Friday, August 22, 2008

Sui Zhen, Sydney

Current band rollcall?
Becky Freeman - lead vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion.
(Also doing time writing an album with Jamie Lloyd for a project called Little Hat.)

Sui Zhen has been around since....
2003, when I performed my first solo show at Bar Broadway.

Let's play Six Degrees of Sui Zhen....
Darren Hanlon emailed me last year and I played a couple of shows with him, including one in his backyard where a jingles producer was eagerly watching. Not sure if it has helped with 'Sui Zhen' but it has helped my income a lot!

My ex-band member and brother Dan was in a rock band that was produced in LA by Limp Bizkit's DJ Lethal....
Getting to support bands like The Brunettes, CocoRosie, Kimya Dawson has definitely opened the ears of new fans and has helped get my CD out into the world.

I have worked with some of the guys on the electronic music label, Future Classic and have sung on a tracks for Jamie Lloyd, Trickski and Zwicker.

And last but not least, ... I have sung for the devil, I mean, an Unmentionable-Brand-That-Will-Likely-Sue-If-Referred-To-Slightly-Negatively.

First song ever written?
I distinctly remember hiding in my brother's room when my sister and all her 15 year old friends were downstairs. We got out the four track and old Yamaha keyboard and recorded a song about how scared we were of these noisy girls who did not have any alcohol but were naturally hyper and high and hysterical and scaring us into isolation... We made several songs on this subject matter - much to my sister's disgust and offence when the tape was discovered.

The first serious and complete song I wrote and performed was called It's Okay and I recently deleted a bedroom recording of it from the net, I fear it is still out there. It was about, surprise surprise, my first love and consequential first break up. Yay.

Music making for you began when....
Early music making began for me in my teens. Mostly at night, usually quite late, often after a day of solitude.

In my later teens, I would meet up with Jamie and we would make some nice electronic down-tempo stuff. Which has now developed into Little Hat! He was a big influence early on for new and interesting music, often electronic or with some experimental element.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
On my EP we used the sound of X's hands rubbing together, the sounds were soft but crunchy because X had incredibly dry and peeling skin due to dermatitis so it was a great rhythmic sound. That was on Big and Small.

Also on Big and Small there's the sound of me turning the pages to this Russian War time trilogy I was reading at the time and wanted it to be a part of the recording.

We also used gongs, bells, thumb pianos, marimba, vibraphone and all that kind of stuff which was pretty.

I did strike a match for the beginning of Full of You and we looped a section of the crackling flame sound which continues mixed low throughout the entire track.

And there is this massive crescendo at the beginning of Heat which is the sound of piano strings being played in a run, with a screw, reversed.

There's nothing else incredibly experimental because the songs didn't call for it. But I do try to make every sound I use in my music unusual, otherwise it just sounds like everything else!

I think my new project, Little Hat takes on Jamie's philosophy (which is shared by pioneer electronic producer Matthew Herbert), of using lots of found sounds - which I like because they are original and often have a lot of character.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
I have played two fairly odd shows in the 12 months.

One was recently at the Sydney Opera House, for Pierre Huyghe's art installation, Forest of Lines. I had to walk through the forest singing the same song on repeat for a couple of hours at a time, on two different days.

I did a late session and was often approached by drunk people or people offering compliments and I felt so rude because I had to ignore them as to not ruin the artist's intended aesthetic. Also I think the fake fog and my lack of glasses was making my vision skewed. Singing the same song for so long and so loud felt almost psychotic, like I was demanding attention whilst simultaneously being completely ignorant. Overall, it was a interesting experiment which I quite enjoyed.

The other strange gig was when I performed for the Adelaide Fringe Festival Poster Launch.

They had created this fake art gallery scenario in this massive warehouse, I was perched on a huge cube platform on a bicycle seat that rotated. I was covered in a three-metre-high and two-metre-wide recreation of the paper dress I wore on my EP cover. On top of this, I sung two songs with my guitar whilst revolving. There was ambient lighting and I had one of those Madonna headset mics. It was quite angelic and euphoric.

When it was over, I was wheeled on this cube to the corner of the room. Another performance was to begin to take the attention off me so I could discreetly undress and make a exit. Instead people kept watching and the stagehand accidentally ripped the paper dress in two, revealing an awkward me, scampering for cover in nude undergarments. People thought it was part of the performance.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
I often transcribe dialogue from reality TV shows or commercials and, out of context, it can take on a whole new meaning.

Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics....
Mister Sakamoto, my guinea pig, and her deep inner struggle with gender identity and how she ran away to become a legend.

If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer....
My lyrics don't really any wise advice, best I could think of was: "we are all made to procreate so, get, get, get used to it..."

Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song?
I can't remember a specific lyric, but Melbourne band The Brutals have some pretty entertainly stories to tell and I remembering nodding my head many times during their recent Sydney shows!

Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
Definitely. I haven't been writing so much for the Sui Zhen album lately, but the songs I have written whilst living in my little old shop in Redfern have been directly inspired by the space.

Little Hat also reflects living in inner city amongst the pretty and not-so-pretty parts of life, which we all experience but might not often sing about.

