Walking into HQ, the first thing that caught my eye was the potted tree positioned at the front of the stage. Cake, the band responsible for 90s hits “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance”, was in Adelaide for the first of many Harvest Festival sideshows for 2012 and I expected there to be a larger turnout. There were dedicated fans there, that much was obvious, but I couldn’t help but feel that this band would have been better suited to The Gov or a smaller, more intimate venue. Anywho, let’s get on with the music, shall we?
There was no support band on tonight, instead, Cake were to play two sets, with an intermission after the first hour or so. Following what seemed like the longest introduction ever, wherein the audience was advised against photographing and videoing the performance (yeah, okay), the band finally made their appearance to rapturous applause. “Frank Sinatra”, from 1996’s Fashion Nugget opened the night’s proceedings and with the first use of James McCrea’s trademark vibraslap, we knew that Cake was most definitely in the house.
The band played a decent mix up of their material and weren’t afraid to roadtest some newer material even though it would run the risk of losing the attention of a few, if not many, of the audience members. Cake’s latest album, <i>Showroom of Compassion</i>, was perhaps showed off best in the form of “Mustache Man (Wasted)” and “Sick of You”; with both McCrea’s and guitarist Xan McCurdy shining in particular. Cake have never really been a band to stick to mainstream trends, at any point of their career, and because of this, it’s no real surprise that since the late 90s, they’ve been relegated to ‘one hit wonder’ status by many. McCrea had the audience tonight in his hand however and the energetic ones in the crowd were perhaps a bit too over the top whenever he’d be trying to banter in between songs (yes, woman who kept yelling ‘eat more Cake’, I’m referring to you).
I enjoyed being able to finally see “Sheep Go to Heaven” and “Long Time” finally be performed live, as well as “Never There”; the riffs and bass lines on these tracks had made them memorable the first time round and I was happy to see that they weren’t messed with in any way or reinterpreted for a 2012 audience. If you’re wondering what ever did happen to that tree? Well as it turned out, Cake do this at many of their shows; they give the tree away to an audience member who correctly answered a question and the deal was that the new owner of the plant would be linked to the band’s website (and other tree-recipients across the globe) as it grew. A global community, as it were. Needless to say, the crowd went ecstatic for the opportunity to be a part of this ‘Cake’ family and I had to admit I was impressed with the marketability of the whole gesture.
Cake is a band I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve seen, let alone reviewed, so the whole experience was a bit surreal for me. Being that close to the stage too gave me some incredible views of McCurdy’s guitar skills, which remained one of the highlights of my night.
The NRL is more than just an entertainment sport. The rugby league culture in existence in Australia has provided glistening opportunities for young sportsmen from different ethnic backgrounds to achieve an elite athletic career that, in many cases, would not be a viable option in their home nation. Currently, 30% of the NRL’s player population is made up of Pacific Islanders and is ever more reflective of the growing community of islanders who have made Australia their permanent base.
The development of a nurtured island culture and society in Australia for the young players coming through the grades of the game is something which is only recently getting the attention it deserves, largely due to the work of people including former dual international league player Nigel Vagana. As an NRL Education and Welfare Officer, Vagana has been working since his retirement from the game in educating both the industry and its Pacific islander contingent in the importance of understanding and developing the vast islander culture within rugby league. In Darwin for Nesian Pride, a showcase event organised by Sunameke Pacific Island Performance, celebrating the vibrancy and harmony between the many pacific groups in the Top End, Vagana and South Sydney Rabbitohs captain Roy Asotasi (also involved in the Pacific leadership programme), sit down to chat about the pressing issues facing the islander contingent of the NRL.
“For a lot of people, for our coaches and trainers and staff, they haven’t really grown up around pacific people so they don’t understand the cultures and the mentality and everything that goes with it; for a lot of them, they’ve never had to deal with them before so they don’t understand.” Vagana explains, as we talk about the cultural challenges which face both islander rugby players, as well as the Australian staff they work with. “They might struggle a lot more and I know that for a lot of the young guys, if they don’t seem to be getting through to their coach or trainer, they just walk away. So we’ve been doing this [education] for the last couple of years and the clubs have been getting a lot better at it, they understand that with the pacific players, you’ve got to give them the same message but in different ways. I think that over the last couple of years, you’ve seen a lot more players coming through and the numbers have been coming through a lot more consistently than they have done in the past.”
