Alanna Eileen has been one of my favourite musical finds of the year, so I was thrilled to catch up with her on the release of her new single “Love the Ghost,” our first taste of her forthcoming LP. Here’s what she had to say about the new song, the album to come, and her love of literature.

You’ve just released “Love the Ghost” as your new single. What was it about that song that made you want to release it?
“Love the Ghost” is like the centre from which, thematically, all the other songs on the album arise. It became the first single because I noticed it was reflective of the entire LP. It seemed an apposite introduction for that reason.

Mark Myers from The Middle East produced the single. What was he like to work with?
Mark Myers is great to work with. He also produced my first EP. We recorded it in Cairns, where his studio is based.

The song comes from your album, which is coming out early next year. What can music lovers expect from the LP?
The LP is a collection of ten songs performed on piano and guitar. Like my first EP, it’s lyric-driven and introspective. I wanted the instrumentation to be subtle and for the vocals to remain the primary focus.

How did the process of putting together an album, compared to an EP, treat you?
It was mainly a process of choosing the right songs and examining how they fit together. It’s almost like a concept album in the sense that it retraces and reiterates the same territory and themes over and over. Because it’s my first full-length work, I learned a lot that will hopefully benefit me on future releases.

I noticed you’re not playing any shows to launch the single. Will fans get to see you on stage to celebrate the album’s release?
I’m heading to London in February, where I’ll be playing some small venues in addition to a headline show at the historic St. Pancras Old Church. When I return, I plan to release my second single, “Motion,” with an accompanying video, before an Australian launch and tour.

What can music lovers expect when they come to see you play?
My live shows are very raw; it’s just my voice and, usually, an acoustic guitar. Piano will also feature. I do hope to introduce a band soon, too, which will be a new experience.

Your EP Absence was one of my favourite recordings of the year. What music have you enjoyed listening to this year?
Thank you so much. This year, I enjoyed hearing the new Sufjan Stevens album. I also just found out about Joanna Newsom’s most recent release after returning from recording, which was a lovely surprise. Otherwise, I have mainly been listening to older music – a lot of Nick Drake and minimalist composers like Henryk Gorecki and John Adams. Nico Muhly’s Drones has also been a favourite.

I was poking around your Facebook page and noticed you’re more likely to “like” literary figures than other musicians. What is it about good literature that gets you so excited?
I love language. I feel like I still have an endless amount to learn about everything and that books are great teachers. I find beauty in the stream-of-consciousness prose of Virginia Woolf, the idiosyncratic poetry of Dylan Thomas, David Foster Wallace’s breathless sentences and Hesse’s mystical parables. The way a writer like Camus describes things succinctly, yet with an almost tender attention to detail, taught me a lot about writing when I was a young teen. It promoted the kind of introspection that has largely fuelled my work.

Since Christmas is approaching all too quickly, what’s on your wish list this year?
All my wishes would be for immaterial things. Mostly, I’m just grateful that I can make music and I wish to continue. If I’m able to help others at all, that would also be a wish fulfilled.

Is there anything else in the pipeline you can tell me about?
I’m going to be working on my first music video in London, which will be released alongside my second single. Also, since finishing recording, I’ve started writing songs that feel structurally and lyrically different to my previous ones; I’m already looking forward to releasing them in future.

Alanna Eileen’s single “Love the Ghost” is out now. Her new album is slated for a February 2016 release.

With a new album on the horizon, I figured it was time to catch up with Sounds of Oz favourite Andrew Matters from William Street Strikers. Read on to learn more about the Adelaide rock band’s new music, courting controversy on social media, and Andrew’s scariest time on tour.

Your new single Wrong Way Home got an official release this month giving your fans a taste of the new album. What is it about this song that made you decide to release it as a single?
Our new single “Wrong Way Home” was chosen as a first single for two reasons. Firstly, because it is a straight forward surf rock song it came together really organically in the studio and just sat right straight away so it was easy to mix and produce and get past our discernment. The second reason was that it sounded good to us and we knew that our core group of listeners would like it so we felt comfortable that it would be liked and embraced by those who are already into the band.

How indicative is “Wrong Way Home” of the rest of the music on the album?
The song is probably not that indicative of the rest of the music on this album. We have gone back to what we do best and that is being diverse. With this new album, it is a real hodgepodge, probably more than Keep Left is. It’s time for us to do reach out again and after seven years we really took our time with this one and just went with whatever direction came up at the time of writing with no stylistic limitations.

How has the process of putting the album together this time treated you ?
The process has been a lot of fun but also quite testing at times as we’ve had to spend a lot of time in the studio which doesn’t have the same spontaneity as jamming or playing, nor is it the same process of how we usually record which is more urgent to try and capture a more live feel. This has obviously caused frustrations and creative differences and tested each of our patience at times but we have been in this game collectively for some time so we know when to drop off and shut up and do what we have to do for the greater good, as opposed to throwing tantrums and letting things get in the way of progress.

