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It hasn’t exactly been a quick journey to get to where he’s at now, but Sydneysider Andy Bull seems very at peace with his music career. He took some time out to talk about his latest EP and some of its more delicate backstory.

You’re just about to kick off a tour to support your latest EP, Phantom Pains. The EP has been out for nearly a year now, what’s stopped you from taking it on the road earlier?

I released the Phantom Pains EP about a year ago, and with very little fanfare, no great press release or anything. It was more a case of get together with some friends, record the songs and just put them out (which was very refreshing). Because of that, there was no great push for a headline tour early on. Instead, I’ve spent the last twelve months playing a lot of support shows, touring in the opening slot for a stack of artists, and just bit by bit creating an audience. There was also a bit of radio play on Triple J and community stations, and combined with the touring, it slowly but steadily built, I suppose, a potential audience for doing a headline tour. It has really satisfying to know that, in a world of sudden rises and drastic collapses, an audience can be built slowly but surely! So here we are- hopefully with enough of an audience to justify a headline tour.

Phantom Pains is the second of two releases from you. How do you feel it compares to your first album We’re Too Young?

I always describe We’re Too Young as being a step removed from me. I know a lot of musicians distance themselves from their earlier stuff, but you know, in this case I felt that way even as I was releasing it. There are some wonderful moments on that first album, but maybe it should have been performed by somebody else. Phantom Pains was kind of a correction- I made a lot of the opposite sort of choices that I did from WTY, stripping things back, doing things less formally, involving friends and just letting it be. I think it is just a matter of age and learning how you like to do things. I’m still refining my process, still refining the music and hopefully taking steps towards doing better things still. But Phantom Pains was a turning point for me, and I’m happy with how the process felt.

Is there any meaning behind the name Phantom Pains?

Well, as you probably know, phantom pain is a neurological phenomenon whereby the presence of a missing limb (absented through amputation or accident, etc) is still felt in the form of pain. Incidentally, I met a gentleman after a show once who told me about his own phantom pains. I was relieved that he hadn’t felt that his condition was exploited by the song- I think he actually enjoyed the recognition, even though his circumstances were not figurative but very much literal! He described variations in the constant pain that he felt in the place where his leg had been; tingling and throbbing sometimes, discomfort and spasms as if it were kicking around other times, and then also a more severe state of extreme, crushing pain that would incapacitate him for hours and sometimes days at a time. He refused to take medication to numb the pain because he said that while it numbed the pain, it also turned his mind to dough.

So, that’s actual phantom pain, but I thought it was a neat allegory for an emotional state as well. The song is about a guy who cuts off his hand to atone for what he believes is some past wrongdoing, only to discover that, on a kind of karmic level, he has atoned for nothing: he is just in pain. I think it’s a song about irony, about a man who chronically misses the point. He’s sees karma as a point scoring system, about right and wrong, when maybe it is more about cause and effect. And hey- cut off your hand, and you’ll be in pain, that’s it. Its like this idea of religious self-flagellation, it is probably less godly and more narcissistic than the righteous flagellant believes!

Boil it down further, and I think that there is some truth that, in as much as we can feel something’s presence, we can likewise feel its absence, which therefore is also a kind of presence, and therefore, presence or absence is not so much a literal delineation, but a perceptual difference. And, therefore, cutting off you hand to atone for a sin is not going to help as much as setting things right in your heart.

What is your favourite track the EP and why?

I think the title track is my favourite. Thematically, lyrically and sonically, it feels a bit more mature maybe, which is something I think is valuable. I still like listening to it. It was also the last thing we recorded during those sessions.

Can you tell us a little about the track ‘Dog’, and how the collaboration with Lisa Mitchell came about?

Well, the song ‘Dog’ is about depression. When I put the song out I also wrote quite a long blog about it, because I felt like, given the subject matter, it was appropriate to contextualize it, and take responsibility for it. It was really important that the matter be treated elegantly, and not simply exploited. In terms of recording the song, it was theoretically finished by the time Lisa arrived at my door one afternoon for a cup of tea. She and I had very casually thrown around the idea of singing together on something when we toured a year earlier, but it was just sort of passing conversation. But, there she was with a cup of earl grey, and the idea of collaborating still seemed appealing. So I put up a microphone and we just went through the song line by line, and within an hour it was all done. She added something very special, so I re-recorded my part to make my voice sound like hers- to give the impression of one person with two sides, rather than it being a duet, given the nature of the lyric. It was a very serendipitous week, because Little Red also appeared at my door later that week, and ended up singing on ‘Nothin’ To Lose’. Careful coming to my house, I’ll end up recording you!

