Today is ANZAC Day, while we remember those Australian and New Zealanders who’ve had the unfortunate experience of living through or fighting wars, those who have served to protect our and others independence, it’s worth taking time to appreciate our freedom of expression; so hats off to our neighbours – we might give each other a ‘bit of stick’ every now and then – but we can only do this ’cause we’re such good mates. Here are a few small Oz record labels and artists that are full of enterprise, talent and independence.
Milk Records is a Melbourne label, home to half-a-dozen artists, including the prolific Kingdoms and the talented Jen Cloher. Cloher has recorded solo and with a band – her 2013 In Blood Memory included Milk Records rising star Courtney Barnett. If you haven’t heard the laconic Barnett yet, you soon shall – or should. Really. With press hotter than a mid-summer arvo at St Kilda – from Pitchfork to the Guardian – and recent international deals in the US and England, you best come out from that shady rock.
Bedroom Suck Records are based in Brisbane and have a small but impressive roster, including Brisbane’s Per Purpose and Melbourne’s Full Ugly, they are also the original home to Melbourne’s Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – now New York based and gathering fans by the ute-load – and this lot:
Blank Realm are a Brisbane family affair; siblings Daniel (drums & vocals), Sarah (synths & vocals) and Luke Spencer (bass), plus Luke Walsh (guitar). They have a number of releases, but this year’s Grassed Inn will find its way into many ‘best off 2014’ lists. Mark my words. Blank Realm are on my ‘must see’ list, they are monstrously good live by all accounts and I have every reason to believe that.
Boomgates are somewhat of a Oz super-group: Dick Diver’s Steph Hughes; Eddy Current Suppression Ring vocalist Brendan Suppression; Twerps bassist Rick Milovanovic; Deep Heat’s guitarist Gus (Angus) Lord; and Shaun Genius (Gionis), Trial Kennedy drummer. They have released a number of singles, including a split 7″ with The Bats (December Ice/Widow Maker), and the album Double Natural. I’m really stoked Boomgates are as good as I wanted them to be, since gathering up all of Eddy Current Suppression Rings albums, the thought of a silent Brendan was too much. It’s sweet to hear him ‘singing’ – and Steph Hughes is his perfect foil.
Also from Brisbane are Bon Voyage Records, a small, young label, who appear to understand that despite the ability to communicate and sell digital media internationally online, emerging labels like this survive by selling to local fans, making a fist of gig merchandise, specialising in short-run and limited editions, and taking advantage of resurgent interests in vinyl and cassettes.
With bands like Martyr Privates on the books, it’s hard to imagine the good-word not spreading far and wide. Martyr Privates are Brisbane locals, this self-titled song is from their debut 7″ single.
Ela Stiles is a name that we will hear much more of in the future too – still a young-thing, Ela has a formidable catalogue, and appears to be finding her own voice with confidence.
The first track is from her long-time Sydney band Songs, centred around the core duo of Ela (Bass, Vocals) and Max Doyle (Guitar, vocals), the first Songs band included Jeff Burch and Steve Uren of Kiwi band This Night Creeps. Retreat, is from their 2009 self-titled debut – back when they exuberantly credited the influence of John Cale, The Velvet Underground, Television, and Galaxie 500 – although “no influence is as strong as The Clean, New Zealand’s greatest exponents of the Dunedin sound.” Their debut 2008 EP even had a song called Keeping it Clean. Good start then.
This second track from Songs, Boy/Girl is taken from 2013’s Malabar album. By now the Kiwi connection has been lost, replaced with a couple of fair-dinkum Aussies: Cameron Emerson-Elliot (Youth Group) on guitar and on drums Ben James (Talons).
Apparently as far back as 2001 Ela was considering a solo recording – enlisting Melbourne musicians, Nisa Venerosa (Fabulous Diamonds) and Karl Scullin (Kes Band) – but the trio clicked and Bushwalking was formed. This first track is from their 2012 debut First Time.
This next track is from 2013’s No Enter.
Due for release in May 2014 is Ela’s debut solo, to be released by Bedroom Suck Records it is entirely her voice; listen, you will hear what I mean about her finding confidence. BSR says side one will will be the likes of Kumbh Mela, side two being drone versions – no effects, but layered versions of the vocal – the second track is a single edit version; Drone Transitions.
Goons of Doom
I’m going to leave you with a bunch of loveable, irreverent larrikins. These Goons are bleached, forever 18, and are turning out songs any-time they are not surfing – as easily as they open a stubbie. The Goons have an enormous catalogue spanning many years, some brilliant, some daft, some hilarious – have a listen to Clean for Jesus: “…I think I’m passin’ out, I think I’m passin’ out, I just saw Jesus sweeping up the floor. I think that he should know, it’s garbage night tonight, can you get him to take the bins out, when he goes…”