After catching up with his touring buddy Phia yesterday, it only seemed fair to talk to another Aussie ex-pat Mez Medallion. Read on to learn about his new life in Berlin, his shows with Phia, and of course, his music!
You’re living in Berlin, which is a long way from your Melbourne home. What made you leave Australia behind?
Well I guess you can never fully leave Australia, not that I would want to anyway, because the internet, especially Facebook, keeps you connected with friends, family and fans. But in terms of the timing of leaving Australia for a while, I had come to a point where I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with music and my creativity. I had so many ideas, half finished songs, half recorded songs but I needed a clean canvas and to separate myself from all my home comforts to distill my ideas and take the good bits of my past and fuse with the freedom and fire that comes from living in a fresh vibrant cultural capital like Berlin.
I was drawn to Berlin having visited before and drawn to the rich cultural/artistic activity. There is just so much happening all the time and being able to cycle between all of it is an added bonus. I love having the opportunity to refine my vision in this fresh environment and having the whole of Europe at my doorstep. For example, last year I did a tour of Iceland and as you know, now we drive only three hours and we’re at our first stop in Poland.
You’re touring Poland with Aussie girl Phia who’s been there before. Did she given you any indication of what you can expect?
I heard from Phia and a few other friends (also Australian) that Poland is a really cool and beautiful place to visit and the audiences are keen to hear fresh new music, very open minded.
What is it about Phia that made you want to join forces with her?
Well, I think we both bring a very contemporary version of the solo artist to our shows. People can often think of solo artists as being a person and their acoustic guitar, which is a totally cool and valid way to express yourself. But with my own background in live looping and now moving into the use of Ableton/laptop on stage with my guitar and voice I’m creating a big package but it’s my vision. Phia too has her unique way of storytelling, building textures and grooves with the most minimal of gear a Boss looper, kalimba and an octave pedal with voice and vocal percussion. I mean for a package of instruments that fit in a bag there is something intimate, sophisticated, honest and very cool coming through. So, yeah, we sound quite different but we are part of a new breed, I think.
The tour is well timed as you’ve just released your debut single in Europe, “Move Towards the Light.” What can you tell me about the song?
Well it’s got big beats, swirly synths, jangly guitars, and a friend of mine said it has “toms that would make Phil Collins envious.” I think it is a really great balance between the familiar and unfamiliar both in its textures, catchy melodies and in the story behind it. When you see those movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the kid is drawn to the unfamiliar which then subsequently becomes the familiar. I just launched the film clip which you can check out on YouTube, which was filmed before I went away in an old farm in the Victorian countryside with the additional props of tennis balls and kerosene. I don’t want to give too much away to your readers but in the clip, there is a sport to it, an avoidance, a battle, but in the end the person submits to this light and is embraced by something quite alleviating and beautiful.
If you like what you see you can download the song for free here.
The track comes from your forthcoming EP. How’s that recording shaping up?
Well, actually I just got the final master last week and it’s six really fantastic tunes I’m very excited about sharing. The sounds are really cohesive despite reflecting my varied influences and point in the direction of where I’m going (album?). It moves from Fever Ray-esque slow tempo synth worlds, to Coolio in the Bermuda triangle, a bit of LCD Soundsystem meets Grizzly Bear and New Order melancholia. A friend who came to a show recently said that it was “thought-provoking pop but you can dance to it”. I like that.
I draw my sounds from a variety of sources in trying to paint just the right vision; some of it was over-driven drums recorded in a lounge room on my laptops in built mic, to phat analog synths, ’80s/’90s drum machine samples, lots of guitar pedals. I try to build something quite epic, yet somehow retain the intimacy of the songs’ bedroom workshop beginnings. I’ve been collaborating on the production of the EP with the Todd Brothers: Joe Franklin and Oscar Dawson from Planet Love Sound and previously Dukes of Windsor. We started working together when we were all in Berlin and then finished it off via the interwebz when they moved back to Melbourne.
I decided to release the single first and when the time is right release the full EP. I’m already brainstorming the next film clip with a friend of mine here in Berlin and hoping to find a label that understands where I’m coming from and what I want to achieve. If not I’ll just release it myself.
You’ve known Phia for a while but this is the first time you’ve toured together. Why’s it taken so long?
Phia and I have actually played in four bands together in the past. The first was an improvisational trio (we met at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne), then there was an early glock-pop band incarnation of the Phia project which you can hear on her last EP, then an early version, you could say a prequel to Mez Medallion under a different name, and then shortly before we left we were both playing in Bobby Flynn’s band (of Australian Idol fame) alongside Michael Iveson (Gotye). They were busy times.
I heard you say that if you did more work with Phia than you currently do, you may go crazy. Why is that?
Ha, that was sort of a joke really. Phia & I have been working together for as long as we have been together, five years this month. Living together, sharing your life and working together means even though we don’t play in each other’s bands anymore we rely on each other a lot musically and conceptually as we go through the processes of writing, recording, producing to booking shows/tours picking the best photos from photoshoots, artwork. I guess you could say we are creative consultants for each other.
Do you expect any loopiness to set in by the end of this Polish tour?
If you mean effects loopiness, then in all likelihood yes, but if you mean being a bit loopy in the head, well I doubt you would notice much difference as I think I’m already crazy.
After the tour of Poland wraps up, do you have anything else on the horizon?
Next up I’m going to be working on the next film clip, which will involve partially building a rocket ship. I’m going to keep a little online diary of the progress so we can all marvel at the magic of cinema. I’m also going to start pre-production for the next Phia release as well as tracking/demoing/experimenting with the new songs for the album (I have about eight goodies so far) and of course, the six-track EP will be out soon. I’m on the hunt for a label who understands where I’m coming from and where I want to go to release the EP, otherwise I will put it out myself along with some more tasty clips and keep the new album churning away.
Will we see you back on Australian soil soon?
I will be back in Australia to play some shows over the summer, and I’ll stick around for awhile and probably head back over here early to mid 2013. There are a bunch of friends’ bands that I want to check out too, so I can’t wait for that too.
Music lovers in Poland can catch Mez Medallion and fellow Aussie Phia at the following shows:
25 April – Oko Miasta, Katowice
26 April – 6 Sierpnia 5, Przechowalnia, Lodz
27 April – Klub Studencki, Szczecin
Image used with permission from Mez Medallion