NEW MUSIC: Fox Grin – Black Tree

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New music in the sense that it’s new to us… Fox Grin (Atlanta, Georgia) actually released their LP King Of Spades back in January of this year but we’ve only just come across this great track, ‘Black Tree’, in the last couple of weeks. It’s a upbeat shimmer and dance through art-rock and avant-pop. Downbeat by nature but thoroughly on the up musically, it cuts a fine sartorial figure as the infectious rhythm section pulses below all manner of guitars and keys. It sounds like Beck buried in a kaleidoscopic studio with Field Music.

Check out ‘Black Tree’ and find your way through to the full record on Bandcamp or hit up the usual streaming services.

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INTERVIEW: The Goon Sax

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TALKING WE’RE NOT TALKING

Brisbane trio The Goon Sax return with their second album and as Louis Forster and Riley Jones explain to Chris Familton, the desire to document their thoughts and experiences through an open musical relationship remains the driving ethos of the band. 

They were still teenagers negotiating the twin worlds of school life and being in a band when they released their debut album Up To Anything and now, facing the challenge of adulthood and the new responsibilities that come with it, The Goon Sax have found some different angles from which to write about familiar themes on its followup We’re Not Talking.

“I think growing up was definitely a big theme,” says singer/guitarist Forster. “We were writing more about love than we’d written about before. On the first record we were writing about that from an outside perspective, as a foreign concept. This time it was closer in that sense,” he reveals. “It was also about finishing school and worrying about what we were doing everyday, which we hadn’t had to do for 18 years.”

The group recorded the album down in Melbourne at Super Melody World and though they have mixed feelings about the experience, both Jones and Forster agree that it yielded positive results. “The recording process was really different because we worked with producers who had an idea of what we should sound like and we had a different idea, so the album is like both sides pulling and fighting for some middle ground which definitely makes it interesting,” reflects Jones. Forster agrees, adding, “we started writing as soon as we finished recording the first album, from 2015. It’s coming from the same place as the first record. I think there’s tension in every aspect of the record. It feels like it has so much tension and energy, that feels like it’s on the verge of falling apart or exploding which is a good thing. It didn’t seem like a good thing at the time but maybe it is now,” he says, with the benefit of hindsight.

One feature of the album is the increased democratisation of the musical relationship between the three of them. Alongside James Harrison, all members contribute lead vocals to the new album. “We definitely sing the songs that we write and then the others chime in. We recently made a rule that anyone can chime in whenever they like and so far that has worked well,” explains Jones.

That willingness to try new things on We’re Not Talking extended to the use of new instrumentation  such as strings, piano and more across its 30 minute playing time. “We wanted to experiment with drum machines a bit and have some horns and things.” says Forster. “We all wanted to sing more on each other songs. There are more group vocals and we were all having more influence on each others songs, both with the singing and the ideas we were putting forward. There are bits of Riley and James on all my songs and vice versa which wasn’t maybe there before that. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious thing but we did it at the time and it felt good.”

One common element that the newer songs share with the first album is the streak of melancholy and self-doubt that permeates their music. Is that a representative of their personalities or just the mood and tone of how their creativity is naturally expressed?

“I think to some degree it is part of our personalities but we definitely wrote about things that were difficult and that bummed us out at the time and writing about them made us feel good again. Sad music is made for a reason and maybe it’s to repurpose something you’ve gone through, “ ponders Forster. “It’s important for us to make music that feels necessary, not just for the sake of it. You need to feel like you have to do it. I like the absurdity of putting sad lyrics to happier sounding music, it just makes me laugh.” Jones has a similar take that also reflects the way she enjoys listening to music. “I like it when you can be nostalgic about those kinds of feelings and remember through the music how strongly you felt about something.”

LIVE REVIEW: Gaz Coombes @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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Gaz Coombes, Mitch King @ Oxford Art Factory, 13th Sept 2018

Solo tours from artists known almost exclusively for their work with bands are often approached with caution. Will they be able to replicate the spirit of their recordings and maintain the integrity of their songs with just their voice and a few instruments on stage? Some artists take the fully acoustic approach – “These are the stripped back, skeleton versions of my songs,” they say. Others create a new experience and approach the songs from different and fascinating angles. Gaz Coombes successfully took the latter option.

