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Wednesday, 25 January 2012 13:29

Stan Walker

Having A Laugh

He’s the Kiwi international who took out top honours on ‘Australian Idol’ in 2009.

Two years on, Stan Walker has carved his own groove on the Australasian music scene. The self-confessed clown is touring the country with that other ‘Idol’ darling, Jessica Mauboy, and says, even though he now lives in Australia, the land of the long white cloud will always be his first home.

“I'm from New Zealand and I'll always be from New Zealand, but Australia is my home now. So I'm kind of like, both are my home. I'm always in New Zealand; I'll be living over there for three months from February onwards. It's always hard when people say 'Where do you come from?' I kind of like both, it's the best of both worlds.”
Kicking off the national ‘Galaxy’ tour in Revesby, Sydney, a fortnight ago, the boy-next-door with the soaring vocals, says fans will be surprised at the antics involved in the duet’s live show.

“It's going to be funny.  People will get a shock because it's more than just singing. You'll definitely have a good laugh with us. I think I just get into the zone and I just be a clown I guess.”

The tour won't make it to Brisbane, but Stan says he hopes to rectify that during his next stint on the road.
“I wanted to go everywhere. The team that decides the tour had already chosen the venues.  We're going to Caloundra, just outside of Brissie, but all of those decisions were made beyond Jess and me. We're going to make it work and it's going to be a lot of fun. People are still coming out. Jess and I both wanted to go to many more places than we are, but this is what we'll have to do. It's still good, we love it.”

But no matter where he is, the devout Christian, who wowed us all with his big band performance of 'Single Ladies' (and is still single, ladies) can't wait to hit the stage. “I'm just looking forward to performing. It doesn't matter where. I just want everybody to experience the show.”

Stan Walker, with Jessica Mauboy, plays the Twin Towns Friday January 27.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 12:17


Thrills, Kills And Summer Lovin'

They’re the epitome of Australian rock and roll; the boys from small-town New South Wales who grew up to become one of our nation’s best known, and most loved, rock bands.

After a year of once-a-month gigs, a bunch of corporate shows and supporting other Australian heavyweights (think INXS and Cold Chisel)­, Grinspoon guitarist Pat Davern says the boys are excited to be back on the road for their summer tour. “We’re looking forward to just doing a bunch of gigs and improving over that period of time, improving as a band. We haven’t done an eastern seaboard tour of Australia for a long time and playing places like Forster, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour will be a lot of fun. It will be summer time, there’ll be a lot of people around and hopefully we can put on a really good show.”

Speaking from his home in picturesque Byron Bay, Davern says playing support for Cold Chisel on the Sunshine Coast was just what the band needed to get amped before packing the van for a trip down the coastline. “The Cold Chisel crowd was very much our kind of crowd. We had a great show at that gig. I think we were a really good warm-up band for them. I mean, the INXS show was good too, I think our styles of music were a little bit too different, but it was still a good show.”

The rock veterans, who formed in 1995 to take out the inaugural Triple J Unearthed competition, have since won the ‘Best Rock Album’ ARIA Award for ‘Thrills, Kills & Sunday Pills’ and had three records named in Triple J’s Hottest 100 Albums of All Time compilation.

Davern says throughout their lengthy career they’ve been lucky to see the music industry change, and stay the same. “Over the time, a few venues have opened, a few venues have closed, but overall the musical landscape is still the same. The way people buy their music and the way people go about listening to their music has obviously changed a great deal, but the live music landscape has pretty much stayed the same, which is a good thing.”

Adapting to the changing landscape has seen Grinspoon cement themselves as mainstayers on the Australian music scene. Though it cost them fans of their early, heavier tunes, the move to a more mainstream sound has kept the Grinspoon name on the tips of tongues for more than a decade. And they wouldn’t change a thing. “We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to gain new fans along the way, as well as retain some of the older fans, but hopefully we’re still relevant to young people. We’re still playing music, we’re still playing rock and roll, and a lot of our old fans have stuck with us, which is great.”

A conscious rejection of the stereotypical rock star attitude kept the boys’ head buried in their music, even through singer Phil Jamieson’s well-publicised stint in rehab and heated discussions in the recording studio. “We’re probably older and wiser than we were back then, but it’s still a job we enjoy, that much hasn’t changed. If we weren’t enjoying what we’re doing, we probably wouldn’t do it anymore.”

