Premiere: Farmer & The Owl celebrate all things Wollongong with Beached Friends Vol 3
Founders Ben Tillman and Jeb Taylor recap a huge year with their fave local acts.
Header Image: Farmer & The Owl Family Christmas Party.
Farmer & The Owl are releasing the next in their Beached Friends compilation series, celebrating the awesome artists from or in Wollongong, and we're stoked to be able to premiere it today for you. It features a HEAP of awesome music from the area, so much so it begs the age old cliche - what is in the water over there? We sent Farmer & The Owl's founders Ben Tillman and Jeb Taylor a few questions about the release, Wollongong in general, and their future plans. Hit play on the release below, then learn yourself about a couple of Australian music's hardest working dudes.
FARMER & THE OWL
For a number of years we'd both worked in the local music community in Wollongong, booking venues and running our existing businesses Yours & Owls (a venue turned live bookings company) and Music Farmers (a record shop). We'd always let each other know what we were up to and eventually started putting on a couple of shows together, I think the first one was a local show for New Zealand's Die Die Die.
In mid 2013 we decided work on a shows more regularly together and we also put on the first Farmer & The Owl festival in November of that year. At that stage we had a lot to learn about running something like that but it was in a way the pre cursor to the bigger festivals/events that have followed. We ran one more Farmer & The Owl festival and a few laneway parties, but then decided we'd focus more on the label, and let the Yours & Owls side of things look after the live events.
The label came about as we'd been on a council taskforce together dealing with arts culture, night time economy etc. in Wollongong. After those meetings we'd just come out there and say to each other, 'people just need to do stuff if anything is going to help develop Wollongong in those areas'. So after a few different ideas we settled on kicking off a label.
The main aim of the label is to promote artists based or originating from our local area to a wider audience. It was only ever meant to be a very casual hobby project for both of us but it developed into something more fairly quickly. We kicked it of with the release of Beached Friends Volume 1 in May 2014, then followed it up soon after with the Hockey Dad EP, Dreamin'.
We saw Beached Friends as the perfect way to kick off the label, a great organisation called Culture Bank gave us a grant to manufacture Volume 1. We collected what we felt were 17 of the best new artists from our area and released it with a launch show at the Unibar. Over the first two volumes we've included a bunch of artists that we've ended up signing to the label. It was the first place music from Hockey Dad, The Pinheads and TEES was released. Other bands we included went on to sign record deals with some rad labels such as Flowertruck, Solid Effort, You Beauty, Moonbase Commander... I think Volume 3 is testament to the number of bands with a connection to our area that are now making a name for themselves beyond just the local bars.
First up, congrats on the Beached Friends release, it’s a monster release with some great tracks on it, besides artists being from Wollongong, who’d you select for the comp and why?
BEN: Thank you. Yeh it's basically just us putting together something fun and reflecting on what has kind of gone on throughout the year. Inside and out of our own immediate circles. I guess it's just a nice way of taking time and looking at the bigger picture of what is going on, and having all these cool bands who are doing things in their own ways, collectively presented together. It's sort of like a representation of real life or something too. In that, throughout the year everyone is busy, does their own things and produces all this great work, but at the end of the day, we're all friends, so it's nice to celebrate it together sometimes.
JEB: Thanks! The main idea behind it is artists that are either based or have originated from the Illawarra, that we feel are doing something interesting and fit with the theme of these compilations. We obviously include the bands that we work with but the others are just artists we come across over the year or artists we may have known for a while who have released a great track through the year.
No one likes to pick favourites, but we’re gonna make you anyway - what are some of your favourite tracks on there?
BEN: Obviously our label bands are always gonna be at the top of any list. On that note I'd never voted in hottest 100 till I'd started a label and now I'm all over it haha.
JEB: Again the bands we work directly with are obviously bands we love, aside from that we feel everyone else is worthy of being on there. There are bands like Sun Sap and Stay At Home Son that we didn't know at all this time last year and have just emerged this year doing great things. Then we have bands like Big White who we've known for a while and have had a really big year, they released a really great album and toured across the world.
You’ve been running your label, Farmer & The Owl, for a couple of years now – how’s it going and what’s some things you’ve learnt over those past couple of years?
BEN: As sand slips through the hourglass, so do the days of our lives. It's a daytime drama full of lots of complex relationships and hard work. But when things work it's so rewarding. It feels like everything is going really well and sometimes it's hard to keep up. But just gotta roll with the punches and keep learning/growing. Best thing is everyone is friends, so we've all got each others' backs and it makes it easier.
JEB: When we started it, it was really meant to be a very much part time side project from the other things we do Ben (promoting shows) and Jeb (running a record shop). Pretty quickly it started consuming more and more of our time and this year it has become almost a full time thing for each of us, we still manage to fit our other projects in though. There are so many things we've learnt as we go and we're still learning things all the time, I feel like record labels and the industry are forever evolving and changing so there are always going to be new things to learn.
