INTERVIEW: Matt Corby

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WINKING AT POP MUSIC

Matt Corby has come a long way from his solo folk beginnings. Here he takes us into the creative process behind his colourful new  second album, Rainbow Valley.

by Chris Familton

The album title suggests some kind of idealised nature-based community where everything exists in harmony and for Corby and his family, that’s why they’ve settled in the area of the same name, in the lush surrounds of Northern NSW. “The house is situated in an amazing tropical paradise where you only really hear birds. With that kind of silence comes a certain amount of focus. I wouldn’t have made an album that sounds like this if it was somewhere that wasn’t picturesque,” Corby believes. “It was fitting to call it Rainbow Valley because it marks the place that was needed to facilitate the record coming into existence. It’s quite a sunny feel through most of it but it does have some dark moments too. It’s quite happy in an introspective way,” he adds.

The physical process of finding inspiration and capturing those ideas has become music easier in Corby’s home, with the studio he’s set up there. “I have a space I can come to where everything is set up and ready to go with mic channels, a drum kit, synths, guitars and amps. That’s made the workflow heaps easier. I can go in there on a good week and do a couple of good songs.” 

Over a string of early EPs, Corby made his name with a strong folk sound that gained comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but he increasingly added soul and psychedelic influences. ARIA Awards and high charting singles followed, culminating in his debut album Telluric hitting #1 on the Australian charts. Now he’s taken the rich and modern psych-soul sound of that album and added some fascinating new angles and colours.

“I think it’s a continuation in my weird way. I never really want to make one thing again. This one is slightly more pop. It’s not necessarily pop music but it’s winking at it quite heavily. I could have gone really weird, which I naturally want to do, or have a crack and make something that is really palatable for lots of people without compromising too much,” says Corby.

The genesis of Rainbow Valley came from a few songs that didn’t make the final cut for Telluric. Corby then spent a year jamming and experimenting in his home studio with longtime friend and musical foil Alex Henriksson before he was ready to head to Byron Bay to again work with producer Dann Hume and put together the album. “Alex and I like the experimental phase and not necessarily the hard work of refining songs and trimming them and getting lyrics and melodies concise. We’d just put beats down and do fun sounding stuff. It got me to the point where when I was seriously writing songs for the album, 18 months ago, I had had all that experimentation behind me so it was easy in the moment to know what to do and reference those jams and pull bits out and use them,” Corby explains.

Corby’s creativity has evolved and matured to a point where he plays all the instruments on Rainbow Valley and he’s found the confidence and musical ability to find the sweet spot where a variety of genres blend seamlessly, where traditional and ultra modern sounds coexist and with a balance between experimentation and commercial viability.

“More and more I’m conscious of others in my creative process. I used to be against what others thought ‘fuck you, this is my art!’ Now that I’ve digested a lot of other music I understand things like what genres and time period things fit into and what referencing those does for a modern audience. It probably comes from doing music for a long time and it definitely comes into play when I make music,” Corby reflects. “When I hit something that feels good, I usually feel good because I think that other people will probably like it, which is kind of cool. Hopefully I’ve got that right on this record.”

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INTERVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks

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LOVE, POLITICS AND LAST DRINKS

On an autumnal morning in Prague during her European tour, Cash Savage discusses the songwriting shift on her new album Good Citizens and talks with Chris Familton about the importance of her band The Last Drinks.

The lead-up to the release of a new album can be a tricky period for an artist to negotiate. Some take it in their stride while others ride the emotions of anticipation, self-doubt and excitement. Cash Savage had of course been through album releases before but this time around it felt different given the shift in her songwriting to address socio-political issues that she felt she could no longer avoid.

“Never more so has it been such a relief to have a new record out. This album is really different for me. Through interviews I’ve had the opportunity to self-analyse that. The day it came out we got a four star review in the Guardian and a real weight lifted off me that day,” Savage reveals. “I didn’t realise I was carrying that at all and then I was floating around the rest of the day once that happened.”

Heading into the writing of Good Citizens, an album that addresses the marriage equality debate, moral decay and the inherent problems with male dominated societal structures, Savage knew that it was essential that she start writing about those issues while also still grounding many of the songs in the world of love and relationships.

“I wanted to make the album a real snapshot of how I felt at the time and part of that was that I was (and still am) in love. I knew it was going to be more political but I didn’t ever think it wouldn’t have a couple of love songs on there too. These love songs are political too, because of who I am,” she stresses, before adding “I didn’t really ever see there was a point for me to write songs like this before. I was quite happy to have drunken rants about political systems with my mates down at the pub, but I didn’t see much point putting it in my music. This time I didn’t see there was any other way around it. I had never thought I would ever write a political album so it was surprise for me!”

Making a foray into writing about these kinds of issues begs the question as to whether the process acts as a way of Savage dealing with and processing her feelings about them. “Those issues are frustrating full stop so I don’t think the songs made it more frustrating. It definitely helped for me to write about them. I’ve actually quite enjoyed contemplating the different questions that I get asked about those issues, from different people from different walks of life. For me I guess I’ve found it quite healing.” 

Over the years Savage’s band The Last Drinks have been an integral part of the sound of her records and the power and passion of her live performances. The lineup has changed as members have taken temporary leave for other musical pursuits (guitarist Joe White is a member of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever) or for family reasons (guitarist, banjo player Brett has recently become a dad) but Savage believes the flexibility and nature of the band is its strength.

“The band has always been so organic with its changes that its never felt like it’s one sound. To have a genuine shift has given us a lot of freedom and we’ve had to re-work some arrangements. We’ve been playing some of these songs for a long time and it’s nice to mix them up a little bit. It doesn’t feel different and it does feel different at the same time. It’s been quite nice actually. There is such a camaraderie within The Last Drinks. We’re just a really good bunch of mates and there’s so much fun had on and off the stage. They’re a phenomenal live band and to be able to stand in front of them is just fucking incredible.”

SONIC KICKS: Peabody

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Peabody are now five albums deep in a career that has seen them become a stalwart of the Sydney indie rock scene over the last 24 years. Their latest, A Redder Shade Of Rust (produced by Jamie Hutchings) finds them in fine form yet again. It’s heady, poetic and a really great balance of melody, rhythm, momentum and knotty guitars. It’s dark and churning one minute, on songs such as ‘Perfectly Fine’, before hitting a spirited punk sprint on ‘Prosthetic Heart’. Elsewhere, ‘Sometimes’ is a murky tumble through post-punk shadows and ‘Too Many Days’ heads to the desert with a Morricone twang and an exquisite chorus.

Singer and guitarist Bruno Brayovic kindly took the time to take a swing through our Sonic Kicks: Albums That Shaped Me Q&A and talks G’N’R, Ween and buying cassettes in Ashfield Mall.

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The first album I bought.

The Divinyls  – What a Life

I bought this on cassette (which I still have) at a small record shop next to Franklins supermarket in Ashfield Mall, when I was in Year 5. I’d seen an ad for it on TV which included snippets of Good Die Young and of course, Pleasure and Pain. I was mesmerised, and if I’m honest, probably quite excited by Chrissy Amphlett. I still am.

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An album that soundtracked a relationship.

The blue album by Weezer was a a favourite of mine and my first girlfriend. I wore Buddy Holly glasses but I’m pretty sure neither of us knew what Mary Tyler Moore looked like.

