(belated interview due to illness. Apologies to The Sugarcanes)
“If you like bands like Alabama Shakes, then I think you’ll like what The Sugarcanes are doing” – Dom Alessio, triple j
THE SUGARCANES were formed in early 2014 by brother and sister combo, Jack and Lucy Wilson (bass and vocals/rhythm guitar respectively). Roping in a couple of friends, the newly-minted quintet quickly built a fierce live reputation on their keen attention to those old soul melodies and textures – all pinned down by Lucy’s assertively dusky wail. This formidable live show has been faithfully captured in the debut recording, breathing these 13 tracks of heavy soul to life in a modern rock n roll take on the classic heartbroken genre.
THE SUGARCANES’ debut album follows the band’s hugely successful single, ‘Oh Darling’, which was launched at Laneway Studios and recorded and pressed to super-limited edition vinyl on-the-spot by Cut & Groove Records.
The band have been busy over the past few months, with a national support on The Smith Street Band’s tour, a feature spot on the premiere of Laura Imbruglia’s Amateur Hour, and playing a number of regional festivals including Beechworth Music Festival and Weekend at the Wonk. They have just wrapped up a month-long residency during February at live music institution The Old Bar, with supports from La Bastard, Howl at the Moon and Saint Jude.
April the 15th is coming up very, very quickly – How are you feeling just before the release of your debut album? All that work almost going to become public!
So close, only 2 sleeps away now! It almost feels like Christmas – in a lot of ways it will be. At least it will be for some of us, with family members congregating in the same place and drinking heavily.
To be honest I’m so excited to finally have this out in the world and available for people to hear. It feels like such a long time ago when we started making the records so it’s definitely ready. It’s like releasing a little duck that you’ve hand raised into a really big pond and watching it swim away, hoping it doesn’t get picked on by the swans.
This Friday can’t come soon enough, we’ve been working really hard on making this show extra special. Also, getting to play with Jim Lawrie (and band) and The yard Apes, both those bands are so good and I feel lucky to be able to share a stage with them.
You are relative new but have already done so much since you formed in 2014, like touring with The Smith Street Band for instance. Is there something that you learnt from your national tour with them that you will take with you for your musical career?
It really hasn’t been that long but it feels like we’ve been playing together for years.
Touring with TSSB was such an amazing experience, every single one of those people are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to music and touring.
I was pretty sick during that whole tour so I learnt very quickly to sleep wherever possible and not to party too hard. I had my thermos of tea and a blanket at every show – Nana Life!
I guess what I personally learnt from Smith Street was how much hard work it takes to be a professional touring band. They are so dedicated to their art, music and the performance, it comes across in their shows and dedication to touring.
In your press release it says that siblings Jack and Lucy started the band, roping in a couple of friends to form the quintet. Was that easy or was it a more difficult to set up that way?
Ha, people don’t always believe that we are siblings… until they hear us bickering. It happens quite a lot, Jack has perfected the art of annoying little brother and we really know how to push each other’s buttons. So in some regards, it felt really natural to start a band with him but it also has it’s harder sides.
Jack and I knew that we wanted to ask Alister to play in the band as he had been playing with Jack in another project, we managed to lure Dave to our second show in the hopes he’d like what we were doing and join in. Lizzie was the icing on the cake almost a year later after our original drummer was too busy to commit to playing. I feel so lucky to have snagged her, she is so friggen good and really fits in well with our little group of social misfits.
After listening to the album a few times I think ‘My Man’ is my favourite – it’s the fast-paced bass that I love – and ‘Tour Wife’ is my favourite lyrically. Is there a song that is a stand out for you, in regards to what means the most?
I have a soft spot for the song Tour Wife, I wrote is back when I was playing a lot of solo shows. At the time my partner was touring a lot and away a lot of the time and I felt like it was a healthy splurge of feelings, getting it all off my chest. Lyrically it represents a really deep missing for someone and that classic absence makes the heart grow fonder scenario.
Though my real solution to that problem though was starting a band and going on tour myself.
Never Call is my other favourite song, especially to sing. The lyrics are a little tongue in cheek at my partner who wasn’t the best at calling me when he was on the road. He did ask if this song was about him and I used to joke that it was but it’s more that I took that subject that an added my usual 25% on top (I’m known for my over embellished stories).
For a first album to have written 13 (not including songs that did not make it on the album) what is your writing process like? Is there one main writer and then collaboration?
Majority of the songs start with Jack and myself jamming together. We try to get chords, melody and some lyrics down before we take it to everyone else. Once that happens everyone sprinkles their own flavour flav over the top and we jam on it as a whole.
I never expected to be able to write with someone else but it seems to come fairly naturally with Jack. There is the odd dose of healthy bickering about songs but one thing we never argue about is snacks, we’ve got that down pact.
Are all of your songs written from personal experience?
Most of the songs from this album are personal experiences or at least genuine feelings I have had. The ideas for lyrics are usually inspired by my own experiences but then often spiral into fiction as the songs progress.
I do joke that I need a good old dose of heartbreak in preparation for the next album I don’t see that happening.
I wish you well for your album release and look forward to following your career.
The Sugarcanes track list:
2. Come See About Me
3. Oh Darling
4. Never Trust a Girl In Love
5. Long Long Long
6. Piece of my Heart
7. Never Call
8. Big Man
10. My Man
11. Tour Wife
12. Make it up to you
13. Forget My Name