Why Isabella Manfredi Thinks Lockout Laws Are Neutralising Sydney

6 November 2015 | 12:54 pm | Annelise Ball

"They're so angry they don't give a fuck and don't want to get involved."

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But the mindfuckingly hectic pace sustained by this hardworking rock'n'roll band ain't over just yet. Playing free unplugged shows across Australia every November weekend for Corona Sunsets, The Preatures will be stripping back songs, playing new material and shaking things up.

"The boys will play acoustic guitars and bass, while Luke [Davison, drummer] will play just a snare," explains Manfredi. "We haven't really done anything like this before, so it'll be a real challenge for us." Sinking Coronas at some of Australia's best beachfront venues doesn't sound like an overly taxing task, but when Manfredi wonders aloud how Whatever You Want and Rock And Roll Rave will go down acoustically, the struggle becomes much more real. "They're the darkest songs in the set, and the most heavily produced," she says. "I have no idea how they're going to sound unplugged." Don't be dissuaded though, punters, there's still plenty of perks on offer. "We've been writing new material, so we'll probably throw in some new songs and do a few covers," she says. "That's the point of it all, to strip everything back and try something new."

"They're angry because they're too busy, and they're too busy because they have to work so hard just to pay the rent."

Having loved the Victorian leg of their recent Cruel national tour, Manfredi now reminisces about dodgier times down south. "When we first started out, we used to stay at this really shitty backpackers place in Melbourne. I remember a guy waking us up once, at 6am after a show, just vomiting his guts up. That was our usual experience of Melbourne for a really long time." Fortunately, the city somewhat redeemed itself (Frankston punters going to the Corona Sunsets gig at The Deck, do not ruin this) thanks to the perfectly suited surrounds of 170 Russell and the party vibe on the streets. "We loved the gig at 170 Russell," shares Manfredi. "It's so cool, so '80s, I can totally imagine the Divinyls playing there. Venues like that suit us so well, they're so seedy." But, it was the laidback late night culture that really made Melbourne for Manfredi. "It was beautiful weather, everyone was out, and I saw a side of the city I'd never seen before. There was so much life on the streets."

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In contrast, Sydney's lockout laws seem to have killed the local vibe completely. "Sydney's been neutralised," says Manfredi, a Sydney local well placed to comment. "We used to have that scene on Oxford Street, and maybe Newtown, but it's completely under attack now." Manfredi notes an admirable sense of activism and participatory passion in Melburnians, who simply won't stand for such nanny state nonsense. "I was chatting with a Melbourne friend about the laws, including the next phase, which says you cannot smoke outside venues at all, not even in beer gardens," explains Manfredi, with evident concern. "My friend said, 'They tried to pass that in Melbourne but people wouldn't have a bar of it.'" The difference, Manfredi believes, is that Sydney people are just "too busy and too angry" to resist. "They're angry because they're too busy, and they're too busy because they have to work so hard just to pay the rent. They're so angry they don't give a fuck and don't want to get involved." With four free Corona Sunsets gigs happening locally in Manly, Watsons Bay, Bondi and Mona Vale, let's hope embattled Sydneysiders at least enjoy the free Preatures gigs and a sensible early beer or two.

Hitting the regional spots on the Sunsets tour is something Manfredi is especially looking forward to. "On the Cruel tour, my favourite show was in Castlemaine. We played in this old Art Deco theatre, it was like a '70s high school dance in the greatest sense." Without the trappings of a major live venue, Manfredi could simply take it all in. "There was no wings on the stage, so I just sat to the side, drank wine and watched the music. I loved it."

Conceding that greater success brings bigger performance venues that make it harder to connect with the audience, Manfredi admits she prefers a much smaller stage. "My favourite shows are club shows. That's the reason why I love performing, that intimacy. I think the bigger you get, the harder it is to put on a true rock'n'roll show. You need energy, between people in close proximity, to create intimacy." Noting that Manfredi often gets right up in the faces of front row punters at The Preatures gigs, she interrupts with a passionate, "That's what I love! You make music to be with people. You make music because you're lonely. I make music because I grew up being really lonely and had a completely broken teenage heart, and I just really wanted to be with people.

"It's a real performer who can create intimacy in a huge venue," says Manfredi. "I prefer the dregs to be honest."