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An album that inspired me to form a band.

It’s a cliche but Nirvana’s Nevermind really solidified my resolve to write songs and perform them with a band (we’d already performed live at school in some capacity). The simplicity of the songs and Kurt’s vocal approach both appealed to me because they both seemed achievable. I was wrong.

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An album that reminds me of my high school years.

Guns N Roses – Appetite For Destruction

I’d gone overseas with my parents so I managed to get it before it came out in Australia. I taped it for heaps of my friends so I was popular for about two weeks. It’s still the very copy I listen to when I whack it on the record player.

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An album you’d love to hear live and played in full.

I thought Kell’s (from Singing Skies) suggestion of John Cale’s Paris 1919 was awesome. I’d love to hear that. But if I have to choose something different I think I’ll say Ween’s Chocolate & Cheese.

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My favourite album cover art.

So many to choose from. Hard to go past Midnight Oil’s Red Sails in the Sunset.

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A guilty pleasure album.

The Traveling Wilburys self-titled debut album. Is this cool again, or is it still daggy? I dunno, but I do know there are some killer songs on it. Some of Bob Dylan’s best songwriting moments are on here, too, including ‘Tweeter & the Monkey Man’, which George Harrison said was actually largely written by Tom Petty. Each song is better than the last, with the exception of ‘End of the Line’ which is still passable.

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The last album I bought.

A vinyl reissue of Paul Kelly’s Post.

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The next album I want to buy.

Piss-Up by local punk band C.O.F.F.I.N. The vinyl is sold out but I’ve been streaming it like crazy. Anyone wanna sell me a copy? Will drop pants for food… or album. These guys are insane live.

INTERVIEW: Adrianne Lenker

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THE OVERWHELMING SENSATION OF BEING ALIVE

Three years on the road with her band Big Thief has been a life changing experience for Adrianne Lenker and as she explains to Chris Familton, she wanted to document and archive her thoughts and emotions through that period on her new solo album abyskiss.

I made my first solo record when I was 21 and I was so much closer to my influences then. Now I’ve got farther from those influences although I’m more influenced by more things than I’ve ever been,” explains Lenker as she ponders they ways in which she’s evolved musically and personally since her debut, Hours Were The Birds, was released. “I’m 27 now and I feel like there have been so many things that have happened. When I made that record I hadn’t even met the band and I’ve spent the last three years on the road and they’ve become my family. That in itself has completely changed me. I’ve shed skins. I’ve been so influenced by the music the guys in the band have shared with me and people I’ve met on the road. My heart has been expanding with the challenges and heartbreak and the wounding and mending over that time.”

The album was predominately written on the road, something many artists choose to avoid. For Lenker, her muse has a habit of dropping in at any time and capturing the songs in certain situations can make for a difficult creative process. 

“Songs are always welcome in my soul but reality sets in sometimes and there are moments when I can’t give attention to a song that’s coming through. That can be so frustrating. Time is so fleeting and with touring pretty much all of your hours in each day are structured and everything is planned out ahead of time. Writing on the road is about stealing time from myself, finding moments to get lost in my soul,” says Lenker. “That can just be for 20 minutes or a couple of hours or for a day, but there have been so many times when an idea has been forming that I’ve felt really excited about and then we have a soundcheck or a show or a meeting. That’s happened countless times where I’ve lost ideas that I’ve loved. I also think when it doesn’t form fully it is meant to be, they’re just stepping stone ideas to get to another thing.”

Sonically, there is a clear separation in the sound of the album from the full band elements used on Big Thief recordings. “I had the intention to keep them minimal because I really wanted the acoustic guitar to shine,” explains Lenker. The approach is an effective one, drawing the listener into the intimacy of her performance and the simple details of her songs. “I just sat in front of the microphone and sang and played the songs and recorded them. There was no editing at all and we only aded one or two other elements. I was conscious to keep it like that – quiet.”

Lenker is known for her astute and sensitive approach to detailing events and the emotional impact they have. On abysskiss she again takes a magnifying glass to life experiences but places them in  the context of big picture existential questions.

“The biggest theme is the least original thing possible. Life, pain, birth, death, the cyclical nature of things. A lot of it is about questions themselves. The aching bittersweetness of being alive and the inherent duality of everything. What kind of twisted, hilarious or crazy thing brought all of this into being and how insane it is that we are brought into his world and then leave and the only guarantee we have is that we will die and lose everyone that we love. Somehow that’s what makes it so rich,” she says, with a mix of wonder and passion in her voice.

“I’m fascinated by the microcosms and explosions that are happening minute to minute within all of us. It’s creating this crazy tapestry that feels extremely gruesome, morbid, gory and bloody and also so delicate and magical and pure. The ocean exists and the most beautiful harmony exists but also war and destruction. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the sensation of being alive. That’s where it’s coming from.”

INTERVIEW: Nils Frahm

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photo by Alexander Schneider

WHEN MUSIC & ELECTRICITY COLLIDE

The last decade has seen a rise in the popularity of modern classical music and its influence on other genres, particularly electronic music. One of the leading lights in the scene is German composer Nils Frahm and in a revealing conversation with Chris Familton he discusses his musical beginnings, his future and the constant flux of his live shows.

It’s 1:30am on an autumn morning in Berlin and Nils Frahm is ensconced in Saal 3, his studio in the iconic, Funkhaus, a 1950s building that previously housed world-class recording facilities and was home to GDR state radio. “I’m always a professional, always working when I’m not sleeping,” he laughs. “I like the night, it’s perfect for musicians. It’s quiet and inspiring. I’ve been in the studio for four hours and I’ve already unlearned how to speak and so it is civilising to talk a little bit.”

It’s been a big year for Frahm, with a heavy touring schedule on the back of his acclaimed All Melody album, He’s about to return to Australia for the first time in four years but don’t expect to immediately recognise songs from the album when he plays them on stage. “All the songs have changed already. I can’t go back to where I started them,” he says, with a note of satisfaction in his voice. “I deconstruct the compositions all the time and build them in a different way. I feel like the songs are ongoing compositions and when the task is to play them again, no-one could ask me to play them the same every time. I need to destroy what I did yesterday and redo it today. It needs to be a little bit different each time,” Frahm emphasises.

A hallmark of Frahm’s music is his ability to seamlessly blend electronic and acoustic instruments and still retain an organic, tactile and emotionally resonant quality in his work. “It doesn’t matter how something is played, just listen to the music,” Frahm responds, before tracing his fascination with both musical worlds back to the lounge room of his childhood home. “For me it was a natural connection to electronic music because it was always connected to my father’s hi-fi system. It was highly electronic so that connection between music and electricity was always there for me and wasn’t a separate thing. I was aware that a piano didn’t have a plug and other things did, but I thought a vinyl record player was as exciting as a piano. I liked anything that played music to my ears and made me feel amazing,” says Frahm.

“I was always curious about music and I like when I don’t really know how something is made. It can be made by an orchestra, it can be made by a synthesiser or even an algorithm. If it sounds good to my ears, and it all comes out of speakers in the end, I don’t worry. Here in my studio I’m looking at my patch bay and cables one to eight are all microphones and nine to 16 are all synthesisers. They are all the same cables. Even the acoustic piano goes through the same cable as my synthesiser and they come out of the same speakers,” explains Frahm, surveying the array of keyboards, pianos and synthesisers around him.