Your website says the album is forthcoming. When can we expect it in stores?
We are aiming for February. We have to wait for the film clip to be finished so everything is synchronised.

It’s been a couple of years since To the Motel. How have you grown as a band since then?
Well I have started to play guitar live for one. We have started to use a plethora of different instrumentation which will be evident on the new album and we have begun to fuse a few different styles. I think we have grown and are very well oiled which is allowing us to reach out a bit. We are also comfortable with our position within the Australian music community so this is reflected in how we go about things as opposed to when we were scuffling around. We’re more relaxed.

You’ve been doing the occasional gig. When can we expect a national tour?
Yes, that is true. We have just been taking shows that have been offered to us and focusing mainly on this album. We did so many shows for years and where we are situated, there’s a limited audience so we decided to do a few less shows for a while so as not to over do it. After this album we have plans to do an East Coast tour and only think of of gigging for a while as we have quite a back catalogue of recorded material now that gets regular airplay, so we feel comfortable that this body of work combined with the new album should carry us for a while and we want to get out and play as much as possible for a while.

You guys have been around for quite a few years now. What’s your best touring story that’s fit to print?
OK, one night when we were gigging in Sydney. Instead of going to bed I decided to take a drive around the coast in a car I wasn’t very familiar with. I corralled my guitarist and we went along a dirt road on the coast and rolled it into a ditch. We rang the guys to come and get us in the van. They ran out of petrol en route. So we decided to hitch a lift. We got picked up by a complete sociopathic drunk freak in a powerful car. When we got in he hit the door lock, we were hostage and he proceeded to floor it and nearly fish tailed us into various trees. The other guys were trying to appease him with comments like “Don’t wipe us out man! It’s a great car for sure. Just let us out here.” I was paralysed with fear and couldn’t speak. He kept going from ten kms an hour to one hundred and eighty in bursts until he finally got bored and let us out. I think that’s the closest I’ve been to shuffling off this mortal coil.

I love reading your Facebook page because you’re not afraid to tell it like it is. What issues are firing you up at the moment?
Well I like to put up things for the sake of argument for sure. I found the TripleJ Hottest 100 Taylor Swift debate to be very interesting in light of its history and some of the songs that have managed to get a run in previous years that may not have been considered apt. I also find from following music journalists and blogs that there seems to be a lot of sheep. Not too many are willing to run with anything contrary to the pack which defies logic and the whole purpose of critiquing art. On the other hand you have one or two who’ll be deliberately contrarian and go against the tide which is just as ridiculous. So I’ll deliberately post things that highlight this where possible. They’re not a protected species and neither are musicians for that matter, and that’s how it should be.

We just celebrated Australia Day. What’s your perfect way to spend the holiday?
For me, I like to relax and just do something relatively unassuming. I enjoy it for what it is and love this country but I tend to appreciate it rather quietly in my own way as opposed to large gatherings with fireworks. I did eat a sausage sandwich and went to a thong throwing competition by default when I went for to get some food at the pub, so I guess that counts as being a participant.

Is there anything else on the horizon for the band that you can tell me about?
The only other thing that I’ve not mentioned is is that we will be doing a a couple of shows to film with some recruits for a one off. We’ll have piano, a rhythm guitarist, some extra percussion and some singers. It’s important for us to get a really good live document of our band at this time for posterity.

Image used with permission from Andrew Matters

Robbie Miller quickly won me over with his accomplished guitar skills and soulful blue eyes. I needed to know more, so I caught up with him recently to chat about his music, sharing the stage with some of Australia’s finest, and his passion for mentoring indigenous youth.

You wrote your current single “Sunday” about your grandmother. What is it about her that inspired you?
As a kid my brother, sister and I would spend our first week of Christmas holidays at my grandparents’ house on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. During this time I grew close with both my grandad and nana and few years later I was visiting during Christmas and my nana started talking about what we used to get up to on our holidays. She then started talking about her own life growing up, her own dreams and she mentioned how Sunday was her favourite day of the week as that’s when she got to spend time with her whole family. That conversation resonated with me for a long time. A few weeks later I sat down to play guitar and just starting singing and the words just fell into place.

You’ve actually been writing music since you were just 13. Was a career in music always the dream?
Funnily enough music wasn’t always my dream. I grew up wanting to wear the baggy maroon cap for the Queensland cricket team and everything that I did was centred on that cricket dream. Music is a part of my life that I do for the love and enjoyment; it has been that way since I first picked up the guitar.

