-By Dariya Salmin
With the recent release of their new album Love is a Dog, and a national tour in the very, very near future, I got the chance to chat to the beautiful Emily Lubitz from the darling indie-folk band Tinpan Orange. Kicking the tour off at Fairbridge Festival this weekend, Emily spoke to me about the special place that Fairbridge plays in her heart and how Tinpan Orange all came about from a few, very wealthy busking stints in Darwin. Love is a Dog, is their fifth studio album within the ten years, Emily, Jesse Lubitz and Alex Burkoy have been recording together as Tinpan Orange. With more collaboration than before, Lubitz opens up about the vulnerable process of writing music with someone else, how the new single Richman is not to be confused as a song about rich men, and what it’s like touring with kids.
Congratulations on your forthcoming album Love is a Dog! My first question is-what should listeners expect to get from this album?
Well I guess, I guess it’s um…what is it? A collection of our songs that….we haven’t kind of reinvented ourselves, more than other things, it’s a very live album, we really wanted to capture the feeling of us all playing together. We’ve been playing together for ten years, it’s me (Emily) and my brother (Jesse) and Alex Burkoy, who plays violin and stuff, we have this really intuitive way of playing together, and then with our rhythm section, we have also been playing for a while, so we kinda just wanted to capture that, so it’s very live and I guess. The songs, I duno if they’re happy songs with a tint of sadness or sad songs with a tint of optimism, a lot of journalists have framed it in those different ways, and I don’t know what it is. There is certainly a lot of melancholy, but I love, I don’t know, I have a love affair with sadness. Which I think is a good thing.
Yeah definitely, I think these sadder emotions can overwhelm people and I think listening to more melancholy songs can make you feel better.
Yeah I think so, I think it’s a worthy thing to you know, to frame those kinda sadder emotions.
Yeah it gives you an outlet for them, rather than overthinking things.
Yeah! yeah totally.
So this is your fifth album, and I know you said not much has changed but what about the process, where was it recorded?
Yeah I suppose things have changed when I think about the little things, um we have, we co wrote a lot of this album together. Which we’ve never done before. So I co wrote a few of the songs, with my brother Jesse, and my husband (Harry Angus), who also produced the album. So our first single off the album, Richman, was the first song that we co wrote, and it was this great slightly scary experience of co writing with two other people. I guess the scariness, when you start writing songs, it’s all your shitty ideas that come out first and usually you’re on your own and that doesn’t matter, because no one’s judging you, and you can refine those ideas and make them better. So that was cool though to do this song coz it really pushed my voice into another place. I’ve never really sung falsetto or in that high head voice and it was Harry who created that beautiful melody of the verse that goes up into the head voice, and I didn’t really think of myself as someone who could sing that way, and then I started actually quite easily and I wrote a few other songs that incorporate that range, so that was fun and new. And yeah we recorded it really live.
Yeah definitely it had a huge impact on the record, and also like Jesse wrote a couple of songs, Harry wrote a couple of songs, and I duno I guess maybe I wrote quite a bit less than the other albums. But I think it’s a really good thing, that this sort of collaboration, collection of the different writers, has created a really strong collection of songs.
That’s awesome, I’m excited to hear them all. So what is your favourite song on the album?
Aww how could you ask me such a question! [laughs], it’s like my favourite child. You know what, every day I have a different one. And a different one that I’m connected to and I duno all for different reasons. I suppose I do love Richman, I think Richman is a really classic song. And recording it was easy, it played itself it was just like one of those songs that you don’t have to over think and I really love it for that, it’s such a beautiful song. I’m also really enjoying Lucky One, I think it’s number four on the album, and I think I’m enjoying it maybe because we kind of go one at a time at learning the songs, to play them live, so we’re not faced with ‘aw fuck we’ve got to learn 11 new songs’ you know, and then go and play them on this tour so, so we’re working on the newest song into the set at the moment.
Yeah so it’s in your head a lot more.
So you’re touring nationally starting mid April, I know that you’re going to quite a lot of places, is there a particular place that you’re really looking forward to going to?
Well I don’t know, where are you based? [Laughs]
I’m in Perth! I know you’re going to Fremantle, Fremantle’s awesome, so that’s definitely a place to look forward to.
