Sounds like Brisbane

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By Alley Crooks

Brisbane Sounds 2009 is set to rock on Saturday, May 23 at The Zoo, when six Brisbane bands will join together to raise money and awareness for a non-profit project which is designed to actively provide exposure and support for Brisbane bands at an international level.

I spoke to Brisbane Sounds organiser, Blair Hughes, to get a preview to this year’s event and some insight into the project itself!

Why Brisbane Sounds?  What made you wake up one day and decide that you had to go about this massive project?

It was towards the end of 2006, I had just completed 5 years at University studying a dual degree in Behavioral Studies and Education (Middle Years of Schooling) and as I knew I was heading overseas to take up a primary school teaching role in England, I thought I should try to do something for the local scene. Basically at this stage in 2006, I was just a regular punter who had a dream of getting involved in the music scene somehow. I had spent many a night out at gigs in the Valley throughout uni and when I spoke to a few musicians such as Phil from Intercooler and told him about the idea for a compilation, he thought it was great, but it had to be good, it had to be professional!

But in 2007 the initial run of samplers was anything but professional, they were unmastered blank discs with word art which I distributed to radio station and bands at gigs in the UK. I was able to meet bands like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Tegan and Sara and they really responded well to the project and the CD. When I met Tegan at a gig in London in 2007, she actually loved the fact that Iron On were on the first CD too. The first project had a lot of heart and soul, but it was far from professional. I was determined in 2008 to make a more polished effort!

It then came time to head home for summer in 2007 and about a week before I was to leave, I emailed the Zoo nightclub about any possible work and I got a reply the next day to come in the day I got back from the UK. I then started working at the Zoo in September 2007 and have been there since. My fellow Zooies and boss, Joc Curran have been instrumental in helping me develop and grow the Brisbane Sounds project by providing feedback and introducing me to excellent contacts in the music industry.

In early 2008 I decided to run a gig at the Zoo with all the profits going into the production of Brisbane Sounds 2008. I was committed to improving on the previous year’s CD sampler and as a result of the gig, we raised enough money to fund the mastering, production, artwork and distribution of the CD, which I then took back to the UK, where I was based throughout most of 2008. The gig was a major success last year, bringing in close to 400 people to watch Sixfthick and six other bands rock the Zoo.

Brisbane Sounds 2008 enjoyed a lot of success in the UK and Europe. It was featured on radio stations in London, Leeds, Nottingham, Norwich, Cambridge and Birmingham. It was featured in a few news articles such as Scotcampus in Glasgow. I toured around with Texas Tea in Germany and Holland, where people responded well to the cd’s not to mention Texas Tea. I also toured alongside Regurgitator in Glasgow and London. Both bands were featured on the 2008 sampler, so it was great that they had the opportunity to tour overseas while they were also on the CD. A major success of last year’s project was finding out that the Boat People had secured a US publishing deal as a result of a publishing rep picking up a copy of the sampler at the Great Escape festival in Brighton.

Throughout my second spell in the UK and when I came home in December 2008, I knew that I wanted to continue developing and improving the project and overall build upon the success and start making further goals for the future.

What can we expect from Brisbane Sounds this year?

The Brisbane Sounds 2009 gig at the Zoo has something for everyone. Apart from featuring five local bands from diverse genres such as punk to rock to swamp rock in Vegas Kings, Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side, the Mercy Beat, New Jack Rubys and Blackwater Fever, local stalwarts Screamfeeder are playing as well.

During each of the sets, Brisbane music from past to present will be featured, as well as regular spins of the Brisbane Sounds 2009 CD. Punters can expect the Brisbane music between sets to feature tracks from bands like the Ups and Downs, Powderfinger, The Saints, Custard, Toothfairies, The Fun Things, Gota Cola and the Go Betweens.

The Brisbane Sounds 2009 CD will be available to purchase on the night too, for just $10, which is an absolute bargain for 22 tracks from the Brisbane music scene. One feature of the project which we are keeping with each year, is the idea of having each band that performs, to also play one cover song of another Brisbane band of their choice from any period throughout Brisbane’s musical history. For instance, The Young liberals played a stellar set at Brisbane Sounds 2008, but also performed a cover of ‘Lipstick’ by current Hoodoo Guroo Brad Shepherds’ old Brisbane band, The Fun Things.

There will also be a photographic display of the Brisbane music scene adorning the Zoo walls, with prints available to purchase. There will be raffles throughout the night with punters able to score free gig tickets and CD packs. The gig is primarily about raising awareness and funds for the Brisbane Sounds 2009 sampler, but at the same time it is about celebrating the Brisbane music scene and getting more people into local music.

