Monday, May 28, 2012

Sui Zhen

BECKY FREEMAN talks to RACHEL BARNES about her solo project SUI ZHEN and the ups and downs of being an independent artist.

Sui Zen is the Chinese middle name of Becky Freeman and the stage name for her intimate experimental folk solo project. Freeman started performing in 2003 but has been into music ever since high school. “I just kind of started playing because my brother was in a lot of bands so I would just open for them. That was almost a decade ago, which seems kind of crazy,” Freeman laughs.

These days Freeman has been focusing on finding her own sound and getting it out to the public. Despite the release of her first self-titled EP in 2007, being accepted to the Red Bull Music Academy in 2010 was the major turning point of her career. “It helped me find my own sound more so in the sense that it helped me to realised what was sound was up against completely different other people,” Freeman says. “It inspired me to keep doing what I was doing and keep progressing and experimenting rather than looking to other people too much.”

The academy did come at a cost after it forced Freeman to put her almost finished album on the back-burner. But after a few failed independent label negotiations, an unexpectedly long vacation to visit family all over the world, and some major life changes, Freeman is finally ready to send her new album Two Seas out into the world. “I think it’s one thing to be able to write music but it’s another thing to want to put it out and get really excited about it,” she says. “Music is so simple when it’s just an activity, but when you actively try to be a part of the music industry it becomes all sorts of complicated, so getting the motivation to do that is kind of difficult.”

As with any independent artist, Freeman sometimes feels as if she is pouring her money down a well, but she believes it is worth it when she gets to connect directly with her listeners. “I think people understand what’s involved when you’re doing it independently so you’ve got a bit of respect already, regardless of what your music sounds like, just for finishing a projected and putting it out there,” she says.

It looks like Freeman will be playing a lot of actual music in the future. Fox & Sui is a side project that she has underway with Andras Fox, who she met at the Red Bull Academy. Freeman is also working on more solo material and is trying hard to find a way to keep her music sounding full without the backing of a band.

She hopes to gain the backing of an indie label soon so she can have more of the fun and less of the organizational hassles. “I’d love to find a label for my Sui Zhen releases but it’s not something that you can really force,” she says.

Still working out the kinks of her national tour, Freeman says she would love touring as much as she loves writing her album if she was only able to tour more comfortably. With the logistical nightmare of organising gigs and places to stay set to continue, Freeman just wants to hit the stage: “I can’t wait to be actually performing the set, you know, like playing the actual music.”

Catch SUI ZHEN (with full band) at Black Bear Lodge on Wednesday Jun 6 with special guests Fanny Lumsden and Epithets. TWO SEAS is out now.

Monday, May 21, 2012


One of America’s best dance crews,JABBAWOCKEEZ, have taken up residency on the Gold Coast. Crew member BEN CHUNG tells RACHEL BARNES about the group’s stage show MÜS.I.C and their partnership with Jupiters Hotel and Casino.

Jabbawockeez began as a group of friends who wanted to help each other grow and progress as dancers. Their trademark masks, gloves, and hats have been a part of the crew since the very beginning and were put in place to force the audience to look at the group as a whole and not focus on individual talent or skill. Crew member Ben Chung was in the audience at the group’s first ever performance and says that he had his mind blown. “I was immediately a fan,” Chung says, “but later I found out that the guys that were in the crew were guys that I knew that were also on other teams,” Chung was made an official member of the crew in 2007 after a top secret initiation.

Despite their roots labeling them as a hip hop crew, the group prides themselves on being innovative and are inspired by all styles of dance and martial arts. “People say that Jabbawockeez, through the course of the years, have created our own style,” Chung explains. “They call it the Jabbawockee style, and that was never really our intention but it just kind of happened like that because our minds like to explore and we don’t like to limit ourselves to think inside the box,” he says.

The tight-knit Jabbawockeez only began receiving mainstream recognition after they won the first season of America’s Best Dance Crew in 2008. Though they were skeptical about trying out for the show, the group decided to do it in honour of their fallen member, Gary Kendall, who was adamant about trying out for the show but passed away just months before the first taping. “We did it out of respect for him, even though we didn’t want to go forward with it, we were like ‘we have to for Gary’ and we stuck it through, and lo and behold…” Chung says. “We didn’t know that we were going to win the thing.”

The crew has been a sought-after act ever since ABDC, allowing them to land a dream gig – a residency at Las Vegas casino Monte Carlo. “A Vegas show was something that we always dreamed of and talked about just kind of like a pie in the sky kind of dream,” he says. Still unable to believe their dreams have come true, the boys feel very blessed to have continued building their success via a partnership with Jupiters Hotel and Casino.

