Australian music was built on the backs of bands: groups of musicians that band together to create art, tour the country in beaten up vans, and conquer the airwaves. But while creative friction can lead to wonderful things, often it’s when artists fly the coup and break out on their own that their true artistic muse is revealed.
With that in mind, here are five musicians who broke out from Aussie bands to create interesting and memorable solo works.
Zefereli (Alistar from The Cairos)
The Cairos were one of the finest bands to have ever emerged from Brisbane, but when you’ve been rockin’ in the same lineup since high school, it’s time for a change. So, when the band finally split in 2016, frontman Alistar Richardson branched out on his own with the stunning Zefereli project with fellow musician Clea.
Named after a character in stories his father told him as a child (with that name possibly cribbed from the Italian actor of the same name), the experimental pop outfit is a lot less rigidly produced than his old band, and a lot more personal – although a number of these songs do hark back to Richardson’s days with The Cairos, and won’t leave old fans cold in the slightest.
Zefereli are about to embark on a co-headline tour with one of Sydney’s top new indie talents, Letters To Lions, so check out the tour dates here, and give their debut record All Players Played Well a listen below.
Nic Cester (of Jet)
While his world-beating band Jet were partial to a bit of pilfering from rock history’s back pages, Cester’s solo project is entirely its own beast, with Italian flourishes revealing some inspiration from his adopted home.
Having said that, he does lean on the past, just much less specifically: ’70s prog, late ’60s psychedelia, dance music from the early ’90s, and even some ELO soup together to create something very strange and beautifully indeed.
Tim Rogers and the Twin Set (of You Am I)
Tim Rogers came off the back of three straight number one records with You Am I to record an introspective solo album named ‘What Rhymes With Cars and Girls’, and it has since inspired tribute concerts, gushing retrospective reviews, and even a well-received theatrical production (read: a play) which takes its inspiration and music from the album.
Rogers has recorded numerous other solo albums, side projects, and one-shot duet albums, but this is his finest non-You Am I record.
Katy Steele (of Little Birdy)
Towards the middle of Little Birdy’s run, Steele begun leaning towards the bright synth sounds and electro flourishes that adorned popular music in the mid 00s, although before the band came to a close, she’d drifted back towards the Dusty Springfield style torch ballads of her early days.
Her debut solo album, 2016’s Human splits the difference and finds Steele sounding more confident and comfortable than she had in years.
Bernard Fanning (of Powderfinger)
Bernard Fanning’s debut solo record was so powerful, it hastened the split of one of Australia’s biggest bands ever. When he released his first single, the irrepressible ‘Wish You Well’, the song’s success caused major friction in Powderfinger, who began to reject any of Bernie’s songs that sounded too much like his solo work.
With this fissure in place, the band recorded a few confused, lacklustre records before splitting, but Fanning’s solo work continued on strongly, with the one-two punch of 2016’s Civil Dusk and 2017’s Brutal Dawn continuing a great run.