Ben Folds reckons you should check out these new Australian artists
Music taste is such an eclectic thing. You think you’ve got a handle on what someone does or doesn’t like, but the truth is life is full of surprises.
Case in point: Ben Folds. He’s a writer of witty, singalong piano rock who’s had a solid fanbase in Australia for two decades, back to when Ben Folds Five’s ‘Underground’ – the song that really introduced us to the band – reached #3 on the 1996 Hottest 100.
But you might be surprised to learn that Ben Folds is partial to metal. The North Carolinian has been this month’s Artist In Residence on Double J, meaning each week he gets to raid our library and play stuff he really loves – and thinks you should love, too.
As part of that, we asked him to spend some time on the triple j Unearthed website and pick out some local acts he reckons are doing good things.
So, here are Ben’s picks of the new Australian artists you should know about – including a little something from Perth metal band Among Them.
The Teskey Brothers – 'Crying Shame'
The Teskey Brothers have been getting a lot of attention for their Motown-like sound, which feels much more mid-century Detroit than mid-2000s Warrandyte, the Yarra Valley town from which they've emerged.
The quartet, including brothers Sam and Josh Teskey plus Brendan Love and Liam Gough, have been playing together for 10 years, doing a lot of small-time gigging around Victoria. In the last year or so, around the release of their album Half Mile Harvest (named for their Yarra Valley recording studio), their profile has ballooned.
They sold out several nights in a row at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne last year – a feat that has become a marker of next-big-thing status – and are heading back to the US shortly.
Househats – 'All Together'
Househats are a young garage rock band in Melbourne. They play driving, ride-cymbal-heavy guitar music that feels tonally similar to Melbournians Camp Cope, Boomgates and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
But the vocals – led by frontman Freddy Fostvedt, a Norwegian expat – are much more kooky and cheerful than most of what those other bands have offered. “It’s not post-rock, garage-punk, or a hyphenated anything really: it’s just Househats,” the trio write on their Unearthed page. “And that’s enough.”
Dominic Breen – 'Sydney Kids'
Dominic Breen’s 'Sydney Kid's feels like a candle held to the San Francisco of the 1960s, the optimism of major chords and light guitar flourishes.
The Sydney singer has released very little music, but what he has put out shows he’s a pop songwriter with a lot of promise.
Aestas – 'Arrows'
Aestas (which means summer in Latin) are a very new duo from Brisbane playing acoustic guitar-based songs.
They’ve got a few other tracks up on triple j Unearthed if you’re keen to explore more. Each of them throws lush female vocals over finger-picked guitar lines.
Hatchie – 'Sure'
Hatchie, aka Brisbane singer Harriette Pilbeam, has had a huge last few months.
She signed deals with the labels Double Double Whammy (home of Told Slant, Mitski, Frankie Cosmos), in the US, and Heavenly Recordings (who put out King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Confidence Man) in the UK, and she was one of the Unearthed Laneway competition winners, appearing at the Brisbane leg of the festival.
In a few weeks' time she'll take her place as one of the Australian acts appearing at SXSW in Austin.
Keep an ear out for what comes next for Hatchie.
Among Them – 'Meaning'
Among Them are a five-piece from Perth playing progressive hardcore.
They are a fairly new band, just gearing up now for the release of their first record.
As Ben Folds said during his Artist In Residence: "Woah, metalcore! I think I like that stuff."
OK Sure – 'Nightshade'
Melbourne’s Akaysha Rose, who makes techno-pop under the name OK Sure, has just released her debut album, Pleomorphism, from which ‘Nightshade’ (which Richard Kingsmill called “beautifully dark stuff”) is taken.
She won Unearthed’s Hermitude remix competition in 2015 for reworking of ‘Ukiyo’, and has clearly been busy ever since.
Alex Bell – 'The Moon Was A Rose'
Alex Bell might remind you of Nick Drake or The Tallest Man on Earth. It's very sweet, quiet folk music, built around Bell's relish for words and the way they fit together.
This one's taken from his fourth album, Tales of Shem, described as "a series of songs about time".
The Moving Stills – 'Who Are You'
The Moving Stills are a very young band (see their latest single, 'Nineteen', and its lyric 'I don't wanna turn 19') with, quite probably, a very big future.
That song has a throbbing 80s beat-and-bassline combination, with a big chorus, while this track has a 90s Mancunian feel. The quartet execute both styles perfectly.