Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: Women on the verge

Rachel Barnes takes a look over a year of trials, tribulations and triumphs for queer women.

Can homosexuality and religion become bedfellows?
While the rest of the world seems to be moving onwards and upwards when it comes to the church and the LGBTQ community, Australian religious communities remain hesitant to taste the rainbow. There is a continuing global trend of acceptance of LGBTQs in religious circles, yet in Australia we can’t even keep a lesbian couple on TV, let alone have them serve in a church.
In July, gay Reverend Ali Wurm resigned after 11 years as a priest, stating that she was, “choosing to no longer submit myself to being attacked, threatened, and spiritually abused by some colleagues and members of Diocesan leadership.”
However, it does seem like Australian church leaders could be coming around. Adelaide’s Anglican Bishop, Dr Tim Harris said the Anglican Church is in a “current messy period” because of the worldwide debate on the matter. “I have no problems with people of any orientation being in the ministry so long as their lifestyle is consistent with what the church agrees to.” Baby step by baby step.
Don’t trust the Internet
On June 13, a widely-read blog apparently written by a lesbian living in Damascus turned out to be a fake, written by a white male living in Edinburgh. The blog’s true author, Tom MacMaster, said it was "a hoax that got way out of hand.” Starting off as a way for MacMaster to comment on topics with some sense of anonymity, 'Gay Girl in Damascus' took his online alter-ego (a Syrian-American known as Amina) to a whole new level. Despite the extent of his masquerade (as suspicion grew he tried to end the blog by having Amina kidnapped at gunpoint), MacMaster defended himself, saying although Amina was a fictional character he was stating facts. "The facts I was presenting about Syria, about Islam, about the Middle East, about all of these things are true," MacMaster said. (Don’t worry, I promise I am actually a lesbian who lives in Australia.)
Penny Wong’s baby
Australia’s first openly gay member of parliament, Senator Penny Wong, released a statement on August 9 announcing her and her partner were expecting a child. Despite knowing who the biological father is, the couple decided to keep his identity a secret, but were happy to share the news with Australia. "We have chosen to make this statement about Sophie's pregnancy as we understand there may be public interest due to my position,” Wong said. Wong’s partner, Sophie Allouache, gave birth to healthy baby girl on December 11. Born just a week after the ALP debated marriage equality in Sydney, Wong and Allouache won’t have to look very hard for a stunning flower girl.
Mardi Gras ‘De-gayed’
Pack away your bedazzled bikinis, hang up your arse-less chaps, and throw away your feather boas, because Australias’ favourite LGBTQ party has become family friendly. On November 17 Sydney’s iconic Mardi Gras underwent a change of its name and logo in an attempt to make the event a celebration of universal love. Organisers literally removed the “Gay & Lesbian” from the festival’s title, leaving some people worried that the event has been effectively “de-gayed”.  Joy 94.9 broadcaster Doug Pollard said: “The whole makeover smells of making the event acceptable to mainstream corporates and the mainstream tourist industry.” However, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ Shelley Argent said the festival’s new focus will help “encourage more parents to play a part in the parade.” Let’s just hope it doesn’t become too PG.
The Newtown Girls web series
Sick of every gay character on Australian TV being killed off? Well, you’re in luck! An Australian produced and entirely fan-funded web series is already being compared to The L Word, even though the series writer/producer – Natalie Krikowa says it’s not quite the same. With Australia lagging behind the rest of the world in LGBTQ content on local programming, the web series could be the kick start we need. “There’s more representation coming out of the Middle East than there is in Australia, and that’s disturbing to me,” Krikowa says. “But I think there’s a big change coming and we’re just trying to help that change get out there.” Reaching their kickstart funding goal on November 21, the web series will be hitting our screens early 2012.
Influential Melburnian fights for equality
In December, marriage equality activist Ali Hogg (pictured) was named one of The Age newspaper’s 100 Most Influential Melburnians of 2011. Recognised for her work with grass roots lobby group Equal Love, where she helped organise a rally and mass wedding outside the registry office in Melbourne, Hogg believes marriage discrimination leaves LGBTQ people as second-class citizens. “…we are still denied equality, which not only affects those who want to marry but sends a message to LGBTI and questioning youth that they deserve less than others in society,” Hogg said. Things do seem to be looking promising, with the ALP recently changing their marriage policy to support equality. Just don’t run out and buy those dresses just yet – it could be some time before we see any legislation passing through federal parliament.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Red Paintings

Since his humble beginnings in Geelong, TRASH MCSWEENEY has been composing, designing, and producing performances that go far beyond the confines of the stage. The man behind THE RED PAINTINGSspeaks to RACHEL BARNES about living and performing in America and their long-awaited new album.

Known for producing abnormally colourful shows, Trash McSweeney says it’s not by chance that Red Paintings events are about more than just the music. With his perception of sound changed forever after a seizure in a supermarket, synaethesia now enables him to see music as colour, and though it went undiagnosed for a while, McSweeney’s condition had and continues to have a huge influence over his music.

Despite moving to Brisbane to push his project into a more diverse music scene, McSweeney soon found that The Red Paintings just couldn’t function financially as well as ‘normal bands’ can in Australia. They moved to the US in 2009 and have since found a different level of success with the larger audiences of America. Encouraged by the newfound interest, McSweeney has finally moved forward on the band’s long-awaited full-length album, The Revolution Is Never Coming. Initially lacking label funding for his over-the-top vision, McSweeney had no intention of rushing through a record he had been planning for so long. Combining support in the US with fans raising $40,000 to help bring his vision to life, McSweeney began the massive task of translating The Red Paintings stage show into an album. “It’s hard to capture energy,” he says. The album was five years in the making and includes a 20-piece choir, 45-piece orchestra and theremin players, and can only be described as epic.

With marketing ideas as bright as his music, this album looks set to lift the band to new heights. Inspired by the album’s artwork, McSweeney is going to release geisha balloons with small cameras and USBs (with the album and special features packed inside) attached to each balloon. The camera will be simulcast directly to the band’s website, with each balloon being launched when the album is released in different cities. While clearly an unusual and inspired marketing tool, McSweeney says it represents more than that. “All the little things we do to get the word out there, it usually means something more than just trying to make money,” he relates. “The messages in the songs of the album really spell out what the album is trying to say.”

