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.
Mensch Monique!: Interview at Cobargo Folk Festival
Mensch, Monique! were in Australia earlier this year, playing gigs, house concerts and festivals. I caught up with Jule and Georg at Cobargo Folk Festival to find out how musical and family life had been treating them since the days of The Beez.
We spoke under a blazing sun, with welcome shade from the café marquee, perched
precariously on milk crates, sipping on ginger and lemongrass over cubed
ice (just brilliant on a baking hot day).
Bill Quinn: How long has Mensch, Monique! been going? What are you doing? How is it going?
Jule Schroder: Well, actually, Georg and me, we have been playing since 2007.
BQ: And how about music?
JS: Exactly! Playing music! (And we’ve been playing together longer than that!) But I was in a band called ‘The Beez’; for such a long time.
BQ: The Beez? Can you spell that? I’m not familiar with this band.
JS: Tee Hahr Eeh Bee Double Eeh Zsedh. We were one Australian, one American, and two Germans.
BQ: And one of the Deutshes is now Australierin!
JS: That’s right. Deta got married to Rob a long time ago and now she’s got her spouse visa.
So, anyway, I was playing with The Beez, being busy. And there was just no point [after the birth of first child]. We couldn’t play gigs. Or we could, but it was just too hard.
So when I left The Beez in 2014, we said, “Let’s write some songs together”. And why not in German? And that’s what we did!
And it just takes a long time. You know, we’ve got two kids now. But we do it in our own tempo. Our own speed, you know? And we love it!
BQ: That’s very interesting that you do your songs in German, with English being the lingua franca for the world, the language that the majority of the planet understands. Tell me about when you perform in Germany. Is it 100% in German? Or do you mix it up a bit?
JS: We mix it up, but it’s really interesting because I talk to a lot of musician friends from Germany, and we came to the… schluss? … conclusion that we just HAVE to write songs in German because it’s our language.
It just doesn’t make sense that we only write songs in English, because that’s not our language.
And it’s a bit hard to sing in German, I must say. And what is really interesting for me is, because I write most of the melodies, I don’t think in German when I write the melodies. I can’t do that. It’s really interesting.
Arriving in the Blue Mountains for a few days at short notice, I consulted the font of all knowledge on what was going on in most regions (Facebook Events), and it turned up an exhibition in Katoomba called ‘Witch’ by local artist Nina Lipscombe.
The paranormal, mythological, and mystical aren’t things that normally pique my interest, but increasingly, I’ll have a look at subject matter outside my normal interests. I’m glad I did.
‘Witch’ is an intriguing exploration of themes that may not exactly leap off the promo flyer or internet page. Speaking of our friend social media, a comment on the event page led to an exchange with the artist Nina Lipscombe, and a few days later, we were sitting in the leather-padded comfort of the guest lounge at the Carrington Hotel.
Bill Quinn: Just for my background, can you tell me a bit about how you came to be involved in art.
Nina Lipscombe: It’s an interesting story, because I didn’t do it very much in high school. I was doing theatre and television, but right after high school, I decided to dabble in it.
So I bought a kit from Hobby Lobby! It was Bill Alexander; he was the original happy painter. He’s the one that actually taught Bob Ross, with the happy clouds and the trees and everything else.
I bought this oil painting video, went to my garage, started painting, and I fell in love with it.
From then on, I started to make acrylics, water colours – mostly oils still – and it just kind of evolved from there.
I didn’t really get too involved with the arts scene in Tennessee at the time. But later in 2011, I moved to Argentina, and it kind of thrived from there.
I had exhibitions, I did workshops, I had private classes with really amazing teachers there, and I took off.
BQ: When I think about art around the world, Argentina definitely is on that list. I’m gonna say that the Tennessee art scene is not one that immediately springs to mind. What was that like?
NL: Yeah, you’re right about that! I’m not 100% sure; I never got highly involved with it. They do have some good art galleries, and really good art has come from Memphis. But the art scene there compared to Argentina and compared to here in the Blue Mountains is not quite as big.
Back in early February 2018, I interviewed Jenny Thomas from Melbourne-based folk band Bush Gothic, at a time when both of us were looking forward to attending the National Folk Festival in Canberra at Easter.