Understandably, when there are cultural barriers in place and the correct avenues of communication aren’t travelled down in the proper ways, there will be clashing and eventual disintegration. The NRL Pacific Studies Cultural Leadership Camp, which Vagana, Asotasi and Nesian Pride organiser Julia Gray each played a part in conducting, addressed these issues and focused on ways in which Pacific Islander players could strengthen the bonds between the player and the club, as well as the club and their respective communities. An eye-opener for the players taking part, the camp emphasised the ‘pasifika’ nature of the project, encompassing not only the Polynesian, but the Melanesian and Micronesian as well. Understanding and educating both staff and players is something Asotasi also supports.
“You’ve got to have an understanding of us as Polynesians, hey? We were saying at the camp that a lot of people, a lot of the trainers think that Polynesians are lazy because they’re not doing this or that, but you’ve got to treat them differently. A perfect example was Joe Galuvao; Donny [Singe] from Manly [Sea Eagles] just said ‘Let Joey do his own thing’ and it’s been showing in the way he’s been playing over the last few seasons; he’s won a premiership with Manly, there was a time where he was the top second rower in the game for Penrith and then he just disappeared for a while and then came back. I think for the trainer, he’s a Maori, he understands how Polynesians work and if you understand us and figure us out, you can unlock our potential.”
This trip to Darwin has seen Vagana, Asotasi and former Gold Coast Titans centre Clinton Toopi visit primary school kids and junior league clubs in delivering talks and having some meet and greets with young fans who may very well continue on to a professional career of their own. Education, according to Vagana, still remains a crucial part in the development of a professional sports career.
“I think a lot of the kids are starting to get the message now. For a lot of the kids, it used to just be, ‘We’ll play sport and I’ll be the hero of the team’, that would be it. They never used to think that education played a part in their success; it teaches you discipline, it teaches you communication, teamwork, respect and all of that stuff that actually helps you make it. We’re just trying to get out there and make sure that they understand that the stuff they learn at school actually helps them; when we have the league boys to come down and have a chat to them, there’s probably more of a chance that they’ll actually listen.”
With the leadership camp earning massive amounts of kudos and support from all corners of the industry, it’s clear that the development of a support network of cultural education and acceptance of and for Pacific Islanders in the NRL is a concept which is only going to continue to evolve.
“The commission has just taken over, so there’s a new governing body that runs the game over here.” Vagana explains. “They’re only just getting established, but one thing that we’ve been pushing for is a continuation of the leadership camps at the beginning of every year. We had ours in January and I think that’s a good time because you want an opportunity in the off-season to understand what’s coming up in the season and the year ahead and also to understand the values that the game wants them to represent and their communities want them to represent. We’re looking at not just another pacific leadership camp, but also one for the indigenous boys and one for the boys from the country; we get a lot of boys from the country who struggle with the changing dynamics of coming into the system. We’re going to help them as well.”
As we wind up the interview, Asotasi explains, quite simply, the only way forward in promoting the project.
“The thing with these leadership camps is that they won’t happen if we don’t do anything; if we all get on board, regardless of what the new independent commission thinks… The players are the voice and if we stand up and be counted, we’ll get more of these camps.”
Simplex is a well-known name on the Adelaide hip-hop circuit, having worked with the who’s who on the local and national scene. Having recently relocated to Brisbane this year, the Terra Firma man has been working on his sophomore album, the follow up to his successful debut release, Audio Biography. Simplex chats with me about the recent move, what he’s been focusing on for this record, and his upcoming show in Adelaide supporting Joelistics and Diafrix.
Thanks for chatting with me, how have you been?
Yeah it’s been good, I’ve just moved up to Brisbane from Adelaide. I’m just starting…I wouldn’t say a ‘new’ life, but in a new location which is pretty cool.
