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No Place Like Home

4 December 2012 | 5:00 am | Bryget Chrisfield

“That may be happening at this very festival. I can’t go into too much detail at this point, but I can say, ‘Yes, I certainly have [invited guest artists on stage] and that this is the festival’.

“It was a fun shoot,” Daniel Merriweather extols when we sit down on a couch for a chat in the photographer's studio once the session's wrapped. “I think, like, one thing that Blondie did was always have amazing visuals, they always looked great and it was definitely a cool theme to emulate today. Everyone in the room knew each other and are fans of each other's. We kind of feel like we are in a band in a way.” Given the five artists who will all be gracing this year's Homebake stage infiltrated each other's personal space to recreate Blondie's self-titled debut album front for this cover shot, it's fortunate they were already acquainted. Merriweather was kind enough to bring an extra black dinner jacket for Seth Sentry, who admits, “I don't know anything about Blondie. I grew up listening to rap music and stuff. I couldn't name a Blondie song. Still. Is that bad? You tell me a Blondie song and I'll tell you if I know it.” Ummm… Rapture? “Oh, yeah, okay, all right. Like, to me that's a KRS-One song. There's a KRS-One song [Step Into A World (Rapture's Delight)] that samples that and that was a massive, massive song for me growing up. So I do know Blondie. I guess she's crossing genres.”

Sam Sparro laughs, “I'm shocked!” When asked when he first became aware of Blondie, Sparro shares, “It just seems like they've been around forever. I mean, they have been around my whole life but, yeah! I think I've got about three of their records at home on vinyl, but I'm such a disco head. And I love how they came from the CBGB scene and, like, punk bands kind of didn't take them seriously in New York. They were sort of more pop and their songs were more musical. And then they segued into disco, which I think is really cool, but a lot of the other bands on the scene in CBGBs apparently just hated them. They were so ahead of their time. The fact that she was a white chick rapping on records! And, you know, she was 30-years old when they broke through, which, in this business, that's quite amazing! That really doesn't happen much these days and she's always looked so good. They're such an influential band. They've certainly had an influence on my music, yeah.”

“She's probably had an impact on people that inspire me,” Merriweather considers, “but I never really had direct contact with the band, you know, they were before my time and anything old that I listened to was definitely R&B. But they're an amazing band and she's still hot to this day.” 

 “She's cool,” Lance Ferguson, songwriter/guitarist with The Bamboos offers. “And, you know, I didn't wanna say, 'I thought she was hot' [laughs]. I remember as a child listening to Heart Of Glass and I knew there was some controversy at the time 'cause she sang the lyric “pain in the ass” and I remember, even as a little kid, realising that was some risqué thing she'd done. Although objectively [it's] hardly outrageous by today's standards: just turn on a TV and you're gonna hear far worse than that. But my first memory of Blondie is really liking that song and going, 'She kind of swore in it and that's cool. That's fucking cool'.”  

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Kimbra was recently reminded of Blondie's catalogue while she was touring with Mini Mansions, Queens Of The Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman's new side-project, in the States when they ripped out a cover of aforementioned song. “They supported me on a couple of shows in LA and they do a cover of Heart Of Glass,” she explains. “They do this really dark version and it starts really low, but then you realise what it is and I just was reminded – it's such a great song! And then it made me go back to listen to the original again…[Debbie Harry's] definitely got her thing going: a signature sound, a signature look and for a female artist, you know, that's an inspiring thing.”

On whether she's invited artists up on stage for guest appearances during her shows, Kimbra reveals, “I've done it in America. I had, um, I don't know if you know the band The Dilinger Escape Plan? A mathcore metal band. I've started doing some work with the guitarist in the States and, since we were both in New York together, at the New York show he got up and did a ripping guitar solo in Come Into My Head. Everyone was like, 'Is that Benjamin Weinman from Dillinger Escape Plan?' I'm like, 'Yep,' but I like that as well because I need a way to be spontaneous.”

