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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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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

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Bad//Dreems | Gutful

With the dawning of social media and increased connectivity, the public’s voices have never been louder. As the political climate changes, and the everyday citizen becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo, it’s sometimes hard to know how best to use your voice. 

 

Affectionately labelled as pub rock, Bad//Dreems encompass so much of what makes quintessentially Australian rock music so identifiable, and with their new album Gutful, they hammer in a very political message.

Alex Cameron, the band’s guitarist, wants listeners to know, everyone’s opinions matter. “People may look at a band like us and assume that’s not what we’re about, and same thing with our fans. People may think that we may not believe in things like [social justice].

“That’s a real problem in the world right now, that we tend to stereotype, generalise and over simplify things, when in fact it’s very interesting to deliver those messages in the form of a garage rock’n’ roll song.”

The changes to the political climate over the past 18 months prompted the band to write about this heavy subject matter. From the Trump administration to the circus of Australian politics and the ongoing debates surrounding immigration, Cameron sighs as he admits, they’d had a gutful.

“The motivation for the title track is being fed up with the kind of round-a-bout, futile debates that take place in our world today, and of the bullshit being spouted by these people. Other songs are about more personal subject matter, and Mob Rule about the dangers of the mob mentality – it’s an album of the times.”

The aforementioned title track is considered a call to arms for those feeling underrepresented by public figures.

“You don’t need to have a PhD in humanities or political theory to be able to talk about these things. Obviously they’re very complex issues, but they can also be very simple. It’s an interesting exercise to write about issues which are very prominent in Australia right now. What better way to explore those issues than within a presumption about the genre?” Read more

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Wil Wagner of The Smith Street Band | More Scared of You than You are of Me

The Smith Street Band’s emotionally charged lyrics, often expressing the grinding torture and blinding emptiness of living with mental illness, have become a signature element of their presence on the music scene.

Frontman Wil Wagner’s experiences with depression and anxiety are consistently laid out for the audience in a heartbreakingly raw fashion, something he’s happy to do, considering his words provide hope for those in the audience that need it most.

“The fact that I have this relatively small platform, but a platform nonetheless, to talk about that stuff, and make people feel like they aren’t alone in the universe feeling these things, is so important and empowering for me, because I have those bands for me as well. If I’m feeling a certain way, I put that band on, and it comforts me. I listen to the band’s words and it inspires me. And to be that band for one person, I feel like my job on this planet is done.”

Suicide remains the biggest killer of young people in Australia, with suicide in men approximately three times higher than women, consistent across all states and territories, and other Western countries. Despite experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety, men are less likely than women to seek help for these feelings. These hard statistics are something that drives Wagner to continue to write with beautiful self-awareness and honesty, using his music to start a dialogue with the audience about mental health.

“I think especially because I am a big guy, I have tattoos, I’m sort of blokey, I like that I can express those things, and especially get young men to relate to those things as well. I am proudly someone who deals with all of those things in a quiet and extreme way, and sometimes it can have a pretty disastrous affect on me.

“Predominantly our audience is young men between the age of 18 and 25, who would be the least likely people in society to admit they feel anxious or vulnerable. That I can contribute to removing that stigma about being anxious and being sad, I really don’t feel like words can describe how much that means to me, it means the fucking world.” Read more

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Ben Wright-Smith | The Great Divorce

Despite his talent, and the sheer volume of praise and support he’s received in his young life, Ben Wright-Smith is softly spoken and completely devoid of ego.

 He stammers as he reflects upon himself and his achievements, the completion and release of his debut album The Great Divorce not greatly affecting how he sees himself on the music scene.

“It’s funny with first albums, I think I feel more competent as a musician, but I think I’ve got to wait for people to hear it first, that will probably affect my confidence greatly. With music, I don’t know if confidence is the thing that matters. We make what we want to make, the main thing is the relief of having a full album that I can share with people, and say this is what I’ve been doing, this is what I’ve done, and this is how I wanted it to sound.”

Considering Wright-Smith’s impressive resume and masterful skill for songwriting, it feels strange that the APRA award nominated musician’s first album is only just being released. It arrives just over three years since he first made his way to the USA after being awarded the Australian Council for the Arts Nashville Songwriting Residency. The release of No One announced his arrival on Australia’s music scene in 2015, and the follow up, 2016’s Sand Grabber, demonstrated his ability to twist the genre of his music to make it his own. But the release of these two singles is an entirely different game to releasing this first album, Wright-Smith says. Continue reading

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Tracey Miller | Live at Warrawee

Tracey Miller is one of those people whose passion for music permeates every aspect of her life, and the happiness it brings her is tangible.

Rather than give up playing guitar after a freak accident with a louvre blind that saw her lose use of her left hand, she learned to use her hand again, and developed her own playing style. Yearly trips to Hawaii have seen her take up the ukulele and study harmony, with her accident, she says, making her a better musician.

After more than 25 years of teaching and singing in choirs, she’ll be leading the Mass Community Choir at Live at Warrawee Soul Explosion, a music festival put on by Monash City.

