Who’s going to Changes – Melbourne’s newest music conference this week? Two days of industry talks and two nights of live music showcasing the best of Melbourne music, the new event is a collaboration between The Push, Yarra City Council, Music Victoria and the Victorian music community, assembles a roster of ground breaking voices, programming and events to reshape the Australian music industry.
We spoke to Changes artist Lehmann B. Smith, part of the Bedroom Suck Records showcase happening at The Gasometer this Wednesday night. Like the conference will no doubt be, the conversation with Lehmann, a solo artist plus a member of Totally Mild, was unexpectedly fantastic and enlightening.
Check it out.
WF: I’m loving Poplar Music – it’s lush and a touch lo fi and a beautiful listen. Can you tell me about your songwriting and production process on this album?
LBS: Thanks! The songs came in dribs and drabs, I think roughly from 2006 to 2012. Then I spent 5 years recording the album and all that time I was really working on the arrangements, trying to make the music as music-filled as I could, with different textures and melodies sort of hidden in this heavy fabric. I recorded and mixed it all myself, which is probably where the lo fi element comes into play. I’ve got big ideas but no idea what I’m doing, at least in the traditional engineering sense where you click your tongue and get your tape measure out. It was made mainly in my room, and a few other bedrooms and lounge rooms of the people who played on it.
WF: How does writing and releasing your own solo work allow you to different things to your work with Totally Mild?
LBS: Totally Mild is pretty different, from every angle. Liz will bring in the songs, voice and guitar, and then after that it’s pretty democratic. We work up the arrangements and dynamics of the songs together, then after a couple years of playing the songs live we’ll go into the studio with people who know what they’re doing. It’s just generally more pro. With my stuff I can afford to be more sneaky and dictatorial. I’ve got “final cut” on everything, so I don’t need to field input or ask permission. It’s very liberating but also a little unknown because there’s no one around to temper your whims. I can afford to be a bit more obsessive — not having a time or money budget — but also much more laissez-faire, like with this album, we recorded a lot of the basic tracks without any rehearsal, without the rest of the band having even heard the song. I’d just show it to them, we’d run through it a couple times, then press record. So it’s sort of two sides of the coin, me and Totally Mild.
WF: My fave song is Tropical – can you tell me a bit about the instrumentation and vibe on this one?
LBS: I think I wrote that one in 2012 after I discovered Tropicalia – Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben in particular. I’d never written a song like that and I wanted to try it. I think the Bossa Nova sound is just as ingrained in our ears as anything — “Girl from Ipanema” saw to that. So it came out quite naturally. When it came to orchestrating it I stole a couple ideas from Joao Gilberto. Genevieve Fry played some beautifully tacky harp on it. I played some wine glasses, which is always fun, getting those in tune, you end up drinking a lot of water. I was going to sing it myself, but I like to give everyone a break from my voice occasionally so I got Sarah Farquharson from The Finks to do it instead. We were in a Michael Hurley covers band just for a few shows up the East Coast and she sung this song “Don’t Treat Me Bad” and it was consistently heartbreaking. There’s not many voices consistently heartbreaking. It had to be her.
WB: You’re on the Bedroom Sucks showcase line up during Changes at the Gaso with Jaala, Rabbit Island and Good Morning – what’s going to be the highlight of your night?
LBS: I’m in the unfortunate position of loving Jaala, Rabbit Island and Good Morning and having to rush off to play a show with Totally Mild straight after my set, so I think the highlight will be when I finally get to kick up my weary heels.
WF: If you were guest speaking at a Changes session about how to survive and thrive in the music industry – what would be your main advice?
LBS: Phew, it’s not the easiest industry to survive or thrive in, I think I’d be more likely to attend a session with a pen and pad than a microphone. If there’s one thing that I think can help and is a little under appreciated is the benefit of learning to do things yourself. One of the few plus sides of our times is that pretty much everything is available to you technologically on a limited budget. You can make your own albums for free instead of spending thousands in a studio. You can design your own album artwork, make your own video clips. And it will all have your voice, it will be clear and unique and direct. The negative to this I guess is that it doesn’t really support an “industry” so much. It’s just that there are so many expenses, large expenses, for producing musicians, and the income is just so pitiful. I’ve never been a band that paid for itself, let alone made excess money. So every hour you spend learning how this plug-in works or the best export settings for YouTube is one less hour you don’t have to work making coffees or loading a pallet jack.
WF: What Australian music are you loving at the moment?
