Darwin Muso Series is a string of an indeterminate number of mini to medium to mega interviews with Darwin-based musicians and performing artists. Starting in September 2019, and we’ll see how many we can cover over the next weeks/months/years.
Airlie Beach Festival of Music is held in November, however, in the lead-up, the organisers stage what is arguably* Australia’s biggest battle of the bands competition.
* If you can find a bigger one, I want it stuffed and mounted on display at ARIA or APRA headquarters, please.
Opening the batting for muso chats on the night (and for this series of interviews) was Josh Tarca of Ben Evolent.
(Just a quick Overheard At Passport To Airlie from my notes here. My mate leaned over as the third act came on and said, “I think the announcer said this band is from the Netherlands”.
Me: “No, the band’s name is ‘Ben Evolent’!)
Ben Evolent is the performance name for a solid four piece act serving up a melange of folk, blues, and a splash of alt-counry, with Josh Tarca at the helm, originally from South Australia. Ben Evolent have previously been featured on Triple J’s Unearthed series, and the band quite rightly lays claim to the title ‘award-winning‘.
Unusually, but refreshingly, Josh does not come from a background of doing covers for his ‘rent gigs’.
Bill Quinn: What’s the Ben Evolent story?
Josh Tarca: I started playing by myself and eventually decided to get on stage.
There was a word I came up with which was ‘Berevorent’ in a song – and that wasn’t a word. ‘Benevolent’ was the word I was looking for, so I put a space between the two words and that became ‘Ben Evolent’.
BQ: How long ago was that?
JT: That would have been four or five years ago now.
BQ: And are you a Darwinian?
JT: Born in South Australia. I’ve been up here about six or seven years now. So I’m not a Territorian, but I’m close enough!
BQ: And did you start out doing the rent gigs doing covers or were you straight into original music?
JT: That’s all I have, really: original music. I’m not very good at covers! I have a couple of random covers that I pull out. It’s been a journey playing originals, and you do the pub gigs, and they don’t really know your songs.
Sometimes you get people thinking they [already] know [my] songs, and that’s great. But it’s not the song they’re thinking of!
BQ: How do you go in Darwin getting gigs doing mostly originals?
JT: I guess if you’re prepared to work hard at it, it’s like anything: they’ll give you a go. You put your hand up for any gig, and I’ve played most venues in town, doing the classic ‘Noone listening, playing to the Keno machines and whatever.”
BQ: Looking over your head, watching the footy?
JT: Yeah! These boys [the band] do it a fair bit more than me, but yeah.
I can’t do it as much anymore because of a couple of kids, but they look after you. It’s a great scene up here.
BQ: And how did you get around to Passport to Airlie – Darwin? Is this your first crack at it?
JT: First crack at it. We were away over to Queensland last year, so we missed the chance to do it. [This year] it fits in perfectly as it’s the last gig potentially for a while before we go on a bit of a hiatus with the second baby.
So it’s a great opportunity if we get it.
BQ: Are you going to stick around in Darwin? Do you think you can do that, musically?
JT: It is hard. It’s great to play Darwin, but it is hard to get into festivals elsewhere because of the sheer cost of getting yourself or a band over to the east coast.
We’re just about to release an album; the first single’s out – ‘Shiver’, one of the songs we played. And yeah, I guess if I can apply for another grant to get out and get touring then that’d be the go.
But it’s a tough game.
BQ: And how much are you hanging your hopes on tonight?
JT: It’d be nice. Look, everyone’s up there having a go; that’s the main thing. I support music always, all the way around.
Ben Evolent is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BenEvolentNT/