The Jezabels – Young Woman Rising

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 4/3/16.

The Jezabels have never been a band shy about challenging gender equality; just consider their name taken from the biblical character of Jezebel, a woman who has been unfairly represented in history.

Since forming in 2007, the alternative/pop-synth band from Sydney have found success with three EPs, two albums and multiple awards. Now the band that brought us hits like ‘Endless Summer’ and ‘Mace Spray’ are back, challenging gender politics, creating debate, and setting it to music, with their politically charged third album, Synthia. Aphra had a chat to Hayley Mary, lead vocalist of the Jezabels, about confronting her own femininity, the importance of female groupies and how Synthia will contribute to the conversation around gender politics.

In Synthia‘s opening track ‘Stand and Deliver’, Hayley sings: ‘And it’s something quite unfair, in this underlying scene, that she wants the same success, but she’s lacking in the breeding.’ This theme of gender inequality is one that runs throughout the album, creating a powerful statement. There’s nothing subtle about the lyrics of Synthia’s tracks as they challenge the everyday sexism that we so often accept. Hayley says this directness is new for the band.

‘We’re just more articulate this time and a little bit more direct.’ Says Hayley. ‘I think people are more interested in those issues now than they used to be as well, so it’s easier to be overt about gender politics today than it used to be.’

‘I did used to shroud myself in romanticism because there were…feelings of frustration or longing and I didn’t really know what they were for or what I was trying to articulate. I still don’t totally, but I feel much more conscious in the politics and assertiveness than I ever have before.’

Hayley says creating Synthia has provided her with the confidence to confront her feelings about being a woman. She explains how she needed to face her fears in order to expand beyond her horizons.

‘From the dawn of time, groupies have actually been what’s made rock n roll possible. If young girls didn’t listen to Beatles, there would be no Beatlemania and there would be no rock n roll.’

‘I was very scared to go out into the public again and write more, and be in the face of criticism and be in a man’s world, but then that’s why I felt it was all the more important to do it.’

‘Sometimes I think life doesn’t give choices; it’s like you can choose to allow your world to grow smaller and smaller and that’s what you do by succumbing to fear, but if you want to enlarge your world, you do things that you’re scared of.

Having explored her personal experience in depth, Hayley reflects on how femininity is portrayed in the wider context of the rock n roll world.

‘Well I think obviously the rock world’s a big world, and there’s a lot of ways it’s portrayed, but there are some clichés that you have to acknowledge. I think there’s a notion that the main stereotypical roles that women play is the role of the groupie, historically, and even still now, and a lot of the time not only is it considered a passive role, [but] its value is also underestimated…’

‘From the dawn of time, groupies have actually been what’s made rock n roll possible. If young girls didn’t listen to Beatles, there would be no Beatlemania and there would be no rock n roll.’

Hayley says feminist revisionism of rock n roll history has brought new evidence to light.

‘The groupies back in the 60s and 70s were actually influencing the styles of the rockstars themselves, and they were influencing the music, and they were friends and they were treated respectfully. All these kind of notions that they were actually more important than they were perceived to be are coming out now through a revisionism of those periods of rock n roll history.’

‘You’ve always got these double edged swords…because you’re either playing into what people think women should be or you’re consciously going against it.

She continues, ‘I think there’s this notion that the woman is less valuable and passive in rock n roll, but that’s being constantly challenged, and it’s even been suggested that that’s never actually been as true as we think.’ However, despite this revisionist train of thought, Hayley does find it difficult at times to challenge gender stereotypes in the musical world.

‘I find myself being vulnerable, or being scared, or expressing these kind of very stereotypically feminine qualities. And then I think, “Was that just playing into these clichés about what it is to be a female and is that what people want females to express because it’s feminine?” Then I go the other way and I try to be masculine and I go “well was that a kind of denial of the feminine.”’

‘You’ve always got these double edged swords…because you’re either playing into what people think women should be or you’re consciously going against it. You’re never neutral; it’s always gendered in some way, which I’m not entirely sure men are as conscious of.’

Synthia, Hayley says, plays on contradictions; she uses the example of often feeling simultaneously like a groupie and a rockstar. That idea of not belonging anywhere, or rather, ‘in-between worlds’, fascinates the singer.

‘We’ve got these ideas [or categories] that we …try and sort of fit into because we think that’s where everyone else is. But no one is actually there, no one’s in ‘the category’, and this applies to discussions about everything, like race, gender, religion, sexuality.’

