2018 has been an incredible and bold year for the Australian music industry. With artists like Amy Shark, Mallrat, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Gang Of Youths and Dean Lewis going global with their massive anthems and intense vulnerability. Australia has been put on the map as one of the most exciting countries to discover new artists and the whole world has turned their focus to who we are showcasing. Each year the Australian music industry celebrates the year that was with the annual Aria Awards which recognises the best artists, songs and albums. With Amy Shark, Courtney Barnett, Dean Lewis, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Troye Sivan leading the way with nominations, it’s safe to say the competition was pretty tight.
With everyone that is anyone turning up to the carpet to celebrate Australian music’s biggest day we chatted to artists like Alex Lahey, Client Liaison, Samantha Jade and Cub Sport about their massive years. Check out ALL the chats HERE;
Alex The Astronaut
TB: 2018 has been a bit of a weird year so what song would you say has become your soundtrack of the year?
A: I really like ‘Dinosaurs’ from Ruby Fields! I think it’s a great song and I think she wrote it so incredibly well. I also really like ‘Missing Me’ from Angie McMahon, her songs are really clever.
TB: And you’ve just kicked off your ‘Space Australian Tour’ with shows in Melbourne, Adelaide and a set at Shakafest on the Gold Coast. So how is that going?
A: The tour has been going so good! Shakafest was really cool, it was good to be back up in the sun and the warm weather. We were staying with all the schoolies people so it was fun *laughs*. There was a waterslide in my hotel and the show went well so I was super happy
TB: And I must say, I always love your banter on stage because you tell the funniest and quirkiest story and makes every show so different.
A: *Laughs* That’s so kind, thanks so much Thomas!
TB: 2018 has been a bit of a weird year so what song would you say has become your soundtrack of the year?
AL: That’s a really good question! I honestly cant think of one on the top of my head but I’ve been listening to a lot of The 1975, given their new record is about to come out. So for some reason “Give Yourself A Try” just popped into my head when you asked me that question. But you’re right it has been a weird year and I felt like with all the work I’ve been doing lately that I haven’t really been able to immerse myself in other people’s music as much as I usually do. So I’m really looking forward to getting back into listening to more music.
TB: Following the massive release of your debut album have you had a think how you sonically wanna go towards your sophomore release?
AL: I’ve made it! It’s done! And I’m so excited to share it with people.
TB: Will we hear any of the new songs on the upcoming Paul Kelly shows?
AL: No you won’t, but you will hear them early next year! I’m so excited
TB” How about your cover of Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated”, because that’s honestly a sick cover?
AL: *Laughs* thank you mate! Maybe, I really do love playing that cover. Avril Lavigne’s first album was an absolute VIBE.
TB: 2018 has been a bit of a weird year so what song would you say has become your soundtrack of the year?
AS: Oh my gosh! I feel like I’ve been through so much this year so I’m thinking about empowering songs, I’m thinking about songs about my ex, I’m thinking about so many things right now *laughs*. But I don’t know… oh actually… ‘Thank You, Next’ by Ariana Grande for sure.
TB: Oh yes, that’s a mood! And personally I have to say I’m really digging your brother Cody’s song ‘Underwater’ this year.
AS: Oh actually that’s my anthem! ‘Underwater’ is a banger! We were actually listening to it on our way here *laughs*. His new music is so amazing, I couldn’t be more proud. He’s been doing this for so long and he’s come so far. And ‘Underwater’ is an absolute tune!
TB: And what about music for you? When can we expect some more releases from you?
AS: I have so many songs, ready to go!
TB: Leak them!
AS: *Laughs* upload to YouTube, like surprise! *laughs*. No, but seriously I am so excited to release more tracks soon. I just released a track with a homeless rapper that I featured on and all the proceeds are going towards homeless charities, so that was great. But when it comes to my solo stuff, it’s going to be light hearted and fun just like ‘Notice Me’.
TB: You guys have recently just put on your first touring festival, which was an incredible, diverse and inclusive experience. So what was one of the biggest learning curves you learnt about the touring business from this venture?
