Musical Motherlode

7 June 2012 | 8:23 am | Cyclone Wehner

Shehab and Carolyn Tariq chat to Cyclone about how a single collaboration ignited marriage, a baby and Audego.

Melbourne's Shehab and Carolyn Tariq are making spectral neo-trip hop as Audego, presenting a soundtracky debut, Abominable Galaxy.

The partnership began when vocalist Carolyn approached Shehab, AKA hip hop turntablist/producer Paso Bionic (and a member of Curse ov Dialect and TZU), to remix a song for her solo vehicle Big Fella. “We became friends and then decided to try some other tracks and then... or did we get married?” Carolyn ponders, sitting in a noisy café in Melbourne's inner-suburban Richmond. Shehab pipes up, “I think we got married first!” Again, it was all because of that remix. “Carolyn offered me money. I said, 'I don't want any money.' So she said, 'Okay, I'll cook you dinner' – and it sort of started from there.”

Carolyn felt concerned that the couple's collaborating on original music might not be so harmonious. “There was a little bit of worry because we didn't know if it would work,” she laughs. “But it wouldn't have mattered if it didn't – we would have stayed married.” “Hopefully!” Shehab chuckles. Nevertheless, the pair laboured separately in a home studio. Importantly, Shehab gave Carolyn space – and freedom. In the past, others have 'instructed' her on how to sing. “And I wasn't very happy with it in the end,” she rues. This time, Carolyn was content. Moreover, bouncing music back and forth ensured that the album fell into place “pretty quick,” as Shehab says.

Surprisingly, Abominable Galaxy isn't hip hop soul, but electronica (though not, as its title suggests, psychedelic!). As such, it's different to Shehab's established projects, including TZU – even with their last electro-oriented LP, Computer Love. “The first song we did was more sample-based. That's Borrowed Time – I came up with the instrumental first and then [Carolyn] did the vocals over the top of that,” he explains. “But, a lot of the songs, Carolyn recorded the vocals first and then gave me just the a cappella with the harmonies in the background. I had just the vocals and I had to build stuff around it. I found it really difficult to find samples that were in the right key – that matched the vocals – so we ended up moving more towards synths.” Audego is new territory, too, for Carolyn, “a total band geek from back in the day,” accustomed to crafting piano-led vocal music. The Cairns native is classically-trained, having studied piano, violin and flute. Carolyn has likewise sung in a choir – and studied opera, which, incidentally, she “hated... I was 12 and I was sounding like a forty year old woman. There was something really unnatural about it for me and so I had to 'unlearn' that stuff.” With Audego, Carolyn harnessed the latest technologies, writing songs while recording them. “I can hear straight away if it sounds naff or not.” She experimented with harmonies for the first time. Shehab himself loves today's musical hybridisation. “I like to think that's what our sound is.”

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The Tariqs now have, not only an album, but also a baby. Balancing family life and music is tricky. Carolyn recorded Abominable Galaxy as her daughter, Taalia, napped. But, happily, motherhood hasn't necessitated she set aside her creative life. “I think that was a bit of my nightmare – not that there's anything wrong with that [being a parent exclusively] – but, personally, I didn't wanna be just in lockdown and 'mum mode'. So I've had to fight for time and space to do music. But it really stabilises me. If I didn't have that, I think I'd be crazy.” For Audego time management is key, especially since Shehab is simultaneously involved in TZU's comeback. In June, Audego will embark on a mini-East Coast tour, recreating an inherently studio project with the help of Ableton. “It sounds the same!” assures Carolyn. They even have visual projections by Jean Poole. And Audego are already planning another album – due next March. They'll stick to the Audego “aesthetic”, Shehab says, but develop their ideas. “Our plan is just to try to release an album every year and keep doing it for as long as we can.”