2015 was a good year for the Melbourne based trio Passerine; they were awarded Channel [V] Australia’s Discover Artist of the month with their standalone single ‘Set Me Alight’ and the single from their forthcoming EP ‘Look Up’ has also attracted much attention.
Leading into 2016, Phoebe Dubar, Ben Murphy and Alex Gooding have established themselves as an act to watch with their eclectic mix of pop, nu-disco and electronic music.
But the band weren’t always in this current form, as singer Phoebe explains to us.
“We’d been playing around for a year or so as a seven piece act, then in the process of writing ‘Set Me Alight’, we felt the band shifting in a more electronic direction. So we basically replaced five instruments with one – Ben,” she says.
“He’s a wizard on Ableton and does all manner of sorcery on stage to create our huge, full sound in a live setting. Best of all, we all get along really well. We were super lucky to meet him.
The word ‘passerine’ relates to birds, and Phoebe says they plucked the name out of the air, which is quite fitting.
“We picked that word totally randomly and then found out the meaning – Passerines are songbirds. So it’s kind of cool that a random name ended up having a musical meaning. There’s a bit more to it than that, but we’d need at least two pints to get through the story,” she laughs.
The trio released their sophomore EP The Morning After/The Night Before in February to a positive reception, which has a lot to do with their collaborative process.
“All the songs start out differently – sometimes, as with ‘Eyes Wide Closed’, Ben wrote the track as an instrumental and sent it to Alex and me. I then wrote the vocals and then we finessed it from there, added extra instrumentation and drums. Then there’s ‘Look Up’, which started by me whistling a melody into my iPhone while I played some piano chords. The original recording was cut up and used in the finished track, which is pretty cool,” Phoebe says.
“Then there’s ‘Tusk’, which we didn’t write at all, Fleetwood Mac did that for us. We just made it sound more like us. But all the tracks were made as demos, then recorded and produced at The Aviary in Collingwood with Nic Lam, who plays in Jaala and has a solo act of his own called dxHeaven. He’s a total legend. He’s probably the unofficial fourth member of the band.”
In making the EP, the band took themselves away from city distractions, which Phoebe says inspired the sounds on the recording, quite literally.
“My family has a farm in the country and every few months, we block out a few days and go there to write. It’s so good, because there’s really limited phone reception, so you literally have no distractions. We just set up in this room which has a huge fireplace, and we write nonstop for a couple of days. The fireplace actually made it on to the opening of ‘Lost in Each Other’. Listen out and you can hear the crackles,” she says.
Currently in the middle of a tour, Passerine haven’t made it to Adelaide yet, but they are keen to get here eventually.
“We just came back from Sydney last weekend, and next we’re heading up to Dubbo for Roar Festival (alongside Tkay Maidza, Seth Sentry and Hayden James) in a few weeks. Then we’ll be home for a few months before we start up all over again. We’d love to go to Radelaide! In fact, if you can put in a good word for us at Womad for next year, that’d be great,” she says.
An interesting and eclectic mix of genres the band are influenced by a range of artists, including each other.
“We all have such broad influences. It’s pretty absurd, but we all dig each other’s favourite jams, as evidenced by the 20hrs we spent in a van on the Hume last weekend. It’s probably a bit biased having just seen his show last night, but Kendrick Lamar has been on high rotation for a while, as has D’Angelo’s Black Messiah,” Phoebe says.
“I also adore Hiatus Kaiyote, they’re amazing. I’ve also been loving Ara Koufax’s new stuff, and a bunch of 90s house. Ben’s into eclectic electronic music, he’s the Four Tet and Gold Panda fan boy number 1 amongst some more clubby and some more poppy things (still spinning that FKA Twigs EP in total awe). Alex listens to whatever Ben and I are playing. He likes everything, but his heart is definitely in hip hop land.”
Check out Passerine’s EP The Morning After/The Night Before and keep an eye out for them if they come over to Adelaide because they make some great sounds.
By Libby Parker