"We don’t make music just for a trend. Every album we put out has some sort of story behind it."
Ash Hoskens (Diger Rokwell) has just returned from the Nannup-based DIY weekender Camp Doogs, and he's beaming. “Everyone was just awestruck with the awesomeness of it. The vibe was great, the environment was cool – the river, the camping, the food. It was the Woodstock of my time.” The post-camp glow suits Hoskens, who with singer Felicity Groom, represents a beacon of positivity and all things good in the Perth music scene.
If Camp Doogs was a successful example of cross-pollination between genres and scenes in the local music community, the Rokwell & Groom project sits happily in the same category. Groom's strident, rock-tinged folk might not have seemed an obvious fit for Hosken's work as a producer but the collaboration stuck. After meeting on the frisbee field, and a one-off show for Cut and Paste, they began working together.
“I kind of wanted to keep it separate, to specialise,” Hoskens says of the process that spawned debut album, New Parts. “I do the music and Felicity does the vocals and the lyrics – it's worked well that way. Felicity helped with some of the recordings, playing piano accordion, playing some guitar parts. She's very open and hard-working, someone who likes to get really involved in things and succeeds.”
In getting New Parts together, Hoskens explains there was a certain amount of patience required as life intervened, including Groom becoming a first-time parent with fellow musician and partner Andrew Ryan. “There were some stops and starts – me doing an album, Felicity doing Gossamer, getting together a live show, recording, and then Felicity falling pregnant and having her life turned upside down in a good way.
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Groom, signed to label Spinning Top who also boast international favourites Tame Impala and Pond, brings the local independent rock scene to the table, Hoskens Perth's independent electronic music, both through his own music and his role at the helm of collective and label The Community. “You know, I'm a full-time teacher but I also have another job where I represent The Community... It's been a really good year for us in terms of having two compilations out last year. Then we had Ylem's Disk.151, then we had Innersense (Hosken's release under the Diger Rokwell moniker), and then we've had a whole heap of other people just releasing singles and little albums just through our Bandcamp, and then Mathas's Nourishment song (recent WAM Song of the Year winner and triple j favourite), and then the Rokwell & Groom release.
“It's cool, we're finding our feet in how to do things and finding the best way to do it. But I think there's always been this constant aesthetic, and sound – music with narrative and meaning. We don't make music just for a trend. Every album we put out has some sort of story behind it.”
Hoskens is happy to elaborate on the themes and narrative within New Parts that developed as Groom wrote lyrics to accompany his beats and instrumentation. “The song, Waiting, is one I really connect with. It's basically about a girl who is trying to find her potential, reach her potential. I liken it to a metaphor for Perth, for WA, potential waiting to be unearthed, waiting to be discovered, enjoyed, to blossom. The WA-iting, if you know what I mean.”
If this year's WAM nominations are anything to go by, Hoskens is certainly reaching some of his potential, with tips of the industry hat to his individual projects and his work through The Community. “We're nominated for Best WA Label this year, which is cool, because it's all artist-based projects that artists fund for themselves. It's very grassroots stuff, but it's good to be acknowledged for that. Last year I was just up for Electronic Producer of the Year. I'm glad to be nominated this time for Electronic Live Act, because the last two years my live show has come to a point where I'm really enjoying it. I can go off in any direction and have a bit of fun with it.”
But of course Hoskens still takes the accolades with characteristic humility and a few grains of salt. “I don't think art is a competition – it's a creative pursuit and there's no real end goal – but it's nice to be recognised by people through awards to say you're doing good work.”