From Dive Bars To The Charts: It's Been A Big Couple Of Years For Dear Seattle

17 May 2019 | 12:33 pm | Jessica Dale

It's been a relatively rapid ascent from playing dive bars to recording their debut record for Dear Seattle. Frontman Brae Fisher tells Jessica Dale how things have changed for the Sydney four-piece.

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Dear Seattle nearly turned down a career-changing offer by accident. Frontman Brae Fisher tells the story with a much more humorous approach though when he shares how the Sydney group were approached by Violent Soho’s James Tidswell in the early days of his label, Domestic La La Records.

“It was pretty ridiculous, obviously,” says Fisher of being approached by the guitarist of one of the country’s best-known groups. “I don't think we'd even released the EP but we’d released [singles] The Meadows and Afterthought. And we got a message from James Tidswell...

“Basically, he sent an email that just sounded like a fan being like, ‘Hey, guys really love the music, hope to catch you at a show soon.’ I just read it and was about to respond being like, ‘Thanks man, that's awesome. Cheers for reaching out,’ and then send it back because I didn't read the email address. So I saw then after that [who it was] or whatever and I was just like, ‘What!’ Instantly deleted everything I had just written because well, I can't just go back as if it's a fan: ‘Yeah, thanks dude, see ya.’ 

“So I caught myself and then wrote out like, ‘Oh man, yeah’ - the whole spiel - ‘if you want to hear any of the new stuff, we'd love to get your thoughts,' and things like that. That's kind of where it all started. And we ended up meeting up for a beer and just having a chat about everything, because he was starting the 7" Club with Domestic La La. And so originally he just wanted to get us on one of those. He came along, we had some beers and just chatted it out, chatted life, music, everything. And he was just one of us, literally exact same dude, has all the exact same values that we have as a band and was into the same stuff growing up. It was just a really natural thing. And then eventually, I think because we got along so well, we just started talking more and more and more and then it ended up going into an actual signing as opposed to just the 7" Club.”

A lucky re-read has ultimately led to big things for the group, with their debut album Don’t Let Go landing on the ARIA Aussie Artists Albums Chart at #10 in its maiden week. It wasn’t their first success though, with their self-titled breakthrough EP gaining them fans around the country, high rotation on triple j and huge attention at BIGSOUND 2017, the magnitude of which is not lost on Fisher. 

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“As a small band who's used to playing kind of shitty dive bars and that kind of thing for [the] three years we were operating beforehand, just to even have like triple j recognise it, triple j Unearthed and people that aren't in our friends group coming to shows was just such a confidence builder,” he laughs. 

“Where you actually think, ‘Oh, yeah, what we're doing is actually hitting people,’ and they'll come up to you at a show afterwards and explain how much a song means and you've never met them before in your life. That's always going to build your confidence in knowing that you're on the right path of what you want to do and writing music that actually means stuff to people.”

"It's like, everything in music is just different levels of validation."

Despite the success of the Dear Seattle EP, Fisher did still have some trepidation going into Don’t Let Go, describing it more as “second album syndrome” than anything else, despite being their first full-length offering.

“It's one of those things where when you're putting out an album, you obviously have no idea how it's going to be received. So it just feels incredible to have people come back to you after you put in two years' worth of work into a release. And if they wanted to, they could just tear it to shreds. So it feels pretty good when they don't,” he says laughing again.

The Don’t Let Go album tour began selling out pretty quickly, with the group now stepping up from the aforementioned dive bars to venues like Melbourne’s Corner Hotel and Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory - something that Fisher didn’t expect to happen based on his “gut feeling” but agrees is validating nonetheless.

“It's like, everything in music is just different levels of validation. People buying the album is one tick and then buying a ticket for the show is another tick and singing along at the shows is another one. And there's really no end to how much gluttony you can have, if you really want to buy into it,” he jokes. “But I try and avoid that.”

Tidswell's recollection of that fateful meeting is pretty much the same as Fisher's, but he seems much more forthright promoting the band's achievements.

“So I'd never heard them and my mate sent it to me, just one song, and he was like, ‘Check out this band. I don’t think they’re meaning to be like Soho as much as you might think.’ And then when I heard it, I was like, ‘Man, it sounds nothing like my band!’ Obviously you think of your own band very differently to what others do, but, ‘Oh man, that sounds nothing like my band,’” he shares.

“I looked them up and couldn't really find much and then just sent them an email straight away and was just like, ‘Dudes, this is awesome.’ I didn't even have a label or nothing really happening… but once I heard them, I was pretty much like, ‘Dudes, if you're looking for someone, I'm gonna do this.’ So that’s how that came about. And then they sent me the EP and it has to be one of the best EPs I've ever heard.

“I instantly became really excited, obviously. And it just went from there and then I was like, ‘Oh well, you know if this is how I'm doing it, may as well throw my hat in the ring for other things,” he continues.

In reality, the signing and that email bore a similar amount weight for both parties with Domestic La La growing rapidly in the months after. Tidswell now also works with West Thebarton, Loser and Golden Bats.

“With any of the bands that I get to work with, it’s all them. Like 100%,” Tidswell finishes. “You know, I guess I'm lucky enough to get to choose the bands that I know... They just do it. And it would be insanely egotistical of me to think that I did anything else. These bands have got it wherever they go. They would have gone there with anyone but [I'm] lucky enough that I get to go for the ride with them.”