Much like a burger with beetroot, there’s an increasing Australian flavour to the line-up at the Famous Speigeltent this year as the swinging eclecticism of another Oz band, Flap!, joins Saskwatch (see interview). Trumpet player and vocalist Eamon McNelis put down his horn and picked up the phone to answer a few questions about the band.
I would probably describe Flap’s music as a mix of Gypsy Jazz and N’Orleans Swing, but how would you classify it?
Well what we do is a combination of jazz and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s fun and refreshing, and the idea is that it’s music for dancing to and having fun with.
How did you get into this style?
Well I grew up as a jazz musician and that’s where the energy was when I was growing up in Melbourne. The city was full of vibrant young guys playing traditional jazz music, maybe that’s a bit of an anomaly, but that’s just the way things turned out. I was drawn to that energy and so it just became an integral part of what we do.
How did the band get together?
I went to school with our drummer Ben. I met Jess at a party where we woke up together on a couch toe to toe. Jess asked if I wanted to go and get breakfast, so we did, started talking and I discovered Jess was writing these great songs. Together with our bass player Marky Mark we realised we had all this talent around and needed to do something with it. So we put the band together.
We played The Hootananny, Brixton a few days ago to a crowd of around 2-300 who were all wasted and having an incredibly good time
You’re currently on a European tour. Is this the first time you’ve toured outside of Australia?
It is, although it’s not the first time we’ve played in Europe. In fact our first gig was in Copenhagen. We were all there for separate reasons. We played our first gig in Christiania which is an old army base near the city.
So how is the tour going so far?
It’s been cracking. We played The Hootananny, Brixton a few days ago to a crowd of around 2-300 who were all wasted and having an incredibly good time – and that was a lovely introduction to our first English gig. We moved from there onto the Marlborough Jazz Festival, playing to a slightly older crowd, but they really got into it as well. The thing with our sound is we’ve got influences from English folk music so we’ve got a fairly mixed audience.
You’ve not released any music since 2009 so are you just a bunch of tortured perfectionists?
Well my working method’s quite long-winded. I tend to re-write songs three or four times before they get out there. I don’t really think it’s perfectionism, I just like things to be good, I don’t like putting something out there that’s crappy.
The other answer is that everybody does other things. In Melbourne we’re all professional musicians. So in order to survive doing that we’ve got to have a dozen projects up in the air at any given time so we don’t have to get real jobs. So because everyone’s so busy we’ve got to snatch weeks here and there to rehearse songs.
I think that finding some sort of happiness and positivity in everything that goes on around you is important
Having interviewed another Melbourne band, Saskwatch, I’m discovering the vibrancy and diversity of the city’s music scene. Do you have any theories as to why that is?
I think a little bit of critical mass got achieved when the city changed it’s liquor licensing laws about fifteen years ago. This allowed lots of places to get licences, which meant that all these venues sprung up. So all of a sudden it was possible to get gigs and musicians started to move into the city and now it’s become the musical hub for musicians from all over the country. So because of that and because it’s a really great place to live it’s meant that people feel really free and unencumbered to make great music.
You’ve described your music as ‘music for dancing’. Do you think this is a perfect time for bands like yourself to come along and blow away the clouds of gloom?
Yeah I think that’s true. We’ve been doing the same set list for the last few gigs and I realised that in the second half, the first song’s about death the second song’s about serious injury and third song’s about the end of the world. We’ve got all these themes that are horrible, but I think that finding some sort of happiness and positivity in everything that goes on around you is important.
Being in Europe, one of things that have occurred to me is that the houses are really old and I reckon you can feel the spirit of everyone who’s lived in them before. A real house always feels good and I think that’s because most people are good. Even if the house has contained a few bastards, for every bastard there have probably been a hundred good people just trying to get on with their lives. So all that stuff about the economy and recession, it affects people, but it’s all nonsense. All that crap about money disappearing, it’s nonsense, and there’s nothing we can do about that except try to find the joy in life.
So if people want to get a little joy during the Fringe, where can they catch you?
We’re playing at the Famous Spiegeltent at 5pm between 13th and 19th August – and people should come along because it’s going to be fun. We’ll have just come off six or seven weeks of touring and we’re going to be on fire.
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