'We Never Expected To Be Playing At This Level'

13 June 2018 | 10:48 am | Annelise Ball

"We needed ten years in the trenches refining our trade before we felt ready to get off our bums and record something we were proud of."

More The Teskey Brothers More The Teskey Brothers

Old-school blues and soul bros The Teskey Brothers prove beyond all reasonable doubt that nothing's impossible if you're passionate about your music.

Releasing killer 2017 debut album Half Mile Harvest after ten years of development as songwriters, musicians and live performers, the four-piece have jumped from weddings, birthdays and pub gigs in the Victorian suburb of Warrandyte to sold-out shows nationally and beyond.

The Teskey Brothers are midway through their current European tour when the band's songwriter and drummer Liam Gough calls from an airport in Dublin to bring us up to speed on the rise of The Teskey Brothers.

"We never proactively booked gigs," he explains. "We'd just get phone calls from people who'd seen us live asking us to play at their birthday, or their pub and we'd do it if we could. We weren't very organised, but it kept us busy for a long time." After the release of their fully independent, self-produced album - recorded in their home studio - the gig bookings escalated quickly into a hugely successful Australian tour, a US tour, plus bucket-list tickers like Meredith Music Festival, Bluesfest and SXSW - the last three in the past six months alone. 

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

"It just took time," says Gough, philosophically. "We needed ten years in the trenches refining our trade before we felt ready to get off our bums and record something we were proud of. We just might not have been ready seven or eight years ago."

Spotify, a crucial key to their international popularity, would not have been ready for them either.

"We sold out our New York show, but had no idea we had fans there," says Gough. "People told us they'd found our music on Spotify and loved it. Given our sound, some were shocked to find a bunch of white boys from Australia on stage, but they'd come up to us later and say, 'Guys, you were amazing!' They embraced us and loved it anyway."

To be so welcomed into the famed traditions of African-American music was a blessing and possibly a relief, particularly given the sensitivities and debate around cultural appropriation. "It's definitely something in our minds," says Gough of the potential for criticism. "Yet, we see our music as paying homage to the greats of blues and soul. From the feedback we've had, people say we're contributing something to the art form in a respectful way, rather than copying. It comes from a very passionate place."

Local fans can look forward to their ten-date national run in support of The Teskey Brothers' forthcoming new single I Get Up, finishing with a hometown show at Melbourne's Forum Theatre. "I can't wait to play under those huge gargoyles," says Gough, sounding pumped about playing this venue in particular. "We're going to pull out all the stops on that one, as our Melbourne crowd has been so good to us. It's going to be a big one."

Only a year or two ago, The Teskey Brothers couldn't have forseen taking their music to a stage as big as the Forum, especially given the unlikely scenario in which they broke through; namely, without the support of gatekeeper triple j. "Like everyone, we thought it wasn't possible to be successful without them," says Gough, frankly. "But we've managed to sidestep around them and find support elsewhere. [Melbourne community radio stations] PBS and Triple R have been so good to us, as well as other community radio stations around the country, and ABC Radio has been very supportive too."

For those bands still playing small local gigs, for those who've spent ten years developing their music without much success and for those who worry they don't fit the triple j sound and never will, The Teskey Brothers prove that the doors are still open if you're dedicated to your music on your terms. "There's no hurry," says Gough, sagely. "You can try and rush it, but there's so many people doing music; you've really got to do it for the right reasons to stand out. We never expected to be playing at this level; we were just having fun, we loved it and it slowly began to resonate. That's the key."