The conversation leads to where Frahm first had a strong emotional response to music. Not just hearing it as background music on the radio or in the endless hours of practising scales in piano lessons. “There were some songs that amazed me. ECM released John Surman, the saxophone player who played along to synthesisers and loops. It was something that burnt into my heart,” he recalls passionately. “I was crying to that song when I was a kid, and it had no lyrics or anything. It was just a harmonic motif and the timbre of the synthesiser, together with the saxophone. A truly amazing combination of a real instrument and something alien that I couldn’t understand. I heard many good examples of tasteful blends of those two worlds, even before I recorded anything, so I was very confident that it could be done and I was standing on the shoulders of heroes.”

Frahm still has All Melody tour dates stretching into 2019, but what then? He recently released Encores 1 – additional music from the same album sessions, and he hints at but doesn’t confirm that there will be more in that series. For Frahm it seems like his future is something of a mystery at the moment. “I don’t tend to plan too far ahead. I just want to survive next year and then in 2020 who knows what I’m feeling like doing then. It’s a crazy time in life and I’m meeting a lot of people around me who talk about inspiration and what they want to do in life. I hope by 2020 I’ll be smarter and can imagine something a little wiser than what I’m doing now – being the pop icon who is traveling around the world with tons of equipment and lots of people and playing these silly festivals around each corner.” 

It’s a revealing and remarkably candid insight into the decisions an artist has to make – the form, timing and responsibility of presenting their art. “I’m totally open for all of this to end, to be honest. I don’t want to be the person who just stops and takes something away from people. I can’t say I’m excited to just finish a tour in two years and then do the next album and then do a huge tour. I don’t know how many years we can go on like this. It’s really crazy man. I’m not dark about the future, I’m excited… but I’m absolutely puzzled.” says Frahm, before returning to the solitude of the early hours, the empty Funkhaus hallways and the cables and synths of his studio.

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.”

INTERVIEW: Lee Ranaldo (2012)

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The common impression of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo is one of a polymorphic artist with ideas constantly tumbling out as spoken word, art and of course music. His collaborative projects are numerous, as are the publications of his poetry and one senses he is totally consumed by the creative process. With this in mind as we chatted over the phone from his New York home it was slightly surprising to hear that he was preparing to head to Nova Scotia in Canada for a few weeks of rest and relaxation the following day. 

“Sometimes it is nice to not have any agenda and just be out experiencing things but usually downtime involves moving from one art form to another. Usually one is a vacation from doing the other so when I’m not touring I get to work on drawings or something else in my studio.” he explains.

Having his fingers in a number of artistic pies allows Ranaldo flexibility in how he expresses himself creatively and as he explains, none of the disciplines he works in are mutually exclusive. 

“I see myself first and foremost as an artist who doesn’t work in a particular field. I’m interested in visual artists whether that’s painting, drawings and cinema and I’m interested in language whether it be writing as poems or stories or journals or lyrics and I’m interested in music and I feel like they feed each other. Its really all about tapping into creativity in whichever area you work in. I’m pretty active in visual arts these days, I’ve got work in shows in a few different places right now and I’m always writing and putting out new small books of poetry. The things feed off each other. The words end up on canvas, the music informs ideas for cinema and spoken word finds its way into some of the performance events.”

The most prominent of Ranaldo’s recent projects in the wake of the Sonic Youth hiatus enforced by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore’s split is his solo record Between The Times & The Tides. Ranaldo has released solo works in the past but this album sees him working primarily in a standard rock band format and in fact was written and recorded prior to the current hibernation of his main band.

“This record was done during one of those periods before we found out what was going on between Thurston and Kim. Over the last decade we’ve built a lot of time into our schedule for people to work on their own projects outside Sonic Youth. I’m thankful it was done before I had any inkling of that stuff so it was done as normal without any added pressure that my band was stopping or anything like that.”

Though the album is predominantly an electric guitar, rock album, the songs started life acoustically in Ranaldo’s lounge room before undergoing a process that included the addition of a rhythm section and a number of guest appearances from friends he had collaborated with on other musical projects. 

“I wouldn’t say it came about by accident but I wasn’t really planning to make a record like this. The songs just started coming out and I performed the first couple that I wrote and that led to writing some more. I started off thinking it was going to be an acoustic and voice record and then it ended up as this rock band record so it just built in this very natural, organic way from the very first tunes that came out of my acoustic guitars in my living room,” explains Ranaldo.

“Early on I got Steve (Shelley) to play drums on a few things and right away we decided we’d try to find a bass player and put a rhythm section on some of the songs. That’s how we started tracking the record, with bass, drums and me and then I invited everyone else in to play after that, so the structures were pretty well worked out and there was a framework for people to get an idea of what I was looking for in each song. The songs were just coming out and I was following them, I wasn’t trying to make them into anything they weren’t.”

“It’s been a really fun process and just as surprising to me as any one else at this point. I still say that for me to make a more traditional singer/songwriter record like this – on one hand it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – on the other hand it is as experimental a phase in my career as all the other experimental things I’ve done from spoken word to noisy music to film soundtracks.” 

Though Between The Times And The Tides is a solo record there are contributions from a number of guest musicians that are essential to making the songs sound as detailed and expansive as they do.

“There is a certain group of people playing on them, a lot of friends and collaborators from various points in my life from Sonic Youth members like Steve Shelley and Jim O’Rourke to Alan Licht. Nels Cline and John Medeski also played on the album and they’ve worked with me on various other projects over the years so it was really fun to make the record and see these songs come up,” says Ranaldo enthusiastically.

Rather than collecting together a group of songs, tacking on some cover art and sending them out into the world, Ranaldo was determined to create an album in the traditional sense where there is an ebb and flow and a narrative to both the music and the packaging. Like so much of the cross-pollination in his work, the initial seed for the album came from a photograph.

“It really started with this picture of me that we used on the front cover. I was writing the first of these songs and I did an interview with some people for a documentary and one of the guys took those pictures and when he sent me that one I thought “wow, this looks it would be a really cool album cover”. That goaded me into writing the record, to wrap in this package in a sense,” explains Ranaldo. “I was very aware it was going to be an album, with a gatefold and liner notes about the sessions and the feeling that “this is going to be the last song on side one,” so there was a grouping of songs you could listen to as a side of a record. We pretty much thought we were making a vinyl record right up until it was done and then we had to prepare the CD issue. So many records these days devolve into being about one or two songs and bunch of others so we were really trying to make a group of songs that hung together in an interesting way.”

“I really wanted it to be a personal record harking back to a singer/songwriter album like they were when I was listening to records like that in the 60s and 70s, where it would be a window on somebody’s life and you hoped you’d find a commonality and shared experience from listening to it. Records then were these experiences that they’re not really now. You’d get a record and pore over the liner notes and who played on each track and they’d stay with you longer and be this real listening experience. Even if it was for no one other than me I wanted this record to be made in that kind of mindset.“

Looking back to those early years of folk rock as inspiration for the format of Between The Times And The Tides was also in keeping with the musical inspiration for the songs in their initial incarnations. 

