Interview: White Arrows

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 26.07.12 | Issue # 298

BLIND LUCK

 

Imagine being blind until age 11, then one day being able to see a world that, up until then, you could only dream. For White Arrows’ Mickey Church, such a childhood was a reality,Daniel Cribb finds out how it has shaped their success.

On tour and walking around the sweltering heat of a Texas summer, vocalist/guitarist Mickey Church poses a question to begin: “Drum Media, does that have to do with drums? Because I have my brother right here if you need any questions about drums. I am not equipped to handle them, but he is,” he jokes. With nothing more than a 7-inch and three-track EP under their belt, the Church brothers and co have been travelling from one corner of the globe to the other, and throw a recently released debut album into the mix, and they finally have a reason to book their first Australian tour.

They’ve obtained a fairly impressive tour log for a band that formed in 2010, fresh from school with no lag time to secure a day job. “Things started progressing rather rapidly. We’ve only been a band for two years and I look back at it – how many amazing bands we’ve played with, how many amazing things we’ve got to do and achieved in just a two year period, and now our first full-length record is coming out. It’s all kind of surreal. It’s kind of hard to take a step back from it when you’re doing it. I mean, we’re on tour right now, in El Paso, Texas and we’re going to be gone for six weeks, then we’re home for four days, then off to Australia.

“We have no friends out there and it’s just uncharted territory for us,” Church shares. While they’ll no doubt leave with a few, to avoid feeling like loners on their first trip down under they’re teaming up with New Zealand’s Opossom and Sydney’s Jinja Safari. Originally The Blind Date tour was indeed what it promised, a tour that would bring musicians who hadn’t met before together for a tour, but serendipity got in the way of that concept. “What’s funny is, we’d been offered the tour and we were figuring out if we could make it work and we were sitting at a hotel in London at the Columbia Hotel, where we were about to start a Northern European tour at The Great Escape music festival and we were about to take off, sitting in the hotel of the lobby and this guy, who clearly looks like a musician, walks in and I started a conversation with him and asked him if he plays in a band and if he was playing Great Escape.

“He said, ‘Yeah. What band are you in?’ and we said, ‘White Arrow’ and he said ‘Oh, no way! We’re Jinja Safari. We offered you a tour, we’re waiting to hear back from you’ and I was like, ‘We’re about to tell you ‘yes’,” he laughs. “But we only met one of them, so I guess it’s still a blind date,” he reassures the tour’s premise is still intact.

But the tour could have quite easily been reference to Church’s childhood blindness. Although, had his vision not corrected itself, such a tour name may have been mildly inappropriate. Growing up Church was legally blind, until at age 11 his eyes somewhat corrected themselves and he began seeing blurry lines, cloudy shapes and shadows, which is when medical attention gave him vision for the first time. His vision still isn’t 100 percent, but is nothing a little surgery shouldn’t eventually fix up. “I don’t think that, that necessarily shaped my [music]. I grew up in a really musical family, so I might have been just as into music without an affliction like that. One thing that I can say is this it definitely helped my imagination, because I was alone a lot in my head and my view of the world was different to everyone else’s, literally speaking. So I got to be in my own world a lot of the time. I just assumed that since I couldn’t see people, they couldn’t see me.

“Someone could be standing three, four feet away from me and I’d assume that they couldn’t see me, so I would dance and pick flowers or sing a song and not feel self-conscious about it…It was a gradual [improvement] and then it got to the point where I could see with prescription glasses. But as soon as I put on prescription glasses it was totally different – like I could see a straight line, which I had never seen before and I got physically nauseated and threw up the first time I put on glasses. I became obsessed with straight lines, I’d see the straight lines in everything and I would take rulers and draw airplanes out of straight lines and trapezoids. It was really weird and intense looking back on it.”

His obsession with shapes, colours and lines hits overdrive when White Arrows take the stage. “We like to be completely visceral, like a sensory overload; a lot of visuals, a lot of smoke, a lot of colours and geometric shapes. We have a lot of strobe lights. We don’t like it to be a show where you sit there and you just kind of watch songs in succession. We want it to be a full experience,” he emphasises.