Labelling the band “art activists”, McSweeney says he hopes that The Red Paintings continue to make an impact on the world. “There is just so much activism and symbolism in what we do from our performance and taking our performance art to the streets. We don’t just take it to one small venue or one big venue,” he explains. “Everything that the band does is always changing, but it’s always about something important and it’s exciting for fans cause they never know what the band’s gonna do next.”

McSweeney wryly admits that The Red Paintings as an active concept is a “pain in the arse” owing to work involved, but he wouldn’t have it any other way (for example, the band’s upcoming Black Paintings tour has necessitated the recruitment of ‘human canvases’ to be painted on, live onstage). Everyone involved has a belief in the importance of the work that they do, as it’s the band’s intention to change people’s lives, even if only in a small way. “In a sense it’s a form of therapy for people,” he says. “People get to stand outside their own lives and sometimes see themselves for who they are, and the band has a small influence to push people to that place.”

THE RED PAINTINGS bring their dark new show, The Black Paintings (“an artistic reflection on the potential outcome of conscious human neglect of our natural resources”), to The Hi-Fi on Saturday Jan 7, 2012. THE REVOLUTION IS NEVER COMING is due for release in 2012.


HANNAH HOOPER, the once incredibly crowd-shy and complete artistic hermit turned co-singer for shooting starsGROUPLOVE, speaks to RACHEL BARNES about gratifying recognition and an artistic freedom she could never have imagined.

Nominated for Best Breakthrough Artist at the UK Festival Awards, California-based indie pop act Grouplove are still trying to get used to the recognition. Any band would be envious of the amount of success Grouplove have been enjoying since forming just two years ago. The recent acknowledgement is reinforcement to the band that they’re doing the right thing, inspiring them to write more so they can play more. “To me it totally feels surreal,” Hannah Hooper says. “It’s so exciting to be doing something that people are responding to and you’re not just a crazy person hoping that someone out there likes it.”

On what seems to be a non-stop touring schedule, Grouplove have been just about everywhere and although Hooper seems at home on stage now, it has taken her quite some time to get there. “It was my nightmare to be on stage,” she laughs, remembering just how inanimate she used to be. Never one to even speak in front of crowds, Hooper left her days as a reclusive painter behind and worked on controlling her nerves. “Something just clicked, I think I just looked around and was like, ‘Wait I’m with my friends on stage. This is great,’” she says.

Once Hooper came out of her shell the music started pouring out very naturally. She is now even able to sing songs that she has written to crowds that she once could never have imagined even standing in front of. Hooper says the amazing band dynamic is what makes everything so easy. “Just having these guys around, it sounds so cheesy but we really are all having such a good time together,” she says sincerely. “It’s probably because we’ve all been trying to be artists independently for so long and the fact that it works with friends is so much more fun.”

Despite the camaraderie, Hooper says being the only girl on tour definitely has its downsides. “It’s equally as fun as it is challenging at times,” she laughs. Sick of fast food and long van trips, Hooper says some days she just can’t take it. “Being a girl I’m just like, ‘Ugh, this is just getting so gross, I can’t eat anymore fried chicken,’” she says.

Greasy food and bad hygiene aside, Hooper says she would rather be touring with boys than girls because there is a simplicity that girls just don’t have. “It’s just fun, it just keeps everything really light,” she adds. However, after being stuck inside a van for 16 hours at a time, the band always take to the stage like someone has released five wild animals. “We’re really just energetic,” Hooper explains. “Whether there are 20 people or 1000 people at the show, we really just bring 100% all the time.” Grouplove hit our shores after their Christmas break and are more than excited about bringing their show Down Under. Only able to play small festival sets the last time they visited, Australian fans can expect to see a more multifaceted Grouplove showcasing their album, Never Trust A Happy Song. And they’ll certainly be welcome visitors, as Hooper exclaims, “The reaction that we’re getting from Australia its so exciting. Its incredible.”

GROUPLOVE play The Zoo on Tuesday Jan 10, supported by Founds. NEVER TRUST A HAPPY SONG is out now through Warner. for more.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Sick of trying to make it big in a competitive music industry TOTALLY ENORMOUS EXTINCT DINOSAURS – aka ORLANDO HIGGINBOTTOM –decided to take an unusual approach to getting noticed. Speaking with RACHEL BARNES early one morning from his home in the UK, he tells all.

Despite his boyishly good looks and growing up in what one could describe as the reserved and refined university town of Oxford, Higginbottom has definitely been making a name for himself in a way he never expected. Even with an Oxford Professor for a father and the pressure of his brother becoming a doctor, Higginbottom’s family have always been positive about his choice to pursue music.

“There was never any kind of demand for me to go and do something that you might call more serious. They’ve always been supportive about what I do,” Higginbottom says.

The music scene in Oxford has always been slightly under the radar and under-acknowledged according to Higginbottom, who says, “there has always been loads going on”. Inspired by jungle and obsessed with drums as a kid, Higginbottom soon found an open door into producing when his brother set up a small studio in his house. “It was very basic, just like a little computer set-up, and I think that’s what kind of showed me that it was possible to make this kind of music,” he says.

Unsure of where his early experiments would take him, he never once thought that dressing up as a dinosaur and making pop-infused house music is where he would find his success. Despite releasing three EPs on his own, creating remixes for artists as diverse as Professor Green, Darwin Deeze and Katy Perry, and ultimately being signed to a label and working on his soon-to-be-released first solo album, Higginbottom hasn’t yet felt the need to pat himself on the back.

“It was funny. Something like that I think a lot of people would celebrate,” he says of his signing to Polydor. “I was more concerned that I just got on with it. Signing a record deal is more of an opportunity than something to celebrate. You can sign a record deal and still not put any good music out. So I just wanted to get on with making the record and I think I’ll celebrate when my album is out and I’m happy with it,” he says.

With his first full-length underway, Higginbottom isn’t letting wider popularity change his unique sound and remains determined to push forward on his own terms. “I didn’t go and write a load of kind of pop-sounding hits, in fact I think I went the other way. I think I got a bit deeper and more experimental,” Higginbottom says.

