Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Redwoods Christmas Special

So I was going to do this post about All Of The Strands and some amazing work the Alopecia Aerata foundation was doing along with their super rad Christmas Cards. But then I realised that you couldn’t buy their Christmas cards in time anyway now because I forgot to post this sooner. So, an update on that and a rad interview with Chel, the amazing and inimitable champion who heads it up, will be coming once we have guitar recorded and a proper update on the release of the song. Expect it in January. Honestly, this time. Probably.

For those of you wondering where it’s up to, we’ve tracked all the instruments except for electric guitar. Drums need mixing and there’s a few vocal takes still to go, but it’s shaping up nicely.

We did also record a demo for a song called Silent Nights and Little Towns. It’s a song reflecting on how the amazing Christmas story has become so du jour and familiar that it actually doesn’t seem amazing; the sheer logistics of announcing the arrival of The King of Kings from celestial phenomenon to stopping an impending divorce to getting the right people together in the right place for the humblest entry imaginable. 

I personally have a bit of a bug-bear with Christmas Carols, especially ones about Santa and my most-hated song, Rocking Around The Christmas Tree. Musically, they’re all the same and I have to play them every year which frustrates me. But it takes a world of laughable fantasy and tries to put it on the same level as an event which changed the course of history. To sell cola, of all things. 

I could go on about this. Instead, here’s a stupid poem I wrote.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Well maybe a mouse, for I didn’t see
What they might have been doing. I know. Silly me.
Perhaps the mice stirred, which may have seemed shocking,
But mice aren’t well-known for hanging up stockings,
And since they’ve no part in the rest of this tale,
I’ll say they were still, and call it a fail.

Anyway, so, as I said once before,
There was no sound of footsteps heading out on the floor,
(except perhaps tiny mammals, quite possibly mice,
I still can’t believe that I’m saying this twice,
Let’s be clear: in this tale, the mice had been fat,
And didn’t move because they’d been et by the cat.)
When Santa arrived with a bag full of cheer,
A bottle of schnapps, and a half keg of beer,
A hip-flask (was labelled “100% proof!”)
And crash-landed everything right through the roof.

The jolly fat man stumbled into our room
With his merry voice raised in obtuse Christmas tune:
“On Donner! On Dancer! On Prancer! Hey, miss-
Come sit down with Santa and give us a kiss!”
My wife, stupefied, arose with some flair
And pummeled poor Santa with the edge of a chair.
“This’ll teach you to break into our house!” she cried,
“If they give you the Chair, I’ll be happy you fried!”

Santa tried to raise his hand to object,
But by that stage, she’d gotten a hold of his neck,
An arm-bar, then choke hold, he was trying to tap,
She suplexed him right through the air on his back,
He lay down there prone, a-twitching and moaning,
While my wife at that moment the coppers was phoning,
“Come and help me!” she cried, “a fat man broke in!”
“You’re kidding,” I yelled, “the cops should help him.”

Poor Santa lay bleeding and trying to stand,
But my wife wore stilettos, and stepped on his hand,
“Come Rudolph! Come Blitzen! Come Dancer!” she screamed,
“Get your own on the Fat Man, he’s gonna get creamed.
The sound of hoofs running, as the door opened wide,
And a half-dozen reindeer were stepping inside.
One walked up to Santa, looked him straight in the eyes,
Then lashed out and kicked him right between his thighs,
He objected, and called out, “I looked after you, right?”
“You jerk, you flew us right round the world in one night!

Even QANTAS have better conditions!” they yelled,
“And we’re the ones who you’re making compelled;
Lift your own stupid sack!” as a hoof hit his ear, 
And now let me try to be perfectly clear,
It was seven on one! How could I intervene?
So Santa got beaten and I got away clean.

As the medics took him away on a stretcher,
I went in to check on young Jack and Fletcher,
Asleep with an air of child-like reassurance
Having missed out entirely their mother’s performance,
What would happen when they both got up in the morning?
No presents? No reindeer? No elves and no warning?
How could I look into those poor little faces,
And try to keep covered the blood-spattered places?
Their stockings were empty, so I figured instead
I’d just put in $50, and went back to bed. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Where have we been?

So I haven't posted in a while. It's my fault.

We've been on the cusp of having exciting news about the Turning Heads project and All Of The Strands, but not quite there.

I was able to interview the lovely Chel from the Australian Alopecia Aerata Foundation and my next post, later this week, will be about that.

But, in the mean time, what have Redwoods been up to?

1) Doing lots of gigs- thanks to everyone who came out to see us!
2) We have been workshopping some cool new songs- keep an eye out soon to hear Beginning At The End, Part Of Me, Headline To The World, This Is Home, The Fallen And The Broken, This Life, and Little Steps. We're really proud of these songs, they represent a range of different styles and hopefully tell some interesting stories.
3) We're about to start recording again! I don't know if it's going to be another EP, or an album, or what; we're going to muck around with some ideas and see where it takes us!
4) We've tracked drums for All Of The Strands and will begin the next few instruments over the coming weeks. I'm just waiting for some new microphones after my big condensor died.
5) We've met a bunch of really amazing people in the past few months. The folks from White With One, who play an interesting folky whimsical style of music; Redruth, who have one of the best thought-out sounds for a rock/electronica blend that I've ever heard; Stacy, Lina, Chel and Helen from the Turning Heads project, and a bunch of fine folks from SUFM. I can't tell you how exciting it's been

We have another EP in the works call The Cowboy Special, which will have a limited release soon.