HM: Just the operational and logistical matters. Like it’s so grand and great but it will be a little while before we put on another festival because theres so much that goes on behind the scenes. It’s so big and we’re so happy to have it under our belt as something we’ve accomplished but it was a massive undertaking.
TB: Did John Farnham give you any incredible words of wisdom while you were on the road?
HM: He said don’t do drugs, stay in school and vote liberal *laughs*. No, he didn’t say that. But I guess his presence, charisma and support was enough advice within itself.
TB: You guys are quite heavily influenced by 80’s music which I personally love because I love 80’s music. So what is your go to pump up song before you head on stage because Monte you are VERY energetic on stage?
MM: Yeah, I mean to create energy you need calm so ‘Sorento Moon’ by Tina Arena is usually the song we play before we head onstage.
TB: The release of ‘Blah’ has really seen you open up to a brand new market. Has it been really reassuring for your creativity that this experimental approach has been received so well?
C: Yeah, I think it’s always playing in the back of your mind like it might feel really right to me but until it goes out into the world and you see how people react you don’t know. But I’m just so happy that I’m so super sure of what I’m doing as an artist because I don’t regret anything I’m doing. And I’ve never really felt the way that I’m feeling wth this project before so that’s really exciting and reassuring.
TB: Are you feeling more confident as a songwriter now because it was quite a big leap to do this sound because I think you’re one of the first X Factor Winners to just say “fuck” in a song? *laughs*
C: Yeah Mum wasn’t too happy *laughs*. I remember I was messaging her before the release and she was like “I love this new Dean Lewis song but I’m so upset he says the F word in it”. And I’m like, “Oh mum, I have some news *laughs*”. I tried to recover it like “Mine sort of does too mum, but it’s all for the song mum, it’s art!” and she’s like “oh okay”. So she was upset about that but she’s cool now.
TB: You’ve recently been in the studio with some really cool Australian artists like Kota Banks. So what are you guys cooking up for us?
C: She’s fire man! I’ve worked with her a couple of times before and we’re actually going on a songwriting camp next week that I organised. Just me and couple of my favourite songwriters including Kota Banks are going down south and staying at this airbnb and we are just gonna make some music. It’s all for an upcoming EP that I wanna put out at the start of next year, so I’m excited!
TB: ’Sometimes’ is a glittery and shiny disco influenced indie-pop song that reflects on Tim’s coming out experience and really has this new found energy and groove. So what was inspiring you differently this time in the studio compared to your last two records?
TN: I feel like I went into it knowing who I was as a person more. I went into ‘Bats’ and only came out during the writing process of that so this was the first time I was really truly feeling like my real self. So I feel like there is a new confidence and self belief there and I guess less internal questioning.
TB: One thing I’ve always loved about Cub Sport is your raw and honest vulnerability that translates so fluidly in your music. So what would you say is your third studio albums most vulnerable moment or lyric?
TN: Probably the next single! It’s called ‘Party Pill’ and the opening line is “When I was 17 I fell in love” and it’s sort of the first time we’ve told our whole story and I’ve never cried writing a song so much as I did with that one. And when I showed Boland for the first time he was crying too so it’s a bit of an emotional and special one.
TB: One track that I think everyone is super eager and excited to hear is your long awaited collaboration with Mallrat. So what can we expect from this track. Can you give us a sneaky little hint?
SN: It’s pretty unique!
TN: I feel like it’s a banger in a pretty chill way. Its so chilled out but its also the albums most aggressive moments at the same time.
SN: Grace’s verse will give you chills though!
TB: Tim, It’s quite inspiring and empowering to see how you’ve grown over the years with your confidence changing so rapidly ever since the birth of ‘Bats’. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing when you started Cub Scouts, what would it be?
TN: I think I was filled with so much fear back then so I would tell myself to not be so afraid and just to be myself. As you said, there was something holding me back there and now I can recognise it was a fear to admit who I was truly am. And now I’ve finally let myself go.
