Immigration Songs

12 June 2012 | 5:30 am | Chris Familton

"'Up' and 'left' sound like directions, but also like a ‘Dear John’ letter... Later our friend Evan [Dando] also said it’s where your heart is – up and left.”

Take one third Spanish/Argentinian, a Smudge and ex-Lemonhead and a drummer who lives 600km away and you have Bambino Koresh, the musical vision of singer and guitarist Leticia Nischang. With her husband Tom Morgan on bass and drummer Sarah McEwan they recently released their debut album Up And Left to glowing reviews. A mix of '90s indie-rock, classic rock and power pop influences from Neil Young and Led Zeppelin to Teenage Fanclub, the album has been a labour of love for the trio that culminated in joy and expletives for Nischang when she first held the finished product in her hands.

“Oh, I felt so excited; there was a great sense of pride and accomplishment. The first copies arrived the last week of January and I first saw them alone with our label boss because I was just about to travel to Argentina the next day. I had a crazy day at work and drove straight to Sydney to pick up the CDs so I could take some to my family. I was stoked, and immediately called Tom who couldn't wait to see them. I felt my perseverance and passion had finally materialised. I kept it cool at the label but once I got outside I screamed 'Fuck yeah!' and jumped up and down like a little girl.”

One of the first things that tweak curiosity about the band is the name Bambino Koresh. It rolls off the tongue yet its meaning isn't immediately obvious. Nischang explains the origins of both their name and the album title. “We first thought of the name back in 2002, while we were touring in Spain with our band Sneeze. It has to do with David Koresh only because it was a story that shocked us. I didn't know too much about it until I met Tom who later showed me docos and info about it. I just couldn't believe how a government can turn against their own people and kill them because they don't share the same views.

“The word Bambino is a soft, rounded word and Koresh is harsh, plus they sound good together. 'Up' and 'left' sound like directions, but also like a 'Dear John' letter. The idea of 'she just took off'. I really liked it because that's kind of what I did when I moved here. Later our friend Evan [Dando] also said it's where your heart is – up and left. I love that too.”

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The songs that make up the album come from different periods yet there are some themes that Nischang feels thread through the tracks. As well as conjuring up the spirit of indie guitar rock from two decades ago she also identifies the nostalgia of separation from one's homeland as an inspiration for some of her songwriting. “Well the main thing is these songs were written since I got together with Tom and moved to Australia so I'm guessing love and immigration are always present there. Australia is really the furthest point from my home and that can be very hard at times so there are feelings of nostalgia and homesickness and the feeling of isolation I get being here. My songs are not all about me though, some were written after movies I've seen or things I've watched on TV or stories I make up in my head.”

Playing primarily US influenced indie-rock and singing in English prompts the question of what role Nischang's Argentinian and Spanish origins play in her music and how her cross-cultural life manifests itself creatively. “It plays a part in everything I do, I can't help it. I was born in Argentina but I moved to Spain when I was seven years old. I'm extremely close to my family there and I talk to them almost daily.

“I love reflecting on how languages and culture make people think differently and I consider myself pretty lucky to have a foot on each side. I do have songs in Spanish but I'm keeping them for the next records.”