‘Women are going to find themselves in between worlds all the time, because we’re trying to leave our limited [gender] roles and make new roles, not just fall into male roles. So that in-between space really interests me and I’d like Synthiato occupy that in people’s minds.’

Hayley believes embracing the in-between space is helping to deconstruct and reject old stigmas.

‘I think all of those categories are breaking down and fragmenting constantly; they have been for a long time, but it’s getting further and further to the point where one day I think we’ll just see each other as one. It’s a bit of a hippy thing, but we will accept each other’s differences and not try and put each other in boxes.’

The conversation returns solely to Synthia and Hayley says of all the songs on the new album, she feels most connected to ‘Pleasure Drive’ because it’s all about ‘celebrating life and living in the moment’.

‘I think too much and sometimes it disables me, and stops me from doing, and existing in the real world. ‘Pleasure Drive’ was a song… where it’s like, I’m going to actually follow my body a bit more, and follow my gut a bit more, and do, rather than think, and not worry so much,’

Finally Hayley says if she could describe Synthia in three words, she would use a phrase that she heard from a family she met recently, which is ‘Young Woman Rising’. ‘When I say ‘Young Woman Rising’, I don’t mean she has to be young, I mean that she’s rising, as in she’s growing and getting older, so she’s progressing.’

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Deena: On musical independence

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 22/12/15.

Deena isn’t bound by the expectations of others, nor does she adhere to mainstream music standards. The indie bluesy-rock musician from Brisbane originally started writing music as an emotional outlet following the death of one of her close friends. And years on it continues to be impassioned, moving and inherently personal. ‘When I write, I just write for myself and be true to myself and be raw and honest… I do tend to write music that isn’t shaped by the trends of the music industry or what people tell me to write,’ she says.

There is an overwhelming darkness within Deena’s newest single ‘Turpentine’ that penetrates the mind, propelled by a powerful and striking authenticity. ‘I just write how I feel and there’s no method to the madness for me… It’s just got to be real and it can’t be put on, it’s got to be how I’m feeling,’ she says. ‘I’m not thinking like, “I should make it sound like this” or “I should do this, people will like that,” like I’d never do that. I just go “write write write write write, oh there it is!” That was reflective of how I’m feeling, yeah I guess that’s how I put it out.’

A private person in her day-to-day life, music has always been an avenue for Deena to express herself. ‘I do wear my heart on my sleeve when I write and I really appreciate the fact that I have the power to connect with people in different ways when I perform and when they listen to my music,’ she says. There are no limitations with her creative approach, either, as she implores listeners to ‘be able to find their own way and experiences to connect with it’.

Deena explores indie rock, blues and old school rock ‘n’ roll in great depth. I’m interested, however, to discover that she didn’t necessarily intend to fall into these genres. ‘When I started, it was obviously just me and my acoustic guitar. You can still write dark acoustically but it just doesn’t have the overall ambience,’ she explains. Along the way, she accumulated a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer, which helped her develop and refine her music. ‘They would have just added the layer to the cake to form a thicker version of my acoustic songs and it just so happened to be that it was kind of bluesy rock. That might change or it might not, but at the moment that’s how we’re expressing ourselves.’

Deena’s willingness to experiment with different types of music also stems from her diverse cultural background. ‘I guess there’s a different variety of music that I’ve grown up with, the different cultures all shape into the type of music I write and I’m not really bound by one genre or one style or one trend that happens within a culture,’ she says. While she asserts that her music doesn’t come from her Japanese and Taiwanese background, her parents have always listened to a lot of different music as she was growing up, exposing her to a wide variety of compositions and genres. ‘My mum’s very much into her classical and her old time classics like Celine Dion and Kenny G and my dad’s the complete polar opposite with old country and really, really diehard country as well. I guess within that there’s influences from those two that fit into my music.’

While Deena enjoys playing internationally, Brisbane remains her core scene. ‘Brisbane’s got a really great music scene and a lot of supporters behind female artists as well, so yeah I’m lucky,’ she says. However, being an independent musician in an ultra competitive industry does pose difficulties. ‘There are some days where I just build up so much angst and hate towards what I’m doing because it’s really frustrating. The worst thing about being an independent artist is the fact that you have to take care of the business and the core products, which is the creativity and the music and writing.’

Having the band for support certainly empowers her music, as each member constantly generates new ideas and adds their own touch to the music. ‘Actually up until this year recently, I write all the songs and then I give it to the band and I let them write their own parts to it, because I want everyone to have their own interpretations of the song and then put their own spin onto it,’ she says.

