Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

When you finish a song and it becomes official gov’t policy on the same day

The second song I co-wrote in a set of three decoys features Broken Tooth boss (and a legend of the local hip hop culture) Ciecmate and my DJ and good friend Jayteehazard. In an uncanny turn of events, our idiot PM made some of my lyrics come true on the day we signed off on the track. More about that here.

The song is called W.A.R. and we’re just over 760 hours away.

#LongLoudHours #Oct12

Don’t Read The Comments Section

Just don’t.

As I near the end of my new record, there’s a zillion words duelling for an airing. Words in song; big dumb words in print; frustrated and emotional words; smart words clumsily phrased; words soaked in relief; words for days mate. But they’re just words so all in good time. For now, I’ve put together something raw, (a decoy?) produced by some of my most talented friends Pip Norman (aka Count Bounce), Joelistics, Yeroc (Damn Moroda) and Pasobionic. I’m counting down to October 12 but more on that later..

And the ARIA nominees…

Last week I discussed the artists that missed out on an ARIA nom, this week it’s all about the contenders for the Urban award..

Iggy Azalea – The New Classic

It’s 2014 and a young white girl from Mullumbimby drops a song called Murda Bizness and no one flinches. Iggy Azalea clearly possesses a formidable inner-strength: she moved to the US at 16 and actually made it in the toughest market there is – that alone is a big deal but despite nearing a billion youtube views it’s been clunky. Her Atlanta rap accent, described as “verbal blackface”  by Jean Grae may be a necessary affectation in breaking the US market, but given the context of her hippy upbringing in Australia, it’s almost Hollywood in transformation. Never fear though, her casually racist stereotyping of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders show she is most definitely Aussie. If Abbott didn’t break any promises and words mean nothing then Iggy can say she’s the realest. In many eyes she’s odds on to win with a staggering break-out year.

Hilltop Hoods – Walking Under Stars

Every album they’ve released since The Hard Road has won the Urban ARIA Award – even when they repackaged The Hard Road with strings they won with that too! It speaks volumes about the respect and affection held for the Hoods by the public and industry that they stay on top all these years later. For me, Walking Under Stars felt like a revitalising album giving the trio a spring in their step as they uncovered new ground with a renewed sense of purpose. Once again the Hoods are selling out huge concerts and their music is going Gold and Platinum. Phenomenal run of success. They’ve reached legacy status. Clear favourites outside of the Iggy juggernaut.

Illy – Cinematic

One of the hardest working artists over the last five years, Illy is a force to be reckoned with distinguishing himself from the pack with authoritative flows and a knack for writing sophisticated pop hooks. Time and time again his singles find their way to the top of radio rotation culminating in this year’s Tightrope, his biggest tune to date. His ambition and focus can’t be questioned – seemingly writing the last two albums simultaneously – and pulling it off. Seriously impressive. He won last year’s ARIA for the inferior Bring it Back album, so surely the far stronger Cinematic has a strong chance.

Thundamentals – So We Can Remember

It’s as if Blue Mountains crew Thundamentals knew they were onto something special when they gave this album its title. Huge growth between albums showed the boys aren’t playing around anymore – they stepped up everywhere, from production to songwriting to clips – I get the feeling we’re only seeing the start of a long run from them. This ARIA Award has at times felt like it’s a ‘profile’ rather than ‘album’ award and if that continues Thundas don’t stand a chance against this list. If it’s the latter, they could surprise everyone because this album was sharp, insightful and ambitious. Got Love for the underdog.

360 – Utopia

One of the most divisive and inspiring artists in the country – I haven’t seen an Australian artist like him in the time I’ve been involved in this music caper. Utopia hasn’t hit the public’s consciousness like the tidal wave that was Falling and Flying but songs like Price of Fame still shook things up – one of the best hooks of the year. I like 360 and have great respect for much of what he’s done – and we need larger than life characters. In with a shot but he’s up against it.

On the topic of ARIAs

This is the time of year where hours in the day feel like they rush ahead of themselves to get to next year. Award ceremonies give weary industry battlers a chance to get drunk and talk over acceptance speeches. The hip hop community has an uneasy relationship with these events but we’re part and parcel of them now.

Given the ARIA Awards are next week I thought I’d look at the albums that did and didn’t make the cut of nominations in possibly the most competitive year yet. We’ll start with those that didn’t.. bear in mind certain artists below didn’t fit in the ARIA timeline or didn’t have an album, and therefore weren’t considered.