“I was playing acoustic guitars again seriously for the first time in ages so I guess that really took me back to certain things I listened to when I was much younger, when I was predominately an acoustic guitar player – whether it was John Fahey or  Leo Kottke or David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Velvet Underground and Reverend Gary Davis – all kinds of people that were working with open guitar tunings.”

As our conversation winds up there is the matter of addressing the elephant on the phone line, the future prospects for Sonic Youth. Together for 31 years, they are currently in a holding phase while each member explores other projects and Moore and Gordon are given the space to decide whether they can still work together artistically.

“We are all enjoying the freedom to do other things as we have done for many, many years over the lifetime of the band,” says Ranaldo. “None of us are in any way even thinking about or certainly not talking to each other about ideas of what might or might not happen. The idea of getting to that point is a long, long way off. I have no doubt that we’re all going to continue. We are all doing interesting things now and that spirit that has driven us all these years isn’t just going to dry up if we stop working together. I wouldn’t say building towards this but we’ve really prepared ourselves well by over the last ten or fifteen years being involved in lots of independent projects outside Sonic Youth. It’s easy to fill time, the challenge is filling it in a significant way and all of us get offers to do various things all year long.”

Chris Familton

TOUR DIARY: Mark Moldre

TOUR DIARY: MARK MOLDRE

PROLOGUE

Sleepwalker, I feel my way through forest and gorge
Fantastically around me a magic circle glows
Not caring whether I courted or cursed
I follow truly my inner calling
– Herman Hesse

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photo by Jared Harrison

I’ve never had any delusions of grandeur about my musical place in Australia
I’ve struggled to make any kind of mark
In my last 3 decades of making music
I’ve never really been sure about where I fit
In the Australian musical landscape
Are my musical meanderings alt-country?
Nope, not really
Americana?
I’m still not sure about that term when it comes to Australian music
Folk?
I think I get too noisy for that crowd
Blues?
Well there’s a deep well of history there
That draws from tough living and emotional lyrical depth
Music that I love
But today it’s often just a genre full of clichés
And guitar poses
And when it’s coming from some guy brought up in the
Eastern Suburbs of NSW
It just feels wrong
So, nope again

I fall between the cracks in the musical pavement
Where the weeds grow and the dust collects
Where insects hide and the unsuspecting trip

What I do know now after all these years
Is that I love songs and not genres
I really don’t care what box I’m supposed to fit into
Because I finally feel that I have found my place
As corny as this may sound
I believe I now have a place to lay my hat
It may be a small area
And maybe I have Holiday Fever
Or it’s my European heritage calling me
But I feel that France
And in particular the wonderful people of Binic
Is the place that I could happily call my musical home

THE JOURNEY

Songs that I sang before come
Softly once again
And the shadows of uncounted journeys
Cross my way
– Herman Hesse

First there were 2
Adam Lang and I
Are starting this journey together at my place
We’re already having trouble with luggage weight requirements
My box of merch being the main problem
So we start trying to spread socks, CDs, underpants and guitar leads
Throughout our carry on
My guitar even becomes a suitcase when
I roll up all my T-shirts and stuff them inside the soundhole
Once the weight is all distributed we start the drive to Sydney
Vaucluse to be exact…

And then there were 3
The current home of Scott Hutchings 
Is a house where I spent many hours as a child
Due to the fact that
Scott, Jamie and I grew up as childhood besties
We get to bed reasonably early as
We’ve got a dawn Uber booked to get us to the airport
Sleep
Shower and
Load the car
Waiting at the airport for us is the rest of our party…

Now our Gypsy Caravan of 7 is complete
Adam Lang (banjo/slide player extraordinaire)
Scott Hutchings (Tub Thumper and dragging a newly acquired Fender Jag)
Jamie Hutchings (Jazzmaster destroyer)
Reuben Wills (Slap bass enthusiast)
Jared Harrison (another tub thumper)
And Peter Fenton (Savant and ukulele destroyer)
And me (excessive talker)

2
photo by Airport Stranger

This motley crew will make up 3 bands
Infinity Broke
The Tall Grass
And my ensemble
Jamie, Reuben and Scott will play in all three
As to whether or not they will survive the fact
That some days will require them to play three sets in a row
Remains to be seen
Remembering about 35 songs
For three very different line ups
Is
a
mammoth
task
And rehearsals have been intense but sparse

We all manage to check in with no issues
Only Adam is pulled aside to have his toothpaste confiscated
Illegal contraband apparently
Boarding is smooth sailing
And we’re up in the air in no time
China Southern was the cheapest flight
And I was expecting the worst
But we are all pleasantly surprised
With the fine service
The fellas all chow down on the airline food
And Chinese beers
But unfortunately my ridiculous dietary requirements caused by
A red meat allergy
Which brings on delayed anaphylaxis
Hives and huge marble sized lumps all over my body
(Believe it or not it was brought on by a tick bite a few years back)
And a disorder called Hereditary Fructose Intolerance
Which means my liver can’t break down sugars
Natural or otherwise
(And I’m going to the land of fine food…the sad irony!)
Means that I pick a little from each meal
And practice fasting

I try reading my book
Crime and Punishment
But I keep hearing the protagonist, Raskolnikov
Whining in Woody Allen’s voice
His constant state of stressed babbling in his own mind
Is making some anxious inflight reading
So I revert to movie watching
And before I know it we’re in Guangzhou
For what was meant to be a 6 ½ hour stop over….
And it’s 36 degrees

We book ourselves into an Airport lounge
And take advantage of the wi-fi
(only to find that none of the usual social media apps
or forms of communication really work at all)
Showers
Food
Drink
Comfy chairs
The closest we can get to
Airport heaven
Until they tell us its time to move on
It’s at this point that we discover our plane has been delayed
Another couple of hours
So almost a day in total spent in the airport
And even though there’s not a scrap of carpet in the airport
Just highly polished floors
Reuben sets up camp and sleeps on the floor
Eventually we make our way back onto a plane
And sleep is now calling us all

3
photo by Jamie Hutchings

PARIS AIRPORT

I’m strictly a tourist but I couldn’t care less
When they parlez-vous me then I gotta confess
That’s for me: Bonjour Paris!
– Funny Face – Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire and Kay Thompson

4
photo by Mark Moldre

We arrive in Paris at about 7am
We collect our gear without a hitch
And make our way through customs
Adam is again stopped and asked to open his banjo case
And give an impromptu banjo performance to the officers
We search for the railway whilst dragging copious amounts of luggage
With a few hours to kill before our train arrives
Peter and I play at an airport piano
I make my first effort at purchasing some French food
My terrible efforts at speaking a few French niceties
Quickly turns into mumbling and
Incredible destruction of a few simple French words
I figure it’s better from here on that I remain silent as much as possible
Our train arrives and getting the gear onboard amongst the Parisian masses
Makes for some Laurel and Hardy style hilarity
With us all blocking the aisle of the train
Causing much exasperation to the Parisians behind us trying to get a seat
And culminates in Adam receiving a heavy blow to the head
As an unwieldy guitar case falls from the rack
Adam takes this in good humour
But heads straight to the bar carriage to numb his wounds