‘That’s been a great process to push us out of the “Deena” box and let them have a bit more freewill with how the song works.’ Deena is even bringing her guitarist with her on a little getaway, with the intention to co-write and collaborate with new material. ‘I’ve been really lucky to have like a family band around me where we’re all similar on our wavelengths. We’re all capable of discussing ideas and compromising and coming to a decision at the end and [one] we’re all happy with.’

Deena delves into her musical journey, discussing how Lone Wolf is quite different compared to previous album, Black Cat. ‘I put out Lone Wolf when I was in that grieving process and I was in that mindset that I want to preserve everything because life is short.’ She continues, ‘I recorded those tracks without thinking of the overall artistry, you know since I was new as a musician as well, so that was not really in my train of thought.

‘That [album] honed in a little more on who I was as a musician and then I guess ‘Turpentine’ is the next level with that and it’s going to continue shaping that sound and being more sure of what I want to portray.’

As for her future goals, Deena says that she wants to develop the music to a point where it is sustainable. ‘I would love my little music baby to nurture itself, take care of itself and then also extend that to taking care of me comfortably. That would be amazing so that I could pretty much say that I do music full-time without struggling to find ways to make it happen. That’s what I would love, as long as I have an audience that wants to listen, I’d be really happy… that’s what I want in my music.’

 

‘Turpentine’ is out now via Footstomp Music. For more information visit http://www.footstompmusic.com.

Jamie Lawson

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 5/10/15.

UK singer/songwriter Jamie Lawson released his first album Last Night Stars in 2003 and, with multiple releases now behind him, is on the verge of a new acoustic beauty in the form of Jamie Lawson. He’s perhaps most known for his 2011 single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’, which achieved double platinum status, but is also the first artist to be signed by Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Records. And with the release of his new single ‘Ahead of Myself’, there’s some serious buzz surrounding the man from Plymouth.

A musician that counts among his influences REM, Jackson 5 and American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel, Lawson grew up surrounded by instruments, and decided from a very young age that he wanted to learn to play guitar. ‘They’re all the kind of bands and singers that have great lyrics and really beautiful melodies, and that’s kind of what I was into,’ he says. ‘I don’t know if you choose them, they come to you and you just attach or connect.’

Lawson’s newest album marks a new direction and evolution in his musical career, moving away from his self-described teenage, angst-y phase into more sophisticated territory. ‘It’s not so in your face or aggressive,’ he says of the album’s sound. And continues, it’s ‘a big musical duvet… nice and warm and more spacious than the other albums’. More upbeat and smoother than anything he has done in the past, it no doubt encourages people to just go with the flow and enjoy the rhythm.

With Lawson we can see a musician who is really pushing to enter new territory, both with his songwriting and choice of instrumentation. He lists ‘Only Conclusion’ as his favourite song on the new album, in which he takes to the piano, an instrument he is still learning how to play. Of new single, ‘Ahead of Myself’, Lawson says, it ‘relates to the idea of just taking that step forward and jumping into something’.

One of the many benefits of being signed to Ed Sheeran’s label is the opportunity to support the pop megastar at his shows. ‘Well recently we got to play at a venue called Croke Park, opening for Ed Sheeran, and that holds 82,000 people, so now I didn’t play to 82,000 people because they weren’t all in when I was playing, but probably about 40,000 people,’ Lawson excitably recalls. ‘Oh it was great fun, I loved it. Felt completely at home. It’s good fun to play to that many people.’

The two originally met some five years ago while playing gigs around London, and immediately became interested in each other’s music. ‘Ed is always fun, you know for someone who’s got so many teen fans, he attracts teen fans that want to listen to other things,’ Lawson says. ‘He’s got that about him, so his audience is always interested in what else is going on and listening, they tend to get there earlier if they can you know.’

As far as having fun outside of music goes, Lawson has quite the soft spot for Scrabble. ‘There’s a program in the UK called Countdown, it’s a word game on the television and I love it. I’m a big Scrabble fan; I play it online, so if anyone wants to play Scrabble then please just look me up. I just like playing it. It’s very ordinary.’

Maybe there comes a time when he takes his passion for Scrabble to a professional level, but at this stage Lawson is more than happy playing music, and following his one true passion. ‘Just do what you love, I think that’s the most important thing. You’re going to spend all your days doing something, it should be something that you enjoy, there’s no point in doing something you don’t.’

