This past week, The Button Collective have been around Coffs Harbour, Lismore, and Byron Bay. Our mission? To film several shots of a music video in the foggy riverside farmland of Brushgrove, and to be involved with the Amish barn at Splendour in the Grass.
The festival was a lot of fun – we got to hang out and play music with some good friends from all over the place – Lismore, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains. The barn was a reactionary retreat from the modern festival landscape, with acoustic music and simple lifestyles.
In the days either side of the festival, we were up at a ridiculous hour to make sure we could catch the pre-dawn fog along the river at Brushgrove, a tiny farm town just north of Grafton. Here’s a few sneaky behind-the-scenes shots:
My good friend Nathan and I jetted down to sunny Adelaide this past weekend to spruike our wares and participate in the fantastic arts development residency that is Adhocracy. Held at (and run by) the Vitalstatistix Theatre Company, Adhocracy is a ‘national artist hothouse’, which supports the creative development of new experimental and interdisciplinary arts projects.
Telemetry, put together by Nathan and I conceptually in the months leading up to Adhocracy, was one such project.
Those fancy-looking headsets on the right are one half of the Telemetry hardware. The other half is a front-facing, chest-mounted camera, streaming live video to screens in the visors. The catch is that you can only see from the other participant’s viewpoint, meaning that accurate and efficient communication is required between the two of you to achieve even the simplest of tasks.
Over the course of the weekend residency, Nathan and I explored a few different ways of making Telemetry performable – we were looking at using it as the basis of a long-term installation, and as a short, 30-minute show involving the two of us working to achieve a particular goal. Where we found the device to really shine, though, was as an interactive piece, with participants using it in pairs and going through the initial moment of realisation of how it works. It is very different to have the devices explained to you, and wearing them for the first time is the most interesting moment in the discovery and process of using them.
Apart from working on our own stuff, we spent the weekend seeing a bunch of other works-in-progress – all of which were forward-thinking and brilliant – and meeting and talking with some of the awesome people involved with each of the projects.
10/10. I’d go to Adelaide again.
My good friend and collaborator Nathan Harrison (with whom I created and performed The Mayfly Project) invited me to be a part of a new project as a one-off performance.
Entitled ‘Prime Suspect’, the installation performance takes place over a few hours (in this case, to the side of the stage at Performance Space’s ‘Nighttime: Talent Quest’) and sees professional mathletes Nathan and Jake try to achieve the impossible: finding the next highest prime number!
Finding the next prime number, by hand, on a whiteboard, is, of course, a completely preposterous idea, as the current record-holding prime number was discovered by a computer program, and is no less than 17.4 million digits long.
Despite the completely futile goal, we both impressed ourselves with how far we actually got: we detailed all of the prime numbers between 2 and 2179 – that’s 327 prime numbers, and a ruling-out of 1800+ non-primes.
Early this morning, I drove up to Careel Bay and found myself once again on the Woronora (not the river, the Dutch Schooner that I sail on from time to time). We went for a sail up the bay and out into the ocean for a while. The highlight, apart from the whole damn time, was when a pod of about a dozen dolphins swam across the bow of the ship! They came within a metre of us, and looked like they were pretty amused.
I spent the past weekend in sunny downtown Mildura, in north-western Victoria. I was there playing a couple of gigs with the covers band The Bucket Band, with some good friends from uni. It was a pretty eventful time – one of Mildura’s prized 1800s paddle-steamers sank, with much controversy, and we got to see how our Victorian neighbours commemorate ANZAC Day (hint: it’s much the same as it is in NSW – lots of beer, and lots of coin-toss gambling).
After running a successful crowdfunding campaign over December and early January, The Button Collective are now ready to release our debut album, A Ship Sails, which we recorded ourselves and I mixed late last year. We’re hitting the road to mark the official release, and stopping by Lismore and Coffs Harbour, the two main areas in which our fanbase is largest. In addition to that, we’ll be playing the support slot to one of our favourite bands, The Perch Creek Family Jugband. Ever since first coming across these guys, we’ve all fallen in love with their music, and it’s going to be a huge amount of fun playing with them.
