The first thing I asked Fraser A. Gorman, Oliver Mestitz (from The Finks) and Marcus Hobbs (from East Brunswick All Girls Choir) when I got them on the phone was whether they were excited about their upcoming tour with Milk! Records. They assured me that they were, with no small amount of enthusiasm, but said there was a bit of a lull now in between finding out about the tour and actually getting on the road.
I figured this might be because of all the effort rehearsing can take, and how it can often suck all the fun or excitement out of getting ready to perform. But no, this was not the case.
‘We usually just do things on the fly,’ Fraser admitted, laughing with Oliver and Marcus about how hard it was for them to get their respective bands together to rehearse in the first place.
I got the guys to open up a bit about their beginnings in music, too. Fraser confessed that he ‘wrote a lot of dreadful songs when [he] was 14 or 15’ and ‘played in a garage rock band in Geelong when [he] was at school,’ claiming: ‘We were probably pretty shit but we had fun.’
Oliver, on the other hand, learned piano when he was young and played a lot of jazz. Marcus probably has the most interesting story of the three, explaining when I asked him about the name of his band that he wanted to sing in a choir at his school in Bendigo, but there wasn’t one, so he had to sing with a choir from a nearby all-girls school.
I said that I thought that must have taken a lot of guts, being the only guy in the choir, and not even at his own school, but he seemed to disagree. He brushed off my comment, saying that he ‘wasn’t sexist,’ so I tried to clarify my point, suggesting that — labels aside — he still must have felt like an outsider in that setting. His response was simply: ‘Yeah.’
When I found out that Fraser had toured overseas before, I was keen to hear what his experience playing to international audiences was compared to playing back home in Australia. He began by qualifying: ‘Without being a negative cunt,’ (and I’ll refrain from entering into a discussion about the use of that word) and went on to admit: ‘Australian audiences are usually... less respectful and... I’d say touring overseas and in America and in Europe is on the whole... better... and music and art in Australia (outside of Melbourne) doesn’t seem to hold a super high value among most people.’
I can certainly imagine there being a lot of truth to this description, with Australia having such a small population compared to other Western countries. Perhaps our dearth of artists means that those outside the creative world feel the need to bring those inside it down, stopping a select few from feeling like they’re worth something because of their achievements.
The first song from The Finks' latest album, ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’, reads like a love song to anxiety, at least in my mind (‘Spent a weekend without you/But it felt like a year,’ Oliver sings, supposedly to the emotion). I asked him what inspired this surreal, dark-yet-playful lyricism, and he mused: ‘That’s what comes out of me, that mood.’
He then admitted that he tries to convince himself that his songs aren’t really about him, that they’re much less personal than they appear. I couldn’t help but relate to this fear of exposing your vulnerabilities — your perceived failings — to an audience.
I love that so many of Oliver’s songs deal with the mundanity of life — leaving windows open, ten-dollar fairy lights, cleaning empty offices — and when I said this to him, he confessed that he spends a lot of time in the mundane. ‘I wait around a lot in order to find a creative instinct,’ he explained.
In a similar vein, Fraser spoke about his inclination to write about ‘quirky things about life that [he thinks] are interesting or funny’. He explained that he ‘[doesn’t] mind being sarcastic or poking fun at certain things,’ and went on to insist: ‘I’m not an overly serious person – not all the time, anyway.’
We seemed to have gotten into some pretty serious territory, though, or at least uncomfortably serious for these three artists. They seemed hesitant to go down this path at all, speaking about mental illness and bitter disappointment, even when it appears to play such a key role in the songs they write.
Nevertheless, Oliver did take a moment to consider the act of making music itself, concluding that writing songs about your own life and experiences can be ‘an absurd way to express yourself’ and arguing that seeing the humour or ridiculousness in these sometimes unbearably heavy aspects of life is pretty imperative. I couldn’t help but agree.
Fraser piped in at this point, highlighting the complexities of writing music with the intention of eventually performing it in front of an audience — both total strangers and people who might know you far too well. ‘If you knew that you would never play or perform your songs to anyone, ever,’ he pointed out, ‘you would probably write them a lot differently.’
And it would be a shame to be without these particular songs, grounded as they are in the small, simple truths of everyday life.
Kristen is an aspiring playwright and undeniable fangirl. In her spare time, you might catch her at an Ingrid Michaelson concert or finding her zen on a yoga mat. She’s currently living in Chicago and studying playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.