Harpoe: Shock Rock.

30 September 2002 | 12:00 am | Brett Collingwood
Originally Appeared In

Ska’s In Their Eyes.

Harpoe launch Familiarity at The Healer on Saturday and play Livid at the RNA Showgrounds on October 12.

Harpoe may not be a name you're familiar with, but the name Paddy Dempsey is sure to ring some bells. Dempsey is something of a Brisbane institution, noted both for his earlier solo performances as well as his more recent tenure in Shock Fungus. Now he's formed Harpoe, a wildly eclectic three-piece that are about to launch their brand new album Familiarity at the Healer this Saturday night. From the dubby skank of Ska Revival to the funky groove of Disco Booty, the album covers a vast amount of stylistic ground. Far from sounding disjointed, however, Familiarity coalesces beautifully around Dempsey's sweet, clear voice and thought-provoking lyrics.

I ask Paddy how he found his two band-mates.

"Well Tav (Ellem – drums) I've known for a while, he was in the Toothfairies, but he used to play in Shock Fungus my last band," he explains. "And Mick (Wade – bass) - he actually did some of the mixing on this album - he used to be in a band called the Toxic Garden Gnomes, he used to be the guitarist. We didn't have a bass player for one of these gigs and Tav said 'Mick's a really good bass player', and I said 'Oh yeah, okay' and he played the gig and he was awesome, and he's been in the band ever since."

Do you find you have to work harder as a performer in a three-piece?

"You don't actually have to work harder, you don't have to actually do more, you just have to be more conscious of your own space. It has to be a lot more concise and precise, I find. Instead of doing, like, willy-nilly; in a six-piece you can do willy-nilly and occasionally do a solo. Whereas everything has to be a lot more formulated in a three-piece, I mean you've got a lot of room to do whatever, but if you fall down you're gone in a three-piece. Because there's only one lead instrument really, even though we're incorporating samples as well. It's fun. I'm enjoying it more than any other band I've been in."

So how do you approach this songwriting lark then? Does it come easily to you?

"No, I can't write that many songs. I try, but I mean, this is my first album in three years; they're the best songs I've got over a three-year period. Half the time I find you need life experience - you have to learn some sort of thing and then it comes back through the music. It's not just a matter of rotting inside all day going 'oh, I can't write a song'. Once you experience stuff on the outside I find it all comes back and suddenly there's a song there."