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Victorian artist Freya Josephine Hollick, whose album Feral Fusion is receiving widespread acclaim, has revealed that she will be recording a new album in early 2019 with Lucinda Williams’ band Buick 6. The recording sessions will take place at Rancho De La Luna studios in Joshua Tree, California.
Buick 6 – drummer Butch Norton, guitarist Stuart Mathis and bass player David Sutton – recorded a short video to announce the recordings:
Hollick also revealed that the trip to the USA has been made possible by a grant from Creative Victoria. “We still have to raise some funds somehow to make it all work properly but that’s pretty incredible,” she said.
Hollick begins making demos for the new album this week in response to a request from Norton, who has asked for some guitar and vocal and piano and vocal and versions of the tracks so that the band can learn them while they’re out on tour. Hollick is set to arrive in Los Angeles on February 22.
“It was purely by chance,” says Hollick of her teaming up with the members of Buick 6. “I had started recording this Feral Fusion album with Roger [Bergodaz] and Shane [O’Mara] in Union Street Studio in Brunswick West and I was talking to my friend Sean McMahon about releasing a single and who I was going to release the record with. I’d been running my own through a local label in Ballarat that I kind of needed to step it up a little bit. He said, ‘Oh, come talk to my friend Tim [McCormack] at Blind Date. I reckon he’d dig what you do.’
“So, I put out a single with them and then I think it was within like, six months of having put out a single with them, Tim said to me, “Would you be interested in recording with Buick 6?” and I kinda fell over backwards. I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to do that.” It was just finding the funds to make it happen. So, it was really all through Tim and I’ve only really just personally started having contact with Butch now because Tim’s done all the organising, all the talking about money and organising dates and all that kind of thing.”
Rancho De La Luna is owned by Dave Catching, a member of Eagles of Death Metal and has been home to recordings by Kurt Vile, Queens of the Stone Age, Daniel Lanois, Dave Grohl, PJ Harvey, Mark Lanegan and many more.
“I can’t wait,” says Hollick of the forthcoming trip and mentions that her Shane Reilly, guitarist on ‘Feral Fusion’, went to Joshua Treet earlier this year to pick up a pedal steel and he stayed in a caravan there.
“He just said it was just magical. It’s a really special, spiritual place to go to,” says Hollick. “We’re going to be doing a lot of filming while we’re over there. Tim’s organising some pretty amazing filming stuff in the studio and we are going out into the desert and documenting it. I’m really excited.”
Feral Fusion is out now on Blind Date Records and is reviewed by Steve Hoy in the latest edition of Rhythms.
The fabric social
Freya and I both grew up in Ballarat, and she is among the many women I’ve watched hit her stride and start to gain recognition for her work in recent years. After taking a hiatus while pregnant and caring for her little girl Opal, Freya recorded “The Unceremonious Junking of Me”, a dark but tender expedition through a failed relationship, tempered by the birth of her child. Received with unanimous industry praise, Freya is one of the growing darlings of the country and folk scene.
I meet Freya in her adorable little country cottage, tucked away in a quiet Ballarat street. It’s decorated with 70s furniture, furry rugs, and folksy artwork. She’s wearing tan boot cut corduroy, a silky burgundy shirt and a pair of vintage western boots - a casually on-point ensemble for a day out running errands.
As long as I have known Freya - she has literally lived her music - the things she listens to, talks about, fills her house with, and her sense of style. Her style is heavily interpreted through the lens of music movements. “I did Mod for a long-time. I used to love the 60s short skirts and wildly patterned stuff, and I still like to wear a bit of polyester 70s disco gear. But mostly I like Western wear these days.”
We get chatting about the pieces from the Rise collection I’ve brought along – tailored pieces made for block coloured layering. She is excited as she sifts through the pieces to choose her favourites – the Fink vest. “I love the colour, and the buttons.” I tell her about the petrified wood forests the neat rounded buttons are made from - “ancient trees on a vest – that’s so awesome”, I’m grinning happily, as there is nothing quite like the gleeful reaction to the clothes we work so hard to make.
