Sorry CMW – this time the best duo is from Australia, not Toronto.
Betty & Oswald describe their sound as “Whiskey on the back of a motorcycle on a tiny island in Greece”. As some of our recent articles have stated – it feels like there is a 2015 equivalent of the British Invasion to the States – but this time it’s the Australian Invasion to Canada.
Not only are they highly talented musicians that could put many to shame – we were incredibly impressed with their intelligence and sharp wit, which can be something of a rarity in 2015.
If San Francisco, Sydney & Kingston, Jamaica combined that’ll give you a bit of an idea into the unique Betty & Oswald sound. There is a confidence in their sound that doesn’t follow the overly done hipster scene – there’s folky hippie influences, gritty reggae inspired electric guitars awash with reverb – then of course, the entire sound is drenched in Australian sun.
Toronto Paradise caught up with Claudia from Betty & Oswald to see how Toronto & Canadian Music Week is treating them so far!
See the full interview below:
1. People usually have interesting and funny stories about how they met and started a band – how did you both meet and form Betty & Oswald?
We met at a gig a few years ago, and then Pete went overseas for a few years and I finished high school (ha). Then later we met up again and started hanging out. It was pretty random how we started playing together, Pete was playing at a festival north of Sydney and I decided to tag along. Next minute I was jumping on stage and playing with him and it just kind of went from there.
2. You’ve described your sound as “Whiskey on the back of a motorcycle on a tiny island in Greece.” – Tell us a bit more about the Greek connection in your band and how it affects your sound?
Pete’s parents are both Greek and a few years ago we went to the island where his mum was born. It’s called Chios and it’s actually pretty big but there’s not a lot of people there. There’s a really stark and beautiful contrast between the barren red island and the intense blue Mediterranean sea that surrounds it. It’s a harsh land and I think some of the people there have had pretty tough lives. We spent a few weeks just hanging out by the sea and riding scooters around the island and drinking whiskey. I think the experience really stayed with us and we’re influenced a lot by the idea of the place, the grittiness of life and that stark image of the land and the ocean.
3. Recently there’s been a lot of new artists coming out of Australia making waves in North America such as Sheppard. Melbourne has a great music scene – Is this the start of the Australian Invasion?
There’s so much music coming out of Australia, it’s great. I think bands are really trying to break away from what’s been done before and write music that’s new and interesting. And there’s just so many bands popping up that everyone’s being pushed and inspired to keep writing and improving, so it’s a great environment to be apart of right now.
4. Fitzroy, Melbourne is world renowned for fashion and is often compared to Toronto’s Queen Street West with it’s post industrial buildings and avant-garde stores. What are some of your favourite places and districts in Australia for fashion and music?
We’re from Sydney so whenever we go to Melbourne it’s actually a little overwhelming how many vintage stores there are around! But there’s a lot of cool stuff, (vintage stores, cafes and venues) going on in Newtown and Marrickville where we live.
5. We love your vintage California meets Brooklyn vibe and style. What are your must have iconic pieces? (Raybans/jean shorts/etc)
Haha that’s cool. Pete loves his Blundstones which are apparently pretty popular over here. And I’ve got this pair of yellow sunnies from the 70s which I bought from this guy in Sydney who’s got this rad little store.
6. We love the song Jaguar Paw from your EP – it has a bit of indie reggae swag – what’s your process of writing together as a band?
It’s pretty different for each song but I guess often one of us will write most of it and then bring it to the other and we’ll work on it together and add different parts.
7. Your latest single King of Bohemia has great polished but authentic sounding production – who worked on this single with you?
I’m glad that came across! We worked with Lachlan Mitchell on the track, who’s also worked with various other people including The Jezabels. He’s such a lovely dude and super chilled. He didn’t try and change it into something it wasn’t, but just helped us create something which was true to our original vision of the song.
8. Tell us about that time you guys went to Montreal for a Summer!
It was pretty random. We just decided to go on a bit of a whim because a lot of our favorite musicians are from Montreal (Patrick Watson, Half Moon Run, Mac Demarco, Leif Vollebekk..) and we just jumped on a plane and rocked up there in the middle of the night and had no idea what we were really doing there. But we ended up meeting some people there who will definitely be lifelong friends, and living in this beautiful apartment with them just off Rue Bernard. It was a kind of a paradise for us just being able to ride our bikes around everywhere and hang out in beautiful parks and be immersed in all this incredible music, art and life.
9. Top 3 Guilty Pleasures?
Vegemite, cigarettes, mayo.
10. We saw your session with Balcony TV in Sydney – what’s your favourite part about playing stripped down sessions?
Being able to bring out some of the softer parts of our sound, like the harmonies, is always cool in those situations. Especially if people are really listening and you can see that the music is having an effect on them. That can be a pretty special experience.
11. What’s your favourite part about performing at Canadian Music Week? Do you feel like it’s a great chance to widen your fanbase and pool of contacts?
We’ve met some really amazing people so far and hopefully made some new fans along the way. We had a show the other night at Johnny Jackson at 1am, and considering a lot of people wouldn’t know us here, we had no idea what to expect. But a bunch of people made it out and they were a really beautiful crowd, they listened really intently the whole time and really seemed to dig it. So that was a pretty cool experience for a CMW showcase. Hopefully the rest of CMW is like that, and I think we’re just going to try and meet as many people as possible.
12. Best piece of advice an industry insider has given you?
The devil is in the detail.
13. What can we expect over the next year from you?
After CMW we’re going to hang around Montreal and Toronto for about 6 weeks.. (We don’t want to leave ha). And then we’ll head home and just take a bit of time to keep writing and working on our stuff. Then hopefully we should be putting out a new EP at the beginning of next year and then see where we go from there. But I’m pretty certain it will be hard to keep us away from Canada for too long!
14. What is Paradise for Betty & Oswald?
On an island somewhere where the land is red and the ocean is super blue and we can ride our bikes in the early morning hours and Tom Waits and Patrick Watson are serenading us on a beach, whilst we’re eating Vegemite. That sounds pretty good.
Album: King Of Bohemia (Single)
Label: Betty & Oswald 2015
Buy the album on iTunes
You can catch Betty & Oswald on Friday 8th May at The Horseshoe Tavern as part of Canadian Music Week.
Follow Betty & Oswald:
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