Up first, Mitch King serenaded the arriving punters with a set that showcased his technical ability as a guitarist and a voice that fits the template of the soulful, bluesy, easy-listening and surfer-friendly sounds that the likes of John Butler, Jack Johnson and Ben Harper have built careers on. The audience were drawn to King’s friendly demeanour and clear talent but it all sounded like we’ve heard it a million times before. It wasn’t helped by detours into Heartbreak Hotel and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

Gaz Coombes bounded onstage still looking younger than his years and with that cheeky street urchin grin intact. Many would have been there hoping to relive 90s memories with some Supergrass tracks but for that they’d need to wait until the very end of the hour-long set. This was all about Gaz Coombes the solo artist – now three albums deep into his post-Supergrass career. Much of his performance focused on the recent World’s Strongest Man album, his most textured and genre-mixing collection of soulful psychedelia to date, and its predecessor Matador. 

Drum loops, keyboards, effects units, acoustic and electric guitars were all at Coombes’ disposal and the newest songs in particular benefited from the palette of sounds on offer. Wounded Egos, Shit (I’ve Done It Again) and The Oaks highlighted the impressive range and quality of his voice with soaring falsetto and a strong soul-meets-Radiohead tone and texture to the songs. Deep Pockets was a Krautrock groove that spiralled into the stratosphere on the back of distorted guitar and the pneumatic insistency of its rhythm while Detroit was a strummed, heady rush of cascading melodies. 

Humble and grateful to the audience for turning up after a decade-long gap between tours, Coombes had the perfect encore up his sleeve with a dive into two songs from his old band’s songbook. Moving was soaring and euphoric before he left us with a song about “getting in trouble with the law” that drew a cheer from the crowd and communal singing as he tore through Caught By The Fuzz.  Coombes is on a creative run that’s hit 25 years and though it was built on the back of Supergrass he showed that he’s more than earned the respect and continued support of his fans through his solo career.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound

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Eleanor Friedberger was the voice of the quirky and inventive Fiery Furnaces before going it alone. Now onto her fourth solo album, she’s more than established herself as a fine songwriter and clearly decided to stretch out into some new sonic territory on the more electronically textured Rebound.

Eschewing the knotty indie guitar sound, she’s delved into a more synthetic world of drum machines, keyboards and melancholic music that references the sadder side of 80s pop but is in no way a nostalgia exercise. There’s a patina to the music whereby the songs sound lush and contemporary with one foot in simple melodic pop and the other in the art-pop world of artists like Stereolab. 

The single Make Me A Song is as catchy as anything she’s done in the past and demonstrates her playful wordplay and consistently infectious way with a chorus hook. The downbeat thrum of Nice To Be Nowhere recalls both Julee Cruise and Jack Ladder in its plaintive soft focus sway while Are We Good dances with a playful kosmiche pulse. Her use of electronic sounds add a warmth to these songs rather than colder machine-like qualities. It’s a re-housing of her songs in a new setting and she’s again matched it with sensitive and astute songwriting.

Chris Familton

NEWS: The Goon Sax Announce New LP ‘We’re Not Talking’

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Brisbane trio The Goon Sax are back with the followup to their acclaimed debut album Up To Anything. We’re Not Talking is due out on September 14th on Chapter Music via Secretly Canadian/Inertia Music.

CH151 The Goon Sax 1500Here’s the first single, ‘She Knows’, a song that still possesses that urgent acoustic strum but now framed by a bigger, warmer sound and more effects. If the first album was the skeletal introduction to their songwriting then this suggests they now have a clearer and more confident perspective on how they want to present their songs.

‘She Knows’ has become a very fast song, which took us a lot of practise to be able to finally hit and strum our instruments fast enough, with a lot of strings breaking. I hope it makes people energetic and excited to listen to, it’s a song about losing hope, stubbornness and heartache. I’m not sure if it’s our saddest song, but maybe if you lock yourself in your room for a couple of days and only listen to it you might not feel so happy, it is also okay if you feel happy to this song! Even better!!!”- James Harrison

If you’re in Sydney, you can catch the band playing a special one-off show at Golden Age Cinema & Bar next Wednesday May 9th, before they head to the UK, Europe and the US (for their first ever US shows) in May/June.

INTERVIEW: Django Django (2018)

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On the eve of the release of their third album, Marble Skies, and an hour before they take the stage in London to launch it, drummer/producer David Maclean chats with Chris Familton about where the inspiration comes from in the creation of their multifaceted sound.