2014 announced the arrival of a few exciting prospects that not only lived up to the hype but went well beyond it – the next few years will be very interesting as major labels swoop and throw a bit of cash around.

Starting with Remi and his electrifying debut Raw X Infinity, an album that suddenly revealed the spectrum of Remi’s talent when many anticipated a fun but inoffensive album of songs like Sangria. Hell naw, this was a statement and a half and showed a well-rounded artist with a vision, and a production team and crew that are seriously dangerous.

I work with these guys so take it as you will, but One Day dropped the showstopping Mainline this year and despite being a collective made up of four groups, the album was lauded for cohesion and chemistry. They went on to all but sell the Enmore Theatre out and generally own a huge national tour.

It’s incredible but really no surprise to see Tkay Maidza making waves internationally, with her self-assured tone and flow working impeccably over more electronic beats. She might be the perfect example of just how much talent lies beneath the surface in Australia – or perhaps not – artists like her don’t come around very often. And she’s a teenager. Scary.

L-Fresh the Lion has proven in the space of a short time that he’s one to watch, with a clear-headed sense of purpose and an infectious force of positivity that is difficult to ignore. He pulled together a strong album and with the right production, the next one will be fierce. You get the feeling this guy has only touched on the things he’ll achieve in years to come. He’s a one of a kind.

There’s no fronting on Kerser and the energy that swirls around him. He’s proudly done it with no radio, single-handedly carving his own lane in defiance of all the industry rules. I admire this dude and no matter how wild the lifestyle is he’s proof that there’s a gang of kids around this country looking to him to make sense of their world. Extra props for stepping up a gear with his productivity too (new album out this month).

Joelistics‘ 2nd album Blue Volume is everything you’d expect from such a gifted songwriter, but it adds a few new feathers to his cap with some truly jawdropping moments, not least the above video. No longer riding the wave of young and most hype, Joelistics is probably the most likely to follow in Paul Kelly’s footsteps if anyone could. Very very good.

Allday has gathered a sizeable following of the back of his quirky hip hop but for me the R&B focus in what is probably more deeply embedded indie pop instincts is what separates him from the pack. It’s a testament to his skill that he pulled it off with enough personality to overshadow the Drake influence and form his own lane in the country. The kid completely polarises the hip hop community and his response seems to be to distance himself from the scene, which is a very hip hop thing to do. Look forward to seeing where he goes.

Mau Power and Archie Roach teamed up for one of the songs of the year in my opinion. If I could program triple j this would be in high rotation as this hook from Uncle Archie is a gift. Emotive, real and unforgettable.

Uncompromising and raw, Tornts comes staunch but hip hop is an artform and skills are on full display on Street Visions, his album from late 2013. There’s a clear storytelling thread that comes through in the songs shining a light on the underbelly of Melbourne. One of the strongest voices coming out of the BTE crew you’d be wise to check in on whatever he does next.

No introducing needed with Briggs, one of the most engaging social media characters online. This album took everything up a notch, his songwriting went widescreen and turned a lot of heads in the process. Simply put, there is no other artist in the country quite like him on stage or off. Sheplife is a powerful record packed with humour, skills and a realness that people in this country need to hear.

Still one of the illest, Delta gave us Pyramid Schemes this year and it’s dope from start to finish with Delts’ trademark solid flow in authority mode once again. I don’t need to go on about the commanding presence the bro has but this album even has Peter Tilbrook from The Masters Apprentices on it. Seek it out.

Crate Cartel keeps releasing music that can’t be overlooked although the title of Geko’s album Real Heads Don’t Listen suggests otherwise. This is a solid album that surprises with it’s dusty DOOMesque observations and style – most songs coming in around the 2 minute mark – all heads should listen.

750 Rebels may never win an ARIA (like most of us) but they’ve steadily repped QLD to the fullest and I’ll always check out anything involving Lazy Grey. Love that they took on Andrew Stafford’s excellent Pig City book for their Kold Heat album.

It was never going to challenge the Hoods or Bliss n Esos but Astronomy Class put out what must be the most original hip hop release of the year, teaming up with Cambodian Srey Channthy on a record that brought the golden era of Cambodian soul and rock into local hip hop. Songwriting is vintage OB: multilayered, insightful and sharp.

