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Interview: Tinpan Orange

<p>A distinctive flavour in the Australian music scene with their hybrid folk-pop stylings and introspective lyrics.</p>

After ten years and four albums Melbourne-based trio Tinpan Orange is as strong as ever, adding a distinctive flavour to the Australian music scene with their hybrid folk-pop stylings and introspective lyrics. In the lead-up to the release of their fifth studio album, ‘Love Is A Dog’, Farrago’s Rose Doole had a chat with the group’s frontwoman and singer Emily Lubitz to find out what they’ve been up to.

Hey Emily! Thanks so much for taking the time to have a chat. It’s been four years since the last Tinpan Orange album, how does it feel to have this one so close to being out there?

It’s feeling really good and a bit like a relief. It’s been an interesting process getting to this point because it’s been four years since our last album and we were really busy for the two years after the release of it, doing lots of tours. Then we kind of burned out a little bit and went, “You know what? We just have to stop.” So we didn’t do any shows for nearly two years, but we started writing. And that was a relief too, you know, like “Ah, we’ve still got some gas in the tank”, in terms of being creative. And now it’s nearly out, so it’s really exciting.

Since the release of your last album you’ve played with names like The Waifs and The Cat Empire, as well as other great Australian musicians. Did these people you’d played with influence you while writing this album?

For sure. We also toured with Martha Wainwright, who had a huge impact on me. I watched her show every night that we were on the road with her and I haven’t been inspired like that in a long time. Because I just felt like she was this artist who was out of time and out of place. She prescribed to anything, any fashion or style. She’d sing French songs and then she’d sing her song ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’, and then this beautiful ballad to her son. It was just good songs and I feel like sometimes we’re a bit in that world, our band. We’re sort of folky and then we’re this and we’re that, and it’s sort of hard to pin us. And sometimes I get worried that we’re not… ‘something’. You know?

And you’ve released the beautiful single ‘Rich Man’, which seems to have had a pretty positive response so far and the music video was released alongside it. Can you tell me a bit about that song and how the music video relates to it?

It’s really from the perspective of a rich man’s lover, a woman who’s trapped in an empty relationship that’s full of opulence but no actual depth. I was reading The Great Gatsby while writing this album so a few songs are inspired by elements of that book and ‘Rich Man’ is a kind of Tom Buchanan and Daisy vibe. And the film clip was an idea I had, it’s just me sitting in the shot playing the part of a rich man’s wife and these hands coming in from the side and putting things on me, hats and pearls and just beautiful opulent things on me and taking them off and me not really having any control. And then I get to the end of the clip and it’s me in my own hands, taking everything off and taking off my make-up and ending up naked, but free.

Do you write the songs mostly?

Yeah, well this album has been more collaborative than ever. Often I write most of the songs, although I always feel like the band really helps me form them. Like I’ll write three quarters of a song and they’ll help me finish them. But this album we co-wrote. Me and my brother Jesse and my husband Harry Angus, who also produced it, he actually wrote quite a lot and we co-wrote some stuff between the three of us.

And of course since the last album both you and your brother, and his wife and your husband, you’ve all started families of your own. Has that has a big impact of the process of making this album, as compared to previous albums you’ve made?

Yes. It’s been a crazy couple of years. I had my second kid and Jesse had his first kid, so I mean this album probably really shouldn’t have been made, when you look at it on paper, [laughs] looking at our lives. But I don’t know, we were so determined. We really wanted to make it, so we squeezed it from the corners of our crazy lives. So it took us a year, or more than a year, to record it, when usually you can go into a studio and in two weeks make an album. We kind of would go into the studio two or three days at a time, scattered through the year. And I think it worked, it gave us the ability to really listen to the songs and reflect on them and change them if we wanted to.

And after ‘Love Is A Dog’ is released in April you’ve got a twelve date national tour to promote the album – what’s your process for preparing for a tour?

God, we need to rehearse! Thanks for reminding me. Rehearse rehearse, that’s what we need to do. We’re already working the new songs into the set and we have this month to really focus in on that. On the album we played quite a few songs with drums and bass, we’ve decided to start touring as a trio. So we won’t bring drums and bass with us. And it’s kind of how we started, we’re going back to our roots really. So we kind of have to reinvent the songs a bit, because a lot of them have a whole rhythm section in them. We miss our rhythm section and having them on the road because they are killer, just awesome dudes. But we’re really enjoying having the space, or at least I am. And Alex Burkoy [violinist] is such a killer player on the violin and the guitar and stuff, so I think he also really shines in this set-up.

What’s it like when you’re playing live? Is it a relief to get out and play in front of people, or do you prefer the writing and the recording?

I think I prefer the live stuff. I think it comes more naturally to me, to just play and not to over-think things and listen over things a million times and do different takes, although this album wasn’t so much like that, and we were doing more live stuff. But sometimes we’d have to play it a lot, just to get that one really good take. So I actually love the immediate thing of playing live and just that interaction that you have with people, and some things fly and some things flop, but it’s kind of exciting too.

To finish up with, if you had to sum up ‘Love Is A Dog’ in just one word, what would it be?

Melodramatic. It’s melodramatic folk.

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Three 2021


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