One of us got there! It wasn’t me. 😥
It was to have been my first National since 2013, a year when I barely felt like I was there. Some nights I was tucked up in the tent by 10.30pm. It happens some time. But of course, your worst day at a festival beats your best day doing many other things, so…
Events transpired that instead of running around with various recording devices, filing copy for a small coterie of publications, I was roughly 400kms north on Lake Macquarie, providing various gardening and handyman services for a friend.
If you want to give your or any god a good laugh, make some plans!
Back to the subject at hand.
It’s been an absolute delight and pleasure to not only see Jenny Thomas and Jenny M. Thomas and Jenny Thomas and the System and the current incarnation: Bush Gothic perform, but also to interview Jenny several times, both here on the blog and also on community radio.
It’ll be great to see Bush Gothic perform again, down one of many dusty roads, but for now, here’s the interview we did in February. You’ll just have to put your headspace into some sort of cerebral TARDIS and pretend we are looking forward to another five or six days of magic at an upcoming National Folk Festival.
When opportunity and access to the appropriate hardware of the trade allows, it’s great to go on a whim and speak with random bands and artists.
On one memorable occasion, I was connecting with an Icelandic MOR band (Dikta) and within the week their interview with me was on radio in Canberra. That led to some lovely chats with their management in LA as well.
Big Tobacco Company come from Cincinnati, Ohio and their sound has the sort of raw, rough edge that you might expect coming from people who live on the southern edge of the cold and forbidding waters of Lake Erie. Or it would be if I got the name of the city right, because that’s Cleveland that’s on Lake Erie.
Ok, American geography is not a strong suit. I have Google Maps. I’m just guessing that if you’re that far up the country, it’s going to be colder than balls – except for maybe a week or two in July and August.
Minimal research before our interview proved to be a bonus. Some might call this ‘laziness’; the glass half-full version is: ‘living in the moment, all spontaneous and shit’.
No, seriously, it’s been beneficial in the past to not know too much about the interviewee before diving into a stack of questions, guided more by their responses than any predetermined views about the music, the genre, and the band’s ethos.
And so it was with Bobby. Any and all surprised responses are genuine.
Big Tobacco Company have a new self-titled album out now, and you can listen to tracks and buy them individually or en masse via their website.
On a stunning, clear, late summer lunchtime in St Marys in far, far western Sydney, Australia I pulled up a pew in the rugby league club and had a great chat with Bobby.
Blink twice, and in a two shakes of a lamb’s tail, it’ll be time for Blues On Broadbeach, that annual four day free festival of meaty and felafel-y good blues music in the heart of Queensland’s Gold Coast at (wait for it) Broadbeach.
About a dozen years ago or so it seems, Chris Harvey of Blues Arcadia sat down with Bill Quinn of Overheard Productions at Stones Corner Hotel to have a chat about the then way distant festival.
This interview is vividly memorable for several reasons, mostly because it was the day that, after giving Bowen and Ayr and surrounding areas a drenching and blow-wet, Cyclone Debbie finally arrived in Brisbane.
We got our chat in just before the heavens opened.
Herewith our chat.
Please excuse the references to the upcoming Stones Corner Festival. That’s in the rear vision mirror now, and my colleague of sorts Ashley will be presenting her review in an upcoming edition of Trad and Now magazine.
I’d say see you at Blues on Broadbeach, but you’ll just have to have my share of the fun, and flood social media with pictures, videos (if allowed) and reviews.
In a Central Queensland caravan park camp kitchen typing with one finger!
David M McLean is yet another of those prolific musical entities that are the engine room of independent music. You know the sort of person who slogs away in the foreground and background, tirelessly making things happen and ensuring the world is a music-filled and art-filled place to live, breathe, and hear.
A writer, composer, guitarist, producer, teacher, and possibly most front-brain right now, the brains* behind the Lexifest music awards for Lexington, Kentucky.
* Refer to the audio for how the brains and brawn of this event are distributed and attributed.
Late last year, I spoke with David as he sat in his truck with his cell phone somewhere on a cool Lexington KY evening. We spoke so long that my intention was to break the interview into two parts. However, after a series of technical gremlins and many edits later, I’ve whittled this down into the one sound file.
Part of the editing leaves the back end of our chat slamming like a door in a stiff breeze, so apologies for the abruptness.
I’m looking forward to hearing about Lexifest 2017, and here’s hoping the blizzards stay away from town in the run-up this year.