Django Django are now three albums deep into a career that started with a bang when they released their debut self-titled album, garnered a Mercury Prize nomination and set off on a two year world tour. That segued straight into the follow-up album Born Under Saturn which nearly derailed the band entirely when they hit breaking point. Now they’ve regrouped, built a studio and rediscovered the essence of their music – that dizzying blend of electronic pop, surf guitar and postmodern psychedelia. “Now we’re back into it and excited again!” says Maclean.

With the stage beckoning, he admits that the band are always a bit edgier when taking out new songs for the first time and that they need to be worn in. “It’s always a bit nervy playing them the first few times so they’ll have to settle in a bit and they’ll keep changing and morphing and getting better and better until you kind of go on autopilot a bit and then you can kind sort of enjoy it and just relax and get in the groove a lot more.”

Marble Skies finds the band sounding more settled and focused than ever before and Maclean pinpoints a greater confidence in how they work together. “We’re definitely getting a bit more confident, but you don’t want to get carried away just because you can do something. We don’t want to get obsessed with the techniques. On the first record we didn’t now what we were doing and that was all we needed at the time. Our songwriting is getting better and we strive to keep working because we want our records to be played on the radio in 20 years time like Gerry Rafferty or Blondie or Cat Stevens,” Maclean enthuses.

In hindsight Maclean sees some mistakes with the recording of their previous album Born Under Saturn. “With the last album we went to Angelic which was the keyboardist from Jamiroquai, Toby Smith’s studio. It was a huge studio in the countryside and I guess we felt a little out of our depth as we hadn’t written any songs before we went there,” he laughs. “We ended up being in the communal living room all the time writing songs, even though we were paying thousands a day for the whole place. It’s not really in the spirit of where we came from or how I grew up with a four-track making music. We were more comfortable this time,” says Maclean, referring to their own new studio.

One of the key characteristics of their sound is the fusion of different genres and organic and digital instrumentation. “I think I’ve always been quite good at finding threads in different music. I remember listening to Public Enemy when I was younger and having that eureka moment realising they were sampling Jimi Hendrix licks and mixing in beats. Even looking at their production style and the similarities to what The Beatles were doing. These were all people just experimenting creatively. All music is a lot more connected than people think.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Django Django – Marble Skies

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In the past Django Django have managed to wrangle the seemingly disparate styles of electronic pop and rockabilly rhythms into songs that roll and pulse, both on the dance floor and as highly attractive synth pop. They continue that template here but it all sounds more refined and cohesive.

Their trademark vocal delivery and the way the melodies and harmonies are layered and blended is still the most distinct aspect of their sound. The area where they’ve gained the most traction and taken their songs forward is in the composition and instrumental arrangements. They run the gamut from the sugary jackhammer rhythm and Suicide meets early Depeche Mode of the title track  through to the Jan Hammer assisted piano, dreamy kosmiche vibe of the excellent Sundials. Both Tic-Tac-Toe and In Your Beat excel at marrying brain activity and feet movement with dizzying precision and economy, while the clipped guitar riff of Further reminds that they are still a band that play live instruments.

Marble Skies’ electronic pop psychedelia is a fine soundtrack for the summer months, immediately appealing music from thinking musicians who know how to find that balance between creativity and accessibility.

Chris Familton

PREMIERE: Hoolahan – Instant Gain

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After a 10 year break, Sydney quartet Hoolahan returned to active duty last year with the release of their Wayne Connolly-produced album Casuarina.

We’re pleased to premiere the video clip for the second single from the album, ‘Instant Gain’. It’s a song draped in chiming guitar, keening and bittersweet vocal melodies and the kind of brisk rhythm you might find propelling a song by The Chills. Precise, refined yet heartfelt songwriting par excellence.

The band will be launching the single at a show at the Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney on March 9th.

The Hoolahan Story

Songwriters and childhood friends Tim Kevin and David Orszaczky grew up together in Canberra, swapping tapes and learning guitar via the pause/play button. Soon after moving to Sydney they formed Hoolahan with Harry Roden and Neil Bateman.

After a handful of early singles, the band’s debut King Autumn was the first album released on Sydney’s revered Ivy League label. Now hailed as a lost classic, upon release it earned glowing reviews and national airplay.

Following King Autumn’s release the band toured nationally, playing the Big Day Out festival and performing with the likes of You Am I, Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, Ash, The Vines and Swervedriver. Hoolahan split in 2007 but remained close friends.

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