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Howzat! Archive - July 3rd 2013

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Alice Keath and Sime Nugent met at a "murderers and rockstars" party. She was bizarrely dressed as Ken Done; he was "White Trash". No one died, and a new duo was born. Three years later, Sweet Jean have arrived with their debut album, Dear Departure (out this week on DD Records/Fuse). "We discovered that we loved a lot of the same music and both had backgrounds in harmony singing," Alice recalls of the party meeting. John Prine and Iris DeMent's In Spite of Ourselves was the first song Alice and Sime sang together. "There's something really rewarding about harmony singing, both as performers and listeners. Sometimes, the most interesting combinations are where the voices don't necessarily blend, but they do meet and match in a way that's 'greater than the sum of the parts' - to quote our own bio."

Dear Departure was recorded, mixed and co-produced by John Castle, who is deserving of the term ubiquitous, having recently worked with Josh Pyke, Vance Joy, AXOLOTL, Vaudeville Smash, Wendy Matthews, Cub Scouts, Washington, The Bamboos, The Drones and The Cat Empire. John is also an old neighbour of Alice's. After a 2011 Sweet Jean show, "he came up to us and described the kind of record he could imagine us making". By night's end, the album plans were locked in, as the trio searched for a souvlaki. The following week, Alice and Sime recorded Shiver and Shake, which became the album's first single. "John works quickly in the studio and doesn't allow much time to 'dwell'," Alice explains. "If something works, it stays - if it doesn't, it's out and you move on. And if John thinks something doesn't work, he won't mince his words, which actually creates a really open environment."

Alice and Sime made the album with the help of an Arts Victoria grant. "It's clear this isn't just a departure, it's only the beginning," Patrick Emery wrote in his four-star Age review, calling it "a marriage of simplicity and beauty". While Paul Kelly described Dear Departure as "dreamy, epic, wry, tender, straight-shooting this record deserves to be heard far and wide". One of the many wonderful things is it's not downbeat. "There's some dark subject matter and reflective songs, and we really wanted to make sure the album didn't 'wallow'," Alice says. "We had a lot of discussions about how to balance our love of old acoustic folk music - like Dock Boggs and Karen Dalton - with 'newer' records (people like Lou Reed and Dusty Springfield), and recent albums by people like Feist and Camera Obscura. There's a happy/sad quality in all of that music that we were shooting for, and John really understood that."

We know Sime from his fine solo albums, as well as his work in The Wilson Pickers. He's also a sculptor and furniture maker, while Alice is a broadcaster, presenting Radio National's The Live Set. "Having the chance to talk with artists like PJ Harvey, Jeff Tweedy and Regina Spektor about songwriting, music and how they approach what they're doing can be really inspiring. A common thread with great artists is they work really bloody hard, and they're constantly refining, reflecting and expanding on what they do." Which three artists, living or dead, would be on Sweet Jean's dream bill? "Dock Boggs, Iggy Pop, and Missy Elliott." Alice laughs. "It would be a pretty weird gig, but we'd love to hang out afterwards in the band room." Sweet Jean's other dream bill features The Bluebottles and Marlon Williams - for their Northcote Social Club album launch on Saturday, 13 July.

It was a Kruddy week. Howzat! was pondering the differences between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. The TISM classic came to mind: I Might Be A C*nt But I'm Not A Fucking C*nt. Julia, we will miss you.

The Weekend People have done a stunning video for their new single, Stolen Cars, filled with suspense, intrigue and glorious shots. As Mark Woodward sings, "If we don't fuck this up, we'll be famous." They're launching the single - which features The Triffids' Rob McComb on violin - at the Empress on Thursday, 11 July.

Happy Birthday - and get well soon - to the great Judith Durham, who is 70 today (Wednesday).

Vance Joy scores his first Top 40 hit.

Parachute TIMOMATIC (number three)
Resolution MATT CORBY (10)
Heart Hypnotic DELTA GOODREM (17)
Sheppard EP SHEPPARD (21)
Riptide VANCE JOY (29)

After last week's ARIA debacle - Troy Cassar-Daley and Adam Harvey were at number one for less than two days - the country kings are at three this week.

More Than A Dream HARRISON CRAIG (number one, debut)
The Great Country Songbook TROY CASSAR-DALEY & ADAM HARVEY (three)
Departures BERNARD FANNING (eight)
Ice On The Dune EMPIRE OF THE SUN (nine)
Flume FLUME (28)
Beautiful Noise LEE KERNAGHAN (33)
Sharkmouth RUSSELL MORRIS (35)
The Very Best INXS (37)

Rise and Fall SWEET JEAN

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