We’ve got a whole bunch of gigs lined up in the coming weeks…
- 28/3 The Angry Pirate, Redfern
- 30/3 The Wild Rover, Surry Hills
- 2/4 Southern Cross University UniBar, Lismore
- 3/4 The Lismore Rose Garden Rotunda
- 4/4 Star Court Theatre, Lismore – with The Perch Creek Family Jugband
- 5/4 The Old Museum, Brisbane – with The Perch Creek Family Jugband
- 6/4 The Coramba Hotel, Coramba
- 10/4 The Little Guy, Glebe
- 11/4 The Angry Pirate, Redfern
- 13/4 The Wild Rover, Surry Hills
The best part is, we’ll be playing with the full album line-up for the first time since moving away from Lismore, and flying the other three members down to Sydney for the end of the tour. It’s all pretty exciting, and I’ve been having a lot of fun putting the whole tour together.
Over the last week I spent some time in Coffs Harbour, playing a string of gigs for St Partick’s Day with The Button Collective, then a marathon solo road trip to Canberra to do two shows of The Mayfly Project with my old friend and recent collaborator Nathan Harrison.
We were there as part of You Are Here, a yearly curated festival that showcases come of Canberra’s best independent and experimental arts, incorporating theatre, visual arts, music, installations, etc.
The Mayfly Project is a performance lecture about time and our perception of it. Nathan and I delve into some pretty deep territory as far as long-term thinking and speculative futures go, and we have a lot of fun doing it. The show started life as a simple idea about looking at the lengths of time it might take to do certain tasks, but quickly evolved into a more informative lecture-based performance during a week-long Quickfire Residency with Performance Space.
We performed the show twice in Canberra, the first time I had only just arrived in town after a nine-hour drive, which is why I looked like this:
Despite the fact that I looked like some kind of a melancholy werewolf, the show was well-received by a fantastic audience, who stuck around at the end for a 20-minute discussion expanding on some of the themes we presented in the show.
Before our second show, a few days later, I got a chance to hang around Canberra (which I hadn’t ever really done before), and catch a whole bunch of other You Are Here shows and artwork stuff. It was great to be amongst an artistic community that I otherwise don’t have much of a chance to mingle with.
One of our performances was reviewed here.
Last weekend, The Button Collective had the extreme pleasure to be welcomed aboard a Dutch-style Grand Banks Schooner for an overnight sailing voyage along the Hawkesbury River. This came about through a random
connection that was made at Falls Festival – one of those once-in-a-lifetime coincidences that result in an unbelievable situation. The unbelievable situation, for me, was sleeping – rugged up in my sleeping bag – on the netting which hung below the bowsprit at the front of the ship, as it was anchored overnight in America Bay, half way down the hawkesbury river. With the stars above, the sea below, and the strong winds blowing past me, I have never been so comfortable and so exposed to the elements at the same time in all my life.
The story of the ship’s construction is one of the most amazing ones I’ve ever heard. Pieter Heemstra, the captain of the ship, spent almost four decades slowly building it in his backyard. It was a bit of a “spare time” job by the sounds of it, and perhaps even more so an excuse for Pieter to spend a lot of time with his son. The ship was constructed from recycled materials, and, when completed, required an absolutely enormous crane to hoist it into the water. After some more wrangling (removing the masts and lowering the ship with weights to fit the thing under a bridge), the Woronora is now moored in Palm Beach Marina.
Apart from going on an amazing sailing adventure, The Button Collective have had other successes in Sydney – We played a very well-received show at The Angry Pirate – a themed bar in Redfern – as well as finding a house! Our new home – for the next three months, as least – is above a shop in Belmore, about 12km from the Sydney CBD.
I am currently on a bit of a scouting voyage with a few members of The Button Collective, camping in a friend’s backyard in the serene, relaxing suburb of Sydenham, where the incredibly loud 747 passenger jets only take off overhead once every ten minutes.
We’re down here to look at some houses and get our feet in the doors of a few venues, pubs, and bars. So far we’ve heard from just about everyone that the renting market in Sydney – at least in the trendier areas of the Inner West – is ferocious, with so much competition that even excellent applicants have a hard time locking down a place to live. The Button Collective are a few rungs down the ladder from “excellent applicants,” at least on paper. As four self-employed musicians we don’t really seem like the most reliable of candidates, though we are certainly more dedicated to making our music careers work than many other musicians I’ve come across.
It will likely be a tough, hard going, and lengthy process. But what worthwhile thing isn’t?