Smells Like Freo Spirit

12 July 2012 | 10:53 am | Daniel Cribb

“My greatest happiness has been to see the growth of bands like San Cisco," says City Of Fremantle’s Festival Officer Bruna Chiovitti in the lead up to Hidden Treasures.

So close to Perth, yet so different, Fremantle has taking on quite a reputation as a cultural hub over the years, especially when it comes to high quality music. Birthing the success of Eskimo Joe, John Butler and The Waifs, just to name a few, is proof of such. But what about the unsung heroes? Those performing their music in pubs, cafes and bars around the town, sometimes to only a few people?

Laura Bishop of Ensemble Formidable, Tim Gordon, Edie Green, Jennifer Aslett of Gunns and Aysha Amani of The Amani Consort are just a few of those artists who will be showcasing what Fremantle has to offer when they take to the FTI stage, a building that was an all boy's school many years ago, as part of Hidden Treasures. They rallied together at FTI and Hey Joe Retro in Fremantle ahead of the festival for a Drum Media cover shoot, during which it was evident there's a strong sense of community fuelling the scene.

One man who knows the importance of community and collaboration is Tim Gordon, who recently released his debut EP Burn The Cloud - an record that features instrumentation from members of The Novocaines, Sonpsilo Circus and more, as well as a duet with Ruby Boots. “I played Norfolk Lanes [Youth Festival] in December and that was just super. Bruna Chiovitti, who organises it, is just amazing… Hidden Treasures being in Freo means that I can just walk from my house and play,” Gordon tells.

He's discovered that walking around the streets of Fremantle can provide an inspirational goldmine. “You can go out by yourself one day and come back with a whole world full of stories. You just go out there and you're either going to see someone you know, make a new friend or, if you end up hanging out long enough, you'll probably catch a really good band.” So has he discovered any hidden gems? “All the bands that I used to keep for myself, I just ended up getting too drunk and telling people about. Now a lot of them are doing really well,” he laughs. “A bit further back, [Freo] started becoming really psychedelically influenced and that sort of broadened everyone's taste, so you get a lot of different bands. No band in Freo is really run-of-the-mill, and I just really, really like that.”

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Growing up in Fremantle and spending a lot of her time embedded deeply within Fremantle music, Aysha Amani of The Amani Consort can confirm such an observation. Especially considering she's recently started a funk and soul-influenced band – a radical change from touring the world as an MC. “The lines are a bit more blurry in Fremantle and people are a lot more tolerant…It's more isolated than Perth but, being a port city, you get a lot of different influences from lots of different places. In some respects, because it is isolated people tend to click in a bit more and collaborate more,” Amani explains.

“There are amazing musicians here that sometimes might not get the recognition because we're a little bit hidden away, so I think that the whole concept of Hidden Treasures, shining a light on what we've got going on down here, is great.” A spotlight that will give punters a sneak peak at an EP The Amani Consort is currently mixing, set for release this September.

On the other side of the experience spectrum sits a young songstress by the name of Edie Green. But what she lacks in experience, she makes up with enthusiasm and unique energy. Writing music since the age of 13, she only took to the stage last year and is currently working on a single, which marks her first time officially in the studio. “I think Hidden Treasures is a really nice over-arching theme to place on the festival. It's nice that we've got an opportunity to showcase our talents to the public and Fremantle music scene. I love Freo. There's such a good vibe here,” she says.

But her love for the town extends beyond that of the sonic realm, relating back to the interesting characters that wander the streets. “I like the markets. I think it's because of the people that are there. It's so weird, you can just go up to someone and start talking to them and they'll have the most amazing stories behind them.”

The diversity of the festival shows its true colours when you compare an artist like Green to the quirky and captivatingly interesting sounds of Ensemble Formidable, a band playing the opening night of Hidden Treasures and one that violinist/vocalist Laura Bishop admits “would need a circus truck” to handle the ten band members and their antics on tour. “I got hit by our drummer a couple of times at our last gig because he was so close to me,” Bishop laughs. “We're a pretty crazy bunch of people, and because everyone does such different stuff it's just mental,” Bishop describes the dynamics of the group.

The musical mayhem that is Ensemble Formidable came about when a bunch of artists began networking with one another at local shows around Fremantle. “Everyone always comes down to each other's gigs and gives everyone support, which I think doesn't happen in [Perth] because it's so spread out… Freo's just really friendly. That's what I love about it. It's got a nice little community and everyone sort of knows each other.”

Bishop is yet to step foot in FTI but, after playing there at the end of last year, Jennifer Aslett of Gunns assures the venue is a one of a kind. Having had a member reshuffle and temporary break from the live arena, Gunns are back in full-swing, and their appearance at Hidden Treasures marks their fourth gig with the current line-up. “Kim Salmon's obviously a legend and I really like Dianas. I played with Dianas a few weeks ago at Dada's and they had me at hello,” Aslett says, discussing some favourites on the bill. “Fremantle's relaxing. It's like a little holiday village for me. I live here and I always feel like I'm on holiday.”

Behind the scenes of these festivals, as Gordon mentioned, is an integral cog in the Fremantle music scene; City Of Fremantle's Festival Officer Bruna Chiovitti works with Hidden Treasures as well as the Street Arts Festival, Norfolk Lanes Youth Festival and more. “[We] want to provide inspiration to music lovers to get out of the house and make musical discoveries in unique Fremantle places,” Chiovitti explains. “My greatest happiness has been to see the growth of bands like San Cisco and Custom Royal - I love seeing young bands continue to learn and hone their craft and create exciting music.” This is why the Hidden Treasures mentor program has come to life. “We have Dianas working with Abbe May, Funilingus working with Matt Cheetham and Tim Gordon working with Kim Salmon,” she tells. The mentors will be providing advice on songwriting, amongst other things.

“There has always been a place for music in Fremantle and this continues today with great venues like the Fly By Night, Mojo's, Clancy's and Norfolk Basement, who are massive supporters of original music…There's lots of passion in Fremantle; passion for music, for performance, for arts; people love life in Fremantle. It has an incredible heritage and promising future, it's a great place to make art.”