So, we interviewed Vicky Hamilton a while ago and she regaled us with stories about Axl, Slash, Bret, C.C. and so on. She also mentioned how high she was on her new band from Australia, THE ART, so we checked them out, preparing to be generally disappointed as is usually the case when a manager or publicist really brags up a a band. Well,let’s just say someone really ought to consider putting Vicky in charge of more shit because she STILL has an eagle eye for spotting amazing, dangerous rock bands with great songs. The Art is quite different from most of what gets passed as “rock and roll” by corporate radio, which is, of course, a very good thing. They rock but they’re not dumb, they’re tuneful but they’re not “poppy”, they are interesting but not aloof or pretentious. We talked with bassist/vocalist Kara Jayne (KJ) and lead singer/guitarist Azaria Byrne about their beginnings, their experiences and their art. Read on….
LRI: Thanks for talking to us guys, your album and your ep are a breath of fresh air. What got you into writing and performing to begin with? What were your earliest creative exploits?
Azaria- Thank you for your kind words. Well I guess I’ve always been visual and sonic in my communication. As I haven’t always been good with words, I painted a lot as a kid and won some awards. My big brother got me listening to Guns N Roses, The Pixies and The Doors when I was really young and I remember getting obsessed with wanting to start a band and making noise! My brother was learning guitar and I decided I wanted to be a drummer and started drumming all the time and pissing everyone off (laughs). He got over the guitar so I kind of stole it off him. I still use it today and he sometimes rocks up to a show and says never forget whose guitar it is. I taught myself to play, I remember being so obsessed with playing all the time and learning as many different instruments as possible. I remember I nearly got expelled from school because I would miss all my classes playing music all day teaching myself the violin, piano, bass drums and guitar at least. The school loved me because I won this art competition called ‘the ministers of arts awards” from a painting I did in 5 minutes. I guess I was a kid that had no direction or concept of what I was meant to be doing at the time and to be honest, I haven’t changed at all. I’m still a music geek with no concept of reality most of the time. I’ve felt really lucky over time to be able to tour the world playing shows and releasing music, making memories and and doing it all with my friends, who I consider my family – THE ART
LRI: Some of the best moments on your recordings are when you and KJ are both singing at the same time. How did you end up meeting each other and at what point did you know you were on the same page?
Azaria: KJ and I both realized that we were on the same page instantly. We were kids when we met and we fell in love instantly, well, I fell for her instantly. Eventually I moved away and recorded an album playing every instrument myself in the studio, it was called Empty Orchestra and I decided to call the band ‘The Follow’ I had a few incarnations but wasn’t connecting beyond musically with the members. I asked KJ to move to Sydney and play bass in my band as I missed her. This was her first band ever and and the album had just come out, we were signed to Warner Music straight away. After breaking up early on in The Follow’s career and over time after 6 years of touring and recording, we kind of learned so much together. I guess we were twins in a sense, so early on it was clear that it’s important for us to both be singing together as we are very similar in that we think the same, talk the same and even sing the same. Early on, I used to sing her vocal parts and mimic her and our producer wouldn’t know the difference and visa versa (laughs). For KJ and I ” The Follow” was like our rock and roll university where we were learning about so much personally, artistically and emotionally. We still have a lot more to learn as THE ART but there is no end. I’m lucky to have come this far with her and the other boys who share our dream and passion and have the talent to back it up from their own personal journeys through life. I feel like I’m surrounded by magic and walking within a dream when the 4 of us get together.KJ: As Zar said, we met when we were kids, he moved into a house next door to my best friend when we were in school and we’ve been inseparable ever since. Our relationship has many dimensions, many years ago we dated, we’ve been best friends, we’ve had moments of destruction.. but the one constant thing we’ve always had is the band. In years passed there were times when we weren’t talking to each other, but we would always get up on stage and play together, that in itself would be enough to make us forget whatever the problem was. These days we’ve been through so many ups and downs together, traveled the world, shared houses and clothes, family Christmases’ that I see Zar as a brother. I started playing music with him as soon as I finished school, it seemed the obvious choice then, and still does, more so then ever. I don’t know that there was a defining point when we realized we were on the same page, I think it was the other way around – we were born on the same page and some divine fate brought us together
KJ and Azaria holding court
LRI: Azaria, your “twin” KJ does sing a couple leads but you do sing the majority of the songs, handle a great deal of the writing and really you must have a lot of vision or these songs would not be so memorable or interesting. Is this band something you are possessed with, does it consume your thoughts at most waking moments?
