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Feature Interview: The Phoncurves

Interviews with AAA are usually held at Kerbside, but construction going on at the moment at the bar, and the subsequent obnoxious noise, meant we had to find a new spot for our interview with Abbie and Naomi from The Phoncurves.

Our next choice was a coffee place near the office, but by three in the afternoon the coffee shop was closed, which makes little sense to me as apart from eight o’clock in the morning, three in the afternoon seems like the best time to get a caffeine fix. Scrambling around The Valley to find somewhere cosy and quiet, we eventually end up outside The Zoo in the idyllic surroundings of Winn Lane.

So how are you guys today? Sorry about the mix up with the interview location.

Naomi: We played a show last night so we slept in…

Where’d you play last night?

Both: Black Bear Lodge.

Did you play with anybody?

Abbie: Patrick James, they’re from Sydney and The Starry Field.

Black Bear would be perfect for your sort of music with all the woodland décor!

Both: Yeah, definitely, it’s awesome.

So your show at Black Bear was obviously for your single release for Heartstrings. Can you tell me more about the writing and recording process for Heartstrings?

Abbie: Well, I starting writing –

Naomi: We write why we record.

Abbie: Yeah, exactly.

Naomi: We record all of our songs ourselves, so it’s like Abbie wrote the song, then we worked on it the studio, just layering up harmonies.

Do you write collaboratively as well, or is more like your write your own songs and then bring them to the studio…?

Naomi: A bit of both.

Abbie: There’s no set structure it just happens the way it happens.

So you guys self-produce your own work, then…how do you manage balancing the two roles of the producer and the artist?

Abbie: It’s actually awesome.

Naomi: It’s so good.

Abbie: You have so much freedom. Naomi and I find it very difficult to, like –

Naomi: Express your ideas.

Abbie: Yeah. Express what you’re thinking, whereas we’re so much on the same page that we don’t even have to think about it.

Naomi: You just say something and the other person just gets it. Whereas sometimes with a producer/artist thing they’ll try and explain your vision and they don’t really understand it.

Abbie: Things get lost in translation.

Naomi: So it’s great you can really fulfil your vision. You’ve got that control.

Abbie: Yeah, so you’ve got the freedom where if you don’t like that you just say I don’t like it. Nobody’s feelings are getting hurt. You just got back and do it again.

Have you always self-produced?

Both: Yup.

Do you guys have any particularly creative or idiosyncratic habits when it comes to writing and recording?

Abbie: I always …what were you going to say?

Naomi: The record.

Abbie: That was fun (laughs)

Naomi: We were both really stuck for an idea for a bridge and Abbie was like let’s just read off this record, this random word.

Abbie: It was like a Duran Duran record.

Naomi: Yeah! (laughs)

Abbie: So we got all these random phrases and we just started like singing them, singing all the headings of the songs and it was really fun, and we got something that worked. But I always have to remind myself to write something really honest. Kind of like – ‘what are you feeling right now?’ And then you put it in words and then we try and make it rhyme. (laughs)

So for the end of the year do you guys have any plans for shows or touring?

Naomi: Next week we’ve got a little mini East Coast tour celebrating the release of our single. So yeah we’re going to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. And then we’ll probably die down for Christmas. Celebrate Christmas and come back next year in full swing.

What kind of venues do you guys like to play? Any memorable ones in particular?

Naomi: I don’t know, it really depends on the crowd more than the venue. If there’s an awesome crowd and the venues not great than it doesn’t matter. But then if the venue is great and the crowd’s not really into it feels not great.

Abbie: Yeah, definitely the crowd.

How do you find crowds have responded to your music around Australia?

Abbie: Last night was really great at Black Bear Lodge, we released our single last Monday and so that was the first show that we played –

Naomi: After our release.

Abbie: Yup, so everybody was really positive.

Yeah, well I think what you were saying about the right crowd – a Wednesday night at Black Bear Lodge is probably going to get the right kind of people there, people who are there for the music as opposed to the drinks or whatever.

Both: (laughs) Definitely.

So you guys have a very eclectic style to your music. Can you tell me a little bit about your music upbringing and what may have led you to create the sound of The Phoncurves?

Naomi: Well, we studied music at uni together and we took for three years history classes and music. So we’ve learnt about so many different types of music and I think that really helped me.

Abbie: Definitely. That’s one of the things that really helped me as well – learning about classical music , blues –

Naomi: Psychedelic rock

Abbie: Yeah, heaps of stuff. It was really diverse and we took on a lot of it.

Sounds cool, what uni did you guys study at?

Both: The con.

So the sound that you guys have – that kind of folky soul infusion, sometimes that genre of music can be a little too sentimental for people to take seriously. But I think you guys manage to find that balance of holding back just a little bit, but still managing to convey emotion. How do you know when it’s too much and when it’s just right?

Naoimi: I think we just like to have a joke, be light-hearted and not take ourselves too seriously. Because obviously we feel real emotions, we our emotional musicians…

Abbie: Yeah, you can’t take it too seriously.

So you expanded your line-up to include bass and drums. Can you explain how you came to make this decision and how you feel it now compliments your sound?

Abbie: Well, when we released our first EP everything we recorded was with a live band and so we thought we’d extend our live shows to include a live band too, which we thought would be a nice thing to do for our EP launch, something different.

Naomi: We like to have the flexibility of playing with a band if we can or if we need to do just playing ourselves. So we can play more places because not everybody can cater to full bands.

Is there an album or the agenda next year?

Naomi: Possibly, we’re still debating album or EP…

Abbie: Depending on how this one goes. If it goes really well then maybe we might think about making an album, but if it’s still just like chugging along than maybe we’ll try another EP.

Just for my last questions can you give me just a general idea of where you would both like to take The Phoncurves? And I was also wondering if either of you have any side projects?

Abbie: Not it’s just The Phoncurves. I don’t know where we’re going to take it!

Naomi: We’re really influenced by the moment by the sampler, which is what we perform live with. We use it as like another instrument to play our voices, we record all our harmonies to the sampler and we also play beats with. We’re heading toward more of an electronic sound, but still with our folk roots.

That will be really interesting, especially since electronic music is becoming so popular now.

Abbie: Yeah, exactly.

I don’t think I’ve really heard many folk/electro fusions…sounds like it could be really interesting.

Naomi: We’ll see what we can come up with then!

Abbie: (laughs) Yeah!

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