SN: I honestly feel like that level in change is honestly what we’re experiencing every day now with the music we are working on.
TB: You’ve just hit the road with The Wombats on their massive national tour and it marks the first time you’ve toured since the album has been released. So how has it been being able to play these songs live now that they are officially out and you can hear some of the audience singalong?
EK:Yeah, it’s actually really special. I didn’t quite think about that before I went on stage for the first show and when i went on there were quite a few people who were recognising songs that were album cuts and it was really strange but great. It’s makes me so excited for my tour next year.
TB: You recorded this album a little while ago and you have already started working on your follow up project so what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist over this process.
EK: I guess I’ve understood things that I connect with better and am a bit more in-tune with where I’m at emotionally. I spend a lot of time now writing down each day what I’m going through not just for music purposes but more so that I want to remember my 20’s. So I want to document my thought process and every up and down. I wanna cherish it all!
TB: Now something a little cheeky, because I’ve noticed you mention that your really pedantic about ‘summerskin’ being written in all low caps. Explain this ocd-ness
EK: I can’t even explain it to you *laughs*. it just has to look that way *laughs*.
E: Oh my god, that is such a hard one to answer *laughs*. I tend to walk to work to work listening to the song ‘Never Start” by Middle Kids, so yeah I what would say that song!
TB: You performed some of your first ever shows at BigSound this year so that must’ve been so confronting performing to a room of music industry people. Did you feel cathartic after it?
E: Definitely! I’m quite a shy person but once I get on stage everything kind of eliminates and goes away. So no matter if there is any industry people or not, if I just focus on the performance then everything runs smoothly.
TB: Let’s talk about your voice for a moment because I was in the crowd at your Heya Bar showcase and you’re voice is so powerful and incredible. How do you look after it to keep it in such incredible form?
E: *Laughs* Oh my god, I couldn’t definitely look after it a bit better to be honest with you *laughs*. But baby steps!
TB: And you’re just about to kick off your first national headlining tour so how are you feeling?
E: I’m so excited! I’m bringing my full band with me on the road and we’re just gonna play the songs from the EP and some other tracks too so I’m so keen.
TB: Your debut EP ‘Self Sabootage’ is a very vulnerable affair of songs, so what would you say is the most vulnerable moment on it for you as a songwriter?
G: Definitely the last song, ‘Spoken Word’! Being able to put out a song where i’m literally pretty much just crying the whole time is very vulnerable. And I guess every song is really revealing in who I am as a person and what I’ve done wrong in the past and I think that’s really revealing.
TB: Personally, ‘SOS’ had some of the most heartbreaking and relatable lyrics to me. When you write and record a song like that, do you feel cathartic after or do you feel a little lost in those emotions for a bit?
G:I actually found it really therapeutic. Honestly, being able to speak about how I felt, felt so good that it came out all so naturally. I literally wrote it in about 20 minutes at my piano and everything just flew out and I was like “Oh, I think I needed to say that” *laughs*. So that felt great being able to get it out and knowing that people could relate to it and feel like they are not alone. And if they couldn’t find the words to say that they could just send this song to let it do the talking for them.
TB: You actually performed your first ever show for this project at BigSound this year, talk me through that cause that must’ve been so nerve wracking?
G: Yeah! I was eating a burger in bed in my PJ’s beforehand wrapped up in my doona like “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this” because I was so afraid of rejection. But then when I got on stage I was looking at some faces I knew and it was so nice because I automatically felt comfortable. Seeing anyone there was insane though because I honestly thought no one would turn up.
TB: Your new collaborative album with Elixir sees you experimentally reimagining poems from Michael Leunig. What inspired you to do this project?
KN: Elixir is my trio and we’ve been going for 22 years now and we’ve always been about great Australian poetry set to music so Michael Leunig is a huge icon of mine so it was a dream to work with him. I’m still in awe of the whole experience.
TB: Did you feel any pressure to how people would react to your experimental approach with tracks like ‘Rainbow Connection?