You were raised on many of the same artists that I was: Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Cat Stevens. All of those guys have a real focus on the lyrics. How do you think that approach has shaped your own music?
I think the way they wrote their music has had a profound impact on my own approach. I fell in love with those artists because of the way their lyrics captivated and took my mind someplace else. When I first starting trying my hand at writing songs, they were the artists that I tried to emulate.

You won the Triple J Unearthed’s National Indigenous Music Awards last year. How has that helped your career?
The biggest impact winning Triple J Unearthed has had, is on my self-confidence and self-belief. I feel it is quite common for musicians to be hesitant about their own music and protective of their art and I was exactly that. Now knowing that I have a voice people want to hear and that the music I write resonates with them, just pushes aside any self doubt that I have.

You got to fly to Darwin and perform on the same stage as a bunch of leading indigenous artists. What was that experience like?
This might sound strange but honestly I don’t really remember much of the experience. I went from playing in my bedroom by myself, to getting a phone call telling me I was the winner of the Triple J Unearthed Competition, to then playing in front of a large audience in Darwin.

You’ve also shared the stage with some high profile acts like The Kite String Tangle, Bernard Fanning, and Kav Temperley. What have you learned watching them?
The most valuable lesson that I have learnt is the importance of dedication and professionalism towards my artwork and to not take myself to seriously. There are a lot of musicians who would love to be doing what I am doing right now, so I am just going to enjoy it and make the most of everything that comes my way.

The support act never has it easy. How do you win over a crowd that has turned up to watch someone else play?
This is something I really struggled with when I first starting playing live last year and something I know other acoustic artists like myself have had trouble with. Now I just try and get the audience involved throughout the set, better plan my set list to try and create ebb and flow and I always keep my set short and sharp. It’s just an acoustic guitar and me, if I play for too long I am sure I’ll start boring people!

In your spare time you work with high school students as part of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. What’s that like?
It’s an incredible experience and something I have a great time doing. Over the years I have learnt some valuable lessons too, as high school kids are great levellers and some of their stories always seem to put life into perspective. Also being a role model to others is a great honour, one that I cherish and am extremely grateful for and I have no doubt that the students that I have worked with on the Gold Coast over the last four years have incredible and fulfilled lives ahead of them. This is not because of what we’ve done, but for the empowerment students have given themselves.

Do you have an album in the pipeline?
I currently don’t have an album in the pipeline, although I do have an EP that’s coming together. I am currently working on a few tracks with one eye on an album but there is a lot of water to cover between now and then.

Is there anything else you have on the horizon that you can tell me about?
I’ll have a new single out early 2015 followed by my debut EP!

Robbie Miller’s single “Sunday” is available for digital download now.

In the ’90s N’Fa Jones made a splash on the Australian music scene fronting 1200 Techniques, a unique act that effortlessly blended hip hop and soul. Their breakthrough smash single “Karma” saw the band earn a place on the top 40 charts and a swag of ARIAs. A second album, Consistency Theory, followed in 2004. However, in 2005 the band parted ways. Now in 2014, this pioneering act looks set to do it all again. I caught up with N’Fa to chat about this exciting new chapter for 1200 Techniques.

It’s been 10 years since you last took the Aussie music scene by storm. Why did you decide it was time for a comeback?
What’s interesting is that we don’t really see it as a comeback. Just unfinished business. We never intended it to be a 10 year break. It’s cray how time flies really. We’ve wanted to write more music, and it’s good to be doing so.

You’re about to release a brand new EP, Time Has Come. What can you tell me about it?
It’s got plenty of chug-a-lug to it, and a lot if musical experimentation, which is a major part of the 1200 Techniques sound and ethic. Everythng has a connected pulse to it, but every song is an individual sound and feel.

How did it feel making music together again after so much time had passed?
It felt good. Making music should always feel good, hopefully. We’ve all developed in our own ways over the years, and to see what we could from now has been an awesome thing. The music we are making is more musical than sample based, and I think this is due to our own musical maturation over the years.

Before that you’re playing a show to support the 25th anniversary of Rubber Records. How important has the label been to your career?
Rubber Records gave us our first shot at anything and believed in us. They’ve always been there for us and are working with us once again to make this EP a reality. So, I’d say they are very important, and we are excited to be part of their journey and 25th anniversary,

What can music lovers expect from the show?
Energy, noise, sweat, and good times! We will be bringing the funk, and the stomp like we always did. We will rock old classics along with our new material. It’s been dope jamming and finding our way around the older and new material. Looking forward to it.

You’re one of the latest bands to turn to crowdfunding to support your music. What made you decide to do that?
We though it would be cool to give our audience a chance to get involved early, and grab some vintage stock as well as other cool options. It just made sense to us to get the vibe out there in a person to person way as a lead up, rather than just dropping the EP in stores Jan 23.

Have you been surprised by the support of the fans so many years after your last release?
Of course. We’ve been surprised over the years with peeps coming up and telling us how they loved our music and miss us. A big part of doing this EP is for those supporters who encouraged us to write more music together.