And a sneak peek into next year – what’s coming up label-wise?
BEN: We're going big! Jeb and I bought a racehorse - so hopefully Melbs cup is on the cards.
JEB: In the first half of next year we have releases scheduled from The Pinheads and TEES as well as one other artist we'll introduce early in the new year. Bec Sandridge, Hockey Dad, The Pinheads all kick the year off really strongly with tours as well. We'll also have some extra news about Bec's release early in the new year and there will be new music from Hockey Dad at some point in 2017. There is something special from Totally Unicorn in the pipeline for Record Store Day as well.
Just by these things alone – you’re really heavily involved in the music scene in Wollongong, but when you take into the account the record shops, venues and festival, it almost seems like you ARE the scene there – what’s Wollongong like as a music/events town?
BEN: Maybe Jeb and I are just too stubborn or stupid to realise we should move to Sydney or Melbourne and so because we've been here so long and been involved in it for such a long time it can seem that way. There's definitely a lot more to it than us though. And especially recently. It feels like there's a lot going on, and people hanging around in the area wanting to do cool things and get involved.
JEB: We've both been involved in the music scene here for quite a while and it has gone through some ups and downs but the last few years definitely feel like the strongest it's ever been. To have a small venue like Rad Bar that hosts live music every night has been a huge boost, then we've had the Uni venues become more prominent again in recent times.
Obviously having something like Yours & Owls Festival here now has been huge for the town. There are also a bunch of other great things starting to happen around town with more young promoters putting on their own nights and events.
Is the city itself receptive to the music and live events industry, or has it been a bit of a work in progress over the past few years?
BEN: Definitely feels like a work in progress. But I like that. It feels what we're doing is actually working, and there is real tangible evidence of that, that you can see in the city every day. You know when all the mainstream shops, and pubs/restaurants start getting interested in live music, and asking how to get bands in at there venues that something is happening.
JEB: It has been a work in progress for sure. Farmer & The Owl basically started as we were both on a council taskforce a few years back dealing with entertainment and the night time economy in Wollongong. While the meetings were a lot about regulations and red tape, it put us in a room with councilors, police, council staff and various other stakeholders that meant they got to see first hand what we wanted to do and were way more accepting of it.
They introduced special entertainment areas as a result which were a lot easier to run outdoor events at, we ran the first one in the Wollongong area, it was a King Gizzard show which was really chaotic, but somehow it came together and worked, I feel that event was a pre-cursor to a lot of what has followed.
Besides the plethora of bands coming out of there, who else are doing good things in Wollongong?
JEB: There has been a huge change in culture in Wollongong over the last few years so there are people doing great things across many areas. The annual Wonderwalls street art festival has become something pretty amazing, the crew behind that also run a great little gallery called Moving Mountains. There are an endless number of great cafes, restaurants and bars popping up and there are also way more artists, photographers, filmakers, designers etc. staying in the area rather than leaving for Sydney or Melbourne.
BEN: Jeb pretty much nailed it.
Jeb & Ben
Coming from Perth we have a good understanding of what it’s like having a condensed music community, how strong are the family vibes in Wollongong?
BEN: Yeah, it's all about the family for us. Our label bands are our children and anyone else involved with us is always welcomed into the family. It definitely makes the whole thing stronger. Everyone is super supportive of each other, and there's not much jealous competing or backstabbing going on, which it sometimes feels like the big cities have a bit of.
JEB: It's huge, everyone is really supportive of each other. Bands go and watch each other, the indie retailers all really support each other and people are genuinely interested in what each other’s projects are.
And what’s coming up for you guys personally in 2017 – we get the feeling after this year it’s a shitload?
BEN: Jeb and I are going to be working on our stand-up comedy routine and going to tour it nationally in between all the other crap we get distracted with throughout the year*.
JEB: I've travelled heaps this year with the label, but I feel ready to head again. I'll at least do SXSW in March and then hit Europe and UK sometime in their summer, who knows what else may pop up though.
BEACHED FRIENDS LAUNCH SHOW DETAILS:
Sunday 18 December at North Wollongong Hotel, 3 Flinders Street North Wollongong. Three of the artists featured on the compilation will play live at the show - Big White, Plasmon Resonance Band and Stay At Home Son. They'll be joined by Hockey Dad DJs, Super Trip DJs and Farmer & The Owl DJs. There will also be a Farmer & The Owl pop-up stall selling all the labels releases and merchandise.
4pm kick off, free entry, drink specials - more info HERE.
Follow Farmer & The Owl: FACEBOOK
* may or may not actually be working on a stand up routine.