Husky: TAS In Session
Some albums get tagged as "autumnal" in nature and Husky's impressive debut Forever So fits that bill; there's a dusky, melancholy and evocative cast to the Melbourne band's supple harmonies and songcraft.
The Aussie folk-rockers also have an inspiring backstory — proving that tireless dedication to a dream can pay off in the end — and they're currently touring North America on their own headlining jaunt, playing Mercury Lounge this Thursday, November 15 (and TAS is giving away tickets too; enter by Wednesday at noon).
Not long ago the quartet — vocalist Husky Gawenda, keyboardist/vocalist Gideon Preiss, bassist/vocalist Evan Tweedie and drummer Luke Collins — visited The Alternate Side's Studio A for a five-song set which airs this Friday, November 16, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EST, also streaming on the TAS site.
Check out highlights of the interview and performance videos from the set below,including their breakthrough single "History's Door" and the group's cool cover of Leonard Cohen's "Lover Lover Lover." Forever So is available now on Sub Pop Records.
UPDATE: Listen to the Husky session now in the TAS/WFUV archives.
Kara Manning: Two of you are cousins, correct? Gideon and Husky you’re related? Evan, are you related to them at all?
Evan Tweedie: Not by blood.
Kara: Is this the very first band you’ve all been in together or is this one of many bands?
Husky Gawenda: We’ve all come from other bands and projects. I grew up singing with my older sister, so we did a lot of stuff together. I sort of played in some high school bands. From there, I mostly played by myself, wrote songs and sung them whereever I could. This is the first serious band that I’ve been in, but it’s a different story for the other guys.
Gideon: When I was younger, when I was a little boy, I listened to Husk playing a lot. He played in a band with my big brother and they used to rehearse in my family garage. But I was playing in a bunch of different bands in Melbourne. I was working on demos with Husk for years, many years. [Evan and I] had another band in Melbourne, probably ten years ago, and we were playing together. I also had bands at school that I still play with.
Evan: We produced a record together. We were couple of songs short of the finish line … and what happened, Gid?
Gideon: We never ended up releasing it. We had an EP that we were touring and trying to push for a few years.
Kara: Forever So is your debut album that came out in Australia last October and came out earlier this summer [in the States] on Sub Pop. How did the four of you come together? It took almost three years for this album to come to fruition?
Husky: It did in a way. We weren’t recording for three years, but we’d been playing together as this four-piece [band] for almost four years. We got more serious about things a couple of years ago when we decided to record Forever, So and so we set out to do that. We’d been playing shows and doing the usual thing that bands do — playing locally, [but] no one really knew who we were. We decided that we’d record the album. We didn’t have a lot of money — any money, really — so we had to do it on the cheap to some extent. We borrowed some money and set up a studio in my house in Melbourne and started recording.
Kara: In a bungalow, I read.
Husky: Yeah, the bungalow as the control room. It was a falling-apart bungalow in a big, beautiful back garden of this old, rambling weatherboard house that I was living in. Unfortunately, I’m not there anymore. We set up the control room in the bungalow and ran all the cables through the garden and into the house where we tracked all the different instruments.
Kara: How long did that take?
Husky: It was done over a year, but we weren’t recording full-time. We were working part-time jobs and doing other things as well. But yeah, over a year we sent.
Kara: There seems to be a lot about escapism — or running away — on Forever So and "Animals and Freaks," which you’re beginning with today, seems to come from a strong literary place, like Hemingway or Sam Shepard’s Motel Chronicles.
Husky: Yeah, it’s interesting that you say that. I wrote this song while I was reading a book called The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow. A chapter in the novel reminded me of something that had happened to me years before, something I hadn’t though much about for a long time. That sparked the song and inspired me to write it.
Kara: You were “discovered” by Triple J Unearthed in Australia which gives young bands the break that they need to have their music heard. What was that journey from the bungalow, to finding yourself on Triple J, and then being signed to Liberation in Australia?
Husky: We were playing around Melbourne locally, very unknown, and decided to record this album. We recorded the entire album without any support of labels. By the time we finished, we were still unknown, we just had this record. We had humble plans to release the album ourselves, but we never really thought about releasing it overseas at all.
Kara: So the decision to work with Noah Georgeson [to mix the record], who worked with Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, did that come after the fact? Was that something that [you did] once you went with Liberation?
Husky: No, we did all of that before Triple J Unearthed, before Liberation.
Kara: So you spent all of that money and went out to L.A.?