But I realised that we only really started Redwoods last year in late September, and the band line-up was only settled in October. In less than a year, we've written close to 30 songs, played a bunch of great gigs, and met some absolutely quality individuals. Personally, the opportunity to create stories and express them musically with a group of my closest friends has been a gift that has unquantifiable value. Finding people who have connected in any way with those stories has been equally phenomenal.

So to all of you out there who have listened to us, and liked our pages, and come to our gigs, allow me to thank you from the bottom of my heart for an amazing year.

Finally, our next big public gig is coming up in October in Ropes Crossing for the BluRopes festival. It's free, is a mad day out, and we'd love to see a bunch of you there to celebrate this humungous year with us. I will bring baked goodies to share, so come and see us afterwards, we can't wait!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Cowboy Special

I really, really want to do an update on All Of The Strands as well as something cool and amazing about the Turning Heads project, but wheels are turning and I don't want to post anything further until there's something more concrete to share.

So instead, I thought I'd begin a series giving some background to the songs we write. This one is about Tombstone, but I'm calling it:

The Cowboy Special
So one day, back when we had a band called Eye Opener, Tristan and I had a day off work and he came over to my place to hang. My wife and I were renting in St Marys (that’s a suburb in Australia for those of you who don’t know, and are wondering just how big Mary would be to have a house on her to rent) and our house was situated rather handily right on a main road that led to the industrial area. Compression braking trucks all night long. It was, however, incredibly convenient if you had a particular wish to be run over by 20 tons of haulage soaked in caffeine tablets and methamphetamine. 

We had the “office” (a loose term for the room with the computer, piano, all the boxes we still hadn’t unpacked from the last 2 moves, and any other junk I’d accumulated) right near the road, and Tristan and I were sitting on the piano stool and office chair tossing ideas around for songs while the trucks roared past. By “tossing” I mean “screaming over the sound of the traffic.”

Eye Opener was Tristan’s baby, really. People who don’t really know me are surprised by this fact, but I’m actually incredibly shy and enormously reticent to share something I’ve written unless someone else likes it, so I’d played music with him for almost a year before I even ventured a song forward. Being the kind of bloke he is, he was of course insanely supportive and encouraging and demanded I write more, and to remember that it was initially his project and his material, it showed an enormous lack of ego, which is also rare in the musical world.

Now, songwriting, as a collaborative process, is kind of like parliament. If you’ve got two sides who both represent the “people”, and both sides are politicians, the same as the other, you’d assume that at some point there would be both consensus and progress, but instead they sit and bitch about the other side, make snarky comments, and then go home not talking to each other. The same is true with musicians. You might be lucky enough to find guys who get your music and can build on it, and even that is rare, but when writing,  you’re trying to come up with two elements, a musical concept that conveys something, and then lyrics that the musical concept enhances. 
Trying to write lyrics with someone in that context means getting someone into the headspace where the music was composed and to understand both the emotion and the intent, and that’s nearly impossible.

Well, Tristan was the one person I’d played with who totally got it every time. So we were sitting down, two guitars out, and I was mucking around with a little guitar line on his guitar to see how it felt to play.

“You know what that sounds like?” he said.
“Like a Western movie or something?” I replied.
Totally. We should write some lyrics!”
“About a cowboy?”
“Riding to a town called Tombstone!”
“Oooooh, gold! And if it’s Tombstone, we could make it a twist ending, where he was dead all along!”
“And when he gets to the town, they’re all waiting for him, because they’re all dead too but he doesn’t understand what’s happening!”
“And it’s never night!”
“We have to fit the word ‘tumbleweed’ in there somewhere. And ‘sunset ride’ because that’s the last ride a cowboy does before he dies!”
“Oh, gold! Ok, so we’ll start with ‘been riding these hills...’”
“Gun by my side?”
“Nice. ‘Remembering days / when better men died’? Because it could be during the civil war or something?”
“And he’s died in a battle? Awesome. Now, ‘Just me alone, here on the plains’?”
“Nice, empty desert feel. ‘Looking for a small town / where someone knows my name’?”
“Done! Now, what do you reckon we have a line that sort of repeats as a consistent theme about Tombstone each time?”
“Oooooooh, you’re on fire. ‘In the distance, I see a Tombstone’?”
“‘And the names they had were their own!’ Like, it’s outside the town and the name of the residents is on there ‘cos they’re all dead? But he doesn’t get it yet?”
“HA! Ok, second verse! ‘Their empty streets’...”
“‘Reminders of home.’”
“‘I see tumbleweeds...’”
“Ha! You fit it in! ‘And they set the tone.’”
“‘The sun, it beats down,’”
“‘I’m burnt by the light,’”
“‘I long for the cool’... we need to get him wondering why it’s always sunny and hot.”
“‘Has it ever been night?’”
“Ok, so now he’s in the town and needs to catch on. ‘The town, its name was Tombstone...’”
“‘And it seemed I was well known?’”
“Nice! Two verses down! Third verse! How about the town people come out and surround him and, like, welcome him but it kind of creeps him out?”
“Genius! ‘Faces appeared, the dust stung my eyes,’”
“‘I said I’m just here for some supplies’?”
“Cool! ‘They said to me, son, I do believe,’”
“‘That once you’re here, you’ll find you never leave?’”
“Perfect! Now the twist! ‘Then I turned, and saw a tombstone...’”
“‘And the name inscribed was my own!’”
“Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick! Ok, then we can drop it down for the final verse. Like his warning to other cowboys or something.”
“Yeah, but he’s dead. Maybe he can join the town and welcome the new people or something.”
“‘So if you ride / alone on the plains,’”
“‘If you see Tombstone, remember the name,’”
“‘It’ll welcome you in, don’t try and hide’,”
“‘For this will be your sunset ride!’ We found a spot for it!’”
“Awesome! Let’s sort of repeat the first chorus line now.”
“But, instead of ‘their own’, we can put ‘our own’ because he’s now a part of it.”
“Perfect! ‘In the distance, you’ll see a tombstone, and the names inscribed are our own.’”
“Done! How long did that take?”
“Ten minutes.”