No doubt I’ve unintentionally missed things (apologies!) but here’s a few more to consider. Perth’s Coin Banks impressed with the Tails EP and this single. Diafrix just put out one of their best songs to date The Sign. One of the most loved people in our culture is Hau and he dropped the Football, Feasts and Funerals mixtape with news that more music is coming in 2015. Chelsea Jane dropped this and raised the stakes – hopefully an album soon? Daily Meds just released their best album including this great single Beneath the RadarMilwaukee Banks are on the horizon, Sarah Connor keeps doing good things, Mathas will be putting out an album in 2015, Baro stays cool as, we’re only starting to see what Citizen Kay will do. Phew. What else? K-21 gave us this chiller, Kween G kept us waiting for her long player, Miss Hood is on the way up as is Philly (with Steven Motlop) via Nathan Lovett-Murray’s Payback Records.

Jane Tyrrell – Echoes in the Aviary

For some years the promise of a solo album hung in the air with Janey. Constant touring while trying to hold down a regular job can make you sway so much it’s hard to balance a debut. How it came together is her story to tell but I’m sure the numerous collaborations and tours she experienced were a necessary curtain-raiser. Punters caught on a few years after she joined The Herd. Gradually the marriage proposals from hecklers in the audience were drowned out by people yelling at her to do a solo album. She told them she would so she did and next month it’ll be out in shops.

The first taste was this little gem of a tune, co-written with my great friend Pip Norman and Dustin McLean.


Jane’s voice is rich and smokey, giving it a soulful tone in a period of time where many successful Australian artists have thinner, higher qualities (Gossling, Sarah Blasko, Claire Bowditch). She did a short series of covers that included When Something is Wrong With My Baby with Ev Jones and Hermitude on keys and drums.

She also did this little one with ToeFu from The Herd, and this one in the back of a car during a WA leg of a Herd tour (with Rok Poshtya and a fan who was in it for some reason). Then there’s the much loved collab she did with Horrorshow In My Haze and Die a Happy Man with Tuka.

A lot of people were expecting Jane to come out with a neo-soul album but that overlooks her background in projects like the Firekites first album. Over the years she’d become obsessed with artists like Lykke Li, Thom Yorke, PVT, Little Dragon and many others, and had an intense curiosity about them that was infectious. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising when the indie vibes of her new single, The Rush, dropped.


But we’re here because of Jane’s new album Echoes in the Aviary and rather than describe the genre I’ll just say it does justice to the adventurousness of her lifelong musical journey. The soulful textures in her voice bring a warmth to Laurence Pike’s tentacled percussion and key collaborators Dustin McLean and Pip Norman have enabled her to deliver on her vision. She debuted the songs recently at Bigsound and a huge cross section of industry and the public gathered to see it go down.

Jane Tyzzle's stage presence is striking, as always.

Jane Tyzzle’s stage presence is striking, as always.

And now, on the eve of the release of her debut album, after sharing the stage 100s of times, I get to stand on the sidelines and applaud her with everyone else, honouring an immense achievement. Well done traindriver, aka Jason, aka J. Tyzzle aka Chips, you done good.

Luke Dubs (Hermitude) says “Jane’s soft yet powerful voice is instantly recognisable, as she always sings straight from the heart, and it’s equally matched by her loving and generous personality“. Tuka (Thundamentals) adds “Jane is one of my favourite human beings. She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard and I feel blessed to have been able to collaborate with her. Pure talent.”

Echoes in the Aviary artwork

Echoes in the Aviary artwork – designed by Jane

Echoes in the Aviary is out on Elefant Traks October 17. Preorder info will go live Thursday Sept 18.


It seems a long time ago that we did Shruggin, although it’s only a few years. At the time it felt like an album track and I remember trying to phrase the chorus demo with a hint of soul, all in vain of course. It wasn’t until Jane’s vocal performance that the song really made sense. She completely owned it.

Spitshine Tour final legs 060

The Big Bright Moon

There is a moon hanging in the night sky like an oversized yellow button as I fly from Sydney to Brisbane. It’s so dope and awe-inspiring that I tried to capture it on my phone camera, to no avail of course. My pupils are dilating but my phone reveals an otherwise unremarkable bright dot in amongst the reflection of my hoodie in the window.

I’m on the road again and the moon feels like a reminder of my pursuit of tomorrow. This casual quest we musicians busy ourselves with, to shore up some kind of security, never ceases. It’s pretty fun. It sucks. I still love it.

