-By Iven Manning
“Ships in the Night is a bimonthly gig showcasing Perth’s finest local wordsmiths, who bring their words to life on stage alongside talented musicians in a fresh, intimate context.”
I interviewed Albert and Hughie on the drive home after a Shit Narnia gig ahead of their solo performances at Ships of the Night #13, a bi-monthly event showcasing Perth wordsmiths and musicians. I told ‘em I would be asking pointed questions which only those with intimate knowledge would be able to formulate.
Albert, you’re playing a show as a new solo project (New Nausea) that’s in its infancy and Hughie, you’re returning to a style of performance you used to do before your current musical projects. Hughie can you describe Albert’s project?
Hughie: Albert does real sad-boy folk music, a lot of Elliot Smith influence and stuff like that, and talks a lot about kind of the Australian environment and our relationship with the Australian environment and kind of about his childhood. I dunno, it’s very rurally themed I guess.
Albert, you guys started Shit Narnia by bringing together Hughie’s spoken word, which he’ll be doing (this week), and music. How would you describe it and what was it about that project that attracted you guys to making a band out of it?
Albert: It was the quality of Hughie’s words that I really liked and I was also really into La Dispute at the time, and also really getting into bands that were into lyric-driven writing, so the music would follow the lyrics a lot. I was really interested in that whole concept and so Hughie’s already pretty developed lyricism and poetic ability was a really good starting point for that sort of project. And also we’re hell mates, so of course I wanted to be involved in his stuff as well.
Ok, so back onto your stuff Albert, I watched you live, I felt like there was a lot of nostalgia in your music. Is there something that you’re trying to work through or some meaning that you’re trying to get through about your childhood through this music?
A: You’re right, that is a poignant question that only a guy who’s close to these Unnas could understand (laughs). Nostalgia is definitely a very, very, very potent feeling to me and that’s mainly since mum died, so I think of my childhood as a very different sort of life to the one I experience now, and so as a result nostalgia is a very powerful feeling to me. That’s interesting that it’s clearly coming through because that is something I think about a great deal of the time when I’m not even writing necessarily, I’m always thinking about it in these terms and nostalgia’s definitely a big thing I’m figuring out and working through.
Yeah so as opposed to portraying something that you’re already sure about, it seemed to me when I was watching you it was still something you were trying to interpret the significance of?
A: Yeah it’s still ongoing. There’s stuff I write about in some of the songs, just viewing through the lens of coming to understand the relationship between white people and the Australian environment, so there’s elements of that, and there’s also elements of just being interested in documenting those memories. Coz I’ve also got a really bad memory. I really want to document those things and just kind of capture that imagery and those feelings and that atmosphere. Because it’s very palpable and strong in my own head, what the farm felt like and what my childhood felt like and all that sort of stuff. So it’s an interesting sort of project, a fun kind of project to try and catch that in a poetic kind of way.
Hughie, back onto you, for a long time you’ve been performing these lyrical pieces with the backing of a band. Do you feel nervous about putting them out there by themselves again?
H: Sort of. The kind of established stuff is a bit easier, I’m quite confident with that, I’ll be doing a couple of old songs which I did as poetry before, like pre-Shit Narnia. The new stuff I’m a bit nervous about, it’s kind of been interesting. I’ve been kind of working through it and a lot of the new stuff, coz it was written (for Shit Narnia) and coz I’ve only ever performed it with the band it has quite different rhythms when performed by itself and I kind of have had to work out what the rhythms are and what the intonations are and stuff like that which is quite an interesting experience. It’s cool, you get to see your work, reinterpret you work, and see it in a new light.
Do you think that doing a show like this which you haven’t done in a while, there’s a possibility you might branch out back into this as a regular thing in the future?
H: Maybe, I dunno. It’s weird for me, I’ve never been really involved with poetry or in a poetry scene, I’ve never read a lot of poetry or followed a lot of poetry. So probably not, because ultimately I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in a lot of my work as stand-alone pieces because it’s so songy, ya know? Which is something; it seems to me, contemporary poetry stays away from a lot. So I guess everything I write is very rhyming and rhythmic and it’s like song lyrics, because it is song lyrics. So I’m not hugely confident about putting it out there as poetry because I feel like it’s somehow low-brow due to its kind of, obviousness.
Ships in the Night #13: May 19, Paper Mountain.
For more info visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/248377465516223/