CAPTAIN LUDO

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken. – Dostoevsky

5
photo by Scott Hutchings

We arrive in St Brieuc and here I have my first opportunity
To meet the man who made this whole trip possible
Jamie has already prepared me for meeting the Festival Director
And the fact that he
Personally
Turns up to drive us to Binic
Speaks volumes about his long term friendship
With Jamie, Scott, Jared and Reubs
Who have all been here before
In fact this marks Jamie’s 5th time to play the festival
We all receive the traditional kiss on each cheek
And hugs all round
Ludo is a real French character
Gregarious
Tough and wiry
Looking like a heavily tattooed biker
Master of a “sale blague”
A straight, no nonsense talker when
It comes to getting things done
(Whilst simultaneously talking in riddle speak)
No one ever questions his authority
The respect he receives from everyone
Is plain to see
Yet as I discovered as time went on
The man is sentimental
Nostalgic and has
A heart of gold
A love of music
And is beyond generous
Here also we meet Felix and Etienne
Who will prove to be immense help to us
Over the next few days
New friendships are quickly formed
And reignited
But for now we must begin our first “mission”
We head to Binic
Check into the hotel and
Reconvene at Ludo’s bar
“Le Chaland Qui Passe”
Which becomes our HQ for the rest of the stay

6
photo by Jared Harrison

BINIC

A small town is a place where a woman spends hours talking on the phone, when having dialed the wrong number – Robert Lamoureux

Checking in to our hotel “Benhuyc”

7
photo by Mark Moldre

We meet our extremely hospitable hosts
Claire and Pascal
I’ll be sharing a room with the Hutchings brothers
A wistful experience for all three of us
Reminding us of childhood sleepovers and teenage camping trips
Reinforcing old bonds of a strong, lifelong friendship
Jared, Reuben and Adam take another room
And Peter gets a private suite all to himself
Scott, Jamie and I
Shake off the jet lag by going for a swim in the seaside pool
Followed by drinks at Ludo’s bar
The boys all down local beers
Once again due to my ridiculously painful diet
I ask Ludo for my only drink of choice – gin
He stares me square in the eye and says
“What is wrong with you?!!!”

8
photo by Mark Moldre

We head to a restaurant
Where I get to enjoy my first French meal
Fenton orders a huge pot of local mussels and clams
Magnifique!
I order my very first Galette
A traditional French meal I can actually eat
A savoury buckwheat pancake
With fillings of your choice
For me:
Fromage (cheese), champignons (mushroom), Oeuf (egg)
This becomes a staple for me while in Binic
As every second restaurant and take away has them on the menu
The sun goes down slow in Binic
By about 10pm it is still light
And we start to trudge back to our hotel rooms
I’m still too tired and overwhelmed to take in the town
I crash quickly and sleep soundly
Jamie and I wake as the sun is coming up
And wander down to the beach for a swim
(Scott has already been)
The town of Binic is sleepy in the mornings
There’s little activity
No early morning joggers
No dog walkers
Shops are closed and the streets are empty
For the first time I get to take in the
European beauty of this little town
A fishing village centered around a small harbour
Lots of restaurants, a few shops
A magnificent old church
And buildings made from stone fill the streets
Quaint architecture surrounding a beautiful seaside

9
photo by Jared Harrison

Jamie and I swim at the beach
The water is cold but it
Washes away the last of the
Fuzzy jetlagged feeling in our brains
On the walk back
I start to get the first sense
Of the community here
People are incredibly friendly
Stopping their cars in the middle of the street
To get out and say hello to friends
Friends are all greeted with kisses and genuine hugs
The sense of excitement about the upcoming festival
Fills the air and conversations
The whole town is abuzz
There are posters in all the shop windows
And I’ve made the front page of the entertainment section in the paper
Exciting for a barely known singer/songwriter from Australia

10
photo by Mark Moldre

Scott and Jamie take me on a small tour of the back streets
Into the majestic old church
Its steeple is a dominant landmark in the Binic skyline
And then we climb the hill
Where the narrow lanes are dotted with small stone houses 

11
photo by Mark Moldre

The views are breathtaking as
I look back towards the small town of Binic from the top
Then the phone rings – and duty calls
The rest of our band mates are at Ludo’s house
Checking over the musical equipment that
 Will make up our backline for the rest of our stay
We walk up to Ludo’s and start picking through
Fender amps and Drum kits
Bass amps and a beautiful old double bass
That Ludo has sourced for Reuben

12
photo by Jared Harrison

Ludo showers us with gifts and Festival merch
Afterwards we wander back down to the hotel
To prepare for our first show

LE GALION

Then he saw them. The gulls. Out there, riding the seas – Daphne Du Maurier

13
photo by Jared Harrison

Our first show is a about a 1½ hour drive away from Binic to Lorient
Lorient is kind of otherworldly
At least the area that we are in
It’s heavily industrial
Strangely deserted
Slightly spooky
It has the air of a place that has been bombed
And then left
Except for
Big, eerie empty buildings and warehouses
Which are covered in incredible graffiti art

14
photo by Adam Lang

Down by the waterfront are
Huge cranes and
Shipping containers
Everything is quiet
Except for the sound of these
Huge gulls
Kinda like those bird sounds in the final scene of
Hitchcock’s “The Birds”
In fact this area would make a perfect spot
To film the end of a thriller
A final chase and shoot out scene in
A 70’s Don Siegel film
Culminating in a finale
Where the villain finally falls from a great height off a crane
Le Galion is the name of the tonight’s venue
And Jean Baptisite is the owner
When we arrive he greets us all with a kiss and hug
His bar is an incredible room filled with curiosities
Stuffed animals, skulls, an old piano with our names in flashing lights

15
photo by Mark Moldre

The room has the feel of an old wooden ship
Our host Jean Baptiste then disappears into the kitchen
We discover later that he is cooking up a
huge
pasta
dish
just
for
us
We sound check but
Almost immediately the back pickup on
Jamie’s Jazzmaster dies
If you’re reading this and you’ve seen Jamie’s main guitar
You may know that it is held together
By stickers and grime
There is mould and mushrooms growing out of the bridge
And the frets have disappeared beneath years of
Bluebottle Kiss sweat
Luckily Adam is a guitar repair whiz
And within seconds his head is buried
Deep beneath Jamie’s scratch plate
(who knows what kind of infection he may have picked up in there)
And his soldering iron is smoking
(yes, he brought one with him!)
After Jamie’s guitar is back in action
We are led upstairs
For a spread that consists of pasta, baguettes, cheese and wine
Provided for
The bands and the crew 16

This of course sparks off a discussion
On the difference between the treatment
Of bands in venues across Australia vs Europe
At most Australian shows it’s hard to get enough
Bottled water or soft drink
For the band
(one exception that I have personally experienced
– Brian Lizotte in Newcastle –
who treats all artists with style)
We have this discussion many times over in the days to come
As the lavish treatment continues throughout our time in Brittany
The room is still empty at 9pm
So we push the start time to 9:30
By the time I get onstage there’s
A small crowd
And our set goes without a hitch
I even sell a couple of CD’s
Nice warm up

