In Conversation with…FALLS

When I was first starting out, performing my songs live, finding venues to play, it seemed like a monstrously difficult task. Until I was offered a slot at a small night, that was quickly developing a dedicated following. This night was called Folk Club, and was curated and executed by Sydney singer/songwriter duo Falls, made up of Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown. Folk Club soon became the highlight of the week for a large number of Sydney siders, looking for something with a little bit more substance.

At the time, Falls had under their belt, a beautiful EP titled “Hollywood” which caught the eye of Triple J and soon saw them touring with acts such as Passenger, Matt Corby, Vance Joy and many other fantastic acts. Now residing in America, they have just released their debut album “Omaha” and Melinda was kind enough to have a chat to me about how the record came to be, and their experience thus far.

Huck: Well..I guess we can…hold on…why is this not working?

Simultaneously: “HEY!”

Huck: There you are, haha.

Melinda: “That’s more like it.”

Huck: Alright, so, I’d like to start off with a question that I ask everyone I interview, and that is…If Falls were a cake, what kind of a cake would you be and why?

Melinda: “Ooh, that’s a good question. What kind of cake would we be? Well, the first thing that popped into my head when you said it was a layer cake, but I’ve never eaten a layer cake so I don’t even know what’s in it but that’s what we are.”

Huck: Multi Faceted?

Melinda: “Exactly. Complicated, lots of different layers…but we add something unique to it.”

Huck: Fantastic. Complex is good. So, you have been travelling around america for the last…20 months or so…writing and recording what has become your debut album “Omaha”…which is beautiful, and I think the thing I really like about it is that it really explores what it is to be human, was a lot of it informed by personal experience or was there an element of storytelling in there?

Melinda: “You know, our songs are always very personal. It doesn’t matter how much we try and get away from it, I think…for most songwriters, there’s always so much of yourself in every song you write, whether or not you are willing to reveal that to people or not is another thing, but often I think we will often gloss over something quite personal and say its about somebody else.” (giggles)

Huck: Absolutely…well masked truths.

Melinda: “Exactly. Cause I think there are elements of yourself that sometimes you’re not ready to give away, but this record is very personal. But! For the very first time, there is one song on the record that for us…we’ve always loved songwriters that are really storytelling songwriters like Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan, we love that style of song, and there is a song on the record called “Independence Day”.”

Huck: I love it.

Melinda: “Its the closest we’ve come to writing in that style before…it might not be, but for us it felt like a storytelling song.”

Huck: Yeah, I love the lyricism in that particular track, its stunning…do you have a favourite track on the record?

Melinda: “It changes…its funny, cause I think there are a couple of songs that for different reasons…you know, when you write the songs, there are so many things that inform a record and how you feel about the songs in the end, and I think…one of my favourites is “Someone Like You”, it was a song that came really quickly for us, it was just like BAM…there was just a song there, and we didn’t really know what we were even gonna do with it, or if anyone would like it…and its a song that we both really like and I think that song really embodies somewhere we’ve always wanted to go with our music. I think this record is kind of representative of that in many ways, because our EP was very…I think it was very tight stylistically, and that was intentional for us, we didn’t want to make an EP, because its only going to be within four and six songs, we really felt like it had to be a good representation of us, and what we sound like and what we do, so we weren’t very adventurous with the EP, there were songs that didn’t make it because they were too far from those other songs, where as this record has a lot more scope to it.”

Huck: I really like that it explores the darker elements, more so than the EP…it still feels like a very natural progression, like…it feels like it travels on from “Hollywood”.

Melinda: “Thank you.”

Huck: To me, they feel like they belong together very much…so…you worked with Mike Mogis on this record, which is to me….well, he is legendary…

Melinda: “Us too!”

Huck: What was it like working with him?

Melinda: “It was incredible because these last two years has been filled with moments like this, with things that we never imagined we would ever get an opportunity to do, places we never thought we’d go. Even though, you know, we were working hard back home, I never really had an end goal, it wasn’t our goal was to go to America or anything like that. So, all of this is quite surreal and amazing and Mogis is someone that I’ve always loved, particularly I like the way his records sound like old records, but also sound like new records. I love the latest First Aid Kit record he did and that was one of the real reasons I was like, I’d really like to talk to Mike Mogis, because I thought it was so beautiful and really harked back to an another era but definitely sounded like them and sounded new. So, I guess that’s something we’ve always wanted to try and do, we wanted to reference our influences but not imitate them. That’s what we hoped to achieve with Mike, and so then to be able to escape to Omaha (giggles) and meet Mike Mogis and spend a couple of weeks in his home was really something special.”

Huck: That is AMAZING…but yeah, one of the things about the record that really stuck out for me when doing the review, was that it really does manage to tread the lines between the old world and the new…like…it really really achieves that, which is amazing.

