Music Interview: FENDAHLENE

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Hi FENDAHLENE, tell us about yourself?

There’s two of us, Paul Whiteley – guitars and lead vocal – and me, Ashley Hurst on bass. We’ve been playing together since high school, did the school band comp thing and then founded Fendahlene in late 94 as a three-piece. We had a good run of about a decade playing the Sydney circuit. After we released a double album called A Decade of Near Misses in 2005, we took a hiatus (the reasoning may be evident from that title). First, Paul, then eventually me, ended up in the UK, and we slowly started writing again and made the call to do a new album in 2017. And this time, we were determined to do vinyl.

What is your songwriting process?

We actually don’t have a set process – usually one of us will get an idea for a melody, riff, progression, or lyrics, and then we’ll work on it, either together or separately. We’ve also written some good songs in the rehearsal studio from scratch, sometimes as a challenge. For us, having one way to do it was restrictive, it could be stifling if things weren’t working.

Tell us about your latest release?

‘High and Low and Back Again’ is about a journey – the one where we yearn for something different, or better, though we don’t really know why. It’s that feeling that bubbles up inside and you just have to do something about it. Yet it’s only by exhausting this journey that you realise what really matters. What’s been staring at us right in the face the whole time – what we’ve always had. It also describes the emotional swings of this journey, between high and low, and back again. Even though it’s a vanishing art in the brave new world of streaming, we really wanted to write this song to build up over time to a crescendo, just like the journey described in the song. It’s the title track of our new album, which also swings between high and low and back again. We were fortunate to work with Matt Ingram (who played drums) and Dan Cox (engineer) of Urchin Studios in Easy London, who really helped bring out the vision to life.

What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?

I mean, it’s rock and roll when it comes down to it, but I guess if anything we’d like our music to help people reflect, take stock, and maybe look at the world in a different way. Like our music does for us. Come on the journey with us, and hopefully, we can all come out of it for the better. And enjoy yourself along the way.

Who are your musical influences?

Hmm, where to start? The 60s and 70s pretty much everything but prog, love 60s soul, punk, garage, 80s/90s alt and pretty much all indie across the board (especially more recently). We were massively influenced by the Sydney live scene, which may sound a bit obscure, but that gave us the likes of INXS and Midnight Oil.

Who are your non-musical influences?

Great question. We’re both political junkies and fascinated by American pop culture, both having spent time growing up in North America (Paul in Boston and me in Toronto), and I’m a history nut. These come through in some of our songs more than others.

Grammarly Writing Support

What’s the best gig that you have ever played?

I know this isn’t a specific answer, but any time we (or the bill) filled a small or mid-size room to the rafters pretty much counted as the best gig we ever played, at the time. They were the absolute best. For a standout, I think it was a headline spot at the Glebe Street Fair in 2004. We released a song called Glebe Point Road in 2002, and it got a lot of airplay across commercial and indie stations across the country. Anyway, getting to chance to play Glebe Point Road on stage literally on Glebe Point Road, with the festival going as far as the eye could see up the road, was pretty special.

What is your funniest gig moment?

Back when we started, Oasis cancelled their Australian tour, so a bunch of local musos got together to form the tribute act Noasis, who ended up playing all along the cancelled tour route (they made an absolute bomb from this, even got a set at the Sydney Cricket Ground). We supported them one night at a place called (no kidding) Tracks Nightclub. I mean we loved the gig, big crowd that really got into us, but it was just so insane playing with them. They had the Oasis thing down pat. As soon as they suited up backstage, they pretty much became them, warts and all. Just the most surreal experience, a fake Liam arguing with a fake Noel on stage mid-song in a small nightclub in a Sydney suburb called Tracks. Yeah, and we got a proper rider and dressing room, ok it was broom-closet sized, but it had our name on the door.

What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?

When we were playing in Sydney, it was possible to play enough gigs in pubs and clubs to make enough cash to record EPs and even albums, at decent studios too. By the early 2000s, that was clearly changing, and now it’s so much harder. So yeah, money is one thing, I mean that’s always been an obstacle to indie artists, but even though there are so many more ways to get heard now, the amount of time it takes, money (and the required knowledge) needed to do this has grown too.

What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?

Record! Spend time in the recording studio. Gigs and rehearsals are of course a fantastic way to grow, but there’s nothing quite like recording, especially in a dedicated studio with a good room, equipment and an experienced engineer. Every recording we’ve done over the years has changed us, it’s a fantastic place to learn, and the time pressure can really help you push new boundaries. Most of them are not that expensive these days, comparatively speaking. And of course, the new streaming-driven world demands the regular release of the product.

What are your hopes for the next two years?

We want more people to listen to our music, and hopefully connect with it. Also, we’d love vinyl album lovers to hear our work in album form. We also hope us and all other acts are playing live again as soon as possible. And Paul and I want to be able to be in the same room without lockdown conditions, so we can finally get some new publicity shots.

FV Music Blog July 2020

Twitter: @fendahlene

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