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Wednesday, 12 December 2012 14:38

Jesse Rose: Good Kid Mad British

Jesse Rose is a modern-day Confucius; a walking, talking fortune cookie.

"The day that you think that you have nothing to learn is the day that you should give up."

It's a mantra that most of us, perhaps, would do well to live by. Rose certainly does; it seems he can't even see a live show without feeling the pins-and-needles tingle of quiet inspiration. Even rappers have been known to teach him a thing or two.

"I saw [Kendrick Lamar] perform in LA, it was pretty amazing. There was about 6,000 people at this concert, and it felt like they all went to school with him. They were just the maddest fans I've ever seen. He had this amazing stage set-up where he'd taken what his grandma's house looked like and recreated it on the stage, and then put visuals inside the house... I'm just about to launch a new project, and I want to use a similar set-up when it's performed live."

This 'project' is allegedly so 'new' that it still smells like mint-scented car freshener. So new that Rose didn't want to give too much away, although it will be fresh out of the oven come festival season.

"I've got an album coming out which is more like I've produced a band, with a singer and a rapper... it's an interesting mix like Basement Jaxx or Major Lazer. We're performing it right after launching it in January... the album's being mixed right now!"

On the face of it, it does seem a little odd that Rose (or any Brit for that matter) would choose to launch an album in the Colonies. But the man has an unbreakable affinity with Australia, one that is yet to be tarnished by listening to Kyle Sandilands or visiting Adelaide. Perhaps it's best that Rose is kept in the dark.

"I've been down about ten times, mainly for the festivals. To be honest with you, playing festivals in Australia is just the most fun thing you can do. People just go absolutely nuts, it's mental. Obviously in Europe the scene is bigger, but when I come down [to Australia] and play I always have my heads that are into house music so I always feel comfortable."

Jesse Rose plays Summafieldayze at Doug Jennings Park Saturday January 5.
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 13:35

Machinery Hill: Live Review @ The Zoo Nov. 17

Watching the young lads from Fox Hunt leave their posse of blonde girls and take the stage, I found myself mentally calculating how many brassieres would later be thrown during their set. A dozen? Alas, no.

Regardless, the newcomers were deserving of praise and have already garnered significant credibility purely by including a left-handed guitarist in their line-up. Hey, it worked for The Beatles. While Fox Hunt definitely challenged Ringo Starr in terms of songwriting prowess, covers of Bloc Party should be left to Bloc Party, or Seal if he’s been drinking.

The crowd was still thinner than Johan Bruyneel’s credibility when Machinery Hill took the stage. It wasn’t the band’s fault that Brisbane was being blown off the face of the Earth. I’d never seen these guys before, and was more open to being blown than when David Patraeus checks his email. Mentally blown, that is. Despite a somewhat nervous start, Machinery Hill did quickly win me over. A good live band plays to its strengths, and these guys seemed to have definitely taken note that they possess a singer worthy of any major label.  Although the band does lack some direction, to raise this as pure, unabated criticism would perhaps be unfair. Besides, the subsequent guided tour of ‘80s glam and 2000s pop was executed with such sufficiency even Rick Perry would have been proud.
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:18

Kimbra: Looping Alter-Egos

If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.

Forget 'Vows'. To understand why Kimbra is playing thrice-weekly on your radio watch the footage of her playing 'Settle Down' outside Spotify House at this year’s SXSW. It's a modest gathering, an audience that seems to have little idea who this slightly eccentric lady is standing in front of them. She's wearing a green cardigan (quickly discarded) and striped tights swiped from the set of a discarded Looney Tunes short. There's an odd feeling among those gathered as this slightly-odd specimen repositions her two microphones.

There are no instruments — just a loop pedal perched in front of her. The crowd are bemused if not slightly puzzled. What are we doing here? Is it too late to ditch whatever this is and grab a bagel? Cut to four minutes later and the same crowd is now worshipping Kimbra like they'd never doubted she'd deliver. Those four minutes almost perfectly reflected the rise to success of New Zealand's finest export since the 1879 avocado harvest. It didn't happen overnight; but when it did, no one seemed surprised.

