Like all the best stories, this one begins in a bar. Small-town sweetheart Felicity Groom gave her music career a kick-start when she accidentally charmed a promoter in a London pub into giving her a gig. For a girl who has grown up in Perth, Felicity has seen a lot of the world since: gracing stages all across Europe before even releasing an album back home. That debut has finally arrived, however, and she’s enlisted some of the best musos from her hometown to help her out. On the eve of the release of her album Gossamer which recently made Triple J’s ‘Album Of The Week’, Felicity talked to Cream about the romance of travel, being mates with Tame Impala, and how sweet it is to be making music in the most isolated (and beautiful) city in the world. Interview by Beth Dalgleish.
First things first: when did you decide to make music your career?
The way this musical career has come about for me was in the most unusual yet serendipitous fashion. It was a kind of ‘one thing led to another’ scenario whereby I had a couple of songs by 2004 and that year I moved to London to travel and possibly get some work in the media industry. Then, within days of me being in Clapham, I was in a bar and this guy asked me what I did. I replied, “I’m a musician”, and he replied, “I’m a promoter; I will give you a gig,” to which I replied, “But you haven’t heard me… what if you don’t like it?” And he said, “I have a good feeling about it. And if you’re shit, I’ll just pull you off early”. And so began the career after that first show at the 12 Bar Club on Denmark Street in London.
You’ve spent a few years overseas – as a new artist on the scene, what struck you as the biggest difference between live music in Europe and in Oz?
Well don’t tell the Brits this, but the music coming out of Perth alone is towering in great variation and talent. The London music scene has some incredible bands, but there are a lot who also feel as if they need to emulate the popular sound to get by. I was around in the electro disco scene and there were heaps of bands doing that. I suppose you get that anywhere… but coming back to Perth I was amazed at how comfortable everyone was doing their own thing, creating their own scene and being supported in that scene.
Coming from a reasonably small community like Perth, how did you go about tackling the big cities like London and Paris?
I love travel. All the new input I am receiving from just walking around on the streets swirls around my head in a big hurricane of thought. I get deeply inspired by the history, the reality, the romantic conjurings of these cities. London is a tough place to live, but that age-old saying is true that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger… so for every reason, I had a brilliant time in my two years away from Perth, and London isn’t too big if you start hanging around the same places. So if you want that old familiar feeling of knowing everyone you see that you get in Perth, you find a spot and keep revisiting it… but if you want to be truly a small fish in a big pond, you change your hangout and all of a sudden you are alone again.
Rumour has it that you have a pretty sweet group of friends who often join you onstage (Tame Impala here; Jebediah there). How did you all meet?
Well, if you find you can run into the same people in a city like London, it is easy to understand that in a city like Perth, just about everyone knows everyone. I think it’s probably been various house parties dating back far where I have met most of the lovely people I work with… but I suppose our friendships were brought closer with the link of manager Jodie Regan who was first a friend.
With that local community surrounding you, do you feel the Perth music scene has begun to develop its own sound?
I do believe environment impacts the sound that people create, just like it impacts the person. We all make generalisations about people from a certain place… how they might all have a common way of behaving…. So it shapes the music too. For this reason there is probably a strong Australian thread that runs through most music coming out of this big island, but I am still blown away by the variance of styles in this city.
Any chance of a best-of-the-West, ‘Tame & Groom’ super-group in the future?
Well that’d mean Kevin (Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker) would have to move back from Paris… and though we’d all enjoy that, he seems pretty content there for the meantime. But anything’s possible. I did do some recording with Pond at one stage, played some saw. I think as long as we’re all making music – which will be for a long time yet –there are possibilities for all sorts of musical endeavors. Kevin did write some songs for me. We were going to do a project together, but he was on tour so much we didn’t really get to work on it together before he moved counties. Maybe that project will happen again one day.
Having travelled around Australia and overseas, who has been your favourite artist to play with so far?
It was really nice going on tour with Katy Steel. Years ago we were quite good friends and hung out together. We even tried starting a band where I was playing bass and she was playing guitar. Then I moved to Sydney and stopped music and she started Little Birdy. So when we got to tour together it was a rekindling of a good friendship. Plus, Oh Mercy were on that tour, and those guys are great.
Names like PJ Harvey and Nick Cave pop up often in your reviews – who are the biggest influences on your songwriting?
I love both of those artists. They are both such strong songwriters… but there are so many areas and genres that I draw inspiration from. Every time I see something that I love, it propels me into songwriting. Many times I have walked away from a concert or an exhibition… or a conversation… trying desperately to keep the silence around me until I reach an instrument or recording implement to capture an idea. It’s moments like these that I must look like I am some kind of zombie, but it’s like running home with a goldfish in your hands that has to get to a place for it to swim.
The video for Siren Song shows off a darker, sultrier side to you compared with last year’s Finders And Keepers. Is that an indication of what we will find on Gossamer?
There are a few colours other than black that appear on the record. I often equate that darker sound with living in London, as it was pretty tough for me in those long winters, and Siren Song was written about the London bombings, which offered no colour at all. Finders And Keepers was written in Perth about my lovely friends, so it is a fluorescent song. Maybe the next album, having all been written in Perth, will be more on the whiter side of the colour spectrum, but then again, I have always loved a melancholic optimistic song. So maybe the darkness is just innate. Beth Dalgleish
‘Gossamer’ is out now on Spinning Top through Inertia.
Photography by L. Businovski.