But having a sweet job doesn’t mean there’s no need for sabbaticals. A brief hiatus that saw the birth of drummer Kristian Hopes’ son, a stint in a Singaporean studio and solo shows for frontman Jamieson, a plunge into Canada’s metal scene for bassist Joe Hansen, and Davern’s own European adventure, made for the band’s self-proclaimed “best album yet”, 2009’s ‘Six To Midnight’. A feat the group hope to surpass with their next project.
With no working title and no set release date, Davern says Grinspoon, whose name was taken from a Harvard psychiatrist studying the positive uses of marijuana, are taking their time and just enjoying the process of creation.

“It’s a work in progress at the moment. We’re still in the writing stage; we haven’t started producing or anything like that yet. We’re still coming up with material and it’s coming along well.”

Grinspoon play the Twin Towns Resort Saturday December 31.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010 12:19

Cold War Kids Interview


War On Mediocrity 

They’ve been described by fans as ‘hobos who make great music’, but according to Cold War Kids’ bassist Matt Maust, these four lads from California don’t take that as a negative.

“I think it's a compliment. He's probably referring to us being a little scruffy and rough around the edges, I commend him. It sounds poetic to me.” Poetic could be seen as an understatement, or perhaps their fans like to emulate the intense creativity of Nathan Willet, Matt Aveiro, Jonnie Russell and Maust, who sum up their sound in one short sentence.

“We're the sound of four guys playing soul music in kind of a punk way, but in the best use of the word punk, not one of the other uses.”

Hailing from small-town Fullerton, these ‘scruffy’ kids have made a name for themselves the world over with their indie/ soul/ punk tunes, showcased over several EPs and albums, with their latest, 'Mine Is Yours', due out in January. Matt says with 'Mine Is Yours', the boys ditched their usual recording style.

“With this record we did everything backwards. We went into the studio with about 40 ideas, no full songs written, but a lot of ideas, a lot of melodies. We spent a whole month just working those ideas and taking them as far as we could take them and then moving to a different studio and really doing all the tracking at the next studio for an additional month.”

The boys' decision to up the ante came after their second album, 'Loyalty To Loyalty', presented them with a chart reaching record, but no feeling of challenge, either mentally or physically.

“We didn't feel too challenged with our second record. Now we're learning to play our songs live, whereas before, we'd always play our songs live on audiences and really get comfortable with the music that way. This time it's backward, we're on a small California tour at the moment, we're learning to play the songs and it's going great.”

But learning to play songs live isn't a bad thing when they've been put together by production legend Jacquire King, of Norah Jones, Modest Mouse and Kings of Leon fame. The result was a combination of their old-school soul and blues influences but with a modern spin.

“The songs are different so far as taking the sheer time to really look at every detail of every song, and seeing how it can be recorded in different ways and looking back, taking notes, and really working hard that way. That's going to naturally make the record sound different, the songs are going to be a little less jangly and much more emphatic. I think it's our best one yet.”

The Californian quartet doesn't have to rely on magic producers though; their raw and energetic live performances have had them packing out venues across the globe since they started touring fervently in 2006-2007. But Matt says no matter the venue size, they try to make their gigs as personal as possible.

“The first time we played Glastonbury, it's hard to explain but walking onto the stage it felt so surreal because there were so many people, but at the same time it only makes you turn inward to your band mates and it starts becoming a fairly intimate show.

“We haven't played for very long, we're only newbies, but when you're playing shows, you start forgetting about the size of the crowd and it doesn't become about numbers anymore, it becomes about the overall vibe.”

Brisbane audiences can expect a slice of that intimacy when the Kids bring their new material to the festival scene. With stronger, blues-influenced verses and catchy, sing-a-long choruses, the tunes from 'Mine Is Yours' have already infected their home-state fans with Cold War Kids fever. Matt says rocking out the songs before the album release will challenge Aussie listeners.

“You can only move your body so much to songs you don't know, but I think we're anticipating great shows and just really challenging the listener to sitting through half a set of new songs; I think it's kind of difficult for people, but if anyone, Australia can do it. They're artistic people down there, they've got good minds.”