Australian hip hop has really exploded since last time you released your music. What’s your opinion of the current scene?
It’s good to see people up on it, doing well and surviving. Music is a hard game, and the scene has had to develop and change in order to grow. I remember playing venues where hip hop had never been allowed in the doors, and we were like the test dummies for the sound. A lot of hip hop venues today were strictly no hip hop back then, and we had to work hard to change that. So yeah the scene, and industry has changed in many ways.

Which of the current Australian hip hop crop are really impressing you?
Ah, now your trying to get us in trouble with who we do, and don’t mention … ha ha. Look, we are happy to be making music, being a part of the music, having been a part of the early steps. To see peeps survivng off hip hop, and to see some cats pushing the boundaries in so many way, is dope to us. We defo prefer boundary pushing music to safe music.

After this EP drops, what’s next for 1200 Techniques?
I guess we’ll see. Hopefully a few awesome tours though 2015, and maybe an LP. Step by step!

1200 Techniques’ Time has Come EP hits stores on January 23. They’ll launch the title track at Howler on December 17.

Image used with permission from Paris is Patient

After wowing crowds with his Lone Wolf tour earlier this year, Josh Pyke is set to do it all again with a regional run. I caught up with Josh ahead of the shows to talk about what he loves about performing, his latest album The Beginning and the End of Everything, and everyone’s favourite ’80s toy, Viewmasters!

1.    You’re just about to head off on an extension of your Lone Wolf tour. What made you want you want to extend this current leg of dates?
The first round of this tour was so overwhelmingly successful that I really wanted to take it out to regional areas. I’ve always focused on doing regional shows, but this feels like another level, going into more theater style venues. I’m really looking forward to it.

2.    I noticed you’re playing quite a few all ages shows on this run as well. How do they compare with the pub gigs?
They’re great! AA shows are hard to get off the ground sometimes, so it was great to see that the regional venues were set up and willing accommodate all ages shows. The kids that come to my shows are pretty cool and always handle themselves well at gigs so it’s not that wildly different from a normal show, except I feel heaps older!

3.    It seems like you’re always out on the road. How do you keep things feeling fresh when you’re playing so many shows?
You have to do something different every time. For every album I’ve done, I’ve made sure that my tours have incorporated something I haven’t done before. I’ve had string sections, rearranged heaps of songs to have different instrumentation, full band shows, solo shows, collaborations shows … Whatever it is, it needs to offer not only new songs, but new ways of presenting old songs, so people have a reason to come back.

4.    Clearly you must love being on stage. What’s your favourite thing about that?
It’s like the only time in my life that I’m totally in the moment. “Real life” is filled with conflicting things happening all the time, and you have to split your brain up to keep up with everything. But when I’m doing a show, I’m right there in the moment with the audience, and it’s a great feeling. Immediate and intimate and engaged. I love it.

5.    I’m sure fans will hear plenty of old favourites at these shows, but it must also be exciting for you to showcase your newer stuff from The Beginning and the End of Everything. What’s your favourite track to play live from that album and why?
“White Lines Dancing” is great to play solo. I use a loop pedal to add percussion and a piano line, and it just builds really well. Playing solo lets me muck around with the arrangements and dynamics of the song, and that works really well in that song.

6.    I read that you felt this album is actually your best. Why is that?
I just think it’s my most developed and most accomplished. I love every song on it, and it’s the only album I’ve made that I can actually listen to at home. I’m super proud of all my output, but I especially think this record is just the best one I’ve done. Simple as that!

7.    As a child of the ‘ 80s I’ve been pretty intrigued by the Viewmasters you’re going to be selling as part of your tour pack. They make a nice change from T-shirts! What was the thought behind them?
Years ago a fantastic supporter of mine made me a Viewmaster with photos from a show she’d been at. I thought it was awesome and thought if I ever had a chance to do something like that based around a specific tour it’d be very cool. So this seemed like the perfect chance.

8.    You’re barely going to have time to unpack before you’re out on the road again touring with Chris Cheney, Phil Jamieson, and Tim Rogers as part of The Beatles’ White Album tribute. It’s been five years since you all got together to pay tribute to The Beatles. Are you excited to be doing it all again?
I am! I started practicing the songs again today actually, and it all flooded back to me what a great time we had. It was really nerve wracking the first time, and I’m sure there’ll be some anxiety again this time, but with another five years of performing under my belt I want it to be even better than the last one.

9.    And clearly the Beatles must be a big part of your musical DNA. What is it about their music that really resonates with you?
For me it’s always been the harmonies and production. All the quirky sounds, the arrangements, the technical details like the tape delays and panning in some songs, (due to mainly mixing in mono back then). That stuff still blows my mind and engages me to this day.