Melinda: “It’s nice to hear that, because you have ideas in your head about what you want to try and do but you don’t know if it will translate or, you know, what other people will take from the record so…awesome!”

Huck: Its really so good, so congratulations on achieving that…So, you have obviously been touring a lot…how has your rigorous touring schedule affected your live show? Do you feel like you have developed or changed it in anyway?

Melinda: “I think its been the best thing that’s ever happened to us, it was like, coming out to America was the shove we needed. I guess the first step in that for us was always the Hollywood, we…I’m a very shy person, and I’ve never felt very comfortable on stage, and so The Hollywood was the first step for me, playing every week, just getting used to being in front of other people and singing in front of other people, and America really was the shove I needed…(giggles) because you know, we ended up, we started playing regularly to audiences that were bigger than we’d ever played to before and when you’re the opening act for an artist that…you know, its a sold out room and every bodies there to see the main act, you really do need to step up and just do something that engages people or intrigues them and draws them in to what you’re doing. So I think that’s the biggest thing that’s come from the last year on the road is just, getting comfortable on stage, and talking to people on-stage, and just taking our live show to a whole other level, and we really feel like we have and we are always going to keep working to make everything we do better and I think America really helped us to do that.”

Huck: That’s great, I mean for me every time I’ve seen you on stage you have always seemed very…tight…you guys work very well together…but it seems quite natural, you don’t seem to rely too much on looking at one and other, you have quite a natural flow between you.

Melinda: “Thanks! Its so funny you say that, cause we never rehearse…ever.”

Huck: Really?

Melinda: “I think that because we know each other so well, and we’ve been playing together for so long, we feel kind of weird rehearsing…like, we get together when we’re writing and making demos and things like that and I guess that’s like rehearsing, but because its creating it feels really natural, but we feel a bit dicky sitting down and going “lets practice this song together” in  a room with nobody else, so being on the road is like practice for us and it is natural, it is weird. Simon has always said its like “You psychic sing Melinda” cause its like I always know what he’s going to do before he does it and  that’s never gone away. Just the way he breathes before he starts a phrase, or something, there must be subtle cues that for me, I know when he’s going to start or finish a phrase without practising it. Its always different., its never planned, and I think we are lucky to have that, and its kind of been the glue that’s kept us together too, through all of our crap, having that instinct with another musician is such an awesome thing.”

Huck: Well I guess its just a matter of chemistry isn’t it, like…it just works.

Melinda: “Its all unsaid, its all unrehearsed, its just…nice.”

Huck: Sounds perfect. So I’m going to be cheeky and be a bit lax on the journalistic approach here, but what’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview and what’s the answer?

Melinda: “I suck at that because I’m always so nervous. So, this has all been really good for me, because I get really nervous about interviews and what people are going to ask me…”

Huck: Well, I’m just as nervous, this is my second face to face interview. I usually go via chat so people can formulate their responses…haha.

Melinda: “Every kind of interview I get nervous about, but particularly this kind of thing…you know what, I guess, its probably not a question I wish I was asked, but something that I have been thinking about a lot lately, is how I ended up here, and the people that give you the encouragement that you need to keep going, because making a decision to become an artist is a really tough one, and I think its getting tougher and tougher in all creative industries, its really really hard out there these days, the changes with technology and within the industry as much as they can be seen as great tools, I think are really crippling artists sometimes. Its hard to be heard and make a living out of any kind of art for anymore so its hard to get people that are backing you because anyone with half a brain can see that maybe its not the smartest thing to do, but the people that know you, know that it is the smartest thing to do, when its what you have to do.

Huck: Well, they know that there is no other choice right?

Melinda: “Exactly! And you know, one person who has always has my back, and just been excited for me, and encouraged me…is my grandmother!”

Huck: Oh really?!

Melinda: “Yeah! and I text her all the time from the road.”

Huck: I just spoke to mine this morning actually!

Melinda: “Yeah she was always the person I guess that music was a daily thing in our lives. For her and I…no one in our family is a musician or an artist so its quite a foreign thing to be in my family, but whenever I went to her house we would put on records and dance around the kitchen and we would watch all the old musicals like Singing In the Rain…”

Huck: Singing In The Rain is my favourite film! Its like…its the best.

Melinda: “Me too! Every Sunday, at my grandmothers, I would put on Singing In The Rain and I knew all the songs and all the dances and I think she wished that she had been a Broadway star and I think she imprinted that on me I always imagined being in those movies.”

Huck: Must have been part of the reason the Hollywood Hotel really resonated with you…

Melinda: “ABSOLUTELY…without a doubt and now that I’m here she is the person that, when I get on a plane I send a message and tell her where I’m going, and send her little pictures because I know she would love to be here, so you never know, if we end up doing something special out here, I would love to be able to fly her out…”

Huck: That would be amazing!