The 20 million dollar refurbishment of the Jupiters theatre at the casino is immaculate and the new surroundings have the Jabbawockeez looking forward to being a part of the new entertainment program. Despite the great reception they’ve had so far from Australian audiences, the group isn’t used to such a low level of recognition. “It’s really humbling to know that a lot of people out here have never even heard of us before,” Chung says. “They don’t even know what a Jabbawockee is. It’s a challenge and it gives us an opportunity to feel brand new at it again.”

The crew is showcasing their Vegas show MÜS.I.C with a few tweaks here and there due to a difference in stage designs and some new music. “The cool thing about our show is that there is a big portion of the show that has a freestyle element to it, so no two shows are ever going to be exactly the same and I think that’s something that we pride ourselves on, that our show is always changing everyday,” Chung says.

And if it’s your dream to dance alongside these amazing performers, you might just be in luck, if you can stick out the initiation process that is. Though there is no audition process for the crew itself, Chung says that they try to preserve the crew mentality by keeping the group as an exclusive group of friends. “There is a process of how to get into the crew and it’s kind of this top secret code that we all follow, Chung reveals. “Let’s just say that there isn’t necessarily a hazing but there is a top secret society type of way to get initiated into the crew.

“If we find any worthy candidates we might have to let them in on our little secret society but we will have to keep that under wraps for now,” Chung laughs.

But if a more intimate style of dance is what you are hoping for, and if you can recognize the boy’s without their masks on, the group isn’t planning on holding back during their stay in Australia. “There are single members in the crew and everyone is very open-minded,” Chung laughs.

“Oi, Oi, Oi,” fellow crew member, Joe Larot shouts enthusiastically in the background.

You can catch the JABBAWOCKEEZ at Jupiters Hotel and Casino from now through to Thursday Aug 16. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster. Check out for more information.

Monday, May 7, 2012


MUTEMATH frontman PAUL MEANYtalks to RACHEL BARNES about life after their Grammy nomination and living up to expectations.

What started as an electronic experiment has turned into a global phenomenon as Mutemath sell out tours globally. Now on their way to Australia for the first time, the New Orleans band are ready to prove that they’re worth the packed venues they will be playing to.

Founded in 2003, Mutemath started out as a side-project for Paul Meany and drummer Darren King. “I just knew when I first met Darren that I wanted to make music with that guy,” Meany says. The two were unsure of what exactly their partnership was going to turn into, but before they knew it they had gone from writing a few songs to putting out an EP and becoming a four-piece band. “We started slowly evolving into this hybrid rock band that we’ve become.”

Despite a slight change in line-up that Meany describes as, “evolutionary survival of the fittest”, the band’s latest release, Odd Soul, is their most collaborative work to date. Meany, King, and their bassist/guitar-player Mitchell-Cardenas, all had a hand in some aspect of the album. “Darren had always been the music guy and I was more the lyric/vocal guy and I think we started blurring those lines a bit more on this record just for fun and we really had a good time with it,” Meany says. “At the end of the day though I’m still usually having to be left in a room by myself to try to finish up lyrics and sing vocals and whatever, but it was certainly more collaborative on this record than it has been in the past and we enjoyed that.”

The band is proud of their latest work and thinks it lends itself perfectly to live shows. “We consciously went into this record thinking about creating something that’s stage ready and it’s going to be tailor made for the four guys in our band, although we didn’t know who that fourth guy was going to be at the time, we just figured he was going to be good,” Meany laughs. With their fourth member – guitarist Todd Gummerman – in hand, Mutemath have been continuing to prove that they are worth the recognition received since their Grammy nomination in 2007.

While the band’s live shows started off much quieter and introverted, they were quickly forced to fight for the audience’s attention and as a result have become very energetic while on stage. “I think just that natural necessity kind of forced us to amp things up and we enjoyed that,” Meany says.

Meany affirms that fans should expect no different at the band’s Australian shows and that they should get ready for a good time. “That’s really all we want,” he says. “We really hope to entertain whoever shows up and is kind enough to give us their time and check out what we’re doing.”

Mutemath will be playing a round of festivals during their time in our country, but Meany says that their sideshows are the ones to catch because they have to trim down their sets too much for festival gigs.

MUTEMATH play Groovin The Moo in Townsville on Sunday May 6, then a sold-out show at The Zoo on Thursday May 10. ODD SOUL is out now.