Mush Rush

1 May 2012 | 7:58 am | Michael Smith

More Husky More Husky
It's barely six months since Melbourne four-piece Husky released their debut album, Forever So – and what a few months it's been. February saw them touring Germany with European duo Boy, which helped put their EP into the German iTunes Top 30. The following month they were gigging around New York City and Los Angeles, as well as Canadian Music Week before heading down to Austin, Texas to play the official South By South West Sub Pop records showcase, having become the first Australian band to sign with the prestigious Seattle-based label. Once they finish this latest spin around the nation, they're heading back off overseas to put in some dates in Europe, the UK and two separate runs in the US supporting labelmates The Head & The Heart and Shearwater.

It's all quite a contrast to the long, quietly methodical process of recording the album over several months in a studio built into a bungalow in his backyard, as singer and guitarist Husky Gawenda, admits. “I still wonder how we got that right, you know? It's been a long time since we finished the record and we recorded it in our own studio and produced it ourselves and I still wonder how the hell we did a decent job on it, but I guess we did. I think when you work with a label, the thing you want more than anything is for them to be in it because they love what you're doing, not because they have a vision for what you could be – and that's really important to us.”

Much of the accelerating momentum around the band that has seen them enter the international touring circuit is, naturally, down to getting signed to Sub Pop, one-time home of Nirvana and Soundgarden and these days Fleet Foxes, The Shins and Beach House among many.

“I think it was a little bit of luck on our side. Our manager was in Seattle and had a meeting with Jonathan Poneman – the President of Sub Pop – and it was unrelated to us, but he ended up with a copy of our album in his hands at the end of that meeting. Then we got a call from them saying, you know, they loved the record and they wanted to talk about releasing it. The guys came down to Melbourne not long after that and watched a show and hung out for a couple of days – they were desperate to see kangaroos and koalas – and yeah, we went from there. So it kind of came out of the blue.”

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

As it happens, Husky were already looking to go over to South By South West, something obviously worth doing for any Australian band with an album to promote, even though when they scored a place in this year's contingent they had yet to get signed to an international booking agent or label. Suddenly they found themselves not only signed, but opening their label's showcase event on the back of a debut album that doesn't get released there or in Europe for a few weeks yet.

“It was pretty surreal to be honest. I mean it all happened very quickly and it's happened quicker than I had time to get used to it happening. Life's a bit like that at the moment; a lot of things happening very quickly with not enough time to get used to them. South By South West is like nothing I've ever seen before. I was told when I was there – I don't happen to know the official figures – but I was told something like 400,000 people come into Austin for the festival and I heard figures thrown around like 8000 bands. I'm not sure if that's true, but I wouldn't think it that far off; there were so many people and just so many bands it was very hectic and amazing in a lot of ways, but also it's kind of a tough gig for a band. The playing conditions are not usually ideal, you don't get much time to set up, you've got to load your gear through crowds of people… It's a bit of a slog but I think it's worth doing if you do it right.”

They left Austin after about five days of being there and by the end, Gawenda admits the band was were pretty happy to get out of there. “Not that we didn't have a good time, but I think we needed a rest,” he laughs. “So we went from Austin to New York and spent a few days there and I guess playing in New York is just a kind of dream that most musos have. We did a place called The Mercury Lounge, a very nice little venue on the Lower East Side – we were supporting an artist called Grace Woodroofe there – and then we did another one called Bowery Hotel, which is also on the Lower East Side. That was a [radio station] KTRW DJ from LA, who puts on these nights in New York and LA, so we played one in LA as well. We drove down to Philadelphia, did the Rocky run up the stairs, which was a bit of a thrill for all of us as big fans [laughs], spent a couple of days in Toronto for Canadian Music Week and on our way home we stopped in LA, played a couple of gigs there.”

All of which you'd think was heady enough, but it followed a solid two-week blitz of Germany, opening for the aforementioned Boy – six intensive weeks covering thousands of kilometres.

“Germany was really amazing. It was a very different experience to the US. Boy are playing to 1000/2000 capacity venues all over Germany and I think we travelled to seventeen different towns and cities around the country. Germans are definitely a different breed of live music goer. Whenever we walked out on a stage – they'd never heard of us; again we had nothing going on in Germany – in a 1500-capacity venue and it would be full and silent – and that's for the support band. That's definitely not something I've experienced here in Australia.”