Better Homes and Gardens has a look inside the home of the Sheppard siblings, where they penned their hit song Geronimo. Courtesy: Channel Seven
WHEN it comes to the local music scene, no one knows the ins and outs better than our columnist Sally Browne. Check out what’s on her radar this week.
Sheppard sneak peak
If you want to hear Sheppard’s long-awaited forthcoming album you should come to their show at Brisbane’s Etons Hill on Saturday, May 27.
The band have 13 tracks ready to go and are just waiting for a release date.
“We’re playing the whole new album,” says frontman George Sheppard. “It’s like a sneak preview. We’ve upgraded every aspect of the show. So it’s like the evolution of Sheppard. We’re really excited to get back out there and start performing again.”
They got to road test the songs in Papua New Guinea recently, where the siblings, George, Amy and Emma, who form the core of the group, grew up. The title of the record is still under wraps but they might announce it on the tour. They can reveal the name of their next single, however, Edge of the Night.
“When we played the Bieber tour we were getting messages from people saying, what’s that song?” says younger sister Emma. “And then they explained the song to us and we knew exactly what it was, so that’s a good sign.”
Next they’ll be joining girl group Little Mix for their UK tour.
‘It’s a big deal for me’
The winner of the inaugural Carol Lloyd Award for an emerging female singer-songwriter will be announced at the Queensland Music Festival launch in Brisbane on Tuesday night.
One of those nominated is Cairns singer-songwriter Leanne Tennant.
“It’s a big deal for me,” says Tennant, whose album Red Wine, Late Nights came out last year.
“I’m an independent artist so I don’t have the help of a label or huge team around me, so to get an opportunity like this feels pretty nice as it makes you feel that all the hard work you’ve been putting in is paying off.”
She joins fellow nominees Georgia Potter, Angela Toohey, Emily Wurramara and Teila Watson.
The announcement will come with the program launch of this year’s Queensland Music Festival, which runs from July 7-30 across the state.
Tennant has a second reason to celebrate. She has also been hand-picked by Spiderbait legend Kram to join him on his mentoring program in Bruny Island, Tasmania, this July. Kram has chosen one artist from each state, with the workshop leading towards a performance at the Festival of Voices in Hobart later that month. Tennant says she was an avid Spiderbait fan back in the day.
“If you had asked me when I was 16 that I would get to do something like this, I would not have believed you. My favourite Aussie bands growing up were Spiderbait, Regurgitator and Powderfinger. I’m beyond stoked!”
Shared cultural legacy
Shellie Morris and Emily Wurramara may be from different generations but they share a cultural legacy and the pair have come together for a special celebration concert at the Powerhouse on Saturday, May 27.
Footsteps Home commemorates the 50 years since the 1967 Referendum, in which Australians overwhelmingly voted (more than 90 per cent) to end constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal people.
Both singer-songwriters will be diving into their own personal catalogues as well as sharing some stories.
Morris, whose accolades include NT Australian of the Year and NAIDOC Artist of the Year, says she can see a lot of herself in up-and-comer Wurramara, who won best indigenous song at the Queensland Music Awards this year.
“Emily is from Groote Eylandt and I’m from Boreloola (in the Northern Terrotory), so we’re kind of related, especially in our kinship system, she’s very close to my family across the water, so that’s a very deep connection.
“But also, musically, she always says to me that I’ve been a role model for her and an inspiration.
“She’s a singer songwriter with a guitar and there’s not many women from the Territory that go out and do it solo, so it’s not easy either in the sense that it is a lonely road.”
Guitar master in action
Brisbane will get the chance to see a master folk guitarist in action when Justin Bernasconi performs at the Junk Bar on Sunday, May 28.
The UK-bred, Melbourne-based artist has just released his second album Barefoot Wonderland, a follow-up to his acclaimed solo debut Winter Pick. His deft interpretations of bluegrass and folk have earned him heaps of praise from the likes of Australian Guitar Magazine and Guitar Techniques UK.
The album traverses quirky anecdotes to personal struggles and was produced with fellow guitar hero, Melbourne’s Jeff Lang.
“I did find playing old style music in today’s climate quite challenging two or three years ago, so I had to think seriously about the venues I wanted performed in,” says Bernasconi. “I’ve stopped performing in bars, and have moved towards ticketed venues, so people can feel comfortable in a listening environment. I still think the values of old style are more relevant in today’s music than ever before. A lot of music folks to sit in front of a screen trying to discover new artists, but nothing beats going to a gig and hearing it first-hand.”
He’ll be bringing with him his main three stage guitars, plus a ukulele.
“I converted a Martin HD28 into a 7-string guitar to add a little ‘ringing drone’ to some tunes that I’m performing, and will also be taking my 1960s Harmony Sovereign which is great for old style slide, and ragtime.”
Hitting the pineapple juice
The last time Simon Ridley from DZ Deathrays attended the Big Pineapple Music Festival on the Sunshine Coast, it was a pretty laid-back affair.
His mates’ bands Violent Soho and the Dune Rats were on the bill on that occasion in 2015. “So I tagged along, which was fun. I haven’t been to a festival and not worked it for ages. It was funny not having any responsibility at all. So I just ended up ploughing the Duney’s rider.”