As I said, songwriting is all about emotional content and connection. Except when it’s about a stupid idea you both build on.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

All Of The Strands

Well, a huge thanks to all of the people who read the last blog post about the Turning Heads project. This week has been pretty amazing actually.

The week itself has been an amazing story which could be classed as coincidence or destiny, but I'm breaking this into two sections for those who have asked me about the process of recording and songwriting, and those who want to hear the amazing story of this week's meetings with some extraordinary women from the Alopecia Foundation and beyond. Sorry if it's a bit long as a result.

It's rough but it gives a good idea of where the song will eventually go. Real, organic drums are always livelier and give a lot more energy to a song, and I am looking forward to doing the actual recording in July-ish. In the meantime, the song can be played by clicking the player below, if the embed code works:

We really hope you enjoy and are encouraged by the demo.

Recording on Saturday
All Of The Strands was written to try to achieve two goals. The first was to try to capture, in the chorus, the joy I saw in Lina's photos; to write something affirming to these women to make them see the beauty I saw. The second goal was to reflect upon how we measure things as humans, as I thought about my own kids and the various judgements they will no doubt face at some point.

So, I was hoping Marty or Micky might have been available to record the demo version of the song, but Micky's tyre was flat and Marty had open houses to get to and Pat was in Korea. Often when I write a new song, I'll record a demo in Garage Band using loops and playing a bunch of the instruments to get some ideas, so this wasn't unusual. Marty, Micky and Pat are exceptional musicians and much better on their instruments then I am, but demos often create a good springboard for when the band actually plays through a song together later and if you have the facility to do it, it's a process I highly recommend. So Ted came over and we got to work.

I hadn't slept much the night before and was a bit sloppy. My piano playing was all over the shop. We finally managed to get a passable piano take but the instrumental part was a bit sloppy. I thought I'd come back to it later, and moved on.

Recording in my garage gym, which also feels like a Chinese laundry due to the recent weather.

Next we did some electric guitar lines. My plan had been to take piano out of the choruses to try to create a more significant distinction in the lyrics, which are affirming, compared to the verses which are more reflective/contemplative. I had been listening to Switchfoot's Dare You To Move and really liked the long single hard guitar strums, so tried that in the chorus, but it sounded messy and ugly. Tristan decided to try running an acoustic guitar keeping simple, quick rhythm and it sounded really nice. I resolved to use high guitar lines with a delay on them, because the acoustic guitar would fill out the sound of the chords and I wouldn't need to play the chords strongly on the electric, but rather let the notes themselves ring and try to bring a sense of the joy that the original photos captured.

Working on strumming in Drop D. Wasn't a winner, and went with a new line you can now hear.

Ted's genius idea to use Mr. Maton and fill out the chorus chords. If you write, try to write with someone who gets you musically, which is a lot harder than it sounds.

With Micky away, I pulled out my bass to get a placeholder down. This is probably my second-weakest instrument and the bass itself has been playing up but I haven't had time to get it fixed. This led to some very frustrating takes and in the end I decided to keep the bass line simple so Micky could work his magic on it when we begin rehearsing it. I opted for long sustained notes in the verse and a steadier rhythm with some long slides in the chorus, although I find myself thinking that I should have played the chorus notes an octave lower at the end of the choruses.

It's actually a nice bass, but having some... issues. Given it hasn't been serviced in 5 years, that would explain it.

Finally, it was time to get Ted up to the vocal booth. Which is actually a squat machine. We found, when working on Hoping For Jupiter, that we could get almost vocal-booth quality with a decent condensor surrounded by a heavy doona to help absorb the sound and avoid the reverb that the garage lends itself to. Often we'll spend time balancing the sound out first, but in this case due to time and the demo nature of the song, we whacked it all together and just went with what we had.

Now to the tale of the last week:

The Amazing Tale of Providence

First off, last Saturday Tristan and I recorded All Of The Stands on iPhone between the piano and me. I sent this to Lina, who in her usual amazing way sent it on to a bunch of people. First was Helen, who then found me on Facebook and added me as a friend.
If you weren't aware, Helen Beasley is the amazing artist who conceived the project. Helen used to be a bread scientist (I asked her if it was because she kneaded the dough; for some reason, she didn't laugh), who worked with a lovely lady I used to go to church with back when I was in Five Dock, Jill Chambers. So all of a sudden there was a multiple connection thing.

Helen's story of how she started face/head/any body part painting full time is quite amazing but since I haven't checked with her, I won't share it here at this point in time. However, I will say that her original plan with the head art was to do it with the cancer council or something similar, but they were uncertain about the idea. She met Chel from the Australia Alopecia Aerata Foundation, who was totally super keen on the idea, then asked at a photography store, who referred her on to Lina.

So Helen sent the terrible recording to Chel, and gave Chel my contact details. I had an idea that it'd be mad to get a female alopecia lady singing on the track, although not entirely sure where/how. I first asked Stacy, who was the woman in the photo with the flower on her head (and the first person in the project), whether or not she could sing but she said that no, she was restricted to singing in showers and it's not a good idea to put good condensor microphones into showers, even in the name of art.

