Music Tips and Australian artists leading the way in iso (isolation for us Brits)
BBC 6 Music freelance producer and music journalist Louise Mason spent time living in Melbourne and has brought her musical discoveries back to Manchester, where she presents a monthly show on Reform Radio called ‘The Flip Side’. Here, she shares some more of her favourite discoveries and what they are doing in lockdown.
It’s a strange old time right now. Thank goodness the sun is shining for us! I may be speaking too soon and you can chastise me for jinking it later, but I actually can’t remember the last time we had bad weather. It reminds me of living in Melbourne, not as hot of course, but getting up every day for what seems like months now to sun streaming through the window is a blessing amongst the madness (maybe it’s just weeks, I’ve lost track of what day it is)! After being in Melbourne for about a week in the middle of their summer, I remember someone saying to me “you’ll get over it you know, it takes a while but one day you’ll realise you don’t need to rush outside because this isn’t the only good day of summer we will have”. For us Brits, it is ingrained in us to make the most of good weather because you never know when it could change again. Right now of course that can only mean sitting in the garden or a daily dose of sun kissed exercise.
At least we can rely on music. The gift that keeps on giving and getting many people through the day just now. Funny how music has the power to transport you straight back to a place. After the rollercoaster ride that was getting to Australia, one of the first things I did was approach the community station Triple R as an interested broadcaster and applied for a volunteer role at PBS fm assisting with their social media. I was stunned to hear back so quickly! I was booked in for some studio training a few weeks later at Triple R with a view to presenting on the ‘graveyard shift’ 2-6am, and did a trial day with PBS before being signed up. They wouldn’t have known, but at the time it was a lifeline. Being on the other side of the world in a new place, trying to get work having just had months of recovering from an operation, I was not in the best place mentally. Every day in my head I was halfway to the airport, “this isn’t going to work”. Volunteering at PBS and immersing myself in music again was the first bit of stability I had, even if I did still wonder if this had all been a big mistake. Once a week, I caught the 246 bus up Punt Rd; it got me out of my head (not an easy task at the time I tell ya) and applying for work, instead allowing me to get an insight into their world and discover some new music. Rooms with floor to ceiling shelves of cds, walls covered in posters of bygone station campaigns. It was a lesson in Melbourne music and community.
Tasked with promoting ‘PBS presents’ events or feature albums on social media, I found out about all sorts – the goings on, venues and artists. One of the albums of the week when I was there was by a local punk band called Camp Cope, aptly called ‘How to Socialise and Make Friends’. It was on repeat everywhere and the band made the news calling out an Australian festival for the lack of females on its line-ups (sadly feels like old news these days). When I had my first graveyard shift confirmed on Triple R I was so excited and spent ages carefully selecting the music for the 4 hour show. I’d never presented a live radio show before and didn’t voluntarily stay up all night anymore (yes, a grandma), so I was apprehensive to say the least. I stocked up on red bull, hit play on the spooky “graveyard theme” tune that sounded like you were about to enter a ghost house or the set of Thriller and opened the mic. My first track was Primal Scream. I wanted to get the Australian’s on board so a familiar classic felt best and the words “we’re gonna have a good time, we’re gonna have a party” was exactly what I was going for. Inspired by Camp Cope, I decided to break up the show by doing 2 hours dedicated to new female led music starting with them, of course, and talking about the issues they raised. Fast forward almost 2 years and I found myself on 6 music reporting on exactly the same issues after festival announcements made news again, for the wrong reasons. I wonder how long we will continue to have to spin that record each year?! That first four hour show flew by and I loved every minute! Thankfully they liked it too and I was asked back, each time with the sole intention of sharing music and having a good time, which I doubt will ever get old.
Just now the idea of a festival of any kind seems like a very distant dream, which is why so many artists are going online. This time, I thought I’d share some artists who are not only favourites but have also shared some entertaining things from iso, as the Ozzies would say. And, with the above in mind, they’re all ladies…
Amyl and the Sniffers
I bloody love this band. You may have seen them on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ last year with lead singer Amy wearing boots she’d made out of gaffa tape whilst ferociously performing their single ‘Monsoon Rock’. Brilliant. You’ve got to love their confidence and punk spirit. I’d thoroughly recommend putting on ‘I’m Not A Loser’ and singing along, “I just wanna get pissed here in my kitchen, I’m not a loser, no!” We can be firmly in the knowledge that everyone else is doing the same thing at the moment anyway. With so many people jumping on the insta live bandwagon it is difficult to know where to start if you’re looking for music entertainment. For a smile, look up the band’s rendition of Peaches’ ‘F*** The Pain Away’ on their instagram, recorded in their backyard featuring a pan. They’ve set the bar high! And if that’s not enough they’ve done a cooking video for a ‘Crapple Pie’ – like apple pie but with crap from your kitchen. You know you want it.