Husky: We had this dream of making this album that we would be proud of. That we would love. We were kind of prepared to do anything it took to do that. The decision to go to L.A. and mix with Noah Georgeson was going to cost us more than it was going to cost us to mix it locally — not that much more, though. But it was still a big move, but we were prepared to do whatever we thought was best for the album. We loved Noah’s mixes that we heard. I spoke to him a couple of times on the phone and it felt like the right thing to do so we went with our gut and we did it. I think it was a good decision in the end. We went back to Australia and mastered the album, got the artwork done by a great local artist. We uploaded “History’s Door” onto the Triple J Unearthed website — anyone can upload their songs — and a couple of days later we got a phone call that we’d won Triple J Unearthed. Things rolled on from there; they started to play the song. It’s a national station so it’s a lot of exposure all over the country. It’s an indie station with a very large audience.
Kara: From there Liberation signed you, but when did Sub Pop come along?
Husky: We first heard from Sub Pop at the end of last year. The album had been out a couple of months [in Australia] and our manager had come across Jonathan Poneman, who owned Sub Pop, and slipped him an album. A week later they got in touch and wanted to send a couple of guys down to Melbourne to meet us and come to a show. Again, it all sort of rolled on from there; it was completely out of the blue.
Kara: It does say so much in faith; the four of you so believed in what you had and devoted yourselves into making something happen. Husky, you write all of the songs, although three of you sing.
Husky: A lot of the songs I write the bones of — the chords, lyrics and melodies and then bring it to the band to arrange. There are some of the songs on the album that came out of a jam session. We’d come up with a chord progression and something that we’d like and then I’d take that away and write a melody and some lyrics. Then we’d further develop it and it would become a song. Both of those processes work.
Kara: So where would a lyric like, “Going to heaven with a fake moustache/going to try my luck in the clouds,” come from?
Husky: It’s funny! A lot of people ask about that lyric in particular! Where would it come from? That was an example of a lyric [in which] that was the first thing that came to me, that line. It just popped into my head; one of those beautiful things that happens sometimes. It then inspired me to write a song.
Kara: All four of you have real, authentic moustaches.
Husky: You don’t know that for sure.
Evan: We’re from down under.
Kara: Gideon, [when I saw you at Joe’s Pub] I was knocked out by the solo you did in “Don’t Tell Your Mother” — a magnificent jam. Do you have a jazz background?
Gideon: Yeah, I studied jazz. I’ve studied a little bit of classical, but jazz is what I was into for a long time. It’s what I did all through high school and also in university.
Kara: What pianists did you admire?
Gideon: These days I like Brad Mehldau and a lot of the classic piano players like [Thelonious] Monk, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans. The list goes on forever.
Kara: Your arrangements are so intricate. You’ve opened for just about everybody — Laura Marling, Devendra Banhart, the Shins — and now you’re doing your own headlining shows. [In translating the record] to the live stage, what has been the biggest challenge and most interesting discovery?
Husky: Personally for me, one of the biggest challenges has been working out how to cut down how ever many parts there are on the record to [what] four guys with eight hands can achieve live. That’s been a challenge. I think the discovery has been that there’s a lot you can do live that you can’t do on a recording that makes up for the things you can’t do live. If you can get up there on stage and connect with the songs, really connect, and the audience feels that, I think that’s the number one thing. They’re not going to miss a little guitar part or fourth harmony that’s not there. They’re just going to be with you. That’s what I’ve discovered, I guess.
Kara: A lot of the lyrics are filled with people running away, with bus stops and roaming gypsies, all night walkabouts. You’ve all accomplished that because you all seem to be touring constantly. Evan, you’ve succeeded in running away as a band.
Evan: Yeah, that’s true. Home is a vacation for us.
Kara: Some [Australian] bands like the Temper Trap, I believe, have moved to the UK. Do you you see yourselves having to move to a different location.
Evan: We’ve talked about it.
Husky: I think it’s something we might do next year or something. It sort of depends on what happens next. It all unfolds very unpredictably or has done so far. It’s hard to plan ahead. New things happen every day and that changes our path. But I think we’re going to record our second album — or start recording it — towards the end of this year and early next year. And then, perhaps, with the touring of that, [it might make sense] for us to be here. To base ourselves in our States.
Kara: Do you have the songs for that second album?
Husky: No, not yet. We’re working on it.
Kara: Have you brought any new songs to the set?
Husky: We have. It’s a nice way to gauge how people react to it. There are things about the last record that we’d like to do the same. I’d imagine that we’d produce [the record] ourselves again and I don’t know about the bungalow — it’s vanished — but I think having an intimate space to let the songs develop with the time and freedom that they deserve ... we’d want to recreate that again.
Husky: In Australia, we don’t really call the woods the woods. We call it “the bush.” But that didn’t work, so I chose the American version!