10. After that tour wraps up, what’s next for you?
I have a studio at home I’m planning on renovating and will start writing and demoing for another album! There’s also a few more projects I’m trying to get off the ground, but they won’t kick off til next year.

Catch Josh on his Lone Wolf tour at the following shows.

6 June 2014 – Montrose Town Centre, Montrose (ALL AGES)
7 June 2014 – The Memo, Healesville (ALL AGES)
13 June 2014 – Fannie Bay Gaol, Darwin
15 June 2014 – Divers Tavern, Broome
20 June 2014 – Empire Church Theatre, Toowoomba (ALL AGES)
21 June 2014 – Majestic Theatre, Pomona (ALL AGES)
22 June 2014 – Byron Theatre, Byron Bay (ALL AGES)
25 June 2014 – Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour (ALL AGES)
26 June 2014 – Pier One @ Panthers, Port Macquarie
27 June 2014 – Manning Entertainment Centre, Taree (ALL AGES)
28 June 2014 – Cessnock Performing Arts Centre, Cessnock (ALL AGES)
5 July 2014 – Milton Theatre, Milton (ALL AGES)

Image used with permission from Remote Control Records

On the eve of Civil Civic’s first headline tour of Australia, I caught up with one half of the band, bass player Ben Green. Read on to find out about Civil Civic’s brand new album, the upcoming tour dates, and what it’s like for this expat to come home.

You’re just about to release your album Rules. What can you tell me about it? 
It’s a collection of ten songs which we pieced together over the first two years of playing together. It’s generally pretty up-tempo, with heaps of loud hysterical bits, a few soft moody bits and with any luck it’ll drive you completely out of your fucking mind.

It must be interesting being in a band with someone who lives in another country. How do you make it work? 
We make good use of both the internet and Easyjet. Between the two of them those tools do a good job of making the international collabo thing a functional reality. But of course we’d probably get a lot more done if we lived in the same share house and jammed in the loungeroom every day.

What’s it like after so much time apart to come together again? 
Pretty disturbing, really. There’s nothing but bubbling hatred and contempt between us, so it’s always dicey for the first couple of days of rehearsal before a tour. But we’re both disciplined professionals, so we keep that shit under control and get on with the job. Word.

You’ve played some big European festivals in your career. What have been some of your highlights so far? 
This is a CAREER!?? Shit, that’s going to take a while to digest. But that’s an easy question, really. We headlined the side-stage on the Friday night at last year’s La Route Du Rock in Brittany and it was so good I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face for days. It was sooo fucking loud, and there was 6000 drunk French people just going nuts in front of us. Unbelievable.

You’re actually embarking on your first headlining tour of Australia, despite both being born here. What’s it like to come back home? 
Awesome. We were both super excited about doing some gigs in Aus, and maybe a bit nervous too. But it’s great to be able to catch up with family/friends ect. and the gigs are just a big bonus.

What do you miss about Australia when you’re away? 
Aussie banter, mostly. Aaron [Cupples] also misses the sun, because he’s a sucker and lives in London.

Many of the Australian shows are going to be quite intimate compared to some of your overseas dates. Will you approach them any differently? 
We’ve played plenty of toilet-sized venues in Europe, and all the places we’re playing in Australia are way bigger and better equipped than most toilets, so I reckon we’ll be fine. In some ways club shows are more nerve-wracking than festival gigs, especially when they’re at The Tote Hotel and all your mates are standing there, seeing you play for the first time. That’s going to be fucking terrifying.

I’ve heard a little about this “Box” which is a key part of your live shows. Can you tell my readers exactly what it is? 
It’s a cube about two foot square which functions as our robot drummer. Besides cranking out big, dumb beats it also has a group of square, colored lights on it’s front face which fire in unison with the drum sounds, so it’s sort of a light show as well. People end up staring at it, which takes attention away from our bad dancing on stage.

You’ve been generating some serious buzz for your live shows. What makes you guys so different do you think? 
Well, we try our damnedest  to be a tight, punchy unit and create some excitement and atmosphere in the room. Some nights are better than others, but we’re always aiming high. NO SLACKING! Maybe that, but on the other hand maybe it’s just The Box.

After you leave Australia, what comes next for Civil Civic? 

We need to knuckle down to some serious songwriting, but unfortunately there won’t be much time for that before we start gigging in Europe again. We’re aiming to get a single out more-or-less as soon as we can, just so people know we are actually still creating, and it would be great to have a new album ready for the end of the year, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

Rules hits Australian record stores today. You can see Civil Civic on their homecoming tour at the following shows.