Freya also loves the Cowan jacket (my personal favourite) - “I am all about tailored suits in block colours. You get so much more respect, and I feel more powerful onstage.” She recalls the Gunne Sax frocks she used to wear to a lot of gigs - famous dresses that have been worn by country singers since the 70s. "I found people would basically treat me like an idiot - so I don’t wear them anymore. I need more boss tailored stuff like this. Well constructed, natural fabric. Love it.”
Which is a perfect segue to some hard questions about life as women in a boys’ club industry, a conversation that is so real it occupies the rest of the afternoon. “A lot of the festivals are run by men. The booking agents for the festivals are often men and the line ups of shows and festivals seem to be fairly male dominated.”
We chat about the recent ‘thing to go viral’ featuring a man who accidentally, then on purpose, used his female colleague's email sign-off, getting a small window into a woman’s world. “As a self managed artist, and one who has also worked with a booking agent, it can be very hard to get things done with a woman's name at the end of an email. I've been man-splained (or as I like to call it, sassed) by male venue bookers who would have equal to or less experience in the field than me about crowds, advertising, line ups, you name it, to the point where I just say no to playing their venues now.”
And this is the crux for a female artist trying to find her power – being treated like a pretty little idiot - constantly wondering if being hit on by industry bros is just par for the course.
I tell her about the concept for the collection – women who Rise. It is an ode to the women who will wear it, and to those made it – a Myanmar based social enterprise of all women, who are leading the way for just economic development and rising above some hard conditions – climate change, economic isolation, just being a woman in a man's world.
So I put the question – ‘how to do you Rise above, as a woman in your work?’ – the answer isn’t an easy one. “This is where it gets hard, despite having the 'fuck the patriarchy I win' moments, you still feel silenced. My 'fuck you' moments have led me to being self managed and booked again, which will work just dandy until the right person comes along. I'd certainly like to surround myself with women for sure. Sisterhood is such a safe place”
We wind up the afternoon styling the Cowan and Fink in Freya’s distinct Western chic – because sometimes there’s no better tonic for the real world of sexism than to power-dress some boss tailored pieces in the setting Autumn sun.
Freya Josephine Hollick has dived deep into the waters of old time music for her new album The Unceremonious Junking of Me. The album immerses the listener in tales of love and loss. Hollick's beautiful angelic voice heightens the emotional impact of each song. Her voice is reminiscent of some of the great pioneering country and western singers from Dottie West to Patsy Cline.
The Unceremonious Junking Of Me had a long gestation period; after her previous album Freya became a mother to daughter Opal. The album was recorded over a year ago, Freya decided to allow the songs to establish themselves live before releasing the album.
I asked Freya about the curious album title, “Well initially I was going to call it heart junk but the guys from the record label wanted me to come up something a bit more poetic. It sort of encapsulates what I’ve been through in the last couple of years, it seems like a grandiose title but it works.”
The album has a rich musical tapestry. There is a darkness to the sound that travels beyond the realms of old country and folk music, I asked Freya about her musical influences.
“I love a lot of different music, I love country, blues Appalachian music. There is such a rich storytelling legacy in country and folk. I listened to a lot of the Carter family. I love honky tonk music, that simple old time music, tales of woe. I was raised on Yo La Tengo, Bill Callahan and Sonic Youth. Bill Callahan did a version of In The Pines which drew me to old time music, I kind of searched my way back to the root of it all.”
There is a refreshing sense of spontaneity in each of the songs. There is a delightful rawness to the album as a whole. I asked Freya about the process of crafting the songs in the studio environment.
“It all felt a bit haphazard, it didn’t take very long to decide which songs we were going to record. We just decided what we wanted to play when we were in the studio, just playing into two microphones, we didn’t labour over the process. This album was more about capturing what we do live. We have been playing a lot of live shows and we feel we have really improved.”