Melinda: “I mean, she is a cool lady too…she’s not like an old person, she has this great modern apartment in Darwin. There was a point in her life where she went, I don’t want to live in this big old house the rest of my life so they sold the house and got this cool little town house, and its all decked out with beautiful modern furniture and everything’s really fresh…she’s in her eighties now…but she is the funniest wittiest just smartest person I know and I miss her dearly. So, hopefully something happens and I get to fly her out!”

Huck: Surely it will…I love that…I mean ageing can be so exciting or so petrifying depending on how you look at it. One of my favourite blogs is advanced style, which is just amazingly stylish old people who so creatively express themselves through fashion, but almost with this innocent eye, like when you look at a child’s outfit, they pick their favourite shirt, their favourite pants, their favourite shoes and somehow it just works because they are just being utterly themselves and I love the idea of being that old man with wiry pink hair and some hectic cane with a unicorn head on it or something…

Melinda: “I agree! I feel exactly the same way, and I feel really lucky that I’ve got these, you know I’ve met role models in my life in different places who just have that essence about them, I’m just like…cause I also see people who I went to school with or you know, who seem like decades older than they are, and that’s just a state of mind. Its an interesting thing to watch and I think that I’m very lucky right now being in New York and being in a city  that I think just has this vibrancy about it. Everybody here I think…I  guess that’s a massive generalisation but people seem like they embrace themselves more in this city…people look incredible, everyone embodies their own sense of style and that’s one of my favourite things to do in Manhattan…I mean, it is exciting, to just see what everyone is wearing…”

Huck: Well, from what I’ve heard of New York its sort of a city of people who have come there….to be there, so they come there to be themselves and everyone’s got their thing that they are doing so they are all focused and all driven, and so I think in the same way that it makes it amazing, I could imagine it also makes it a tough city to be in.

Melinda: “That’s what’s exciting about it…that’s what drew me to this city, because if you can do it here. Its true…its the make it or break it city, so you have to be good at what you do and you have to work hard to really rise above and that is exciting to me. I like being in a city like this and meeting other people that are just working hard and trying to do their thing and are good at what they do its just a brilliant place and environment to be in and its true I think it does allow, I mean its those kinds of people who are breaking through with how they present themselves to the world, they are unique and that’s why they are standing out…”

Huck: Yep…

Melinda: “Come to New York!”

Huck: God I would love to…I’m planning on it, just need to knuckle down…so is that where you are residing at the moment?

Melinda: “I literally moved into my little apartment yesterday, I have no furniture yet, I will have a bed shortly, so I’m sitting on the floor. I bought this little candle with me, so its the only thing I have.”

Huck: Ughhhh, I’m getting chills it looks amazing.

Melinda: “I’m in Brooklyn, in Greenpoint…its pretty exciting, I moved on a whim. I’ve been wanting to live in New York since we first came out here, and a room became available and I just said, I’ll move in…and I think the friend who initially said “Oh, please move in with me” …when I immediately said…”Oh, I will” she thought I’d flake but I was like…no…I’ve been wanting to move to New York since the first time I came here, so this is brilliant.”

Huck: Is Simon in New York as well?

Melinda: “He is…so kind of what we have been doing this past year…we don’t have a whole lot of money, we have one place which is kind of home base which is our little studio and he has been couch surfing. In LA, he was lucky, we met this great, wonderful music lawyer who had a guest house in her backyard, and Simon lived in that guest house on and off while we were in LA, which was fantastic. Its where we wrote and recorded a lot of our demos and so in New York we have a similar situation, we have a few friends with spare rooms so I mean basically we hope we are on the road in the new year and don’t need to be living anywhere so that’s why we’ve been doing this, because we’ve never really needed anywhere permanent but we do need somewhere to keep all of our crap…haha…”

Huck: A storage facility.

Melinda: “Exactly, Its amazing how we came out with two suitcases and a guitar and now we have a couple of guitars and a keyboard and so we need somewhere to keep our stuff.”

Huck: I have noticed that you have introduced a lot more instruments into your set…

Melinda: “Yes! Well next time we come out, I just want to be playing piano again, I used to play piano at gigs all the time, back in the Hollywood days I used to play piano. But when we came out here, its just too much gear to lug around the country so we kind of just went, lets go out guitar vocals stomp box, but this year we are just ready to amp it up a little bit  and pay the excess baggage, so there’s gonna be a little bit more going on live wise, and hopefully, eventually we will go out with the whole band, so…we will see.”

Huck: As people who have always nurtured new music and talent, who are three acts you would highly recommend checking out?

Melinda: “Ooh, there was a band, actually, just a few days ago that my first night here in Brooklyn, I came across a band called Bird Courage.”

