In this episode of the Side Of Stage podcast, Laneway Festival’s Danny Rogers and Dom O’Connor sit down with Kobalt Music’s Managing Director Simon Moor and chat about his initial career as a DJ, how streaming has changed how we experience music, and new possibilities for musicians.
3.45 “That time for me, as a DJ, was really crucial in understanding what people liked.”
6.16 “It was a pretty buoyant time. There was a lot of money and you’ve got the backend of CDs being big.”
14.07 “The music industry was on the precipice of a deep abyss and about to fall off that as the digital era came on, so I knew that doing A&R for a record label for the next 10 years wasn’t gonna be a great thing.”
18.15 “For any songwriter or artist out there, publishing is ultimately key because if you own your publishing rights and have some success that will allow you to have a long, long career.”
23.02 “Back in the day, you mention co-write to an artist and that would be a dirty, dirty word!”
HANDSOME – aka Sydney artist Caitlin McGregor – has made a playlist of songs that mirror the sense of “boldness and an unapologetic vulnerability” she was trying to capture on single ‘No Cowards’.
After releasing acclaimed music for a number of years as Caitlin Park, she underwent a creative and personal transformation, embracing her queer identity and her experiences coming out in her debut EP as HANDSOME, No Hat No Play.
“The thing with these tracks,” she says of the playlist, “is their strength most likely came from the songwriter’s most vulnerable and raw moment, something that made them scared or made them feel powerless.
“Most people would hide from telling the world these stories, but these artists turned them into powerful songs. And that gives them grace.”
Mura Masa was on repeat while I was making No Hat No Play. There is something about the way he fuses organic sounds together with beats that really bring out the crisp moments – the licks, the top end of the drum stick snapping the rim. This track featuring Bonzai is a fucking nuts song, it’s not brash, it’s not loud – it’s all about capturing the attitude of the lyrics with the music. Dat bass.
To call this song unapologetic is an understatement. “Falling in love with avoiding problems” is something many of us have felt. The feeling of mania when you don’t know who you are, are confused with who you love – you can feel dizzy, and you can find a way to enjoy pain. Tim’s voice is direct, when he dares you to come at him. This song is triumphant, and it’s perfect. I feel everything when I hear this song.
Do not fuck with her. Okenyo is an artist with plenty of acclaim, but she deserves even more. Her writing is next level and deserves ears worldwide because she is making music like no one else. ‘Hang Your Hat’ is so bold af, where she encourages the listener to celebrate their unique self-expression and carry themselves with nothing but confidence. She challenges casual racism in Australia, and suggest a hint of the Time’s Up movement with the phrase “Tic Toc ya done”.
I was lucky enough to meet Fortune recently, jumping into the studio with him for an amazing afternoon. Fortune epitomises boldness and grace. Hailing from South Africa, he is often forced to defend his sexuality and carry his head high in harsh and dangerous environments. In fact, he had to defend himself recently after a show in Melbourne (congrats Australia!). His music exudes freedom, and that’s why he is such an important artist.
Hot goss. We were blasting this song in the video clip for ‘No Cowards’ in the scene where everybody is dancing on the roof. Robyn represents a release and a freedom to many queers around the world. She finds a way to capture a sadness or a regret in a dance song – and there is nothing more powerful that dancing away your pain. I’ve spent many a night on the dance floor with my friends screaming this song at the top of my lungs.
Bravery is a word that comes to mind when I think about HTMLflowers. He is hailed for creating great art out of a situation that feels so hopeless, and so he should. He doesn’t hide his illness, and has found a way of building a community around his art making, by creating a safe space for people in similar positions. He uses his most vulnerable moments, to instil hope in others. “I was easy to love once, wasn’t I?” makes me fall off my chair every time.
Kid Heron has really found himself with this new track, and it makes me so excited. The Kid plays drums in the HANDSOME band, and I’ve never watched someone blossom the way he has in the last year. And you can hear it in his music making, and the confidence in his lyricism. ‘Future Love’ is a blatant celebration of his sexuality – it is sensual, brave and affirming. And I love every moment of it.
I know she has just released a new album, Wanderer, but this one felt right to finish on. Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) taught has all to use our vulnerability to make art, didn’t she? Through stories of neglect and abuse and addiction, Chan revealed it all. I watched her play this song all around the world – Paris, Denmark, London, Sydney – and every time it is heart-stopping. Interestingly, she released this track on Moonpix and then again as a “cover” of sorts on Jukebox. She now performs it with power – motioning kicking, and scrunching up her face. A great example of a song that isn’t afraid of anything – it used to be about her hopelessness, and now its about her triumph over this. Cat Power, you’re worth everything.
Laneway Festival’s Dom O’Connor picks out the best tracks of the month including a smooth collab from Anderson .Paak’s backing band and the return of Chicago MC Mick Jenkins.
Sydney post-punks 100 have hit pay-dirt on their second single ‘Groove’, all restrained tension and a shredding payoff. There’s a kraut-rocky energy to the track as it remains fixed on a central rhythmic figure; one that’s shared in the grit and grime of the squealing guitars. It’s a perfect match of ingrained power-pop melodicism with rough-shod production and a likeable toughness.
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Chicago MC Mick Jenkins, and ‘Understood’ has the warm, comforting embrace of a return to it. Guest producer Kaytranada provides Jenkins with a laidback, double-bass heavy beat for him to spit over, and Jenkins uses it to drop both an insouciantly cool verse and a deep-voiced counterpoint of a chorus. A showcase of one of modern music’s most talented producers with a technically gifted, non-showy MC. Made for repeating during the dog days of summer.