Cold War Kids play Sunset Sounds, at the Brisbane Riverstage and Botanical Gardens, January 5-6. ‘Mine Is Yours’ will be released in late January.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 05:53

Darky Roots Interview

Darky RootsHomesick But Happy

They started out as a group of Kiwis singing a cappella over drinks; now they're one of Brisbane's most well-known reggae bands. But when their worst gig ever turned out to be one of the best, lead vocalist Joshua Hillman realised there is always a silver lining.

"West End Carnivale was like our worst gig ever. But we were joined on stage by Lukie D from Jamaica. We heard he was in town and we got a phone call from his manager saying 'Lukie D wants to sing one of his songs at West End Carnivale, did we know any?', and we did. We were already secretly covering one of his songs so he jumped up on stage and we played it for him.

Apart from performing with Jamaican reggae maestros, Darky Roots has been busy exploding onto the Brisbane reggae scene. They formed in 2008 as a bunch of 'hacks' with one goal — to produce reggae music with strong harmonies and New Zealand-flavoured, R&B-styled vocals.

In two short years, their rich harmonies, heavy basslines and meaningful lyrics have caught the attention of some of the most influential members of the roots/ reggae scene, including Melbourne's The Red Eyes. "One of my favourite bands we've supported is The Red Eyes. They are fantastic, so good live. I've actually been to watch them so many times and to actually get the opportunity to support them and to have them hear our music was really humbling and something I'll never forget. "We've got three more shows with them now so they obviously enjoyed it."

Humbled is an understatement, with Joshua paying credit to the vitality of the Brisbane reggae scene as a cornerstone of their success. "[The Brisbane scene] is a very strong, very supportive scene. It's one of the best scenes for live reggae bands in Australia. I've lived in Melbourne and Sydney as well and for me, for live reggae bands, Brisbane has the best selection; a broader selection to choose from.

You can book a show in Brisbane and there's a plethora of bands to support. Everybody gets out and supports each other as well, which is great." Bandying words like 'plethora' about, it comes as no surprise that Joshua creates most of the lyrics for this dynamic eight-piece. Though he says percussionist, Bevan Savage, and lead guitarist, Clem Karauti, have taken on some of the writing duties, their lyrics always have a conscious meaning.

"I always push messages of peace and unity, I don't think it can be over said that people need to unite and be more thoughtful of other people, and freedom of choice for a lot of things in life. A lot of the stuff is life experience too." With their second EP to be released any day now, Darky Roots are excited to showcase their recently acquired horn section, and delve into issues affecting members of the band.

"We were working on a new album, but decided we wanted to quickly release something now that more accurately represented where we were with our live set and what people can expect from us. The EP is called 'Journey', which is also the title track, written by Bevan. "It's a song about being away from our homeland New Zealand. That's pretty important in our songwriting. As much as we love living in Australia, we're all still New Zealanders. We love living here, but we always miss our home and we sing about that a fair bit." With their emotive, socially-conscious lyrics and natural musical prowess, Darky Roots have earned their praise, often being described as 'delights to the ears and music for the soul'.

But Joshua says they only have one dream as a band. "I hope that one day we can be able to make a living from our music. I think that's a realistic goal and if we keep working hard, and if things keep happening the way the momentum's been going at the moment, I can't see why that can't happen. Just to be able to live off the music, to do it professionally. Because at the moment, we all work jobs."

You can catch Darky Roots' music for the soul at Dub Day Afternoon, at the Jubilee Hotel, Saturday September 18; Island Vibe, North Stradbroke Island October 29-31; and at the Byron Bay Reggaefest Saturday December 4.
Wednesday, 01 September 2010 10:29

Crayon Fields Interview


A Musical Rainbow

The Beach Boys were renowned for their soaring vocal harmonies, The Byrds for their creation of folk rock and The Zombies for breathy vocals and upbeat tunes. Crayon Fields combine the best of all three.

With their 12-string guitar, alluring vocals and a lyrical focus on romance (both new and old), Crayon Fields is taking Melbourne, and the world, by storm. But lead vocalist Geoff O'Connor says he's still got a lot to learn about musical technology.