In another time this pursuit was a stoner’s guide to a bank heist. I’ve worked really hard for a relatively successful music career but I’ve been blessed with luck and a lack of pressure gifted by low expectations. My bank heist is more about lifestyle than the spoils of an elite career – I sometimes marvel about the spot myself and my soul mate have found ourselves in. There is one thing on my mind though, as I find myself in the corporate traffic of peak hour at the airport. My smiling little eczema afflicted talking clunk of awesomeness: Jetta Joanie.

All I can think about is not being able to pick her up from daycare because I’m here. Walking her into the centre of a morning, and easing her into that environment when she’s upset, hits me in the chest because her whole world is reduced down to her and I. She clings to my leg or squeezes her head between them as if this tiny gesture of defiance magically removes the rest of the universe from us. As the issues of the day hurry into the afternoon I find myself longing to see her and make sure she’s ok. When I leave work I think about the big smile that’ll brighten her face when she notices me and the excited ‘deh’ sounds she’ll make as she points to nothing, that she’s taken to doing lately. Then she’ll stumble-run her way to me to be picked up. “Up, up” she’ll look directly in my eyes and say. Then she’ll point at some other nothingness as if to steal my attention entirely for herself. I don’t know how to properly explain how widely my heart smiles. It hurts writing it from a distance.

I missed out on doing that today and the crusty façade protecting this little old heart cracks a little. I am a paid-up member of the vulnerable parents club now.

Once up on a time the moon meant everything but now it’s just a tiny dot in the distance.

The Beginning of Elefant Traks

I’ve been putting together a live show called Make Me a Mixtape featuring a bunch of guests helping me perform a live retrospective mixtape of songs for a trip I took to SE Asia as a youngster. After developing the show I remembered that Elefant Traks began out of a mixtape.. so I thought I should let Kenny Sabir, the founder of Elefant Traks explain a little more.

Founder of Elefant Traks and all round legend, Traksewt

Founder of Elefant Traks and all round legend, Traksewt

From Traksewt:
A defining moment was when one of my old best school-friends (Brad) was moving to Japan. I made a plan to get a bunch of friends together to make a farewell album for him, where we each did a track saying goodbye. A few of us worked on our tracks for a few weeks, others wrote it on the spot. We booked out a day in my bedroom, where each group was rostered on for 2 hours each to record their song, with myself as the learn-as-you-go-and-make-the-rest-up sound engineer. For some reason, that now escapes my old-age sensibilities, I had a four-poster bed – which came in handy to throw a blanket over to create a vocal booth for recording. We burnt up 20 copies and Brad loved it – though the epiphany was how damn possible it was to create a legitimately passable looking CD. What would happen if this was in the shops? What exactly IS an independent label? Sure it is going to be a bit of administration and bureaucracy, but more than that it is an idea, an identifier, a measure of quality.

From the humble beginnings of a mixtape, Elefant Traks was born.

I wanted to do something completely different with this show so I’ve called on a bunch of awesome artists to help pull this gig off. There’s the sparkling force of nature that is Patience Hodgson from The Grates; the majestic dad Bobby Flynn (who appeared on my recent album Smokey’s Haunt); my good friend and big hearted talent Rival MC from Impossible Odds/Black Arm Band; the brilliant and refreshing voice of Thelma Plum as well as one of Australia’s most compelling songwriters Sam Cromack from Ball Park Music.

The tracklist is inspired by events that happened on the trip to Thailand and Vietnam, as well as songs that were a big deal around that time for me. I had been working in a record store in Sydney and studying in addition to my first forays into music with my Elefant Traks buddies.

It’s all snugly wrapped up by a great live band made up of Lisa Purmodh (drums), Jarrol Renaud (bass) and Kristen Fletcher (keys), we’re bringing this thing to life. It goes down this Saturday Sept 6 at Brisbane Festival’s Speigeltent 7.15pm – and I can’t reveal the tracklist til then.

Presentation Night, Mixtapes and Footy

I was asked to join Jude Bolton in a night of music and football for an event called Presentation Night. The concept has been running in Melbourne for a couple of years with the likes of Cameron Ling, Bob Murphy and Matthew Richardson joining Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers and Paul Dempsey. All the nights have been expertly mediated by Francis Leach. Anyone who knows me knows I love sport and somehow I’ve forged some kind of career out of music so this is perfect.

Presentation Night

I’ve been a fan of the Swans since the early 90s and recall the heady days of empty SCGs and easy availability of seats, and long before I appreciated the musician, the footballer Paul Kelly was the player I most admired. When The Herd began touring more in the early 2000s Ozi Batla started packing his Swans scarf and hat (and this is a guy who traveled very light) and enthusiastically ripped in whether at soundcheck, hotel or the back of the tour van. I couldn’t help but convert from fan to obsessive and to be frank, you’re a mug if you don’t love or at least respect the Sydney Swans.