KN: No, I didn’t! When we were creating the record it was in the deep end of the ‘No Campaign’ which I felt was very un-Australian and un-Christian. So I remembered the lyric “I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it, it’s something I’ve supposed to be” which I thought was a beautiful song for us to do for the LGBTQI community.
TB: You recently kicked off your Australian tour in Brisbane and honestly delivered such a vibrant and euphoric show. It must have been so rewarding and reassuring for your creativity when you heard the audiences screaming back the lyrics so passionately after doing so many support act slots?
KP: Thank you! I mean, it’s all part of it right? But you obviously put your heart and soul into the music you write and to know that people get something out of it is super rewarding.
TB: Your debut self titled EP is a bold, honest and funky collection of tracks but there is quite a bit of under shadowing vulnerability. So what would you say is the EP’s most vulnerable moment?
KP: I equally love men and women, because I love people in general. But interpersonal relationships can be hard and learning to look at yourself in an honest eye and figuring out what the areas are that you can grow is super hard and I think writing that record helped me do that. But I think ‘Alone’ is a really tender moment. There are parts of that song that are really soft and vulnerable and I like that. i love that there are different shades on the EP.
TB: You premiered a new song in your live set and I have to say, ‘Revenge’ is a massive and playful track that is a bonefied banger. What was the inspiration behind this sassy and slightly emotive track?
KP: *Screams* I’m so happy you love it! i mean, I think it’s kinda obvious by the title but everyone knows what it’s like to go through a break-up and feel that anger towards a particular person. I’m not necessarily really petty but I thought it would be fun to give energy to that moment and everyone knows that it’s an universal feeling to feel frustrated and want to completely fuck up your ex. And I wanted to explore that because I think it’s something that we all have in common.
TB: To be honest, I got some real P!nk vibes of it!
KP: *Laughs* omg yes! I love that. She is such a bad ass woman so that is a huge vibe.
Kate Miller Heidke
TB: ‘Sarah’ is probably one of my favourite songs of yours of all time because the storytelling is so incurably vivid and beautiful. So how do you go about writing those sort of songs. Do you feel cathartic after you write them or do you feel really emotional because you’re storytelling is so raw and honest?
KMH: Thank you! With that song it’s a true story that has haunted me since childhood and after listening to Nick Cave’s ‘Murder Ballads’ I was inspired to turn that story into a song. And weirdly that story fitted the format of the song idea I had been working on and it all came together. At first it was confronting and emotional for me to perform it but after you’ve done it a couple of times it start to belong to the audience.
KMH: Oh god! I love ‘Woman’ from Kesha and I know that came out last year but I’m going to have that song blasting for the next decade *laughs*.
TB: You’ve been quite a key driver in the EDM and pop push at Triple J so leaving next year must be a little bittersweet?
KLP: oh yeah, it’s completely bittersweet! Because it’s such a family and an incredible platform but I really wanna focus on using that platform as an artist and release more music.
TB: There are some incredible hosts and DJ’s at the station so who is someone you think people should tune in and listen to soon?
KLP: They’re all great! I mean at Triple J Dance there is Andy Garvey who does Mix Up and Shantan who does The Kick On every week after House Party. But then there is Bridget Hustwaite who does Good Nights on Triple J who is great too. But I don’t know who is replacing me yet but I’m sure whoever it is will be amazing and I’m excited to see who it is?
TB: Do you get to keep anything from the studio when you leave? or are you gonna steal anything?
KLP: There’s nothing to steal, just the memories *laughs*.
TB: Because of your involvement in the radio and touring circuits, do you find you’re super critical of your own music when you release it and hear the feedback?
KLP: Yeah! I definitely find I’m super critical but it’s also easy to get distracted creatively when I’m in that role. Which is why I’m stepping back as a curator and just focusing on my own music now.
TB: ‘Boy Erased’ is a beautiful and heartbreaking film that explores the real truth behind gay conversion camps. You’re role in particular was incredible and there’s a very powerful scene towards the end of the film that had me so emotional. So how has it been seeing the incredible response to it?
