Angus and Julia Stone – photo by Mitch Connolly
I went to Splendour in the Grass last weekend, a music festival that goes off in Byron Bay in northern New South Wales every Australian winter (that’s June to August for you northern hemispherians). Byron Bay is an area famous for laid back lifestyle, great swells for the surfing types, hippie-ish attitude with its close proximity to the drug tolerant Nimbin and an abundance of vegetarian/tofu options in restaurant menus. The drive took 14 hours with stops and it had been raining leading up to the weekend. There was not a single patch of green grass to be seen, mud was everywhere. Think Glastonburry.
There were three main stages and I went to start off at the more chilled out sitting down stage at the end of the mud trail. I sat down and saw these guys played to a half empty room which quickly filled up once Julia’s sweet voice wafted through the air. The siblings’ performance was so captivating I didn’t bother to move on to the other bigger profile tent featuring a certain hyped up Swedish prog wannabes Dungen or some other rap/dance combo at the far end stage. It has been a while since I’ve sat through an entire acoustic set, and I’m really looking forward to seeing these guys again.
Angus and Julia Stone are a brother sister combo from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. They play with drummer Mitch Connoly, formerly of the Beautiful Girls and a rotating guest bassist. While at first impression they sound like any other midweek acoustic night duo, it is really Julia Stone’s intriguing voice texture that reminds me of Joanna Newsome, albeit without the annoying shrieky bits. A lot of their numbers are down-tempo stories about domestic life and loves, though I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they find an upbeat crossover hit to take on radio.
Angus and Julia Stone – ‘Paper Aeroplane’ (mp3)
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LOUD. Real crash bang loud. That’d be the first word that comes to mind when describing these guys. TIGHT would be the next one. As anyone who has seen them would tell you, Pharaohs feature one of the most naturally gifted young drummers around, 16 years old of age. OK he’s probably 18 now but still, I’ve seen them several times and they always blow away whoever it is they are supporting. At the Mandarin Club gig in Sydney last year mid way through a song the guitarist/singer jumped on a round table and almost nearly stacked it, but he did some sort of skateboard type lip trick balancing and jumped his way out of trouble, all without missing a riff. Currently in the studio mixing down, the album should be coming out through Timberyard Records, home to Damn Arms, Riff Random & Dead Frenchmen.
The Pharaohs – ‘Keelhaul’ (mp3)
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Wolf & Cub
I first heard of Wolf & Cub in 2004 when they were announced as one of the inaugural signings of the new local label Dot Dash, a collaboration with the Remote Control marketing team and indie distributors Inertia. They toured as part of the label’s showcase, and was main support for label mate New Buffalo. The latter was a disappointment, but Wolf & Cub left quite an impression on everyone.
At first I thought the double drum kit set up was superfluous and dismissed it as an attention grabbing stunt, seeing that most of their tunes just needed one good drummer instead of two average ones. Their performance reminded me of a lot of the jam bands around at the time and so I didn’t think much about it. But over time they proved to be stayers, getting picked up by local and national radio, scoring multiple festival slots, opening for a lot of touring bands. By the end of 2004 I saw them about five more times, growing to like them a bit more at each show.
Now I am convinced these guys are one of Australia’s better bands. Solid touring has moulded these guys into a rocking unit on stage and the new songs that radio have previewed sound very impressive; more cohesive song structures and driving grooves. They’ve got gigs supporting TV On The Radio this week and their upcoming album will be out in Europe through the prestigious 4AD label. While they’ve put up new songs up on their myspace, we have ‘Thousand Cuts’ below from their debut EP.
Wolf & Cub – ‘Thousand Cuts’
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Children Collide – photo by Warwick Baker
Searing guitar work, killer name and a great stage workmanship has made Children Collide the hottest trio to break through the indie scene this year in Australia. Playing multiple shows in parties thrown by hipsters favourite Modular and Vice helps put the band in trendies’ top 8s. I have seen these guys about 4-5 times and though have to admit they seem to have a few fillers in their set, once they get to the winners it makes the wait worthwhile. And for some reason the close resemblence of singing style to a certain early 90s grungy trio from Seattle doesn’t bother me one bit. Is it because I long for a grunge revival due anytime soon? Rumours are a couple of big labels are after them while they are in the studio knocking out some new. Touring soon with Red Riders nationwide.
Children Collide – ‘Frozen Armies’ (mp3)
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Continuing on the 60s sound wagon, The Brunettes are not exactly Australian but come from nearby southern neighbours New Zealand. I first saw these guys three years ago on a random online tip of their show at the Hopetoun Hotel in Sydney. Leading Brunettes Jonathan and Heather are two former lovers who still display great chemistry on stage… sometimes it’s hard to believe they’re not together. Their repertoire of songs range from daydreaming in a guitar shop to cute clap along love anthems to envying best friends.
The Brunettes employ a playful array of stage instrumentation including glockenspiel, clarinet and even a toy drum kit, though the last has been replaced with a full kit in their most recent tour. I can’t help but think how much harder it is for a band to be based in New Zealand, with less gigging opportunities, but these guys have scored a support slot in the UK with then obscure Ben Gibbard side project The Postal Service. Their record has been picked up by Sub Pop in the US and they seem to be touring non stop since the year began. Loopy!
The Brunettes – ‘Loopy Loopy Love’
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Belles Will Ring – photo by boudist.com
This five piece from Sydney is one of the many 60s revivalist bands gigging at the moment that draw so much from of Brian Jonestown Massacre school of psychedelia, such as The Lovetones and Dolly Rocker Movement. Belles Will Ring are not without their charms however, as their performance on Saturday night at Home Nightclub proves, opening for Death Cab For Cutie. Their songs are full of harmony buildup, chimey guitars and head nodding rhythms. Featuring the cutest tambourine girl of the scene, the band seem to be doing well with their track ‘The Coldest Heart’ getting decent airplay throughout the nation. Signed to the Architecture label who have released records by Death Cab, Spod, Further and Bit By Bats.
Belles Will Ring – ‘The Coldest Heart’ (mp3)
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