He might be craving to get stuck back into the creative process, but the comfort of a studio is far away at the moment. Touring for what seems like forever, there are still a lot of stops on his current tour before he can take a break from the road. Fortunately for us he is heading to Australia before he heads back to the studio. This will be his first time on our shores and though it lands right in the middle of our summer, he says he is prepared for the heat and is very excited.

“I hope to bring a good party and lots of new music and me and the girls dressed up,” he laughs.

TOTALLY ENORMOUS EXTINCT DINOSAURS play Woodland on Thursday Jan 5, supported by Mitzi, WolfWolf and White Palms. For more information, visit

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Getaway Plan

Enjoying some home time before heading out on their comeback tour,THE GETAWAY PLAN’s drummerAARON BARNETT talks to RACHEL BARNES about the band’s hiatus and how new album Requiem shows the way forward.

The Getaway Plan have been together since high school, walking a rocky path before they shot to fame after the release of their first studio album Other Voices Other Rooms in 2008. Though it might have seemed that the boys had left the tough times behind them, success doesn’t always equal happiness. The sudden change came as a shock to the young band, who never thought that they would grow so big in such a tough industry.

“A lot of my favourite bands haven’t been able to breach past that small indie sort of level,” Barnett says. “With us it sort of just crept up and smacked us in the face really quickly and we were playing big shows and massive festivals like the Big Day Out, that we grew up going to, alongside some of our favourite artists.”

The very festival that they were most excited to play was actually the one that brought them to their knees. Barnett says the band just simply wasn’t running as smoothly as it should and their friendship was taking a backseat to the music. Everything was happening too fast for a band who were simply too young and unsure of how to handle the spotlight. They just weren’t ready. One unanimous and unpopular decision later and the band was on an indefinite break.

Looking back on it now Barnett says it was a blessing in disguise, even though at the time it was the worst thing in the world. Taking on side projects during the hiatus, the break helped each member progress further as musicians, people and, as it turns out, friends. Late last year the band was asked to play a show for the not-for-profit movement To Write Love On Her Arms, and despite being comfortable with the notion that they were not getting back together, the boys had been starting to reconnect for a few months and agreed to the show.

“We sort of came off stage and there was no talk at all about getting the band back together and I think one of us just said ‘we’re back’,” Barnett recalls.

After talking about working on a new record, the band were in a studio in Canada almost before they even realised it. Before they knew it, Requiem had been produced and The Getaway Plan were back and better than ever.

The newly released Requiem shows just how influential the hiatus has been on their music, with each member bringing different styles into the mix and adding new highlights to their already popular sound.

“I’d like to say this record is saying goodbye to the old stuff and saying hello to the new band as we are now. It kind of shows you what we can do and what path we might be taking in the future,” Barnett says.

There is so much hype around the band at the moment that each member is not only eager to hit the touring stage, but also to front up for another Big Day Out.

“We’ve done it before, we know it’s an amazing festival, its incredible and now we’re back, we’re ready … We get to get back on Big Day Out as one of the semi-main acts on there. We can’t wait, it’s gonna be incredible.”

THE GETAWAY PLAN play The Hi-Fi on Wednesday Nov 23, supported by Break Even and Gatherer. They’ll also be at the Big Day Out, Gold Coast Parklands, on Sunday Jan 22, 2012. REQUIEM is out now through Warner.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


MERLIN is back on TV screens with the long awaited fourth season of the enjoyable series. The man behind the young magician, COLIN MORGAN tellsRACHEL BARNES about the future of the series, meeting die-hard fans and his continuing passion for theatre.

With Merlin recently commissioned for a fifth season, Colin Morgan says he could never have fathomed this amount of success. The show has taken off all over the world and developed the kind of wide (and avid) fanbase that most TV series can only dream of. “It’s something, as an actor, you can’t think too much about in a way, you just have to think about the job you do and hope that it transcends on screen and that’s something I think that’s really worked with Merlin,” Morgan says.

Morgan didn’t know much about the Arthurian legends before Merlin, so he began reading the traditional texts alongside other more modern replications of the stories. The legends have never really been told the way that Merlin is telling them – in a kind Smallville-style ‘before they were famous’ way – but Morgan says his research showed him that’s exactly why they’re so successful. “They’re retold in different ways and I don’t think that they’ve ever been told quite this way … with the legends before they were legends,” he explains. “The research informed me that I had free reign over the role and could do whatever I wanted in a way.”

The fourth season of Merlin is the darkest season yet and finally sees the characters move closer towards becoming the legends that everyone knows. Merlin has the biggest challenge in the series yet as he fights to keep his secret while he matures into his true role. “Everyone’s slotting into their places and becoming those legends that they’re going to become. For Merlin that means becoming that kind of wise advisor-type role. He’s suddenly getting this information from god only knows where that he uses to inspire Arthur and lead him, and Arthur finds himself in situations where he needs that this year,” Morgan says.

Though filming for season five starts in March next year, Colin says he has absolutely no idea what’s in store. “Last year for series four I only knew the first three episodes when we started.” He isn’t in a rush to get back to filming and is enjoying a well-deserved break. “At the minute I’m doing a bit of seeing people and having a bit of a life,” he laughs.

During the break between the two seasons Morgan is coming Down Under to attend Supanova conventions across the country. He is well travelled in the comic convention scene and thinks they are brilliant events. The amount of support actors receive from fans at these gatherings is amazing, and can sometimes even go that extra mile. “I’ve heard there’s a massive support for Merlin in Australia at the minute so I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting everyone,” he says.

From younger fans only knowing Morgan as Merlin to older fans who have varying degrees of dedication, comic conventions house them all and Supanova is sure to be no exception. People have even gone so far as to dress up as Merlin, a girl once cutting her hair the same and even putting in some contacts to make sure she had the same colour eyes. “That’s dedication right there,” Morgan says.

“It’s initially quite shocking but afterwards you think well actually she put a lot of effort into that, it’s pretty amazing. At these events you never know who you’re gonna meet,” he laughs, “or what you’re gonna meet. But that’s what is great about these things.”

You can pre-purchase tickets to SUPANOVA and get further program information

Monday, October 31, 2011

These Kids Wear Crowns

Looking through his tour van for a lost shoe, lead vocalist ALEXANDER JOHNSON of Canadian pop-rockersTHESE KIDS WEAR CROWNS takes time-out to talk to RACHEL BARNESabout the band’s rocket ride to fame.