You’ve had some fairly amazing support slots so far, which have been the most memorable?

Little Red, Lisa Mitchell, Tim Finn, Hungry Kids ofHungary- they were all very special tours and they were all very different. I also supported Duffy at the Opera house many moons ago, and to play in the concert hall was a real trip.

What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?

Well, there’s been a few exterior “achievements” over the last twelve months, but really, the highlight is, and hopefully always will be, simply the process of making music- rehearsing, recording, writing, performing. That should be a continuing, never ending highlight. I ‘m a big believer in the process being the reward, since everything else is temporary and totally contingent on factors beyond personal control.

What’s your favourite thing about playing in Brisbane?

Brisbanecrowds are something else. By far the most vocal, involved and open crowd in the country. Sometimes I shuffle onstage, trying to gauge how I will be received, and there’s this big, loud Brisbane crowd waiting with open arms, doing their best to make you feel like you’re one of the bunch- and of course, that precipitates the best performances too, because you feel confident. It’s much appreciated.

What can the uninitiated expect from a live how?

Well, it’s a trio, and we have maybe an “unexpected” sound which is a little bit old and a little bit new. I usually talk a fair bit too, and sometimes people don’t expect me to talk about the things that I do. I know that the expectation is to “perform” but I’m trying to find a way of “performing” as myself. I hate being an audience member and being “sold to”, I want to feel like I’m getting some truth, and so I try to do that myself in my own show. Less earnest, more honest, maybe.

What does the future hold for Andy Bull?

Gratuitous narcissism and compulsive excess, mindless acquisition of gaudy bling, abuse of privilege, domestic rifts, self congratulating auto-biographical screen plays, “artistic” tantrums, studio meltdowns, drugs abuse, evangelical religious conversion, a talk show and, eventually, misguided political ambitions.

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To celebrate a thousand issues and 20 years since its inception, local street press Rave Magazine put together a bit of a Brisbane all-star gig at the Zoo last night. Indie rockers Velociraptor opened the night to a fairly sparse crowd, sporting 11 of their 12 members tonight (well, 10 members for the first couple of songs as main frontman Jeremy Neale explained, “Lauren’s parking her car but we’ll have a keyboard player at any moment.”). There were a few moments where you had to wonder maybe six guitars in are too many guitars in one band, with some of the heavier moments sounding a little messy. Despite this, the group put on an exciting show, high in energy and enthusiasm.

Keeping in theme of bands with a ridiculous amount of members, folk-pop group Inland Sea were up next, opening their set with ‘Traitor’. Tonight they were down a few members, namely their string section which unfortunately impacted on their overall sound quite a bit. The strings add a much needed middle ground between ‘soft’ and ‘soaring’. It seemed like the group tried to make up for the lack of strings by simply being louder, instead coming across as overdone rather than enthusiastic. ‘All Fall Down’ was enjoyable, as it is simply a beautiful song (as is that whole EP actually), but for the most part the set failed to impress.

Highly anticipated, Dave McCormack of Custard fame took to the stage next. Custard, or any of McCormack’s other projects, have never really featured too heavily in any of my music adventures so I didn’t really know what to expect from the set. A few glitches with the synth/keyboard (which Seja Vogel from Sekiden/Regurgitator was helping out on) early in the set stalled things a little bit, but was a fairly seamless performance overall. McCormack proved that he’s still a mighty fine performer and enigmatic frontman.

Easily the most highly anticipated act of the night (apart from the ‘mystery’ headline act) was the Brisband Experience. Consisting of members from Hungary Kids of Hungary, Drawn from Bees, The Boat People, Rhubarb, the Blood Poets, Transport and as also Katie Noonan, the group performed some classic songs fromBrisbanebands. ‘Breath in Now’ by george was as beautiful as ever, with Katie Noonan showing that she still has an amazing voice. Rhubarb’s ‘Exerciser’ and the Go-Betweens ‘Streets of Your Town’ were both highlights that prompted some nice sing-a-longs. However the best moment of the set was easily the cover of Savage Garden’s ‘To the Moon and Back’, where Dan James of Drawn from Bees helped to turn a fairly corny song into something pretty awesome.