‘Heart’ has the swoon and sweep of a ’90s teen movie classic and the sparkling, watery guitars to match. Ali Flintoff (also of Perth punx Boat Show) dials down her usual vocal fury for a lovelorn sig; the loose, shoegazey sway of the instruments matching her nicely as the song reaches its fizzy crescendo. It’s a startlingly confident first single from the recent Barely Dressed signing, and a song that fans of Hatchie/Alvvays will find a lot to love in.
Former Royal Headache singer Shogun finally returns with ‘Pissing Blood’, a dramatic, organ-affected number with Tim ‘Shogun’ Wall in his finest crooner mode. It’s slower, and less immediate than any Royal Headache track, but his pained, emotional delivery is truly one of a kind. “No one could hurt you like I could,” he warbles near the track’s crescendo, the offspring of Bobby Womack and Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s Brendan Huntley. If only Shogun himself liked the song as much. He recently called it “ordinary” in an interview with Noisey.
Who could’ve guessed a collaboration between Anderson .Paak’s band, Daniel Caesar and Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruben Nielson would be unfeasibly smooth? ‘Beauty and Essex’ isn’t particularly left-field, but it’s a perfectly succinct slice of future-funk. Caesar’s perfect falsetto and Nielson’s warped higher register contrast wonderfully over a G-funk bass line. It’s the type of music made for late-night listening, and an enticing first taste of their upcoming debut record.
“I think about dying everyday” is one of the strongest first lines of the year, a jolt to the system that feels singularly unique in modern pop music. ‘Saint Nobody’ only grows from there, building on its bed of celestial synth pads and layering Reyez’s powerful voice over itself several times. It’s the most confident Reyez has sounded on record yet, and it’s immensely satisfying when the song’s drums kick in during the second chorus. The most memorable song she’s done.
Melbourne jazz/disco supremo Harvey Sutherland continues to grow on ‘Amethyst’, his first single in almost a year. As tenor saxophones rise under a frantic, ride-heavy dream beat, Sutherland showcases the producer chops he’s been honing for the last few years, never overloading the arrangement but keeping it busy enough. The tension continues to rise as the groove locks in during the track’s second half, where swelling strings and a busy bass line become the track’s focal point and let the groove ride out into aural nirvana.
Playing Laneway Festival 2019
George Van Den Broek (pka Yellow Days) is 19 years old, but he doesn’t sound that way. His howling, aching voice is the most immediately noticeable aspect of Yellow Days’ music, however that’s not to undersell his startling jazz chops, which permeate the musicianship on display.
Over two albums, George has created a genre in and of itself – a smattering of King Krule’s jazzy scuzz, the internet fandom of Boy Pablo, and the croony soft-rock influences of fellow Laneway ‘19 artist Rex Orange County.
We hand-picked five Yellow Days songs to provide an introduction to this singular, precociously talented songwriter.
For many people this was their first introduction to Yellow Day – and what an intro. Swirling synths give way to George’s pained croon and twinkling organ chords. There’s a Motown lilt to the entire reverie, both in the skipping drums and the way he stretches his voice to its elastic breaking point in the song’s chorus. “A gap in the clouds, the sun comes out,” he intones. It’s atmospheric without losing sight of his gift for concise melodies.
The woozy, slow-moving ‘Your Hand Holding Mine’ is another prime example of George’s preternatural talent for arrangements and songwriting beyond his years. Guitars are pitch-shifted to within an inch of their life, while halcyon synths search for a root note. His voice is the only consistent in the song; an oasis of calm in a sea of wanting and longing that becomes untenable for the song’s narrator. A real treat of a pop tune.
You’ve probably guessed a pretty common lyrical theme for Yellow Days by now: longing, loneliness, and the absence of a partner in life. But on ‘How Can I Love You’, George isn’t pining for a lost love. He’s found one, but he’s struggling to understand the point of it all. Over skittering, jazzy drums, slap bass and ragtime piano, he croons of being “lost again with thoughts of you”. His voice is smoother than it’s ever been, as he desperately tries to find contentment in the one place he can: his dreams. The song’s denouement is indicative of Yellow Days’ growing confidence as a composer and arranger, layering on coo-ing harmonies and Destroyer-esque sax to create the world’s smoothest fade-out into oblivion.
‘The Way Things Change’ has the ominous, encroaching feel of an anxiety attack, crawling along at a walking pace and slowly ramping up the paranoia. The guitars have the same watery sound as the dreamiest Connan Mockasin tune, but George’s deep, resonant voice urges the listener to “keep going”, bringing in a welcome sense of unease to proceedings. While the song never reaches a welcome crescendo, the menacing mood throughout never wanes, establishing Yellow Days as an auteur and master of atmosphere.
‘A Little While’ has a casual strut to it that contrasts with the croaky vocals, which sound like George is shouting at the bottom of a well, desperate to be heard. The guitars shine with single upstrums, while the bassline continues to wander around, the embodiment of the searching inner-monologue that makes up the song’s lyric. There’s a soulful quality to the song’s stark, minimal production that contrasts with the classicism of George’s songwriting. It’s another example of his remarkable skill at fusing disparate genres, sounds and moods to create the Yellow Days sound.
Words by Laneway’s Dom O’Connor
Sat Nam and welcome to The Witching Hour, a podcast exploring the metaphysical side of music. My name is Sophie Miles and it was a real joy to talk music and spirituality for this month’s podcast with someone whose music I have always treasured, Chan Marshall aka Cat Power.
In the same generous and gentle spirit which has always guided her music, Chan shared her thoughts about the spiritual journey that has led to her new album, Wanderer.
We talked about trauma, compassion and empathy, and the sense of responsibility she feels as an artist to speak out on the issues of our times.
Please enjoy, the Wonderment of Cat Power.
(Photo by Julien Bourgeois)