NK: Thank you! It’s been so crazy. I’ve gotten everyone around me like my niece, my husband and my mother to watch it and we are just trying to get it out there because it’s such an important story that everyone need to be aware of. We just need to spread and share the love!
TB: It’s been 2 years since you released your debut album, so reflecting back on it now whats the biggest thing you learnt that has impacted the way you write and record music now?
N: I guess from all the sessions I’ve been in I’ve learnt to hone in on a couple of things which are melody and lyrical content amongst the sonical landscape. And really focus on something that has emotional connection.
Now that you’ve left your major label what’s one thing you’re loving about being an independent artist in Australia?
N:I guess it’s fair to say the best things are to be free, flexibility and I feel like you can invest so much more into something when you’re an independent artist. So that’s all really exciting.
N: It has! Oh shit, this is a hard question. I don’t know if it was released in 2018, but ‘God’s Plan’ by Drake has been my anthem this year. I’m such a massive fan of Drake *laughs*.
Not A Boys Name (Dave Jenkins JR)
TB: On the side of this project you’ve toured as a session drummer for some incredible and mostly female acts over the past couple of years. Have you found that being around such an empowering and feminine presence quite regularly in a creative format has integrated into a vulnerability of your songwriting?
DJ: I think it definitely has. I think my music is from the perspective of being okay to be in touch with your emotions and your own sensitivities. And I guess just being honest in your songwriting which is what artists like Vera, Wafia and Eves Karydas do so confidently. It’s always this unfiltered version of themselves which is something I’ve taken away from working with them.
TB: I mean the Lady Powers Tour must’ve been a massive creative and empowering experience to be apart of because of the level of energy that show created.
DJ: Yeah definitely! You know, something like that is something I haven’t really thought about before but it has definitely enabled me and my confidence has stemed from watching brilliant artists like Vera.
TB: Now, we have to talk about your fashion. Because you’ve become quite known for your cloud prints and your plaid patterns, so where do you get your inspiration from and why were you drawn to these images for this project?
DJ: Look, thats an interesting question *laughs*. That stems from the music video because when we dreamed up that concept we went from being in a closed room with a treadmill into this whole random cloud setting. It relates back to that lyrical concept of life being a simulation. So we were looking back at The Truman Show and stuff like that for inspiration.
TB: Can we expect to hear your new single sometime soon?
DJ: Yes! It’s coming in February and I’m so excited. We’ve already shot the music video, it’s super twisted *laughs*. But it’s all ready to go!
TB: So you’ve hd a pretty amazing and weird 2018 so what song would you say has become your soundtrack of the year?
O: It’s been strange, that’s for sure! But honestly just the whole ‘High As Hope’ album from Florence + The Machine
TB: You’ve done A LOT of touring this year from doing festivals to headline shows and opening for The Cat Empire. So what have you learnt most about touring?
O: Yes! The Cat Empire tour was so fun, a lot of bangers and such warm crowds! But the thing I’ve learnt most about touring is to get a smaller keyboard case *laughs*! It’s 2018 and it doesn’t need to be so big.
TB: You’ve just released your first ever Christmas album which you’ve described as a dream come true. So what so you love about Christmas and Christmas songs the most?
SJ: I love Christmas, I always have! I feel like it’s just that time of year that everyone comes together and everyone is happy and it’s just a beautiful and joyful time. And I just really wanted to be in that moment and stay in it. And that’s what a Christmas album is, you re-release it every year and relive it *laughs*.
TB: What song on the collection were you most nervous to re-create because they are obviously all iconic songs?
SJ: All of them are so iconic! But I think ‘Blue Christmas’ by Elvis scared me the most but I did it because my Dad loves that song so much and I wanted to do something a little special for him on this record.
TB: You recently just completed your first massive national tour in support of your disco nostalgic album ‘Best Of My Love’. What was the biggest thing you learnt about yourself as an artist from these run of shows?
SJ: Do you know what, I learnt that I actually LOVE touring. I was really nervous because touring is a very new thing to me as I’ve never done it before but I loved it and wanna do it again really soon.