LBS: I’ve played with some great bands recently, Life Drawing are great. Also Erasers from WA are very good. Always love Tim Richmond Group. New songs from Laura Jean are great. Hey Now by The Ancients. The new album from The Finks came out the same day as Poplar Music so I sort of feel like Groucho Marx dying the same day as Elvis.
Listen to Poplar Music before you get down to see Lehmann at the Bedroom Suck Records showcase this Wednesday at The Gaso. See all the details of each showcase across two nights below. Grab your tickets to Changes too while you’re at it.
WEDNESDAY 4 JULY
THE PUSH – ALL AGES ROOFTOP SHOWCASE – ACU ROOFTOP
BEC SANDRIDGE – 1:30pm
CHAPTER MUSIC SHOWCASE – THE GRACE DARLING
BABY / GREGOR / SCHOOL DAMAGE / TOTALLY MILD
COLLECTIVE ARTISTS SHOWCASE – YAH YAHS
ALEXANDER BIGGS / BLOODS (DJ SET) / CLEOPOLD / FRASER A. GORMAN / JESS LOCKE / MILWAUKEE BANKS
OUR GOLDEN FRIEND SHOWCASE – THE TOTE
808S AND GREATEST HITS / DIANAS / ELIZABETH / THE FACULTY / JAZZ / MOONLOVER / POPPONGENE / PRIMO! / RVG / SINGING LESSONS / SWEET WHIRL / WAY DYNAMIC
ANTI FADE SHOWCASE- THE BENDIGO
AUSMUTEANTS / CIVIC / PARSNIP / TERRY
HOPESTREET RECORDINGS SHOWCASE – BAR OPEN
THE CACTUS CHANNEL / LEISURE CENTRE / THE PUTBACKS / ZILLANOVA
BARELY DRESSED RECORDS SHOWCASE – OLD BAR
HOLLIE JOYCE / JARROW / JESS RIBEIRO / JIM LAWRIE / RYAN DOWNEY
NEW WORLD ARTISTS SHOWCASE – THE EVELYN
DIET / THE OUTDOOR TYPE / SAATSUMA / TYNE JAMES ORGAN
GOOD MANNERS SHOWCASE – THE LAUNDRY
DARCY BAYLIS / LUCIANBLOMKAMP / TWO PEOPLE / ZK KING
BEDROOM SUCK RECORDS SHOWCASE – THE GASOMETER
GOOD MORNING / JAALA / LEHMANN B. SMITH / RABBIT ISLAND
THURSDAY 5 JULY
THE PUSH – ALL AGES ROOFTOP SHOWCASE – ACU ROOFTOP
RAT!HAMMOCK – 1:00pm
MUSIC VICTORIA REGIONAL SHOWCASE
– THE GRACE DARLING
BONES AND JONES / CHAPEL / NANCIE SCHIPPER / WHITE BLEACHES / YERGURL
SELECT MUSIC SHOWCASE – YAH YAHS
EILISH GILLIGAN / EVAN KLAR / IVAN OOZE / MORGAN BAIN / SELECT MUSIC DJS
HYSTERICAL RECORDS X IDENTICAL RECORDS SHOWCASE
– THE TOTE
HOT TO ROT / HYSTERICAL RECORDS MYSTERY BAND / NO SISTER / QWERTY / RACERAGE / SHRIMPWITCH / STATIONARY SUNS / SWIM TEAM
UNFD SHOWCASE – THE BENDIGO
BAD JUJU / THE BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT / PRIDELANDS / TERRA / VOID OF VISION
PARADISE SHOWCASE – BAR OPEN
ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING / MAYA HIRASEDO / MINORFAUNA / NULL
MILK! RECORDS SHOWCASE – THE OLD BAR
EAST BRUNSWICK ALL GIRLS CHOIR / EVELYN IDA MORRIS / JADE IMAGINE / LOOSE TOOTH
LISTEN SHOWCASE – THE EVELYN
ALICE SKYE / KALYANI (WILLOW BEATS) / P-UNIQUE / SOFT APPROACH
BAD APPLES MUSIC SHOWCASE PRESENTED BY LEVIS
– THE LAUNDRY
BIRDZ / DRMNGNOW / MOJO JUJU / PHILLY / SOJU GANG
POISON CITY RECORDS SHOWCASE – THE GASOMETER
BENCH PRESS / CABLE TIES / DARK FAIR / MICHAEL BEACH / MOODY BEACHES / TV HAZE
LNWY x I OH YOU Official CHANGES Closing Party – THE NIGHT CAT
ALTA / BILLY DAVIS & THE GOOD LORDS / KRAKATAU