"I went to a school that was really encouraging in the arts, [but] when I was there I wasn't really that into studying music. You know, you just want to make it when you're young. But I realised what music meant to me and I took a little 8-track recorder and recorded songs... My parents heard them and really encouraged me with learning guitar and getting me the right vocal coaches so I didn't hurt my voice. I'm very blessed. There were times when they were a little sceptical of music at school. They're both in medicine. But they could see that I was into it and they were willing to support me. I moved from NZ to Melbourne when I was in school, and since then I've had a lot of time for growth, a lot of time for reflection.

"At the start it was just me with my loop pedal, and then I got a band and we played small gigs around Melbourne and recorded a little bit. You know, ['Vows'] kind of looked like an overnight thing, but it really was a long time in the making. And now we're on our third tour of the United States, our first headline tour. I've had time to get used to the change, to not find it too overwhelming. There are a lot of new things that you have to get used to."

It's quite the flattering back story. The talent, the struggle, the well-deserved success. The real secret is balance — at any one time, two separate alter-egos, two separate Kimbras, are present. One is the über-theatrical, lomographised caricature of a singer that can't stop singing, can't sit still and that refuses to wear pastels.

"On the one hand I completely believe that art should be coming from the heart and I feel that when I am on stage I am giving that... But when I'm performing it's like a character in some ways, a slightly more theatrical version of myself. It's like stepping into a bit of a role. Image is hard. The image that you put out there is really the front door to the house. The way you present image can say a lot, and it can complement the music incredibly."

The other Kimbra is humble, reserved, and grounded by her Christian faith. It's the portrait of a musician that is simply never published, one of a singer faced with the challenge of staying strong in her beliefs while dealing with the isolating pressure brought on by constant touring.

"I've never believed that a church is the only place that you can have a community of faith or a place that people can believe. Finding a park somewhere and having a beautiful moment of stillness in a quiet place... in a sense that's kind of my church. And also I'm very close to everyone in the band, we keep each other uplifted in that way as well."

Talented, successful, spiritual. Let's all go home and try not to think about the fact that Kimbra is only 22.

Kimbra Plays Summafieldayze At Doug Jennings Park Saturday January 5.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:11

Tumbleweed: Desert Pioneers

When I was a young boy I asked my Dad about a band called Tumbleweed.

He took a deep breath, crouching down as he pulled me aside. I stared into his eyes, eager to learn. My cluelessness about the world was obvious – a crime easily forgivable given my age. The old man could see that I knew nothing about the world, and I sensed that he felt an obligation lay squarely on his shoulders to show me society's ways. At the time I didn't really understand what he said. But as I grew up, I came to understand that Tumbleweed wasn't just the best band he'd ever heard. It was the greatest band that had ever existed.

"This is the first time we've gone back to that formula because the band broke up for ten or so years and we all went and did other projects. Now Tumbleweed is back together we know what works for us, we're not gonna try and rework the book."

That's Lenny Curley talking about his band's latest LP. He's a crucial component of the aforementioned Tumbleweed formula, like some sort of guitar-playing mythical beast. But let's not mess around. Let's throw away the niceties. This is a man whose band has opened for Nirvana, toured with Kyuss. What I'm saying is, the man has rocked.

"I struggle with descriptions, but basically it's just high energy, loud fast rock and roll with maybe a little touch of psychedelic metal. Tumbleweed fans will understand what I'm saying."
Descriptions? Who needs descriptions when you practically invented desert rock? I don't care if that's an overstatement, either. Last time I checked, anyone can edit Wikipedia.

"That whole desert rock thing came about after Tumbleweed happened. I remember the first time a Kyuss record came out and I was like 'Wow, this is great!' They seemed to be on a similar trip to us. I remember talking to Nick Oliveri about it when Kyuss first came out here. We were the same age, and we were both inspired by Sabbath and punk rock, and this is what we'd come up with. But then punk went mainstream and we rebelled against it."

Tumbleweed Play The Zoo Friday November 2.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 13:36

Something For Kate: Forcing A Smile

The impressive thing about Paul Dempsey isn’t that there’s a long list of albums on his resume. It’s the fact that despite his success, he’s still just some guy.

