Melbourne indie folk outfit Half the Andes have spent the last couple of years cultivating an identity on the Melbourne live circuit. The band, led by vocalist and guitarist Rose Bassett, are now ready to release their debut single, ‘Subtleties’.
The release is many years in the making for Rose, who formed the band after moving to Melbourne to study music at Monash University.
“I grew up in rural Victoria in a place called Benalla,” says Rose. “It’s definitely been an interesting move coming from Benalla into Melbourne because you go from quite a small pond to a big pool.”
The change of scenery might’ve been a shock, but Rose already had an advanced music education by the time she arrived in Melbourne.
“I started getting singing lessons when I was about ten through a place in Wangaratta,” she says. “Early on, I started to get trained classically and then I moved on to jazz because I registered that I really loved singing jazz and improvising creatively from quite a young age.”
Despite being a child of jazz, Rose’s initial songwriting excursions were guided by a couple of folk-oriented artists that she’d latched onto during her formative years.
“A pretty massive staple influence for me has always been The Tallest Man On Earth. I started listening to his music when I was about 16 and it’s just been a constant companion. Particularly Shallow Grave , that album is awesome,” she says.
“My dad was a huge Paul Kelly fan, and so I grew up with Paul Kelly in my ears and listening to the way that he would tell stories through his music. And so I think that was another massive influence.”
Both of these artists provided an outline for the sort of music Rose wanted to make with Half the Andes, but she was also interested in exploring sounds with anthemic potential.
“I think Fleetwood Mac showed me that you can take something really simple and build it into this massive song that touches so many people,” she says. “And then Middle Kids, I just loved the writing. I thought it was similarly simplistic, but very effective and I really wanted to try to emulate that in anything I did.”
Rose is the driving creative force in Half the Andes, but her three bandmates – Ronan Nicholson (bass), Daniel Hook (drums) and Libby Ferris (guitar, backing vocals) – all play roles of crucial significance.
“Even though I might have the final say in what the final product is, it’s a very collaborative process,” Rose says. “We’ll play through the track in rehearsal three or four times and Dan will try different drum beats over it. And then the same could be said for Fi [Steele] or Libby with the guitar and Ronan with the bass.”
The band’s eclectic constitution is on display in their debut single ‘Subtleties’, which plays out like a three-part suite. It grows from a stripped-back opening section to gradually include more layers before the tempo picks up and Rose’s voice begins to soar. It’s then scaled back once again in the final minute or so, which acts as a smoothing debrief after the emotive peak.
The song’s unconventional shape is a reflection of the significant coming out experiences that informed Rose’s writing.
“I wrote ‘Subtleties’ about two years ago and it was when I was in the sort of limbo state between embracing this part of myself that I hadn’t before into all factors of my life, and then also trying to align it with my personal history,” she says.
“What I wanted to do was to create a song that was all the feelings I had during that time, but like a progression. For example, I was talking to a pretty amazing person who was in France at the time and I had a mix of emotions about missing her, but also a lot of excitement because it was the beginning of something I thought was going to grow into something really cool. So that’s what the start of the song’s about.”
By the time we get to the chorus, Rose is ready to break free of any inhibitions and dive right in.
“It’s kind of like a moment of, ‘Here I am,’ and I think a lot of people that experience that feeling of coming out might understand. It’s hard to put into words – it’s this feeling of elation, but it’s also like a massive build-up.”
Following the declarative radiance of the chorus, the song’s final section takes on a far more reflective and philosophical tone. For Rose, ‘Subtleties’ would not be complete without it.
“The end originally wasn’t linked to ‘Subtleties’ at all, and then I was playing through my songs one day and I realised that they were linked and I hadn’t just put the two together yet,” she says.
“Even during the transition of my family adjusting to some things, at the same time as being really understanding and communicating a lot, there was still some points where it could feel quite isolating. I think those lyrics, where they came from, was just looking back and reflecting on those changes and how it can affect your sense of place, even if it is for such a short period of time.
“So I wanted that to be directly contrasting to this big chorus.”
‘Subtleties’ is out on Saturday August 1. For more from Half The Andes, head to their website.
Never miss a story. Sign up to Beat’s newsletter and you’ll be served fresh music, arts, food and culture stories three times a week.