Anyway, Helen asked Chel if she knew anyone, and Chel was all, "I know this lady called Lisa who has a big, big voice."

So then I wound up SMS-ing Lisa and she was keen, though unavailable this weekend (springing recording on someone 16 hours before actually recording was always going to be a tall order), and so now at some point we'll get a huge duet thing happening.


Chel was amazingly encouraging, given that all she had was a sub-par iPhone track that is hard to get distinct vocals out of. There was a video they were working on raising awareness for alopecia sufferers and she asked if we'd be OK if the final track was possibly used in the video. Flabbergasted, we said of course we would be; it may or may not happen, depending on the music's vibe compared to the video's intent, but it was mind-blowing to get such a positive response from someone doing such impressive work as Chel. 

Moreover, I guess, what amazed me was that somehow the song's message had actually touched some people, hopefully in the same was I was touched by the Turning Heads project and photos. Any artist in any field aims for connection between the inspiring subject matter and the recipient, and to know this made any difference at all to these incredible women who were either dealing with the challenges of the disease or supporting and advocating for those same people was humbling beyond measure. I spent a couple of days just grinning, to be honest. Tristan and I had a lot of moments calling each other saying "DUDE! Did you see that post that this lady put up? I know, right?" and things of similar ilk.

I'd like to finish this post by thanking Lina Hayes, Helen Beasley, Stacy Richardson, Chel (I'm sorry, I forgot your surname) and Lisa for their amazingness this week and for being willing to accept a poor offering from an obscure Western Sydney band inspired by the fantastic work of your projects and organisations. It drove me to understand more deeply what God says in 1 Samuel 16:7- "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
It's from this part that I derived the chorus chords "for we are judged by our hearts, not the sum of our parts."

I hope that somehow this song makes some of these sufferers understand this in some way shape or form: they are uniquely beautiful and valuable beyond measure, far beyond what we see on the outside. Thank you for your very existence, because without it, I fear I would not have gotten a glimpse of the truth of those verses. Your life, love and vibrance have had a profound impact on me, and I can only hope that in some small way this helps to do the same to others. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pat's Korean Diary

Pat recently went on a work trip to Korea. I asked him to provide an insight intro world travel (since I doubt very much we'll ever get to do a world tour. Or even a nation-wide tour. State tour. Heck, we haven't even done a Western Sydney tour!) and he kindly agreed. Without further ado, here is:

Pat's Guide To International Travel- Korea

Day 1
Climbed aboard the plane and took my seat. Work hasn’t upgraded me to first class yet, so I used one of their phones to hack the plane’s internal database and give myself an upgrade. I also increased the plane’s engine efficiency by like, 75%, and mixed four songs and a martini. First class was next level, they even served kimchee. I heard that on the way back a return flight to Australia was forced to divert over Singapore due to engine overheating but I’m sure that’s a coincidence, legit.

This guy apparently tried to sneak fruit past customs, and they cut both his arms off.

Day 2
Arrived at Incheon airport. It is connected to land by one of the world’s largest suspension bridges. It is not widely known but the bridge was built not to cut the commute time to the airport, but because the Domino’s Pizza was on the other side of the bridge and the President was tired of his Kimchee Hawaiian/Meatlover half-halfs arriving soggy. At a cost of a mere $4b, I have to say it was a wise investment, legit.

Pizza to your door in under 35 minutes. Talk about next level!

Day 3
We had an intense series of training sessions on new products and it went later than expected. The local staff were complaining because the country’s normal terabit connection was only running at, like, 750gbps. The catering never showed up and we were forced to hijack passing McDonald’s deliveries. The drivers are in the boxes of the new 80” 3D plasmas, they get a free trip to Uraguay out of it. On the up side, we halved our catering budget, legit.

No, officer, I assure you those delivery bikes are not related to us.

Day 4
Looking forward to having a day off tomorrow. I have had nothing but kimchee for four meals a day and my room is smelling quite lived-in. Even the McDonald’s meals were the McKim, which was a kimchee patty with kimchee.
I am keen to see the Mega Bass Ball Exhibit. People think it’s modern art, but it’s actually a series of carefully crafted and balanced subwoofers used for public performance, low-scale demolition and mob control. At a recent protest it was reported that they played the Brown Note and 10,000 people had to change their underwear. It was next level. Legit.

Next level crowd control. They turned it up and my heart rhythm got confused, legit.

Day 5
These surnames are beginning to confuse me. I thought someone asked “You wanna come to the park” but in fact they were calling out to “Yu, Wan, Kim, and Park”. I went anyway, and made some great new friends. We went out for kimchee for dinner and over a tobacco burger (those things are like next level addictive) they told me one of them had a serious criminal record. I asked them which one and they said “the guy with the black hair and brown eyes.” I think I’ll stay away from him, legit.

One of us has a criminal record. I knew it wasn't me!
Oh, those tasty tobacco onions. Makes me want to buy Tomacco, the Simpsons hybrid!

Day 6
Time to head home. I gave the company a way to save eight million dollars a year and they promised me a pay rise of like, seventy-five dollars a week. That is next level and I’m assured that the offer is, like, legit. If I hurry, maybe I can make it back in time for band practice.
I got to the airport and couldn't find my terminal. The help desk staff said it was next level, I said that may be the case but I can't find Terminal 53. The kept repeating that it was next level, and I admired their pride in the quality of the terminal but eventually it sounded like a loop so I left and found it one floor up. Legit.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Getting serious about Turning Heads- UPDATED x 1

Given the absurdity of my previous posts, it could seem somewhat odd that I am going to take a serious moment but the subject of my post deserves to be void of hyperbole and invention because it is just so darn brilliant.

