On Mum

If I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Dad, I need to dedicate equal thought to Mum and the impact she’s had on my life. There is no Dad without Mum. There is no me without Dad and Mum. This is the yin and yang, the cosmic duality that created me and I can’t fathom seeing either of them without the other.

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On Dad

Last week was Dad’s birthday. It neatly lines up with Father’s Day (Australian) every year, landing in the same week. I feel like my Dad has always been the same age. Always slightly bald, tufts of white hair and a white beard, a little Bernie Sanders-esque. Always present, the person in the other room tapping away at his laptop, piles of papers strewn across the desk.

He’s been the constant presence in my life since birth. Crazy to imagine it. The three people who have been with me the longest still exist, still maintain spaces in this physical world. We swell from a cell into a conglomerate of matter, sucking parts of the universe into our own being for such an insignificant amount of time, days or months or years and then the time ends and we slowly expel all of these atoms back out into the universe.

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On Belonging

I’ve spent the last week watching Wild Wild Country, the Netflix documentary about Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I got there via a fairly odd route, hearing this song from one of my favourite artists Sufjan Stevens. A little digging into the lyrics reveals line such as:

I’m on a path of love, I’m on a parrot
Possess me with prayer on the bluff
I’m on a task for God
Entheogen, you lift me within Upanishad

Pretty par for the course when you consider Sufjan’s back catalogue, but intriguing enough that I felt I should dig a little deeper. Googling Rajneesh brought me to Wikipedia and then on to Wild Wild Country, although I’m still not entirely sure what the connection is and why Sufjan is borrowing imagery from a 1980s Indian guru to spur his 2020 pop music. Anything can be a jumping off point for creativity I guess.

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On the Disposable Nature of Music

I’ve talked before about how I read voraciously, deep-diving into all-consuming worlds that supplant my reality for days and weeks and months at a time.

As a child I spent most of the years between eight and fourteen in bed, books wedged against pillows to hold them in a comfortable reading position. My parents supported my reading addiction by carting around boxes and boxes of books from house to house, country to country, every time we moved. Each summer I’d read through everything on my shelves, then immediately read through them again. I’d borrow a book from a friend and read through it that night, then call them the next day asking for something new. On camping trips our family would cart around bags of books, mainly for me and Mum and Dad. My brother would be out fishing. So from an early age reading has been an addiction of sorts, and I know that when I start a good book, everything else in my life will suffer until its finished. That’s how I read all seven Harry Potter books in one seven day spell, shuffling around various positions in a one bedroom apartment to find comfort. This is not meant as a point of bravado but merely a demonstration of how poor my ability is to multi-task when I have a book in hand.

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On Waking

I remember waking. Fresh faced from a solid slumber, kick up up up to free my legs from the blanket, roll off the top bunk with a bang that reverberates through the floor boards and stirs my bunkmate down below.

Morning time. I’m good in the morning, if I choose to be. I’m simultaneously a morning person and an evening person, or I possibly just lack self-awareness, for I know when the tiredness hits of an evening I tend to doze off wherever I am: living room couch, kitchen table, in the car at the traffic lights. It’s a switch, instantaneous grogginess and a stumble to bed to catch the sleep wave. I also know that I’m grumpy in the morning, for the fifteen groggy minutes between rolling out of bed and leaving the house, and then with a click I revert to my normal staid self. So maybe I’m neither a morning or an evening person. Maybe I’m just a person in these hours between when my eyes open and close, and something else entirely in those other hours.

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On The Hopeful Clutter (Lyrics)

For posterity’s sake I figured it’s worth including the lyrics to this year’s EP The Hopeful Clutter as a blog post. Not because anyone seems particularly interested, but just cause.

If you’re interested in listening along, you can stream it here (I still have at least 50 physical CDs, so if you want to support me you can buy a copy too! No pressure).

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On My Favourite Time of Year

It’s my favourite time of year. The time when all the local households take things they no longer need and put them out on the street. It’s a strange aspect of Australia culture, officially known as ‘hard rubbish’, but every council area I’ve lived in for the last twelve years has embraced it wholeheartedly. My current council is Darebin, and my current house is in a steadfastly upper middle class area, so the quality of the goods people discard is second to none.

