To celebrate hitting the road for the 30th anniversary of their acclaimed release, Marvin The Album, Angie Hart and Simon Austin of Frente discuss the making of the record that made their career.
Making music, at least for me, is a craft, not an art form. I’m certainly no artist. Everyone has songs in them, and if you are willing to work long and hard without applause or reward and forgo the relationships and pastimes that most people have, you may learn enough of the craft to bring those songs out.
I had been avidly pursuing the craft for most of my life when we started Frente. My apprenticeship was 70’s AM radio, writing embarrassing songs, listening to my parent’s vinyl, singing along to the ABC at school, show tunes with the family, playing the first chord on my first guitar (Dmaj), obsession with the first record that I bought – then every record after that. Garage bands. Living room bands. Rehearsal room bands. Friend’s party bands. Then being first on a 5-band bill at 6PM, loading the headliner’s gear in and out and learning how to make an actual record (still learning). Writing not-so-embarrassing songs and sitting in the foyer at Mushroom Records as if I was trapped in an airport until they got seriously annoyed and gave me a publishing deal to try to get me out of the building. It didn’t work.
Why do all this? Because life is beautiful and terrifying, spectacular and disastrous, and making songs about life helps to almost make sense of it. Because music connects people in the purest and most uncomplicated way. Of course, playing guitar in a band is really, really good fun.
When Angie and I met, together with Tim and Mark, we applied ourselves exclusively to the craft. Four years later, we'd made several records, toured Australia incessantly, and built the necessary writing, production, label management, publishing and touring structures. We took the plunge and made an album.
Marvin was our first big work of craft. It sounds so handmade to me. It is full of lucky mistakes, strokes of sheer normality and unintended cleverness. It’s a document by typical Australian suburban people of the highs, mids and lows of living typical Australian suburban lives. We wrote about what we knew. What else could we do? We’ve never passed the Courvoisier, and we don’t know any East End Boys and West End Girls. We weren’t Born to Run.
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But we do know that your lover’s heartbeat is the most beautiful thing, that if you walk slowly, you can hear the planet breathe, that a Girl is the World, that sometimes a mirror’s a miracle, sometimes it’s nothing at all. Thirty years on, returning to touring and playing Most Beautiful, Kelly Street, Girl and Ordinary Angels again feels so right that I wonder if I’m missing something…..
In 39 minutes and 39 seconds, we made our case with the best craft we had at the time. We were very grateful (and still are a little shocked) that it struck such a chord. Marvin has made us many gorgeous friends and a few cherished enemies.
There has been a lot of road since then. Many ups and many downs. Life, really. Much more craft learned and to learn. We might become journeymen one of these days.
Find out details for the 30th Anniversary Tour of Marvin The Album here.