to generate discussion, to excite people who then give back their stories. It’s a two way street.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine. 

Cable Ties Ball | The Corner Award

“It’s a bloody bleak scene if you’re only in this for yourself,” says Jenny McKechnie of the Melbourne music scene. “The music community is everything to us. It fosters interesting music, meaningful friendships and creative relationships. The music community in Melbourne is our life. I’d be so empty without it.”

McKechnie is certainly a well-functioning part of Melbourne’s music community. When she’s not fronting punk outfit Cable Ties, she’s strumming guitar in Wet Lips, while also running things over at Hysterical Records – an inclusive label she founded with Wet Lips comrade Grace Kindellan, and Amanda Vitaris of boutique booking agency Future Popes.

But at least for today, the focus is Cable Ties. The three-piece punk outfit has experienced a quick ascent to acclaim and a cult following since their inception in 2015, something that McKechnie, drummer Shauna Boyle, and bassist Nick Brown didn’t anticipate, but rightly deserve.

“When we started, we had all been in bands or were already in bands in the Melbourne music community, so we were well supported from the start to play gigs and make music,” McKechnie says.

They played their first show at the inaugural Wetfest, which humbly began in the backyard of McKechnie and Kindellan’s share house, and the support of this DIY punk community is what the band attributes their successes to thus far.

“We got to play a heap of shows with our mates because Joel booked us at every Old Bar show possible. This set us up pretty well to record and go on to everything else.”

From Old Bar and beyond, the past year saw the band signed to Poison City Records, release their self-titled debut LP to critical acclaim, earn triple j rotation, a place on the Meredith festival lineup, and support the Kills on their Australian tour.

So hardworking is the trio, that pinning them down for the interview for this article proved a struggle. Their hard work is palpable and was suitably acknowledged by their Corner Award win.

The Corner Hotel’s Corner Awards began in 2016 as a way to acknowledge and support Melbourne’s musicians who work so hard year round and push the boundaries of the scene. Alongside $2000 cash, the pressing of 150 limited edition 7” vinyl singles and rehearsal time at Bakehouse Studios prior to the big show, the winner’s prize includes the opportunity to put on a show at the iconic Corner Hotel. For Cable Ties, their winning show all comes back to honouring and supporting their community alongside them.

This February will see the first ever Cable Ties Ball, a multi-stage event with a huge lineup featuring the titular winners themselves, Miss Blanks, Habits, The Dacios and more. “The lineup is made up of bands or artists that inspire us in our creative practice or political ethos,” McKechnie says.

“Being able to put on the show is very exciting for us. We got to ask all our heroes to play on the lineup and somehow they all said yes. We can’t believe it.”

The band’s vision for the ball took inspiration from an event Cable Ties put on alongside Wet Lips at Gasometer last year to mark the release of their split single. “We put in a lot of effort to ritz up the place and make it a special event and it felt like a big party for everyone involved rather than just another gig.

“We wanted to take that idea but make it an even bigger thing at The Corner. We hope everyone gets in their glad rags and makes a proper night of it,” McKechnie says.

Originally published in Beat Magazine. 

Bianca Martin | Punk is an Attitude

“Giving femme, queer, POC, trans, and gender non-conforming artists an extra leg up is imperative to their growth and success,” says Bianca Martin. 

“There’s nothing more punk than doing something you love and being your truest self. To me, this means radical vulnerability in songwriting and complete dedication to your passions. It means standing up for yourself and your values, and placing an importance on your community.”

Through her love of punk, Martin has experienced firsthand the striking state of gender equality within the music industry, and beyond. Rather than let this be, the drummer for The Girl Fridas and Piss Factory has strived for change each day since her arrival in the scene.

As a musician, booker, and fan, Martin has experienced difficulty gaining recognition, representation and support in the industry, from not being taken seriously, to micro-aggressions, abuse, and outright physical harassment.

Since her move to Melbourne, Martin has taken a proactive approach in supporting non-cis-men in creating music, driven by her dissatisfaction with the treatment of non-cis-men in the industry.

“[I was] sick of regularly being the only women on lineups and sick of seeing my queer and trans friends constantly looked over in favour of ‘mates’. I felt less inclined to go to shows where my identity wasn’t represented, because I also knew there would be a likelihood of being one of few women in the audience. The more of my friends I spoke to, the more this became an obvious issue.

“I had friends who desperately wanted to go see live music regularly, but didn’t feel safe going to a show where they knew they would stand out.

“It’s so easy to approach venues to put on shows in Melbourne, I figured it only made sense to use the privilege I had to take action into my own hands. It gives them a space where they can focus on music rather than defending their identities and existence.”

Martin regularly puts on events promoting safer spaces, and gender inclusive lineups within the scene, working with Girls Rock Melbourne and Sticky Institute, to provide support and representation for artists.

It’s an impressive effort, to say the very least. But Martin’s clear passion for DIY culture, and encouraging self-expression is so very punk. The community she’s helping to foster is important, as there is certainly a need for support and encouragement of non-cis-males in the industry.

“I don’t hear cis-male artists saying they’re having difficulty getting offered shows, or having bookers and sound people take them seriously, or that they get hassled and heckled or that people go out for a smoke during their set.

“Because of the society we’re raised in, cis-men generally feel more confident and deserving of shows. Giving femme, queer, POC, trans, and gender non-conforming artists an extra leg up by offering them shows first in environments where they feel comfortable is imperative to their growth and success.”