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On Mess

The backyard is a mess, all pot plants lined up in rows with good intentions, lovingly planted and then abandoned at the first sight of some other distraction. I garden like I do everything else in life: in short sprints, tackled over a week of high motivation and high spirits. Then a day off in bed, or a day where someone asks me to do something else and every project is abandoned to wilt and wither on its own. I have a period where I’m remarkably good at growing mint. I know, it’s a weed that will literally grow anywhere and take over any garden, but I check it obsessively everyday, noting its growth and the little spidery leaf patterns feathering out across the clay pot I found in hard rubbish last year. Then I forget about the mint too and the next time I glance at it as I shuffle past, it has been devoured by a family of snails that hug plumply to the inside rim of the pot, sleeping throughout the day and sliding in ecstasy upon my minty leaves at night. I prise each snail off the pot individually with a slight sucking sound and throw them over the neighbour’s fence.

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On The Hopeful Clutter

I’ve got to get something off my chest. It’s something that I’ve felt weird about for almost a month now, but somehow in this current phase of life I’ve been filling my days with busy work (ie practicing drums) and I’ve put off writing for the last couple of weeks. Writing is generally where I do my sharpest thinking, so I’ve been avoiding this weird feeling by not acknowledging it.

The truth is, I have an album I was going to release. I was going to release it next week, with a full band show at the Merri Creek Tavern in Melbourne. I had dates lined up in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide. I released the first single Lucy back in late Feb, to a small amount of online attention, and then, to be brutally honest, I lost heart.

This is an album I started recording in April 2019. Literally a year ago today. I pieced it together with a collection of friends over two days of recording. I spent the next nine months recording and re-recording vocals in my shed. I finally pulled out the stops and got it mixed and mastered in January. I got my dear friend Nick Pensa to create some stunning artwork, and here’s the kicker… I got 100 physical CDs printed.

They arrived at my house in mid-Feb. I sold three of them to random people at gigs (if you’re one of those people and you’re reading this, then bloody good on ya, holding a weird piece of history right there). And now I’ve got a box of CDs sitting on my bedroom floor. They’ve sat there since the day they were made.

I had grand plans to do a physical release. Then I had grand plans to do an online release. Then I slowly lost all my plans and stopped thinking about that band and those songs and these social media pages. Instead I retreated to my backyard shed and started practicing drums obsessively. But here’s the problem. I’m a totally project-oriented person. I love to have a three month plan, where I can physically tick off the to-do list and claim ‘YES. I’VE DONE IT. THAT’S OVER.’ Then I start thinking about the next project.

But this album that I spent a year recording, the songs that came out of a couple of years of being a human represents a project that’s not complete. And even though I genuinely thought about putting the box of CDs into the wheelie bin out the front of our house on a Sunday evening (hello bin night), I think it’s important that I see this project through.

Even more important is that I see it through with the original intention of the project. I hilariously called the album ‘The Hopeful Clutter’, and I guess I’m hoping it’s relevant in a world where live music is dead and buried, and our sense of community is tied into computer screens and online streams.

So here’s the deal. I want people to have the physical version of The Hopeful Clutter. There’s exactly 95 copies (well 97, but I’m keeping two for myself). I’m not putting it on any of the streaming websites. I’m not putting it on iTunes. I’m just putting it on Bandcamp, and you can ‘pay what you feel’. I know that 90% of my friends have lost work, I know the arts community has been decimated, I know some of my dearest friends are having trouble putting food on the table hence it feels little greedy to be taking money from an ever shrinking audience pot when I’ve still got a couple of days of teaching to keep me alive during these times. All I’m asking is you cover the physical postage costs. If you choose to throw in some more money then bless your little heart. I’ll put a little surprise in every package, although I’m not sure what that’s going to be yet. Maybe a handwritten version of my lentil Bolognese recipe.

If you read this far then you can order it right here, right now.

I love you all and I miss you seeing you face to face. I hope The Hopeful Clutter that exists in my mind finds a place within yours.

Part two, the artwork:

I want to delve a little into the artwork Nick Pensa made for me, and some hidden little gems that I got him to incorporate in to it.

My pitch to him was a collaged image that evokes the ‘general anxiety on the death of humanity’ (how prescient, this was on January 5th, 2020). Nick came back with three ideas, one of which was a silhouette of my head, stuffed full of random objects. I loved the silhouette because it was so obviously me without being me, so I re-pitched the concept, using that silhouette and a selection of random objects. This was the list: sparrow, couch, bones, bicycle, coffee percolater (one of those Italian ones?), bottle of wine, a small dog, an instrument maybe drum or guitar, a backyard shed, running shoes, a beard.

I also sent him the two pictures below, asking if he could find a way to incorporate these. These two pictures hang on my living room wall and were made by two amazing women. The first one is painting of peonies, made by my Grandma. The second is a landscape by my Mum.

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