You could forgive Husky Gawenda and Gideon Preiss for being nervous. Their self-produced debut full-length, Forever So , is just days away from release. Yet in the late afternoon sunshine at Southbank, vocalist/guitarist Gawenda and keyboardist Preiss sound remarkably self-assured and mature, all things considered. Over a few ginger beers and chips, half of Husky don't look like a young band, eager to find their voice in the world. Instead, the relaxed and polished manner in which they converse mirrors what you'll hear on Forever So : a delicate build of acoustically-inclined folk that captures the kind of desolate emotions many consider fleeting.
Husky shouldn't be mistaken for overly confident though, as they are quick to give credit where it's due when discussing their influences for Forever So.
"We were listening to a lot of the great songwriters of the '60s and '70s, a lot of our parents stuff while writing and recording. But the thing is, I'll always come back to that stuff," says Gawenda, who bears striking resemblance to Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame. "I don't think that'll ever change. Whenever I'm working on something new, I'll always come back to Neil Young and The Beach Boys amongst others. As far as contemporaries, we were listening to Grizzly Bear a lot. They do some fantastic things with production. They're inspiring."
It's inspiration that has marked results. Blending a lush, Northwestern vibe reminiscent of the Fleet Foxes with a refreshingly humble lyrical approach, Husky has achieved sonic balance. Though the results may speak for themselves, both Gawenda and Preiss are quick to admit that there were challenges which plagued them throughout the writing and recording of Forever So.
"We produced the record and engineered it ourselves. And while the other guys in the band were around for the recording, a lot of the time it was just Gideon and I in a bungalow in Northcote," says Gawenda. "Throughout the writing, arranging and recording, there were moments where we stopped for a minute and thought, 'Is this any good at all? Is anyone going to dig this?' Those were the hardest moments, but it's what anybody creative has to go through. Creating can be a solitary thing. And you have no idea how it's going to go when this thing you create gets out there in the world."
Lacking traditional, producer-enforced deadlines, Husky were required to make many decisions themselves. Preiss is quick to comment on the origin of the songs, giving Forever So even more depth.
"A lot of these songs were being written while we were recording. But we had a sense at a certain point that this was the record we were striving to make."
Gawenda wrote the majority of the songs on Forever So, creating an interesting tension with the other members of Husky. How would they treat this extremely intimate collection of songs? Gawenda shows no reluctance towards the process and gives more insight into the mutual respect that seems to drive this young band.
"As far as the process of me writing a song, then having to show it to the other guys, then we work on it, by the time we're done, it's become a very different song. The soul of it is there but it's fleshed out, it's arranged differently," says Gawenda. "One thing that I find a very smooth part of the process is how creative this band is. Bringing a song to these guys is exciting, because I know they're going to work some magic. There's a lot of faith there."
Inevitably though, the real test for Husky will come when both band and songs are tested live. No strangers to touring, including recent opening slots for Gotye, Gawenda is not only eager to brings the songs of Forever So to life, he's comfortable with the challenges that playing live presents. Sounding wise beyond their years, Preiss, Gawenda and the members of Husky promise not to be strangers in Australia's folk-loving music community much longer.
"Obviously when we were recording the album, we weren't thinking about how the songs were going to translate live in certain venues or festivals. But there are moments on the album that really work, but don't work the same way when played live. On an outdoor stage at a festival, there are certain songs you just wouldn't play; maybe those songs that you listen to on your headphones at 2am. So there's a bit of working out what works and what doesn't. We try to elaborate on them and take them on a journey when we can. But there has to also be an acceptance that when you play live, it's not going to sound like the record. You've got to be comfortable with that."
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
Forever So is out now on Liberation Music. Husky play at the Corner Hotel on Thursday November 24, Shine On Festival at the Pyrenees Ranges from November 18-20, Peats Ridge Festival in NSW across New Year's Eve and St Jerome's Laneway Festival at the Footscray Community Arts Centre on Saturday February 4.