Queensland Music Awards: Music Of The Sunshine State Burns Bright

12 May 2018 | 12:45 pm | Velvet Winter

"I like how close-knit the music community is. There aren't any boundaries between genres and everyone is super-supportive of each other."

There's something special about the Queensland music scene. Not as large or competitive as the state's southernly counterparts, the Sunshine State has a knack for producing music that is fresh and game-changing.

For proof, one need look no further than the five eclectic LPs that are vying for Album Of The Year at the 2018 Queensland Music Awards (QMAs). From dense alternative electro to groundbreaking LGBTQIA+ pop, these contenders are produced by five acts that are at the height of their artistry, representing the fertile ground that the Queensland music scene provides for artists to grow.

"Moving to Queensland after high school inspired me to pick up a guitar and start writing music," The Creases vocalist Joe Agius says. Agius' migration north provided the catalyst needed for him and his band to produce their debut record Tremolow, which is one of the sets that could take out top prize at the awards in May.

"I just totally fell in love with the scene in Brisbane - going out and seeing different bands, usually made up of the same people, most nights of the week - and really wanted to be a part of that," he tells. "I've never seen a more encouraging and motivating place to make music."

It's no joke that the Brisbane music scene swaps and shares band members like kids trade playing cards. If you had the time you could sit down and map each musician and create a spiderweb of aural creativity, which is something that Agius believes is unique to the city. "I think Brisbane is one of the most collaborative scenes in Australia," he says. 

"Going on tour, especially, we notice most bands in other places stick to playing in one band, but, in Brisbane, we've always had this mentality to create and have fun in music with as many people as possible."

Mentioning this community camaraderie to any Brisbane musician will garner a similar response; there's no ego, only encouragement. As fellow community member and Album Of The Year nominee Airling, aka Hannah Shepherd, can attest to. "I don't get any sense of competition between the Queenslander musos; it's like we're all on the same team, sharing pride in each other's successes and whatnot," Shepherd says.

And it's this peer support that allows Queensland artists to expand and invent, whether it be Airling's soft slice of dream-pop Hard To Sleep, Easy To Dream or The Kite String Tangle, aka Danny Harley, who last year, after almost half a decade honing his craft, unleashed his highly anticipated self-titled debut album.

"I've been through a lot of different phases throughout my music career in Queensland and there has always been a fertile scene for whatever I was trying to do," Harley says. "So I think Queensland is really quite eclectic in the way it consumes its art. 

"I like how close-knit the music community is. There aren't any boundaries between genres and everyone is super supportive of each other."

These three superb artists are joined by two more bands on the illustrious Album Of The Year line-up.

Cub Sport have gone through a rollercoaster of change in the last several years; transforming from a bright, light pop five-piece to a quartet delivering one of the year's most affecting and touching albums in the form of BATS. They're touring the UK at the time of writing, but Cub Sport continue to fiercely rep their hometown, vocalist Tim Nelson peppering his lyrics with local references.

Then there's The Jungle Giants, who have also gone through a blossoming period to produce 2017's Quiet Ferocity. Light years away from the She's A Riot EP days, the LP is a swirling mix of sharp electronica and glossy pop that sticks in your head like gum to a sidewalk. It's so good that four of its singles landed in the 2017 triple j Hottest 100, rivalling international superstars like Kendrick Lamar and Lorde.

So what is it about Queensland, then? Is it the extra Vitamin D that soaks through the bones of artists, propelling them to think outside the box and create musical history? According to QMusic Program Manager and three-time QMA Producer Trina Massey, this year's artists are simply joining an evolution that's been in progress for decades.

"The Queensland music scene has been shaped and known for the incredible rock and pop artists it produces," Massey says. "The Saints, The Go-Betweens, Carol Lloyd, Billy Thorpe, Kate Miller-Heike, Regurgitator and Powderfinger to mention a few."

Considering this year's talented QMA nominees, it's a safe bet that Massey's list is going to grow longer in the near future.