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Do Re Mi get the band back together for By the C series

Led by bassist Helen Carter and vocalist Deborah Conway, Do Re Mi reunited for the inaugural Australian Women in Music Awards last October. Invigorated by the one-song performance, Carter and Conway were keen to properly commence a new phase of the band’s career.

“We did the awards and that was great. It was a fabulous event, but obviously you wouldn’t get the band back together if it wasn’t going to be for something fairly chunky,” says Carter.

That opportunity emerged in the form of the By The C concert series, now in full swing. Do Re Mi’s first tour in over 30 years places them alongside Icehouse, The Sunnyboys, The Church and Mental As Anything. They’ve also locked in a Melbourne headline show on Friday February 8. 

“Sunnyboys very sadly broke up before we were really doing anything particularly regularly, but I do know [bassist and co-founder] Peter Oxley really well,” says Carter. “In fact, he is the one who called me and said, ‘Hey we’re doing these shows. Do you want to do them with us?’ And I said, ‘Look we haven’t really got a band at the moment, but let me talk to Deb [Conway] and we’ll see what we can whip up.’” 

Drummer Dorland Bray and guitarist Stephen Philip completed the original Do Re Mi lineup. In their place, the new lineup features guitarist Bridie O’Brien, keyboardist Clio Rener and drummer Julia Day. 

“There was no animosity or anything like that,” says Carter. “In fact, Stephen’s worked with Bridie to help her understand the nuances of his playing style and Dorland knows Julia quite well and he likes Julia’s playing a great deal.

“Obviously behind the scenes there’s been some reflections on us calling ourselves Do Re Mi, but overall it’s been a fairly organic and very chilled way of getting back together. Having this particular lineup, and without putting too much emphasis on the all-female lineup, but we’re the only women on the whole By The C tour.” 

Do Re Mi formed in Sydney in 1981 and issued a couple of low-key EPs over the next few years. The band’s funk inscribed post-punk sound came to the attention of the influential Virgin Records who put out their debut LP, Domestic Harmony, in 1985.

The album was a top 20 success in Australia and spawned the iconic single, ‘Man Overboard’. But despite making a significant commercial impact, Do Re Mi didn’t always feel integrated in the local music scene.

“I feel more part of a community now then I did then,” says Carter. “Whether or not it was us just being complete wankers because we were young and headstrong, I don’t know. There was all this stupid Sydney-Melbourne rivalry and Sydney was always just not a great community. 

“Yes, we knew people and yes, we played with people and there were certain enclaves of people, particularly in the Darlinghurst scene in the early days, which was more of an art scene. We’d do shows where we would have performance artists who’d have lighting shows, we’d have poetry readings and then Do Re Mi would get up and do four songs. It was quite eclectic so it wasn’t like we were just a posse of rock musicians that just hung out.” 

Do Re Mi split in 1988, not long after releasing their second album, The Happiest Place In Town. However, Carter says getting back on stage with Conway feels completely natural. 

“Honestly it was like the 30 years didn’t happen. The one thing that we all commented on that we thought was absolutely brilliant was how nice everybody was backstage [at By The C] and how the crew were all really relaxed and chilled. 

“The crowd were just really chilled as well. Often back in the ‘80s where you had these big festivals, there’d be punch-ups and excesses of all kinds. But the audience just seemed really chilled and everyone had a great time. So I’m sorry I can’t give you any goss on nudity or anything like that.”

 

Do Re Mi perform as part of the By the C concert series in Leura Park, Geelong on Saturday February 9, tickets via Ticketmaster. A Melbourne sideshow hits the Corner Hotel, Friday February 8, tickets via Feel Presents.