My Friend The Chocolate Cake: Mix Up.

22 July 2002 | 12:00 am | Chris Ryder
Originally Appeared In

Rock Around The Choc.

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My Friend The Chocolate Cake play The Tivoli on Friday.

My Friend The Chocolate Cake cellist and composer Helen Mountfort is pushing her two-and-a-half year old son, Jackson, on the swing at his playgroup in Melbourne as she chats on her mobile. In 30 years of doing interviews this has to be one of the most unlikely settings. "I like to break new territory," she laughs. "We're having a lovely time at playgroup." Jackson confirms that in the background.

Mountfort formed the band in 1991 with legendary composer, singer/songwriter and keyboardist David Bridie after she joined his Not Drowning, Waving in 1990 in time to record the epic Tabaran album.

There are so many glorious moments on Curious, their sixth album (including live and rarities sets), that it is easier to just say brilliant than try and explain its exquisite attractions.

"It's strange but nice to back," Helen says. "A strange sense of deja vu doing all this again after so long. We never meant it to be that long because everybody was busy doing other stuff and it took us that long to get round to it. An important part of the way the Chocolate Cake has always worked is that we do it when we want to - no pressure, no stress.”

"We'v been playing during that time. Edinburgh and Adelaide festivals, we got to go Vietnam for the Australian Embassy - just good things. Last year, we ended up doing quite a few shows in Melbourne and at the end of those, we'd been playing all the new stuff, we went 'Oh, the stuff's sounding pretty good why don't we go in for a few days and see what happens'. So spur of the moment we booked Joe Camilleri's studio for three days of the following week and had such a good time we ended up putting the whole album down. It wasn't what we were expecting but it was great. The studio really suited us: it was nice and small with everything we needed. It was an incredibly easy and fun time."

It's an album that spans the time between drinks. Some of the songs, Helen says, have been lurking around for up to six years, others found their feet in the studio. Spontaneous with very few overdubs, Curious is closer in spirit - as planned - to the band's self-titled debut than its more heavily produced successors Brood (1994) and Good Luck (1996). As such, the songs are well worn and warm. There is an effortless ease that makes Curious, a slice of Cake at its sumptuous best.

"We wanted to capture that live essence but also the experience of putting out Live At The National Theatre (1998) influenced us. All of us like the versions of the songs on that album more than we do the originals on the respective studio albums that they come from. That just made us think that the band does work really well live - in a way it works better - so why not wait until we really know the stuff, particularly as with the other two albums we didn't know the stuff so well - and then record it.”

"I think the other members of the band - apart from David and myself - are more happy with Curious than any other record and we were much more confident in making it. On Brood and Good Luck, David and I would have been doing a lot more directing of what people should play in the mix process whereas this time there wasn't any. Everybody played what they played and it all ended up on the record so, of course, they're really happy because we didn't meddle with it."

At that she bursts out laughing.

"I just like the feeling that everybody knows what Chocolate Cake is now and what to do.”