“There’s a lot of people out there who do community work, or help out their neighbours in some way, we should have things to celebrate in life, it shouldn’t always be about hard work. It’s a great way to get the community together,” says Miller.

“I know for a fact having taught choirs for many, many years that every single time anyone talks to me about their experience it’s just that they experience a lot of joy.” Continue reading

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Bob Evans | It’s tour time

He may have over two decades of experience under his belt, but it’s been nearly four years since Bob Evans, the alter ego and solo project of Jebediah frontman Kevin Mitchell, has taken to the stage in all his solo glory.

Having toured alongside good friend Josh Pyke in late 2016, Evans is well and truly warmed up for an extensive three-month tour across Australia, and ready to settle in to the solo-performance mindset.

“The band shows and the tour I did with Josh were both very structured shows and they had to be that way in order to work but playing on my own I have the freedom to do whatever I damn well like whenever the mood may take me and I won’t be blindsiding anyone. The whole thing rests on me, which is a good thing to do from time to time.”  Continue reading

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Kids at Midnight | Love Safari

“What’s happening at the moment, and it’s an awesome movement that needed to happen, is more and more women are taking control of their careers and opportunities, by learning to produce, by running events, by climbing that ladder to be the person that then books and mentors others. That’s how we level a playing field, by doing it.”

You may know Jane Elizabeth Hanley as Kids at Midnight, but the indie electronic artist’s passion for female empowerment in the music industry drives her to work far beyond her own music. With gender inequality remaining one of the most pressing issues on the Australian music landscape, Hanley says that female focussed events have never been so important.

“The more we see each other succeeding because we’ve worked hard, the more younger artists will see that hard work gets you somewhere, and the wave of quality will wash over the industry like a tidal wave. And if you don’t support female artists/DJs (by support I mean going to gigs, buying the music, sharing the mixes) you absolutely cannot complain there are not enough of them. The end.”

Taking this attitude on board, iconic Melbourne venue The Carlton Club is opening itself up for its first live music events, with a firm focus on female driven events and lineups, approaching Hanley specifically to curate an event.

The resulting event is Love Safari, an all day event on the Hasti Bala & Deck, featuring a mammoth indie-electronica lineup featuring some of the most exciting female artists, DJs and producers in Melbourne, including Rosaline Yuen, Aurelia, The Girl Fridas, Ruby Slippers Adriana and Whiskey Housten. Continue reading

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Northlane | Mesmer

Following a swell of curious buzz prompted by a mysterious YouTube video, a new single, and an oddly cryptic Facebook chat bot, Northlane has revealed their huge announcement to be the surprise arrival of new album Mesmer.

 

“It was meant to get people excited, but without really knowing what they’re excited for,” says frontman Marcus Bridge, of the unorthodox release. “We like a bit of mystery when it comes to starting things up again, so it was to get people talking, get people speculating, and it’s pretty funny to see the conclusions that some people have come to.”

Mesmer is a progression for the Sydney band, musically and thematically. Following on from the themes of previous album Node, the album stays true to Northlane’s traditional, heavy, metalcore, but with a fresh take of electronic elements and a new lyrical perspective.

“Jon is always moving forward and got the next thing in mind, so musically, he was always headed in this direction. I feel if anything, this is a clearer vision from our heads, because we’re more sure of what we’re trying to do. And we’re just trying to do what we like doing. Trying to express ourselves in different ways than we have before.”

In his second album as the five piece’s frontman, after joining the band alongside original members Jon Deiley, Josh Smith, Alex Milovic and Nic Pettersen, in 2014, Bridge is relieved to say he’s found a new confidence as a part of the band. A fan of a more personal approach when it comes to writing, on Mesmer he’s felt more comfortable revelling in his own personal style and voice.

“Some of these songs are a lot more personal than anything Northlane have touched on before, which is something very important to me. In terms of writing lyrics, I’m very much a writer from personal experience, I like to get feelings out, whereas Josh is a bit more worldly, out looking view of everything, and looking at the big picture of the world.” Continue reading

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The Shins | James Mercer

Though James Mercer, frontman of indie rock darling The Shins technically began work on the band’s new album, Heartworms, about two years ago, he confesses his songwriting is far from a linear process.

Mercer’s writing is a labour of love, and some songs on the record have been in the works for close to ten years.

“I’ve always done that, there’s always these ideas where I hit some sort of an impasse with the song, and I can’t figure out how to make it work, so I set it aside. There are songs that I was working on before Oh, Inverted World that I still can’t figure out, so hopefully they’ll come out one day,” Mercer says.

“Some of those songs I’ve been working on for so long. The Fear is a song I’ve had floating around for years. I remember showing Eric Johnson that song when he was in the band, so that would have been touring for Wincing the Night Away.”

Even the titular track has its roots far earlier in Mercer’s illustrious career.

Heartworms is pretty old, it’s something I was considering for Port of Morrow, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Otherwise, everything is new, and I wrote it during that gap after I toured with Broken Bells.”

Despite this, it’s far from disjointed. Mercer effortlessly brings the old and new together to create a cohesive and palatable structure. However, the album is dynamic in its emotions, something that makes a lot of sense when you take into account it was written over many stage in his life. Continue reading