Smokey's Blog

we gonna do the damn thing or what

Tag: hermitude

Roll Up Your Sleeves lyrics

I’ve been hit up a bunch of times to post the lyrics from my version of Meg Mac’s Roll Up Your Sleeves. It’s taken a while because I’m lazy but here they are.. check my earlier post (inc the video) here.

Kira Puru
Roll up your sleeves
And face the face it’s looking right back at me
It’s easier to leave it oh
It’s easier to fake it, oh oh
So I’ll go and I’ll join the free
There’s people there, they’re just like me oh
Bertie Blackman, Kira Puru, All Our Exes Live in Texas 
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright

January tricked you when it looked you in the eye
and said no matter what you've been through/ with me, you'll be renewed
a promise made at midnight/ a fire sale that
knew it couldn't drag you into something/
you don't wanna do/ a heart that's full of nightfall
hanging on dear life for/ first signs of daylight
but what if I refuse? what if it all passes like cycling of news
while I'm searching for an ocean/ I can wade into
what if I don't stick around for/ February's saving grace?
maybe I don't know it now/ I'll be in a different place
what I wouldn't dare to face if I don't find my feet
til March I'll find a way of giving chase, best believe
the arms of april may have open hands that hold you up
the pages we're reopening from what we'd folded up
we're not tryna front with all that 'winter isn't cold enough'
but we can handle anything they throw at us
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright
July had left you waiting, and August wasn't answering
but you're in touch with everyone you've ever known/ never so alone
a starry-eyed september/ reminding you of something
that you cannot quite remember/ so you're reaching for your phone
calling in a favour/ but it's ringing out
you're hanging up before it goes to message/ is anybody home?
there's trouble in your palms and they're making for a handrail
but if you fall/ it's something that you'll own
breathing in the time we borrow
won't be gone until november we'll be here until tomorrow
may as well take a risk
people singing carols while I'm singing this
roll up your sleeves this is it, let em sing it
Everything is gonna be alright
Everything is gonna be alright
Roll up your sleeves
Roll up your sleeves

How to Like a Version

During soundcheck for the biggest show of Hermitude’s career, I received an email asking if I’d like to do the last Like a Version of the year. The catch was that I’d have about 8 days to put it together.

I stressed about it. I got appropriately drunk after the second of two crazyamazing shows and resumed peak anxiety about the like a version cover as I walked home at 6am.

There’s a long line of great covers that have been created for this popular segment on triple j so the prospect of pulling off something good in a short space of time was intimidating. First call? Manager Mondo. He suggested I work with a guy named Jack Grace Britten, who could assist with a musical arrangement. I was also staring down my first gig that weekend and was underprepared. I could feel my hair thinning and falling from my head like passengers on a sinking boat. I called Jack.

I shot an email to Tom Thum, an international star and an old mate I met through hip hop. He was in Abu Dhabi but was returning home a week before this. I called Luke Dubs, who had just finished a US/Europe/Syd/Melb tour and had every right to say no. I gave Kira Puru a buzz as she prepared for that night’s show with Paul Kelly on his Merri Soul Sessions vineyard concert. I checked in with Bertie Blackman, luckily back in Australia for a few months. Lastly, Mondo called All our Exes Live in Texas.

Despite hectic schedules and inconvenient timing, everyone said yes. It was a big deal. Jack shot me an arrangement and I began writing the first of two verses. I could go on and on but we made a little video that takes you into this process, and below that, is the end product: the live recording we did in triple j’s studios.

And here’s the youtube video. Together with the facebook video, it’s had 500,000 views in a week.

Oh and we did a live version of Long Loud Hours, which turned out beautifully thanks to the additional vocals of All Our Exes Live in Texas.

Thanks as always to triple j, they’ve created such a monster with Like a Version, a segment that’s been running for 10 years now. Also big thanks to Matt and Alex, and Greg Wales who engineered it all.

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.


6 Things I Learned at Field Day 2014

1. My wife and I joined the hordes of topless buff blokes, and matching ladies sideboob & shortshorts. I learned that we would’ve fit in perfectly if not for our pram and baby.

Artist impression

Artist impression

2. Once an exclusive dance and electro event, I learned that Field Day is anything but in 2014. The final 4 acts on the main stage were: Hermitude, A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa and Flume. Hats off to Fuzzy for a caj atmosphere backstage and yet another huge NYD.

I googled field day photos. I dunno, maybe this was the first one Fuzzy did?