So, the story goes like this. I randomly clicked a Facebook ad- which I normally never do- for a young photographer based in the inner-west, because it looked interesting and I wanted to find someone who had a good instinct for shots so we could do album artwork that didn’t involve trawling Google Images and then spending subsequent weeks trying to find the owners of the images to use permission. That photographer was Lina Hayes, a 21-year-old legend with an eye for landscapes, sunsets, and silhouettes.

So we emailed back and forth a bit, regarding projects and availability and other such things related to band and album photography. Since we weren’t even going to start recording until after Pat finishes getting his house built- which, at the current rate, will be September 2017- I figured it was more about identifying a talent and coming back to the whole situation in a few months’ (or years, depending on builders) time.

Periodically, I’d come back and look at the latest pictures. Pop a comment up, click away, maybe come back a couple of days later.

It was one of those days later when I saw this photo:

Amazing or what? Lina and Helen for the win! Photo (c) Lina Hayes Photography

That photo was the first in a series that were done for a project with Helen Beasley from Rainbow Face Painting and Body Art. The project was called Turning Heads.

Now, I wasn’t sure what this was for at first. Was it part of some monastic tradition? But then I found out that no, it wasn’t. The baldness of the women in question was not a choice, but a condition known as Alopecia Totalis, and the project was aimed at creating something innately beautiful to help these women feel special, unique, and amazing, turning their heads into an amazing canvas and creating art that reflected them personally.
Alopecia Totalis is contrasted to Androgenic Alopecia, or pattern baldness, or as I refer to it, “having kids”. Tristan is always keen to point out my lack of hair compared to his strong, thick and flowing locks, but given my work with teenagers over the years, I assured him I had already had it pointed out plenty of times.
Alopecia Totalis, however, was the complete loss of all the hair from the head (well, not the eyebrows), and could effect any age.

Next came this article in the Hornsby Advocate and as I read about Stephanie, who was diagnosed in year 5 and was now in year 8, I was struck by the images themselves. So great a blow to the confidence of the subjects had been dealt by the condition that many avoided going out because, well, it caused stares, but the amazing canvas that it enabled them to be, and the joy that was captured in the photos as for a moment their heads were in fact the perfect subject for the art, was in that moment a glimpse of another kind of value.
Finally, Lina put up some shots of a 2-year old girl. Little Jono turned 2 in March and this little girl had a similar vibrancy and joy as he has; she took the condition in her stride, unaware of any difference. The photos really captured the fierce joy, although this one is my personal favourite:

Best. Photo. EVER. (c) Lina Hayes Photography

The shots moved me in unexpected ways as according to my wife, I don’t have things known as “feelings”, whatever those are. Something about the project really created an amazing connection, and as I read the girls’ stories, I gave pause to reflect on how we automatically attribute our definitions of beauty to the exterior, how flawed our assessments of other humans can be.
For those who don’t know, I have three kids, Ben (9), Tamara (7), and Jono (2). As I looked at these girls, and read their tales, I felt enormous sadness for the circumstances we find ourselves in in our human condition, and I wondered what I could say that would make a difference. So I sat down and started writing a song, and then dragged Tristan over to help me push through writer’s block. In 40 minutes, the song was done, and entitled All Of The Strands.

We’re doing some work on it and will be aiming to record it in July, to pass on something encouraging to these women. But as a sneak peak,  thought I’d include the bridge lines below:

Are you simply a picture, with warmth and a smile,
The depth and the beauty of somebody’s child?
You knew they were looking, but did they see more
Than all of the strands as they fell to the floor?

But in the meantime, please can I encourage you to go along to Lina and Helen’s Facebook pages, find out about the project, and make sure you share it with your friends. There’s something uniquely beautiful about it, I suppose because it creates beauty out of an ugly situation, and creates joy in the midst of sadness or resignation. There may not be a specific cure for it at this point in time, but perhaps the opportunity to celebrate a different kind of beauty is cure enough; perhaps it is we who need curing.

UPDATE: Tristan and I are going to record a demo of it this weekend which I'll try to get up on our site as soon as I have a moment. Stay tuned! Then we'll record the proper version with the rest of the band when Pat is back from Korea and the next gig is out of the way.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Things You Never Knew About... Tristan "Ted" Edwards and Me

All good things come to an end. This series has increased our blog popularity by like 5,000 percent, because we went from having 1 person reading to having 200 views and if we’d gone from 1 to 2, that’s a 100% increase. My mathematical calculations for the adequate number of zeroes might be slightly out. Shocking, I know.

Anyhow, to complete our band profiles, our front man is exposed and his true history is finally on the record. Straight from Roswell, New Mexico, prepare for:

Things You Never Knew About... Tristan “Ted” Edwards and Me.

Here’s the thing people don’t realise about Tristan. He and I are actually identical twins. I was eight and a half months premature and he was twelve months overdue, because he was growing hair and I evidently didn’t have to. Strangely, we were both born at a normal gestational weight, which our parents put down to hormone-fed chicken.

Back then, our parents were living in a potato sack which they rented with seven other families and money was tight. I was sold to a travelling gypsy troupe when Tristan was finally forcibly removed from the womb with an eviction notice and removal of his cable TV subscription.