As for the CD, Brisbane Sounds 2009 features 22 tracks from Brisbane bands such as An Horse, DZ, Texas Tea, Mary Trembles and Ball Park Music. However it also features I Heart Hiroshima’s cover of Pink Frost by the Chills and a live track by Vegas Kings. It’s a Brisbane music CD sampler that packs a lot of punches, however at the same time, there were so many bands that were short listed for the 2009 CD, but just could not be added due to the actual length of the CD.  While there are 22 Brisbane bands featured on the CD it is important to note that the project will always support any Brisbane band, either through our website or when passing on CD’s to music industry rep’s. An example of this was last year when I was in Brighton for the Great Escape festival and was asked by a rep from Sony Germany what other bands were similar to the Boat People. I was able to talk about bands like the John Steel Singers, who were not featured on the 2008 sampler, but who were really going places in Brisbane and overseas!

A highlight of the project is that in three years, through three samplers the project has been able to showcase 50 diverse Brisbane bands such as The Gin Club, The Boat People, Andrew Morris, I Heart Hiroshima and Butcher Birds.

You’ve experienced the music scene in the UK, how do you think Brisbane bands fair overseas?

I believe that it is a very exciting time for Brisbane bands at the moment. In the past couple of years bands like the Grates have made a huge impact in the UK. It has been outstanding to see bands like An Horse appear on Letterman and other exciting things happen such as The Boat People, Yves Klein Blue, I Heart Hiroshima and The John Steel Singers being added to festivals and showcases like the Great Escape in Brighton, England. This particular festival also doubles as a conference and is basically the European version of the USA’s SXSW. The Gin Club and Texas Tea are also showcasing their music in Europe this year, with the latter band being added to the lineup of some French folk music festivals.

How did the UK respond to previous Brisbane Sounds?

Brisbane Sounds 2008 enjoyed a lot of success in the UK and Europe. It was featured on radio stations in London, Leeds, Nottingham, Norwich, Cambridge and Birmingham. It was featured in a few news articles such as Scotcampus in Glasgow. I toured around with Texas Tea in Germany and Holland, where people responded well to the cd’s not to mention Texas Tea. I also toured alongside Regurgitator in Glasgow and London. Both bands were featured on the 2008 sampler, so it was great that they had the opportunity to tour overseas while they were also on the CD. A major success of last year’s project was finding out that the Boat People had secured a US publishing deal as a result of a publishing rep picking up a copy of the sampler at the Great Escape festival in Brighton.

I also made an active effort to secure a role within a music venue when I lived in London and was successful in securing a job at the renowned Hammersmith Apollo. It was here where I was able to get copies out to major international acts such as the Sex Pistols, Motorhead, Emmy Lou Harris, The Temptations, the Scorpions as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It was certainly a thrill to be able to work in a London music venue and it was here that I was able to meet some influential people in the northern hemisphere music industry.

How has the Brisbane music scene reacted to the project?

It’s not so much the scene, but the people in the background who have donated their experience and time to help the project grow. The bands are fully behind the project and without the help of people like Tim Steward, Bryce Moorhead, Joc Curran, Paul Curtis and Simon Homer; I don’t believe that the project would be at the professional standard that it is now without the assistance of those key individuals. Those people know the scene and have been nothing short of insightful and helpful in providing their services and experience. Everyone from street press, local radio and print media has responded really well to the project. The local press has been fantastic in getting behind the project and it’s great to see that they have the same passion and enthusiasm for local music as we do at Brisbane Sounds.

You said that you want to encourage people from the UK and Europe to visit Brisbane and experience the scene over here, what would you say they can expect from Brisbane bands?

I think that people visiting Brisbane can expect diversity and quality from bands in the Brisbane music scene. Brisbane bands have a high degree of quality about them and there are certainly very strong areas of music at the moment which are going very well such as the Alt-County movement with bands like the Gin Club and Texas Tea as well as the indie sounds of bands like DZ, Skinny Jean and Yves Klein Blue.

What are your plans for Brisbane Sounds in the future?

I’m heading back to the UK and Europe in 2009 for a promotional press tour as well as getting the CD out to music conferences such as Musexpo and the Great Escape Festival in England and Popkomm in Berlin. In October 2009, the project will start taking submissions for Brisbane Sounds 2010.

While the project will continue to develop professionally, a serious goal of the Brisbane Sounds project in the future will be to stay abreast with new technology by looking at ways in which we can tap into the different ways in which people communicate with music. For instance, the project will look at the idea of using new technology formats including DDA and Bandtag, which are two new and exciting approaches to the way that the project can reach music fans around the world and spread the sounds of the River city!

To find out more visit www.brisbanesounds.com.

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