As part of this show I was asked to make a MIXTAPE of songs to get pumped up for a game. To find out what song sounds like a moshpit breaking out at a stoppage click the damn link already.

In related news the Community Cup is going down this Sunday at Henson Park in Marrickville. The annual Walers (musicians) vs Sailors (media) slugfest is a brilliant day out and all are welcome. Entry is by donation and funds are raised for Reclink. I’m playing and it’s become apparent at training that I’m in the bottom percentile of genuine talent.

See ya there.

Better to be Different… part 2

Hermitude’s first show is at Studio 2: a small venue forged out of an old recording studio off one of Liverpool’s numerous cobblestoned streets. Their slot is at 12.30am and Money for Rope, a rock band from Melbourne belts out an entertaining set beforehand. When Hermitude start the dance floor is empty and the projector can’t be mounted anywhere functional so the visuals appear in a warped rectangle stretching up to the ceiling. Within moments a flood of people enter the venue and pretty soon the dancefloor is full, and no Aussie accents to be heard. Earlier that day some industry figures had discussed the cul de sac of foreign bands playing to expats in London (he made special mention of Australians and Indians) and how it made for a viable tour but actually hindered rather than progressed an international career.

The post show cold is no obstacle to Liverpool determination.

Liverpool determination

As a manager I don’t oversell my artists but I’m not certain that’s the right way to go. I’ve sat in meetings in New York with flashy lawyers and fast talking middlemen whose eyes jump from mine to their computer screen, then to their phone. All the while fingers tapping the table swiping their phone on and off, laughing at their screen, looking back at me. Listening intently, not listening. I’m just some guy from a country who joins in on their wars and plays weird sports but this is New York Fucking City. I walked out onto busy Manhattan sidewalks laughing to myself, neither offended nor keen to work with them. It is what it is. There’s an infectious nervous energy to it all, like their lives depend on not only the deals but the status that comes with it. The reality is they do big deals with huge artists and so much of our pop cultural understanding stems from the wheeling and dealing of these individuals. Now, months later, I’m in the UK and the way industry people carry themselves is different but the competitive energy is much the same.

So Hermitude won the American Music Prize did they Tom?”

Uh. Hmm?

The second show Hermitude play at Liverpool Sound City is the Aussie BBQ and Sounds Australia do a brilliant job in giving acts a platform where they otherwise may be lost in the crowd. They do a lot with a little, generating a sense of ‘something happening’ and forging a personality for Australian music amidst the cacophony of international bands and industry. There are 10 bands performing here today and they casually load on and off around their 25 minute performances. Money For Rope are playing again and the 200 odd people at the Moon Museum (normally known as Parr St Car Park) dig it. Dune Rats‘ shambolic banter covers bongs and lads on tour but it doesn’t quite mask the fact they’re clearly a switched on band. Kid Mac follows to a very appreciative response although the tits out for the boys chant at the end missed the mark a bit. No tits were shared.

Hermitude kill it, of course.

Hermitude prior to the Aussie BBQ

Hermitude prior to the Aussie BBQ

At an official “networking session” earlier that day I stare at my non-networking brain in the face. I love a good conversation about music and industry issues but the blind date aspect of this kind of work doesn’t come naturally. There’s a guy sitting beside me reeling off all of his different industry interests, it happens to include writing a music biz course for Harvard. I think this is when I was staring at myself in the brain. Jeremy Stones, manager of Delta Riggs runs through a crapload of sync activity for his band and impresses the whole table. I start to think I should’ve elaborated on “my name is Tim Levinson and I manage Hermitude” when it was my turn earlier. I look around at the many people I don’t know and smile before heading out to put some posters up around the streets.

No one seems to poster here and I haven’t been pulled up for it. I keep waiting for some kind of violently heavy handed response from cops or over-zealous citizen as it’d at least explain the lack of posters.

After the Aussie BBQ we drank the tequila and consumed the Mexican with Mama Kin and her band including Bree Van Reyk who I was lucky enough to tour with last year. Tomorrow we catch a bus back to London.

Better To Be Different Than Merely Good

I’m currently racing through the British countryside on a fast train en route to Liverpool with my good friends Hermitude and our production manager Luke Snarl. We’re here because Hermitude have been invited to showcase at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton as well as Liverpool Soundcity. There’s also a headline London show and a gig in Berlin plus a stack of meetings for me, their manager.