17
photo by Jared Harrison

The Tall Grass are up next
This time Peter is plagued with problems
First his ukulele dies
The battery compartment is not closing properly
Rendering his uke all of useless
Adam swings into action again
This time improvising by searching outside the bar
With our intrepid guide/helper/roadie Felix
For a stick to jam into the battery case to hold it in place
Somehow they get it working
Only to find the exact same problem happens to Pete’s guitar
Cursed!
I can see Pete trying to hold the battery case down with his thumb
As he strums awkwardly with his other four fingers
This time I slip onstage and with the magic of gaff tape
I manage to tape it together so he makes it through the set
Jared has become the official band photographer
And he’s capturing loads of great snaps
Next up Infinity Broke
(Scott, Reuben and Jamie are ploughing into their 3rd set as
we head towards midnight)
Jared is also a brilliantly solid drummer
And alongside Scott they lock in together and
Become a single rhythm machine
The show is embellished by one
Male gymnast dancer right up the front
Who is particularly entertaining
With his interpretative dance during
Infinity Broke’s epic 16-minute version of Monsoon
We pack up the van relatively quickly
It’s an incredible privilege and
Extremely unusual for us to
Have roadies helping (what a treat!)
Hotel by about 2:30am
Zzzzzz

SAINT-QUAY PORTRIEUX

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give – Winston Churchill

Neither Jamie nor my sleep patterns have really kicked in
This means about 4am each morning
Jamie wakes up and can’t get back to sleep
And starts searching around for a sleeping tablet
This of course wakes me up so I have to do the same
On this morning though Jamie thinks its 4am
But it’s really about 9:30am
He knocks back a sleeping tablet
Then realizes he’s about to miss breakfast
So he gets up and trudges downstairs
But by the time he gets to his seat
He’s in a state of foggy stupor
Trying to eat breakfast
And split the payment amongst band members
For the previous nights show
Whilst downing coffees to try and circumvent
The unstoppable force of his tablet
He’s nodding off whilst counting coins so
He heads back upstairs to sleep it off
Mornings are spent calling home
Most of us catching up with wives and/or kids
Letting them know they are loved and missed
Then breakfast in the hotel
We are well looked after by our fine hosts
Claire and Pascal
The breakfasts are fantastic
I chow down on buttery buckwheat pancakes
Coffee, eggs and a variety of cheeses
Followed by another swim
Later in the afternoon we are picked up by 2 vans
For our second show
This time we’re only travelling about
10 mins down the road
To the beautiful seaside town of Saint-Quay Portrieux

18
photo by Scott Hutchings

Today stands out as a real highlight of the trip
And it makes an
Indelible mark on me
When it comes to the generosity
Of our hosts
This time we’re be playing an outdoor show
With the beach as a backdrop
We all jump out and soak in the view
(which is an incredible delight for the senses)
And awaiting us in the artists tent
Are bottles of red
an espresso machine
beers, water
nuts and cheese
We’re immediately told to help ourselves
Then
After set up and sound check
We’re whisked away for dinner
Now, I’ve got no idea if all bands that play at the Festival
Receive this kind of treatment
But I have a feeling that this may have a lot to do
With our magnanimous host Capt Ludo
We are led into an upmarket restaurant
And shuttled into a private room
All seven of us plus our hardworking helpers
And here begins a 3 course meal unlike any I’ve had in years
Thankfully it was mainly seafood
(which I can actually eat!)
And I broke my boring diet by destroying a desert
That set my taste buds alight
C’mon I’ve gotta break my diet just once every 10 years or so, yeah?

19
photo by Mark Moldre

Next Ludo arrives with a few bottles of special wine
That commemorates his first meeting with Jamie
Now, I’m not meant to drink wine either
But I can’t be rude…right?
I offer my glass without hesitation
We all marvel over these bottles of red
Cos this wine is just something else
Scott becomes a connoisseur
Smelling and swilling
He can smell blue vein cheese in there
Adam is sitting there gob smacked
Jamie after years of working at a wine club
Gives us all the correct references
By this time we’re all feeling just slightly merry
And very, very full
And we’ve almost forgotten that we have to go back out and play a show
As it’s heading towards evening and
None of us are sure if singing and playing
After all that food is even possible without
Belching into microphones
And forgetting arrangements and lyrics
This time
Scott, Jamie and Reuben
Are playing only two sets
I open the show to an attentive and appreciative audience
Perhaps a couple of hundred people
Manage to meet some nice folk
Sell quite a few CD’s
And sit back to enjoy the Tall Grass
Peter Fenton had assumed that we were heading back to Binic
Before the show
And he has no suitable stage attire for a gent of his stature
So we double up on my wardrobe
And do a clothing swap between sets
For an encore I hop up with The Tall Grass
And we finish with a rousing version of Neil Young’s Vampire Blues
Pack up the van and
Zzzzzz
Zzz
Z

20
photo by Jared Harrison

PRE FESTIVAL ANNIVERSARY PARTY

We hear he is a whiz of a wiz
If ever a wiz there was
If ever, oh, ever a wiz there was
– We’re Off To See The Wizard – Harburg/Arlen

21
photo by Mark Moldre

This day begins with Adam carrying out a few necessary guitar repairs
He’s been a complete champion
Running on and off stages with minor repairs
But today there are a few instruments that need looking at
So he buries himself in the upstairs room at Ludo’s bar
With a collection of tools and works wonders
Over the course of our tour
Jamie’s guitar is fixed properly
Fenton’s uke is fixed
With parts purchased from
A fishing tackle store and a chemist
Scott’s guitar
Which has been continually going out of tune
Is set up and rebuilt
Scott is amazed as Adam nonchalantly takes off the neck
Straightens it with a truss rod adjuster
Sets the intonation and
Files nut slots
So that his Fender Jaguar is now a sleek playing machine
My affectionate nickname for Adam on this trip
Had been Rabbi Lang
Due to Adam’s luxurious beard
But
Ludo pronounces Adam “THE WIZARD!”
A way more apt and worthy title
Tomorrow the festival begins
But as for tonight
We are playing the 10th Anniversary Celebration
Of the Binic Festival Party
This seems to be an invitation only affair
Corporate sponsors, staff and volunteers fill the room
Tonight is another 3 set work over
For the Hutchings brothers and Reuben
The Tall Grass open the proceedings
And as Jamie is having some issues with his sweet falsetto
Which has been reduced to a high-pitched croak
I jump up for a few harmonies
My set is next
And onstage
I really start to feel like the band is
Finding its feet
Particularly on some of my new tunes
The set seems to go down well
And a few more CD’s make their way into the hands of the French

22
photo by Clement Guyon

Infinity Broke up next
And then we meet Melbourne band
Bench Press
Who seem to be having some success here in France
Plus they’re a bunch of real nice fellas
I’m starting to fade – still adjusting to Paris time I guess
So I walk back to Ludo’s Bar with
Jared and Adam for a nightcap
We chat philosophically for an hour or so
(as you do in France)
Jamie disappears for a midnight swim
And now
Even this late at night
The sense of the festival hangs heavy in the air
Stages are being set up and
Barricades pulled into place
Streets are being closed
Bars and merch tents are popping up
Tomorrow the festival begins!

