November 12, 2013
In the dark setting of the Fly Trap in Fremantle, The Insatiables are on stage. The crowd is swaying to the soaring voice of lead singer Cathii Hoare – all eyes are wide as she nails the highest of high notes. The audience is listening to the band’s brand new EP, Let Go of Limbo, and discovering first-hand the amazing level of music currently being produced in Perth. The show is the first date on the Let Go of Limbo tour and The Insatiables, made up of Hoare, guitarist Vix Arrowsmith and drummer Max Corr, could not be happier. They are fulfilling a requirement all Perth bands must to make a name for themselves in the flourishing Perth music scene and Australia wide: touring. According to Arrowsmith, a band can easily become big by touring without having to move over east. “Every band can make it from [Perth], but you definitely need to tour,” she says. The members of the Insatiables have plans to play venues on the east coast, but will continue living in their hometown, and don’t predict their careers will suffer by doing so.
The idea that a band must move to the bigger cities of Sydney or Melbourne, or even overseas, to make it big is becoming obsolete. With the rise of social media, a tool artists can use to promote themselves and the growing quality of WA music, bands can now make it without having to leave Perth and their family and friends. West Australian Music chief executive officer Wendy Were, whose organisation hosts the annual WA Music awards, says the music coming out of Perth is held in very high esteem. “It’s considered as one of the hotbeds of music talent globally,” she says.
Grace Borello, the host of ‘Live and Local’ on 89.7FM, a program that only plays music from Perth artists, agrees. “The Perth music scene is thriving right now- there’s so much great talent out there,” she says. Borello points to local and national band competitions such as Big Splash and Ampfest to highlight the quality of Perth artists. “Look at the National Campus Band Competition that [Perth band] Edie Green just flew out to Canberra to compete in,” she says. The band came second in the competition, whose previous winners include Eskimo Joe and Jebediah.
The 27th annual Aria nominations were announced on October 15, and Tame Impala, Birds of Tokyo, Empire of the Sun, San Cisco, Karnivool, Abbe May, Mama Kin, Samantha Jade and Bob Evans are all up for big awards, and all originate from Perth. The awards, which will take place on December 1, share many nominations with the WAM Awards.
The nominees for this year’s WAM awards were announced on October 1, with past winner Ruby Boots nominated for Best Country Music Act and Best Solo Artist. The road to the awards has not been a short one for Ruby Boots writer and performer Bex Chilcott. Seven years ago the band was yet to exist and Chilcott was performing solo at open mic nights around Perth. Chilcott also hosted Bex’s Open Mic Night’s at the Indi Bar in Scarborough. While the Indi Bar may not be much to look at, it hosts a mix of new and established talent, with the likes of Regurgitator, Evermore, Ash Grunwald and Frenzel Rhomb all playing there at one time or another. Chilcott says it’s venues like this, along with the Rosemount Hotel and Mojos, which keep the Perth music scene alive. “If they closed down it would be very detrimental and would really hurt the industry,” Chilcott says. These venues provide a platform and support for Perth musicians, and allow them to create large fan bases. They allow bands to ‘make it’ while still living in Perth, the world’s most isolated metropolis. “If you’re talking about making it big as in taking over the world then you absolutely have to relocate every now and again, but if you mean making a wage and doing what you love, you don’t have to move to do that,” she says. “I’m in Perth and I like to [head] across Australia and play in people’s backyards because that’s what turns me on – but I don’t have to move to do that.”
Perth’s remoteness may even have be a positive. “Some say it’s because our isolation from the major industry incubates a unique creativity,” Were says. There is still room for improvement, with noise and licensing laws continuing to hinder musicians. “There’s some current issues around regulations and what they mean for those wanting to present live music,” Were says, although her organisation is trying to combat these. “WAM is about to announce a Live Performance Task Force for Perth which will explore issues such as how to help venue operators negotiate the approvals process and manage noise, ways to open up new and unconventional spaces to performance, and how to support entrepreneurs and performers with staging events.”
The future seems bright for Perth musicians, especially those who are willing to work hard. For bands looking to make it big, Grace Borello encourages self-promotion via social media, but also stresses the importance of performing well and often. “Take every gig that comes your way. You never know who is going to be in the crowd, and keep making music that makes you happy,” she says.
Were offers this advice: “Make sure you use all the channels and support available to you. Digital has reshaped the industry and there are so many opportunities. Learn how to exploit them.”
As The Insatiables gig comes to an end, and the cheers and yells of the crowd melt into the night, the band is looking toward the future. “We’re going to do quite a few shows around Perth and hopefully get down south and do some shows next year and then record some more,” says Hoare. Chilcott is staying close to home too, recording her first album in Perth.
This story was written as part of Curtin Journalism’s Feature Writing unit.