On his way from one side of Canada to the other in a van filled with music equipment and five other guys, Alexander Johnson couldn’t be happier. While embarking on a jet-setting tour that will take them from their northern home country to Australia, These Kids Wear Crowns have never lost sight of where it all started. The band was formed and “discovered” in 2009 and shot into the spotlight after appearing on a reality TV show similar to Idol. Much Music’s disBand had musicians competing against themselves in each episode while a panel of judges reviewed them. Unsigned before appearing on the show, Johnson says everything that has happened since, happened because they appeared on it. “It was very beneficial. That show was a great thing for us. It really gave us a huge jump, a huge leap in our career,” he says.

After the contest they re-released their EP and began work on their first studio album before they were signed to any label. They recorded six songs before the pen hit the dotted line and in August of 2010 they finally had a contract. Now working with producers they had only ever dreamed of, the group were able to finish their first album in style. “It was a great process, a fun experience too,” Johnson says.

However, when it comes to being creative versus going on tour, Johnson says he enjoys everything in moderation. “It’s fun to tour for five or six months and it’s fun to get time off and write at home until you get antsy and you want to tour again … It keeps it all fresh. I wouldn’t want to do anything for a full year straight.”

The boys recently bought a new van, which they have apparently made very homely, and are using it to travel around Canada. The confined space doesn’t get to them as they all consider each other family, and even have plans to someday make that a reality. “Three of us all have nieces and nephews between the ages of one and three, so possibly when they get older we’re gonna hook them up with who we think are their best mate and then we’ll be related. Forced marriages, arranged marriages,” he laughs.

With something else to look forward to before things get all Royal Family-ish, Johnson says they’re ready to bring their chaotic show back to Australia. “We want people to have fun and lose themselves and get crazy. Give us energy so we can give them some energy back. Everyone just lose yourself,” he says.

The band’s ‘Neon Army’ is sure to rock up in full force. The Neon Army is the name they give to people who not only love TKWC’s music, but also live the same way the boys strive to. The group lives by slogans like ‘positivity creates positivity’ and ‘live life like you love it’, and are supportive and inclusive of everyone. “Its not just anyone who likes our music, the Neon Army is more like a family,” Johnson explains.

These Kids Wear Crowns are always writing and plan on finishing the recording of their next album once they get back from Australia. At least now they have a label to send demos to.

THESE KIDS WEAR CROWNS play both an under-18s show (3pm) and an 18+ show (8pm) at The Hi-Fi on Saturday Nov 5. JUMPSTART is out now through EMI. For more info check


SHAPESHIFTER’s SAM TREVETHICKtakes time out from planning a summer tour to talk to RACHEL BARNES about being signed by Hospital Records, moving to Berlin and touring where nobody knows their name.

Producing four acclaimed albums and live shows that are a must-see, Shapeshifter have been bringing unique beats since 1999. Sam Trevethick can’t even remember who their first albums were released through, because after creating their own label, True Tone Recordings, the boys successfully released three number one independent albums. “This was 10 years ago and the scene was just coming around,” Trevethick says. “It was before MySpace and all that kind of stuff and we just realised that major record companies kinda suck,” he laughs. “They wanted to take everything and maybe, maybe give us a little bit of a hand. So we were like, “Nah, fuck that.”

With such negative experiences of labels it came as a shock to some when the band announced they had signed with well-known UK drum and bass label Hospital Records in July of last year. Despite True Tone Recordings still being their label in New Zealand and Australia, Trevethick says it was a no-brainer. “They’re definitely one of the biggest labels in drum and bass music,” he says. Despite any doubts, the label globally released Shapeshifter’s platinum selling album, The System Is A Vampire, and now they’re hoping to do it all over again.

When it came to thinking about their next album the band decided to move their studio to Berlin to give them a chance to take a breath and focus. “We were just touring a lot... The process was quite time-intensive so it was good to have a little bit of a breather and just potter away on some other things,” Trevethick says. Despite moving to the other side of the world the band’s recording experience wasn’t that much different. “It wasn’t really different, because we’ve always had our own studio so we just took bits of that with us. So it was all quite familiar. But we had never been to Berlin before that... It was great,” he laughs.

The boys just came off a successful European tour where they played shows with only a couple of people in the audience knowing who they were, which was a change from the massive recognition the boys are used to back home. “It was really exciting, it was really good. It’s a completely different vibe then when you’re playing to people who know your music. It’s really exciting for us,” he says.

Shapeshifter now have their feet now firmly back on home soil and are ready to show their fans just what exactly they’ve been up to. Throughout their summer tour through Australia and New Zealand the band promises to produce live shows influenced by the sights and sounds of Europe that will only leave audiences wanting more. “We love coming here in summer, we’ve got a great show set up and we really put a lot of effort into it. It’s a big motivator factor when there’s gonna be a lot of people that know your music. You’ve gotta strive to do better and do things differently,” he says.

SHAPESHIFTER play The Hi-Fi on Friday Nov 4. for more.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On The Pulse Festival

Fortitude Valley PCYC - Sat Oct 22

The valley looks a little bit different for a Saturday night as hundreds of side-fringed pop-punk and rock music lovers descend upon the PCYC for On The Pulse.

Kicking off the small and intimate Red Octopus stage is local The Electro Kid. Staying true to the name, 17-year-old frontman Giles has a robotic/Auto-Tune-ish sound effect on his voice for the duration of the set, leaving you wondering what it actually sounds like, uncloaked.

The vibe definitely suits the intimate environment as Starlight Theatrebring a complete change of atmosphere. Playing an unrehearsed acoustic set (with their drummer watching from the crowd), the band look and sound like veterans compared to their predecessors. Bringing the Red Octopus up to tempo, Pandora’s Hero come out rocking; the room is up on its feet for the first time, apathetic youth no defence against their on-stage charisma. With an EP fresh out on iTunes, the boys make their new songs shine.

Down at the main stage Gold Coasters Nine Sons Of Dan kick off their set with their drummer going absolutely crazy to LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, the rest of the band joining him with the same high energy. The boys performed at the Indy 600 earlier in the day and say it’s nice to play to be in front of people who know and appreciate their music.

