Fun Machine: Tipping Folk On Its Glittery Head, 2013

Fun Machine at Canberra Centenary Celebrations. Photo courtesy of Martin Ollman.
Fun Machine at Canberra Centenary Celebrations. Photo courtesy of Martin Ollman.

You don’t have to go back too far ago to a time when Fun Machine were an energetic three-piece band making underground waves in Canberra’s lively, teeming independent music scene.

But in a couple of short years (as opposed to the long ones which sadly died out in the late 1800s), Fun Machine’s star has been rising, thanks in no small part to some solid support from the Canberra Musicians Club.

And the amazing advocacy provided by 666ABC (AM Radio) Canberra for all things Canberra indie, but specifically Fun Machine. I may be wrong, but I believe that breakfast announcer Ross Solly may want to adopt them all, which is no mean feat as over this time, the band has doubled in size.

At Canberra’s ‘One Very Big Day’ this week to celebrate the city’s centenary, Fun Machine played to a heaving, sweaty mess of young and old beautiful people, as the last of the fireworks fell away (some into the crowd, allegedly!) as they put a fairly massive stamp on their cross-genre and cross-market universal appeal.

See a full photo set by photographer Bron King (aka guitarist Sam’s mum) here on Facebook:

Gigging around Canberra in various formats and bands, the members will rejoin as Fun Machine at this year’s National Folk Festival at EPIC in Canberra over the Easter Long Weekend.

If I were you, I’d… wonder whether those red pumps go with that skirt.

No, if I were giving you a serving suggestion for your Nash experience, I’d be taking a very brightly-coloured Spandex highlighter and putting a golden ring around Fun Machine in your programs.

On Tuesday last, as Canberra celebrated 100 years young with a mass of parties at the shops, I caught up with Bec Taylor and Chris Endrey from the band. Bec starts us off and that would be Chris you can hear crunching his way through the first of Canberra’s autumn leaves as we stood in salubrious surroundings outside the gents at O’Connor Shops. Bec and Chris had just done a stripped-back, rootsy, acoustic set under their duo moniker ‘Yes/No’.

*** Audio file will be removed by end February 2020. ***

Image by Knight Photography

BQ: I’m at O’Connor Shops, it’s Canberra’s Birthday – 100 years of Canberra. I’m standing here with someone who’s just performed. Now, in the world of folk, we love it when young people take traditional instruments, and write songs in traditional formats that are hundreds of years old…

And then we’ve got Fun Machine – who take a rather different approach. Bec Taylor, hello.

Bec Taylor: Hello! How are you going?

BQ: Very good. Now, I grew up in the era of glam rock. Did that period influence Fun Machine and how you arrived at your presence?

BT: I actually think that glam rock hasn’t influenced us.

Our philosophies for our performances come from how we think about pop and rock music, and trying to do something unique in that sphere that’s not really self-conscious of itself. So people have described us as ‘anti-cool’, that we’re trying really hard not to be cool.

BQ: That’s interesting.

BT: Which is an interesting way to think of us, because we dress up and are really flamboyant and sparkly, and it’s kind of the opposite of what a lot of bands are doing.

BQ: I saw you guys perform at the ANU Bar, and [given the tightness of the outfits], Chris and Ramsey I could not only work out their gender but also have a guess at your religion. It’s a look, isn’t it?

Chris Endrey (joining us mid-sentence): Yes, it’s definitely sexually threatening. That’s what you’re asking?

Bands when they play, and put on their flannies and tight jeans as though they’re not wearing a uniform. It’s a conscious decision, and we’re being a bit more active in ours. We’re there to abandon all the bullshit pressures to be something else. To say no to fear and just enjoy ourselves.

Image courtesy of Fun Machine

BQ: Moving from the style to the substance, there is a lot of substance in the music, like ‘Alchemist’ – the single that came out before the album – that’s just an amazing song.

BT: Aw, thanks. The song was penned by Chris here. It has quite an uplifting message.

We worked a lot with our new producer Sam King on that song, and he’s producing our album which we’re finishing tomorrow.

And we just had a lot of fun writing all the stuff for it. And I feel it’s a positive message, and we try to have positive role models in our band, and try to be a positive group of people. We’re not yelling negative things or anything; we try to be a positive band for people, and I think that song embodies that. It’s about being glittery and gold, having no reservations and having fun.

BQ: Speaking of the band, last time I saw you perform it was a trio. Last night, did you have room on the stage for everybody?

CE: Yeah, well we hope that by growing in size, we’re growing in quality. We’ve doubled in size to six. We have two drummers, which is just the best thing in the world to have in a band. It gives us the versatility to do more stupid things on stage; we can dance around and not having to worry about nailing all of the lines all of the time because we’re free.

Initially with the band all bands, I’m hesitant to have more people in a band, more than you need, because normally you see bands have like five people, and you see three people on guitar just looking at their guitars and not performing or anything. We had an apprenticeship by fire of three of us having more instruments than we could physically play at once, so now we’re definitely ready to put on a show with more people.

BQ: With extra instrumentation comes an extra bit of diversity, you’ve got Emma [Kelly] up there with the fiddle, so it gives it an extra dimension, doesn’t it?

BT: Yeah, it’s great having a violinist who plays an amazing diversity of styles. So she’s not playing folk violin, she’s not playing rock, she’s playing what suits us. And we’ve got Sam [King] playing guitar and singing – he’s a really great character to have in the band, not only for performance, but for adding different textures because he’s such a creative guy.

Then we’ve got Nick [Peddle], who not only plays the drum immaculately but is also an incredible performer on stage. So I feel like we couldn’t have gotten three better musicians. It pushes us to really be better musicians, and to try harder in our performance. It’s really fun.

Image courtesy of Fun Machine

BQ: For a bit of contrast this afternoon, we’ve seen you as ‘Yes/No’ which is more of a stripped-back, rootsy arrangement.

CE: This started when our original third member moved to Germany for a while. We got bored and wanted to play a lot of gigs. We started experimenting with just the two of us, not thinking too much about shows before going into them.

So today out in the beautiful sunshine in the park, we play nice folky, acoustic songs, but when we play the Phoenix at 10pm, we’re a very loud punk band! So the variety keeps it fun for us as well.

BQ: Do we expect to see both at the National Folk Festival?

BT: Only Fun Machine.

CE: Of Fun Machine, all of the band will be playing in other shows at the festival. We’ve got band members in Folk [inaudible], Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens, The Ellis Collective, Hashemoto.

BT: Sam is playing solo – his brand new debut solo acoustic set: Sam King at the festival, so be sure to catch that.

BQ: Is he singing as well?

BT: Singing his folk songs with a choir and some drummers.

BQ: Wow! And you guys are playing across the weekend?

BT: Yes, we’re playing on the first night, second night, third, fourth, and fifth.

BQ: Great. Bec, Chris, thanks for joining us.

BT/CE: Thanks.

Image courtesy of Fun Machine

Fun Machine on Triple J Unearthed:

*** Audio file will be removed by end February 2020. ***

Times for Fun Machine at the National Folk Festival:

Thursday 28 March 2013, 11pm — Scrumpy
Friday 29 March 2013, 11pm — Majestic
Saturday 30 March 2013, midnight — Majestic
Sunday 31 March 2013, 3pm — Majestic
Monday 1 April 2013, 5pm — Majestic

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