Paul's thoughts audibly pace up and down a narrow mental hallway, presenting a curious mix forged from equal measures of steadfast life-experience and haunting uncertainty. He's been asked the same question a thousand times before, this you're sure of. Yet the answer comes as if he is working through this dilemma for the first time.

The responses that eventually pour forth take the form of unsigned confessions. The Something For Kate ringleader presents perceptions of himself like they are theories that he's working on; he's sure, but not certain. In many ways it's like talking to a human, trapped inside the body of a musician. There are no grandiose statements about record deals or the usual yawn-inducing spiel about elaborate songwriting processes.

But why should we care what someone like Paul Dempsey has to say? Being a music fan is like being a member of a cult. We love musicians as people because we live vicariously through them. While the strings on our guitars gather rust, their triumphs and crushing lows become intertwined in our DNA. Perhaps that's why there's so much love in the world for someone like Paul Dempsey. In many ways, he's just as lost as the rest of us.

"I'm very optimistic, and very positive. I think it's probably well documented that I've had experiences with depression, but that doesn't mean that I'm not a positive, optimistic person by nature. It doesn't mean that I'm not, on some level, a happy person. I feel like I'm genuinely happy, but there are occasions where my brain does things that are almost out of my control. But you can only work hard at something and continue persevering at something if you're optimistic about it."

'Leave Your Soul To Science' drops later this month, marking Something For Kate's sixth studio album and an end to the band's five-year break. Interestingly, science is exactly where Paul Dempsey's soul is being left.

"I'm probably the least spiritual person you could imagine... I guess I'm an atheist. I don't know if you can be any more or less of an atheist, or if there are greater or lesser degrees of atheism."
The impending release of this album coupled with the success of his 2009 solo LP, 'Everything Is True', make it seem like a good year to be Paul Dempsey. Yet, strangely enough, there is still only one photo to be found on Google Images where he is smiling — it's a photo of him standing next to Julia Gillard.

"See, I wouldn't even describe that as a smile. You know, it's the strangest thing. Some people, you tell them to smile and they can just flash their pearly whites and just instantly have this beaming smile and it's excellent. Unfortunately, whatever the muscles in my face are doing, I can't just turn on a smile for the camera. I guess I'm not comfortable around cameras. But when I smile it's because I'm laughing at something or because something has genuinely made me smile involuntarily. But every time I try to just force a smile it just doesn't feel right."

Even though he's not smiling, Paul is definitely pleased. As is so often the case, the long break between recording sessions has forced Something For Kate to reimagine and redefine itself. The ways in which this will affect the feel of 'Leave Your Soul To Science' is something fans of the band should be genuinely excited about.

"The album sounds and feels very different to us. We haven't made an album for five years. It doesn't even feel like the same band. Obviously it’s the same people and we're still very close, but when you don't make a record for six years there are different influences and different tastes at play. It feels like another beginning... in a lot of ways, like a first record.

"We definitely felt after five albums in a row that we didn't want to just make album number six straight away. We wanted to let some time pass so that we could approach it all down the track with a fresh feeling, and that's exactly what's happened. Well, we definitely didn't mean it to be six years! I didn't realise my solo album was gonna take as long as it did to write, so it's been longer than we probably thought. It's been long enough that it really all feels brand new. It's been long enough that any familiar patterns that we may have had have... well, they've vanished."

I ask Paul whether an old enemy of his was responsible for the lengthy period it took for 'Everything Is True' to reach completion. A constant struggle with writer’s block has been a theme in many of his interviews.

"I've sort of redefined it for myself. I used to call it writer’s block and I used to complain of writer's block. But I think what I've realised now is that it's not actually a block... I have come to accept that it's just very hard for me to write. It's not necessarily because of a block, it's just hard. Writing just doesn't come easily to me, so I just have to work really hard at it. Once I sort of redefined it for myself and said 'No, you don't have writer’s block' I realised that I just have to work hard to get the results I want. You know, I have a certain standard, a certain aim in mind and a certain thing that I'm trying to achieve when I'm writing.