7 February 2013 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
8 February 2013 – Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
16 February 2013 – ATP: I’ll Be Your Mirror @ Westgate Entertainment Centre and Grand Star Receptions, Altona
19 February 2013 – The Tote, Melbourne

Sun City impressed me recently with their feelgood new single “Set Alight.” So I was thrilled to catch up with one half of the band, Tobias John, to chat about the song, the EP of the same name, and their upcoming tour.

You’ve just released your new EP Set Alight. What can you tell me about it?
Well …we spent the better part of eight months earlier this yeah holed up in our little studio putting it all together. It was a lot of fun! This EP is all about summer; it’s good fun, upbeat electro pop. It also features a remix from our pal Shazam (Modular).

As a child of the 80s I was really into the synth-heavy sounds and positivity of the title track. Were you influenced by that decade at all?
Absolutely. The whole record is laced with 80s electronica influence. To state the obvious, we are huge fans of running analogue bass lines and exaggerated electronic tom drum samples. We’re also both 80s babies (but only just!).

Your EP also features a remix of your song “High.” What’s it like to create a song and then see what another act can do with it?
It was a really interesting process with Shazam. We’re a huge fan of his and his skill and attention to detail as producer is amazing. It’s all about interpretation and what Shazam was able to do with the track was awesome. He actually took the existing vocal samples and built a synth out of it! Did we mention the big hitting 80s tom drums?

Conversely you’ve also put your spin on tracks from Miami Horror and Bag Raiders. What’s that process like?
Yeah good fun! The remixes are totally bootleg and instead of using the existing vocals, we recorded in our own voices and chopped everything up. After our performance at Stereosonic Perth last year we got chatting with the guys from Bag Raiders and showed them our remix of “Shooting Stars.” They really dug it and we were chuffed!

Do you prefer creating original music or remixing the work of others?
Definitely creating our own at the moment.

Set Alight is your second EP. How do you think you’ve grown as artists between the making of your first recording and this?
Well in terms of production, the first EP was a huge learning curve for us. There’s a lot more attention to detail and consistency on the Set Alight EP. In terms of influence and inspiration, following the release of our first EP we’ve had quite a lot happen in a short period of time. Life has changed pretty dramatically for the both of us and there’s been so many influential moments over the past 12 months that inspired the whole Set Alight EP.

You’re kicking off your first national tour soon. Are you getting excited?
We are! However, a very fortunate (and slightly random) series of events has actually resulted in us doing our first international tour before our first national tour. We’re currently sitting at the airport in Dubai on our way home from playing a couple of epic festivals in Africa, which has been an absolutely mind blowing experience! Another 10 hour flight home and we can catch a few hours sleep before heading off to our first stop on the Set Alight tour at the Beresford Hotel in Sydney (Friday 14th Dec) followed by Alhambra Lounge in Brisbane the next night (with The Jungle Giants and Millions). We’re excited!

You’re playing festivals and headlining your own club dates. Do you have a preference?
Not at all, as long as there is a good bunch of people having a sing, dance and good time to our music!

Dance music isn’t as recognised in this country as a live experience in the same way seeing a rock band in a pub is. Why should people get out and see you play?
Our live show consists of about four synths, a guitar, electronic drums and a sampler … between the two of us … and we both sing. Hopefully that’s more interesting than watching a DJ and more upbeat and danceable than a watching a pub band!

After this tour wraps up, what’s next on the agenda?
Sleep. Then right back into producing some more tunes and hopefully getting to do this all over again!

Here are all the places you can see Sun City play their Set Alight shows:

14 December 2012 – The Beresford Hotel, Sydney
15 December 2012 – Alhambra, Brisbane
1 January 2013 – Cuban Club, Perth
6 January 2013 – Summadayze, Perth
11 January 2013 – Discovery @ Brighton Up Bar, Sydney
12 January 2013 – The Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
25 January 2013 – Can’t Say @ Vault 8, Melbourne

Image used with permission from Positive Feedback

After making a splash on The X Factor and Australian Idol, Jacob Butler has refused to fade into the background. Fresh from a recent promotional trip the Europe I caught up with Jacob to talk about his time abroad, his time on reality TV, and the hard road of an independent artist.

You recently spent time promoting your music in Europe. How did that go?
Really great thanks. It was great to speak to people about what I’m doing on the other side of the world, and it was also great to see some cities that I haven’t been to before like Berlin, Stockholm and Warsaw.

You’ve always had an affinity for British music. What was it like being over there amongst it?
Well I wasn’t in England for promotion this time, but yes it’s always great to be in Europe talking to people about music. It’s so funny to me how I’m much more interesting to people in Europe than I am here. It must be the accent or something!

How did the European audiences respond to your music?
People in Europe are pretty open to hearing new music, and the response was quite positive. This was very apparent after doing performances and interviews on TV and radio over there; the traffic on my Facebook page or on my Youtube channel would always see more activity straight away.