There were a lot of names thrown around as to who the mystery headline act could have been. Powderfinger, Robert Forster, Butterfingers, sixfthick and the Grates were a few rumours floating around. Most punters consistently guessed the act to be Regurgitator though, and there was a roar of applause as the trio walked onto the stage. Performing a classic hits style set, the ‘Gurge certainly made a spectacular comeback toBrisbane’s live music scene. Opening with ‘I Sucked a Lot of Cock to Get Where I am’ and then continuing on through favourites like ‘My Friend Robot’, ‘I Wanna be a Nudist’ and ‘The Drop’ there wasn’t a dull moment to the set. ‘Black Bugs’ transformed into a brief rendition of ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ and Seja Vogel came back to help out on synths for a few tracks, making ‘Polyester Girl’ a particular highlight. They closed their far too short set with ‘! (The Song Formerly Known As)’ and ‘Kung Foo Sing’, leaving most patrons on a trip down memory lane.

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Not far from kicking off the first ever headlining tour, I asked frontman Sam Cromack a few questions about how the band been going lately.

You’re about to embark on your first headlining tour – do you have anything special in store?

In about half an hour I’ll be heading to our first rehearsal for this tour. We have a bunch of things to learn: some new songs and another cover. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be busting out our most fabulous cover yet.

Your new video for ‘Rich People are Stupid’ is pretty crazy – did you really smoke your own moustache?

Yes. It’s not half as bad as everyone assumes it would be. Not like I had to eat vomit or poo or anything.

What have been your main influences (musical or non-musical) when writing?

I like lots of different styles of music, so I won’t bother boring anyone with which particular bands I like. I try lots of different styles of writing too. Sometimes I’ll sit about with a guitar and just noodle, sometimes I’ll work at the computer and experiment with recording. Sometimes a tune will just “come”, and I’ll sing it into my phone so I don’t forget it. I just do whatever. There’s always music to be written.

You seem to be very busy touring all of the time – what do you like to do in your downtime?

I like to go to work and earn some money so I can stay alive. I like to spend time with my girlfriend. I like to cook and drink alcohol. I’m open to anything. Do you want to take me somewhere?

You’ve had some pretty awesome support slots over the last couple of years, who has been amongst the favourites?

Even though we know them quite well now, our national tour supporting Hungry Kids of Hungary was undeniably good. It was their album tour. They’d done the hard yards; we just got to play in the big venues full of screaming Hungry Kids fans. They may have hated our band for all I know, but who cares. I had a good time.

You’ve also had some overseas shows as well, in Singapore and Vietnam, how have you been received overseas?

No-one knows us there, but it was still a gnarly adventure. The people and the lifestyle there, especially in Vietnam is a great experience. It’s very different there. The audience aren’t exposed to a lot of live music, so they’re very grateful for anyone who’ll come. The bands we played all have a different attitude too. Western bands are very sombre and serious; they’re shit-scared of putting on a ball-busting show at the risk of being uncool or daggy. But this suited us very well. We just wanted to behave like dickheads and have fun. The Vietnamese can really party. I miss them.

What can the uninitiated expect from a live Ball Park Music Show?

We insist on keeping our live show slightly unplanned. Spontaneity is at the heart of a great performance. I mean, sure, it’s lovely to play your songs well, but you want to give the audience good reason to be in attendance. I like to think anything can happen. We’ve removed clothes, auctioned fingernails, dry-humped patrons, climbed on people, run away, spat wine on people’s clean clothes. The more people the come, the better it will be. Also, the more alcohol I consume, the better it will be.

What’s your favourite thing about playing in Brisbane?

Brisbane crowds are always large and they’re never pretentious. They like to get pissed and have a good time. Not likeSydney.

What has been the highlight of Ball Park Music’s career so far?

Playing at CAMA Festival in Hanoi, Vietnam was one of the greatest and most surreal moments of my life. I will cherish that memory for a long time. I also loved play ‘Apartment’ with Custard singer Dave McCormack at last year’s Triple J AusMusic Month party. That was equally surreal, and banging that out to a sold-out crowd. Ripper.