The Never Ever are up next and despite spending a chunk of time fiddling with their sound, when finally underway they bring a unique touch to the festival. Labelling themselves as ‘power-pop’ the band retain a techno/electro base to each song, even rocking out on a keytar on occasion.

Showing everyone how it’s done, Californian band Rufio bring a touch of professionalism to the day’s proceedings. With no side-fringes to be seen, their energetic performance never wavers, remaining powerful and on-message. In this reviewer’s opinion, these guys should be the headliners.

But it’s Tonight Alive who step up as the final act tonight, as confident and natural as ever. With a simple “How you doin’? We’re Tonight Alive,” from the band’s lead singer Jenna McDougall, the crowd is under a spell, singing along to every word.

As the night draws to conclusion, and parents line up waiting for the all ages crowd to disperse, everyone shuffles out with a smile on their face and a new list of bands to add to their iTunes libraries.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Epidemic... Over

The road of a struggling musician is hard, and that couldn’t be more true for QLD alt-rock band EPIDEMIC… OVER.Frontman NATHAN BEDFORD talks toRACHEL BARNES about holding down a job while fighting for your passion and producing your best work yet.

Beginning their time together playing only covers, Epidemic… Over had no intention of ever writing their own music. That is, until boredom brought on a jam session that would change everything.

“We had no intention of doing anything, we just started jamming and we wrote a song really quickly and we liked it … then we pretty much quit covers,” Nathan Bedford says.

With a song and a new dream the four-piece were only missing two things, a name and a contract, one of which was a little less difficult to come by.

“Our guitarist Ben came up with all these names and he sent them to us in a text message and they were all pretty shit,” Bedford laughs. “So that was the best of the worst.”

The newly named Epidemic… Over were quickly brought back to reality when they realized just how hard their new path was going to be. It didn’t take long for the boys to figure out the struggle to become a full-time musician is a tough road when there are bills to pay and mouths to feed. The band members hold down day jobs to help them make it from week to week, but they are always musicians first. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they hope that steady touring and their latest EP project might help them get more exposure.

With a lack of money restricting their time in recording studios, the band came up with a way around the problem for their next EP, Long Way Home, due out in February next year. Converting a homestead in regional Queensland into “Karibu Studio”, E…O found a cheaper way to spend more time recording. This process gave the band a much-needed financial break and influenced their music for the better.

“I think the reason we got such a good result out of the studio is the fact that we did it somewhere different where there’s less pressure… At Karibu we lived and breathed it and spent as much time working on it as possible and it was really comfortable,” Bedford says. “I truthfully don’t think that we’ll go into a conventional studio again.”

Bedford takes on the task of writing each song’s lyrics and though they are usually inspired by the music his band creates, the new EP sees him drawing from more personal places. Now more emotionally connected to his music then ever, Bedford sometimes struggles to play his own work live.

“I’m not always comfortable with putting my personal feelings out there. But, it is what it is, that’s what I wrote, so I gotta do it, and I still love performing the songs and I think if I’m connected emotionally to the music people might see that and maybe even like it a bit more ‘cause it means so much,” he says.

The boys will be playing all the songs off their upcoming EP during their tour for the release’s first cut, Pushing The Stone. And while they believe their current project is the best representation of the band yet, they still plan on playing all their past songs during the tour as well.

“We just wanna go out and have a good time and have an adventure and have a story to tell our kids one day, you know.” Bedford says.

EPIDEMIC… OVER play Tattered ‘N’ Torn at the Gold Coast’s Beach House Tavern on Sunday Oct 23 (along with Averice, Burning Brooklyn and more), then bring their PUSHING THE STONE tour to The Tempo Hotel on Friday Oct 28.

Tonight Alive

JENNA MCDOUGALL and WHAKAIO TAAHI from breakthrough Sydney pop/rock outfit TONIGHT ALIVE talk toRACHEL BARNES about the influence a label can have on music.

A change in band members, names, and three years’ of hard work may not be on every band’s road to success, but for Tonight Alive that’s the road that sent them from garage band to trending Twitter topic. After releasing two independently funded EPs, touring and building up a fanbase on the road and online they found themselves drawing interest from the likes of high-profile American producer Mark Trombino and several record companies. After a showcase for Sony, everything seemed to fall into place for the young Australian band, who then got the okay to jet off and record their first studio album with Trombino.

Trombino didn’t come without a cost, with the recording process harder then they were used to. “Everything that we played in the studio was just 100% natural and it was hard but you can definitely hear it, you can definitely hear each instrument,” Taahi says. “It was a lot harder but it was so much more worth it.”

Trombino helped push Tonight Alive in the right direction without telling them what to do. “Everything on that record is us. It’s not some big producer putting his spin on it. Every melody, we wrote that. I definitely love and appreciate that that’s the way he did it,” Taahi says.

Sony gave the band complete creative control of the album that they finished in just two-and-a-half months. “They sort of act like an indie label, everything is really close and we all have really good relationships with our team,” McDougall says. Though Sony has a big say in what singles the band puts out, which can generate some tension between the two, McDougall says it’s always a mutual decision. “They know what’s best, but we definitely get a say,” she says.

With the new album just released and a tour underway, a wider audience has come at a cost for the band with frequent comparisons between them and pop-punk icons Paramore. McDougall denies any influence from Paramore and says although the comparison doesn’t exactly bother them it is annoying. The band hopes their latest release will help set them apart from the eerily similar-sounding Paramore, but the true test will be seeing how fans react to it on their upcoming tour. Hitting the road with close friends Rufio, who they met while touring in Indonesia, the two bands can’t wait to be reunited during Tonight Alive’s album release tour. “We respect them so much with their music, we grew up listening to them. So it’s definitely an honor to have them here,” Taahi says.

Touring for the rest of the year without a break until Christmas the band is looking forward to another full-on year sending them all over the world. “I used to sit in my bedroom and play guitar and then when I’d play guitar I’d close my eyes and picture I’d be in front of this massive stage and now it’s happening and it’s just like ‘that’s nuts’,” Taahi says.

“It’s like that dream you never think’s gonna come true,” McDougall says. “We know how lucky we are.”

You can check out TONIGHT ALIVE at the ON THE PULSE festival, Saturday Oct 22 at both The Hive and Fortitude Valley PCYC. They also play The Zoo on Sunday Oct 23. For more information hit WHAT ARE YOU SO SCARED OF is out now on Sony.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hey Rosetta!