“At the moment I'm trying to work out how to use a sampler. It's not going very well - I feel like these were designed for DJs whose brains have fried a long time ago.”

It seems a lack of samplers isn't standing in the way of this quartet's creativity. After releasing a self-described “less-than-stellar” debut album in 2006, their second record ‘All The Pleasures Of The World’ has received enthusiastic reviews from most critics.

“We mostly self-record our stuff, but our last record had a bit more of a budget so I guess it was a bit more of an endeavour. We were pretty lucky, we got a lot of support overseas and we seemed to get a lot of positive reviews. But sometimes the really positive reviews can really annoy you.”

Geoff's disapproval of eager reviews stems from a desire to learn and improve on Crayon Fields' growing repertoire.

“Sometimes the negative ones can be a bit more informative. I think there are some people out there who just want a free copy of the album so they write a good review.”

First forming in high school in 2002, Crayon Fields' current line-up consists of only one original member. The others, bassist Brett Hudson, guitarist Chris Hung and percussionist Neil Erenstrom, joined when the band began to play “properly” in 2005.

Though Geoff says they would prefer to forget their first release, 'Animal Bells' paved the way for 'All The Pleasures Of The World', with critics describing it as ‘warm, shimmering two-minute pop songs’ and earning itself a 7.8 review on Pitchfork.

“('Animal Bells') was pretty much a collection of demos. They were all songs that were written when we were quite young and when we were in a different outset I guess. 'All The Pleasures Of The World' is the only one we're really proud of.”

Proud or not the boys have taken their melodramatic pop all over the world, recently completing their first tour of the United States, which included sets at the South By Southwest festival in Texas.

“Our first tour was interesting. The shows were really great and South By Southwest, which is the festival we went up there for, was a bit of a riot.”

But the shows weren't the only thing making their tour fascinating.

“We got to stay with this Texan family, which was a real eye-opener. They were really lovely, but quite conservative. There were certain things we couldn't really talk to them about. Like they were speaking positively of their uncle's band, which was George Bush's favourite band and how much of an honour that was. That was one of the little signals we got from them that we'd probably have a fairly ugly political conversation if it got to that.”

A fridge crammed with Dr Pepper and 'We Love Texas' t-shirts put paid to any underlying tension, with Geoff full of praise for their American hosts.

“They were lovely, they took us in, and they gave us these Texas t-shirts. And they had a fridge full of Dr Pepper, which was amazing. I kind of miss Dr Pepper; I'm quite ashamed of Australia for not accepting it.”

The band managed 14 shows in two weeks, playing SXSW as well as gigs in Los Angeles and New York City, and Geoff says round two will be a bigger, more expensive production. But before leaving Australian soil again, the boys are heading to Brisbane to play the Frankly Festival.

“We're certainly looking forward to coming back to Brisbane, we've played at the Powerhouse before and it's a really nice venue. And we can't wait to see Xiu Xiu again. They came down here a couple of years ago and they were amazing.

“But I expect it'll be a very long day. We're arriving there in the morning and Neil will have just come off a ferry from Tasmania before he gets his flight, so I'm expecting Neil to have a nap and we'll spend our time maybe taking care of Neil.”

And if Geoff could be any colour crayon in the world?

“I'd go for purple. I think it's a very nice colour and it looks good. I like it when people pull off purple. I guess I wouldn't be drawing on people though.”

Crayon Fields play the Frankly Festival, at the Brisbane Powerhouse, this Saturday, September 4.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 15:07

James Grehan Interview

Packed Full Of Talent

If you’ve ever seen an episode of ‘Packed To The Rafters’, you’ve probably heard his music. If you live on the Gold Coast, you’ve probably heard his music. If you have two pieces of skin on the side of your face (commonly known as ears), you’ve probably heard his music.

James Grehan is a household name, or he should be. With three albums since 2004, oodles of award nominations and three Q Song Awards, this Gold Coast lad is an independent artist who has had a whole lot of success. But somehow, he’s managed to stay grounded.

“My biggest achievement so far is still playing music to be honest. I’m an independent artist, so I fund everything, I do everything for the releases, so to still be writing and releasing is a bit of a privilege.”

