It’s no secret that Sydney has copped something of a lashing in recent times. In truth it isn’t quite as alarming as many make out – although when even Vivid events face 9.30pm closures from noise complaints, you know there’s a flaw in the system there. But for every closing Newtown Social Club, there is the resurrection of a Lansdowne Hotel; for every disappearing open mic night, there is a small bar coveting live music. Now that City of Sydney and Vivid have paired up to launch X|Celerate – a showcase to promote local artists amidst the dazzling brouhaha of coloured lights and international guests – many of the artists who have experienced this changing music landscape are about to find themselves with a whole new crowd. We chat with all-girl rockers Body Type and perennial favourite Dustin Tebbutt about their role in the festival, and what the realities are to Sydney’s multifaceted music scene.
“We all work full time, so it’s pretty heckers,” Body Type’s Annabel Blackman cheerfully admits. “We’re constantly communicating, there’s a really hot phone line between us trying to manage everything that’s going on. So we’re busy gals. It’s consuming, but it’s also one of the most interesting things going on, so we’re totally happy to dedicate our time to it. It’s exciting, and we’re kind of getting an idea of what we’re doing for future things in music. It’s all fun, which is why it’s so goddamn easy to do. Just work hard and don’t be jelly.”
Dustin Tebbut seconds the notion. You commit long hours and face tremendous anxieties of whether a career in entertainment is chasing a hollow dream … and yet, many folk out there couldn’t imagine any other life. That old adage springs to mind: the harder you work, the luckier you get.
“I’ve always wanted a similar thing from my career, and that was for it to exist I think,” Tebbut admits. “I never expected to take over the world, or be at the top of the charts, I just wanted to make the music I wanted to make. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to achieve even that, but it’s pretty much an everyday reality. It’s taken a lot of sacrifice and commitment and hours and hours of work, but it’s worth it.
“I think too, there are so many aspects of working in creative industries, that the job is constantly changing, and everyone’s roles and strengths and challenges are totally different as you go along. So, I’d say to people starting out firstly, believe that you can do something. It is possible. Focus on making something you truly care about. Once you find that, just keep honing your skills and never stop learning or working.”
Between Tebbutt and Body Type we find an interesting sweep of music experience, united under the auspices of this year’s Vivid Sydney Festival. Tebbutt has been in this game a while now, having released an EP back in 2014, has found himself on stages like Splendour in the Grass, toured internationally, released an album, and is now supporting Lisa Mitchell. Conversely, Body Type are remarkably fresh; having formed late last year, they have already amassed an incredible following in short order, and have begun to generate a great deal of attention in the local scene. For both artists, these Vivid gigs are set to break them out even further. It’s a strange landscape to find yourself navigating these days.
“At first we felt very isolated, I guess,” Blackman says. “Before we played any shows, we didn’t really know what to expect, so it required a big push to start playing live. And from there would could start to grasp what kind of network exists in the local music scene, and now it’s so solid. It’s so easy to see how it works for us, because you see that there are really strong venues, and people who organise certain events, there’s your friends. It’s a pretty healthy organism in a lot of ways. I don’t think we knew it was going to be like this, though. This has exceeded our expectations by far. We played at Newtown Social Club so many times. I used to love going there to see shows, so playing there was crazy. Even though it’s gone, I’m pretty confident that people will find a way to entertain themselves otherwise.”
With a few more years of experience under his belt, Tebbutt couldn’t agree more; though not without its share of sunsets, the Sydney music scene is an enduring beast.
“Well, I’ve been really lucky so far in the industry I think. I found an incredible team early and have [grown] as an artist at my own pace, which I am eternally grateful for. It can be a hard life for anyone I think, and you’re right, living in Sydney does have its own set of challenges. Hopefully we will see some alternative hubs start popping up further from the centre of the city.
“There have also been so many venues close over the last five years… in part a cultural shift, in part financial perhaps, and in part maybe how certain things have been legislated. The noise restrictions on venues for example kind of take the fun out of some aspects of the scene. On the upside though, there’s an incredibly vibrant and supportive music scene in this city, and so many people are making incredible things.”
We’re working with City of Sydney to tell stories of Sydney’s live music scene. For more information about X|Celerate, the Vivid Music collaboration between Destination NSW and City of Sydney, head to https://www.vividsydney.com/event/music/xcelerate.