Whilst I travelled with the gypsy caravan troupe, things were tough at home. A ninth family had put in an application to move into the potato sack, and Mr. Edwards (I mean, ‘Dad’), finally fed up with the lack of career progression options at his job training tapeworms to rollerblade, took a job which was remarkably similar, but paid better, which was teaching in the NSW public school system.

The sudden influx of money confused Tristan. Up until that point, the potato sack tenants had had to share one piece of toilet paper across all the families per day. Now, he could use three, four, even five sheets at a flush. Giddy with power, he convinced our parents that he should have singing lessons.

Mother had read somewhere that long-lost-twins who played music somehow found each other, like in that animated movie An American Tail where Feival brings the Black Plague to America, and so she enrolled him immediately and hoped that as he sung mournfully under the moon one night, somewhere I too would be singing in harmony. But she was wrong, because I can’t sing in any key.

Back with the gypsy troupe, life was good. I had a daily ration of peanuts and hay, and was taught all the educational tools I would need to grow up and make my adoptive parents proud: pick-pocketing, avoiding baths, scabbing cash, and sleeping til noon. Playing an instrument somewhere usually allowed crowds to gather so that members of the troupe could more effectively steal their wallets and phones (referred to by marketers as “Cost/Benefit ratio increase), but after the troupe’s main guitarist had his fingers broken in an unfortunate incident involving heavy losses on squirrel ballet and a bookie named Big Bubba, I was the only one left and the only instrument that spoke to me was piano. Loving parents that they were, they promptly stole a baby grand piano from a rehearsal room in the Opera House, a fact that wasn’t even discovered until 2009, because they also left a note saying “taking piano for a walk, back in 10 (years)”.

My twin was meanwhile living the good life, but couldn’t help feeling that there was a conjoined part of his soul somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight. The call of performing running strong in his veins, he began doing clowning for children’t birthday parties, becoming the first party clown to make an exact replica of the Mona Lisa out of balloons, including the half-smile and the eyes that followed you around the room. In order to supplement his act, he learnt guitar, so as to teach the children educational songs like the compound materials for making C4. However, listening to music to hone his skills would also develop his first substance dependency, that substance being CDs. He would go into record stores and casually order fifteen, sixteen boxes of the latest singles and either leave a pile of cash on the counter or run like a hungry cheetah was chasing him.

And in fact, this is how we met. As he fled the mall security guards, fifteen boxes of CDs in his arms, singing “You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the Gingerbread Man” with a beautiful vibrato, I was chasing my piano downhill as I’d forgotten to put the wheel locks on. I had managed to get onto the keys and was trying to slow it with me feet, but drawn by the beauty of his Gingerbread Man song, I began spontaneous accompaniment, and the guards were caught in the music and began spontaneously dancing, which is a difficult feat if you are running downhill at great speed. Our getaway was a fait accompli.

Catching our breaths and dividing the CD spoils (I referred him a support group, but got the name wrong and he attended “Seedy Addicts” instead,  which was full of guys wearing nothing but trenchcoats, but that’s a story for another time), I noticed a birthmark on his right ear that looked enormously similar to one on my left foot. As I looked at my new friend, I realised I was virtually looking into a mirror, and he realised it at the same time. Twins! How could it possibly be anything else?

The resemblance is uncanny, no?

It so happened that I had ‘borrowed’ a bible from an elderly priest earlier that day and hidden it in the piano in case he ever came around, and as we pored over the texts and felt a calling to write songs about the duality of human nature, the mysteries of the universe, and cowboys who find out that they’ve actually been dead the entire song with a twist ending. Feeling guilty, we returned the stolen piano to the Opera House in 2012, instead stealing a smaller, more portable one for street performing. We left a copy of our CD in payment.

In order to formalise our performing, we took the name “Redwoods”, a portmanteau of “Rose” and “Edwards” by Autocorrect. And it was the beginning of something beautiful.

Ted, I am glad our various nefarious activities allow us to finally meet in that constabulary-avoiding collision. I’m not sure if you’re a friend closer than a brother, or a brother closer than a friend, but either way you’re a legend and I’m ever so glad you found the GPS tracking device in the piano or otherwise we’d be in a heap of trouble right now.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Things You Never Knew About... Marty

It’s Friday before a long weekend, and that means it’s time for you to get to know the latest band member and his incredible true story.
Look up the word “incredible” in the dictionary some time. Or even the word “credible”. You’ll see what I mean.
Things you never knew about... Marty

Those who have met Marty could be forgiven for thinking he was American. The truth of the matter is that Marty was born 150m below the earth’s surface in a West Australian opal mine to a nigerian mother and her Cherokee Indian husband. Raised in the same mine with his only source of contact with the world above the surface being American TV programming, it accounts for his pale skin and mysterious accent.
It was kind of like the movie Blood Diamond, but, like, with a happy ending and not-one’s arms being deliberately chopped off. Because accidents still happen in mines. 

It was in this mine that Marty first discovered (at the tender age of 3) some of life’s great engineering principles, such as leverage (by jamming crowbars into rock), transmission of energy over distance (getting TV underground), and drinking (by drinking). By the age of 5, he had re-designed the entire mine to increase operational efficiency by 75%, and drunk his first keg. Nobody told him that the contents were actually sparkling apple juice, because nobody keeps alcohol in a mine, but as part of an engineering fraternity, he needed to feel as if he was drinking lots. Even now, give Marty enough Appletiser and he’ll start acting drunk. Deadset. Some kind of psychological thing evidently. 
After submitting some improvised designs for the internet to the Edison foundation via the internet, which he had built a test version of using parts from old TVs, a kilometer of copper cabling which coincided with the same amount mysteriously vanishing from the mine, seven hamsters, one large cat and a lot of chewing gum, he was unearthed (so to speak) and sent to further his education, like Dougie Howser MD. By the way, did you know that Twitter got the idea from Dougie Howser’s updates at the end of each episode? Yeah? Did you know that it was Marty who gave them that idea? No? There you go. Marty called them up after watching an episode and said “we need to put, in 140 characters, stuff nobody really cares about. I saw it on TV and people were tuning in.”

