Melbourne singer/songwriter/guitarist/purveyor of ‘smugcore’, and even ‘goblin-core’, Tim McMillan has had an interesting musical journey. Beginning in the usual humble surrounds some ten years ago in various local metal bands, he has evolved into a unique and highly talented artist, one who very much does things his own way. His music is a quirky blend of acoustic rock and folk, and his live set blends these elements with comedy, strange covers and an almost ‘anything goes’ type of approach to the art of live music.
And now his musical odyssey is about to become even more interesting, and Beat caught up with Tim at a café in Brunswick Street recently for a chat about his history and what he has coming up in the short, medium and longer term future. “I’ve been doing this for the last 10 years,” he states, on his story so far. “I started off ‘metal as’ back in the day, trying to be metal. I studied jazz at uni so I thought I’d do that for a bit. But I didn’t really take to that too well. So I just started playing a lot of the metal stuff, and after I fell out with bands – who are pretty hard to get along with sometimes – I started playing a lot of the stuff on the acoustic, playing a lot of classical and Latin jazz stuff.
“I was in South America for a while, playing a lot of Latin jazz. When I got back, through that I started playing solo, doing open mic nights and things like that, playing all the time. Then I sort of got back into the band vibe with this… what would you say…” he muses, “guitar-based stuff. [I’m] trying to think of some genres but I can’t seem to think of any…” he ponders. “Smugcore?,” he finally offers up with a hearty laugh.
“Yeah so I’ve been doing this thing (his solo band project) for about three or four years now,” he continues, “and I’ve been taking it seriously for the last two years or so. I’m finally doing it full time now, which is good!”
The time spent playing metal ended up not being overly kind to him, it turns out. “The band, we thought it was hilarious,” he explains. “The band name was Reverend Pedophile. Very uncouth. We were a big grindcore band, which seemed to offend everyone. I ended up getting a hernia when I was about 18. I was screaming really loudly and gave myself a hernia and ended up in hospital.”
Today, Tim takes all of the abovementioned influences, plus more, places them all into a pot, stirs it all around and comes out with a style and presentation that is strictly his own. And it will be on display in its full, crazily entertaining, glory this Friday night at The Evelyn Hotel, with Cloud City and A Lonely Crowd in support. Tim explains his sound for punters who may not have had the pleasure of seeing his highly individual live show. “Yeah it’s sorta hard,” he starts, “that’s why we always have these stupid genre names always pop up.
“We used to be classed as ‘alternative folk’, but we kind of got the wrong people [to shows], who didn’t really appreciate what we were trying to do as much as we would have liked. So we started putting certain words in, like ‘incest’,” he quips, “or ‘dungeon-folk’. So we’d get these nerdy Devin Townsend fans turning up, and that’s what we’re after… we do appeal to a lot of different people, but I think it’s good to have that real connection with a certain type of music listener.
“Our stuff is basically guitar fusion, guitar folk fusion,” he eventually settles on.
“Live, it’s quite a different outlet; it’s more a cabaret, semi-comedy style event. And then we like to sort of mix that with our songs, but not take it too seriously.
“In Melbourne it’s quite different,” Tim goes on, “we have a lot of friends here and they know what to expect. We have quite a different style set when we play on tour. We don’t feel as comfortable yet, doing certain things onstage that we do in Melbourne. We’re still trying to find the perfect setlist.”
After The Evelyn headlining show, Tim and his band have a spot on the famed Rock The Bay Festival on the Labour Day Weekend, March 12, at The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, whereupon he will relocate to Germany for six months to continue to pursue his art throughout the European summer.
“We’re moving there for six months in March,” he informs. “We’ll be getting heaps of work,” Tim chuckles, pointing out the difference in being able to tour Europe on a more consistent basis than here in Australia. “We’re doing some black metal festivals, and some pretty swish corporate events up in the Swiss mountains. They pay the bills, while the metal festivals ‘feed our souls’,” he says with mock ominous tone.
“I’m getting some good connections over there, and some good crowds coming to the shows. Just because it’s a bigger population over there, and it’s a niche thing that we’re doing, we’re getting a lot more ‘bites’ over there. And it’s a lot easier to drive for two hours than for eight hours!” he laughs, appreciative of the relative geographical ease of Europe compared to our wide brown land.
“We’re starting to branch out,” he continues, “to Hungary, Croatia and Italy, on the last tour which was cool… we’re looking to do six months there a year – March/April to October. Then we’ll come back to Australia for the summer. Going ‘summer to summer’. Trying to get rid of this bone pale goblin tan of mine!”
TIM MCMILLAN BAND play The Evelyn Hotel this Friday January 21 with Cloud City, A Lonely Crowd and Karen Heath (Ennis Tola). They also play ROCK THE BAY festival at The Espy on Saturday March 12 (Labour Day long weekend), alongside 30 acts sweating it out over the The Espy's three rooms, including Barbarion, Sydonia, Bellusira, Engine Three Seven, The Beards (SA), Redcoats, New Skinn, Alba Varden, Don Fernando, Xenograft, Electric Horse (QLD), Decortica (NZ), Fare Evader, These Four Walls (NZ), I, Said The Sparrow (WA), Anna Salen, The Charge, Die Vader Die, The Happy Endings, Rhymada, Zenith ASP, Moroccan Kings, The Khyber Belt (feat. members of Rook/Bushido/Sleep Parade), Sunset Circus, Crash And Burn, The Deep End, Man From The Meteor, Hummergun, Cross Section and The Phil Para Band. They then fuck off overseas for six months – so make sure you catch them before you miss out.