With their last two albums both nominated for Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize, HEY ROSETTA!guitarist ADAM HOGAN talks toRACHEL BARNES about positive recognition, rushing through the recording process of their latest release Seeds and the power of coffee shop gigs.

Recently missing out on the Polaris Music Prize for a second time, Hey Rosetta! guitarist Adam Hogan says that the recognition is “kinda crazy”. Not expecting to win, Hogan says that just being shortlisted was enough for the band.

From their humble beginnings in 2005, the six-piece Canadian band started out as a bunch of songs in frontman Tim Baker’s head. With four members playing the stock standard rock instruments, Hey Rosetta! mixes it up with a two-person string section. “Right from the beginning there was six, I don’t think we ever performed as four,” Hogan says. “So right from the get-go there was a cello and a violin in the band.“ Though they have been through a few line-up changes, Hey Rosetta! has had a consistent member base for the past two to three years, and Hogan says it’s, “nice to be in that place”.

Since the release of their last album the band has spent the majority of their time on the road playing shows, so when it came to making the new album, Hogan explains it was kind of a rush. Despite being drastically less prepared then they had been with records in the past, they were much more relaxed when it came to making Seeds, their third studio album. Hogan remembers that as little as two months before the band hit the studios they had songs that they were working on, but that they only actually “made into something” during those finals moments. Less nervous this time around, the band was more familiar with the studio and engineer. “It was easy, I think, it’s kind of a blur, I can’t even remember it really. We had a little more time, three and a half weeks or something in the studio. I think we all felt a little more confident in achieving the sounds we wanted to get and just performing under the gun,” he says.

With a six-piece band it’s interesting to hear how such layered music can sound so pure. But Hey Rosetta! pull it off beautifully, both on their albums and at live shows. Though Hogan likes both those worlds, he says he prefers live shows more. Having recently found themselves in a small coffee shop in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Hogan says it was one of their most powerful shows.

Soon to bring their sound down under for the third time, Hey Rosetta! were already planning their return to Australia during their last visit in April. While on tour with City & Colour, their manager was excited at the idea of a possible tour with The Jezabels. Though they weren’t familiar with The Jezabels, their manager quickly began organizing dinners and meet-ups.

“It was just one of these things where our managers were kind of talking to each other and we were putting each other on guest-lists or whatever and I guess they kept talking over our summer and kind of got this tour,” he says. “It’s a pretty amazing opportunity, I went to their show in Melbourne and the crowd was just crazy,” he laughs.

With both bands producing albums that pull listeners in and live shows that captivate audiences, it’s easy to see that this tour is going to be a doozy.

HEY ROSETTA! support The Jezabels at Byron’s Great Northern on Wednesday Oct 12, Toowoomba’s Uni Club on Thursday Oct 13, The Tivoli on Friday Oct 14 (sold out) and Sunday Oct 16, plus the Cooly on Saturday Oct 15. SEEDS is out now.


One of Australia’s most talked about up and coming artists, emcee 360 (AKAMATT COLWELL) talks to RACHEL BARNES about breaking the boundaries of hip hop and the importance of giving your fans something for nothing.

From Casper to Many Styles to 360, Matt Colwell has been through a lot of changes to get to where he is today and that doesn’t just include his previous names. With his love affair with hip hop starting when he was just a 14 year-old skateboarder, Colwell’s passion for rapping has continued to become stronger and more diverse – staying true to the meaning behind his name. “It just means the revolution. I want to try and take my music 360 degrees and not necessarily make ‘hip hop’ but just go in every direction,” he says.

Just after the release of his second studio album, Falling & Flying, Colwell is reflecting on the change in his sound and the reaction of his fans. Though nothing has changed much lyrically, Colwell still writing very personal lyrics about his life experiences or “taking the piss and just having fun.”

Loving working with other artists and integrating their sound into the mix, Colwell continues to take his music to the next level with each new collaboration. With Pez, Josh Pyke, Gossling, and N’fa from 1200 techniques on 360’s current album, the wishlist of collabs for his next project is growing long. Even John Farnham’s name has been thrown into the mix, so who really knows what he could have in store. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen,” Colwell laughs. “That could’ve gone really good or really bad.”

Colwell has never thought twice about the music he is creating, despite some in the hip hop community frowning upon rapping over dance beats. With even some of his own fans turning against him after the release of his latest album, saying that he is now ‘too commercial’, he just doesn’t seem to give a shit. “I can either listen to those people telling me to do that, or I can listen to people that are liking my new music and go even further with it. But at the end of the day I just gotta listen to myself and what I wanna do. This is what I wanna do, so if they don’t like it they can get fucked,” Colwell emphasises.

He says its very important to find ways to make a stronger connection to his fans since the internet completely changing the music industry. In the past seven months 360 has released 17 quality songs on Facebook for free, and Colwell hopes that his fans will remember this when it comes to supporting his album. “The free music that I’ve given out on Facebook and stuff has built my fan base up so much,” he affirms.

Already planning for his next album, Colwell shows no signs of letting the buzz and hype leave 360 anytime soon. He plans to have his next album ready for when the hype starts to settle so he can simply, “blow people out of the water again.”

Colwell is ready for his first headlining tour and can’t wait to make use of his extended set time. Fans can expect to hear a little bit of all of their 360 favourites as Colwell plans on fitting a bit of everything into his shows.

“It’s gonna be epic,” he says, and you can safely believe it.

360 appears at the SPRUNG hip hop festival alongside Pez, Drapht, Illy, Phrase, Joelistics, Resin Dogs and more at the Riverstage on Saturday Oct 15. FALLING & FLYING is out now through

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eskimo Joe

ESKIMO JOE frontman KAV TEMPERLEY tells RACHEL BARNESabout finally accepting and endorsing the notion of a trademark sound.

With huge hits throughout Eskimo Joe’s career, it might be surprising to find out that the band’s frontman, Kav Temperley, considers Ghosts Of The Past’s number three debut in the album charts their best debut yet. “We got a number one with Inshalla but I think we were … I don’t know, maybe full of our own selves at that point in time. We were just like, ‘Uh, of course we got number one,’” Temperley says mockingly. “But this time round Jay Z and Adele were in front of us and it just felt really, really positive to get number three. I think it was the most excited we’ve been.”