A lot has changed since the 1st Field Day in 1874

3. I learned that squillionaire Skrillex keeps it real by raiding artists’ riders backstage. Maybe he defaulted on his spaceship repayments?

4. Standing on your mate’s shoulder, pulling your pants down and wanking in the middle of a 10000 strong mainstage crowd is the new titty flash? I didn’t learn anything here.

Hermitude Field Day 1/1/14

Hermitude Field Day 1/1/14

5. Some of their peers have more fame, more sales and more fans but none of em want it with Hermitude‘s live show. I learnt that no one can fuck with em, still.

Took this back to the lab, added a filter and some photography technical stuff you probably don't know about.

Took this back to the lab, added a filter and some photography technical stuff. It’s complicated.

6. A$AP Rocky, due on stage, stops and comments on how “adorable” my baby Jetta is. I learnt there’s nothing like a baby to shake out the staunch.

True Tears of Joy

Sometime in late 2012 I happily received a call from Paul asking if I’d produce a song he’d been asked to do for the upcoming Hunters and Collectors tribute compilation. I said yes before the soundwave had properly entered my ear canal. The straggling second half of his question was still weaving past the wax on my eardrum after I’d started making plans.

The song was True Tears of Joy and he had Emma Donovan in mind as a collaborator. I knew it’d be better if Jimblah joined in too.

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

Jimblah. Pic by Dave Stefanoff

My only condition was that it wasn’t going to be anything like a Paul Kelly song, which I suspect is what he wanted to hear.

The first call I made was to one of my favourite cohorts Elgusto, producer of half of my solo albums and better known as one half of Hermitude. We had a preliminary session with Paul at the Elefant Mansion coinciding with his visit to help induct Yothu Yindi into the ARIA Hall of Fame. After playing a few electronic artists on youtube it was agreed we’d work with textures that took it as far away from classic PK as possible – without losing the essence of True Tears.

There are multiple audiences here – Hunnas fans, Paul’s fans and our own ears. If we go all out electronic we might make Paul’s voice jarring and incongruent. If we stay safe and close to the original we risk being red brick bored at the pointlessness of it all.

Emma Donovan

Emma Donovan

Emma is an incredible vocalist and Gusto and I felt that she’d be perfect for a soulful treatment – her voice is layered and rich with character. Jimblah is like crackling smoke if there were such a thing, and his flow is endlessly listenable.

Then you have Paul Kelly.

Gusto and I hooked up to work on the beat and he manned the boards, programming and playing the melodies – the producer in a hip hop sense. I was steering the direction, overseeing all aspects – a producer in a more classic sense.

Finally the session went down. Vibes were great in The Cave, Hermitude’s studio above Parramatta Rd in Leichhardt. Jimblah wrote a new verse on the spot, did a few takes and nailed it. He perfectly complimented Emma’s verse in backing vocal duties. Emma was a joy to work with – she adlibbed a range of little grabs that we pitch-shifted and incorporated into the song (you can hear them throughout).

Song Selfie!

Song Selfie!

Originally Emma did two verses to Paul and Jimblah’s one but I was a little concerned about the pace and flow. We worked on the song a little more before I got the courage up to ask Paul if we could remove the third verse altogether. Lyrically I couldn’t make much sense of it so I wasn’t concerned about sacrilege of compromising Hunter’s artistic vision – but songs are weird, man. There may be a profound meaning I’m missing and anyway, who am I to deliberately break something so important on loan?

Paul took it on board, tentatively agreeing, and taking on the task of asking Mark Seymour. It turns out Mark had discarded that verse in his live shows long ago and was completely cool about us doing the same. Mind blown.

Were you there?

Were you there?

The final piece of the puzzle was Mitch Kenny mixing the damn thing. Our instructions were to reel the electronics back in and make it thump a little less. Yep, what the fuck indeed. During the course of retelling this song we had to keep coming back to our original goal of it making sense sonically. Nothing was going to change the vibe (especially when it comes after The Living End in the tracklist!) but the treatment of the kick and snare and the proximity of the vocals to the bass and synths were crucial in finding the right balance. I don’t know how Mitch did it. I was still uncertain when we sent it to him but I wasn’t when he sent it back. Dude is good.

We did it.

It’s worth a listen.

Paul Kelly and Emma Donovan featuring Jimblah – True Tears of Joy

Crucible came out Friday Sept 27 through Liberation. It features covers from Alpine, Cloud Control, The Rubens, Matt Corby, Missy Higgins and more.

Jimblah’s debut album Phoenix comes out October 11.