The Kiwi chanteuse recruited Merriweather for support duties on her last Australian tour and it turns out he's also in demand when it comes to being summoned to the stage during other people's sets. “That was kinda my first introduction to touring, was being on the road with Mark Ronson and a guest on his album, you know? I was the mainstay for the whole of his campaign so that was a lot of fun.” Sparro has also been a special guest star during Ronson's live shows. “I've got up and sang with him before when we're on festivals together,” he confirms. “The band had learnt Black And Gold and [Ronson] did like a version of it and then actually when Daniel was away for a while I went up and did one of his songs, Stop Me. There was a summer when Daniel and I were pretty much doing all the same festivals and I was seeing him everywhere. We've known each other for years.”

When asked whether he has invited anyone of note to share his stage, Merriweather says casually, “Well Adele came on stage with me when I played Shepherds Bush Empire in London. I did two nights there. It was great. I mean, we sold it out and everything and she was kind of hard to get in contact with. I finally got in contact with her and she came up and performed the song I do with her, Water And A Flame. And that was a nice moment. She walked out and the crowd went wild.”

“We've done that before with a bunch of rap crews,” Sentry contributes. “Like, Horrorshow, 360, Pez – at the Sprung Festival the other day I got this dude called Grey Ghost up to kick some freestyles with me. That's what's cool about doing rap music as well; because you do so many collaborations with people – more so than any other genre, I think – if the two of you happen to be at the same festival, you can add that track to your setlist. You can do your verse and they don't have to do your verses for you. I like that and it seems to go over pretty well with the crowd as well when you've got a little surprise mystery guest.”

Speaking of surprise mystery guests, here comes a spoiler alert via Ferguson: “That may be happening at this very festival. I can't go into too much detail at this point, but I can say, 'Yes, I certainly have [invited guest artists on stage] and that this is the festival'. It's sort of weird at festivals, you look at all these lists of names of people and you go, 'Oh, yeah, they're there, we'll hook up with them,' and it's just not that easy 'cause there's millions of people everywhere. Someone might be coming in, doing their gig and flying straight out so it's not actually always that easy. But the planets have aligned this time and we're gonna do something. [Points to Merriweather and whispers] That guy there might be involved.”

When Blondie was announced as the first international act to ever headline Homebake in the festival's 17-year history, music forum trolls went off on patriotic rants. Bryget Chrisfield asks our cover stars where they stand on the subject.
“To be honest I didn't actually realise it was more of an Australian artist-oriented thing, I just thought, 'This is cool',” New Zealand-born Lance Ferguson of The Bamboos confesses. “Now the [festival] name explains everything. Knowing that now though, obviously some people would take issue with that, but, I mean, at the end of the day, they're trying to put on a festival to entertain people and Blondie is a legend of the post-modern era and I think it's great. Sometimes we have to sort of fly in and out. This time I'll be hanging around to see the band, for sure.”
Having never experienced Blondie live before, Daniel Merriweather is equally excited to stay and watch the band, going so far as to exclaim, “Who would be annoyed at having Blondie play at a festival!? We're the only country in the world that has a festival that's only Australian acts and I think as much as it's really great to support Australian acts, I'm sure that I probably wouldn't have a slot on that bill if it was open to everyone in the world,” he chuckles. “But I just think music is music, like, if we heard that there was an American festival that didn't allow any [foreign] bands we'd all be like, 'What? It's not fair'.”
Kimbra has also spent a lot of time touring abroad of late and concurs. “A lot of the festivals I've been playing in America, they were all specific kind of big acts. You don't see a lot of the small, grassroots bands from Memphis jumping up and doing the support… I think one international act is hardly taking the spot away from other Australian artists, so it's balance isn't it. From what I can see, there seems to be a lot of opportunities for bands to get on the stage in Australia.”
After relocating to LA with his family when he was ten, Sam Sparro's spent more time abroad than in his country of birth. “I'm not a patriot,” he stresses. “I don't feel like the world is so divided like that, nor should it be, and I think if Blondie want to come here and celebrate Australian music as well – I think that's really nice.”   
“I don't really have an opinion either way,” Seth Sentry hesitates. “I don't wanna say anything 'cause my thing is, like, they had this whole identity of the festival, which was that all-Australian thing – there's nothing really like that – and once you start opening the floodgates to that then where do you kind of draw the line after that, you know? I think it might also send the wrong message that could be perceived as people thinking that maybe an all-Australian line-up won't sell tickets or something, without assistance from an international… But I think Australian music is strong enough to sell itself.”

When & Where:
Saturday 8th December Domain