James’ second album ‘Sketches and Silhouettes’, released in 2008, is responsible for such privileges. Tracks from the album featured on Channel 7’s ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Packed to the Rafters’ and even won him the ‘Best Alternative’, ‘Best Regional’ and the ‘Courier Mail People’s Choice’ gongs at the 2008 Q Song Awards.

“The song ‘Hold On’ has just done amazing things, considering where it was recorded. It was basically recorded in a lounge room and it just went through the roof. It got so much airplay and television play and now to get nominated for an APRA award. I was very surprised; I had no idea that was going to happen.”

His latest release, ‘Long Road’, is part of the evolution of James’ music. Though it keeps the same blue/ roots/ folk sound of ‘Sketches and Silhouettes’, this EP was recorded in his house at Southport rather than a professional studio. Listeners can almost feel the chilled-out vibe radiating through the music.

“It was a really relaxed atmosphere; we’d start late evening or early afternoon and run through the evening when it was quiet. We set up mattresses and that sort of thing around the lounge room and drank red wine and built the songs from the ground up, rather than actually going into the studio and having a clear idea of what we wanted to do.”


Wednesday, 26 May 2010 05:21

The Red Eyes Interview

The Red EyesDuty Calls

It started as a jam session, solidified as a 12-piece and is now down to seven multi-instrumental musicians.

The Red Eyes exude talent, and according to guitarist and creative mind, Damien Charles, it's all organic. "I thought it would be great to have a live band. I knew a lot of musicians so I roped in heaps of different people.

The first ever drummer and guitarist were Redford and Sam from Shapeshifter. But every week there were different musicians and we'd just jam out and I would dub mix it and what have you."

Fate intervened when El Witeri, a reggae vocalist and ex-flatmate arrived in Melbourne and went knocking on Charles' door.

"We lost contact when I came over here after a few years. Then he just turned up on my doorstep one day. He found me and said he'd come to do music - he'd sold up everything in New Zealand to come over to Melbourne to try and find me and do music. It just so happened that I thought he'd slot into The Red Eyes perfectly."

What resulted was a growing fan base, a move to a bigger venue, offers to play at some of Australia's most well known festivals and reviews describing them as Melbourne's 'reggae/ dub monster band'.

"We never rehearsed, we'd just improvise, but gradually the line-up consolidated into people that were keen to do it all the time. We got offers to play at festivals, like the Bellingen Global Carnival, so we thought we should release something. We actually started rehearsing songs and made our first couple of records."

Those rehearsals and records have led them to 2010 and 'Red Army', an outgoing, politically minded mix of soulful lyrics and intricate programming with the energy of a live show.  The album also features The Red Eyes' only recorded cover - 'I Get Wild/ Wild Gravity' by Talking Heads.

"We've always chucked songs we like into the live sets and I wanted to make this album more like a live set, especially the first half of it. (I Get Wild/ Wild Gravity) is a song we've been doing live for about a year or so, we really like it, it's a cool song."


Wednesday, 05 May 2010 15:14

Ryan Murphy Interview


He gave up the sunshine and sand of the Gold Coast for the dark skies, cold winds and bright lights of Melbourne. Now Ryan Murphy is returning home.

The Melbourne music scene is a far cry from Ryan's experiences gigging at the same Gold Coast pubs over and over, and he doesn't regret the move for a second.

“I lived on the Gold Coast and gigged around the Goldie and Byron and the whole area. I played in Brisbane a little bit too, but there wasn't that much going on for me. There are only so many venues you can play, and so many times can you play the same venue and try and get people along to them. It's a difficult task.”

With an entourage of mates, the guitarist left the comfort of the Coast and his mum's cooking to chase big dreams in the city, inspired by a short stint in America's music hotspot, California.

“There's this kind of mythical idea about Melbourne and music. People think once you go to Melbourne there's just all this music everywhere and there are so many places to play. It's definitely true.”

But this Gold Coast kid isn't a one-trick pony - he learnt piano from his father, Canterbury Bulldogs legend, Terry Murphy, before quitting music, only to pick up a guitar and a talent for lyrics years later.  