 

 

Jamie Lawson – Jamie Lawson is out October 16 via Gingerbread Man Records / Atlantic UK.

Jamie Lawson

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 5/10/15.

UK singer/songwriter Jamie Lawson released his first album Last Night Stars in 2003 and, with multiple releases now behind him, is on the verge of a new acoustic beauty in the form of Jamie Lawson. He’s perhaps most known for his 2011 single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’, which achieved double platinum status, but is also the first artist to be signed by Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Records. And with the release of his new single ‘Ahead of Myself’, there’s some serious buzz surrounding the man from Plymouth.

A musician that counts among his influences REM, Jackson 5 and American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel, Lawson grew up surrounded by instruments, and decided from a very young age that he wanted to learn to play guitar. ‘They’re all the kind of bands and singers that have great lyrics and really beautiful melodies, and that’s kind of what I was into,’ he says. ‘I don’t know if you choose them, they come to you and you just attach or connect.’

Lawson’s newest album marks a new direction and evolution in his musical career, moving away from his self-described teenage, angst-y phase into more sophisticated territory. ‘It’s not so in your face or aggressive,’ he says of the album’s sound. And continues, it’s ‘a big musical duvet… nice and warm and more spacious than the other albums’. More upbeat and smoother than anything he has done in the past, it no doubt encourages people to just go with the flow and enjoy the rhythm.

With Lawson we can see a musician who is really pushing to enter new territory, both with his songwriting and choice of instrumentation. He lists ‘Only Conclusion’ as his favourite song on the new album, in which he takes to the piano, an instrument he is still learning how to play. Of new single, ‘Ahead of Myself’, Lawson says, it ‘relates to the idea of just taking that step forward and jumping into something’.

One of the many benefits of being signed to Ed Sheeran’s label is the opportunity to support the pop megastar at his shows. ‘Well recently we got to play at a venue called Croke Park, opening for Ed Sheeran, and that holds 82,000 people, so now I didn’t play to 82,000 people because they weren’t all in when I was playing, but probably about 40,000 people,’ Lawson excitably recalls. ‘Oh it was great fun, I loved it. Felt completely at home. It’s good fun to play to that many people.’

The two originally met some five years ago while playing gigs around London, and immediately became interested in each other’s music. ‘Ed is always fun, you know for someone who’s got so many teen fans, he attracts teen fans that want to listen to other things,’ Lawson says. ‘He’s got that about him, so his audience is always interested in what else is going on and listening, they tend to get there earlier if they can you know.’

As far as having fun outside of music goes, Lawson has quite the soft spot for Scrabble. ‘There’s a program in the UK called Countdown, it’s a word game on the television and I love it. I’m a big Scrabble fan; I play it online, so if anyone wants to play Scrabble then please just look me up. I just like playing it. It’s very ordinary.’

Maybe there comes a time when he takes his passion for Scrabble to a professional level, but at this stage Lawson is more than happy playing music, and following his one true passion. ‘Just do what you love, I think that’s the most important thing. You’re going to spend all your days doing something, it should be something that you enjoy, there’s no point in doing something you don’t.’

Little May: On painting pictures with sound

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 14/10/15.

Sydney’s Little May thrive on creativity. The three-piece are always looking for new avenues for artistic expression, and to elevate the experiences of their fans. With the release of their debut album, For The Company, this inspired approach culminated in the #ArtForTheCompany artwork campaign, where eleven artists created a piece of art each inspired by an individual album track. In showcasing their genuine and heartfelt indie pop release, the band held their very own artwork exhibition in Sydney. It allowed fans to listen to the album while enjoying a heightened sensory experience with the added visual component. Aphra Magazine had a chat with guitarist Annie Hamilton about their new album and how it incorporates both musical and visual innovation.

Little May’s #ArtForTheCompany campaign impressed with two stunning components, and was a groundbreaking initiative when it comes to album releases. Annie tells me she’s always been very into art and design. ‘I actually do all of the album artwork for Little May, so it’s always just been something I’m really interested in.’ Their manager Mon sorted out the initial concept for the exhibition and they developed and worked on it over the last few months. ‘So basically we’ve curated eleven of our favourite artists and commissioned them to create a piece of art inspired by a song on the album. We’ve now put it all together in an exhibition in Chippendale in Sydney.’

