Have You Heard: Elephant Eyes

It can be easy to scoff at bands that come out of music courses, mostly due the assumption that all bands should come out of sticky carpet and beer instead of, you know, an ability to play their instruments. That, and the result is usually as pretentious as fuck. Elephant Eyes are the exception to this rule. Forming at NMIT in Melbourne just over a year ago they are really starting to find their feet as a live act and if their debut single is anything to go by, their recorded work will rule.

With a mix of jazz, pop and a hint of electronica the result is a sound that familiar enough to enjoy if you stumble into once of their gigs by accident, but different enough for them to stand out against the current crop of artists doing a similar thing.

Kate McMahon’s vocals switch from jazz to pop effortlessly and with the recent inclusions of an effects pedal in live shows the band could probably go in an direction. Stu Hazelman from The Hazelman Brothers is on drums and back-up vocal duties and fans of his other band will probably dig this too.

Their debut single I Want To Know is available from Bandcamp and if you’re keen to see them live you can catch them at Moomba this weekend or at the Wesley Ann on the April 1.

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Will Sheff @ The Toff 16/10/11

Okkervil River has always been about Will Sheff. Even on their latest release I Am Very Far, the biggest sound record of their career, the music seems to exist only to frame Sheff’s detailed and often dark lyrics. His solo show at The Toff on Saturday gave fans the chance to hear stripped back versions of the band’s songs and the result was absolutely incredible.

A few people turned up early to watch Jimmy Stewart. Although he may not be household name he has toured relentlessly (he once played 51 gigs in two months). Beginning with a cover of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, his gravelly voice and songs that boarder the country end of the spectrum were a hit with the growing crowd, who remained silent for the entire set, a rare occurrence for a support band. Despite not being familiar with his work before the gig, I left it as a fan.

Mike Noga had the difficult task of opening for Sheff and like the last time I saw him the set came with its own unique charm in the form of a nasty hangover. He greeted the crowd by asking if anyone else was disappointed with the new Gillian Welsh album before launching into a set of dark indie folk. After three nights of playing drums for The Drones at The Corner he was visibly wrecked at spent most of the time in-between tracks rambling about various topics and telling the crowd how nervous he was because of their silence.

The crowd were silent for a reason though, with everyone paying him the attention of a headline act. The wager to guess all four acts referenced in  Piss On a Butterfly went down well, even though nobody could guess correctly. One of the biggest highlights of the set was Irish murder ballad Eileen, its dark subject matter unexpected after hearing Noga talk about his cats for the last five minutes. Not only did Mike Noga make the wait for Will Sheff bearable, he made it thoroughly enjoyable.

Launching straight into Rider , Will Sheff left little time for formalities. Using little more than an acoustic guitar and harmonica, the acoustic setting allowed for the songs’ strength to really shine through. The clever Plus Ones was a highlight of the set, as was B-side I Guess We Lost which I prefer to some of the tracks that eventually made it onto I Am Very Far.

The best part of acoustic gigs like this one is hearing fan favourites that are rarely played during fell-band sets. Happy Hearts was a surprise inclusion and sounded great despite the lack of Daniel Johnson. Nobody expected to hear The President’s Dead or Red live, the latter causing audible gasps among the audience.

Sheff switched to keyboard for a few songs which gave a different take on some of the songs. For Real lost none of its intensity without the full band, while his performance of Your Past Life Was A Blast improved on the studio version by removing all of the noise the plagues the album it comes from.

The biggest highlight of the set for me was A Stone. I discovered Black Sheep Boy as an angsty 16 year old that song in particular sound tracked many of my teenage years. Live it was incredible. Will Sheff has always sung like he is on the verge of a mental breakdown and thanks to the excellent sound of The Toff and the appriciative crowd, it was perfect.

That said, there were a few missteps. Using an iPhone to create a backing for The Valley was out of place, and seemed too much of a contrast to the rest of the set. Anyone else but Sheff would not have been able to pull it off. It was the final song, Our Life Is Not A Move Or Maybe that provided the set’s low point. Having heard some amazing acoustic version floating around the internet, I was particularly excited about hearing it. Instead Will Sheff played it on an electric guitar which didn’t quite mix with the rest of the set. That said, Will Sheff’s average is more than some musicians will achieve in a lifetime.

