When I was younger, I used to be a very radical music fan. I used to believe that Metallica must and always will record Master of Puppets sort of albums. I thought Coldplay were sell-outs for going pop. And I was 100% sure that my music taste would never change.
Today, some 2 decades later, I know I was totally wrong.
Part 17 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
Personally, I think it’s pretty cool that musos can navigate the music world so seamlessly. Creativity is a dynamic process. Musicians are artists the same way painters are. Throughout their career they get inspired by many different techniques and genres. Their musical craft also evolves with time and according to their personal and professional experiences. Just like you and me, one day they feel like rapping the s**t out of reality, the next they turn to smoothradio.com.
Currently, there are several acts in Australia who are involved in more than one music project, often at the same time. One of the best examples of successfully juggling two major gigs is probably Ian Kenny, the singer of two pretty awesome (yet quite different) Perth bands: Bird of Tokyo and Karnivool.
But today I actually want to familiarise you with three Melbourne-based musicians, who have particularly caught my attention. And for good reasons.
THE ONE WHO WENT SOLO
BEN STEWART: SLOWLY SLOWLY + CONGRATS
Ben Stewart is best known as lead singer of a Melbourne band Slowly Slowly that I’ve mentioned here and on my socials on many occasions. They are one of my favourite punk/rock groups, just because I think this genre is slightly underestimated in Australia these days. Actually, also because I think they’re really cool, relatable, down-to-earth guys who make good use of their guitar skills. (Okay, also because they filmed one of their music clips – to “Alchemy” – in my beloved part of Melbourne.)
As Slowly Slowly’s singer Stewart shows different facets of his voice, from almost lyrical “Jellyfish” to a proper headbanger’s anthem “Extinction”. But I kind of always sensed there was something in his singing that went beyond Slowly Slowly’s direction. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. The man himself thought so, too.
“I swapped a guitar for a computer & this is what came out”, says the muso about his new solo project. It’s called Congrats and it definitely sits on the pop side of the music spectrum.
Yes, it is quite different from Stewart’s story so far, which probably was the idea from the start. It shines more light on his vocal skills that – in this project – are the universe the beats revolve around. As a result, interesting layers of his voice make it to the surface – for instance, when it shakes with emotion in the verses of “Cut Down The Middle”.
And just to be clear, Stewart’s going solo hasn’t changed anything for Slowly Slowly. The band are still alive and kicking, reportedly recoding fresh tunes and touring in October. Stewart just finished playing the first shows as Congrats as well. Plus, he released new music and a video to “Antidote“. So I guess I just have one question:
How do you do it, mate?
Check out two of Ben Stewart’s projects below:
THE ONE WHO KEPT ON GOING
MEMPHIS LK: SAATSUMA + HERSELF
During the 2017 Melbourne Music Week a Melbourne duo, SAATSUMA, headlined one of the events I happened to be working at. By then the band had already released their first LP and got some decent airplay on the radio, with a national tour at the end of that year. Their first single, “Isolate”, has had an impressive number of streams on Spotify so far.
In 2018 things looked even better – they played more shows and got involved in other awesome projects, standing up for causes they believed in (i.e. Centre Against Sexual Assault fundraiser). Then, in October, something happened, almost from one day to another. On 16 October, SAATSUMA announced premiering a new single on Triple J. Three days later they posted about “taking an indefinite break from releasing music and playing shows”.
But that’s not the end of this story.
SAATSUMA was made up of two musicians, well-known in Melbourne: Memphis LK and Cesar Rodrigues. I haven’t heard anything new about the latter since last year’s announcement. But the female part of the duo took the matter into her own hands very quickly.
She is now releasing music under her own moniker: Memphis LK, and claims that she has never been “more inspired or motivated or productive” to create. She has truly been super active in the last 12 months, doing something new nearly every month. And I don’t mean only releasing music. She has led a song-writing workshop for Creative Victoria, an initiative fostering innovation and creativity in arts. She has opened for the legendary American musician, Meshell Ndegeocello. And she has been hosting her own segment “Cabernet Sauvignon” on Skylab Radio.
As to the music, the artist hasn’t lost any of her love for everything electronic. Synths and cool beats are still the framework but she packs more club vibes in her new (old) style. In an interview she gave for Finding Figaro, Memphis LK mentioned that “it’s been massively challenging too, the self-doubt is REAL.”
Girl, if this is still not you at your very best, I can’t wait to hear what else you have in store!
Here’s Memphis LK in her two projects:
THE ONE WHO BANDED TOGETHER
WILL CUMING: LANKS + OK MOON
One day I was blasting Ok Moon’s “Loved You Right” at home when my mum came to visit. I turned the music off, so that we could have a chat, and she said: “Turn it back on, I like it”. Well, most of my music choices are not #mumapproved, so it’s like the best possible compliment any band could ever get. Good on ya, boys!
One of the reasons my mum liked Ok Moon so much is the spacious, airy vibe of their music, created by four talented, seasoned musicians: LANKS, Dustin Tebbutt, Hayden Calnin and Xavier Dunn. Already dubbed “Australia’s newest supergroup”, the band has not only released an album this year but also played a launch tour with gigs in Melbourne and Sydney. They’re touring again very soon.
The musos behind the project have quite a history making music and collaborating with heaps of other Australian acts to date. But one of them seemed to have had a musical mid-life crisis last year.
LANKS was (is?) a pretty successful solo project of a Melbourne multi-instrumentalist, Will Cuming. He has been a part of the local scene since 2014, producing his own tracks. His music has been described as “the musical equivalent of a warm fire and mulled wine”. Too bad it’s not my comparison – I couldn’t agree more.
Considering that LANKS has played festivals like Groovin The Moo (GTM), delivered an interesting cover of Hayden James‘s “Numb” for Triple J’s Like A Version and released an album that’s received good reviews, you would think he had every reason to keep wanting more. Instead, he shared his doubts about “when/if I’ll come back to it” on his socials at the beginning of February this year (2019). And he almost tricked us all.
As it turns out, Ok Moon had long been secretly in the making. So Cuming transitioned from his LANKS persona into a quarter of the Ok Moon squad just a few weeks later. It looks like the collab has also boosted his morale. As he admitted himself, working with the new project made him “eternally grateful that I get to create and connect with such inspiring people who have helped me refind that fire within.”
Keep that fire burning, Will.
Listen to Will Cuming’s projects in comparison:
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