Words by Rod Yates, Jenny Valentish, Gareth Hipwell and Samuel J. Fell.
SOUNDS LIKE: Percy Sledge doing whisky shots with the Sonics while the Strokes wait their turn to join in.
FOR FANS OF: The above mentioned acts; soulful rock & roll that thunders like a locomotive that could derail at any time.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Sydney born vocalist Novak owes his accent to his upbringing in Belgium, where students from the international school he attended "all came out sounding Canadian" for no apparent reason. The singer's family relocated to Europe for his father's work, where he immersed himself in "cheesy Eurotrash and Nineties R&B", while his mother's background as a singer in the Philippines meant showtunes reverberated around the house on a regular basis. Clearly he inherited his mother's singing genes, as Novak's soulful voice is the honey that coats an otherwise raucous collection of retro soul songs he writes with drummer John-Henry, whom he first met at high school in Sydney. After plying their trade in various post-high school acts the duo found themselves in a rehearsal room last December, and in that first session wrote six songs, which they recorded several weeks later. It wasn't long before offers came through to support the likes of Courtney Barnett, Regurgitator and Gang Of Youths, while the band's self-titled debut EP is released this month. "The songs are pretty damned simple," says Novak. "They're all two-and-a half minutes max, and they're all about girls and dancing! We're not reinventing the wheel, we're just doing what comes naturally."
THEY SAY: "By the end of our gigs we are a crumbling mess," laughs Novak. "Do the old verse, chorus, verse, chorus, two minutes, and do it as high energy as we can and as intensely as we can and make it as loud as we can make it, without passing out. And I think if we were to break the three-and-a-half minute mark it would be too much. Half our EP is a bit more slow and has some more dynamics and isn't just a punch in the face, but it's more fun every now and again to bang one out as quick and loud as you can and try and make your bandmate die in the process."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: First single "Able", a perfect example of the band's maxim that they write pop songs 50 years too late. Ragged, soulful and addictive. [R.Y.]
SOUNDS LIKE: A recording session nosediving off a cliff, swimming for its life and rising, phoenix-like into the sun. Colwell plumbs his depths and succumbs to his manias.
FOR FANS OF: Passionate, unfettered singer-songwriters such as Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Rufus Wainwright and Patrick Wolf.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Outside of his solo work, Colwell has been in demand arranging and conducting music for the likes of Karen O, Architecture in Helsinki and Vivid Sydney. As his own man, he's opened Rolling Stone's Live Lodge series and has had his video clips singled out by Rage for his past two releases. Given his stint at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, his songwriting is as dramatic and sensuous as any orchestral piece, exploring pitches, depths and textures. His EP, Only When Flooded Could I Let Go, has saved on a good decade's worth of therapy bills by being the cathartic conclusion to a young life of domestic violence, sexual abuse and intense relationships.
HE SAYS: "The EP is part coming-of-age and part dealing with my sexuality in a changing political and social landscape, learning how to navigate my way through that as a young person. They're introspective songs with a narrative, and I'd hope that some people might hear them and take comfort in the fact that they're not alone. I was a pretty manic person in the past, but I'm a lot more devil-may-care these days."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Five-track EP Only When Flooded Could I Let Go. Watch the video – a fine piece of drama set in a gay bathhouse – to single "Don't Cry Those Tears". [J.V.]
SOUNDS LIKE: Folk-rock and acoustica with unmistakable Aussie heart
FOR FANS OF: Xavier Rudd, John Butler, Glen Hansard
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Melbourne twins Jack and Pat Pierce have played Bigsound, Falls Festival, the Great Escape (UK), Canadian Music Week, the Edinburgh Fringe, and Pinkpop (NL), sell-out shows in London, and packed out Richmond's legendary Corner Hotel twice. The duo's European debut – at the Netherlands' Lowlands Festival in 2014 – drew a crowd of more than 5,000 people who, to the brothers' surprise, not only sang along, but actually knew the words. "That day, we ended up being the highest selling act of the festival," Jack recalls. "Later on, we were backstage, and Skrillex came up to us and gave us a cuddle and said, 'I'm so proud of you!' And we were like, ‘Thanks, Skrillex!'" A genuine grassroots success, the Pierces have independently sold tens of thousands of EPs – thanks in large part to their relentless busking ethos. Last year's The Night Tree EP debuted at No. 21 on the ARIA Albums Chart. They've inked deals with Mushroom, Warner and Sony's RCA imprint in Europe. The brothers have supported Dan Sultan, and were selected to join the Cat Empire on the band's 2015 European tour. Their new EP, Into the Dirt, was produced by Jan Skubiszewski (John Butler Trio).
THEY SAY: "Pat plays the stomp-box and the kick-drum," Jack explains. "He also plays acoustic and electric guitar. I'll play acoustic or electric guitar, or I'll play the floor-tom with djembe, or didgeridoo, or harmonica – and I'm always playing the tambourine with my foot."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Infectious summer jam "Overdose". [G.H.]
SOUNDS LIKE: A joyous ode to music – channelled through the blues with some country nous and rock inflection – that's not afraid to utilise a good pop melody to quieten things down or amp them up.
FOR FANS OF: The Middle East and Fleet Foxes, Clapton and Hendrix, lovers of melodic poetry set to a primal beat that grows and grows and blossoms into an eclectic yet coherent slab of modern folk.
WHY YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION: Timberwolf's set at Bigsound last month showcased a raw talent in Chris Panousakis, who builds big songs from little seeds, utilising the blues as a base before moving away and creating something new and unique. There's a lot of talk about this 24-year-old Adelaide-based artist, and with good reason – his lyrics are poignant, his music captivating, his motives pure.
HE SAYS: "I'm always going to be a progressive songwriter... and even in the past two years, it's come a long way. I move on quickly, and as long as the roots are there – my voice, my lyrics and my melodies, they're quite consistent – the other production around it, I can imagine that constantly progressing. Because that's how I am as a character; I like to discover new things and embrace new things... [so] there's a huge progressive element to my songs. There's a lot of dynamic within the set, but there's a similar groove."
HEAR FOR YOURSELF: Timberwolf's latest EP, Flux, showcases this eclecticism to a tee. Produced by the Middle East's Mark Myers amidst the humid gloom of Cairns, it throbs with a low intensity, an eerie paean to life, love and loss. [S.J.F.]