Harts vs The Bamboos: the frontmen discuss the future of soul
You could easily argue that the future of soul music is right here in Australia.
Established artists like The Bamboos, Harts, and Hiatus Kaiyote are rocking headline shows and festivals locally and across the globe with their contemporary takes on the classic brand of soul and funk, like they’ve rediscovered the long lost pulse of dance floor jams and are electrifying it back into public consciousness.
Couple that with the rising talent of the likes of The Do Yo Thangs, Yeo, and The Harpoons, who are all infusing classic disco elements with progressive music styles and technology, and it looks like Aussie talent will be innovating and reinventing instrument driven pop jams for years to come.
Coming off the back of the release of his stellar album Smoke Fire Hope Desire – which scored both a triple j feature album spot and an ARIA charts top 25 debut – Harts’ career in particular is white hot right now. Having just announced another national tour for early 2017, alongside the release of a new, retro-stylised video for his latest single ‘Fear In Me’, it looks like he isn’t going to be cooling off anytime soon.
Meanwhile, The Bamboos have been one of the stalwart champions of Australian music for more than a decade and a half. Captained by band leader Lance Ferguson, they’re synonymous with amazing live shows and an array of timeless groove and funk flowing jams, including ‘On The Sly’ and ‘Helpless Blues.’
Major fans of each others work, Harts mastermind Darren Hart and The Bamboos head honcho Lance Ferguson recently caught up via email to discuss the art of making pop music with instruments in the contemporary music scene, and quizzed each other on the producing, song writing techniques and the musical influences that have set them apart from the pack. Check out their chat below.
The Bamboos vs Harts
Bamboos: You seem to be bringing back the art of the guitar solo in pop songs. When it comes to the songwriting process do you always have it in mind to include a section where you can tear it up on the guitar?
Harts: Thanks! No, I don’t write a song with that intention in mind, but I guess I can’t ignore the opportunities when they present themselves to me. Most of the time it comes about in the more catchy, single-esque tunes I’m writing. I do think adding sections where I could solo on guitar helped brand me more as a guitarist and helped define me to this point, as well create exposure and a talking point for myself.
Two-part question: You famously travelled to Paisley Park and performed for Prince. In the wake of his passing this year, can you sum up your feelings on his musical legacy and how it continues to affect you? And also: I wouldn’t make you pick just one song, but can you name your favourite Prince album?
Even before I had any contact with him I was learning so much from him and his music. He was always a teacher through his music and Prince continues to inspire everything I do musically. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity that I had. Just the fact that he discovered me seems like nothing short of a miracle now. The timing in it, what it lead to for me and what it’s still leading me to. It’s all still surreal, but it has really impacted my life, particularly my career and shed more light on me in a way that nothing else has thus far. I’m so thankful to Prince and his musical legacy.
Fave album is a hard one too! I think I’m gonna have to go with Around The World In A Day.
You have lots of charisma on the live stage. Does this aspect of your personality come to life naturally soon as you walk out there, or do you feel like you have to consciously switch it on?
It comes to life naturally. It’s funny cos I never notice it when I’m actually on stage. But when I watch back videos of myself, all the faces I pull, all the guitar moves… Ha! It’s something I’m not really conscious of in the moment. I guess it’s the music that brings it out in me.
If you could could get up on stage to play with any living artist/band in the world right now who would it be?
I’d love to play with Stevie Wonder. Like Prince, he was one of the core artists that influenced me the most. Just being able to jam with him and simply meet him would be enough for me. He’s a ridiculously talented human being. I love that dude.
Australian music seems to be taking over the world right now. Can you name a couple of your favourite fellow local artists and tell us what makes them great?
I like Hiatus Kaiyote, I think they’re doing amazing things, inspiring others, and really leading the Neo-Soul charge in Aus at the moment.
Tame Impala continues to do amazing work. I particularly like Kevin Parker’s production game. I think that’s key in what makes them so great for me. Just the sonics, sound design, and classic tones of the music.
In the electronic scene, I dig Peking Duk. Their last single ‘Say My Name’ was fire.
Harts plays a bunch of shows starting December – check the full list of dates.
Stream, download ‘Smoke Fire Hope Desire’ now.
Harts vs The Bamboos
Harts: I really like the production on your studio material. Particularly with the vintage drum sounds. Are the songs written and demo’d before recorded in the studio or written in studio? Is there a core writing, recording and production process for the you/the band?
Bamboos: I just spent several months locked away in my home studio writing the new Bamboos record. It’s a good feeling now to come out of the isolation and work on the music with the band in the studio. The music always goes down a different path when someone else reacts to it creatively and I find that aspect really exciting.
You’ve been in the game for 10+ years now. I hear a lot about how the music landscape in Australia has changed in that time, particularly in the live music scene. Have you witnessed a change in the popularity of live music in Australia? What was it like when you first started playing or going to gigs?
The whole festival scene really elevated and peaked – for a while It seemed like everyone was putting one on. I think this has levelled out a bit now and the festivals that were always strong in their musical vision have been the ones that have survived.
Melbourne has always been a big live music city and it’s still really thriving. There have been a few setbacks with residents moving near venues and complaining about noise – but with the new Agent Of Change rules in effect hopefully that’s in check.
In approaching albums, how do you make the decision on making a new album? Is there a certain motivation or spark that you wait for before deciding to begin a new one?
I release music under a few different monikers so it seems like there is always another new album coming up on the schedule! I usually get through two or three per year.
I always feel as though some of that deep funk is hard to find these days. Have you got any recommendations on new music that you’re into at the moment? Maybe any new funk artists to get into that you’ve discovered?
If you’re looking for a classic old-school sound I would highly recommend the latest albums from The Olympians, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley and Lady Wray. For more forward-looking stuff I can’t go past anything that Anderson Paak is involved with, as well as KAYTRANADA.
For musicians like myself, maybe just starting to break out or wondering if there’re certain opportunities to aim for, do you have any advice or lessons that helped you on your journey in the music world?
Write your own original music from the get-go. Figure out a way to perform and present it to people live so that their minds get blown. Hold on to the things you think are ‘weird’ about yourself musically because they will eventually give you your own style. Practice! Practice! Practice!
More of The Bamboos at their official website.