Genevieve Maynard and the Tallboys are Sydney based band whose recent release, The Hollow Way, has proved to be one of my favourite albums of the year.
I spoke to Genevieve recently about her work, and the new album, and as you’ll see, a lot of my presumptions about the music were wrong. Always good to find that out!
I’ve broken the interview into two parts, mainly because of length, but also because there’s kind of a natural break in the conversation. So here we mainly talk about her background and how the Tallboys came about, while Part Two concentrates on the music itself.
One the interesting things for me– apart from hearing her talk about Twitter and social networking — was hearing about the day-to-day struggle of an independent artist. It brought back memories of what it is like to run a small business.
With the new album out, I guess you are gearing up for touring and promotion work?
Promotion, yes. Touring, not so much. I don’t have any plans to go outside of the Sydney Metropolitan area at this stage. Three reasons for that: I am not all confident of getting Triple J radio play, because as they bluntly told me last time, I’m too old for their audience.
It’s crap, because in my band at that time there was a 20 year old and a 24 year old and they were in it because they wanted to play in it. So I may have been approaching forty, as I was at that stage, but it doesn’t mean my music was any less relevant to their listening audience. Anyway, they told me that so I’m not at all confident they’ll play me this time, which is a shame because I think it is better than any of my other solo efforts so far.
So without Triple J airplay, national airplay, you are foolish, very foolish to go off interstate. It’s just expensive, prohibitively expensive to tour without national airplay.
Second reason is the band all have jobs. One guy in particular is hard enough to organise rehearsals with, let alone go off on a national tour.
And the third reason is because of my studio.
Genevieve is the owner/operator of Revolution Studios in Sydney, an independent studio she set up herself when she got interested in the production side of music.
If a gig comes up at the studio, I really have to weigh up if I can afford to lose $700 to go off and do a show where I might make minus twenty.
So we’ll wait and see what happens….I may get interstate and do some solo stuff. That’s much more achievable.
It sounds like such a battle; what keeps you in it? Especially when you come up against nonsense such as Triple J telling you you are too old. Is it just love of the gig? Of making music?
Well I’ve been through different stages and rationalisations for continuing to do it, and the first time I consciously made up my mind not to be involved with music anymore was when my first band, Bughouse, had just broken up, and I was just about to turn thirty and I realised that I had no money, had never had a normal job, and that all I owned was a motorcycle, my bass guitar, and my rig. And I just thought, this is fucked, you know, and all of my friends were starting to achieve things in their careers. I mean, yes, I have been in a band that had had a measure of success, and yes I have a recording contract, and I had a publishing contract, and the band was well known, and all that kind of stuff.
But it’s not making any money.
The music industry seems to me to based so much on caprice, you know, who you meet at what particular time, whether you’re prepared to bend over sometimes.
Anyway, that decision, to quit, lasted for two weeks, but then I bought some recording equipment and an Atari computer and started really figuring out how to record things. So, that was my token effort at giving up.
It only lasted that long because it made me really unhappy, the thought that I’d given up music.
She explains that after that, she worked with another band, Stella One Eleven, who she started out producing but eventually joined. They played together for around five years, she had another period as a solo artist, and then the Tallboys came together.
I started doing solo stuff, then when Triple J said you’re too old, it was, so what do I do now…
I’d moved more into production and recording by that stage and then I bought the studio. By then I had all these songs for an album and I knew that I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and so I disbanded my solo band and reshuffled some people and got in some of the other guys I’d worked with before, and set about making the best album I possibly could with the best songs I had, with no compromises being made in terms of song choices, by which I mean that I didn’t have a record company any more at that stage, so I could just do the album I wanted to do.
The result is The Hollow Way and as I say, it is one of my albums of the year. In fact, I’d go further than that and say I’ve enjoyed it as much as anything I’ve heard over the last couple of years. Every track is strong and it coheres as a complete package in way that I really like.
Genevieve spoke about how it took two years to record because of other commitments she and the other members of the band had, and how not having a record deal made her consider either not making it or making it and accepting the fact that she might just have to give away free mp3s of the tracks.
The only reason for making it was to make an album that was great, and in the end I was okay with the notion of doing it without a record company. I’m okay with the possibility of it never going anywhere.
I want it to go somewhere, I want people to hear it because it is a great album, but I have no control over that. I recognise that. Even if you do have a record company and people spruiking it for you, you still don’t have control over it, so I think I’m in a better position now than I was five years ago, in terms of finding an audience, partly because of the social networking revolution and that kind of thing.
Now there’s a comment to make a blogger’s ears prick up! The social networking thing is useful?
Oh, definitely. Definitely. I mean, it’s been fascinating for me. I got onto Twitter when I was getting to the stage of starting to talk about the album. I mean, I really enjoy Twitter. I’d had an account for a while, and used FaceBook, but I started using the Twitter again when the album came along.
People ask me why I do it, particularly people who are my age who aren’t particularly into the technology, and they’re like, “what’s the point?” and I say, well, sometimes there isn’t much point, but I have met people on Twitter who I wouldn’t have met otherwise , like you for example, and that’s the point, isn’t it?
Anyone who went through the early stages of blogging recognises the syndrome. (Put on whiny voice) What’s a blog? Why would anyone bother with that? You just have to tell people to try it for themselves. Suck it and see!
End of Part One
Incidentally, that’s the advice I’d offer with Genevieve Maynard and the Tallboys’ new album: suck it and see, give it a listen.
In Part Two I talk to Genevieve about each of the tracks on the album and I find out that many of my presumptions about it were, well, let’s just say, not quite how she saw it…
In the meantime, here’s a track from the album, which, incidentally, is a particular favourite of my son.
(Hear that, Triple J?)