Could’ve Been Aurora

31 March 2012 | 10:03 am | Staff Writer

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When Emma Russack first started recording for Spunk, she traded under the name Lola Flash. But, now, with her debut LP, Sounds Of Her City, she's standing defiantly under her own name. Even if she's not crazy about it.

“I wish I had a better name,” admits Russack, “a better birth name. I always give my dad shit about calling me Emma. I wanted to be called Aurora. When I was young I used to hassle [my parents] about it all the time: 'Why didn't you call me Aurora!' And they were like: 'Um, because it sucks'. It was the name of a Foo Fighters song, because I was obsessed with Dave Grohl when I was 12.”

A long discussion about the Foo Fighters – “I still really admire him, which surprises a lot of people; they say 'Dave Grohl? He's such a douchebag' or 'How can you admire someone who makes such shit music?'” – momentarily sidetracks Russack from her point; but soon she gets back to it. “But I don't think I want to hide myself away behind a band name. I want to present myself to the world as who I am. Maybe that's my shtick. I want to be honest and upfront. So it only makes sense to put it out there under my own name.”

The 25-year-old has been writing songs pretty much her whole life; having early memories of authorship through her “wholesome” childhood in Narooma, a beachside hamlet on the South Coast. “I remember my first song, it was called I Don't Care,” Russack recalls. “I was maybe seven. I recorded it to a tape with my uncle, and then my dad played it for my grandparents. And my grandpa didn't like it, he thought it was too negative. But I still remember the lyrics, I still remember how it went. The verse said 'you looked around at the birds in the sky/you thought you knew they flew so high/but I don't care/no, no, no'. Maybe my grandpa was right, maybe that is too negative. I guess those were the beginnings of my sadcore ballads.”

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Years later – after finding some fleeting YouTube fame as teenager playing sad, stark cover versions – Russack's songs are still sad. Are they, as grandpappy once declared, still negative? “I wouldn't think of them as negative, more just curious, inquisitive. I'd really love to write a song about pure happiness and joy, that's kind of my goal, but it seems like a very hard thing to do. At the moment it seems more natural to capture feelings of confusion and change.”

When Russack speaks of confusion and change she's, of course, speaking about relationships; about wanting to be with someone, leave someone, about crossing lines of friendship, leaving people behind. Russack knows that a sad girl singing about relationships is hardly revolutionary; but she's hoping that she's moved on beyond her angst youth, when she was “being sad for the sake of being sad”, to the point where, in hindsight, she thinks “she came across as a victim”. “I don't want people to think I'm some miseryguts,” she says. “I want people to know that it's alright to question, it's alright to change, it's alright to want something different, to want more... and that's it's okay, in the end. That's how I feel: you go through shit, but that's good; you have to go through shit to feel alive, to feel like a real human.”

That sense of shared humanity is reflected in the title of Russack's debut, and it speaks of a welcoming work. “I called it Sounds Of Our City – and that's our, and not just my – because I wanted to include everyone,” she offers. “Every song is like a little story. I wanted people to be able to follow along these little stories from my life, this journey… and for it to feel like a shared journey.”