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READY FOR TAKEOFF
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.
THIS IS SERIOUS
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.
MAKING THEIR MARK
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)
Alive EMPIRE OF THE SUN (23)
Hello STAFFORD BROTHERS (27)
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
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
Stolen Cars THE WEEKEND PEOPLE
Take Me Up ANDY SZIKLA
Own Worst Enemy NICK BATTERHAM
Ghouls VAUDEVILLE SMASH
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