But the psychedelic imagery associated with the White Arrows stage show doesn’t end there. It also appears in the music video for their song Get Gone, which caught the eye of a heavy hitting pop singer on Twitter one morning and saw the tune compared to Phil Collins’ Take Me Home. “I remember I logged on in the morning feeling very tired and saw that and I was like ‘Oh, god. What kind of spambot is this?’ Like some [Justin] Timberlake spambot Tweeting about our video. Then I clicked it and it had that blue checkmark of verified. As if things weren’t surreal enough, we had some megastar Tweeting that our song and video reminds him of Phil Collins – that’s pretty insane.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/mickey-church-white-arrows/

Advertisements

Interview: Kate Miller-Heidke

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 26.07.12 | Issue # 298

LONG FLIGHTS & WEIRD NIGHTS

 

Living this year on airplane food and recycled air, Kate Miller-Heidke has had little time to reflect on the game changing events 2012 has thrown her way – a chart-smashing new album and a memorable appearance on ABC’s Q&A. Ahead of her album tour, Daniel Cribb catches up to analyze the chaos.

“If one more person coughs on me I’m going to punch them in the face,” songstress Kate Miller-Heidke sings on her latest album, Nightflight. It’s a fair enough statement too. It’s rare that such a powerful vocalist comes along, and it’s understandable considering someone projecting airborne diseases her way could have less than desired repercussions – especially as she’s finding herself spending an increasing amount of time on tour. Waking up in one state and flying to the next, doing the same thing every day for weeks on end is draining for anyone let alone someone using their voice to its extreme most nights.

The morning of Miller-Heidke’s most recent performance in Perth, she awoke in Melbourne feeling the need to nurture her vocal cords, which often leaves airport security believing she is a deaf mute. Some confusion at the airport and a day filled with whispers paid off though, as she was in fine form whilst entertaining a packed crowd. The following day a colourful Miller-Heidke tightly grasped a mug of coffee in her hotel room, suggesting the bottle of wine she had on stage was finished post-show. “My voice is still tired, it’s fine though. It hasn’t really happened before like this, but I think it was because I was so jetlagged and then we had to do five shows in a row. I had to do closing night at the Opera in London then fly out the next day and straight away do five shows. And then I got sick,” a reserved Miller-Heidke quietly explains.

At this stage her husband/guitarist Keir Nuttall and backing vocalist/guitarist Madeline Page were in the air halfway to Queensland for the next show. Jumping around from state to state all week there had been some eventful moments that included a meeting with Michael Cera a few days earlier backstage at her show at the Sydney Opera House. “He was doing a play in the theatre there, but then we kept seeing him. He was staying at the same hotel. It started to become ridiculous,” she laughs, admitting that stalking comes naturally.

The music video for single, I’ll Change Your Mind, narratives such a trait quite well as she plays a stalker who sets up camp outside the house of a young man and tries, on numerous occasions, to get his attention. The video seems fairly tame for the most part, until the end, when Miller-Heidke breaks into the house, thrusts a knife into her chest, removes a very realistic looking heart and gives it to her stalkee. So what contributed to the album’s change of direction and her desire to be seen in a different light?

Touring around the world, including a run of shows opening for Ben Folds in North America, Europe and the UK, as an acoustic three-piece over the past couple of years gave her the opportunity to step back from certain elements of her previous work and redirect her musical path, as is apparent throughout Nightflight, a direction well received as it entered the ARIA charts at #2. “To be honest, Ben Fold was a big influence. I sat backstage and watched him play night after night at eighty shows. But this record was mainly a reaction to the last one. Not directly influenced by anything in particular, but just wanting to make something different and surprise myself.”

During long international flights, Miller-Heidke began to feel as if she was in purgatory, thus naming the album after the song Nightflight was an easy choice. “The title was applicable to every song on the album and not just the one. It’s more about the word really. Although it’s one of my favourite songs on the record, I like them all. It’s still pretty fresh though, so I’m still in the honeymoon period. I’m sure I’ll hate them all in six months,” she laughs.