What does the future hold for Ball Park Music?

Hopefully a lot. We have a lot planned for the near future. I hope we can stay busy and enthused about our music. As long as we remain on an upward climb, you can count me in.

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Central Coast singer-songwriter Daniel Lee Kendall opened the night to a mostly packed crowd. Performing a mostly acoustic set, with a little bit of help from some pre-recorded beats on his lap top, Kendall seemed slightly dwarfed on the big stage but managed to hold himself fairly well. There were moments when the crowd’s chatter could be heard above the softer moments, but for the most part Kendall was well received. ‘Gone’ proved to be a gorgeous moment and set closer ‘Lost in the Moment’ was of course a favourite and met with a round of applause.

Sydneysider Andy Bull was up next, with a guitarist and drummer to fill out his live sound. Bull proved to be an enigmatic frontman showing fantastic stage banter with the audience. Local songstress Tara Simmons was brought out to perform ‘Dog’, but the real highlight of the set though was their Triple J’s Like a Version rendition of Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.

Perth’s The Chemist were next to take the stage. The four-piece delivered some impressive musical moments, particularly in a few songs containing piano accordion. However both the lead vocals and backing vocals were grating after a few songs, sometimes sounding out of place or simply of out of tune. A group that could have some really fantastic potential, but seem to be trying to fit in too much at once.

The Hi Fi was completely packed out for when Hungry Kids of Hungary took the stage for the final show of their ‘Final Escapade’ tour. Looking relaxed and confident, the five-piece opened the set with a new song before a seamless transition into ‘Scattered Diamonds’. Touring has obviously been good for the boys, who have always been a highly enjoyable act, but are now coming across even tighter and more capable performers than before. The addition of a fifth member has helped to fill out the sound musically as well as adding to the vocal harmonies.

Guest performances were popular in the middle of the set, with Andy Bull coming out to perform their collaboration of ‘Last Waltz’ and Mel Tickle from Little Scout doing backing vocals for ‘Eat Your Heart Out’. ‘Wristwatch’ and ‘Coming Around’ were massive crowd favourites, but ‘Let You Down’ was surprisingly the only song that got a real sing along for the night. As usual with a Hungry Kids set, it was high energy throughout.

The crowd was left begging for an encore, and after a short interlude the boys came back onstage. Dean nervously admitted that the next song hasn’t always been popular on this tour, before they launched into a cover of Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘1979’. It was definitely a risky cover, but the Hungry Kids managed to pull it off with great finesse. They closed their set with their hit ‘Set it Right’, ending another Hungry Kids of Hungary show that continues to cement them as one of Brisbane best live acts around at the moment.

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Hailing from the NSW Central Coast, singer-songwriter Daniel Lee Kendall is a very busy man. About to wrap up tour dates with Brisbane’s own Hungry Kids of Hungary, he’s about to embark on his second tour this year with folk duo Georgia Fair. He sat down for a quick chat about his the tours, his new EP and making old ladies feel special.

Are you surprised at how quickly your music has gained attention since the release of your debut EP [Lost in the Moment]?

Well it’s funny. Because I had been playing and writing for a couple of years before that release and had ‘self-released’ (selling CDs at shows) a homemade EP.  So it actually feels like I’ve been going for a while. It’s great that it is starting to get some attention, but it hasn’t really felt like it’s happened quickly.

I saw you at Big Sound Live last year, and the audience seemed quite impressed. How has that opportunity helped you along the way?

Yeah I really enjoyed that show. I’m not sure how that specifically helped me, but I do think that it’s a whole bunch of things, small things and a-little-bit-bigger-things that all add up and help along the way. I think Big Sound was one of the little-bit-bigger-things.

What have been some of your main influences (musical and non-musical) in crafting your sound?

Definitely Angus and Julia Stone. They helped me to not be scared of simplicity. The likes of Thom Yorke and Ray LaMontagne have helped with creating emotion and feeling in my music. Lately Jim Morrison is helping me realise the power of music, beyond just the music.

How was recording your second EP [Talk the Night Away] different to the first?

Not different at all really. I still did most of it at home, and then took it into a proper studio to give it a bit of sparkle. Only difference was we spent a bit more time in the studio this time.

You’ve had a busy year of touring so far, with more to come. What do you do during your downtime?

