Interview: Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird
We caught up with Lachy Rose from Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird at Melbourne’s iconic Corner Hotel to chat about the bands upcoming album, writing inspirations, their new single ‘Morning Person’ and Kevin Spacey in American Beauty.
Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird is a band made up of 5, how did you guys form?
Well, for maybe the first year or so of the band it was just Kieran (guitarist) and I and he is one of my best mates, we lived together in a house that was barely a house when I was about 20 years old, 6 years ago. At the time we were living together I had never actually written any music in my life, I just dabbled on the piano and played some drums, but he was really putting in a lot of effort into his own music and I just sorta learned the ropes watching him do it, he was always writing and I’d carry his guitars to gigs and stuff and just fell in love with the process. We started writing together and then a year later, we thought it’d be cool to transform it into more of a band, I was running these performance nights called the ‘Fortnightly Fort Nights’ where every couple of weeks we’d build these forts out of cardboard boxes and pillows and stuff and ask people to perform. The other three band members happened to either play or host these events and we slowly started piecing the band together from there. So fort-making.
Alright, I really gotta ask, where did the band name come from? And do you really have a Cousin Tony?
*laughs* yeah that’s a fair question. Well, unfortunately, I don’t have a cousin Tony. It’s actually a line at the end of the Sam Mendes film ‘American Beauty’, which is one of my favourite films and Kieran and I used to watch it a lot. (Spoiler alert for the film) But there’s this great monologue at the end where he dies and he’s recounting all the poignant moments of his life, and the last thing he remembers is the first time he saw his Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird which is this old sports car and not only did we just really like the way Kevin Spacey said that line but I also think there’s a real link between what he’s talking about in that monologue and the way we write our music. The idea of the really important things in life, not being these grandiose things like skydiving or your wedding, but these tangible, everyday contextual things, like Spacey talks about his grandma’s hands or the smell of the flowers in your garden. And yeah, we all just really liked that sentiment.
...I’m gonna be honest I was not expecting that answer at all! I thought it was gonna be about a Cousin Tony that was really fun at family events or something.
Your new single ‘Morning Person’ debuted today! Congratulations! Could you tell me a bit about the lyrics and meaning behind the new single?
Yeah for sure! Well, I think on one level, sonically, what we were going for was really simple and was meant to feel like the first couple hours of the day if you’re a morning person, which I am. In one sense the song is trying to capture that in a simple way, that upbeat great feeling but lyrically has this complexity to it, where the song kinda is about duality and feeling almost like you can be two people at two different point of the day, at least for me in the morning I’m very motivated, goal-orientated and incredibly positive but then the song is then written from the perspective of myself at night, where by that time I haven’t completed those things and gone back on a lot of my promises. And you just sorta sit back and say at what point in the day did this happen? So the songs actually written of asking the morning person all these questions is your soul at ease and is everything really great for you?
So how was it writing a song in third person but in a split personality sense?
Well I don’t write music in the morning, I think that for most people or at least myself, that creative flow tends to occur later at night, so I’m always writing from that place and I’m proud to say I’m not really there now in my life, but certainly for a long time I was always returning to this place of disappointment in myself and that’s when I’d be sitting at the piano and writing. And it was happening so consistently I was able to return to it day after day until the song was done, which I think is how songs gets finished. Cause you might have a great idea one day but then it doesn’t exactly resinate the next day.
While you’ve produced EP’s in the past, but the band has an upcoming album to be released, ‘Electric Brown’, could you walk me through the writing/recording/producing process?
I’d done the first two EP’s, while I was studying music composition, so both EP’s were created early in that process, but towards the end of that degree last year I set this goal where I thought I’d had done my 10,000 hours, and come to a point where I was ready to make an album which was a life-long goal. I couldn’t conceive on how people did it either, cause it seemed like such an effort to even record 4 or 5 songs so I questioned how people made this one consistent thing that goes for 45 minutes. But then something kinda flipped in my last year of uni and all of a sudden there was this consistency to a lot of the songs I was writing and it just sorta struck me one day that there was an album there. So as soon as I finished my degree I went straight into this tiny studio for majority of the summer, with instruments piled up to the ceiling, buried in synths.
So did you have all the songs written before heading in or did you write a lot in the studio?
I definitely like to write everything pretty comprehensibly before heading into the studio, firstly because the songs are very close and precious to me and I don’t like to leave a lot of guess work there but then there’s also this really pragmatic and logistical side to it where labels aren’t really forking out thousands of dollars to book out studios for you to live and write anymore. But there’s a lot of speed bumps in the process, but the way you get around those is through creativity and sometimes you don’t come out with what you expected but, I think it’s at least important to have your actual structure and song base there.
How come you chose ‘Blaze’ and ‘Morning Person’ as singles to preview the upcoming album?
It was kind of hard, I suppose we’re quite proud to say that there were a lot of songs on there that we thought could’ve been singles. Even though ‘Morning Person’ was the second song to come out, it definitely felt the strongest. There’s been so much time between this record and our last EP and so many changes occurred, but the song felt like it had a foot in both camps, it was true to our essence that people are familiar with, being earnest and personal but then it’s also quite zany and colourful.
I was gonna say, the lyrics are sorta sad, but the music is really upbeat, towing a happy-sad vibe which is an interesting spin...
