Birds Of Tokyo On Eclectic Gigs: 'It Makes Me Remember When This Band Was Trying To Find Its Feet'

25 June 2024 | 2:19 pm | Carley Hall

Birds Of Tokyo discuss diverse festival bills and the "integral fabric" of live music, which is in danger of disappearing ahead of Night At The Barracks 2024.

Birds Of Tokyo

Birds Of Tokyo (Credit: Kane Hibberd)

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After a few stalled attempts, Adam Weston from Birds Of Tokyo is slightly wearied and breathless when we connect but apologetic and still his warm, gracious self. The drummer wears another hat when Birds aren’t seconded to touring or playing enviable slots like AFL grand finals, alongside symphony orchestras, or even their very own intimate headline shows among the Lapis lazuli blue waters of the Maldives; these days, Weston is a restaurateur, too.

“It's just been one of those days where people call in sick, then just when I thought I'd be able to get away, the electrician rocks up, then the locksmith rocks up, and it's just curveball after curveball.”

With his eatery’s lunch rush well and truly done, Weston can now cast his thoughts back 20 years ago to when Birds Of Tokyo were another Perth indie rock band hustling away alongside their peers.

After debuting with much-loved albums that embraced their alternative rock roots, their star burnt brighter and brighter once their third self-titled album unleashed mega hit Plans into the world.

Ever since, it’s been a whirlwind of worldwide tours, major festival headline slots, working with the creme de la creme of producers for their proceeding releases, which has these days led them to be in the position to say yes to the left-of-centre, exotic, eclectic gigs that they’ve ticked off. But it wasn’t always that way.

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“It makes me remember when this band was really trying to find its feet and identify itself,” he recalls.

"Those first couple of records, like most bands starting out, were probably based on how we were as a live band at the time; we were writing for the stage. And then by the time you get to the third record, and it's things like Lanterns and This Fire, and all of a sudden, we’re spending six months to record a record in the studio instead of, you know, the two or three weeks from a bit of local gig money. 

“It’s a whole different scenario now where we have management put forward [gig locations] that are really out of the box, like the Maldives shows. 

“But we love hitting the road. We're really grateful and fortunate to be able to play venues like the Enmore or these classic theatres and venues in the cities quite often. But playing somewhere like Birdsville, you know, in the middle of nowhere that none of us have ever been to before, would be such a joy.

“We’re also very much a product of our own environment when it comes to writing, so we always try to hole up somewhere we haven't been before. It’s like that with shows as well; if we've got a choice, we will say yes to some of the shows that are in the far corners, which, you know, may not pay as great, may not be as practical, may not be part of a tour or anything like that. But they're the kind of ones that you remember.”

Fortunately for Weston, there’s yet another show coming up on the Birds Of Tokyo touring schedule that is likely to add to their bucket list of memorable gigs – a slot on the Night At The Barracks month-long festival that’s happening at North Head Sanctuary barracks in northern Sydney.

Joining the likes of Icehouse, The Presets, Matt Corby, Jessica Mauboy and more, it’s the sort of atypical location and lineup that has Weston and the Birds crew’s fancies well and truly tickled.

"That’s actually the exact conversation that came up, like, what a cool spot to play,” Weston laughs.

“Then we saw the other artists, and it was a no-brainer. And it's such a great thing for the people of those areas as well. I mean, there's seldom opportunities for putting on these kinds of diverse events, so we really hope that everyone can get behind it so we can see more of it.”

Naturally, talk turns to the current challenges faced by the live music industry, including iconic festivals like Splendour In The Grass and Falls downing tools, the economic black hole that smaller venue owners have unfairly found themselves in, plus the enduring impact the pandemic still seems to have on the confidence of artists, venues and promoters to be as bold and daring as they once were.

Weston emphasised the importance of continuing to nurture local music scenes and support emerging artists, but he’s frank when asked where the failings have been and where the support should come from.

“How much time have we got? I mean, we could make this a two-day-long conversation,” he admits. 

“Live music has been part of our society for the better part of 50 years, but it just seems to be in tatters at the moment.

“I mean, there are so many factors. I remember doing the 11-hour drive from Brisbane to Maitland to take my daughter to Groovin The Moo, where she lined up at a signing tent to meet Tkay Maidza when she was eight years old - those kinds of events, they shape memories. It's just such an integral fabric in live music that people don't realise that once that's gone, there's no coming back. And that’s something we can't afford to let happen. 

The Zoo [in Brisbane] recently is a great example. Some of the suggestions were that the council should step in and say, hey, we'll buy it, and we'll nurture it. 

“It really makes me think of when we were cutting our teeth at local Perth venues and the opportunities we had. And there was certainly a ladder to climb, and I just think it's going to be so hard for emerging bands at the moment, especially if you can't lean on a little bit of triple j, and the live element is your bread and butter. 

"It can't just be put back on the artists to change their course of thinking or get more creative because they're consuming music in a different way. Sure, the great artists will always shine through and find a way, but there still needs to be some sort of supportive structure to really nurture the next wave of artists.”

Birds Of Tokyo will perform as part of this year’s Night At The Barracks. You can find the complete program below.



Friday September 13 – Icehouse
Saturday September 14 – Pete Murray
Sunday September 15 – Gospo Collective: Whitney vs. Jackson
Friday September 20 – Birds Of Tokyo
Saturday September 21 – Jon Stevens: Noiseworks & INXS Collection
Sunday September 22 – Australian Rock Collective
Friday September 27 – The Presets + Bag Raiders
Saturday September 28 – Six60
Sunday September 29 – Taylor Made: A Taylor Swift Tribute
Friday October 4 – Matt Corby
Saturday October 5 – Jessica Mauboy
Sunday October 6 – Xavier Rudd