You would love to record with....
Arthur Russell, if he were still around. Matthew Herbert, and some old blues musicians, an orchestra, animals in Africa, for a Bollywood film....

Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with....
I love performing with my brother, we started out playing shows together and it would turn into a stand up comic act.

My band is awesome to perform with.

And currently Jamie and I have been producing Little Hat together which is lots of fun, I hardly leave the house!

Outside of Sui Zhen, you spend your time....
Working to support this terrible music habit of mine and working on Little Hat with Jamie and select guests.

I also draw pictures and knit, and make felt people and objects.

Next for you is....
Completing Little Hat debut album and taking on the world!

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called...
For Sui Zhen, I think folk-tronic was the best description - or 'nu-folk' simple and true!

Five things you currently love

Micachu aka Mica Levi. She is from London is ridiculously young, completely experimental and her debut album was produced by Matthew Herbert. It is the wonkiest pop I have heard for a long time.

In Print?
This worm book of my brother's from childhood, it has all sorts of pictures of cartoon worms with various predicaments eg. a worm suffering delusions of being a pencil. I love it and it has inspired a comic I am currently working on.

The top of Prince Alfred Park, opposite George Street in Redfern (where I currently reside). I take Mister there for sun, grass and potential excitement. George Street is also a current favourite, I live in the weirdest block, which scares and intrigues me equally. It's part Eastern Block, part ghetto...

I am very much excited by contemporary visual art at the moment, but Chinatown's Morning Glory has been visually exciting me most lately! The keyrings and bizarre characters they have for cheap-cheap-cheap never ceases to astound me!

This entire week I have been horror/thriller obsessed! I love film and studied it at Uni, so for a long time was scarred with a constant habit of over analysing. Misery and Rosemary's Baby are two stand-outs from this week. I also loved The Dark Knight.

Sui Zhen writes songs that have the unrushed energy of slow-rising smoke. Each acoustic strum and lyric sparks all the emotional temperature of a high fever. It's a dangerous combination when she's wearing a paper origami dress, like on her self-titled EP! Keep close to the crackle of Sui Zhen news by looking up her website here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Small Hours, Sydney

Current band rollcall? (Members and instruments/other bands they're in?)
Mark Smithers - vocals and guitar.
Harrison Lillis - bass and vocals.
Peter Watts - keyboards and wails.
Craig Lyons - drums (and blog-question-answerer).
Craig and Mark occasionally play drums and bass respectively in Sydney's infamous Quarteracre.

The Small Hours have been around since....
Roughly the end of 2005. But our current lineup was finalised at the beginning of last year.

Let's play Six Degrees of The Small Hours...
Our first ever gig was at our school disco supporting Dappled Cities, and we've played a number of shows with them since. Jake Stone from Bluejuice has always listened to our crappy demos and provided tons of help to us. The guys from John Columbus. Pete Kelly from Decoder Ring. Al Grigg from Red Riders was the first guy to give one of our demos to FBI 94.5FM, so he deserves a big pat on the back for that. And Stephen Malkmus, because he exists.

And as far as a weird musical link, when I was in New York, one night I found myself jamming with Shannon Noll. It was in my friend's East Village apartment, and he played a cover of Silverchair's Shade and then I played bongos and tambourine for a new song he was working on. I played him some of our demos, he said they were nice even though I'm guessing he didn't really know what to think.

First song ever written?
A track called Expecting What's Coming Next From You which floated around the Internet as Track 1 Demo for a while. We still listen to it occasionally, for a laugh. But we haven't played it in years.

Music making for you began when....
We got bored of playing other people's songs. Sometime between the ages of 14 and 15, I'd say. The moment Mark learnt how to play a bar chord was also pretty pivotal. Also when we bought our synthesizer. We realised you could make awesome sounds that didn't come from a guitar.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
In a version of our high school song that we recorded for a triple j competition in year 11, some mobile phone interference got in the middle of the song. We couldn't be bothered re-recording it, so we credited Mark with Mobile Phone Solo and sent it off.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
It's a toss up between supporting Dappled Cities at our school disco, and our first gig in sydney, which was when we were 17 and it was in the Hibernian House in Surry Hills. For a bunch of kids playing their first show in Sydney, that was something of an initiation.

Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs?
In our living room in Petersham where we rehearse, we have a giant Life Aquatic poster, and channel Bill Murray's energy into everything we make.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
The poetic genius and all-round nice guy that is Will Smith.

Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics...
Inefficient night-fillers at Wattle Grove Coles supermarket.

If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer...
I probably wouldn't offer much. We're not a band to preach anything really. But if I was pressed to choose one line, it'd be "It's OK, I wasn't expecting you anyway," from Overlays & Underlays.

Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song?
Probably the entirety of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. But in particular, "And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind, and you know she will trust you, cause you've touched her perfect body, with your mind".

Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
Definitely - growing up in the suburbs, where not much happens, and having not much to do, and working shitty jobs when we were kids to save enough money to buy new guitar strings or an effects pedal. None of us are particularly well off and don't come from backgrounds with exorbitant amounts of money, and a lot of things we had to improvise, gear-wise. I think that comes through pretty strongly in our music. Also the current music situation in Sydney affects how we approach our music. We're not positioning ourselves as directly opposed to anything, but more saying "Hey, you don't have to wear fluoro and put trashy photos on Facebook to have a good time", if you know what I mean.