BINIC FOLKS BLUES FESTIVAL DAY 1

Lost among the crowds,
The dusty air, the flickering
Candles, stunned, his heart drunk
With music and hurt So I go,
drunk and melancholy
Lunatic guitarist, poet,
A poor man in a dream,
Hunting for God in the mists
-Antonio Machado

This is not your usual
Run of the mill festival
That we experience in Australia
The whole town is the festival site
The festival is completely free
About 60-70,000 people start to pour into this small village
Roads at each end of the town are blocked
3 large stages have been set up
In prominent positions
Tents are raised
And vans are parked
On the outskirts of town
Security pours in
Police and armed military
Obviously due to terrorism in France
Crowd safety is now a huge issue at events like these
So it’s comforting
Whist also unnerving
To see many groups of soldiers
Armed with automatic weapons
Wandering through the sleepy fishing village

23
photo by Mark Moldre

I have a rare day off today
The Tall Grass and Infinity Broke will both play a set each
I had planned to do some exploring…
Tourist for a day
But….there’s still loads to be done
I meet Mikaël Le Bourhis
Frenchman of style, finely manicured and well dressed
Affable and polite
Despite the fact that he’s probably had very little sleep
Due to being
The Festivals Press Agent
He’s also a great friend of Reuben’s
Their similar love for left of centre fashion
Which they call “dandy”
Means they quickly move on to admiring one another’s outfits
Mikaël described me in the Press Release
“As an Australian D’artagnan
A man of fine moustache”
So obviously I warm to him quickly
Knowing we’re going to get on just fine
He takes me on a tour of the festival site
In a hunt for
Wristbands
Drink tickets
Lunch and dinner passes
Each day all artists receive lunch and dinner
At an all you can eat buffet
Where the food is quite mouth watering
Alongside coffee and a selection of
Desserts and wines at every meal
On the way I receive an assortment of merch
Cups, Shirts, Tote Bags, Programs, Badges etc
I meet loads of wonderful and friendly volunteers
Whilst wandering through the artist lounge and bar
Up to the private viewing platform
Which has a perfect view of the largest stage on the beach
I catch the early afternoon
Tall Grass set from the platform
Grab a swim at the seaside pool
And head off to watch Infinity Broke’s
Nighttime show, which is a cracker!

24
photo by Clement Guyon

Our intrepid hotel owners Claire and Pascal
Are right up the front
And they call out to Scott
“Magnifique! Tomorrow… BIG BREAKFAST!”
Unable to find Adam or Peter
I wander back through the masses alone
Tonight there is a Lunar Eclipse
And the moon is red
I have my first emotional moment
Watching and mingling with the crowds
Slightly overwhelmed at being here
The generosity of these people
The happy lack of self-awareness that
The young kids seem to have here
Dancing with each other
Smiling and laughing
Young children with their families
Adults well in to their 60’s and 70’s
Standing up close to the barricades and enjoying the music
Swaying
With teenagers moshing by their side
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt
A sense of community like this
It’s something to be cherished
And although I’m of course positive
That it wouldn’t be like this
Right across France
Tonight I have a lump in my throat
I feel as though I belong here
With these happy folk
I feel at
Home in Binic

FESTIVAL DAY 2

Eighty percent of success is showing up – Woody Allen

Today is the day of my first show and
I’m a little edgy
Which usually means I talk too much
Due to that edginess
I can’t remember much
About what I did that day
Apart from watching Infinity Broke’s afternoon set
Peter Fenton heads off on a solo
Bus trip to St Brieuc
I have the pleasure of meeting
Jeanclaude and his girlfriend
Jeanclaude is somebody I have only ever
Spoken to on Facebook
But he has undertaken a 10-hour drive to Binic from Belgium
Specifically to see my show tonight
He’s lovely and we chat for a while
The rest of the afternoon
I sit quietly in my hotel
Restringing my guitar
Softly running through my set
I grab a take away Galette
And a small flask of gin
To calm my nerves a little
The stage I am playing on tonight
Is just below my hotel room
And through my open windows I can hear
The crowd in a frenzy
For a super loud garage rock/punk band called Magnetix
Making me even more neurotic
About whether my folkier racket will go down OK
I finally get backstage
To some mild chaos
Lots of our gear is missing
It appears it’s over on the beach stage
About 400 metres away
And we’re on in about 20 minutes
Ludo happens to be around
And rather than yell and carry on at stage staff
For not having the gear together
He just says to Scott
“We have a mission!”
So Scott, Ludo and our newly arrived friend Jan
(Who has come to see us from Switzerland)
All run across to the other stage
Lugging the gear across
By hand
To see a festival director
Being this hands on at a grass roots level
Without complaint
Shows his commitment
And passion for this festival
We finally get onstage
And my nerves melt away
When I see the crowd waiting for me to start
Many calling out my name
Yelling out that they love me
One guy jumps up onstage
And asks Adam if he can stroke his beard
Punters are hugging my boots as
I walk past the front of the stage
The onstage sound is a little rough
But adrenalin kicks in and I pretend all is well
Despite the fact that I can barely hear my acoustic guitar It seems to be fine out the front though
Because there are smiles and cheers all round
In my excitement
I probably say
Merci beacoup! (thank you very much!)
Too many times
And pronounce my profound love for Binic
Too many times
Yet my use of the regional dialect with the word “Yamat!” (Cheers!)
Seems to go down a treat
(Thanks to the local who suggested I say that…)
And the only other French words that I can remember onstage are
Bonsoir (good evening) and
Je m’appelle Mark Moldre (my name is)
By the end of the set the sound has improved
The area in front of the hotel is jam-packed
And we seem to have gone down a treat

25
photo by Jared Harrison
26
photo by Jared Harrison
27
photo by Jared Harrison

My nervous energy
Has given me a second wind
So I head across to the beach stage
To watch US band OMNI
And hang out with Jan, Jared, Reuben, Scott and Jamie
Plus our young new friend
Up n coming photographer Clement Guyon
I grab a last drink in the artist bar
And head to bed

FESTIVAL DAY 3

Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears – Albert Camus
Or
It frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be – Bob Dylan

Unsurprisingly I sleep in and
Miss breakfast
Luckily they haven’t yet packed up the leftovers
And even though breakfast is officially over at 10am
They don’t mind that I grab a few mouthfuls
Before heading down to the beach
With Scott and Adam
For Adam and I this trip has been overwhelming
I’m no seasoned traveller
I’ve been overseas a couple of times
China and Thailand
Adam has only ever been once to Fiji and
Although Adam is not really a beachgoer
He feels he has to swim just once
In the Atlantic Ocean
To cross it off his bucket list
Watching him enjoy this experience of
Travelling so far
And enjoying it so much
Has been a real pleasure for me
The pleasure of being in France is written
Across his whole demeanour
The water is cold but rejuvenating

28
photo by Scott Hutchings

Now it’s time to head back
To the large beach stage for my final festival show
I’m on early
2:30pm to be exact
So I’m kinda expecting that there will be
Very few people milling about
And that this will be a smaller show than last night
Thankfully I was overwhelmingly surprised
A bigger crowd than last night has gathered
In fact they have squeezed in
Right to the front of the stage and
As far as I can see and
When I ask the crowd to raise their hands for a photo
A sea of hands and smiling faces respond
Right to the very back
Thousands of faces

29
photo by Mark Moldre

I can see the town of Binic in the background
The church bell tower high above the buildings
A breathtaking sight
I do my best to pause and soak it in
And standing on this stage
I know that I may never experience anything like this again
We play an energized set
The band has really hit its stride now
Adam playing super fast banjo and ripping slide
Jamie strangles his usual incredible array of sounds out of his Jazzmaster
Scott is so relaxed and reliable
And sits so far behind the beat
That I joke he’s still playing the previous song
Reub’s double bass sounds huge and full