How has the move to Brisbane treated you; no doubt the hip-hop scene there is quite different to the one we have here…
Yeah it’s good! I haven’t really gotten out and amongst it fully yet, but yeah I’ve met up with a lot of dudes up here and everyone seems to be busy and on their grind and stuff. I think it’s a bit more disjointed than Adelaide, but I think that’s because it’s a little bit bigger and a bit more spread out than Adelaide.
The Adelaide live circuit is rather cosy to say the least, how would you describe the state of local hip-hop right now? To me, it seems like you have to look for a good hip-hop joint these days.
Yeah… Adelaide’s always been real productive, you know? It’s good to see the younger dudes like Prime and Purpose and K21 and Dialect…everyone’s making moves, you know what I mean? Everyone’s doing their thing and it’s good to see. They’re the next generation after us, or a couple of generations after us and they’re all on the right path and they’re making DJ clips…
Do you think it’s becoming easier for the younger MCs and producers to get in a foot in the door?
I don’t know if it’s easier, it might be a bit harder nowadays because there are so many more dudes doing stuff. It’s hard to jump on Facebook for a minute and then get hit up by 20 people wanting for you to hear their tracks, you know? A lot of the time you just go, “Oh nah…” unless you’ve heard something or seen another show or something like that; most people don’t check for it, you know? I’ll check some links but you could spend your whole night going through people’s music; there’s still a lot of shit out there, but there’s probably a lot of good shit out there as well. There’s only limited space too, you know; the punters can’t go out to a show every weekend, when there are shows every weekend, it won’t work. They’ve got to be spaced out.
It’s probably a little bit easier at the moment with the internet to get heard nowadays, to get your stuff out, and it’s a little bit easier recording-wise, you know? Everyone can buy a sound card now and record in their bedroom, whereas before, you’d have to hire out a studio or some dude that’s been buying gear for ages, you’d go around to his house. That’s what I used to do, go around Debris’ [Hilltop Hoods] house and record until I started saving up and getting a sound card and then started building my own sort of studio, you know?
Can you tell me about what you’re working on at the moment?
In Brisbane, just a bit of production stuff so far. I’ve started writing the new album, so I’ve pretty much got 80% of the beats there, but they’ll probably change from time to time, which happened last time when I was doing various other albums. I always change beats, I’ll go, “I can make a better one or a better sound” and go with that one instead.
Are you finding that you’re travelling along similar paths with this record, as the follow up to Audio Biography, or different directions?
I think different directions, because it’s been sitting there for a while, you know? Like, some of those tracks had been there for seven years or so, ages. Now, I was able to get those tracks I’ve been working on, that have been sitting there out of my life and now I can start with a fresh head and fresh ideas; because I recorded and mixed everything myself, I learned a bunch of lessons on mixing and recording myself. Hopefully the new album continues on from there or evolves on from there. I’ve been going back to the boom bap stuff as well again, I can’t get myself out of that! So far, all the beats I’m pretty happy with… there’ll be some different stuff in there…
You’re up to play with Joelistics and Diafrix this week – looking forward to coming back home?
Yeah for sure, I’ve only been away since the start of the year, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind, Adelaide and everything. Still, it’s good to get back and catch up with mates and play to the Adelaide crowd. Pretty much, out of Australia, Adelaide’s got the best crowd.
It’s at The Gov as well, which is a great venue to be at when it’s packed out for a gig.
Exactly, I love playing The Gov. I like the outside bit, you know, for the smokers…not like HQ, where they’re outside and around the corner so they can’t see anything. So the smokers can still see there and yeah, it’s a wicked venue.
The press information I was sent implies that you had no intention of performing live this year at all; why was that and what made you change your mind?
Um, not really. Moving up to Brisbane…I’m sitting in the studio all the time, you know, and you drive yourself a little bit crazy! So it’s good to get out there and see real people again, not just on emails or Facebook or Twitter, you know?
What can the hometown crowd expect from you then, because this is going to be quite a special one off show?
It’ll be a mix of everything, I think. It’s been a bit hard to practice…because Madcap DJs for me, he’s in Adelaide still, so it’s a bit hard to practice over Skype and stuff. We’ve got to figure something out for the new material, but yeah, hopefully we’ve got some new material to bring out there.
Catch Simplex at The Gov, Thursday 5 April with Joelistics and Diafrix. Details up at www.thegov.com.au.