TB: This tour marked the first time you performed ‘Step Up’ in a VERY long time. So how was it seeing the audience react to that surprise track each night?
SJ: Oh my god YES! Every night that was such a fun moment in the show because the crowd went crazy. Because I wrote a little tweet in the lead up to the tour using what songs they wanted to hear and everyone was tweeting back saying ‘Step Up’ so I was like “okay, lets do it” and it was so much fun.
TB: Have you thought about bringing back ‘Secret’ or ‘Turn Around’ again?
SJ: I’ve been thinking about it! If I do more live shows I reckon I will do a little medley of all those old songs.
TB: You’ve just kicked off your Australian tour, so what have you learnt about yourself as an artist from post winning The Voice to releasing a single and touring?
SP: I mean the fact that people pay to come see me perform live is still insane to me. I also can’t believe that we’ve sold some shows out so that’s overwhelming. But I’ve learnt to trust myself, back myself and continue to do what I’m doing. I thought the noises I was making was a little stupid and no one would like them but that’s apparently not the case *laughs*.
TB: You were really wrong *laughs*
SP: I was *laughs*, it’s crazy! Isn’t that weird!
TB: 2018 has been a bit of a weird and existing year for you post winning The Voice so what song would you say has become your soundtrack of the year?
SP: Oh that’s a good question! I’ve recently remixed Destiny Child’s ‘Survivor’ in my live show with ‘Gangstas Paradise’ because of my connection with Kelly Rowland. So I’ve done this crazy mash up and I love it. So that song means a lot to me at the moment.
TB: ’Clumsy Love’ explores the ups and down of your past year, so reflecting on your year what would you say is the biggest personal growth
TP: I think I’ve just learned and grown a lot. I love myself a lot more than I did a year ago so that’s really been the biggest thing for me. And just constantly evolving as an artist from when I first started making music.
TB: I think we’ve both grown a lot since we went to TAFE together in 2012 *laughs*.
TP: I wondered if you were going to bring that up *laughs*. But yes we did go to TAFE together post high school, I only lasted like a month but we did it didn’t we *laughs*.
TB: You recently performed at A More Perfect Union in Brisbane and premiered quite a bunch of new tracks from your forthcoming debut album. So what has inspired this record?
TP: Honestly so much! From love, to heartbreak to people I hate and lots of those type of things.
TB: Your music has always been quite vulnerable so what would you say is the most vulnerable moment on the upcoming record?
TP: I think speaking a lot about my mental health and where I’m from and sharing all of that is a pretty big deal for me and so vulnerable.
TB: ’Love Somebody’ is an honest and reflective song of hope and heartbreak, and over the years you’ve always been quite open and honest with your listeners. So with the tenderness of this song were you worried how people would react or did it feel natural returning with this raw song?
TH: Thank you! I used to worry about things like that a lot to be honest. I used to worry about how something may sound and what should be next because at the end of the day we are all trying to share love, be true to ourselves and reach goals that we want to reach. And I just realised that I can’t keep second guessing myself so i wanted to put out something that was strictly just streaming and to give to people. I wanted to do something that was raw and real. How relatable is that when you just be honest to the listener. Like is there anyone that you’ve loved before and they just haven’t loved you back?
TB: Sadly yes I can say my last two relationships followed that storyline, so i feel you *laughs*.
TH: Oh man! Yeah, that was my relationship too. We obviously have great luck *laughs*.
TB: You’ve recently just completed a regional tour which was your first run of shows in a little while. So how did you find the crowds reacted to the mix of old and new material?
TH: I’ve always loved touring and I’ve always had faith in myself but theres always that little bit of doubt where you think “I wonder who is going to go?” or “I wonder if it will sell?”. But the winter leg did so well and we’re starting the summer leg on New Years Eve so I am super excited.
So heaps more touring is planned then?
TH: Yeah! I’m going up to Brisbane and we’re starting the tour up there in Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast and going from there.
Photos By Ruby Boland