Second Wind

6 June 2012 | 6:00 am | Steve Bell

Kellie Lloyd has been ensconced in the Brisbane music scene for years as part of the wonderful Screamfeeder, but now she’s taken the solo road and, as she relays to Steve Bell, she’s discovered that she couldn’t be happier.

For a while there a couple of years ago it looked like we might lose Kellie Lloyd to music forever, in a creative capacity at least. After a period of relative inactivity for her main project – Brisbane indie legends Screamfeeder, for whom she was bassist and co-frontperson with Tim Steward – she'd stopped playing altogether and settled into an office job, and in her own mind relegated her esteemed music career to the annals of history.

Fortunately, she eventually saw the light and returned to the musical fold, beginning a spree of writing and recording on her own which meant that when Screamfeeder pulled up stumps towards the end of last year it was only a matter of months before she was ready to release her solo album, the gorgeous Magnetic North. What could have been a devastating finale turned into a triumph, but sometimes such things are just meant to be.

“In 2009 I didn't even pick up a guitar,” Lloyd recalls somewhat forlornly. “Screamfeeder wasn't playing, I'd quit all the bands that I was in (or they'd stopped), and I just put my mind into working, because I hadn't really had a career before and I was digging that. It kind of killed my creativity, but I was also really happy to put everything aside. It was nice not to have to go to practice and play shows every weekend, and just not have things that I had to do – I had no responsibilities and just got stuck into the work thing.”

Luckily the office vocation that she'd chosen still kept her around the music industry, and being so close to the action the lure of creativity eventually proved overwhelming.

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“I was going to lots of conferences, and I went to Song Summit and that really opened up my eyes – I was just sitting and listening to people, and it was incredibly inspiring. I sat in on one particular interview and after a while I didn't know whether to stay or go or laugh or cry – I just felt like something fundamentally changed in my head. Around that same time I moved into a house with another songwriter and we rented a piano – I've never had any lessons but I love the piano, I could sit on it all day just making up the most depressing soundtrack to my life,” she laughs. “So I started teaching myself how to play the piano and started writing little songs, and I started to focus on actually expanding on those things that I was coming up with and being really disciplined.

“It was really great. The songs just started coming thick and fast, I wrote ten songs really quickly and I had another songs that had been floating around for a really long time that I went back to and finished, and that's pretty much how it all started.”

As is often the way with these things Lloyd had a different vision in her head for these songs, compared to how they eventually surfaced on Magnetic North.

“I was totally on a songwriting high,” she enthuses. “I felt like I was invincible or something, it was a really nice feeling. But I was writing on either the guitar or the piano, and I was really seeing much further past those skeletal versions of the songs. I'd been listening to a lot of Massive Attack and realised that my songs had this potential to move into another place, another realm of music. So my little pop songs – or the dark little songs I write – I saw as one thing, but getting into the studio we were able to add so many things to them and take them in a different direction. It was sort of freaking me out a little bit, but I think that the songs actually ended up being exactly how they should be – there's nothing that I want to change on any of them, which is kind of pretty new for me.”

Magnetic North isn't actually Lloyd's debut album: she released her first solo record, For Nothing And No One, back in 1995, but although that wasn't ultimately a positive experience it put her in good stead this time around.

“I took away a lot from that – basically for all those years between my attitude was, 'I'm never doing that again!'” she laughs. “There were so many things that I didn't like about that record. I actually don't mind the songs. I hate the sound of it, I couldn't sing, I was really depressed. I recorded it in a friend's laundry; basically I sat in a laundry for a week looking at a dead spider and a mattress, and that's exactly what was in my head – that dead spider and that mattress. I was second-guessing everything, like, 'What right do I have to do this?' I was just in a really bad state of mind to be doing anything creative, because it was all just destined to be down.

“So I guess what I took away from that was that I just had to have a little bit more of a belief in what I was doing, and actually think, 'Of course I can do this if I want to do it!' And I did want to do it.”

Magnetic North is a wonderful collection of songs – up there with the best she wrote during those fertile Screamfeeder years, although different in tone – and having switched from bass to guitar she's back out in the touring realm, teaming up with Tape/Off drummer Branko Cosic to take this new material to the world.

“I am really comfortable with that now – before I wasn't at all,” Lloyd reflects. “I hated playing solo shows – I'd be really nervous beforehand, I'd have a bad time doing it, and then get offstage and be highly critical and hate it – there was nothing that was the slightest bit positive about any aspect of it. But now... I can't say that I have a fun time because I don't even feel like I'm there, I'm taken away and if it's a good gig I don't even know that there's a drummer onstage with me, and that's happened at most shows.

“I just don't worry about it anymore – I've got seven pedals onstage and I just focus on them and what I'm doing, and I'm really confident singing and playing and I have a drummer and I look over and it feels like we're sharing the experience and we're locked in. It's completely different to playing in a band, because there's just a whole bunch of energy and noise and it's really more intimate and not a crazy whirlwind of stuff. It's so different, and I really like it, and I feel really confident and really comfortable doing it. I really didn't think I would, it's a great surprise and an amazing feeling.”