Overall it was an amazing gig that I am sure I’ll remember for years to come. The combination of the respectful crowd, intimacy of The Toff and the talents of all of the musicians involved made it something truly special.

Missing Link To Close

Missing Link will be closing its doors on October 7, after thirty years of selling records to Melburnian music lovers.

The future of the store has been in doubt for awhile, with the current building set for redevelopment. The business was also put on the market, following a merge with fellow record store Collectors Corner.

The full statement from owner Nigel Rennard can be read on Mess and Noise.

Collectors Corner will continue to run the business at a new location.

 

Glenn Richards @ The Toff 25/08/2011

There is little doubt Glenn Richards is one of this country’s best songwriters. While commercial success may have eluded him (aside from that song) a large crowd gathered at the Toff to watch him play a set of old and new favourites with some help from Drones members Mike Noga and Dan Luscombe.

As someone who is used to seeing Mike Noga behind a drum kit, it was a pleasant surprise to see how competent he is as a solo performer. Walking on with a bourbon and coke in a red wine glass, he dived right into a set of no-nonsense folk. He has the kind of weathered, gravely voice that makes you hang on to his every word and it appeared the mostly silent crowd did just that.

Piss On A Butterfly resulted in a wager with the crowd to guess the musical heroes mentioned in the song but ended up with a few people shouting wildly incorrect guesses, while album opener M’Belle went down a treat.

His set was the first sign of things to come tonight with technical difficulties making their way into the set. Mike’s harmonica rack was all but useless and after fixing it in between songs, he ended up ripping it in half. Luckily Augie March guitarist Adam Donovan stepped in to become a human- harmonica holder.

Glenn Richards and Dan Luscombe looked nervous as they started the set, with Richards commenting on how he was unnerved by the size Melbourne after moving to Hobart. However once they started playing, they seemed more at ease, beginning with Glimjack highlights Apple of My Eye and Paint By Numbers. Glenn Richards was in top vocal form and the crowd were lapping up every minute of the their performance. While he often claimed that they lied about the quality banter in the press release, he did admit to watching Augie March videos on YouTube when he was drunk, leading into a fine rendition of The Cold Acre.

The second half of the set was plagued by technical difficulties. Richards was having trouble tuning which resulted in the crowd losing interest and an awkward impromptu cover of Whitney Huston’s The Greatest Love of All. Luckily things got back on track when the sound teach managed to source a new battery and cable for Richards’ guitar, leading into a run of some of Augie March’s best tracks.Dan Luscombe showed off his ability to play by ear on Lupus which he hadn’t practiced and One Crowded Hour’s appearance in the set was more than welcome. The set finished off with the much requested Sunstroke House and This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers, complete with an appearance from Mike Noga.

While it was let-down by technical issues, the night was a great showcase of some of Australia’s best musicians and song-writers.


Matt Corby @ The Toff 08/07/10

Matt Corby was only 16 when he was the runner-up on the 2007 series of Australia Idol. A lot has changed since then. He’s grown a beard, released an EP and has proved that it is possible for decent music to come out of a reality TV show. Tonight a sold-out, mostly female crowd braved Melbourne’s weather to watch him launch the debut single from his upcoming album.

Thanks to Melbourne’s wonderful public transport system, I managed to miss most of Ben Abraham’s set. What I did see was great. Joined by a guitarist, he played the kind of laid back folk music that would make Jack Johnson feel slightly inferior. He performed a great acoustic cover of Gotye’s Heart’s a Mess, complete with an enthusiastic crowd sing-a-long. If there’s one thing that has to be said about Ben Abraham’s set, it’s his brilliant knack at crowd interaction. And after telling us that we works with the Starlight Foundation, there wasn’t a woman in the audience who didn’t want to take him home to meet their mum. He finished with his track Going Crazy, which also featured a crowd-sing-a-long, with two sides of the room trying to out sing each other. There’s no doubt that the mostly seated crowd loved every minute of it.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Tara Simmons. Emerging on stage in an impressive reflective outfit, she spent the set behind her keyboard playing a mixture of offbeat pop songs that varied between the sounds of Regina Spektor and La Roux. While here songs were good, she didn’t engage the audience and it was clear that many lost interest during her set. That said there were still some great moments. She introduced each song, and the story behind it, which worked effectively with the tracks Everybody Loves You, about her brother when he was sick and my personal favourite Rosemary a track a dedicated to a particularly unpleasant customer at work. Part of the crowd disinterest was probably due to her playing before Matt Corby and there’s no doubt she would be a million times better in a headline show.