This time he will have to “work”, being part of a line-up that includes Birds of Tokyo, Peking Duk, Safia, Northlane, Cloud Control, The Veronicas and Urthboy to name a few.
The festival, at the iconic Sunshine Coast tourist attraction on Saturday, May 27, and now in its fifth year, is sold out.
But there are other ways to get your dose of Deathrays. They’ll be back on the Gold Coast to play the Shakafest, at the Miami Tavern, on August 19, with Grinspoon, Butterfingers and WAAX.
The duo – guitarist-vocalist Shane Parsons, who is based in Sydney, is the other half — are working on the final stages of their next record, their third, out later this year. “This is the longest we’ve ever spent on a record,” says drummer Ridley, who lives in Brisbane. “We spent about two-and-a-half years writing this one and eventually we just came to the idea that we just want to make fun party tracks that will go down well at festivals or at gigs.”
They gave fans a tiny taste of it in a promotional video for the duo’s new band T-shirt. The video features their mate Violent Soho bassist Luke Henery modelling the shirt while riding a kiddie-sized hot rod. “He lives around the corner from me, I was like, hey, do you want to model a shirt for me and he was like sure! That’s his son’s hot rod.”
Carrying the cream
For three years, Cream were a formidable force on the global music stage. Between 1966 and ’69 they produced four studio albums, sold millions of copies and released a catalogue of memorable songs including I Feel Free, Strange Brew, Sunshine of Your Love and White Room.
Guided by the talents of singer-bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist-singer Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker, and the lyrical prowess of invisible fourth member, poet Pete Brown, they created a musical magic that has reverberated through the years.
To celebrate the 50 or so years since Cream’s inception, some of the band’s younger relatives will be taking up where their forebears left off.
The Music of Cream, which comes to QPAC on Monday, May 29, features the coming together of Malcolm Bruce, Jack’s son; Kofi Baker, Ginger’s son; and Will Johns, the nephew of Eric Clapton and son of music engineer Andy Johns. They will be joined by Cream contemporaries Deep Purple bassist Glenn Hughes and US blues-rock guitarist Robben Ford.
“I’ve known Malcolm most of my performing life and before,” says Johns, 42, who performs in his own right in the Will Johns Band. “Our parents were friends. Malcolm’s dad was the best man at my mum and dad’s wedding. Not many people know that. My dad worked with Eric Clapton and Ginger at one point, too. So all of our dads were mates in the biz.
“We’ve always played music in one way or another. I was focusing on my own stuff and Malcolm came to me shortly after my dad died in 2013. I was very upset and all of a sudden the phone rang and Malcolm said ‘I’m coming in to town and would you like to do a gig with us’.”
Johns’ mum was Paula Boyd, whose older sisters, Pattie and Jenny Boyd, were famous for being models and muses. Pattie was married to Beatle George Harrison before marrying Eric Clapton. Jenny was the first wife of Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac. Johns spent time as a kid at Uncle Eric and Aunty Pattie’s home in the English countryside.
It was Johns’ dad Andy, who produced for the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, who bought him his first guitar. And his Uncle Eric encouraged him to play.
“I didn’t really know how to play it yet, so I taught myself,” says Johns. “After a while we went to see my Uncle Eric and he showed me the Crossroads opening riff. It’s just a little part of the song. After that I practised it and said, ‘can you show me the next bit now?’ And his lesson was, no, you’ve got to figure out the next bit yourself. That’s the way he encouraged me to play. He was very supportive. When I did my first gig at school, a roadie guy turned up with a huge amplifier for me.”
But there was another skill that Johns’ Uncle Eric taught him. “As I got older I spent a lot of weekends down in the country with Eric and my Aunty Pattie. We’d do a lot of fishing and stuff like that. He’s a morning person like I am, so we used to get up really early to fish. He taught me those skills. Actually, for years I worked in the fishing industry in the commercial sector, taking people out.”
Those lessons paid off, because as well as being a formidable blues guitarist, Johns can lay claim to being the 2014 England Squid Fishing Champion.
“This is all verifiable,” laughs Johns, who still fishes in the waters around Brighton, where he lives today.
Now there is a third generation of music lovers picking up their instruments. Johns is father to Charlie, 10 and Eddie, 10 months. “Little Charlie started to play guitar when he was six. He got really good, but then came Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto. Then there’s another little one, Eddie, and he’s got a ukulele,” says Johns.
Johns has recorded three albums of his own. The latest, Something Old, Something New, features the tongue-in- cheek track Blues Police, dedicated to the sticklers of the genre.
There’s something about the blues that resonates, says Johns. “One can be impressed by lots of notes, but I think I follow the one-note school like BB King. One good note to move someone’s heart. I’m more interested in moving people than standing up there and impressing people.”
In the ongoing cultural exchange between the US and the UK, Cream reinvented blues classics such as Crossroads and Spoonful. The dialogue between the mystic vibe of England and rich African-American spiritual traditions, plus a boom in personal freedoms and technological advances, meant a global revolution in music, of which Cream were a part.
“There was so much going on and so much was new and exciting. I think for those guys it was just a combination of being really bloody good at what they did and being quite cheeky, cheeky chappies. A little bit dangerous as well. There was a certain amount of ‘f— off’ attitude. And of course, they were really great songwriters,” says Johns.