You know that feeling when you haven’t played a show for a while, you somehow score a gig, and then you can’t make it because of things out of your control? Salt and Steel can relate for sure. The female duo lost their shot at a drive-in festival appearance back in July due to last-minute quarantine restrictions.
It was one of a few challenges they’ve had to face this year. But giving up doesn’t exist in Salt and Steel’s dictionary. So they’re taking (back) control with their powerful new single.
PART 52 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
One of the first things you’ll read in the band’s bio is “don’t let their kind, happy nature fool you into assuming their music is the same.” So true. Briony Edgar (singer/guitarist) and Elle Steele (drummer/backing vocalist) are badass rockers. And great, positive human beings, too.
Their band was born out of necessity during overseas travels when their vehicle let them down in New Zealand. Resourceful and resilient as they are, the girls turned to busking to save the day. At that point, Briony already played the guitar and wrote songs as a hobby. And Elle gave drumming her best with the little experience she had. [She “played drums once in year 8 but was never allowed to have one at home”.]
That incidental adventure quickly turned into a long-lasting project. And travelling became the one important factor shaping Salt and Steel’s story until today. Briony and Elle live in a van and spend their life on the road as a touring outfit.
Dubbed “a cross between Rage Against The Machine and John Butler Trio”, the duo’s music is bold and sincere. The girls clearly love what they do and it shows. If you ever see them live, you’ll be blown away by the energy on stage and their exceptional connection with audiences. With a few singles and an EP in their portfolio, Salt & Steel continue looking for creative ways of engaging old and new fans and telling their inspiring life story through roots/rock music.
It’s funny that I found out about Salt and Steel exactly because of that called off gig. I was impressed by their humble reaction to the devastating decision that was made just a few days before the show. So I suggested a chat about their positive vibes, life as touring musos and the new release.
Silly McWiggles (SM): What’s the story behind your band’s name?
Salt and Steel (S&S): We nearly lost our minds trying to think of a really cool band name haha! So we decided to keep it simple. Briony means “salty sea” and Elle’s last name is Steel.
SM: Aside from the creative part of your profession, there is also a business side to it. Who in the duo is more business savvy? Who’s in charge of what?
S&S: You need to wear many hats in the life of an independent musician. We both play different parts, that’s another reason why we work so well as a team.
So, we always go back and forth from business hat to creative hat.
We do wish we could be creative and play music a lot more than we get to. But we are grateful for this journey and it’s also really cool to be immersed in every part of the industry.
SM: I noticed another creative thing on your website. A part of it is in Japanese. Where does that connection come from?
S&S: I [Elle] was top of my Japanese class in year 8. Hopefully, it’ll all come flowing back when I get there one day haha!
We wanted to go following a release in May but, along with everything else, it’s been postponed.
We heard it’s an amazing place, amazing people and amazing responses to live music. We will get to go there and see for ourselves one day!
SM: Your shows are so energetic and lively, and the audiences adore you. What’s the best thing about live gigs? And what’s your formula for a good show?
S&S: We always have a dance and jump around to whoever plays before us. That always pumps us up for the show!
SM: Since we’re on the topic of live shows, I’m amazed by your drumming skills, Elle, considering that you started playing professionally fairly recently. How did you manage to progress so quickly?
S&S: Haha! Thanks for the kind words. For a little while, playing drums is all I [Elle] did really. I just wanted to get to a point that I felt comfortable being on stage and not have to worry about making mistakes! But it turns out that you can never stop growing and learning!
My main learning tool was and still is YouTube and also a site called Drumeo – they are my heroes!
SM: For the fairly short time you’ve been a music outfit, Salt and Steel have a long list of achievements already. You opened for Wolfmother and Phil Jamieson [of Grinspoon] in 2019. Your singles made it to national and overseas radio stations. You won a few busking competitions and played at Sofar Gold Coast and Bluesfest. So, what’s the best thing that has happened to you in your music adventure so far?
S&S: It’s an amazing feeling getting off-stage after a really great show or writing a song that feels really right to us. But, to be completely honest, the best things that have come out of Salt and Steel so far is someone telling us that they have been inspired by us, or the music we write.
Knowing we have helped people means so much to us.
We have had people tell us our music has gotten them through a rough patch, or our music has kept them going. That’s why we play and write music. It doesn’t get any better than that!
SM: I can imagine you have missed on many opportunities since the pandemic hit. What unexpected good things have come out of this challenging time?
S&S: This one’s easy!
Spending time with family. It’s made us stronger and more determined to keep growing and learning and making music. We’ve explored different ways of sharing our music and connecting with fans. And we’ve been able to make our van our ‘home on wheels’.
SM: So what do you miss the most about being on the road and the busking life? And what are the challenges of this sort of lifestyle?
S&S: Touring life has many ups and downs. In the beginning, we had a small van. Us, all of our sound equipment, a drum kit, 2 guitars, clothes, cooking stuff, and a bed. We ended up cutting our bed in half to fit everything, but safe to say we had no room, and it wasn’t very comfy to live in! Haha
One of the biggest challenges is not always being able to be there for friends’ special moments. We have such supportive people around us, so it really is hard when we can’t be there for them.
SM: Speaking of the van, is it specially prepped for the life on the road? Do you have extra fittings or space for the instruments etc.?
S&S: Yes! Not too long ago we literally had to spoon a drum kit while trying to sleep in our van. Thankfully, we were able to get a bigger one and have worked hard to build it into a home. We now live in it full time. We have a kitchen, a bed, and space to write music. Which makes life easier on the road. We love it!