"I have no idea what it's like for other musicians. From the outside it seems to me that some people write with such regularity and frequency that just seems astonishing. I think there certainly are people that can just sit down and do it, but that doesn't work for me. I have to sit at a desk for anywhere up to 12 hours a day when I'm working on a record."

Something For Kate play The Zoo Saturday October 13. ‘Leave Your Soul To Science' is released September 28.

Watch the New Video for Something For Kate- Survival Expert
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 14:11

Smash Mouth: Still For Sale

All of us have a hero.

Someone we look up to, a person we aspire to be. A man or woman of impossible odds. A person that could change the world and has unquestionably shaped our own. In our minds, no one will ever come close to the immense magnitude of greatness that is housed within this one being. God himself stares down at them from heaven and high-fives himself repeatedly. For Robin, it's Batman. For the obese, it's the creator of Diet Coke. And for Steve Harwell, frontman for ska-poppers Smash Mouth, it's Steve Harwell.

"I'm one of those people that basically believes I can do anything I put my mind to. When we were starting out, before we were signed and before we had a record, I said 'Give me two years and we'll have a record deal'. It was two years and a month."

No one should be surprised that Steve Harwell is his own Nostradamus. It's been over ten years since Interscope signed Smash Mouth and released their debut album, 'Fush Yu Mang'. Yet as you look back at the band's history you begin to understand why Steve feels content to tow his own party line, holding himself over his own head. Putting it bluntly, Smash Mouth have sold a lot of records.

"We've done almost ten million. But that's when records were selling. It's literally like the ‘80s, when going gold was like going triple platinum."

That's right, 'sold'. Not selling. If you're a musician, selling records is a thing you used to do. That people used to pay for their music is now a quirky historical fact. It's like saying ‘Hey, remember tapes and VHS? I know, right?’

“Me personally, if I'm gonna buy a record, I wanna have it in my hand. I'm gonna be one of the first ones in the record store. I wish it was like that. But it’s not like that and it’s not gonna be like that. But there's ways around it. We license a lot of music for new movies, commercials and they pay up the ass for our music to use it! So we're fortunate there. [But] you know, country music is still selling CDs. It's slowing down, but only a little.”

I laugh, quickly suggesting that Steve should record a country album if he wants to make some sales. I should not have laughed.

“Hey, hey! I'm serious! I did a solo country record. Basically what happened was I got divorced, said 'Fuck it. I'm out of here' and moved to Nashville. It's almost finished, it's gonna come out late next year or something. There's another side of me a lot of people don't know. Not a lot of people know about this, it's strictly on the down low!”

I'm not sure what Steve's idea of 'down low' is, because stories about this alleged country album are actually rife on the Internet. Even though finding a good country album is a bit like fishing an iPhone out of a toilet, you get the feeling that the Smash Mouth ringleader knows what he's doing.

The fact that Smash Mouth is releasing its sixth album this year is really a credit to Steve's undying belief.

“Having a new record out after all these years ... We had so many guys come and go, and there was a difficult period where we weren't sure what was going to happen. But I was like 'I'm not giving up. I've got this, for sure!' We pride ourselves on making records. Finishing this new one 'Magic' has brought new light to the band.”

Smash Mouth play at Jupiter’s on the Gold Coast Sunday October 21. Their new album, ‘Magic’ is released October 5.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 15:55

Pez: Back From The Grave

Opening Pez’s press release was not the most upbeat moment of my day.

‘Diagnosed with Graves’ Disease... fans wondered why Pez had failed to follow up his first album... took time out to look after his health and re-group.’ I look down at my own notes, confused. This sounds suspiciously like an episode of House.

This is the guy that put out that album with 'The Festival Song', right? You know, the one about sneaking booze into festivals and having fun? Because this press release is making me sadder than Stephanie Rice losing her swimming final.

Soon after his 2008 LP, 'A Mind Of My Own', debuted at #19 on the ARIA Urban Chart, Pez was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and his world ground to a halt. For a rapper nearly forgotten, getting back in the game wasn't the easiest of exploits.