What did you miss most about home?
I was only away for a month so it wasn’t too bad, but I did miss my fiancée the most. I had friends all over the place to catch up with in many of the cities that I visited, but it can get lonely when you’re by yourself for days at a time. And I did miss Vegemite. I didn’t realize it at the time but I have been a total Vegemite junkie ever since I got back!

Like many Australians, I remember watching you on reality TV programs like Australian Idol and the original incarnation of The X Factor. What did being on those programs teach you?
Those shows certainly taught more me more about myself as a person than as a performer; it made me stronger and more resilient for sure. Reality TV shows are a rollercoaster and they can chew you up and spit you out pretty quickly! You really need to have a strong sense of who you are and what you want to achieve as an artist.  You also need to be aware that you probably won’t win, and you’ll have to keep working if you want a career in music.

So many performers from those programs seem to just disappear, never to be heard from again. How did you make sure you weren’t one those people?
Through relentless hard work and tenacity. I backed myself financially to the point where the bank just wouldn’t give me any money anymore. I have maxed out multiple credit cards, sold almost all my guitars and musical equipment and borrowed money from my family to make all this happen. It’s bordering on insanity, I know, but what’s the other option? It’s slowly starting to pay off but I still have a significant amount of debt over my head. With saying that, everything can change with one hit song. Just ask Psy!

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since you were on our television screens?
All I can say is that I am constantly working to evolve my skills when it comes to what I do as an artist, songwriter, singer and label owner. You try things, sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you get things right. It’s a constant state of evolution and It’s something that I really enjoy even though it is at times very difficult.

Despite the exposure those shows gave you, the major record labels didn’t exactly come knocking. What’s it like for you working as an independent artist?
Major record labels just don’t sign garage bands for a million dollars anymore, so even with the exposure that I received from reality TV I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t come knocking. That’s why I paid for my own album and all that. That being said, I now have some major label support in some of the territories where my album is being released like Poland, Greece, Belgium and The Netherlands, so it’s at a point now where the artist has to spend the money developing themselves. The advantage of this, however, is that I have 100% creative control over my art, which is something that I have always been very passionate about. Can you imagine this being the case if I had won Idol? I think not!

Since we’re approaching Christmas I have to ask, what’s on your wish list this year?
Health and happiness for all my friends and family, and to continue to talk to good folks like yourself about my music!

Now that you’ve returned home, what’s next on the agenda?
Well I’m actually heading back to Europe in February for more promotion to the same countries and possibly Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. Then back to Australia for a bit and then back to Europe for the festival season. Looking forward to this!

Image source: Jacob Butler Facebook page

The Good China are making their mark with their brand new EP We Knew That We Had to Leave. I recently caught up with one-eighth of this monster outfit, Ryan Mason, to chat about the latest release, the accompanying launch shows, and what it’s like to be part of such a big band!

You just released a brand new EP We Knew That We Had to Leave. What can you tell me about it?
It’s our second EP and is a bit different from the first in that it was engineered, produced and mixed by our guitarist Nick. We recorded some drums and bass at Incubator Studios in Melbourne and then put together everything else using Nick’s little home studio setup, which gave us a bit more room to experiment and to put together something we were really happy with. The four songs all have a sense of change to them, from changing places in the title track “We Knew That We Had To Leave” to changing people in “Marcio.” We wanted a new recording to reflect our developing sound and more mature songs and I think that the new EP really achieves those goals.

The film clip for the title track is one of the most entertaining I’ve seen in some time. Did you have much to do with that creative process?
The clip for “We Knew That We Had To Leave” was actually put together by China members Jag (who is part of film and TV production crew Guerilla Creative during his non-China hours) and Adam (who also has a background in film). The whole group workshopped ideas and sourced props and it was filmed over a weekend at Jag and Nick’s flat. Part of being an independent band is working out ways to do things yourselves and we’re really lucky that we have so many skills and ideas to draw on across our eight members!

I also love the idea behind that song of your favourite place morphing into something you barely recognise. Was it based on personal experience?
To some degree, yes; but I think the feelings behind the song are really universal and don’t necessarily apply to one time or place. We all have those streets and places that mean a lot to us at one point in our lives but then over time just don’t feel as familiar or welcoming. It might feel like those places change over time – and a lot of them do! – but what’s also changing is you.

It’s been a little over a year between releasing your debut EP and this one. How do you think you’ve grown as a band in that time?
After we released our debut EP we played a lot of shows and toured a bit, heading interstate to Sydney and Canberra and also visiting a bit of regional Victoria to play shows in Geelong, Shepparton, and the like, and when we got to the end of that cycle we were all a bit burnt out. I headed to Europe for three months to do some backpacking, while some of the others went to Japan. It’s a bit of a cliche, but travel really does broaden your mind, and from a musical point of view it certainly provides lots of inspiration for new songs and ideas. In the four and a bit years since The Good China’s inception we’ve all grown and changed quite a lot but the band is the one constant that we all come back to.