Yeah and that’s a line a like to tow, songs like ‘Melbourne Bitter’ and ‘Cool Parties’ are both quite sad songs but the music is fast paced and upbeat. And that’s sorta the beauty of music, that you can take something sad but pair it with something that’s really happy and vice-versa, it can be complicated, but in a great way. So yeah 'Morning Person' kind of felt that people who had connected with our music in the past would still connect with our new music. Although 'Blaze' was almost the opposite, it felt like this big, new, wild song, and that’s’ the first song you hear on the record and we wanted it to be the first song to kind of make a statement, that we’ve had time to grow and develop and here is our sound.
What can people expect from the debut album, as opposed to previous work from you guys?
The EP to us is sort if this cross section, there’s so many different styles where some parts gets jazzy, other parts go indie rock, you can kind of almost hear that we’re trying to explore what works. And having two EP’s out it was easy to see not only what people enjoyed but what elements were authentic to us, so hopefully in ‘Electric Brown’ they hear a bit of consistency is the sound and can identify it as a “hey that sounds like a Cousin Tony’s thing”. And I guess it’s what Electric Brown refers to, kind of the overall sound of the project. Which was a phrase that just kind of kept coming up in the process that eventually
You guys got back from BIGSOUND not long ago, how was that experience of playing such an iconic Australian music festival?
It was very intense, but in the greatest and reassuring way. It was amazing to visually actually see the industry working, cause normally as a band you meet people one at a time or through email and it’s not very face-to-face a lot of the time, the whole thing felt very new there were publicists, managers, PR people and labels…
So kind of like the creative and the corporates all getting together?
Yeah exactly! But BIGSOUND, the shows are one thing but then you spend days sitting at cafes or bars in Brisbane and you can see the whole thing working like an organism, like all of the ‘this person meeting with that person and they represent these people’. We found it quite cruisy as a band, just making sure we play the shows and lay them well but we came back feeling really reassured. You can't complain in Australia, you feel like your hidden away from the rest of the world with music, but with platforms like Triple J and Unearthed and events like BIGSOUND, you realise how supported Australian music is, you feel very reassured and provided for. And the hard thing about being a musician in this generation is a bit of blessing and a curse, because it relies a lot on the internet, which is amazing, but while you may completely believe in your music and have an amazing team around you, there’s so much music being uploaded every day that I don’t think just having great music will get you there, there’s so much strategy and things you can be doing to get your music recognised.
So what’s the story behind the story/convenience of the tambourine necklace?
Ohhh, that’s actually just a little respectful nod to one of my musical heroes Alexander Ebert who’s the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and they have this whole very authentic, troubadour, hippie vibe to them. There’s like 12 of them on stage at a time, and at any given point and they just pull at tambourines and start banging away. And, well they’re tambourines, and you can wear them like a necklace. But sometimes I bugger it up, and I pre-empt it way too early and there’s a bit of time till I need it, so I just chuck it over my head.
So Lachy, you and Francesca are going to be hitting the road soon to go on a cheeky regional Victorian tour with Gretta Ray, but you’re stripping back the set a bit to make it more acoustic, what’s that going to be like?
Really fun! Something I’m really fixated one and a songwriter is this sound of the band, and that’s why I never wanted it to be Lachy Rose and the something’s. My fixation with music was about the instrumentation and how it all fits together. But at the same time there’s that classic thing of that with any great song, you should be able to pull out a guitar and strum the chords and sing the essence of the song still being there. So in that sense it’s been really nice to bring all the songs back to that point. And going back to the Fortnightly Fort Night thing, that’s how Fran (synths) and I became friends, she came to the shows and played music for us and from then on before she was apart of the band, we played shows just the two of us doing acoustic ballads. And it’s really nice to be able to do this with Gretta, but from a selfish musical standpoint it’s really nice to bring it back down to just two people singing and playing guitar to a bunch of people.
So we do a monthly playlist on Spotify for Figaro, could you give us a few songs that either you enjoy or inspire you?
We used to cover it, but a song that is always coming back into my life is one called ‘Mother of Pearl’ by Roxy Music. If anyone ever blindly asked me for music without any genre or style, that’d be it, ‘Mother of Pearl’ is one of the most exquisite love songs, so poetic and colourful, it’s been a guiding force for me. I’ll represent Kieran here and chuck in a War on Drugs song ‘Strangest Thing’ off of their new album. Another one I talk about, is this relatively unknown Blur song called ‘The Universal, and I’ve always used that to kind of score euphoric moments in my life, like when I got into and finished university. It offers a blind simplicity when things feel very complicated. And as you were saying, music is a very daunting and difficult industry to tackle and stay inspired in and ‘The Universal’ by Blur has always been my hope song. And to mention great women in the music industry, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Case of You’ is one that come back into my life a lot it’s an emotional song that reaches our, and Joni Mitchell always gets a fair big play on our road trips.
Have a listen to Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird's new single 'Morning Person'. A lot is sure to be coming up for this band, consider it Figaro’s fine advice you don’t let these guys slip between your fingers. Lachlan Rose and Francesca Gonzales are taking their special stripped back set to the road while supporting Gretta Ray on her Regional Tour. Find dates for your tickets here!
If you like the debonair and dapper threads modelled here by Lachy, you can suss some out for yourself from Francesca's GONZO line (a fellow Cousin Tony bandmate).
Catch Lachlan and Francesca of CTBNFB as part of their Greta Ray support here: Nov 10 – Karova Lounge – Ballarat, VIC
Nov 11 – Tap House – Bendigo, VIC
Nov 12 - Bridge Hotel - Castlemaine, VIC
Nov 15 – The Grand Hotel – Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Nov 16 – The Loft – Warrnambool, VIC
Nov 17– Lorne Hotel – Lorne, VIC
Nov 18 – The Workers Club – Geelong, VIC