After Curiosity hit success, Miller-Heidke found herself living out of suitcases and on a diet consisting mainly of airplane food. To get away from it all and clear her head, she and her husband retreated to Toowoomba in Queensland for a few months to workshop material for the next album. Once the bits and pieces of a third studio album were in place and tracked, she escaped the ridiculous heat of the Australian summer and flew to Europe to mix the record in Suffolk with Cenzo Townshend (U2, Kaiser Chiefs, New Order). When the idea for last minute backing vocals arose, Miller-Heidke had an urge to record the part outside, in the snow. “It was a beautiful day and, with all the snow, it just seemed like the right thing to do; to go outside. It was hard to set up, but it was worth it for the photo,” she jokes. The photo in question can be located on her Facebook page.

Besides a scenic photo, the studio’s location provided an opportunity to try for a position in the English National Opera. Passing the audition for John Adam’s The Death Of Klinghoffer with flying colours, she landed the role of ‘British Dancing Girl’ and became the only Australian cast member. “It was the English National Opera, one of the best companies in the world. To get to play on that stage in Covent Garden felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity – and it was.

“They were all lovely people and amazing opera singers. It’s such a weird discipline, but so inspiring in a way. The whole experience of being in the theatre, it’s quite intoxicating… We had seven weeks of rehearsals and two weeks of shows. The first two weeks of rehearsal we were sitting around in a circle, learning about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and doing research and presenting assignments and stuff. It was absolutely incredible. It was like being at Oxford.”

Back in Australia, the cycle to promote her new album began. When asked to perform on ABC’sQ&A, whilst nervous due to the nature of subject matter usually discussed on the show and the feeling that she’d need to prepare, she was convinced into thinking it would be a good opportunity to play a song off the new album. The agenda for the evening was to be focused on the upcoming budget, but they promised to throw her a couple of music questions. “As anyone who saw it knows, we didn’t move on and the entire show was about Labor and unions and budgets and interest rates, and I felt about as useful as a waterproof teabag,” she responded online a couple of days after the appearance. During the show Anthony Callea Tweeted “There is one person on the panel tonight that is a total waste of space….embarrassing rep for Gen Y! #qanda”, to which Miller-Heidke responded: “Pot Kettle Fuckwit.”

Never claiming to be an expert on politics, she can, however, claim expertise when it comes to songwriting. So how does this album stand up to her previous works? “It’s more organic. It’s more lush and cinematic and just more real. I’ve loved playing in the duo the last couple of years, doing those kinds of [acoustic] shows that we did last night. I just wanted to harness the power of that; the power of dynamics and simplicity and silence, rather than just adding layers and layers of shit to everything – which was our approach in Curiosity and it worked for that, but it just wasn’t where I was at musically anymore. I think it encompasses a lot of the themes – the darkness, the light, the contrast, the themes of mortality and life.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2012/07/26/kate-miller-heidke-daniel-cribb/

Interview: Empra

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 26.07.12 | Issue # 298

DOUBLE TIME

 

“He’s like the coolest famous guy you’ll ever meet. No fucking attitude, man!” Empra frontman Sanny Veloo says of pop sensation Gotye (aka Wally de Backer). Daniel Cribb gets the full story.

The debut album from Melbourne’s Empra began as a solo project – a way for vocalist/guitarist Sanny Veloo to pay tribute to Wayne Thunder, his best friend and the drummer of his previous band The Suns, who passed away far too young. It started off as a simple idea and, after a slew of complications and a few happy surprises along the way, became a full band endeavour.

Veloo has been overcoming obstacles since his early days on the road with Thunder. One of their earlier bands, Boredphucks, were playing a festival in their hometown of Singapore when, through swearing, they unintentionally incited the crowd to climb onto the stage and go crazy. The power was cut, police called and Boredphucks were arrested and charged with violating the Public Entertainment Act. The band then moved to Australia, which is when they changed their name to The Suns. “Believe it or not, those guys in Singapore had no idea we were the same guys and they got us back,” Veloo explains. But a return to Singapore ended badly after, being the punk rocker that he is, Veloo climbed a Marshall stack during the final few minutes of their set and fell off, landing on his elbow and fracturing it in five areas. Veloo required surgery to replace his joint with a metal one. He recalls the terrifying moment when a specialist gave him this news: “You’ll never play guitar again and you will struggle to regain use of your arm.”

