On A New Banjo EP

I’m releasing an EP on Friday!

It’s with the Backyard Banjo Club, a collaborative project that I started a couple of years ago with my friend Phoebe. We’ve been friends for over ten years, met at uni, and played in a bunch of bands together before she moved overseas.  

She came back around the start of COVID, which just happened to be when I bought a second-hand banjo from Cash Converters.  I had big dreams of learning clawhammer, but I found the banjo much more intuitive played as a chunk chunk trad jazz thing. Phoebe’s a great violin player, and an awesome singer, so we connected mainly so I could practice my jazz chops. As most often happens with projects I’m involved with, it moved from being a covers thing to an original thing, and here we are three years later.  

We filled the band out with sax and bass so that we could stretch the songs out a little, added my friend Pan on accordion to give us some mid-range richness. One cool thing about banjo is it doesn’t take up much frequency range. It sits neatly in the top end, functioning more as a rhythmic instrument than anything, at least in the way I play it, which ties into my drum background. For the first couple of years I shied away from soloing, so it made sense to have other people in the band to fill that role.  

We wrote most of the songs on the EP as a duo, brought them to the band to flesh them out, then started recording back in November 2023.

That was a week before I fell off my bike and broke my finger, which meant a solid four months off playing banjo. When I started playing again in late February it was super painful. The first joint in my finger stiffened up, the tendon still doesn’t do quite what I want it to do and the flesh on the end of my finger is quite thin. Playing guitar is still not really an option, but I can scrape by on the banjo because the neck is thinner and there’s less notes to play.

I bought a new banjo in March, partly as inspiration to get back into practice, but also because the $200 Cash Converters special was an absolute piece of shite that wouldn’t stay in tune and had developed an annoying buzz on the tenth fret. The new banjo is a stunning 1980s Richelieu Golden Eagle, brought over from Chicago by a guy in the early 1990s. It weighs a ton and gives me pretty hectic shoulder pain but its a delight to play and sounds… like a banjo.

We finished the EP in little stints over April, all recorded in my little home studio in Preston where I’m spending more and more of my free time. It was a fun, low pressure recording, just friends making music together. I’ve been loving recording at home because its so flexible and there’s always a cup of tea a couple of meters away. It does mean I have a tendency to mix records at three am on the nights I can’t sleep, but thats productivity in the age of electricity.

We were tossing up whether to get physical CDs done, particularly post-COVID when the world is shifting more towards online, but there’s a couple of little festivals in the works for summer, so we decided it was worth it. Pan put together some super cute artwork, and we’ve got a limited run of 50 CDs available, with the hope that we’ll sell them out quickly and put the money into the next thing.  

I’ve already started writing some new music, so excited to see where it goes. If you’re interested in see the current iteration, come along to the launch on Friday, 9 pm at The Lomond Hotel. Tickets are $10 on the door, we sound a bit like this:

Leave a Reply