Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
This event is all ages
Marlon Williams & The Yarra Benders
"...remarkable performer" NPR
"Picks his marks and hits them...captivating" Rolling Stone
"Williams voice may well have time travelled and spent an extended vacation with classic rock's finest" Paste Magazine
“Each song is a character,” says Marlon Williams of his self-titled solo debut: a remarkably assured and diverse nine-track tapestry, united by one of the most versatile and evocative voices you’ll hear this or any other year. “I don’t really ever sing out of character. Even if it’s a very personal song, once it’s written it doesn’t belong to me.”
A veteran at the age of 25, Williams found his calling as child growing up in Lyttelton, New Zealand. A picturesque coastal town populated by fewer than 3000 people, he recalls its “wonderful contrast between port workers and a big artistic community”. The latter includes his mother and father, respectively a painter and industrial punk musician. “The first three things I remember Mum listening to were PJ Harvey, early choral music and Smokey Robinson. A lot of Maori music too. We used to go down the marae for meetings and sing these big harmony songs.”
Dad would bring home CDs every week, moving from Elvis and The Beatles through Echo & The Bunnymen, The Band’s Music From Big Pink, and, crucially, Gram Parsons: “A rock ’n’ roll dude playing country music, but respecting the purity of it.”
A similar duality informed the young Williams’ unique journey as a singer, combining his family’s Maori upbringing with the vocal epiphanies he discovered in the school choir and then in nearby Christchurch’s cathedral ensemble. “It’s a very different approach,” he explains. “With the Maori songs it’s layered thirds, one over the other. You just feel when you want to bring another third. But then I spent most of my teenage Sundays at church. We’d sing a 30-minute Mozart Mass where every note is prescribed. I’m not a spiritual person but the music was enough to keep me there, through whatever hangover I had.”
He even enrolled in the prestigious University of Canterbury, but classical music’s institutionalized stuffiness proved too much. The Unfaithful Ways, his band of fellow fallen choirboys, was becoming a hot local live draw. “I did a year at university, but they didn’t like that I was out playing in bars at weekends and coming in on Monday smoking. I was wearing country shirts to our performance days, instead of the bow tie and penguin suit.”
After the youthful combo folded its frontman cut a trio of domestically acclaimed duo discs with prolific Lyttelton tunesmith Delaney Davidson, then made the decision to relocate to Australia – partly pushed by the ruinous earthquakes that had left Christchurch in disarray, partly pulled by the promise of Melbourne’s bountiful music scene. Williams pitched up at legendary pub venue the Yarra Hotel, winning over seasoned booze hounds with a first gig on the eve of the Aussie rules football grand final.
Returning home to record, utilizing the The Sitting Room in Lyttelton Harbour – and working once more with producer/engineer Ben Edwards, whose prior loyalty extended to rescuing The Unfaithful Ways’ album master from a cordoned-off quake aftershock area. Such deep-rooted bonds birthed an eclectic yet cohesive set that ranges from rollicking, acrobatic opener “Hello Miss Lonesome” to the wry coffee house wisdom of “Everyone’s Got Something To Say”, via Rubber Soul-ful zinger “After All” and “Lonely Side Of Her”’s beauteous barroom empathy (penned for paramour and co-vocalist Aldous Harding).
Its author’s easygoing gender fluidity is expressed through his revelatory, androgynous reading of the traditional lament “When I Was A Young Girl”, previously hymned by Nina Simone and Feist, among others. “That’s a real fun challenge. An exposition of how songs are personal and impersonal at the same time. I don’t even think about [male or female]. Either that or I don’t think of myself as a boy anymore! The version I knew was by Barbara Dane, a white San Francisco soul/folk singer from the ’60s.”
This ability to truly inhabit his material illuminates Williams’ majestic rendering of such diverse touchstones as classic orch-pop ballad “Lost Without You” and conceptual, 1974-vintage nugget “Silent Passage” (originally by Bob Carpenter, a Canadian of First Nations heritage). These covers blend seamlessly with novelistic noir standouts “Strange Things” and “Dark Child” (co-credited to childhood choral pal Tim Moore, now a palliative care nurse), which deliver gallows humor with a widescreen groove. That quality is further illustrated by their playfully cinematic videos.
Williams won Best Male and Breakthrough Artist at the 2015 New Zealand Music Awards and was nominated for Best Blues & Roots Album at the ARIA Awards, alongside nominations for the coveted Taite Music Prize and Australian Music Prize.
His album was released internationally in February 2016 through Dead Oceans, and Williams has spent 2016 selling out shows throughout North America and UK/Europe, playing major festivals including Latitude, Longitude, and Austin City Limits, and making appearances on tastemaker radio shows like NPR, KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, KEXP and World Cafe, plus performances on legendary TV shows Later With Jools Holland, Conan and The Late Late Show in Ireland.
