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Posts Tagged ‘lisa mitchell’

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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Sydney folk duo Georgia Fair are just about to kick off yet another Australian tour and are also getting ready to release their debut album later in the year. I got a chance to have a chat with Ben Riley about recording the album and playing backgammon with tour-buddy Daniel Lee Kendall.

Your new single ‘Marianne’ features Lisa Mitchell and members of Boy and Bear on backing vocals – how did this collaboration come about?

We’d done a tour with Lisa and Boy & Bear mid last year which we all really enjoyed. So when we planned to record a new track for the Times Fly EP we thought it would be great to have Dave and Tim sing on it. So we recorded it with them one day and loved it. Then a few months later, Lisa was inSydneyand so we thought it would take the track to a new level if we could get her voice in the mix.

I hear you have a full length album coming out later this year – can you tell us a little about it?

Yeah it’s out soon and it’s our debut LP. We recorded it in Asheville, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia with an amazing guy named Bill Reynolds. We ate ribs, listened to Tom Petty and drew constant inspiration from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville.

What has it been like preparing and recording an album as opposed to an EP?

It has been on another level for sure. It reveals more about us, allows us to unfurl our sails and tell a bigger story.

What have been your main influences (musical and non-musical) while writing for the album?

Writing never stops for us so I guess we draw inspiration from everything, day-to-day. So I’d say the way we interact with people and new experiences have been and will continue to be big influences. I was also listening to a lot ofCrosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

You’ve had some very awesome support slots over the last year or so – what have been the highlights?

That Lisa Mitchell tour last year was up there and the fact that it was the first time we’d gone all roundAustraliain one hit was definitely a highlight for us.

This will be the second time you’ve toured with Daniel Lee Kendall – there must be a pretty good touring chemistry between you guys?

Yeah we get along well and touring with him is a breeze. He’s a pretty good backgammon player so we had some fierce competitions last time which’ll no doubt continue this tour.

What can the uninitiated expect from a Georgia Fair show?

Lot’s of positive energy and love.

Nice to see a few Queensland dates on the upcoming tour! What is your favourite thing about playing in Brisbane?

Just the overall Valley experience is something to savour, you never know what’s gonna happen!

Have you ever considered extending the band to more than just a duo to fill out some of the sounds we hear on record?

Yeah we keep experimenting with different setups to keep it interesting and I’m sure we’ll eventually end up rocking it with a band more often, but we enjoy playing as a duo and will always make time at a gig to do so.

What has been the highlight of Georgia Fair’s career so far?

Recording our album in America with Bill was a life changing experience and something I’ll forever see as a turning point in our career.

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