The self-titled debut album from Empra proves that prognosis wrong – but it wasn’t an easy record to put together. When Veloo first entered the studio, a simple handshake deal with an unnamed engineer ended in the loss of his life savings and having to re-record the entire album. “The mixes they delivered sounded worse than my fuckin’ home demos, which I did in my bedroom. It turns out the producer just really didn’t know what he was doing and he did not want to release the tracks. I had to go see a lawyer, then he threatened to sue me and threatened to bankrupt me… during that time the band formed, I found a guitarist and drummer and we had a whole bunch of new songs and we were playing a lot of gigs. It started to sound like a band and not one guy’s solo project.”

The second attempt at the album allowed for a notable keyboard cameo on their balladSabrina. Before Gotye (aka Wally de Backer) was number one on charts all over the world, he played in retro rockers The Basics, who gigged around town with The Suns on a regular basis. “Wally knew Wayne and I called him up and was like ‘Hey, dude. I’ve got this song, can you come do your Gotye thing on it?’ and he said yes even before he heard the song,” he explains. “He’s like the coolest famous guy you’ll ever meet. No fucking attitude, man. Sometimes we do shows with [local] rock bands and some of these dudes have more attitude than Gotye,” he laughs.

Starting from scratch paid off and the end result provided the closure he was searching for. “Just by having this thing done I feel like I came to terms with a best mate’s passing. That part of my life has been honoured and I can move on to the next stage of it. It was very important for me, not to give it up, because I made a promise to my best friend and I wanted to honour that.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/empra-sanny-veloo/

CD Review: House Vs Hurricane

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 19.07.12 | Issue # 297

HOUSE VS HURRICANE

CROOKED TEETH

18 July, 2012

 

Between the release of this album and their debut Perspectives, Melbourne’s House Vs Hurricane had quite a drastic setback when it came to their line-up. Shortly after making a name for themselves with their unique sound of post-hardcore that revolved around prominent keys, their keyboard player left the band. Straight up, not finding a replacement means the direction of Crooked Teeth is radically different. Throw in the fact that frontman Chris Dicker departed and was replaced by former Nazarite Vow vocalist Dan Casey and you pretty much have a completely new band.

The shuffle has in no way hindered House Vs Hurricane’s progress though; Crooked Teethkicks off with 40 Deep, the first single set loose off the album, and from there doesn’t once relent. Casey’s vocals hold up well in their new environment and prove a worthy replacement for the aggression and intensity Dicker unleashed on the band’s previous recordings.

What really seals the deal on this LP is the production quality and influence that comes from recording in New Jersey with acclaimed producer/engineer Machine (Bullet For My Valentine, Enter Shikari, The Amity Affliction and many more).

What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger; having pushed through a sea of deal breakers, House Vs Hurricane are proving to be an unstoppable force. Their name appearing on the 2013 Big Day Out poster is proof that they’re weaving their way to a fast-tracked and well-deserved success.

Daniel Cribb

http://themusic.com.au/reviews/album/2012/07/18/house-vs-hurricane-crooked-teeth-daniel-cribb/

Show Review: Say Anything 11.07.12

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 19.07.12 | Issue # 297

SAY ANYTHING, THE GETAWAY PLAN

AMPLIFIER BAR

11 July, 2012

 

Say Anything’s first headline tour of Australia was greeted in Perth by a line of fans that tailed the alleyway of Amplifier all the way to the street. Once inside, punters were treated to some female-fronted pop-punk from Perth’s own The Main Attraction. While their stage presence was a little awkward, it was balanced out by the maturity of their music. Taking into account how young they are, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them headline a bill of this capacity one day.

It was interesting to see The Getaway Plan play the role of a support band for a tour like this, considering they can usually pack out venues of this ilk – and bigger – on their own. What was more surprising was the fact they came out and set up all their own gear, a simple task that made them more accessible and down-to-earth to fans. Their performance, while short at six songs, was tight, but failed to ignite the crowd’s enthusiasm – a problem that was quickly medicated by the headliners.