30
photo by Jared Harrison
31
photo by Jared Harrison
32
photo by Jared Harrison

When the set is over I head over to the merch tent
To meet some of the fine French folk
Only to discover that all my CD’s have all sold out
Apparently
Only about 4 minutes after
I finished my last song
I stay and sign CDs and chat
I’m hugged, kissed, photographed and handshaked
I talk to one of the lovely volunteers Marie Caillou
She has been a festival volunteer for years now
And her enthusiasm for music and musicians is epic
A typical example of the passionate volunteers
After my show we are taken into the inner sanctum of the festival
The VIP area for corporate sponsors
A bar is serving free cocktails
A grill is continually on the go
Seafood, kebabs, breads and cheeses are scattered on tables
There are lounges and a massage caravan
(Jamie heads straight in to have his sore lower back attended to)
Here Mikaël interviews all 7 of us
Filming the moment for posterity
Followed by drinks with Ludo
And another new friend Gilou Le Gruiec
A lovely, fiercely intellectual lady
Jamie and I discuss with her the possibility
Of returning someday to Paris
And she suggests the concept of
Playing a series of intimate shows
In bookstores and theatres
Holding master classes
In which we discuss our literary influences and
Curate mini Film Festivals
It’s OK to pipe dream yeah?

33

34
photo by Gilou Le Gruiec

Next up is the last show for our entourage
The Tall Grass head over to the stage to begin setting up
Adam and I tag along
Mainly to help Peter and Jamie
With tunings, guitar changes and string breakages

35
photo by Jared Harrison

Something transformative happens in this set
Whilst Jamie and Peter are singing their beautiful duet
Weathervane
Ludo is tearing up
In fact tears are streaming down his face
It’s a song that means a lot to his personal history
Jared has his arm around him
Gilou is also misty
Jamie chokes a little while singing “The Letting Go”
And in their finale
A beautiful piece
From the pen of Peter Fenton
Named
Halo
Suddenly and
Out Of Nowhere
I’m really struggling to hold
Back the tears
Whether it’s because this is our last full day in Binic
Or because I’m missing my family
Whether it’s being with my oldest friends
On this once in a lifetime trip
Whether I feel a natural affinity with these people
Due to my European heritage
And I know leaving here is going to be difficult
Whether it’s simply hearing this song
Right at this precise moment
Or whether it’s because I’ve played music
For so many years
And have never experienced
Anything that even comes close
To this
This incredible place
Alongside these generous people
Or the fact that I don’t feel
out
of
place
and
awkward
Amongst conversations of
Football and cars
As I do back in Australia at a typical BBQ
But while The Tall Grass are wrapping up
That heartfelt song
I’m overwhelmed and emotionally spent
Yet I feel myself set free
All my pent up stress from Australia
Is melting away
I feel amazingly relaxed and at ease
Happysad
At home
Too much?
Probably.
But I don’t care

PARIS AND HOMEWARD BOUND

The mechanic escalators, automatic gates,
Corridors of correspondence, peak hours and affluence
Mosaic doors, fantastic labyrinth and always, running
The people that go and come and still, running
The same people that return
And the subway that strolls under Paris
Sweetly dashes and then flies
Flies on the corners of Paris
– Edith Piaf

Days go slow and yet fast
Hellos can be leisurely
Goodbyes always seem rushed
We are suddenly standing out the front of our hotel
In our slightly smaller group of 6
(Scott has decided to head over to Switzerland with Jan)
Ludo bestows on us one last parting gift
A hand printed Festival poster
On quality card
Numbered and hand signed by the artist
No’s 1-7
We throw the gear into the waiting vans
Farewell new friends
And drive 20 mins or so to the train station at St Bruiec
We hug and kiss Ludo
Jamie and I bestow on him a
Parting bottle of whisky
As a show of appreciation
But to be honest I can’t thank him enough
I’ve got no words at all really
They drive away
And as their taillights disappear around the corner
We realize that
Once again we are on our own
The Rolling Stones treatment is over
And as we
trudge
carrying
all
our
gear
To the platform
We discover
That there has been a fire at our proposed destination
Of Montparnasse
And the trains are running an hour and a half late
Actually some trains are cancelled
So when we eventually get on
The train is very full
And we have to stand with all our luggage and guitars
Sliding and rolling everywhere
For the 2 hour trip
When we finally get off
We realize we are not at Montparnasse but
We have been delivered to another station
And our destination is still a few trains away
Our single day in Paris is shrinking
And we begin what becomes a journey of epic madness
Into the bowels and catacombs of the Paris subway system
The tunnels are very old
And there are practically no elevators or escalators
Reuben and Jared have gone to meet friends
So they have caught another train
So Jamie, Adam, Peter and I
Each dragging three items of luggage
Descend the first set of stairs
Now I had frozen shoulder before I came
If anything is going to set it off again
It’s the hilarity that’s ahead of us
Peter and I both get trapped in turnstiles
My backpack gets caught
While crawling underneath doors that don’t open
Adam’s arm gets caught in fast closing subway doors
His fist narrowly missing Peter’s jaw
As he pulls his arm ferociously out of the door
Endless sets of stairs
Suffocating lack of air
My 26.5-kilo behemoth bag gets
Heavier and heavier
Jamie, who has done this before, stares at us sympathetically
Knowing it’s going to continue getting worse
Before it gets better
Getting lost
Backtracking
Putting gear down for a rest
Picking it up again
My boots are a little too big
And I can feel the blisters growing
Muddled conversations at Information Centre’s
Police telling us we’re sitting ducks for thieves
Phone app Maps sending us in the wrong direction
When we finally arrive at our hotel in Paris
We are informed the elevator is busted
And we’re on the 4th floor
Up a narrow staircase we go
And collapse on the beds
It’s now about 7pm
A two-hour trip has taken the entire day
Before we all end up falling asleep
We decide we must do something Parisian
Before catching our flight home
We grab a dinner in a pub on our street
Then for what now seems like a luxurious trip
Without towing luggage behind us
We catch another subway to the Eiffel Tower
A bottle of red under Jamie’s arm
For a little bromance in the city of romance
As expected it’s breathtaking
We act like absolute clichéd tourists
Snapping photos and
Jaws dropping at
The view on the second floor

36
photo by Mark Moldre

When it’s close to midnight
We catch the subway back to the hotel and
Sleep soundly
The following day is relatively uneventful
Mini bus to airport
Sleep on plane to China
Brief stopover
Sleep on plane to Sydney
A couple of movies
I write a few notes to jog my memory for this very diary
Very little conversation now
We’re all wasted, tired and contemplative
Taxi back to our car
And before we know we’re home
And it’s all over
In a blink of an eye

EPILOGUE

You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that – Samuel Beckett
Or
You’ve got to psych yourself for the Post Tour Blues – Jamie Hutchings

Reality hits like a huge karmic hammer
It’s wonderful seeing my wife and family again
Presents, hugs and kisses all round
But the work drudge is tough
I unpack my festival mementos
And already Binic is receding in my mind
Like the wisp of a memory
Of a barely remembered dream
Next up
I start planning the release of my new album
Which has been completely recorded
And is in the mixing stages
But deep down I know
Whatever I can conjure up musically
Is unlikely to reach the giddy heights of those
Few days in a small fishing town
So far away

Love
Mark
X
10/08/2018

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photo by Scott Hutchings