Eight is an awful lot of people to have in a band. How do you keep things running smoothly?
A lot of hard work! Again, the good thing about being a large band is that there’s a lot of hands available to get things done. It also helps that a few of us are compulsive planners!

You’ve recently been playing a few shows to promote the EP. How have they been going?
Really well. We had a great crowd for the Melbourne EP launch and everyone enjoyed the night. We’re heading off on a short tour later this week, playing a free Friday night show at the Beach Hotel in Byron Bay and playing a Footstomp Music showcase at the Tempo Hotel in Brisbane on Saturday. It’s our first time visiting Byron and Brisbane so we’re excited to be back on the road! We only realised a few weeks ago that it’s actually Schoolies season at the moment, so the Byron show could be an interesting one.

What do you love most about being on stage?
Being able to share the thrill of playing music with seven of my closest friends. Cheesy? Yeah. True? Absolutely.

What can music lovers expect when they come to see you live?
A lot of energy and a lot of happy faces. And, occasionally, the odd near-catastrophe when one of us trips on one of the several thousand instruments or cables we have on stage.

As Christmas is approaching, what’s on your wish list this year?
Is it too outlandish to ask for Radiohead to tour again next year?

After you finish promoting this EP, what comes next?
We’re planning on taking a breather over Christmas and the New Year, and working towards some more shows early next year. And who knows? We might even have another film clip to reveal.

See The Good China when they play Byron Bay’s Beach Hotel on Friday night (free show) or Brisbane’s Tempo Hotel on Saturday.

With a new EP Paper Cut Outs in the can, Alexis Nicole is preparing to take her Missing Pieces on the road to promote it. I caught up with this Melbourne-based singer-songwriter to chat about her later recording, the shows ahead, and her love for Tracy Chapman.

You’ve just released your EP Paper Cut Outs. What can you tell me about it?
Paper Cut Outs is recordings of songs I have written that are cut outs and experiences from my life. Whether it was a break up, a love story, grieving, highs and lows of life, travelling and so much more.

The name of the EP is fabulous. What’s its significance?
Thank you! The meaning behind it is about the songs being paper cut outs of my life and the journey I have been on thus far through the highs and lows, love and hurt and many other curveballs that life has thrown me.

You’re Sydney-born but Melbourne-based, yet you recorded this new EP in Brisbane. What did the change of scene bring to the recording?
That is right! The change of scene brought a fresh new perspective to the whole recording experience. It made me definitely grow as an artist and musician and was an organic and humbling experience all in one.

Given the significance of Melbourne and Brisbane in the making of this EP, it’s only fitting that those cities get the launch shows. But will the rest of Australia get the opportunity to see you play soon?
YES! Next year I am planning much much more regarding shows around Australia and possibly a tour so stay tuned for all that.

You worked with some amazing artists on Paper Cut Outs like Yanto Browning and guys from The Gin Club and The Wilson Pickers. What was that experience like?
It was an incredible experience. It made me grow as an artist and musician and lift my game. These beautiful musicians humbled me so much as well. I feel very honoured to have played by there side.

Who do you hope to collaborate with in future?
I have a list! Haha. I would love to collaborate with artists all over the world. One experience would be for me to meet Tracy Chapman. I would love to pick her artistic brain! But also artists like Brandi Carlile, Newton Faulkner, Bernard Fanning, Ani Di Franco and so many more.

Your band at the moment is called Alexis and The Missing Pieces, which is such an evocative name. How do the members of the band complete your sound?
It is not as evocative as it is literal … meaning that The Missing Pieces are instrumentalists and singers who come together to deliver songs reflecting my tunes and observation of life. They include some of the best musicians from around Australia and beyond.

I read with interest that Tracy Chapman was a major influence on your music. She’s one of my favourite singer-songwriters too. What is it about her that inspires you?
She inspires me because she sings with every piece of her soul and being. She cares for this world and the life in it. She is humble in the way she sings but is captivating in her conviction and she is brilliant and doing it! She inspires me every day as a woman of this world with a voice to help bring life to our society and to do it with an open heart.

As Christmas is approaching, what’s on your wish list this year?
Honestly? That I get an opportunity to somehow take my tunes world wide!!!! Ha or get offered some amazing support … and then some!

What else is in the pipeline for you?
Well, other than the EP launches which are very exciting! Brisbane show on the 21st November at the Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane and 28th November at the Toff In Town, Melbourne we also have a bunch of shows coming up in Melbourne which will be on our Facebook page and hopefully to be confirmed shows and festivals kicking into gear next year! We just want to keep looking up and forward and enjoy every minute while we do it and love everyone who enjoys the tunes to jump on the band wagon with us!