Words by Oliver Marshall.
Sydney 4 piece Pirra are fresh off the back of releasing their debut album ‘Animal Kingdom’ and a mammoth Australian regional and cities tour. I caught up with lead singer Jess Beck to discuss the album, the tour and what the changing music scene in Sydney means for up and coming bands.
So the new album ‘Animal Kingdom’ can you tell us a bit about that, it’s got some definite poppy tones but also some kind of darker tones, is that right?
Yeah that’s a good way to describe it. We’ve been working towards a sound for a few years, the album is probably about 2 years of work. All of the band are song writers so the songs have been quite collaborative. We recorded most of it up in Bowraville, we took some time out last year in summer and tracked it at the farm there and brought it back to Sydney and worked at it on our house in Sydney and picked out a couple of tracks to work on with producers. We worked with Lachlan Mitchell (producer for The Whitlams, The Jezebels, Phil Collins etc.) on the track ‘Wake me’, and we worked on ‘Hunter’ with Neil Sutherland. But yea all the rest we recorded our self.
How do you think recording the record in a rural area influenced your album if at all?
I don’t know if it influenced any of the song writing but the fact that we did just have that time to do it, it was a much less stressful way financially but also time wise. When you are in the country things are a bit slower paced so I think because were relaxed recording it that has come out in the way that it sounds. We are also from rural background so whether that is just a part of us and it comes out, I don’t know, it probably does.
You guys have finished up, well almost finished your national tour because you’ve got a Brisbane gig later in the year but how has the tour been so far?
We’ve had so much fun, its been really cool; taking time off from second jobs that we have, is always nice as well. We started the tour up in Byron bay and couldn’t have had a better gig to start off, we supported Bec Sandrige and our friends ELKI, some of the boys in the band studied with some of Elkie so it was good to play along side them. Mount Gambier, my hometown was great as well. we played at the Cave Gardens, Louise Adams had her show on that night, she was doing a tribute to MTV unplugged, so we were up beforehand and it was just really cool, it was a perfect night. We’ve had a lot of fun, everything’s gone really well and we can’t wait to get back out on the road again.
Were there any really rock n roll stories form the tour?
We definitely had a good time, but it’s really funny I don’t think anyone struggled too hard with the hangovers. I think I was designated driver for a couple of gigs so I’m owed. But I don’t know I just felt so lucky to be out on the road, my partner plays bass in the band and we really are like a family on tour. I know for some people it (tours) can be pretty hectic and daunting but I feel my situation is fairly unique as I literally am travelling with family and we get along. We always really look forward to it.
The album it kind of transcends a few different genres so what kind of influences have you and the band had to find your own sound?
Yeah, before we even we even came up with Pirra we were playing music together anyway. We used to Jazz gigs together and I had had my own project going for a couple of years which was folk pop music. I guess all of that was a journey to where Pirra came from. I guess Pirra happened because we realised what music we enjoyed listening to. I feel like there was a moment in rehearsal where we just started jamming and we just thought of just hit that moment, I think it was ‘Kool Ade’ which is on the album and we were like wow did you guys enjoy playing that? And we could tell that I was just kind of buzzing and we were all really enjoying it. I think it was that moment where we realised this is our sound.
You have put a few songs up on Triple j Unearthed how has that helped get your name out there?
Look, it has and it hasn’t I think there’s a lot of wonderful things about Unearthed, they have brought the spotlight to artists that otherwise wouldn’t have ever been spotted, it is really hard to be independent and they have done wonderful things for artists. we’ve been featured on the unearthed radio but we haven’t got a lot of triple j play, it would be great to get more but we are really grateful to be played on community radio and have a bit of a go on Double J. You got to be careful, you don’t want to only aim for one thing and make that your only goal and not to get down if it doesn’t work out. It’s important to not get down on yourself and keep doing it for yourself and to keep entertaining.
You guys live in Sydney, have you noticed a change in terms of gigging now of the lockout laws?
There’s definitely less opportunities to play. when Restaurants and Café’s had music licences you couldn’t go to a café without music playing and it was wonderful. I think definitely it has died down. It’s a lot quieter that’s for sure. Sadly, I feel like because of the lockout laws people are less inclined to go out. I feel like the culture is certainly dying a little bit. So you just got to keep trying to get the gigs, keep trying to create entertaining nights so that people will keep wanting to come to shows.
If you’re in Brisbane you can catch Pirra on June 8th at the Black Bear Lodge. If you aren’t lucky enough to be at the gig you might not have to wait too long as another tour is on the cards soon as well as the release of new Pirra music.