Yesterday was a blur that started at 3am in Sydney and finished in London after a long haul flight. We prepaid $987 of additional luggage and found out we only needed a third of it when we checked in.

Once on the flight I employed my zen mind control to avoid getting up even once in the 14 fucking hours to Dubai. I was seated in the middle but that doesn’t explain me suspending normality. After a refresh at Dubai airport I preceded to achieve the exact same feat on the 7 ½ hours to London. I’m a robot.


After 25 hours in the air we’re to expect massive delays at customs says the inflight news.

We settled into London with a kebab and realised our imminent departure to Liverpool was in question due to invalid train tickets (wrong name, wrong credit card). We could replace them but it’d cost $600. Fortunately, and just as we almost coughed up over the phone, I took a chance on talking to the train staff at the station. We were in luck and all it cost me was an £8 bunch of roses.

Liverpool! I’d never thought of it as a destination but it’s a beautiful old town and every cabbie lined up a Lime St Station looked like an ageing football hooligan. At this stage the EPL title was in their grasp and I’d counted at least four separate panels at this music conference that were either partly or solely focused on football. One of them basically a rundown of the current season.


Ken Dodd looks on dubiously at Hermitude.

The extroverted Liverpudlian accent sprang up from all directions and I love it. The accent has an upward inflection that feels like the curling tone of a question embedded in general conversation: as if stowed away in the wrong sentence. We wander along cobblestone streets and drink pints and lousy coffee. At £2.40 each, the mixed bag of coffees are almost $5 a cup. My habitual love addiction will bite me over and over on this trip.

The best talk I saw at Soundcity was given by Thurston Moore who made some interesting points about his journey from coming up in the ’80s to dealing with modern technology.


Thurston Moore being interviewed by a guy under an ad for Jagwar Ma

He told the story of Sonic Youth supporting Neil Young in ’91, when Moore gave Young’s manager a Nirvana tape to consider for the final support slot. Nirvana had just released Bleach and had passed on a tape of songs that would eventually become Nevermind. His motivation was partly selfish as Sonic Youth wanted to have some friends on the tour (an instinct proven right when they were booed off stage each night). This live video Neil Young shot on the tour explains a fair bit. The manager knocked Nirvana back in favour of some band only Thurston recalled. As a sidenote, Young’s first choice for the main tour support was Public Enemy. My thoughts jump to Paul Kelly asking me to support him last year – and while it’s not as radical as PE supporting Neil Young – it brought to mind how rarely these ideas happen. I would’ve loved nothing more than to see that Neil Young crowd deal with PE.

Years earlier, in 1983, Paul Smith from Mute picked Sonic Youth up, promising them they could be as big as The Birthday Party. “Back then that may as well have been The Rolling Stones to us, it was massive, but in retrospect it’s comical”. I have no sense of the Birthday Party’s impact beyond connecting the dots backward, but it gives an insight into the buzz that must have surrounded them at the time.

Moore summed up Sonic Youth as a group that underpinned the mainstream rather than competing in it; something that resonated with me. Despite the contempt commonly held for mainstream culture, it’s still where most of us go looking for preeminent artists. On a micro level the public conversation we have around an act like 360 or Illy is far louder than that of, say, Tornts. It means that the former receives far more attention but does it mean that their art is superior? It’s an old discussion but perhaps there can be no Illy without the likes of Tornts providing the foundation that gives the acts on the surface their context. We’re not yet at the stage of US hip hop where the major acts are the pop cultural icons of our time.

In my eyes Sonic Youth have dipped into the mainstream more often than most bands – their rise coincided with a period of time that saw their subversive songwriting as an antidote to what came before. But like the majority of all artists that shoot to global acclaim, it’s a wild but ultimately temporary experience. It may not vanish entirely but more often than not they’re left to forge a career on the fringes of that blinding spotlight. Or just become crap or break up. The latter often due to the tendency to feel like anything less than that early success is a crushing failure.

There are some mainstream artists in Australia that inspire us forward but the majority create polished but conservative music. In a talk the following day, John Cale reflected on the Velvet Underground having been more interested in being different than being good. While simply being different is not a means to an end at least it aspires to something unexplored rather than unintentionally shooting for satisfactory. I worry about my own role in this.


Hermitude with Luke Snarl in the middle

Tomorrow Hermitude play their first showcase.