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Welcome to Living in the Land of Oz

Howzat! Archive - June 13th 2012

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Twenty-one years ago, prior to the release of Nirvana's Nevermind, there was a gulf between mainstream and indie. Melbourne band Sea Stories were indie darlings, regularly doing gigs at The Club and the Punters Club, signing directly to American label I.R.S, and releasing two albums -1990's Miller's Pond and 1991's Wide Eyed And Dreaming. Their brand of folk pop still sounds fresh and exciting. Sea Stories singer Penny Hewson was a mainstay of Melbourne's indie scene, but then she disappeared, relocating to the US. "I had a great life in LA," Penny tells Howzat!, "but it was never intended to be a permanent move. Things just went well for me over there and three years turned into 10! But I love being home." Has the Melbourne scene changed much? "The heart of it still feels the same. Certain live venues have disappeared but it seems that other cool, smaller venues have sprouted up in their place and with a great local community vibe. There's obviously a slew of new bands, but a lot of the same people are still as passionately involved as ever - RRR stalwarts, music writers, promoters, APRA, street press, etc. I think Melbourne has always been a great town for musicians and for music fans."

Penny had an indie rock band in LA called My Zuko. "We played some shows around town and recorded an EP, but it was purely for self-satisfaction," she says. "I was burned out on trying to get anywhere with my music, so I took a left turn and got a full-time job in a music/dot-com business - where I actually got paid! I was then able to fund any creative projects I wanted to do along the way, without having to answer to anyone." The result is a new solo album, It's An Endless Desire, which will be out in August on Popboomerang Records. Unlike Sea Stories' guitar pop, this is a piano-based record. Penny wrote the album on her grand piano, which she shipped home to Melbourne "for lots of thousands of dollars, but it was worth it".

The first taste of the album is the double A-side, This One's For You/My Lover's Touch, which Penny is launching on Friday at the Grace Darling (with Kellie Lloyd from Screamfeeder). Does the subject of This One's For You know the song is about him/her??Penny laughs and replies, "Yes, no, maybe." It's a serious song, but it concludes with a chuckle. "I can't remember exactly what prompted the laugh," Penny says, "but I liked how it sounded, so I left it in."

It's Penny's first solo album in 14 years, following 1998's Me. "Oh God, has it really been that long?" Does it feel good just having your name on the cover? "Hmmm, good question. It's not so much about the name on the cover, it's more about finding my voice - in the songs, the sounds and the subtleties. And feeling that I've finally made the album I wanted to make." "It's an endless desire" is a line from one of the songs, Between The Lines, a love song, but it could also refer to Penny's music career. "It's basically about creative yearning," she says, "and passion. Really, at its essence, it's desire for life."

Great to see Stephanie Bourke resurface in Sydney. Stephanie was a major player in Melbourne's indie rock scene in the '90s, running Rock 'n' Roll High School in Collingwood. She says it inspired Jack Black's 2003 movie School of Rock. "He heard about it through Queens of the Stone Age," Stephanie told the Sydney Morning Herald. "Josh Homme married one of the girls who went to the school, Brody Dalle." Stephanie is now a music teacher in Potts Point.

Two exciting rock biographies are coming soon. The prolific Jeff Apter has done a book on the life of Skyhooks singer Shirley Strachan, who would have been 60 this year, but died in a helicopter crash at the age of 49. Shirl: The Life of Legendary Larrikin Graeme Shirley Strachan will be out on August 1. Meanwhile, Mark Mordue's Nick Cave biography, Tender Prey, is due in November.

Mr Percival leads the way with his Stevie Wonder cover.

I Believe DARREN PERCIVAL (number six, debut)
Sitting On Top Of The World DELTA GOODREM (12)
I Can't Make You Love Me DIANA ROUVAS (16, debut)
I'm With You BEN HAZLEWOOD (17, debut)
Into The Flame EP MATT CORBY (22)
How Will I Know SARAH DE BONO (24, debut)
Child 360 (25)
Romeo And Juliet ADAM MARTIN (26, debut)
Do It Like That RICKI-LEE (29)
Landslide KARISE EDEN (32)
Friday I'm In Love LAKYN HEPERI (39, debut)

Missy Higgins matches Delta's record and sees her first three albums top the charts.

The Ol' Razzle Dazzle MISSY HIGGINS (number one, debut)
The Story So Far KEITH URBAN (two)
The Temper Trap THE TEMPER TRAP (five)
Falling & Flying 360 (12)
Don't Funk With Me ALSTON (16)
Notorious BURIED IN VERONA (20, debut)
Two Worlds Collide THE McCLYMONTS (24)
Drinking From The Sun HILLTOP HOODS (25)
By The Horns JULIA STONE (26)
Medicine Man THE BAMBOOS (28, debut)

This One's For You PENNY HEWSON
Change Of Heart KINGSWOOD
I Understand SOPHIE KOH

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