After a bit of a wait and the heater being turned up to uncomfortable levels, Matt Corby and his band took to the stage and were greeted by a cheering crowd. As soon as he opens his mouth to sing it becomes instantly clear why he did so well on Australian Idol. His voice is amazing and manages to silence an entire room full of eager female fans, which is no easy feat. He sings over loops of his voice, much like an Australian Bon Iver and adds layers that make him stand out from the rest of the singer-songwriter pack. He launches straight into My False, a Mumford and Sons style folk song with a whistling solo that has the potential to get stuck in your head for days.

While the tempo did slow down from there, it was by no means boring. He told the crowd about getting lost on the way to Melbourne and having a pay for a parking ticket before launching into some more tracks. While most of the songs he played were not on his Songs For… EP, the crowd didn’t lose interest and he was met with thunderous applause at each song’s finish. One of the definite highlights of the night was Letters, a sweet acoustic song that was the public’s first glimpse into the kind of music that he could create. Switching to keys for the last two songs, he played a jazz inspired number that fit in well with the rest of the set.

As soon as he left the stage the chants for an encore began. He introduced the final track of the night as the song he wished he’d written before putting on a deep voice and launching into a cover of Amazing Grace, which understandably, had a mixed reaction from the crowd.

Matt Corby is one of those rare artists who have escaped the reality TV mould to create moving and interesting music and if tonight was anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from him.

You can hear some of his tracks on his Triple J Unearthed page.

Epic Festival 2010

Hands up if you enjoy(ed) being underage?

Umm….so that’s about three of you.

Aside from the almost complete lack of responsiblity there really aren’t that many upsides to being under 18. You can’t legally drink, drive or err…vote. The worst thing  for many music fans though is not being able to go to overage gigs. Sure there’s music festivals, but they cost a fourtune and only happen once a year. Or there’s the Freeza program, which put on gigs which usually feature terrible hardcore bands. When you combine both of these things however, the results can be pretty damn good.

Boroondara Freeza are trying to offer gigs for under 18s who like music without too much screaming and are bringing back the Epic Fesitval in 2010. The previous festival in 2008 was a great sucess and featured British India as headliners.

This year’s Epic Festival is combined with the pushstart battle of the bands and the second launch of “Waffle On” magazine which is written entirely by young people and will include free food (and who doesn’t like free food?). Entry is only $10 and the line-up is:

Howl

The Rhetorics

Theives In Law

The Quarters

Battle Preist

Amber Lamps

Blanks

How good is that?

New Young Heretics Video and Track

I know what you’re all thinking. “Is that the guy from The Getaway Plan?” Yes, it is. But don’t worry, because you don’t have to be fourteen and depressed to enjoy listening to Young Heretics.

The Melbourne duo create dark, atmospheric pop songs and they have just released the video for their track Risk/Loss. It was directed by James Lawler and aside from being one of the most visually interesting clips of the year (not including Lady Gaga), it also doubles as a tourism ad for Melbourne with lots of great shots of the city’s laneways. It’s defenitly worth a look.

I can’t embed it because the internet decided it hates me, but you can see it here.

They’ve also been kind enough to offer the track as a free download which you can grab below.

Young Heretics- Risk/Loss.mp3

They’re embarking on a national tour to launch their debut album We Are The Loves. If you like what you saw/heard above, make sure you come along to one of their shows.

NATIONAL TOUR DATES:

Sat 10 July – Spectrum, Sydney NSW  w/ Guineafowl and Siren Lines

Fri 16 July – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay NSW  w/ Comic Sans and Siren Lines – FREE ENTRY

Sat 17 July – The Troubadour, Brisbane QLD w/ Comic Sans and Siren Lines

Fri 23 July – Jive, Adelaide SA w/ Secrets in Scale and Siren Lines

Sat 24 July – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC  w/ Guineafowl and Siren Lines

Thur 29 July – Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA  w/ Arms Like Branches

Fri 30 July – Norfolk Basement, Fremantle WA

Sat 31 July – Amplifier, Perth WA w/ Arms Like Branches, Place of Indigo and The Japanese Tongue Sisters

Sun 1 August – Indi Bar, Scarborough WA w/ Arms Like Branches and Place of Indigo