SM: It must have been a huge change having to drop the anchor in pretty much one place now. How did that influence your mental health and general approach to life?
S&S: It’s been really, really different!! At first, it was a little overwhelming: What do we do? Where do we stay? What are we going to do next?
But we are pretty good at adapting to situations. We’ve been working on skills. Learning about building, solar power and vehicle mechanics to build the van into a more comfy home. We’ve both been getting more tech-savvy with video and photo programs, and learning more about recording music ourselves in the van.
It has been awesome getting to spend some extra time with the family. But we are definitely getting itchy feet!
SM: You recently went house-hunting in Byron Bay. Is that a place where you’d like to settle down for a while now? What is your dream home like?
S&S: We are exploring all options at the moment with touring life not expected to return straight away. We were originally planning on continuing the van life for the next few years… But if we can find the right home, that would be awesome, too.
In a nutshell, our dream home would be on a property, away from neighbours and walking distance to the beach.
SM: You mentioned that you “find your freedom in music and nature”. What else inspires you in life?
S&S: People! We have met so many different characters! There’s nothing like an inspirational weekend bender with lots of new friends!
SM: You’ve been hanging out with Briony’s brother Wil lately as well. Is this a permanent addition to your band? If so, in what ways?
S&S: Wil has been away travelling for the last 2 years, so it’s been really great to have him back.
One thing that Briony and I [Elle] haven’t been able to do much is actually jam and play music together for nearly the last 6 months because of Briony’s wrist injury. [Briony injured her wrist during our last tour before the pandemic. It’s yet to properly heal, and has drastically limited her ability to play the guitar since then.] So Wil’s timing returning home couldn’t have been more perfect for us!
We don’t know where this next chapter will take us, but for now, we are so, so grateful to have Wil be a part of the team!
SM: I love your good vibes and positivity. And your social media communications to your fans are always so uplifting. But I can imagine it’s not always easy and you have “worse” days as well. How do you manage to pick yourselves up? Especially in times like these.
S&S: We are very lucky to have each other. Our emotions can be yin and yang sometimes. So when one of us is down, the other is feeling great enough to pick them up. Playing music, being creative, exercising and nature is where we turn when we need a lift.
SM: You frequently reference nature and earth in your music and that really hits home for me. I also love the ocean. Does your creative process involve being outdoors or in your fave water surroundings? Or is there something else that helps you write music?
S&S: Briony is the lyricist. As you can tell from the lyrics she writes, she pulls a lot of inspiration from the ocean in particular, and also the nature that surrounds us.
Our creative process always changes, it’s never one set formula. We get inspiration from the music we listen to, the situations we find ourselves in, and stories from other people. We always say that bits of songs come like pieces of a puzzle from the Universe. We just have to piece them together.
SM: You’ve been releasing a series of singles connected to natural elements. “Violet Skies” is Air. “The Beast, The Devil And Me” is Fire. “Taste My Words” is Earth. So only Water is missing. How did this idea come about?
S&S: The idea for the series actually came up on a really long road trip from Far North Queensland after a festival up there. It just came up, and we just started talking about it, then put it into motion.
It came about after a realisation how much nature really does inspire us. I think we forgot about it in a way. This series really helped us get back to nature and what really matters to us.
SM: It’s hard to plan anything right now, but what are your short- and long-term aspirations in music?
S&S: Our goals and plans of international tours have all been postponed. Live shows are our passion, but for the time being, we are focusing on writing, creating and exploring our instruments in further depth.
Our biggest goal is to start releasing more music, more regularly, and we are excited about that!
SM: That brings me to the question about the new single that will be released this Friday, 25 September 2020. How does “Take Control” fit into the Salt and Steel world at the moment?
S&S: Our upcoming single is actually on its own, it won’t be a part of the Air, Fire, Earth, Water series.
We did plan to release Water after Earth, but after the big shake-up at the beginning of the year, our newest single “Take Control” just felt more right to release right now. And in true “Briony and Elle” style, we just like to mix things up a little.
This song is short, fast and to the point. It combines our usual earthy, rock, roots sound with a grungy edge. We achieved it using only electric guitars, octave pedals and a drum kit. The recording was done at Blind Boy Studios in Gold Coast with Brad Hosking [who worked with Amy Shark].
“Take Control” is all about feeling empowered and taking control of your life. Do the things that make you feel happiest and don’t try to fulfil others’ expectations of how you should live. Live your life to the fullest.
There’s a lot of attitude and the song makes the listener feel empowered enough to take leaps and bounds to their wildest dreams.
SM: Amongst your influences you mention Nick Cave and John Butler. Are there any other Aussie acts you’d love to collaborate with? Who’s on your playlist right now?
S&S: It’s hard to really pinpoint our influences but Australian bands that we have loved and grown up to are Stonefield, Grinspoon, Spiderbait, Nick Cave, John Butler and Silverchair. Right now we are really loving Hilltop Hoods.
SM: And finally, what are your hopes for the music industry in Australia once things stabilise eventually?
S&S: We really hope and believe that it will come back stronger than ever! Live music is so important to the community and a lot of people’s general well-being. The people need it, and we have faith in them to support it.
SM: Thank you for your time and this honest chat. All the best in your music adventure in the future!
When I approached Salt and Steel for the interview, I already knew their positivity and pure energy were contagious. It’s what makes their craft and message so much more believable.
And after the chat, I strongly believe that Briony and Elle are exactly the good vibes powerhouse we so desperately need right now. So make sure you listen to their new single “Take Control” – you ain’t seen that one coming!
You can check out my review of the track on the band’s website.
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