"There's been a lot of soul searching and working things out. I just felt a bit lost. For a while there was that negative mentality of 'Why does this have to happen to me?' you know? Just when you're starting to get something good happening. It was a battle.

"After my last album it [was] about 18 months until I actually tried to write a song. It was pretty weird for a while, it took a while to get back into the swing of things and [to] remember why you're making music in the first place instead of just trying to force it out."

The fact that Pez is back at all warrants the making of an inspirational TV movie. Graves’ Disease isn't comparable to the common flu. It's serious stuff. On hearing the list of symptoms, even Ghandi would be like, 'No thanks, I'm good’.

"It's hyperactive, so you just can't focus. Your mind's out of control. You lose all this weight. Your eyes go all weird and bulgy. A doctor tells you that if you don't take 'this' drug you've got a death sentence. And the people I knew that had tried to use these synthetic drugs, [they] tend [to] have their thyroids taken out and live on these hormone supplements for the rest of their lives. I remember thinking, 'This doesn't sound like how I want my life to turn out'.

"I did a lot of research into alternative stuff which doctors tell you you're crazy to take at the start. But I've been able to reverse the whole thing and it seems to have stabilised and gone back to normal. It kind of felt like, if I was able to manifest this disease ... then I could fix it. It seems to have been that way. But looking back it's like the more you feel like yourself, the more you realise just how fucked up you were."

It may be a bold call, but perhaps this medical hiatus will be what solidifies Pez as the cream of Australia's hip hop crop.

Of course, we'll have to wait for his album to drop to know for sure, but you get the distinct feeling that these last couple of years of soul-searching haven't gone to waste.

"It's easy to get caught up in the hype and craziness of what's going on. To be able to step back from it all and see it for what it is... live a different life for a while, can be quite inspiring. It's been a bit of a journey which comes through in a lot of the songs. I'm in a different place, I feel like I'm coming out of that hole, getting back out there. [The next album] feels quite personal to some degree."

While Pez's second album will drop later this year, his presence has already been felt on 360's latest effort, Falling And Flying. Is an album with 360 on this rapper's to-do list?

"We were originally gonna do that... that's why I wanted him to be on 'The Festival Song' in the first place. It felt like that would be the single and I wanted to promote our thing together. Hopefully once I put this album out... well, Six is killing it now so he'll have to do another album, but hopefully after that there'll be a little window for us to get together and do something."

Pez will perform at Sprung Hip Hop Festival at the RNA Showgrounds On Saturday November 10.
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 15:27

Tortoise: Getting Shit Done

Few things smell more like the ’90s than post-rock bands.

They're a two-in-one phenomenon, really. Post-rock bands prove that the ‘90s weren't all bad (though they were pretty bad... a princess, like, died), and they make for a great conversation-starter when you're trying to hit on that alternative girl at that party.

John Herndon was not a girl I was trying to hit on. Well, he's not a girl. Herndon's the drummer for Tortoise. The post-rock band. From the 90s. As a band that started out over two decades ago, Herndon confesses that little has changed in their approach to all things audible.

The only difference seems to be that now "shit gets done". "I guess now we just cut to the chase, we're not all just fucking around, fucking around."

But what of the Chicago music scene that spawned such vocal-free sonic madness?

"I lived here in '85. It was a freakshow, man. I guess it is now. Everything's a freakshow. Back then I'd be going around and being out all night at punk rock houses, at weird art groups going on. There was just a lot of stuff happening.

“I mean, it's such a big city and there's so much music going on. Aspects of the music scene that I've never seen. Kids doing crazy footwork dances and shit! But looking at the scene now, I have a feeling that it's as thriving as it always has been."

From that description, I have no idea what Footloose-esque part of Chicago Herndon has been doing time in. That could be because I've never been to Chicago.

But listening to the meatier, aggressive subtlety of Tortoise's last album (2009's 'Beacons Of Ancestorship'), one would assume that the way it stands out from the band's discography indicates members like Herndon have been exposing their ear muscles to new types of noise.

It's not entirely true, though. Tortoise's influences remain steeped in history.