Who says TV is a waste.

Marty was flown to the United States and given an education centering on engineering. He was loosed in a forest with an axe, a generator, a few magnets, some assorted tools and some wire, and came back with an electric guitar. He found out later that it had already been invented some years before, but that didn’t stop him.

A new world had opened to Marty. As an engineer, he could only meet women who were in the middle of doing a keg stand. As a musician, he could totally meet women well before they’d found where the kegs were kept.

Marty travelled to Australia to pursue his dream of engineering a relationship out of music, and one holiday ended up way out west near Penrith at a small church with a good-looking single Italian lady. He struck up a conversation, a little something like this:
“Hey, I play guitar.”
“Hey, I’m Italian.”
“You wanna get married in like 5 years?”
“Sounds great!”

We first met Marty as we were walking down the street pushing a grand piano and a guitar together, it being the day when we were taking busking seriously. Marty, in full tuxedo, ran up to us and asked us if we could play at his wedding. Which was in fifteen minutes’ time. That was twice the rehearsal time we needed, so we bought chips and milkshakes and then headed up. Amazed at his organizational skills and ability to wield a compelling argument with such dexterity, we asked him to join us during the wedding practice on guitar. He quickly improvised one out of a pew and the remnants of a broken heater, and we knew we were onto a winner. 

So I told him that unless he joined in the band, I would tell his wife-to-be that he secretly hated pasta and the entire family’s mafia connections would come for him. I didn’t know if they even had mafia connections, but I heard the word “Italian” and just went for it. It seems to have worked.
Marty, we love you and your unerring instinct for beauty. Thank you for sharing your African/Cherokee heritage with us, as we are far more culturally aware now than we ever were before!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Things You Never Knew About... Pat

38 views! That is something truly special for me, since the previously highest-rating post was my very brief rant about how I wanted to suggest a special segment to Ellen to have on her show just so that we could play it. And the amazingly shocking thing is that I never heard back from her! I know, who suspected?

So my original plan was to write one of these each week, but I've never been very good a things like "patience" and "pragmatism" and "not having ADHD" so without further ado, let me reveal to you...

Pat "Mixmaster" Beckett
Pat was conceived in Sarajevo during the Bosnia/Sarajevo conflict to a tank driver and her haberdasher husband. From conception and throughout his gestation, a regular pattern of falling bombs created a lifelong affinity for heavy, thumping bass and explains why he can only hear you if you talk to him using a megaphone.

During the testing of newly-acquired amphibious vehicles, his mother took an incorrect turn as she was too self-conscious to admit that she needed to rotate the map to read it properly, and wound up two months later landing in Bondi in the summer of 1987, breaking out of the water in a torrent of frightening power, which is coincidentally what Pat did not twenty minutes later. The amphibious tank drove to Royal Prince Alfred where they were not asked to pay the $5 parking fee, for some reason, and Pat was born.

An unusually advanced child, before Pat could walk, he had already begun mixing. First, it was whites with colours (laundry, that is- Australia in the 1980's didn't have segregation, you had to go all the way to South Africa to see that). Next it was soft drinks with juices.

In 1992, at a mere 5 years of age, Pat discovered Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. This was the catalyst for a lifelong love affair with loops, rhythm, and using words like "legit" as punctuation. By year 3, he had already mixed tracks such as Go Ninja Go Ninja Go by Vanilla Ice, and by year 7 he was consulting to Eminem, who is quoted as saying "if it hadn't been for Pat Beckett, I would have followed my original dream of becoming an opera singer with a mild meth habit."

In year 8, at the tender age of 14, Pat was on his way to a Home Economics class (which, coincidentally, is where he got the nickname "mixmaster"- nobody could make smooth cake batter like Pat, and he always maintained a silken texture in your cakes was like oxygen- simply a requisite for life), when he tripped on a step and dropped a dozen pots he was carrying. It was then that he suddenly discovered that drums weren't things you programmed into chart-topping songs, as he had been doing for so many years by that point, but an instrument that could be played loud. Really loud

Eminem was said to have personally begged him not to give up his studio career (and explains why he hasn't had a good song since Lose Yourself), but Pat was hooked. He enrolled in drum lessons and a week later completed his 12th grade drum exams, at one point also setting the world record for longest drumming session (36 continuous hours without dropping out of time).

Occasionally, in between drumming and finishing his high school, he would hack NORAD. But that's a story for another time.

We met Pat at a Western Sydney beat-boxing competition, where Pat was experimenting with ventriloquism beatboxing. Some performers managed dubstep, most just managed the beats themselves, but Pat completed a full rendition of Lose Yourself with all instruments and the chorus vocal lines without even moving his lips. Obviously, he won the competition.
We had to have him in the band. But given his previous grammy victories (which he had attached to gold chains around his neck), how could we justify joining a small, part-time Western Sydney band?

I told him I was an orphan whose parents had passed away in an unfortunate juicing accident (Worst. Smoothee. Ever.) and that it had been a lifelong dream to start a small, part-time Western Sydney band who would never get to play the Ellen show.
How could he refuse?

