It’s looking like 2013 will be remembered as the year of the Aussie invasion, with a number of Australian artists set to do internationally what Gotye, Tame Impala, and Chet Faker did last year (and continue to do).
This year has already seen the likes of Sydneysiders (and multiple AIR nominees) Flume and Jagwar Ma gaining huge international exposure, with the latter rock duo already tipped as ‘the next Tame Impala’ by international press off the back of dazzling audiences at this year’s Glastonbury Festival (alongside the Perth psych rockers and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds).
Meanwhile Flume has discussed how he wants the “Australian sound” to conquer the world off the back of his own international adventures.
A number of Australian acts are further helping that global sonic invasion happen, with a Melbourne based singer-songwriter, a suburban future soul outfit, and a celebrated Sydney rock combo all making big waves internationally in recent months.
Already a beloved part of the Melbourne music scene (as Drones guitarist Dan Luscombe can attest), Courtney Barnett has also been sending the hearts of key overseas tastemakers a-flutter, singing the praises of the 25-year-old’s laconic brand of songcraft, as FasterLouder point out.
After championing the brilliance of her ‘Avant Gardener’ single, Pitchfork featured Courtney Barnett in their ‘Rising Artist‘ column, praising her “shambling folk songs… [with] a keen eye for detail and a wicked sense of humor;” the interview sees Barnett discussing her lyrics, songwriting, and her influences (Nirvana, The Go-Betweens, The Triffids, an Eminem phase).
The feature arrives ahead of the release of Courtney Barnett’s new EP, How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose – which is being bundled with her debut EP I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris into a full-length called A Sea Of Split Peas, which Pitchfork is now streaming as part of their ‘Advance’ service ahead of its release on 15th October via Melbourne indie label Milk! Records.
Meanwhile, the music video for ‘Avant Gardener’ received a simultaneous online debut for UK and American audiences via The Guardian and Stereogum respectively. Instead of following the song’s autobiographical narrative of suffering a panic attack while gardening, the clip instead features Barnett in a tennis match with a host of musical mates, including her bandmates Bones Sloane and Dave Mudie, fellow Melbournite Fraser A Gorman, and the song’s producer: Dan Luscombe of The Drones.
Compounding her overseas attention, Courtney Barnett will be playing New York’s CMJ Music Marathon this month, before hitting Europe for shows in London and Paris. Which should her homecoming dates in November all the more triumphant, playing a hometown show as part of the Shadow Electric’s 2013 Bandroom Program, before festival appearances at Homebake and Meredith the following month. Before that, next week will see Barnett competing for the title of Breakthrough Independent Artist of the Year and Best Independent Single Or EP in AIR’s Carlton Dry Independent Music Awards.
Tone Deaf audiences may already be familiar with the self-described “future soul” group, after being named runner-up in the Most Promising New Artist category and having in our 2012 Annual Readers Poll, as well as their Tawk Tomahawk being named as one of the year’s best local releases.
Since then, Hiatus Kaiyote have gained the celebrity seal of approval from the likes of Prince, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Animal Collective, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Q-Tip. In fact, the A Tribe Called Quest figurehead who was so impressed by the group’s fusion of neo-RnB, soul, rock, and jazz that he recorded a guest spot on the band’s single ‘Nakamarra‘ for the American release of Tawk Tomahawk off the back of the band singing a major international record deal: to Sony imprint, Flying Buddha.
While they’ve been getting local support from the likes of community radio broadcasters RRR, as well as station presenter Chris Gill (who through his own Northside Records has been a supporter of the band from day dot), the group – led by uber-talented singer/guitarist Nai Palm, bassist Paul Bender, drummer Perrin Moss, and keys wizard Simon Mavin – have been gaining bigger accolades overseas than they have at home.
“The thing I’m shocked about is how little [we’ve] been recognised in Australia,” remarks Mavin in a recent article from The Herald Sun spotlighting the band’s offshore achievements, including winning Best Breakthrough Artist Of The Year at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards, playing The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, and high-profile international festival appearances.
“We’re now playing bigger rooms in a lot of places in Europe and states than we are in Australia, that’s where the demand is. That’s the way it’s always going to be,” adds Mavin. “Breaking through the next barrier here is really impossible unless it’s what Triple J wants and what the bigger labels are interested in at the moment is Aussie hip hop.”
While the national youth broadcasters may have seemingly missed the memo, famed LA station KRCW didn’t putting the (pre-Q-Tip) ‘Nakamarra’ on high rotation, and as The Herald Sun perfectly puts it, “from there it was a matter of musical Chinese whispers: someone from Animal Collective heard it on the radio, who played it to Angel from Dirty Projectors, who played it to Questlove of the Roots, who played it to the main writer for Erykah Badu.”
Hiatus Kaiyote will perform as part of the Melbourne Festival lineup next week before international demand whisks them away for tours through the United States and Europe for the remainder of the year.
Another band heeding the international call is Sydney five-piece The Preatures, who are jetting to LA and New York’s CMJ Music Marathon this October after completing a successful Australian tour last September, including three sold out shows at the Northcote Social Club.
Much of the band’s success has come off the back of ‘Is This How You Feel?’, both the slick single and EP of the same name, which is not only a bona fide hit born for radio and user playlists alike, but even scored the group $50,000 in the Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition in August. But like most overnight successes, the Sydney band’s efforts have been hard-won, having built attention for 2012’s Shaking Hands EP while honing their moody brand of songwriting into something with a little more flash for Is This How You Feel.
The Preatures also wisely shifted attention towards their not-so-secret weapon: the 22-year-old singer-songwriter Isabella ‘Izzy’ Manfredi (daughter of famed Australian chef Stefano Manfredi, trivia fans). Though co-frontman Gideon Benson offers a fine foil to Manfredi, in the words of The Guardian – who spotlighted The Preatures as New Band of the Day – “we’re not alone in feeling the Manfredi-fronted material is strongest.”
Pitchfork also gave ‘Is This How You Feel?’ their influential nod, likening Manfredi’s vocals to Canadian songstress Feist, while applauding the production channelling “the 80s’ tightly sequenced, understated, and rhythm-focused pop… that explodes into one of the year’s best choruses.” Pretty Much Amazing (who have a taste for Aussie acts, profiling Pond, Kirin J Callinan, Alpine) are also “really excited” about The Preatures, who “have some serious potential to be one of 2013′s breakout acts.”
While Australian bands finding success abroad isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, there seems to be a current seachange in which it is the strength and quality of the artist’s musical output that is doing more to propel a band to the international stage as it is the slightly outdated models of marketing machines and record labels throwing their weight about.
In short, Australian bands are killing it; something which AIR General Manager Nick O’Byrne wholeheartedly agrees with.
“There’s a lot of awesome Australian artists at the moment, but that’s always been the case,” says the AIR boss and BIGSOUND rep. “I think the biggest change that I’ve observed is that Australian artists, labels and their management have more confidence and support to be ambitious when taking their music overseas.”
O’Byrne also notes that domestic music initiative Sounds Australia are doing immeasurable good in helping fly the flag for Australian music, calling them “the most competent, well connected, hard working and friendly trade support body in the worldwide music industry. The result is that US, UK and European music businesses are looking to Australia as a great A&R source and also with the confidence that if they start a business relationship with Australians, we’ll be able to deliver.”