Representation is crucial in creating a shift in challenging what is considered punk, and the misconceptions, and dangerous gender norms and inequalities that exist within the industry, and beyond.

“There’s a saying, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’ which is something I keep going back to. Unsurprisingly the riot grrrl movement was a huge inspiration for starting the Girl Fridas. It really wasn’t until fully exploring that movement that we began to understand that what we wanted to do was realistic and achievable,” Martin says.

In early 2017, Bianca proposed a punk event for Melbourne Music Week, gathering her dream lineup, and fuelled by the fact she’d be able to pay them well, a rarity in local shows. However, the powers that be at MMW asked her to join the Live Music Safari, as her desire to represent the diversity within Melbourne’s punk scene fit the theme for the year, celebrating 40 years of punk.

This application of Martin’s original proposal to a large-scale event has allowed her to bring the punk acts she’s so passionate about to a wider audience, something she’s excited to do. “I’d like to broaden people’s perceptions about what punk can be,” Martin says. That’s pretty much as punk as it gets.

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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Allday | Channeling spirituality

On Allday’s single In Motion, he professes he’s no deity.

It’s but a line in the killer track with Japanese Wallpaper, but Tom Gaynor’s belief in something beyond him – and the inspiration that comes from that – is a rolling, passionate current that flows beneath his work as a musician. “Spirituality and musicality are a tightly entwined partnership, creating something better than the sum of their parts,” says Gaynor.

“I feel like when you’re making music, or making art, you have to be channelling something. And it’s something that I just feel. I’ve had enough evidence of spirituality in my experiences creating, so I have to live by it.”

Though he now resides in Los Angeles, and has lived most of his adult life in Melbourne, Gaynor’s Adelaide roots are part of what underpin his connection between his music and his spirituality.

“My friend says there’s a crystal shaft under the city, and I definitely feel that strange psychic pull going on in Adelaide. To be honest, I didn’t make much music in Adelaide. I made some of my first stuff there, but oftentimes I’ll go back to Adelaide and I’ll find it a very fruitful time for lyrics and ideas.”

After being raised in a Catholic household, and embracing what he calls typical teenage Atheism, as an adult, the 26-year-old has become interested in other philosophies. Though he muses that it’s probably a path walked by many people, he’s driven by what he identifies as spiritual energy, and apparently that energy is plentiful in his home town.

“A lot of artistic people, not just musicians but all creatives, move away from Adelaide and when we come back, we feel that same weird psychic energy that creates a freaky feeling, but also good artists,” says Gaynor. “If you’re a sensitive person to that weird energy, Adelaide can either freak you out or it can move you.”

Releasing a slew of mixtapes and a hugely successful debut album in 2014, Startup Cult, Gaynor has recorded the process of his growing up, since first becoming Allday in 2011.

 “Early days my motivation was be as big, be as known, as possible. On Speeding, my motivation was probably perfect a sound and perfect a mood.” Gaynor is not happy about the three year wait between Startup Cult and sophomore LP Speeding, a stretch he labels as weirdly long and says he plans not to repeat. “That should be the time where you just go hard and put out an album 11 months later, but I guess I was just going through a transitional phase, doing too many drugs, and I didn’t know what to say. “It was hard, because I wanted to make music, but I was spending too much time laying in bed feeling sorry for myself.” Fuelled by his indulgence in a less than healthy lifestyle, the move to Melbourne, and the bite of its bitter winters, may have seemed to halt his progress as a musician, but ended up shaping what would become Speeding. “I wanted to capture a more fun perspective of living in Melbourne, but it just didn’t come. The themes were unconscious.” Despite originally being inspired to create a big pop record, the resulting album is made up of vastly different themes and sonics than he set out to create. “Those [pop] songs weren’t turning out right, and it ended up being a shorter, Melbourne-esque thing. I think I had to get that out of the way, I had to get those songs from that era done,” Gaynor says. “My attitude to that time had changed, and this was where I was at. By the time I finished it I wasn’t going through that heavy, come down from drug depression in Melbourne anymore, but I had to get that out.” The influence of producers Cam Bluff and Mitch Graunke helped Gaynor step away from the set-in-stone idea of creating a pop record, and perfect the wintery, Melburnian sound that resulted. “Cam is amazing on drums, watching him program drums on Ableton is amazing, to me it’s like watching a sunset, or a waterfall, it’s beautiful.” The partnership between the three saw Gaynor possess a level of control he’d not had on Startup Cult. It also helped him grow into a more collaborative musician, something he is somewhat resistant to. “It wasn’t so much conscious as I have trouble connecting [with other artists], especially with rap. If I can do it, why put someone else on it? It’s something I’ve had to get over. “When you’re making a song you’re either making it for yourself or for an audience, or a bit of both, and sometimes I make it for myself too much. It becomes more about me wanting to say certain things, rather than write a song for the enjoyment of others. That balance, it’s something I wrestle with,” Gaynor says. “Control is important to me. It’s my product, I’m the one whose name is on it. It’s hard to make anyone care about it as much as I do, it’s not physically possible. But [creating the album] was an exercise in growing and understanding what to control. [On Speeding] I had a high level of control, that I didn’t have before, maybe too much control. I know now that some things are not meant to be done alone.”

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

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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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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