Little May are also interested in the way their fans interpret their songs and respond to them. ‘I think all of our songs tend to be quite personal and very introspective, you know lyrically they’re all very personal songs. But in saying that, none of them are like very blatant or literal, most of them are more abstract and open to interpretation.’

The accompanying exhibition painted a portrait of their artistic vision; they wanted people to be absorbed in both the visual and audio components of their album. This extends to their desire for people to listen to the album as a whole, and to engage with it as one musical work. As Annie explains, ‘All the songs work together and they’re quite cohesive, and so having it in a gallery space where you can listen to the song while focusing on the artwork, you’re really immersed in it. It becomes a bit more of an experience than passively listening to it in the background.’

As for whether they’ve incorporated the visual side of their work into their live shows, Annie says that they haven’t delved into it yet, but are super excited to get into it. ‘I guess at this stage our lives are basically just us playing, but we do have plans in the future. I would love to start getting some cool animations or projections being projected behind us as we play, or getting cool lighting, so stuff like that will make a huge difference.’

For their new album Little May collaborated with The National’s Aaron Brooking Dessner. As big fans they were ecstatic to work with him. ‘Aaron was amazing, he’s such a lovely guy and so talented that it was such an incredible six weeks working with him,’ says Annie. ‘He has such good taste, like everything he suggested or came up with for our songs we were all pretty much on board with the majority of the time.’ Aaron really helped the band in terms of arrangements, finding the best part of each song and identifying the parts that were working. Working with Aaron, Annie tells me, ensured the band never attempted to cram too many different ideas into one track. ‘We reworked a few songs and scrapped verses or choruses or the end sections because we just found that we’ve got a really strong part of a song. We would sort of ignore the other stuff and rebuild the songs around the strong parts, focus on that and that’s like a really cool process to go through.

‘There are few songs on the album that are basically on there as we brought them in, like we didn’t change them at all, and then there are a few that are completely upside down.

If collaborating with Aaron wasn’t enough to get excited about, Little May recorded their new album at New York’s Future Past Studios. A nineteenth century church, it’s now regarded for its remarkable acoustics and, as Annie highlights, its music gear. ‘We were using the most incredible guitars, amps, keyboards and synth and then this beautiful grand piano. Even the sound desk was straight from the ‘70s and there were only like two of it in the world or something.’ Little May also recorded a lot of their tracks on analog, which just sounded fantastic with all of this quality gear. ‘I think also just being in this beautiful old church was a really magical experience. When I listen to music, it brings me straight back there and I can kind of hear it, so every afternoon the sun would set through the stained glass windows and the whole church would just have colourful light,’ Annie says.

‘There’s a lot of magic that happens when you record something and sometimes it’s not there and sometimes it is. I hope it’s there for ours,’ She continues. With the video for single ‘Home’ being shot in the church come studio, we get to witness first-hand some of that magic that Annie is eluding to. She explains that the idea behind the clip materialised when Aaron had to go to Spain for a day for a The National gig. Little May couldn’t do any recording without him, so they had a film crew come to the studio for the day and film them in their element. ‘I think it was really special for us because it’s not like we set everything up and posed and pretended, like the way it was filmed was literally like the way we recorded a lot of the songs, with all of us together in the church,’ Annie says.

Little May poured their hearts and souls into their debut album, and it shows with a track list that is dreamy and meditative, and characterised by an underlying darkness. And through their #ArtForTheCompany campaign they were able to capture this intensity in a visual component. For such a beautiful and captivating creative project—one aimed at better connecting with fans and pushing creative boundaries—they must be applauded.

 

 

Little May – For The Company is out now via Dew Process / UMA.

Sister Jane – Frontier

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 28/9/15.

Rarely do we see a band coincide the announcement of their breakup with the release of a new album; Sydney’s Sister Jane may just be breaking new ground here. Having endured the tumultuous departure of frontman Dan Davey in 2014—the presser describing a ‘man on the brink who turned to jesus, found his path to salvation and gave up rock n’ roll’—the longtime five-piece give us their final record, Frontier, which closes the door on a 10-year career. The situation is made more compelling by the quality of this release, which goes from strength to strength with an eclectic mix of Americana folk, new wave and European synth cuts. And while it is a shame that this creative flame no longer flickers, there is no better way to go out than with a bang.