Exactly, ok good! Because I was talking to someone else on another interview and they asked a similar question and I named all the places I was looking forward to and then I realised ‘ahh I could totally be missing theirs’ [laughs]. But truly truly, I love the West! I love it! I love Fremantle, it’s one of my favourite towns, and we have this gorgeous following in the West, that’s based on having gone to Fairbridge, We’ve done Fairbridge Festival a few times, so yeah Fremantle for sure. I’ve always loved playing in Mullumbimby near Byron Bay, it’s one of our random kind of heart lands, we’ve just got this beautiful pocket of fans there, and there’s a beautiful sort of old hall that we play in, so I’m looking forward to that. I like the random places!
Yeah the more small and authentic places.
Yeah kind of off the beaten track a little bit.
You can always find really interesting people there!
So you’re playing Fairbridge coming up, I know Tinpan Orange has played quite a few festivals, including Woodford Folk Festival, which is my personal favourite, is there any festivals that have really stood out for you guys?
Umm I guess Woodford is one of our favourites. The people who go are just so fun. It’s just the best crowd.
Yeah it has the best vibe, it’s so quirky!
Yeah that’s right, and you know what, it’s the crowd that makes you play better. As a musician, I know festivals from sort of like my perspective of playing them, and certain crowds they make you play better and Woodford is one of those.
And I have a huge soft spot for Fairbridge, because it’s almost kind of where we started. We were actually, we started really kind of busking, in Darwin of all places.
You’re from Melbourne aren’t you?
[laughs] Yeah yeah I’m from Melbourne, but I went travelling and I met all these musicians in Darwin one time. We were kinda starting out in Melbourne, we were playing like open mic nights, nothing really, you know we weren’t a real thing, but these people were like ‘yeah we’ll book you some gigs, come do some of the dry season up here’ you know, escape the Melbourne winter, so we went up and starting busking and playing in pubs, we played lots of terrible gigs but it was so much fun. We’d have gigs where we’d have to play like three sets, of 50 minutes, like really long and no one listening, and in pubs where they’ve got the TV on above you-
Watching the footy!
[laughs] Yeah that’s it everyone’s watching the footy and not listening to the musicians that’s for sure! But they would let you play originals, which you don’t really get in Melbourne, where you get paid to play originals, so on a nightly basis we would play in these pubs most nights and then busk during the day at these beautiful markets they have and we would sell 70 albums in a couple of hours! Yeah so you know, it was a long time ago, we were students and I was probably working in a café, earning $10 an hour, so I was like ‘oh my god we’re really hitting the big time’, I’d never felt so rich in my life. So we were busking, oh hang on yes, so this leads me to Fairbridge, so we were busking in Darwin and this girl comes up to us and says that her uncle runs this festival in WA so if you give me a CD I’ll give it to him and maybe he will book you, and we had never heard of the festival and whatever, and then we got an email from the Fairbridge festival saying ‘oh I’ve got your album, we’d love to book you’, so we went and it was one of our first festivals we’d played, and we started playing, and you know the first night we played to 11 people, and then by the end the tent was sort of bursting at the seams with people and it was like this beautiful kind of thing, and then we played at Clancy’s Fish Pub in Freo a few days after the festival, and we had that booked and we were like ‘ahh I hope we get at least 20 people,’ it would be so great if like anyone was there you know [laughs] and there was like 600 people, it was spilling out, they called the cops, the cops were there [laughs]. It was this amazing moment, of ‘oh my god, maybe we could do this?’
And so that all stemmed from Fairbridge then?
It all came from Fairbridge! It was amazing and so it’s a bit of a heart land for us.
Yeah definitely, that’s such a beautiful story! So Tinpan Orange is your brother Jesse and Alex as well, what’s it like being in a band with your brother? Are there lots of ups and downs? Or is it easier because it’s family?
I think.. You know there’s not too many-me and Jesse get along really well. So it’s not too bad, but there’s definitely more honesty, like when things are shit you just say it, and sometimes that’s not a good thing, sometimes it is good to just have a brave face and get through it. Other than making it into a thing. But then sometimes it’s good to be honest, and also with family you have that extra capacity for forgiveness as well. So when things are shit you get over them, so yeah it’s been great to be together. We come from a very close family, there are two other siblings, and we’re close with our parents, so you know you miss a lot when you’re on tour.