The album was recorded in three half days with the plan of getting the songs down as quick as possible to retain that live feel. The album was recorded in the Main Bar in Ballarat, an old gold rush era building, as Freya explained.
“The building has been kept in the same vein as one of those 1880’s gold rush style buildings right down to the peeling wallpaper inside. We set up on the stage upstairs, it’s like an old theatre. Engineer Myles Mumford who runs Rolling Stock in Collingwood supplied the microphones and tape equipment. It was a pretty quick set up, we didn’t run through the songs more than twice. Before we pressed record I went through how the song would progress then we would run through it and get the take we wanted. You can get sick of playing the same song over again, you lose the beauty of it.”
Freya with more songs in the bag plans to head over to the United States next year to record her next album.
The Unceremonious Junking Of Me is out on Heart of The Rat records on November 11th. Freya is launching the album at Bella Union on November 30th.
Freya Josephine Hollick on avoiding genre labels
“I would hope I’m making music everyone can enjoy. It’s not directed at any single group of people or exclusive to any club.”
Feral Fusion, the new album from Freya Josephine Hollick, taps into the Melbourne songwriter’s wide-ranging tastes.
Growing up in Ballarat, Hollick was exposed to jazz, soul and indie rock before discovering old-timey folk, blues and country music. Feral Fusion takes inspiration from even further afield with the inclusion of Latin rhythms, orchestral arrangements and elements of funk.
“I grew up in a household where we were introduced to music like Karen Dalton, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Bill Frisell, Al Green and Etta James at a young age,” she says. “Mum and Dad were always buying and listening to new music, back when you’d buy tapes for the car and CDs for the house.
“A lot of my friends grew up on a diet of ABBA and The Carpenters, not that there is anything wrong with that, but I really lucked out with my folks’ diverse taste in music.”
Hollick established herself as a country singer on 2016’s The Unceremonious Junking of Me and last year’s follow-up EP, Don’t Mess With the Doyenne. Although Feral Fusion isn’t confined to the genre, country remains the foundation of Hollick’s songwriting. To a certain extent, country music has moved past the stigma that was attached to it through the ‘90s and ‘00s, but some scepticism lingers.
“I still get turned down by festivals because I’m ‘too country’,” Hollick says. “But really all music stems from folk music, and what real contemporary country music is is a fusion of all these folk musics into one delicious-sounding thing. It’s why I called the record Feral Fusion – it’s a fusion of all these styles I love.
“My preference is to avoid all labels when it comes to genre. I would hope I’m making music everyone can enjoy. It’s not directed at any single group of people or exclusive to any club.”
For a long time, Australian country music was typified by Tamworth, cheesy grins, cowboy hats and formulaic sounds. But Melbourne is now home to a flourishing country music community led by the likes of Raised By Eagles, Tracy McNeil & the Good Life, and Lost Ragas.
One-half of Lost Ragas, Shane Reilly and Roger Bergodaz, produced Feral Fusion, adding versatile instrumentation that ably supports Hollick’s ambitious songwriting.
“Shane plays an array of instruments – Rhodes, pedal steel, baritone guitar – and he is responsible also for all of the orchestral arrangements,” Hollick says. “Shane is a freak of nature, an incredibly talented musician who can understand the weird way I try and communicate how I want things to sound. Roger is the rhythm section for the majority of the record and he is also the engineer. Roger also blows my mind, so skilled, so easy to work with.
“Thomas Brooks plays about a million things on the record also – pedal steel, baritone guitar, piano, nylon string, and all those wild sounding Nels Cline-esque electric guitar sounds. Yet another freak of nature.”
Recorded at Brunswick’s Union Street Studio, the record also features guitarists Jacob McGuffie and Sam Lemann, double bassist Ben Franz, fiddler Esther Henderson and drummer Oscar Henfrey on a few tracks.
Hollick will launch Feral Fusion at the Curtin Bandroom, backed by a four-piece band. “It’s going to be so much fun. The band will be made up of Thomas Brooks, Shane Reilly, Roger Bergodaz and Grant Arthur; one of the band’s regular members who is great. We’ll be playing the majority of the new record along with some stuff off Don’t Mess With the Doyenne and maybe a Willie Nelson song or two.”
