Words With Cold Hands Warm Heart

Melbourne psych-folk-pop band Cold Hands Warm Heart blissed out WildnFree very quickly with their gorgeous, harp-laden self-titled LP, as well as their clip of her local dream-haunt Merri Creek. With a gig coming up at The Gasometer this Thursday, WildnFree just had to find out more about these beautiful artists. She spoke to harpist Genevieve Fry and drummer/percussionist Esala Liyanage and found it the following amazing things:

WF: I’ve been listening to your LP and blissing out in all the loveliness. Tell me about your band and your music, including your use of harps and nature sounds.

Genevieve: The band formed over a few years as gradually the right people drifted into it. The newest member being Georgia (Harvey) who has been with us for less than a year, but has added her wonderful and now irreplaceable presence on bass and backing vocals. I’ve been playing with Esala (Liyanage) the drummer/ percussionist for many years in different bands, our own instrumental band The Guns For Saint Sebastian, which gave us our first track on vinyl through an Albert’s Basement compilation, Prudence Rees-Lee’s epic 10-piece Baroque Pop band and extensive work with Four Larks Theatre, an independent company now based in Los Angeles. Esala has an amazing ability to extract sounds using found objects and unlikely implements. Travis John, who I met whilst studying music, is on electric guitar is a totally killer player with a wonderful musical sensibility. I love the interplay between the harp and guitar and how they work together to create a really distinct sonic footprint.

I’ve been playing Harp for over 20 years and for me it is an extremely expressive and unique instrument to compose and play music on. My harp teacher Xanya Mamunya is a big inspiration. She played in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, is a cool vegan with pink dreadlocks, and is the most incredible teacher. Even though I haven’t had a lesson from her in well over a decade, she still inspires and encourages me all the time. She really gave me the tools and technique to make the music I make on my harp.

We sometimes use field recordings in our work, but more frequently we use nature as the stimulus for the sounds. I’ll try and describe to the band the scene, in my mind, where the song is taking place. The landscape, the flora and fauna, the weather. The essence of the song. All this is channelled into the music, so Travis might be the storm or the cicadas, Esala the wind and the harp is the rain. It might be that simplistic or result in a way of capturing a particular mood or atmosphere.

WF: As someone who’s done a lot of sitting and staring and dreaming by the Merri Creek and the Yarra River, I loved your video. What’s it mean to you? 

Genevieve: The Merri Creek is a wonderful and magical place. I’ve always felt growing up in Melbourne that these small segments of nature provide an absolute lifeline to us urban dwellers. I need to see water and trees and hear birds as a way of rejuvenating; the Merri Creek is where I can get my nature fix. 

These places of such natural beauty, aura and also man-made degradation, stand as reminders of the history of this land that we reside on which was ultimately stolen from Traditional Owners, in this case the Wurundjeri-willam. There is always this duality with my own personal experience of the extraordinary nature in Australia, it is coupled with sadness and guilt for the atrocities that have through colonisation of this country, most of which has never been acknowledged appropriately.

I believe in the essence of place, that you can cultivate a deep connection to the earth and everything upon it and that ultimately we are all made of the same particles, the same matter. Tuning into your environment, both natural, urban and where they co-exist can be greatly beneficial to individuals and to society as a whole. 

WF: Tell me about working with artist and video director Zoe Scoglio?

Genevieve: Zoe was absolutely incredible to work with. As an artist interested time, place and our sense and scope of history, Zoe encouraged the band to think deeply about our connection to Merri Creek, and also just to be present in the atmosphere that exists around that particular urban waterway. She embraced the rubbish, debris and storm water drains as totems and landmarks, drawing together history the ugliness and natural beauty. A lot of the sites Zoe chose to film had these interesting juxtapositions between native and European flora, man-made concrete feats of engineering and even old graffiti covered foundation stones from where a blue-stone building was once were constructed in the 1800s, blurring the lines between relic, rubbish and industrialisation.

To shoot the clip, we rode our bicycles around for 4 hours, in 40 degree heat, tracing the banks of the Merri Creek and the Yarra River. Everything took on a different feel, like time was all encompassing, future, past and present. It was exhausting, exhilarating and meditative.

WF: I even loved the shot of you looking out over the city from the Eastern Freeway bridge, what a place to destroy with a road. What’s your thoughts on it? 

Esala: I saw Indonesian band Senyawa at MONA FOMA a few years ago and they asked the audience to think of the most beautiful place they been to in the world and to imagine that once everything was that beautiful. Yeah, its human nature, our collective unconsciousness and insensitivity. Two vegans, a veggo and a mostly veggo in the band,  I guess that’s our little way of contributing/ not contributing to the insane appetite.

WF: Tell me what you’re up to with Eastmint Studio, I see you Lisa Salvo and On Diamond on board? 

Esala: Well, we started Eastmint initially as a performance space and artist studio where we put on gigs every few months. We’ve been lucky to host Oren Ambarchi, Grand Salvo, Evelyn Morris, Prudence Rees-Lee, Superstar, The Orbweavers, Francis Plagne, Oliver Mann and Mick Turner of Dirty Three. So lucky!

Genevieve: We have since formed a collective with myself, Esala and Lisa Salvo (On Diamond) to create a small independent record label. Initially it was to release Lisa Salvo’s I Could Have Been A Castle and our own work, but we have some really exciting and wonderful music coming out next year including Alex Garsden and Ida Duelund-Hansen’s project True Strength, and possibly a release a very special joint release from a couple of Melbourne music stalwarts that we can’t name yet! Eastmint is also going to be launching and distributing US based label Elestial Sounds double cassette compilation A Thousand Tones, a very well curated collection female and female identified instrumental and electronic artists.

WF: Tell me about your show at the Gaso on 25 August? Whats going to happen?

Genevieve: Our live sets are a continual song cycle, similar to our record. The songs seep into each other with sections of instrumental improvisation, creating a kind of musical spell…

We will play some material from our album but we also have some new songs which we are recording early next year.

We are super excited to have Lucy Roleff who is folk singer who also plays harp opening and the experimental rapper/ blogger/ tattooist/ artist HTMLflowers on the bill as well, plus James Tom spinning some sweet are rare vinyl treats!

Melburnians, head to The Gasometer this Thursday 25 August to see this show live. Everyone else, enjoy blissing out by the Merri Creek now:

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