"You get a different influence from every member in the band. Myself, I grew up listening to Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Coltrane, Blondie. But in terms of today's music, I don't even try to keep up, to tell you the truth! I kind of stumble into gigs accidentally. I don't try to keep up, I just make music."

Tortoise play The Zoo October 12.

Friday, 27 July 2012 09:59

Nasum: A Final Farewell

Anders Jakobson, drummer for Nasum, is the most polite, well-mannered Swede I’ve ever spoken to. He’s also the only Swede I’ve ever spoken to, but it still counts.

In case you didn’t know, Nasum is Sweden’s powerhouse of grindcore, world-renowned for melting more faces per minute than any other band, period. That is, they were; Nasum disbanded after lead singer Mieszko Talarczyk was tragically killed in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. “After Mieszko died we were forced to quit the band. Nasum was never really able to have a natural ending.

I guess over the years there’s been a feeling between us that we’re not really satisfied with how things ended, and we felt we should get together and play one more time.” That “one more time” has turned into a string of international shows — but be warned, Nasum isn’t “back”. This tour isn’t a reformation, it’s a farewell; a celebration of the lives of the band and of Mieszko. “It was only supposed to be one show, so I’m surprised that it’s ended up being this massive tour. After agreeing to play the first show, we agreed to a few more until it became this massive thing.”

Anders is quick to profess how excited he and his colleagues are to reunite and hit the road again. But he says some people have a problem with Nasum’s remaining members embarking on this farewell tour, arguing that Mieszko can never be replaced. “It’s true that Mieszko was an integral part of the band. But to be perfectly honest, he wasn’t a founding member. I formed the band! Besides, we’re not reuniting. It’s a farewell.”

An awkward silence grinds the conversation to a halt, so I try to make Anders feel more comfortable by assembling IKEA furniture in front of him. He is not impressed. “Ja, is this some kind of joke?” “Erm…” “Ja, seriously, what are you doing?” “I’m putting a Malm together.” I put the Malm away and instead ask why Nasum never made it to Australia during their time as a band. “I guess we never really got any offers to play there. Australia will definitely be a highlight of the tour. We’re excited about it, since we never played there while we were a band.”

Nasum will play at The Hi-Fi on Friday August 17.
Friday, 27 July 2012 09:35

Citizens!: Fresh from Franz

Before I say anything, Tom Burke from Citizens! quickly informs me that he’s running on Greenwich Mean Time. Apparently this is very important.

"It's quarter past 11 in the morning. I'm sitting on my bed and we've just finished a European tour, so it's good to have someone to talk to."
As all Brits are now contractually obliged to do so, Tom ended this sentence not with a quick plug for Citizens!’ new album, but for the Olympics. What he doesn't realise is that being able to duck off for a quick tour of Europe is the envy of most Australian bands who find themselves still stuck on an island off the coast of Nauru, and basically nowhere near anything except Tasmania and a few whales.

"It's funny, Europe still feels like the edge of the world to us. But being on a French record label gives us access to that sort of thing, we're able to leave for beaches and better food in Southern France. It makes for a nice change, as I'm sure you can imagine."

Citizens! debut LP 'Here We Are' has garnered some favourable praise of late, particularly from the usual suspects at NME. Yet the band still seems mildly peeved at the amount of people mistaking their sound for a Franz Ferdinand prototype. When pressed about it, Tom feels content to put the comparisons down to laziness.
"Obviously we can't be surprised by that considering [Franz Ferdinand frontman] Alex Kapranos worked as our producer, and it's a very flattering comparison. The first two Franz albums are especially well made... but we are our own entity, and perhaps we want people to listen harder. The comparison can be made about certain songs, but there are lots of different influences. I think a lot of the Franz comparisons come down to lazy journalism.

"But sometimes it gets really weird, like we had this person come up to us in France and ask which Franz Ferdinand song it was we did a cover of. When we got together people were putting out a lot of stale pop music. We had a rule in the studio which we actually posted to a wall, saying that no two elements in one song could come from the same time period.”

Citizens! debut album ‘Here We Are’ is out now. They play Parklife at the Brisbane Riverstage and Botanic Gardens September 29.
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