When the band produced Black Fingernails Red Wine it was the culmination of three albums’ worth of ideas and experience – but despite it being their biggest commercial success, they were hesitant with the statement it was making. “For us it felt dangerous to step out there and go, ‘Fuck you, we’re going to do a big rock & roll record and we’re gonna make the claim that it is a big rock & roll record.’ We didn’t really know how that was going to go down, but it worked,” Temperley says.

When it came to writing Inshalla, Temperley wanted to experiment and “keep the danger” – although in retrospect he thinks the album should perhaps have been ‘Black Fingernails Part Two’. But … “We just can’t do that, we’re not that band. We always have to kick against what we did before,” he says. And kick against it they did, with Inshalla going places the band had never been before. Plus the decision to bring in a big time producer had noticeably changed the band’s dynamic. “We did that record and it just felt quite kind of bloated, overproduced, over-thought, ‘cause we’d been thinking about it for years,” Temperley recalls.

Staying true to themselves, the boys changed tack again from the Inshalla experience and dove head first into Ghosts Of The Past. Recording the album in just three months, the trio wanted to put out a record that felt like a moment in time. Relaxing into the idea of simply being Eskimo Joe, they finally accepted sounding like Eskimo Joe. “What I’m really proud of about this record is that if your press play at any part of the record you know exactly what record you’re listening to, and it sounds like an Eskimo Joe record.

Temperley laughs. “And we’re probably the most qualified people to make an Eskimo Joe record.”

Though Ghosts Of The Past has been received very positively, the real test is yet to come. Taking the new songs on tour, Temperley is excited to see if the songs connect with fans. “People can write great reviews about it and stuff, which is lovely, but at the end of the day it’s really all about how the greater audience who listen to your music actually connect with it,” he says.

No matter what happens during the tour, Eskimo Joe are now equipped with their own studio (The Wasteland) and will head straight back inside after the tour and hope to produce a follow-up album – another moment in time – by November next year. Or as Temperley jokes, “Ghosts Of The Past Part 2 or Eskimo Joe Reloaded.”

ESKIMO JOE play the Caloundra Music Festival on Friday Oct 7, Toowoomba’s Full Noise Festival on Saturday Oct 8 and The Tivoli on Sunday Oct 9 (supported by Bonjah). GHOSTS OF THE PAST is out now through Dirt Diamond/Warner. Visit for more.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Meet the Wau Wau Sisters

Labelled New York's 'bravest and bawdiest burlesque duo', these foul-mouthed performers are set to capture audiences' minds during their upcoming shows at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The Wau Wau Sisters' Adrienne Truscott talks to Rachel Barnes about their ridiculously fabulous performance style, the inspiration behind them and their passion to keep on going.
How do you come up with such unique performances?
We trust our imaginations and guts a lot. We don't search for themes, we try to notice what's on our minds lately, what's in the news, what the world feels like, what's in our hearts. But sometimes the work can start from a ridiculous costume we see or suddenly think of, or a song we hear. Our process is very free and spontaneous, at least in the beginning, and we trust our own relationship and laughter – if something makes us laugh or excited in rehearsal, we trust that that will translate with our audiences. Once we're on our way, there's a lot of crafting and challenging ourselves and one another on where we're headed and how we get there.
You have been labeled as utterly fearless, but is there anything in your show that you're nervous about doing?
Sure, there are some ideas that occur to us that even give us pause, but we just think things through, and if they feel like they are coming from the right place, intelligently provocative, etcetera, then we'll do it. We certainly want to keep challenging ourselves and our fears, whether that's a new trick or a 'new way' to perform. One day, the scariest choice for us could be to keep our clothes on! But one thing about our act that I think really reads is that it's our togetherness on stage that makes us fearless – we make one another fearless.
Why do you think your style of performance attracts such a large queer following?
It's pretty clear that our sense of sexuality is broad and bold and bawdy, and really all inclusive. We're pretty fond of love and reckon the more of it in the world, the merrier! Like an all you can eat buffet!
Do you have any involvement with the LGBTQ community?
Yes. For the most part we're on the road, and find ourselves quite firmly in that community wherever we land! It's an amazing community and as a community it's probably one of the smartest, most fun, elegant and festive ambassadors a country or city could hope for, for visiting folks! We work regularly with Olivia – a lesbian travel company which we love, and I work occasionally at The LGBTQ Center (in New York) – I've done some choreographic work with teens and young adults, some of them who have left their homes because of their family's intolerance, who use the centre as a resource.
Surely this kind of performance work is exhausting physically. Do you plan to continue doing this for some time to come?
We'll do it for as long as it remains fun, amazing and full of opportunities for us, which seems like it could be forever! Maybe it's exhausting sometimes, but we love it and can't really imagine anything else. It feels like our shows get better and better, and if we get really old, surely they'll just get funnier and more bizarre! In the meantime, we reckon a tent or venue filled with beautiful weirdoes, wigs and booze beats an office nine-to-five any day!
The Wau Wau Sister's Last Supper, until October 9, 2011, GH Hotel, 1 Brighton Rd, St Kilda, Melbourne,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The many faces of Uta Uber Kool Ja