Huck: Bird Courage?

Melinda: “Yeah, they are based out here, so I’m going to meet up with them, so they are on my list of bands, in America that I would love to play with. There is a band out here that I don’t know if a lot of Australians would of heard of that we actually did our first run of shows with called Ivan and Alyosha, who I adore, I think they are incredible, and they put out a new record this year so…them, and they aren’t new in Australia, they aren’t new out here either but I have to talk about Husky.”

Huck: Oh yeah.

Melinda: “I saw Husky play in LA a month or so ago and it just reminded me how much I love his music, and that band…he is just so talented and such a great musician and it was so inspiring and I’d love to play some shows with Husky. They are three artists that I just think are brilliant.”

Huck: I saw Husky supporting…I think…Glen Hansard at the Opera House and I was just blown away. It was incredible.

Melinda: “Oh, his songs are incredible, and he is just so great live, it just…I guess, seeing husky live reminded me of everyone we’ve been playing with at folk club, and everything we did at the Hollywood, it was always about discovering those new amazing, talented people that no ones really heard of before and feeling like, everyone’s gotta hear this person…and curating new nights full of talent I mean…that’s what’s always been our dream, is playing with other people we love…you know? That would be a little dream tour for me, any of those three bands.”

Huck: Speaking of Folk Club…how did you go about bringing that to life? I mean, you guys really played a huge part in creating an incredibly nurturing music scene in Sydney, with a lot of artists, was that a conscious decision? You wanted to bring people together?

Melinda: “It really was because I’d heard whispers about what Mumford and Sons were doing with communion and I’d always been keeping my eye on that, and then to see this beautiful  community blossoming out of that city and it was all their friends, and everyone who played had been playing these communion shows.

For ages and I was like, we need something like that because at the time in Sydney, there were gigs, and we could get gigs, but there was nothing stylistically in that wheelhouse and nothing that we felt like…I guess the goal always was, to create a night that helped people discover new music, like always meet people who wanted to go to gigs but really couldn’t find the music that they were into and I felt like what we needed to do was do something that again was stylistically quite tight, of music that we thought was really wonderful, and complimented each other and if you liked the first band, then you would probably like the last band and if you came last week…you would probably like the people who were playing next week…and that was the goal, trying to create something where people just go to see who was playing.

Not to go to a gig because their mates band was playing or someone they had heard of before, because I guess that’s what we felt was the real hurdle for us, was playing to new ears, someone that had never heard you before, and we always found that really productive. So, how do we make this happen?..So you can play to new people every week and help each other get discovered? We felt like we really did get there in the end, the last six months of folk club, it felt like things kept going from strength to strength and it did give artists legs, and it did help artists get discovered, it became the place where people would look to see who was playing, and I had friends who would see who had been playing when they were looking for an artist to support them, and it was really exciting to see that start to happen. Because thats what music should be.”

Huck: YES! And it was also a place where people could come to actually come to listen, I mean, unfortunately in Sydney, a lot of the time you go to gigs and nobody listens…people stand around with their arms folded not really listening…but at folk club, everyone came, and they sat down and they really listened to the craftsmanship and the lyricism and they appreciated it, and it was the right setting for it.

Melinda: “Its really exciting because it was just like…we chose the Hollywood, because we thought we could add something to that bar. We used to go down and there was nobody there on a  Wednesday night so what was nice, was that the crowd that was there were the ones who were there to see the music, and that’s exciting. It was people wanting to hear songs, they were really respectful and that is difficult to find!

What’s been interesting is, we’ve been really lucky in America to play shows with some other really great songwriters and I think its a trend that follows those songwriters I guess…they…the people that come and see a musician like Ron Sexsmith play, they are going because they are in love with his music and in love with his songs, so they have more reverence for the music. So when we played with him we get the same reception as he does, the audience is amazing and quiet and attentive and want to hear what you’re gonna do, and its hard to create that I think.

I never like to say it out loud, but I think that sometimes the reason gigs are noisy is because  it is quite random. If the artists don’t compliment each other then the first artists audience aren’t really going to give a crap about the next band you know? Sometimes if its too eclectic. So, its an interesting dilemma and its something I don’t really know how to solve, but I guess we’ve just been lucky that Folk Club came together the way it did and we’ve been lucky to play with other artists that have that similar kind of following.”

Huck: Well they say that luck is when preparation meets opportunity right? So I think you have done an incredible job at nourishing the right things and being ready when the opportunity has struck.

Melinda: “Thank you! That’s really sweet.”

Huck: Anyway, I better let you go…its been so lovely to chat, and thank you for your time.

Melinda: “Its so good to talk to you. Thank you so much, this is so much better  than over the phone.”

Falls debut album Omaha is out now.

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