Azaria: I live for the band. I actually don’t know what else to do with my life. It’s kind of a weird mental illness or a way to stay in a dream like state constantly without being conscious to reality. We all write and throw songs up against the wall to see if they stick. The next album will have more KJ songs I hope and more Jak songs, and hopefully a hard rocker “Yellow Submarine” from Jordan too! It’s amazing but we’re heading to the 50 song mark for this next album so who knows the end result? Endlessness!
LRI: The music is very modern and new in terms of sound and production but so memorable and tasty that it feels comfortable and catchy. What are your personal inspirations or who are your personal heroes musically, or even non-musically?
Azaria: Besides our Rock’n’Roll community, close lovers, friends and family that are the closest influences to us, I’ve always been a fan of the anarhcists/stalkers of the new from Marcel Du Champ, Beethoven, Bill Hicks to even the “Joker” character from the Dark Knight. So many non- fiction and fictional people/characters that I identify with. I guess I could use the word punk – not the “what you’re wearing or how many tattoos you have” kind of punk, the punk that actually means what it is in terms of ‘rejection of convention’. Anyway, that’s what excites me personally!
KJ – “I know I wasn’t asked this question, but I do feel the need to re-iterate – LISTEN TO BILL HICKS!”
Kara Jayne, KJ on bass,vocals
LRI: There are some moments of dreamy “alternative” or “pop” but for the most part songs like “Figment of Your Imagination” or “Killing Time” generally rock really fuckin hard. Nothing ever teeters too close to straight POP or straight metal. You guys truly have your own sound which is shocking especially on American radio. Is it more important to cultivate your own hardcore fans than to worry about how the rest of us all figure out how to present, categorize or “sell” you?
Azaria: I guess why I love being in this band is because we’re not trying to follow any trends in music or have any agenda to where the music ends up, just as long as we’re creating what feels good – that’s what makes me proud. I feel very lucky that some people in this world have connected and resonate with what we’re doing.
LRI: I told Vicky I am very interested in seeing how The Art goes over in America and more specifically on American radio. There are some great platforms but by and large, corporate radio here is very afraid of taking chances and your music is the definition of risky, which is good. Are you guys at least aware of how much different your sound is than say, typical top 40 “modern” rock ???
Azaria: I see good music as the same as good sex, moments of gentle tenderness like poetry/ ufo guitars and moments of violence a.k.a. loud guitars and smashing drums. Some radio stations like to play good music some don’t. Some people like to have rad sex and go on a journey, some don’t. I don’t know why but choose your own adventure I say. Every soul is on their own path in this world.
LRI: Do you prefer the gigs you’ve played in front of really big audiences with other bands like Manson or the Pixies or the freedom of headlining clubs on your own? Both have their advantages of course….What have you learned from some of the other acts you’ve toured with?
Azaria: We always tap into this kind of euphoric state/panic attack kind of space on stage whether it’s in front of 1 or 10, 000 people. I think I like the bigger shows because it’s less intimate and the pressure dissipates as more people seem to be on a ride with you.
KJ – I’m with Zar, the bigger audiences are strangely much less confronting. Many of the big tours we have done with international bands that have been from a very large cross section of genres, as you said – from The Pixies to Marilyn Manson – Pixies fans certainly aren’t in the same headspace as Manson fans, and we can only do what we do. So I think the best thing we learnt from touring with different acts was how go out onto a stage and be the best at what WE do.
LRI: Many of us in America, myself included, have no real concept of what the differences are between Australia and the U.S. You have had the chance to do your fair share of traveling since things started happening for the band, have you found a favorite place to be or thing to do here in the states and how long before you decide you wanna come here to stay?
Azaria: This band loves burritos! I find Americans in general are a bit more optimistic towards rock music! Australia is a very small market and people become hateful towards you here if there is any sniff of success for a band. Especially a band that are doing something different than the hipster/laptop play pressers who sing in a falsetto and hold a guitar even though there is no guitar whatsoever in the sonic mix. “PLAY FROM YOUR FUCKIN HEART” -as Bill Hicks would say. I guess that’s the purpose of bands like us we always smash the trends in the face with the first rock. Even if they run away before we hit them with our sound, we’ll just fuck their girlfriends instead and they’ll never ever know what hit them.