Adelaide alternative rock act Terracotta Palace have been steadily building a reputation as a quality live act through 2011, and are now preparing to release their debut EP this weekend. The three-piece have been working hard on the record, entitled Medicine, since August and it reflects the past two years of the band’s efforts. Ben Jones takes some time out to chat about how the process has treated him both as a songwriter and musician, and what he and his band mates are hoping to achieve from the launch.
Hey Ben, how’ve you been?
Yeah not too bad, just working hard I suppose. It’s been very busy.
Yeah, it seems to be a busy month for a lot of people.
For sure, there’s always something going on after Christmas…
So you guys must be pretty keen for the launch?
Yeah, it seems like it’s been a long time coming; we’ve been working since about August, in terms of starting the EP to actually releasing it on the 31st, it probably isn’t that long but it seems like forever for us. We’ve been working pretty hard on it.
I think, for a band, it would seem like it takes longer. It is such an involved process.
Yeah, especially for us, because we were doing it all ourselves; all the recording was done by us and the mixing was done by us as well. The only part we got any help with was mastering and getting the actual printing done; to that point it was really taxing but rewarding at the same time as well. A lot of long hours!
I guess this whole thing would have been a massive learning experience, not just in the whole technical sense of producing an EP in general, but as a musician doing it.
Absolutely; from the start, we’ve only been together as a three-piece for about 10 months, Tom [Daly] and I had sort of jammed for about a year before that. But I’d never a song until about two years ago and from that point to getting to a point where we’re recording ourselves and that sort of thing, we’ve picked it up gradually. It’s been a massive learning experience; I don’t think it’s quite hit us properly yet.
If we can just chat a bit a bit about the content on the EP; it’s called Medicine, is there any sort of driving theme around it?
To be honest, with an EP, it is quite hard to get a theme within five songs or so. I think if there’s any sort of theme on it, Tom and I did the songwriting and I did the lyrics, it was basically revolving around our lives two years ago when we wrote it. Basically, two years ago, we were just out of college, which revolved a lot around getting drunk! There’s a song, “Waterhole”, that reflects that a fair bit. There are some darker meanings as well, but it’s all quite playful I suppose.
You’ve just spoken about where you got literal influences from; what about musically? Who do you look to?
Musically, we’re all from different backgrounds; Hef [Ryan Gerlach] and I are both classically trained and he’s got more punk influences, he loves Frenzal Rhomb and that sort of thing. Tom’s got a heavier background with Nirvana and Silverchair, that sort of thing. I didn’t really know anything but classical music until late in my teens and then I started getting into early Kings of Leon and LCD Soundsystem and probably Miike Snow, more recently. They are all sort of mixed together to become something unique, I hope.
Can you tell me a bit about the writing process? Is it more of a collaborative effort between you guys or is it mainly you writing lyrics.
I pretty am writing all the lyrics now, like I said, we’ve only been together for 10 months so nothing is really in concrete yet. All the songs on the EP were written two years ago between Tom and I, and Hef came halfway through. With the songwriting process though, we generally go off and do our own thing and come up with an idea and that idea involves writing the whole song and getting the others to play it. That has changed a bit over time; it’s much more involved, it’s way too early exactly how we do it because we change it all the time?
What was it like having the added benefit of having someone putting in work with the mixing and mastering?
In terms of the mixing itself, Hef did most of it; we were really lucky to get Hef actually. He has played drums for a couple of years and Tom played football with him and sort of poached him basically, knowing his connections! With the mixing, he had help from Chris Pitman as well; it was so handy having the opportunity to do it yourself because, number one, you do everything exactly how you want and it turns out the way you want it hopefully and it is a hell of a lot cheaper! That’s the main thing, basically!
On the live performance aspect of these songs, how have you found the reception over time?
We’ve been quite happy with our live performance and how people have received it. I mean, since our first show, which you were at actually, we feel like we’ve come along quite a bit! Our first show was a bit of a disaster I think, we hadn’t really realised what we were up for and we hadn’t really prepared for it. Since then, I think that we’re improving with every show, we’ve got a solid base of people who come to the shows, which is nice; we’re getting new people every show now and we’re only hearing good things. It’s sort of hard to say, but it seems like people are enjoying themselves and that’s the main thing.