Freya Josephine Hollick will live launch Feral Fusion at the Curtin Bandroomon Saturday September 15. Feral Fusion is out now.
The Border Mail
Freya Josephine Hollick answers the door for at her home in East Ballarat wearing a brilliant emerald green cable-knit jumper. The weather has swung between the first blast of oppressive late spring heat and squally freezing rain. A friend’s couch left on her verandah is coated with fine dust broken up by spots of water.
Her album The Unceremonious Junking Of Me has just been released. Recorded live to half-inch tape in the old-world surrounds of the Main Bar, it’s astonishingly bereft of the over-production we are delivered in contemporary music. Instead we are presented with the stark simplicity of Kat Mear’s fiddle, Pete Fidler’s mandolin and steel guitar, and Hollick’s soaring, melodic, transportive voice.
It’s hard to believe Hollick is just 27. She has the voice of someone who has lived a life, many lives perhaps, in a world far removed from ours. She wears her musical loves on her sleeve. Bluegrass. The Carter Family. The ballads of the Appalachians. The blues. Her guitar playing is stripped back and complements the tales she tells.
And the tales of The Unceremonious Junking Of Me run to eternal themes. It is an album born of personal heartbreak and rebirth, of grief and of discovered love.
We talk in her lounge room while her baby daughter Opal has another animated conversation with herself in the next room.
We should start with the eternal blues question: where were you last night?
Freya Hollick: (laughs) Out in Blackwood. I was with Nick and Janet Dear, who are a oldtime bluegrass family. They've lived out there for years. My brother went to school with their son. They're amazing players, and they run a few different little festivals, they're a big part of the bluegrass scene. And there were some players from North Carolina there that I had met in Harrietville at the Mountaingrass music festival, halfway up to Mount Hotham.
I listened to The Unceremonious Junking Of Me again today. Your voice is remarkable, and you inhabit those Appalachian, those bluegrass, those country influences as though you’ve lived them forever. But of course you haven’t.
No – or at least I don’t know about having done that. I was on Henry Wagons’s show on Double J a couple of weeks ago and he was asking me how important the past is to my music. It’s kind of like your soul has existed for however long. I won’t ever know the secrets of the universe, but I feel as though my soul has lived through those existences before, because it’s so natural for me to sing in that way and write the songs, that it almost doesn’t feel like it’s me that’s writing them.
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What’s my scene.com
Tell us about your new single/album/tour?
During October, our lovely friends from Texas, Robert Ellis, Geoffrey Muller and Tank Lisenbe, were out to tour and play at Out On The Weekend. They came in to the studio with us and laid down the tune ‘Pearly Gates of the Landfill’. It’s a fun, rollicking, weird song about a date I went on to the tip shop.
Though the guys have headed back to texas, I’m still in the studio with a bunch of different local and interstate musicians, putting down the rest of the new record.
I’m really looking forward to it being out in the world, it’s definitely a step away from the traditionalist sound of that first album I put out, The Unceremonious Junking of Me. All my music stems from folk music, as does all music full stop, the roots are still there, but it was time for me to explore some further reaching influences, to experiment with styles and sounds I had long been wanting to explore.
The upcoming tour is really just an opportunity for me to get to a few more places across the country with the full band, for more people to hear what we are doing, it sometimes doesn’t translate as a duo act.
What’s your favourite work at this point in time?
My favourite work of my own?
The thing I’m most excited about is a track I just put down with Roger Bergodaz, Jacob McGuffie and Oscar Henfrey. It’s one I wrote entitled ‘Like A Dog Upon A Bone’. We tumbled down the track of blending funk and country, and I couldn’t be happier.
Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote…
One that springs to mind is, myself, and a few others were driving back from Sydney overnight to make it back for a show the following day, and we had been driving for hours, we were about 3 hours out of Melbourne and we blew a tyre in the rental car, in the rain. Thankfully Tom and Mitch changed the tyre and it was a full sized spare. I’m sure I have more interesting stories than this, but it was probably the most full on night of driving we’ve had on the road so far.
What, or who, inspires you?
Mostly Al Green, Ann Peebles, Betty Davis, Allen Toussaint, Dolly Parton, Bill Frisell. The list of musicians that inspire me is much longer but these are my go tos at the moment.
Which song do you wish you wrote?
I wish I wrote Unchained Melody.
How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
What is something that has a whole lot of flavours that shouldn’t work together but they do and its amazing and you can’t get enough?
Maybe some kind of Mexican fusion food. Definitely vegetarian though.
What’s next for you?
I keep saying it and I think I’ll probably jinx myself, but it has always been my dream to get to America. I love American music, and South American Music, so for me I hope to tour through the states and down through Panama, Colombia, Cuba etc.
What’s your scene?
I don’t think I necessarily belong to a scene. I just like good music, whatever style it is, and friendly people.
On her second album, The Unceremonious Junking of Me, Freya Josephine Hollick had a wealth of subject matter to work with - the dissolution of a relationship and the birth of her daughter. Opposites on the emotional spectrum; both the joy and heartache became key elements of her beautiful and highly accomplished album.
Hollick is now beyond the raw emotion of the breakup that shadows the record as there has been a lengthy period between its recording and release date. "It was recorded 15 months ago so it was a long gestation period. I think that happens a lot for musicians. The further you get away from it the more you listen to it and you hear all the faults and it becomes harder to listen to it objectively. It was finding the right time to release it. I had a two year hiatus from playing shows when I got pregnant and had my daughter. I think it was December (2015) that I started playing live again after a long break. Instead of releasing it earlier in the year we decided to wait and build a bit of a following and profile around the country before releasing the songs."
Hollick views her new album as "a pocket in time" which is "really all about one relationship, with my daughter's father", through the low lows and the high highs. "It was a really difficult event for me. I thought I was having a child with someone I'd be spending the rest of my life with and then things changed. Things come to the surface and you realise that isn't going to happen and your world crumbles around you. Some of the album was written while we were together and some was written after we split. I guess I owe him a massive thank you for helping me create this record (laughs) and I guess it has sort of helped to create the next two records because without emotional turmoil I don't think it's as easy to write music," reflects Hollick.
I ask Hollick what this album may have been like if these events hadn't happened in her life. "I've definitely taken some positives from the whole thing and even though newer songs I've written have dark lyrics they're much more positive sounding with major chords and an uptempo honky tonk and yodel sound, so I suppose it could've been a very different album. It would have been much happier music. It's nice to have it out in the world because I'm out the other side of all the dark stuff that comes from ending loving somebody. Life gets easier and you get proud of the strength you gain from overcoming those feelings of major change and letting go. The letting go is the thing that can kill you," states Hollick.
The album was recorded in Hollick's hometown of Ballarat, Victoria and with its settler and gold rush history and Hollick's personal experiences woven into the area, it meant a lot to record there. "Place is quite important for me when it comes to writing lyrics and recording. The room in The Main Bar where we recorded is such a beautiful sounding room and we wanted to do it live so we brought Myles Mumford from Rolling Stock Recording Rooms in Collingwood and he brought his tape equipment and we recorded it to half-inch tape with lovely old microphones and no overdubs. Just a couple of mics on stage with us three musicians. It was done over three days and I don't think we did any more than two takes of any of the songs," says Hollick, proudly.
Aside from her commanding voice that possesses both a melodic folk fragility and a gentle honky tonk twang, Hollick has created a strong image to accompany her music. From her video clips to artwork and traditional Gunne Sax dresses, she understands the importance of presenting a holistic style. "It feels like a costume when you go on stage and makes it easier to immerse yourself in the music and really play the part of the broken-hearted gold-rush woman. You're not the same person as when you're in your tracksuit pants watching HBO."