‘Road To Evil’ resonates with a somberness that is both dark and beautiful, and the vocals are soft and brooding. It literally feels as though you’re travelling down a dark road, although there’s a quirky melodic combo there as well that breaks up the gloominess. Then there’s ‘The Farmer’, which is a lot mellower and flows smoother than its dark predecessor. Here Dan Davey sings, ‘I came looking for an answer. The farmer knew the reason why. My son, don’t dwell upon your sorrow. The rain will fall into the crack.’

‘You Can Have Me’ begins with suspenseful guitar strokes, as Lauren Crew enters the frame with her smooth and seductive voice. The guitar sounds are rhythmic and effortless, as Crew croons, ‘I imagined clothes of silk and lace with silver buttons to my waist. I pictured skin so soft and white you’d see me blush in the darkest night’.

First single ‘Whole Wide World’ is distinguished by a fast and catchy beat, propelled by the rusty, rock n’ roll edginess of Davey’s voice, who is once again on vocals here. ‘Lost Hotel’ is also another funky song that is addictive to listen to and makes you want to get up and dance. ‘Shellac’ once again showcases Crew’s tremendous vocal range and the guitar is sassy and seductive to match. Crew is feisty in the chorus, as she sings, ‘Ooooh he got me, oooh he got me, oooh he got me, this man’s pushing me to the end of the world’. When she repeats the chorus later on, she tweaks it by speaking from the man’s perspective, ‘oooh she got me, oooh she got me, oohh she got me, this girl’s pushing me to the end of the world’.

‘Wicked Wind’ begins with slow and beautiful acoustics, and Crew sings, ‘Your daddy’s down deep in a well. Your daddy’s down deep in a well. Hey Joe don’t you follow your daddy down deep in that well’. With her soft and sweet as honey voice Crew breathes warmth into every note. The final track, ‘Indifferent Prey’ is another acoustic lullaby that Davey grapples by the throat.

Frontier is a beautiful exploration of different sounds and genres, heartfelt and purposeful in its delivery. One can’t help but feel that Sister Jane has more great material within them, but with this gem of an album they leave on a good note, one we won’t soon forget.

 

Sister Jane – Frontier is out now via Broken Stone Records / Remote Control.

Tim Wheatley: On his new album and fifteen-year career

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 17/9/15.

Tim Wheatley is a folk rock singer from Melbourne. He has most recently been electrifying the alt-rock scene with a national tour celebrating his new album,Cast of Yesterday, and single, ‘Valerie’. Both contain his personal Australian twist—developed throughout his fifteen-year journey as a musician—with a signature country twang. The new album was recorded at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne, and showcases Tim’s smooth vocals and beautiful lyricism. Aphra had a chat to Tim about the ideas and writing process behind Cast of Yesterday and ‘Valerie’, his long and sometimes arduous career, and about what makes him tick.

Growing up in a musical family, Tim was inspired from a young age by the instruments all around his house. ‘I really got serious when I was about fourteen or fifteen and started a band called Avenue,’ he says. ‘We eventually turned into the Sparrows, and then ended up with Sony. We moved to the UK for about a year and then recorded an album in the United States over there.’ The album, however, didn’t get the recognition it deserved. ‘It sort of got shelved by Sony there for a little while and the band disintegrated. You all sit around going, “well, where did we go wrong? Is the album not good?”’

However, the band eventually acknowledged that it was nobody’s fault, and things changed when they evolved from a pop rock sound to blues, and then started up a new band called Rushcutter. He then left Rushcutter in order to embark on his own solo journey, and acknowledges that only now is he telling everybody about these bands for the first time. ‘My bass player put it very well, he said “Tim Wheatley is celebrating fifteen years of pain for play”,’ Tim laughs. ‘Now I’ve ended up back with Sony; we’ve mended bridges and started a new path together.’

If Tim could describe Cast of Yesterday in one word, he would use ‘nostalgic’. ‘It’s looking back and looking over my shoulder at the people that helped me along my fifteen year path here,’ he says. ‘Most of the songs were written directly after I quit Rushcutter… The song “Cast of Yesterday” was written about me travelling immediately afterwards, so I took some heated advice and took the advance I got from Universal and spent it before they asked for it back.’

Tim’s favourite song on the album is ‘Cast of Yesterday’. He clarifies, ‘It only became my favourite song honestly about two weeks ago, when we were listening back to the entire record. I was sitting there with Niko [producer Niko Bolas] who was mixing it and he just looked over his shoulder at me and said “This is the song”.’ Tim had never really acknowledged it until that moment, since it was one of his old songs that he had forgotten about for a while. ‘I released “Cast of Yesterday” about three years ago to very very very little fan fare, so I just thought that it was probably dead in the water, but it’s about getting it heard really and we really hope we get the chance to get these songs heard this time around.’