That’s it; you guys are still so fresh on the scene as well so you’re going to have those shows which are in essence, a dress rehearsal of sorts. You’ll always be developing as live performers, no matter how long you’ve been doing shows for.
Exactly; we’ve found that we’ve gotten…not looser, but more confident. That’s the big thing, confidence. The more we enjoy it, the more it comes through, I think.
For sure; I’m sure it’s going to come across really well at the EP launch because you’ve got your own specific event and spot, you know?
Exactly, it’s going to be packed out with family and friends! We’re hoping that we can get a bit more of a following after we release it too.
You’d think that being positioned in one of the country’s most colourful and multicultural locations, material and inspiration would be plentiful for a dance choreographer. It hasn’t always been so easy for Darwin-based pacific island artist Julia Gray, as she tells me via Skype. The director of pacific island group Sunameke sits down to chat about how vibes around the sharing of cultures has changed on her turf over the past few years, as well as how the performance group has developed as a result.
Formed in Adelaide in 1997, Sunameke has undergone various changes, in both style and dancer line up. Having performed internationally and nationally in different show capacities, the group has always maintained the same mission statement: to create work reflective of their cultural diversity within a contemporary and modern environment.
These days, Gray has been undertaking trips to Tahiti to study under the best at the Conservatoire Artistique de la Polynénise Française and bringing both material and the mentality for performance that accompanies it, back to Darwin.
“I can’t create any of my work unless I have a strong traditional grounding of whatever I’m using from that dance style. The PNG stuff, we were brought up with it. But I’ve always been attracted to ‘Ori Tahiti’ or Tahitian dancing and, you know, it’s the same with Samoa and all of those things, you have to go to the places, find out what the people are like. That will tell you why they move the way they move.”
For Gray, observing the way in which the Tahitians have thrown open their doors in an unprecedented move, to let foreigners in to learn their movement, has only encouraged her to do the same with Sunameke and the way the group operates.
“Going to Tahiti and encouraging other people from other cultures to join us, that’s a direct result of that because, at the Conservatoire, they’re opened it up to foreigners and the Conservatoire has never opened up to foreigners, it’s always been for Tahitians and that’s it. But the fact that the Tahitians were able to open their stuff up, their most prestigious school, to Japanese, Chinese, whatever…made me think “Why do we have to keep it to ourselves?” But they [Sunameke] want to do it, they have respect for it, so let’s do it.”
In terms of performing in Darwin’s multicultural setting, Gray hasn’t been a stranger to the inescapable level of politics which arise as a result of being involved in a relatively small bunch of community groups, as there is up north. Where there are mentalities of being fiercely loyal to your own group, Gray has gone in the opposite direction and opened her classes up to the public, regardless of what nationality the students are from.
“It’s really interesting because it’s done two things. One is that we’ve got a mixture of people that I never thought would come to class. We’ve got full blown ockers, you know! But they work so hard and they’re committed and they’re in there. What it’s done is it’s actually weeded out the pacific islanders who are like “I’m a pacific islander, I can dance, I don’t need to do class. I don’t have to train”. The level of our dancing has just rocketed, compared to where we were. Six, seven years ago, we would’ve looked the right way, we would’ve looked right for being a pacific group but now, our dancing is right but our look is multicultural. That’s more important to me.”
So where before Gray and the Sunameke collective were focused on creating productions to be featured in the annual Darwin Festival and other tours, it seems that they’ve become more class-driven, with an emphasis on education and development. This isn’t to say that the creative director is completely off the production train, rather has found the financial support aspect to be more challenging.
“I want to, but we live in Australia and it’s just so hard to find funding. It’s even harder than it was before. You’ve got your own festival in Darwin and they still won’t return calls, acknowledge or meet. It’s just too difficult. We’ve moved into a more business side of thing, hence the calendar. I mean, we need to get money to get our kids over to Tahiti, because this school has decided to give our kids a workshop, which is unheard of. Australians don’t understand what that means because they don’t have something so prestigious that you can’t get in, and to actually get your foot in the door, they don’t understand.”
