Bush Gothic are a Melbourne-based trio, often described as an Australian Folk Music band with a twist. Slowly but surely, these guys have been making their mark not just on our minds or on our local music scene but, more importantly, on the emotional landscape of Australia as a whole.
The work of this trio is important, offering up new perspectives and a renewed sense of possibility through the music that they play. It challenges any pre-existing ideas about what Australian Folk Music is and means and, who plays it. It also sheds light on a whole bunch of other aesthetic and poetic choices that these musicians are making Ahead of playing at the next World Music Open Mic Session, the Melbourne Critique spoke with the band’s front woman Jenny M. Thomas.
Jenny, introduce us to you and the musical trajectory that lead you to the formation of the trio Bush Gothic as we know it today.
My childhood was spent singing songs around campfires, in church with my family and studying classical viola and piano, which led to orchestral work with my world music band – AKIN – traveling to festivals on the side. Irish fiddle, Scandinavian violin and South Indian Carnatic violin became my obsessions and this somehow led to work with Circus Oz. Australian folk music took hold of my imagination after witnessing too many all male bad folk bands singing about sheep for 17 verses and I realised that someone needed to do something about this. I then found two of the most magnificent musicians in town (Chris Lewis, drum kit and Dan Witton on bass) and the first real gig we had was live to air on RN’s The Music Show so, there was no going back!
Other than Bush Gothic, what are your other current music projects?
Bush Gothic is an all consuming and furry marsupial beast that I adore. For fun I practice technical work and Bach on the viola and for angst and joy I compose for string quartets.
Let’s talk about your upcoming feature at the World Music Open Mic session – Australian Folk Music expressed in a distinctive voice: tell us a bit about your stylistic approach to your genre and, without giving away too much of what’s to come on the night, your approach to featuring at a forum such as the World Music Open Mic.
I always look for where the beauty lies in a song and that becomes my focus for an arrangement. Then I practice, practice, edit and then re-arrange for months until it is in my bones, then I ask again the same question I began with – what is the story and how can I get to the heart of the story most effectively? Then I have a nap.
What are some of your future plans and aspirations for Bush Gothic and for Jenny M Thomas, the independent musician? What performances and projects do you have coming up for the next few months?
Keeping curious and remaining free as a person and as an artist is always the aim. I hope to continue my research in Ireland and take up research here at home relating to first contact issues and for this year – we release our new album ‘Beyond The Pale’ and will also be touring England, India and Australia.
Any messages to young musicians embarking on their own wild and wonderful adventures?
Keep it wild! No matter what, just keep doing it and don’t believe the bullshit about “lets not rehearse too much because we want to keep it loose”, cause that is such an Australian attitude and it doesn’t work! Only work works. And dancing. Dancing works, too!