“These new lines on my face
spell out ‘girl pick up your pace’
if you want to stay true
to what your younger self would do.”
Julia Jacklin thought she’d be a social worker.
Growing up in the Blue Mountains to a family of teachers, Jacklin discovered an avenue to art at the age of 10, thanks to an unlikely source: Britney Spears.
Jacklin chanced upon a documentary about the pop star while on family holiday. “By the time Britney was 12 she’d achieved a lot,” says Jacklin.”I remember thinking, ‘Shit, what have I done with my life? I haven’t achieved anything.’ So I was like, ‘Mum, as soon as we get home from this holiday I need to go to singing lessons.’
Classical singing lessons were the only kind in the area, but Jacklin took to it. Voice control was crucial, and Jacklin flourished. But the lack of expression had the teen seeking substance, and she wound up in a high school band, “wearing surf clothing and doing a lot of high jumps” singing Avril Lavigne and Evanescence covers. It wasn’t much but she was hooked.
Jacklin’s second epiphany came after high school. Travelling in South America she reconnected with high school friend and future foil Liz Hughes. The two returned home to the Blue Mountains and started a band, bonding over a love of indie-Appalachian folk trio Mountain Man and the songs Hughes was writing.
“I would just sing,” says Jacklin. “But as I got my confidence I started playing guitar and writing songs. I wouldn’t be doing music now if it wasn’t for Liz or that band. I never knew it was something I could do. “
Inspired, Jacklin began educating herself. From Fiona Apple she learned to be bold with words; from Anna Calvi, the cut and presence of electric guitar; and from Angel Olsen, that interpretation triumphs over technique. Now living in a garage in Glebe and working a day job on a factory production line making essential oils, the 25-year old found time to hone her craft – to examine her turns of phrase, to observe the stretching of her friendship circles, to wonder who she was and who she might become. That document is Jacklin’s masterful debut album, Don’t Let The Kids Win - an intimate examination of a life still being lived.
Recorded at New Zealand’s Sitting Room studios with Ben Edwards (Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, Nadia Reid), Don’t Let The Kids Win courses with the aching current of alt-country and indie-folk, augmented by Jacklin’s undeniable calling cards: her rich, distinctive voice, and her playful, observational wit.
You can hear it in opener ‘Pool Party’, a gorgeous lilt bristling with Jacklin’s tale of substance abuse by the pool; in the sparse, ‘Elizabeth’, wrestling with both devotion and admonishment of a friend; in detailing the slow-motion banality of a relationship breakdown in the woozy ‘L.A Dreams’; and in her resolve to accept the passing of time on the snappy fuzz of ‘Coming Of Age’. The album hums with peripheral insights, minute in their moments but together proving an urge to stay curious.
“I thought it was going to be a heartbreak record,” says Jacklin of Don’t Let The Kids Win. “But in hindsight I see it’s about hitting 24 and thinking, ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ I was feeling very nostalgic for my youth. When I was growing up I was so ambitious: I’m going to be this amazing social worker, save the world, a great musician, fit, an amazing writer. Then you get to mid-20s and you realise you have to focus on one thing. Even if it doesn’t pay-off, or you feel embarrassed at family occasions because you’re the poor musician still, that’s the decision I made.”
In person Jacklin is funny, wry, quick to crack a joke. It makes the blunt honesty and prickly insight laced through her songwriting disarming, a dissonance she delights in. “Especially coming from my family,” says Jacklin. “They don’t talk about feelings at all. I love writing songs about them and watching them listen and squirm. To me that’s great. I enjoy it.”
The title track was the last song Jacklin wrote for the album. “My sister’s getting married soon,” she says of the closer. “And it hit me – we used to be two young girls and now that part of our lives is over. Seeing her talking about wanting to have a baby and…it’s like, man I can’t believe we’re already here.”
Don’t mistake this awareness for nostalgia. “It’s not that I want to go back to that time at all,” says Jacklin. “It’s trying to figure out how to be responsible when you don’t identify with who you were anymore.”
“All my friends at this age are freaking out. Everyone’s constantly talking about being old. “Don’t Let The Kids Win” is saying yeah we’re getting older but it’s not so special. It’s not unique. Everyone has dealt with this and it’s going to keep feeling weird. So I’m freaking out about it too but that song is trying to convince myself: let’s live now and just be old when we’re old.”
“I’ve got a feeling that this won’t ever change
We’re gonna keep on getting older
It’s going to keep on feeling strange”
–Don’t Let The Kids Win
Adv tix $16.00 / DOS tix $18.00