I work at my mum’s café, making coffee and making old ladies feel special. I also try to keep writing and recording.

You have dates coming up with both Hungry kids of Hungary and Georgia Fair – what are looking forward to most about these tours?

Well Hungry Kids of Hungry is pretty much done. I’m really looking forward to the Georgia Fair tour because we get along well. Being used to doing things on my own, it is a real pleasant change to be able to travel with people. It makes everything, the performances included, much more enjoyable.

You’ve gained some very notable support slots over the past 12 months – what has been the highlight so far?

I really enjoyed the Old Man River & Passenger tour. They were both going solo acoustic like me, so I felt a real part of the whole tour. Also the audiences were all really responsive and attentive which was nice.

What can the uninitiated expect from a DLK show?

Ballroom dancers. Costume changes while I’m playing a song. Lions through hoops in the background…No, just me and my guitar backed occasionally by my computer.

What is your favourite thing about playing in Brisbane?

I’ve played Brisbane twice, and loved it twice. The people in Brisbane seem so keen to listen and are really appreciative of what you do. So I’m a big fan of Brisbane crowds.

What does the future hold for DLK?

Hopefully more shows, and also building towards an album, which I’m really looking forward to doing!

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Well, it’s January. And that means that voting is well and truly underway in Triple J’s Hottest 100. In fact, there’s only one more week left to vote so if you plan on doing so, you better start thinking about which songs you’re going to vote for! Some years the voting process is really easy for me, other years it is pretty tough. I’m always torn between voting for the songs that I love, and voting for the songs that I think will do well (in order to keep the songs I don’t like from getting in the top ten!). Basically I put too much thought into something that ultimately doesn’t really matter. To me the Hottest 100 is kind of like an awards show – I know I’ll be disappointed with the results, but I still tune in because I enjoy the suspense.

Alright, so my ten picks for the ‘hottest 100’ of 2010, in no particular order (well, actually, alphabetical)…

1. Ball Park Music – iFly

2. Best Coast – Boyfriend

3. The Boat People – Damn Defensive

4. Cloud Control – There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight

5. Hungry Kids Of Hungary – Wristwatch

6. Inland Sea – All Fall Down

No video!!!! Check out their Myspace to hear the track.

7. Jonsi – Go Do

8. Kimbra – Settle Down

9. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

(it was hard to pick just one song from these guys…)

10. Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

 

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Alright, I’m back from my holiday and I STILL haven’t put together my list of ‘top ten albums of the year’. I’ve been trying for ages and it’s just not happening. There have been a lot of good albums released this year, and a lot of great ones that I haven’t even gotten around to listening to. There are a probably a few albums that I’ve brushed off and will go back to listen to next year and think ‘why did I put that in my top ten!’. But such is life I guess.

 

For me I had two stand out albums of the year – Jonsi’s Go and the National’s High Violet. I can’t even begin to explain how well each of these albums resonates with me. Right from the first listen, I fell in love with both, and both had songs that made their way to my ‘most played’ in iTunes, knocking off songs that had been on it for over a year. I love both of these albums because they’re so different. High Violet is absolutely gut wrenching. It’s just plain depressing. Go is my uplifting album. I like to play its opening track ‘Go Do’ on the bus first thing Monday morning to try and brighten my spirits. They’re albums with so much passion and texture, they’re both moving in completely different ways.

 

My favourite Australian releases were The Boat People’s Dear Darkly and Foreign Tapes by Parades. I’ve loved everything the Boaties have released, and I swear they just keep getting better and better as the years go on. I actually didn’t buy Foreign Tapes until a few months ago. I saw Parades for the first time at Big Sound – and it was in fact the first I’d even heard of them – and was immediately drawn to their style. They’re both great pop albums, extremely catchy and easy to listen to right through til the end.

 

One of the surprises for the year was Arcade Fire’s release, the Suburbs. I tossed up whether or not this was a ‘top ten’ album. I don’t think it is for me. I really do love it, but I think it’s more so because I expected it to be awful.

 

I had a few other highlights, including Hungry Kids of Hungary and Spoon. I loved both of those albums, but I find that I really have to be in a certain mood or frame of mind to listen to them. To me a top ten list means anytime, anywhere, all the way through which is probably why I had so much trouble putting together a list of ten albums this year. Bring on 2011 though! I’m excited to see what it will bring.

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