The calendar Gray refers to is Sunameke’s latest fundraising project, a 2012 calendar showcasing Darwin’s ‘Pasifika’. Pulling in their contacts from different cultural groups including the Chung Wah Society, the calendar displays what the group is all about.
“It is a bit of a culmination. When we started Sunameke, it was only for pacific islanders, as in pacific island heritage. So last year, I opened our classes to the general public and you know how Darwin is so multicultural, we got lots of people from different cultural backgrounds. So the calendar is about the fact that you don’t have to be a pacific islander to be able to connect with the pacific.”
Along with the sale of this calendar and the continuation of classes and shows in 2012, Gray will be returning to the Conservatoire to partake in more classes. An arduous journey, both mentally and physically, Gray assures me that it can be one of the best experiences a dancer in her field can have.
“It’s such a personal, confrontational thing that you could possibly do. One week in front of the best of Tahiti, the teachers, and then you get judged at the end in your exam by the best. I’ll be Level Five when I go back in April and it gets harder because they expect you to bring it every time, you can’t go backwards. They become more judgemental and they’re harder on you and they push you and prod you! It’s totally worth it.”
For more information about Sunameke, visit www.sunameke.com.
To check out the “Darwin’s Pasifika” calendar, visit www.darwinspasifika.com.
For Adelaide solo artist Rachel Cearns, being able to perform music live has been a life-long passion. Making her mark at various venues around the city for her soulful and dulcet tunes, Cearns is going from bound to bound, exploring her own musical interests as well as entering into some pretty interesting collaborations as well. I was lucky enough to gain a bit of Rachel’s time, where she let me in on her upcoming projects and how she’s begun etching her name on the small circuit which is the Adelaide music scene.
“It’s always hard at first,” Cearns admits, referring to the process of booking gigs around these parts. “It’s great though once you get a couple of gigs; more opportunities come on their own. Playing open mic nights is a great way to be heard and connect with other musos. Billy Bob’s BBQ Jam (held at The Grace Emily) has really opened so many doors for me in that way.”
For Rachel, performing her original material has seen her secure regular gigs at venues in North Adelaide, as well as some highly advertised shows at The Promethean, in the heart of the city. The Grote Street entertainment venue even played host to an intimate Rachel Cearns performance during the Adelaide Fringe. As Cearns says, the venue is one of a kind.
“The Prom is always a pleasure to play at. The sound is fantastic and the room itself is just beautiful. I love playing the grand piano there, usually I play guitar, so it’s nice to mix it up. There is just a special sense of occasion when I play there, as opposed to front bar gigs and it’s really good to do gigs like that every once and a while.”
Venturing into musical genres outside of her folky-blues comfort zone is something Cearns is keen on doing and is already stepping forward in making these new jams more than just ideas floating about in her head. The artist, driven by musical influences including Duffy, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, is currently bringing out some heavier sounds, contrasting the music she started out performing.
“My style is changing,” Cearns explains. “As I only used to play solo, my music was very folky and I was also doing electronica. Now that I’m writing for a band, some heavier influences are coming out and I’m really having fun with it. I’m discovering the bigger parts of my voice and starting to use some more belt in my new tunes. It’s good fun!”
While Cearns has been performing with a backing band this year, she’s also been collaborating with fellow Adelaide singer-songwriter, Dusty Lee. Together, the two have been in the process of writing and recording for their new project titled Angel & The Badman. On the experience, Cearns says it’s been great to approach it with a different style to her partner.
“I’ve really enjoyed writing and recording with Dusty. It’s so much fun having someone to write songs with, especially because we come at it from different angles and seem to complement one another well. You can expect something fun, beautiful and a bit quirky. Our single “Waves” is being mastered right now!”
Along with performing with Dusty Lee, Cearns hopes to just keep on doing her own thing over the next few months.
“I’ll continue to do lots of solo acoustic gigs and some duo acoustic gigs with Dusty; we’re hoping to have Angel & The Badman going as a full live band really soon. I’d really like to play with many more female artists next year and I’ll also be organising charity shows too, so stay tuned!”