Georgina Symes' alter ego, Uta Uber Kool Ja, talks to Rachel Barnes about life, love, and hosting her upcoming series of parties for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Who is Uta Uber Kool Ja?
I'm a pop star, rock star, exhibitionist, performance artist, feminist, and troublemaker. I have had more incarnations than the Dalai Lama – but that's another story. Let's see, there was Little Uta – when I was a 16-year-old pop star in Paris. Then I became Uta & The Ubers with my punk rock band. That was when I used to hang with Viv Westwood and Malcy McClary at my store, My Cunt The Butcher – I sold fine cuts of sirloin, bloody fur capes and ironic feminist tea cosies. But good friends call me Oots or UkeyJ. You can call me Oots.
Why did you decide to put on this set of very intimate parties?
Intimacy is an antidote to loneliness, isn't it? The universal hum of human heartache, believe me I have had my unfair share, ignites me to step forward as a leader to unite and bring forth an 'army of love'. I'm inspired by so many amazing, creative women. Think Jane Birkin, Marianne Faithfull, Patti Smith, Chrissy Amphlett, Jane Fonda, Viv Westwood and many more. They inspired me to be honest, fabulous and uncompromising, and that's what these parties are about.
I read that you have already had a sneak peak at your party venue earlier this year, is it up to standard and ready for you?
Gosh. I cannot express how absolutely perfect and divine The Cullen is. I feel so, so spoiled that they are graciously accommodating me. The hotel is gorgeous, lots of vulvic pink – one of my favourite colours. I am actually the inspiration for some of Adam Cullen's portraits that are adorned all around the hotel... they are of long-legged horses wearing lipstick.
Why did you decide on performing in a hotel room with a limited guest list?
A hotel room is a place when you can press pause on your life. Regroup, reassess and get nude. Be anonymous and feel famous. But... I need to know if the paparazzi are going to snap me. Please respect my privacy in this very difficult time.
What can audiences expect from your intimate performances at the Melbourne Fringe Festival?
This is about you and I together. I want to rid the world of loneliness. What better way than to throw a party, invite strangers and get it on? A confessional, a salon, a hotel room all mixed together in a cocktail shaker of lust love and dress-ups.
Will it be hard for you to say goodbye to your guests at the end of each party?
If I had my way, they'd never leave me.
Because I know everyone will be begging to know, what is your sexual preference and are you single?
I prefer lots of sex. Yes, I've been with women, men, couples, bands, and once an orchestra. You can't label my sexuality, like you can't label my creativity. Right now I am between love affairs and disastrous marriages, I am desperately lonely. I guess that is a yes?
Do you think your sexuality has any influence over your performances?
Each stage of my creative career has been dictated by the overwhelming pheromones gliding through the ether. To my detriment at times. Now I am at a stage in my life where I am ready to be completely free from the demands of my vagina. But it will probably steal the show, so...
Will you be making any other appearances during the festival?
Oh yes, just try and keep me away from the Fringe Club, and of course the darling burlesque nights at Red Bennies. I need to be around my people.
What other acts are you hoping to see while you performing at the festival?
Goodness, so many. I'm very excited by the incredible Wau Wau Sisters, Fugly, After All This and The Waiting Place, to name just a few.
What are your plans for the future?
I feel as though this is the beginning of the next chapter for Uta Uber Kool Ja. I won't lie to you, the last decade has been a bit of blur. I'm waking up though, finally, and the future looks just divine... After these parties get me back in the spotlight, I expect I shall be on top of the charts. Once that happens, then perhaps some films? I'd love to do something "indie".

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Step Right Up

Rachel Barnes talks to National Institute of Circus Arts trainer Andrea Ousley about the institution that creates circus stars

Most office workers have views of plain white walls, and those lucky enough to have a window or two may even get a view of some nice architecture, but no one’s office views can quite compare to Andrea Ousley’s, trainer at Australia’s own National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) in Melbourne.
“My office looks out onto the floor, and it’s interesting to watch people's bodies' change as they develop into performers,” Ousley says. “It’s like when you go and see a ballet, you just marvel at these beautiful bodies on stage. You see people at the peak of their physical fitness, people who work themselves crazy, so they have these amazing bodies that can do these amazing things.”
Ousley has been working with NICA for over six years, but has been in the circus community for much longer, starting at the Woman’s Circus. She is now the community services coordinator at NICA and her job takes her from introducing circus to disenfranchised kids, people in the juvenile justices system, or even kids who have less access to the arts; to helping students at the institute teach circus as well.
“I use circus as a tool for social change," she says. "Basically it’s just developing self- esteem, a sense of community, trust, and belonging, through circus."
While Ousley identifies as a lesbian and is aware of the significant number of circus practitioners who are queer, her sexual orientation did not inform her decision to join the circus – although she can definitely see the attraction.
“You can be who you are in circus,” she says. “The circus has traditionally been the place where you are ‘other’. People ran away from ‘normal’ society, to join the circus.”
Circus has been on the fringes of society for some time, host to a variety of characters, clowns, acrobats – even the bearded lady. Although these individuals may have felt like outcasts from society at the time, they were all able to find a sense of belonging in the circus, where all were ‘welcomed and loved and part of a community’.
“If you feel like you are a bit different, well different is good in circus. There is a place for everyone in circus,” Ousley says.
With NICA celebrating its tenth anniversary, Ousley has definitely had a lot of distractions happening outside her office window. Directed by Steven Burton (ex-Circus Oz), the weeklong festivities include several NICA graduates returning to Melbourne from all over the world to perform.
The festival, which begins at the end of September, will have programs for everyone. From whole day programs for school kids, to more of a ‘PG’ feel after 5pm, and then adult entertainment later in the evening with a more cabaret style of circus. Of course, staying true to the tradition of circus, everyone at NICA – both students and staff – will be pitching in, whether they are working in the box office, performing, ushering or teaching school children about circus arts.
Ousley is most excited to see the institute’s graduates come back to perform. NICA graduates have gone on to find jobs in circus all over the world.
“Not only do I personally find that exciting in terms of the circus community in Melbourne, in Victoria, or Australia, but also for our students at the moment. It’s such a great thing for them to see our graduates,” she explains. “You don’t always get to see what people are doing, so if you’re doing a degree and you get to see people who did the same degree as you and they’re doing these amazing things, it’s incredibly inspiring.”
NICA's aptly named auditions, ‘Turning Dreams into Reality’, are scheduled for their Bachelor of Circus Arts, Certificate I, II, and III, through September and October this year. The auditions will be held at different locations across the country and you can also audition by video. Although it can get quite competitive, Andrea stresses that it’s not just about circus skills.
“People come in with all sorts of backgrounds. We have gymnasts, we have dancers, we have people coming in who might want to do clowning. So it’s not just about physical skills. It’s about performance as well. You might have great physical skills, but how do you present that? What is unique about you?”
Ousley has plans to travel with NICA in the near future to teach people in other countries not only how to use their circus skills in the community, but also how social workers, youth workers, and community workers can utilise circus skills as a tool with their groups. She believes circus can continue to be used as a “fantastic tool” in communities.
“You can't built a pyramid unless everyone works together. It’s just innately about working as a team and being a community.”
The NICA Melbourne Circus Festival runs from September 26 through to October 1, 2011.
More information on the NICA or the Melbourne Circus Festival can be found