You would love to record with....
Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine or Stephen Malkmus, or if we had enough money, Brian Eno. But we don't have that much money.

Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with...
Recording our last batch of songs at Albert Studios with Wayne Connolly was pretty awesome. He's an amazing producer, and he got exactly the sound we wanted.

Outside of The Small Hours, the band members spend their time...
Harrison's life consists of working in a cafe in Bowral, driving there from the city at 6am and never sleeping.
Mark is a sound guy and can regularly be found at the Hopetoun Hotel or a similar haunt. He's also really good at sleeping.
Peter makes websites and is a master of Super Smash Bros.
And I study history, scan groceries in a supermarket and am currently trying to finish Grand Theft Auto 4. We can also often be seen drinking on our balcony and playing guitars in the house that three of us live in.

Next for you is....
Harrison's going overseas for six months, so we're writing and demoing, then when we gets back the plan is to record our debut album.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called...
Guitar-synth indie dream-pop shoegazer bubblegum rock. Or alternatively, they can file it under "S," for The Small Hours.

Five things you currently love

A band from New York called The Subjects, and their album With the Ease, Grace, Precision and Cleverness of Human Beings. Really awesome, rough-around-the edges indie rock. I'm trying to get them to tour here.

In Print?
Right now I'm ploughing through a lot of Bukowski. And Douglas Coupland. I think I'm gonna quit my job and become a postman.

Palace Pantry, Petersham. Purveyors of fine coffee, Thai, sausage rolls, overpriced groceries, bread, milk, and fresh cat food. Because it's the closest place for us to get food, and it means we don't have to walk to Coles.

The new guitar rack I made for our Guitar Hero guitars in our living room. I made it by banging some nails into the wall. Then I realised that the plaster walls probably weren't designed for holding Guitar Hero guitars, but I persisted. Four days and they seem to be holding up nicely. I'm still clinging to hope.

I've been watching a lot of Woody Allen films, especially his early ones where there's a lot of slapstick and bad one-liners. It's pretty funny, even though they're really bad historical send-ups, Woody Allen is still wearing his glasses, and still has his Brooklyn Jew accent. Like he's eternal or something.

When I first heard The Small Hours, their jangly strums and melodic twists left this instant brain-lodging effect on me, triggering one of those "who ARE this band?" moments. Like that line in the first song FBi ever played of theirs - "these teeth are so lovely, I'll remember you" - there's something sweetly original and hard-to-shake about their music. Like Jordy Lane, they're another Sydney act I am always keyed up about. Keep by their website to hear what they're doing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jordy Lane, Sydney

Current band rollcall?
Me, and Kaity Fox on keys and vocals. But I'm looking for a drummer and a second guitarist contact me!

Jordy Lane has been around (musically) since...
2002 - that's when I started working on my own music. I started playing in a little indie-rock band called D'arcy before that though and did a few other bits and pieces.

First song ever written?
Under my name, it was probably some wanky untitled ambient electronica track that I've since lost.

Music making for you began...
When my mum made me learn the piano when I was about six years old.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
A field recording of Japanese students and horny bogans on a train coming back from Wollongong. If you listen closely to a track called Have Some Patience - Life Is Long you can hear a bogan yell out "I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body" to a girl on the station.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
Probably Rock N Roll Circus - crazy warehouse party that I didn't really belong on the bill to. But it was still fun watching 600 people try to cram into a 200 capacity room.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
The computer voice on iMacs.

Most unconventional topic you've covered in your lyrics?
How useless my songs are.

If you had to offer any of your lyrics as love advice (or life advice), you would offer...
"Don't lose faith, just look at what you have, a beautiful brain, so use it all you can."

Most useful lyrics you've heard in a song?
"Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die, but instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realise that life goes fast it's hard to make the good things last, you realize the sun doesn't go down, it's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round."

Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
Of course.

You would love to record with...
Nigel Godrich/Steve Albini - although I'd probably been incredibly intimidated by both of them.

Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with...
Sarah Kelly.

Outside of making music, you spend your time....
Recording other bands, watching Arrested Development, drinking at the Courthouse, reading.

Next for you is....
Recording one more song and then releasing an album by the end of the year.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called....
Noise pop. Well, it's not quite that yet, but maybe someday.

Five things you currently love

Animal Collective.

In Print?
The Death Of Forever by Darryl Reanney- mind-blowing scientific-based book about why it's irrational to fear death.

Campos coffee - expensive but hits the spot.

Van Gogh - I got to see Starry Night in person a few months ago. Beautiful.

Team America - "It's not about sex, it's about trust."

Stunning indie pop with an electronic heartbeat is what you can expect from Jordy Lane. Each song is sprinkled with thoughtful words and wistful voltages and sparks. I'm very excited that his debut album, Here We Go Down, The Black Hole will be out soon. Head to his website to keep up-to-date with everything he is doing.