Say Anything’s tour was dubbed Say Anarchy, and from the moment they stepped onstage, anarchy is exactly what was delivered with their brand of chaotic pop injected with punk. Frontman Max Bemis wasted no time in getting punters involved, leaning into the crowd and inciting a clap along for Burn A Miracle two songs into the set. During songs Bemis’ voice cut from gritty yells to clean pop, and not once struggled to break through or hold its place above the band’s three screeching guitars. When songs off their debut …Is A Real Boy surfaced, an album of which only Bemis and drummer Jacob Linder feature, it was clear the core of the group lies within its two original members. The Australian accent received praise from the frontman who, by this stage, beard dripping with sweat and dressed in a top that looked of the ‘80s, was a spitting image of Ron ‘Milk Was A Bad Choice’ Burgundy, with the band leaving the crowd satisfied thanks to cracking renditions of Admit It and Admit It Again.

Written by Daniel Cribb

http://themusic.com.au/reviews/reviews-live/2012/07/18/say-anything-amplifier-daniel-cribb/

Interview: The Brow Horn Orchestra

Published in:

Drum Media (WA) | 12.07.12 | Issue # 296

THE DARK SIDE

Good-time party band The Brow Horn Orchestra’s vocalist, Nic Owen, hears a passed-out band member’s phone ringing and answers, filling Daniel Cribb in on their national tour, new line-up and latest EP.

It’s no secret that life on the road for musicians is often accompanied by at least some mild partying. There’s no need to wake up early in the morning, and even if you have an interview locked for the day after some post-show partying, 3pm gives you plenty of time to sleep-in and be ready for the interviewer’s call… Or so you’d think. “I’m answering on behalf of Sky [Eaton, trumpet/vocals], because he doesn’t look like he’s getting out of bed I’m afraid,” vocalist Nic Owen of The Brow Horn Orchestra laughs. “We had a show at the [Oxford] Arts Factory last night, which is a really cool venue in Sydney. I guess it’s kind of like Sydney’s Bakery. We’ve been on a few tours now and every time, you get to that point where you’re feeling sick and you say ‘I’m going to be good tonight and I’m not going to go out’, but then you finish the show and you’re on a buzz and someone says ‘let’s party!’ and you go down the rabbit hole every time and end up out until the sun comes up.”

Currently on their second major national tour, the Perth lads are burning the candle at both ends to ensure their second EP Two Fires gets the exposure it deserves. Since their debut EPCan’t Afford This Way Of Life, they’ve have had a slew of member changes – more than most bands experience in a lifetime – including the departure of two to have a baby together, one who relocated to Melbourne and another parting ways to focus on other projects, and then enlisting two new members to join the team. “It’s kind of helped in a way, for touring, to be a bit smaller. We were always a big band and everyone was doing their own things, but I think we’ve achieved this small family now, because we’re just five people and it’s a lot easier to fit around the dinner table when there’s less people because you’re not going off in sub-groups.“

The new line-up is here to stay, including a member that jumped on the bandwagon during their first circuit of the country in Victoria. “We were driving past this garage sale and just went, ‘Fuck, did you see that camel?’ We literally went around the block to come back, and for one reason or another decided to buy a fake camel without considering that it wouldn’t really fit in the car. We dubbed him ‘Callum’ and he’s becoming an integral member of the band,” Owen explains, proving one man’s junk – or paper maché animal – is another man’s joy.

The Brow’s increasing popularity around the country can mainly be attributed to the refined sound created from their new, solidified line-up. “We always felt like we were a live band and we wanted to try and achieve that on records, try and capture that live vibe… A lot of the feedback we got from the first EP was ‘Love the EP, but you guys are still better live’, and whilst that’s a massive compliment, you want people to like it for different reasons, instead of just comparing it to your live show. This time we wanted to make something a bit more produced and a bit more electronic, and we tried to focus on writing a record, rather than trying to out-do the live show, which is where having a lot of members leave kind of solidified that in a way.

“Compared to our last EP, [Two Fires] is a lot darker, because a lot of people just think of us as this upbeat happy band. We often get compared to The Cat Empire, which is an awesome compliment, but we wanted to show people that we were more than just this upbeat happy vibe.”

http://themusic.com.au/interviews/all/2012/07/12/nic-owen-the-brow-horn-orchestra/