Totally Gourdgeous launch D’Vine at The Zoo on Thursday, the Cotton Club, Byron Bay on Friday, the Maleny Showgrounds on Saturday and Club Acoustica, Peregian Beach on Sunday.
Penelope Swales would have no problems with recognition with the Australian independent folk scene. Years of constant touring have made her a regular at Australia’s, and indeed the worlds many festival events. Somewhere amidst this schedule, she, and three other equally busy musos have found time for Totally Gourdgeous, and eclectic musical mixture, fuelled by unique instruments all constructed from gourds.
“I guess the music is a lot more kinetic. It’s about being funny, and sometimes, dare I say, silly,” explains Penelope of the differences between TG and her solo work.
“Amongst other things,” gourd fiddler Andrew Claremont continues. “We’re musicians, so we play music as well as being bloody silly.”
Penelope: “We’ve had people come to shows expecting it to be like some novelty act, but they stay to dance because it’s a very good band. Even if we say so.”
“And they go away thinking about a few things as well,” chips gourd bassist Mal Webb.
Penelope: “In amongst all the light-heartedness there are some important environmental messages, the usual good stuff about friendships and respect and tolerance and things like that.”
Would you hope people take something away from the shows to think about as well as just having a good time?
Mal: “Making people laugh and have a good time is a great way to open them up and allowing things like that to get in without them noticing. You don’t want to hit people over the head.”
Penelope: “Subtlety isn’t our strong point, really. We’re pretty out there. It makes it more satisfying if there’s some content in the lyrics. Things are pretty happy and easy, but the topics are quite serious.”
How did you come upon using gourds to build such a diverse range of instruments?
Penelope: “I was living with a guitar maker, who moved his workshop into my house. Basically we were wanting to find a way to make handcrafter instruments more affordable, because a handcrafted guitar takes about six weeks to build. All the construction is in the sound box. You have a ready-made sound box in a gourd, so you can do the rest in about a fortnight. From an environmental perspective, a lot of the timbers used in guitar making are becoming endangered, so it’s a lot more sustainable.”
Mal: “And they sound great!”