A few years ago, I took a short holiday with some friends in a cottage by the sea. It wasn’t a regular cottage, but a re-purposed lighthouse keeper’s cottage, situated on Green Cape – a secluded peninsula on the far south coast of New South Wales, girt on one side by one hundred square kilometres of national park, and on the other by the Tasman Sea.
When I stayed there in 2012, I was struck by the sense of isolation, and at the somehow enriching feeling of helplessness that I felt when being as exposed to the elements as the lighthouse and cottages were. This was particularly true on one clear night. As I lay on the grass beside the classic white picket fence that seems at once apt and out of place bordering a cottage beside the sea, gazing up through the dark, clear night at unimaginable numbers of stars, I was overwhelmed at once by the sound of the sea, the icy chill of the southerly wind, and the depth of infinity laid out above me.
It became obvious to me why ancient peoples looked upon the elements of nature with the reverence that was only deserved by gods, and a thought came to me: I want to record an album here.
On the 31st of October, Brodie, Quinton and I drove down to Cooma, where Brodie spent most of his childhood, to participate in the Australian National Busking Championships, a competition run by Allan Spencer, a Cooma local and mover-and-shaker. We played a gig at one of the pubs that night, and the following day got down to busking around town. We played to a very receptive and appreciative audience outside of a few of the cafes in town, on the street. We had a fantastic, very busy day, and got to spend time with some really great people, and that evening walked away with third place in the championships, and second place in the people’s choice award!
Following a couple of great days in Cooma, we headed on up the road a ways to Canberra, where some lovely friends of ours had helped us line up a couple of gigs. The first was a house concert put on by the Canberra Musicians Club, with a lovely atmosphere and vibe – we played music late into the night with our fantastic hosts and new found friends.
The night after that we spent playing at The Phoenix, a bar in Civic that I had wanted to go to for a long time, but had been closed when I had visited Canberra earlier this year due to a fire. But the Phoenix has since risen from the ashes, and while only half of the full pub is now re-opened, it is such an amazing venue, and all of us can’t wait to play there again in the near future!
In the coming month, The Button Collective will be playing at a few festivals. We’ll be at Kiama Folk by the Sea (September 26-28), Ballina Coastal Country Music Festival (October 3-5), and Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (October 17-19).
Really looking forward to these, as we’ll be able to play with the classic 6-piece line-up at Ballina (so rarely does this happen these days!), and with Christina for all three festivals.
The Button Collective have spent the past weekend on a macadamia farm in Whian Whian recording an EP. This EP will be a bridge between the first and second Button Collective albums (with the second being recorded at the end of this year).
There’s a nautical theme to the four tracks on the EP, two of which are traditional songs (Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy and Paddy’s Lamentation), and two are originals. There’s still a little bit of recording that needs to be done, but we’re hoping to release these tracks very soon.
This recording session was also the first time I got to use my new double bass! It sounded great, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Steve Law, our wonderful engineer.
This past week, The Button Collective have been around Coffs Harbour, Lismore, and Byron Bay. Our mission? To film several shots of a music video in the foggy riverside farmland of Brushgrove, and to be involved with the Amish barn at Splendour in the Grass.
The festival was a lot of fun – we got to hang out and play music with some good friends from all over the place – Lismore, Sydney, and the Blue Mountains. The barn was a reactionary retreat from the modern festival landscape, with acoustic music and simple lifestyles.
In the days either side of the festival, we were up at a ridiculous hour to make sure we could catch the pre-dawn fog along the river at Brushgrove, a tiny farm town just north of Grafton. Here’s a few sneaky behind-the-scenes shots:
After running a successful crowdfunding campaign over December and early January, The Button Collective are now ready to release our debut album, A Ship Sails, which we recorded ourselves and I mixed late last year. We’re hitting the road to mark the official release, and stopping by Lismore and Coffs Harbour, the two main areas in which our fanbase is largest. In addition to that, we’ll be playing the support slot to one of our favourite bands, The Perch Creek Family Jugband. Ever since first coming across these guys, we’ve all fallen in love with their music, and it’s going to be a huge amount of fun playing with them.
We’ve got a whole bunch of gigs lined up in the coming weeks…
- 28/3 The Angry Pirate, Redfern
- 30/3 The Wild Rover, Surry Hills
- 2/4 Southern Cross University UniBar, Lismore
- 3/4 The Lismore Rose Garden Rotunda
- 4/4 Star Court Theatre, Lismore – with The Perch Creek Family Jugband
- 5/4 The Old Museum, Brisbane – with The Perch Creek Family Jugband
- 6/4 The Coramba Hotel, Coramba
- 10/4 The Little Guy, Glebe
- 11/4 The Angry Pirate, Redfern
- 13/4 The Wild Rover, Surry Hills
The best part is, we’ll be playing with the full album line-up for the first time since moving away from Lismore, and flying the other three members down to Sydney for the end of the tour. It’s all pretty exciting, and I’ve been having a lot of fun putting the whole tour together.
Through a few mutual connections, The Button Collective had the extreme pleasure of playing four sets over the course of the Byron Bay Falls Festival, which took place over the New Year holiday (December 30, 2013 – January 3, 2014). I think for each of us, these were some of the best shows we have ever played.
I feel so lucky to have been involved in such an amazing festival – from the moment I arrived I knew that this music festival was something different from any other I had been to. The prize jewel in the crown, however, was the Villiage area, a more arts-oriented space in between the two main stages, and in which The Button Collective were scheduled to play four sets.
We made some great new friends; saw some amazing bands, circus performers, puppeteers, and other acts; and are all hugely pumped to be involved with more festivals in the future.
One of the best parts of the whole festival was having our new found friend Kurt Petersen along for the ride with us, pointing cameras every which way and capturing all the fun we had, on stage and off.