‘Cast of Yesterday’ was inspired by Tim’s encounter with a man in a bar in Barcelona. ‘It was a cheap and cheerful touristy bar on the Rumbas, and I asked this gentleman what he was doing here and he said, “I’m literally just travelling by myself” and I said, “I’m doing the same thing”.’ He continues, ‘We both agreed that it’s the best way to meet new people, and then I said, “where are you going next?” and he said, “somewhere sunny, I’m just happy with the sun on my shoulders” and I just went ‘oh’ and then I wrote it down.’ One of the lyrics in the song, ‘the real stars don’t hit, they ricochet’ refers to the idea that there’s people that we all tend to hold up on a pedestal. According to Tim, ‘these are great people and influences that literally just bounce in and out, they don’t stick around long enough to annoy you or piss you off.’

‘Valerie’ is Tim’s first single, and was inspired by a book he had read called,Delinquent Angel. ‘It’s an incredibly endearing and sad story about the Melbourne poet Shelton Lea, which is why I’m playing this song at the Grace Darling, as it is right around the corner from one of Shelton’s bookstores on Gertrude Street. So I thought that it was quite fitting to take it back to the heart of the street that really did love him, he became quite a well known character around.’

Tim wrote a rough idea of the song in the middle of the night, in Melbourne at the time, next to the heater with his guitar and his dog. It had only taken him half an hour and he then recorded it onto his phone, but then forgot about it until a few years later when backing up files onto a hard drive. ‘We took it to the band and the band played it instantly, less is more was the motto and we tried to apply the same thing to the video; we emphasised on the simplicity.’ For the video Tim lauds the work of director Tahena, and his good friend Jessica MacNamee, who features as the protagonist. ‘There was a lot of pressure on her as well and she had to get the whole story across with just certain looks. I think she did such an amazing job.’

Tim’s biggest musical influences are The Band and Bruce Springsteen. He was fortunate enough to see Springsteen live in Melbourne two years ago. He had listened to him for ten years before that as well, and he’s always felt enlightened by Springsteen. ‘I see that he wants to play, he has a thirst to perform, and I think he feels as though he owes it to his fans who have given him so much. He just gives so much back that it’s just inspiring, like seeing that is like, you must breathe a different air.’

Among Tim’s other idols is Jackson Browne, who he describes as the ‘icon of my youth, the soundtrack to my life’. Tim was lucky enough to meet Browne at The Blues Festival several years ago, as he excitedly recounts: ‘Jackson Browne was on the side of the stage and I came off and he shook my hand and said, “that was really impressive, you guys can play”. Then he said, “Do you want to come stand on the side of stage and watch me tonight?” and I said, “My God, I’d be honoured”, and then afterwards he walked off stage and asked, “What did you think Tim?” He remembered my name and I swear to God I nearly broke down.’

Browne even asked Tim what he should play. ‘Me and my mother were standing there, and we said “well you play the ‘Load Out and Stay’ don’t you?” and he just turned around to David Lindley and they both walked out and played the “Load Out and Stay” and that was one of the greatest moments.’

One of Tim’s quirks is that everything has to be in multiples of four in his life. ‘It’s like a mild case of OCD that I have not been able to shake. It made life easier for the bass player doing four by four timing, it made recording seventy-eight bends on this record as a waltz in 3/4 timing, almost impossible.’

‘I’ve got to bang my shoulder four times against this wall because I banged it against that one,’ he continues. He also has a routine with his guitar case while he’s performing onstage. ‘My buckles have to all be done up and I’ve got to start them from left to right. If they’re not done up that certain way or if I’m on stage and I think there’s a buckle undone, my theory is that the gig is going to go to shit. I have to run off and check my case.’

He really wants to tour America next year, as he believes that his music is quite suitable to their market and there’s a broader audience there too. He’d also love to go to Paris: ‘I’d do an album in Paris and live that cliché writer’s dream, a few months in there of cafes and what not.’

Tim leaves his fans with some words of inspiration: ‘I always say that if playing music is what you want to do, be it whatever it is you want to do, get out there and do it because the more time you spend doing it, the more chances you have of lightning striking. It’s being in the right place long enough for you to be there at the right time.’

 

Tim Wheatley – Cast of Yesterday is out now.