“I always loved music a lot and I was always into writing. I started listening to people like Fiona Apple and John Mayer and the way they were expressing themselves really appealed to me. So I sat down and started playing guitar again quite seriously, and basically as soon as I started playing again I started writing. It all went hand in hand - the learning, playing and writing. I just enjoyed the whole trying to craft some sort of song.”

Though his compositions have been described as possessing a 'quality of songwriting and arrangement well beyond Murphy's young years', Ryan admits he doesn't get it right all the time.

“I'm constantly embarrassed about the songs I write. I'll have the idea of what it should be about, then coming up with lyrics for that, which sound like you're not a total douche bag, that's the challenge.”


Wednesday, 28 April 2010 14:51

The Arachnids Interview

Spider Sounds

Even with a sneaky side business in the works, pushing musical boundaries is still the number one priority for Brisbane boys, The Arachnids.

Returning home from a mini-tour around the southern states, including stops in Melbourne and Frankston, keyman, vocalist and top spider, Lachlan Wallace, says the four-piece's fusion of rock, dance and electronica is their attempt to redefine musical genres.

“We're not really guided in any specific genre direction. We try to avoid it, rather than classifying our music before it's even made. We just like to throw it out there and arrange it as we see fit at the time. It's pretty presumptuous to say we're making a new genre of music. We just don't like to be tied down to one.”

It seems genres aren't the only thing The Arachnids dislike being tied down to - their up-and-coming EP was recorded in a myriad locations around Brisbane.

(It was recorded) “in a hodge-podge of places. A fair bit of it was done at Lockdown Studios. Otherwise we just bummed some free recording time from people we know in their studios and pieced it together on the fly.”

When they're not recording or reciting the transcript of the 1986 ‘Transformers’ movie, which according to Wallace happens quite often, the eight-leggers are busy preparing for their upcoming, local shows.

“We've been gearing up for our show at The Zoo. We played a few gigs with one of the bands that is coming up for the show and have been getting busy in the studio as well, trying to finish off our first EP.”

The gig will see them join forces with another local outfit, Dead Riot who played with the spidermen down south.  

“I first got to know Dead Riot going to one of their boat cruise shows, which was a really crazy night. We just checked each other out, liked the vibe at the shows and decided to do one together.”

Maybe it's due to Lachlan's strong psychedelic rock and synth-based influences, but audiences will be treated to an eclectic, high-energy, intense show; an honest indication of what fans can expect from their soon to be released EP.

“We're hoping to have a packed house dancing their asses off.”


Wednesday, 03 November 2010 13:33

The Hills Trivia Night

Nothing Too Trivial

Lauren Conrad. Heidi Montag. Audrina Partridge. Whitney Port. Kristin Cavallari. All names that have been synonymous with popular culture since their teenage days at Laguna Beach. Now the girls – who spend their time sipping cocktails in Los Angeles, working for teen fashion mags and desperately denying sex tape rumours – are making an impact on Brisbane's own nightlife thanks to Uber, says Events Planner Kelly Ledger.

“Even though the girls in the show seem to have endless bank accounts, they still have the same problems as everybody else … I think you'll find a lot of women actually do relate to the characters on the show because they're all going through similar things to what women in Australia are going through as well.”

Uber will host The Hills Trivia night, which Kelly says is a fresh idea, spawned from nights spent answering questions about those other American socialites: Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte.

“I went to a ‘Sex And The City’ trivia night a few years ago and that was fantastic, lots of fun. But ‘Sex And The City’ has been done to death so it was all about what can we do that's going to be different and up-to-date. ‘The Hills’ has got a real cult following, so it just seemed like a natural idea.”

Kelly says a lot of research went into planning the night, spending countless hours herself chatting to lovely Brisbane ladies, finding out what women really want on a night out.

“We'll definitely be having clean bathrooms. We've also arranged to have product samples in the bathroom so women can put a little moisturiser on, it's all about being pretty and coming out and having a good time.”

Ladies' night at Uber will also feature a specialised 'pamper zone' filled with local hairdressers and make-up artists, and a lolly bar, where each guest can fill up on as many sweet treats as they like. But though it's ladies' night, Kelly says guys are still welcome.

“There will probably be a few token guys who will want to come and see what everything's about. They would be game to walk into a room with probably about 100 women, you'd have to give them points for guts, definitely.”


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