Pat enjoys drums, bass, drum n' bass, building things for bass to play through, recording bass, and having more TV's than people in his house (he is planning for his eventual kids, although I pointed out that he will need at least 6 kids to bring the ratio to 1:1).

Pat, we love you, and are ever so glad for the 6-inch armour plating that kept you safe in Sarajevo all those years ago. You're...the... bomb!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Things You Never Knew About... Micky

So, I have decided to begin penning a series on each of the band members' mini biographies, except myself, because you can't write your own review, so to speak.

Micky D
Micky was born in Romania to a sausage manufacturer and his pedicurist wife in 1989. As a young boy, he won a number of Romanian power-lifting competitions and eventually won entry and citizenship into Australia after lifting a Holden ute above his head.

Once in Australia's shores, the young Mr. D set about racking up an impressive number of awards. In 1997, he successfully built a particle accelerator using four coke cans, a television remote control and eight kilograms of Wonka's Nerds. The call of music was too strong, however, and so despite the heads of numerous universities begging for his attendance (and the ripe age of 8) to their various faculties of advanced physics, Micky elected to remain in school and begin playing guitar.

Micky graduated high school with a fierce sense of protective civil duty. Unfortunately the local police force were not accepting applications and so Micky found a cave and became Batman. After 10 years in the security industry (based on total hours worked measured against a standard 40 hour work week), Micky realised that his desire to protect humanity came not from being Batman, but a shared parentage with Superman and therefore he had to fly.

He left the security industry and began his pilot training, which he continues to this day. Like, four days into it.

We first met Micky when he was tearing the door off a wrecked car and saving the occupants along the Western Distributor on our way back from a gig. We asked him in passing if he played any instruments.
"I play every instrument," he replied humbly. "All of them. At once, sometimes."

We watched him perform Beethoven's 5th Symphony in its entirety and were sold. There was only one thing for it: how did we convince him to join a small, fledgling, Western Sydney project.

So I told him I had cancer and he couldn't say no.

By his own admission, Micky considered himself (up until recently) a guitarist who also plays bass. This changed a few months ago to being a bassist who also plays guitar (extremely well). It's possible outlaying a few thousand dollars for a sexy Fender bass had something to do with this change in status.

Micky, we love you and are glad you play in our band. Stay away from kryptonite before gigs!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

'Abandon'ing the last tuesday

This past Tuesday we played a short but amazing gig at Glenmore Park for an event called "Abandon". There were two other awesome bands, White with One and Whitefield (formerly The Cameo), which I think both impressed and inspired us with their talent and energy - check them out when you have a moment!


The near-term sees us taking a quick break for 2 weeks then back to heavy practice mode (yes, 1 times a week) in prep for the Western Sydney Showdown where we will be sharing the stage with the dudes from Chasing Light.

Thanks again to all who encourage, support, and tolerate our musical endeavors (and putting up with listening to rough recordings at every chance)!!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Only the greatest idea EVER

I've always wanted to play something big. Like a stadium or something. Or any crowd in excess of 500. The flat bed of a big truck turned into a mobile stage.
The Ellen show.

Ellen is about the only daytime TV show that's on my lunch break that isn't entirely depressing, boring, or a very bad straight-to-TV movie about a shark that swims up from the salt water area to the fresh water area and then eats 1960's kids or something (I wasn't paying huge attention to that one).

Ellen's show is always coming up with new segments, so I thought of a mad name for a segment that would totally get her attention. Time Travelling Obscure Australian Band Friday!

See, 'cos of the time zone difference, travelling from Point A to Point U (Australia to USA) would mean that if we left at the right time, we could play yesterday in the States. In the imaginary situation (much like 'what-I'd-do-if-I'd-won-the-$70m-Oz-Lotto-on-Tuesday, which, it turns out, is buy all the wrong things and have a fight with my best friend because I'd got him the wrong house, car, and Angelina-Jolie type adoption because there's apparently a difference between adoption and human trafficking, and the answer isn't "peak hour"), we'd totally pay for our own air fares and Ellen would supply instruments because they're too big to put on a plane. Then we'd play either Hoping For Jupiter since it ties in with our album release, or Monsters In Mirrors because it'd show we're mega versatile and ahead of the musical curve using loops, real drums, and multi-instrumentalism.
Except if I stuffed the solo. That would be embarrassing.
Then Ellen would interview us and we'd be all "we've got a web page and a blog and you can buy a song for $1!" and then we'd get a hundred downloads and it would offset the cost of the flights by $100. Leaving us... ummmmmm... about $6000 down overall. Not too bad, really.

So now, all I need to do is either start stalking Ellen on Twitter or send her an email because she's totally sympathetic to Australia after Finding Nemo even though she didn't actually come here and instead recorded in a sound studio in LA. Because her character spent time in the mouth of a pelican flying around Sydney Harbour being chased by seagulls.

This plan can't fail!
Unless, by some miracle, she ignores a small obscure Australian time-travelling band. But what are the odds of that?

First post, like, ever.

We're super excited about the launch of our new website to coincide with the launch of our first EP. Moreover, we have some fantastic gigs coming up with some super talented bands, and you'd be crazy to miss them!

This area will be where we post photos of gigs and ramble a little more about life in the band and thoughts as they come along. When we begin recording our full-length album (tentatively titled Telling Tales, which is a lot of t's to use in one go) we will have a log of all the steps along the way and the craziness that ensues. Given that we recorded electric guitar on a laptop on a City Rail train and 5am on our last album, we can guarantee that some hilarity will ensue.