If grunge pop is your thing and you like 90’s film soundtracks, think ‘10 things I hate about you’ then Ali Barter should be on your playlist if she isn’t already. With my favourite album title of 2019 “Hello, I’m Doing My Best” (want on a t-shirt ASAP, perfect for these times) and songs like “You’re a piece of shit”, I think it’s fair to say Ali is honest and funny too. She tackles everything from eating disorders, sobriety, relationships and everything in between. She has toured with Vance Joy, Cloud Control, The Rubens and The War on Drugs to name a few. Her and her boyfriend Oscar Dawson wrote a song in 24 hours in isolation called ‘Four Days’ (can you guess how long into lockdown they were?) It was part of a challenge to raise money for charity with all proceeds going to Support Acts Covid-19 fund. Not content with writing songs, Ali has also been holding open mic nights, using her platform of over 20k followers to champion unknown artists who applied to take part. She is also going on tour! Around her house. Bedroom, Study, Pantry, Hallway, Kitchen – 10 rooms, 10 songs, 10 nights (9am UK time until 2nd May on Instagram).
Egyptian / Australian rapper, spoken word artist and singer Nardean blends all of her talents with ease creating beautiful immersive and fun music. She has released two tracks in the last month with her second EP ‘The New Era’ coming out on Friday, 1st May. Spending lots of time at home, some people completely on their own, her single ‘Weightless’ feels really appropriate singing “that’s all I can do, I focus on me and send love to you”. It’s about the difference between ‘light vs. dark’ and ‘light vs. heavy.’ Nardean has said she “thinks that somewhere along the way we got it wrong. We keep searching for the ‘light’, instead of focusing on feeling light (not heavy) within ourselves.” Right now, it feels like we are being forced to do that, focus on finding joy in the small things. Nardean is also using isolation to host an instagram live interview series about how to get started in music called ‘Origin Story’ with some of the best people she knows in music.
Sampa The Great
The Australian based, Zambian born, Botswana raised rapper garnered a huge amount of attention internationally last year with the release of her album ‘The Return’. For me it was my album of the year. Like any music, we all relate in our own unique way, but the messages about finding home and being displaced are really interesting, which so many people connect with. The joy that shines out from the record is infectious. Powerful, inspiring and ridiculously talented. I got to see Sampa at Yes in Manchester in the pink room which was such a treat and a fond memory now thinking of all those people celebrating her music together with her gospel like band. And now, there is a short film! Sampa said “since we’re homebound I’ve been thinking of my home a lot! Last year home wasn’t a constant for me with the making of the album and everything to do with it. Luckily we managed to capture the journey and made it into a short film! We’ve decided to release it and show you the process behind the album, as well as the people in it and my home.” It is directed by Sanjay De Silva who directs Sampa’s music videos. I also interviewed Sampa last year which you can check out via my show link below.
Ok she’s from New Zealand but she lives in Australia (I believe) and sometimes the UK. Neo-soul singer Wallace first captured my attention with her single ‘Pantone Home’ and not just because I like pantone. Her voice is divine! She’s toured with Winston Surfshirt, Jordan Rakei, Ngaiire, Little Simz and more. There’s an album on the way which I can’t wait for. As well as working on the album no doubt, during lockdown she has started a pasta business delivering fresh pasta to the people of London (@midnightpastaldn) and has uploaded a couple of videos to her instagram page including a stunning cover of ‘Around’ by Nagaiire. This is her latest feel good single ‘Good As Gold’.
I have interviewed Ali Barter and Sampa The Great on my show ‘The Flip Side’ which celebrates new alternative music from around the world with a soft spot for Australia. If you would like to hear the interviews or discover more music you can listen to episodes on Reform Radio here.
You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter @louisermason.