Beth King & The Hemingway Collective
' Epic' and 'folk' aren't normally found in the same sentence, but when it comes to Beth King & The Hemingway Collective, it's quite possibly the best description of the band's blend of big sounds and traditional storytelling. Vocalist/saxophonist/keyboardist/guitarist Tin Hemingway claims versatility comes naturally when you've got such a broad pallet of sonic colours to choose from.
"It's a very eclectic band," he states. "I mean that in more ways than one. We have a very big mix of instrumentation and there are six of us in the band as well. Basically, the grounding is still very much in folk music, but it's a lot more epic than just folk. The 'folk' element is more to do in terms of storytelling through the lyrics of the songs. It's important for us to have meaningful lyrics because we believe in conveying different messages about the things that we believe in. That's something that folk music is known for, obviously. Then you've got the epic nature of the songs themselves, and that's more in terms of the instrumentation and making songs go for longer than just three minutes. It's about exploring the different textures and experimenting - and we're very lucky because we can do that since we've got so many multi-instrumentalists in the band!"
Hemingway ain't kidding either. Featuring Beth King on vocals and guitar, the band is also comprised of Matt Moras on guitar, piano accordion and keyboard, Catherine Dow on flute and saxophone, Frank Pearce on double bass, and Jessie-Lee Mills on drums. As the official line-up for the past year, Hemingway says expanding the band has given it a major overhaul.
"Well, just the fact that we've got six people in the band is enough to add new sounds. On top of that, it's not just six people, but each one of those six people is a multi-instrumentalist who brings additional new skills and sounds into the band. The band is just a lot bigger every sense of the word."
And it shows on Beth King & The Hemingway Collective's brand new sophomore album 'Outside Looking In'. With over 20 different people getting involved in the making of the record, Hemingway agrees the entire process resembled more of a project than a mere album recording.
"There is quite a big difference between the first album and this one," Hemingway says. "The first record was probably more just about Beth wanting to record an album and myself and Cat just getting on board to help her out with some of the songs. Then we started touring that album and in the end we got the rest of the band on board as well. The first album was also very much folk in the traditional sense, but after we added new people we had more songwriters which added the 'epic' part into it! On the second album, the songs have become much longer and more intricate and there is a lot more diversity throughout the album. I think there must have been over 20 people working on this album as whole! There are so many different elements to it - we've even got a choir in there and the string quartet. We worked with a lot of graphic designers and artists on the packaging as well. It was a massive task, that's for sure."
With the Australian summer festival season coming up, the band couldn't have picked a better time to launch 'Outside Looking In', as Hemingway points out. For the band, the mission is to get a personal and political message across to audiences, but in a fun and celebratory way rather than a militant or preachy fashion.
"Sure, we'd like to help create some awareness and change for the better in Australia," Hemingway says. "Some of our songs look at things like the tragedy that happened on Christmas Island, the G8 and the indigenous situation in Australia. We're big fans of bands like Bonjah, The Waifs and Blue King Brown. We're looking at doing quite a lot of regional tour as well and we're looking to try to get some support slots with artists who are a bit higher up the food chain. I mean, we'd always consider touring with Dave Matthews and Ben Harper! That would be pretty cool! But we'd also consider more local acts like Liz Stringer and John Butler Trio too!
We actually just returned from a national tour of about 14 shows. A couple of the highlights happened in Byron Bay where we had an impromptu gig at one of the camping grounds in a forest! We set up all our gear and all the campers came down and it was great, so much fun - but then the battery ran out and we ended up having to plug our gear into one of the car batteries to keep it going! That was interesting! We did a similar sort of tour last year and the good news has been that we're picking up the same venues, only they're giving us better days to play and I think getting to know the venues is always a big advantage."
Beth King & The Hemingway Collective launch Looking In at The John Curtin this Saturday October 15.