WTH: You’ve known Claire Bowditch for quite a while?
EL: We became friends when I was nine and she was 16. We went to the same hippy school and somehow found each other. We even wrote some songs together back in the 90’s. Our early work never really broke through onto the scene though.
WTH: Did Harry Angus (Cat Empire) direct Tinpan Orange towards a ‘bigger’ sound? What did he bring to the table during the working process of the record?
EL: He brought a lusciousness to our sound…sweet melodic lines, little hooks and riffs subtely layered to create texture and richness and drive. We don’t have drums and bass so we needed to be creative about making the songs have groove and evolution. He also had a lot of confidence that we could make a beautiful album, despite the fact that we all had little production experience.
WTH: I can’t keep track of how many guest musos walk in and out of the Cat Empire.
EL: They are a musos band. They love jam… I mean a jam.
WTH: You describe yourself as ‘gypsy infused’ folk. What does this mean for the rest of the population who are wary of pick pocketing musical vagrants who smell like hashish and patchouli oil?
EL: The gypsy thing is phasing out a little bit in Tinpan. Alex is straying from his Ukrainian Jewish gypsy roots and embracing his Ukrainian classical heritage. Behind that iron curtain those kids can really play Bach…
WTH: Bearing the estrogen in the trio, how does musical conflict go down?
EL: I usually win.
WTH: Your brother Jesse is also in the gang. Is there a strong musical thread in the family? What did you listen to growing up?
EL: We grew up listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash, America, Joni, Leonard, Dylan, the Eagles, James Taylor and Raffi… our dad plays the guitar and piano and our mum can yodel. Music was something that was always around us. No-one else followed it the way we did though. The rest got real jobs.
WTH: If my festival camping neighbour got out his violin at some ungodly hour of the morning, my reaction would not have been so sweet. Why did you recruit Alex after this?
EL: Because he’s so damn sweet. And he’s got chops. He’s like a brother. And he can play like a motherf***er.
WTH: Masterchef has half an hour to whip up Tinpan Orange on a plate? What do they cook?
Right now something French. And vegetarian. Like fake snails made out of tofu…our new single ‘Like Snow’ is inspired by old French movies.
WTH: How have you seen your music develop over the years?
EL: Our song writing has become wiser and our production has become less derivative. I think it takes lots of artists a little while to stop copying what’s around them and find their own sound.
WTH: Local bands you’re listening to at the moment?
EL: Jen Cloher, Down Hills Home, Leah Flanagan and Mama Kin.
WTH: ‘Lovely’ is about a song about a letter. Fan of old fashioned kitsch?
EL: That was actually a love letter. I recorded it on a cassette tape and sent it to my love.
WTH: Favourite Melbourne hangout/watering hole?
EL: The Toff (I love the little carriages) and Open Studio.
WTH: A higher power smites your house and you can only save one record from the flames. What is it?
EL: This cd I have of old Swiss lullabies.
WTH: Red haired females seem to be all the rage right now. Are you a natural rang? And will you be backing the one running the country?
EL: I’d rather vote for Pippi Longstocking. But I’d take Julia over that guy with the big ears any day. I’m not a natural redhead…just an impostor.
Tinpan Orange will embark on a national tour during August and September, before they join the Cat Empire to do shows in the UK and Europe.
Check their myspace for details.