Cearns is ready to admit that a career as a musician, a young musician especially, is just as much about the learning and development as much as attracting the kudos.
“The whole thing is a journey and I’m learning and developing my craft as I go. One thing I’ve realised is that you can write a song at home, but it really takes shape over many gigs. I’m always working to improve and to learn a lesson from each gig. I love it but I also feel so vulnerable – when I’m doing something new, it’s like I’m back at the start. I still get quite nervous out there sometimes!”
Keep up to date with Rachel’s music/upcoming gigs via her Facebook Page:
Check out Rachel’s project with Dusty Lee, Angel & The Badman, here:
While Adelaide music nerds like I am well aware of the masses of indie rock and acoustic acts making their multiple appearances at various venues around the city, there’s a hive of punk groups also generating some decent reputations around the place too. Drawing crowds up to sites including Black Market, Enigma and Fowlers Live every weekend, these bands may not be your run-of-the-mill troubadours, but they’re groups of individuals who are making their own unique mark on the local scene. I had a chat with the lead singer of one of these up and coming bands, just to get a perspective on what being a part of this punk/post-hardcore scene is like.
S Is For Spaceship is only relatively new to the live circuit, but as front man Geoff Baddams tells me, they’ve been formulating material for a while. “I was the last member to join the original line up,” he explains. “When I auditioned for the band, they had tried out a few singers already, none of which had worked out. I just swung by one of their band practices and sung a couple of songs for them. We’ve been gigging since about October 2010. I joined about six months before then and they’d been writing songs for about a year before that. ”
For the 21 year old, music has always been something of interest, as well as the desire to be the main guy behind the microphone. “I started learning guitar in the sixth grade and since then I’ve played guitar and done back-up vocals in a couple of other bands. I’d always wanted to be the frontman in a band because I’ve always loved singing and I wanted the freedom to jump around and be an idiot on the stage without having a guitar to hang on to.”
Having checked out the band a few months ago, a relative newbie to this type of live gig, I was impressed with the sense of community and familiarity which exists between not only the band members, but also with their audience, many of whom also play in various bands around Adelaide. “We’re like one big happy family! …Well yes and no.” Baddams jokes.
Elaborating further, he goes on to tell me a bit on what makes S Is For Spaceship different. “Our style is a mixing pot of all the things we love,” Baddams says. “We love all different things, so while we have punk/rock influences, we’re definitely not purely a punk/rock band. Our live performance is definitely a unique feature of Spaceship. We’ve had feedback from people that don’t even like our music, saying that they were massively entertained by our onstage antics.”
So, for a band that isn’t simply a ‘punk/rock’ band, how does the Spaceship crew work, creatively?
“Most of the music we are writing at the moment begins with Nikki (Arrowsmith), Craven (Ben Craven) and I coming up with ideas on guitar and then drums, keyboard and vocals are added later. We usually spend a lot of time tweaking the song, shuffling the order around and adding little features to it before we actually perform. Lately I’ve been screwing around with electronic music production, so from now on I’d imagine that will affect the way we write the songs. We’re thinking about adding second guitar parts to the new Spaceship material, so you may see me onstage with a guitar sometime in the future!”
For the up-and-comers, the next few months are going to be ones of development and production, as they take a break from gigging to concentrate on writing some new material. Influences can often form a large part of a band’s direction, something which Baddams states is almost impossible to avoid. “We aren’t trying to sound like anybody in particular, but you can’t really avoid being impacted by artists you love. When the band started, we were all intensely into bands like Four Year Strong and A Day To Remember.”
With bands like S Is For Spaceship steadily building up reputations around town as a decent and entertaining live act, I can only assume that there’s definitely something good brewing locally. As a ‘niche’ genre, the punk/rock scene can often come off as being quite exclusive and only appealing to a certain type of music nut. As Baddams explains, it’s the infiltration and adaptation of other musical influences into their sorts of music which is starting to gain the attention of a wider audience and not just the general punk/rock crowds. “Pure punk rock has become a bit of a niche, but lots of bands drawing influences from the style and expanding on it are definitely noticeable to a wider audience.”
Check the band out here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/S-Is-For-Spaceship/115430055147501?sk=app_178091127385