Yeah so it would kind of be like being at home when you have a family member there as well.
Yeah exactly. So when my sister was giving birth to her first child and we were playing the shittiest gig in Toowoomba we’d ever played, we had each other [laughs].
Well it must be working well if you’ve been together for ten years now! And so over the ten years how has your journey changed so far?
Well I guess we’re not busking in Darwin anymore! [laughs] But sometimes I miss that! Like those were some really fun days, and you know getting paid in cash, I miss that, it was so fun! I could go home with a wad of cash; I’d never felt so rich! [laughs] Now days it’s bank transactions, I don’t get the same feeling.
[laughs] Is that what Richman’s about?
[laughs] Well no, Richman is not autobiographical, so for the record I don’t have anything against rich men. I’m sure there are some ass holes out there, and some great ones, just like anyone in the world! [Laughs] yeah it’s definitely fictional.
So yeah I guess things have changed. We tour differently now. We have kids, I have two kids and my brother has a little baby, so we either bring them with us, or we will tour quite quickly, so we’ll just go away for two nights or three nights, and come back to our kids and yeah it’s a full program.
Yeah that would be! Do you find it difficult touring and having kids as well; I know as a woman, it would probably be a lot harder.
Yeah I think so, well I started touring when both my kids were like three months old and I’d take them with me, because I was always breast-feeding, so I had to bring them you know? So yeah I some how made it work [laughs]. I guess with a lot of support from the band, and friends in different cities, that we’d made through touring, I’d get them to come and sit backstage with my baby! And from my husband and there was always a lot of support from family. I don’t know, there’s definitely something hard and stressful but then there is also something quite compatible., like the music touring life and babies, you know babies are pretty portable, they’re more portable than dogs [laughs].
[Laughs] They’re pretty resilient, you can take them anywhere!
Yeah so you just take them, you just pack them up and take them! And just hope for the best! [laughs] well that’s what I’ve always done. And you know we’ve been through Canada a few times with my son and through Europe, I don’t know, you just say yes and book the tickets and just cross our fingers. It’s always been really fun! And there’s a lot of down time on tour, like a lot of dead time. Really you’re on stage for an hour in the whole day and the rest of the time you’re just sort of waiting, to do it and to have the baby it’s kind of fills the boredom [laughs] it stops you drinking early!
[Laughs] yeah you just have to keep reminding yourself ‘I’m a mum now!’
Yeah that’s right! I’m a mum, I cannot start drinking at 3pm [laughs].
Well that sounds amazing, I’m sure they will have such a fun up bringing.
Yeah if I don’t mess them up, that would be good! [laughs]
So other than the up coming national tour, what other plans does Tinpan Orange have for the future?
Um so we are going to Europe, in October, for a month. We’re going on the road with The Cat Empire. We’re supporting them all over Europe so that will be fun! Bringing the kids [laughs] So we will see how all that goes!
Take them to Disney Land!
Yeah, yeah totally, why not!
And then we’ll be back in Australia for the summer, so next summer. For the festivals and stuff. And then the future is a mystery after that.
Oh well that sounds like a fun year. That will be good!
Yeah yeah that’s right, we ‘ve kind of got the whole year sorted.
And so my last question for you is, what is your favourite album of all time?
Ummmm ahh ok so maybe…..can I have a few?
[Laughs] Yeah that’s all right, I’d have a few as well.
All right so lets see, and I’m really bad at this game! Like anything that’s like what’s your favourite this, or what’s your favourite that, I’ve got a bad memory! [Laughs] Umm but I guess I would say, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Nirvanna Unplugged In New York.
And there’s probably heaps more that I’m going to be like ‘damn I wish I said that’, but those are the ones that came to mind.
That’s ok, if anyone else asks you that question again you can just mix it up!
[laughs] yeah exactly!
All right awesome! Thanks so much for your time today Emily, that was such a great chat.
Pleasure! Cool, no worries!
Photo Credit: Tinpan Orange