One of our local indie favourites is the fabulous Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird, and we are particularly excited today because it’s release day, for their third studio album, Smiles of Earth. The band is well known for its genre-hopping across and within tracks, yet this album has a cohesiveness across the ten songs with themes of love, love lost as well as the observational and whimsical. And, if you dig a good brass section, then this album is going to stoke your fire. The horns, for which the band is renowned are well placed throughout.
In the past few months, the band has been drip-feeding tastes of the album, via singles “When This Is Over”, “Bluestone”, “Red Dirt Angel” and most recently “Every Morning, It Breaks”. The band is a treasure-trove of talent. Lead vocalist, piano, guitarist and songwriter Lachlan Rose, leads the way, with his vocals beautifully complemented by the talented Francesca Gonzales who also rocks the keytar in their live shows. Also on vocals and guitar is Peter Simonsen, with Matthew Haye on Bass, Nicholas Reid on drums and percussion and Oliver Whitehead on the saxophone.
Their live shows are always a standout. They are on my must-see when they hit Sydney. To launch the album, the band has a run of shows on the East coast of Australia from the end of September. Dates are below.
The band identified their wish for the album. They said “This album aims to make people ‘Smile’.” We think they’ve achieved this in spades. Do give it a listen.
To celebrate the release of Smiles of Earth, the band has put together a playlist for the AU of the songs which have helped inspire the album. So do press <Play> and read on – it’s a fun eclectic mix.
Songs that inspired the album Smiles of Earth
Antony & The Johnsons – “Fistful of Love”
Antony, known now as Anohni, and the Johnsons have had me utterly spellbound since I was a teenager. Her song “For Today I Am A Boy” crawled under my skin when I was really starting to think about songwriting. What she was doing was kind of inexplicable to me, and still is, which is why I keep coming back to it. She makes me feel like a member of the human race; like a human creature with deep feelings in a confusing and beautiful world. “Fistful of Love” to me encapsulates this perfect balance of really profound ingredients. Its subject matter is dark, its execution is holy, its arrangement is so refined but gloriously imperfect and raw. The ultimate piano ballad punctuated by brass. It set the tone for the whole approach of Smiles of Earth.
Primal Scream – “Come Together”
Cousin Tony is always being lauded for smashing together such disparate musical particles. It’s something that’s always come quite naturally to me but sometimes it requires a lot of internal permission. “Come Together” is the gold standard for this. The sampled lyrics literally list off different genres:
Today on this program, you will hear gospel
And rhythm and blues and jazz
All those are just labels
We know that music is music
They’re so fearless in colliding genres, particularly in this song, and the result is just massive. It’s a circus. But it knows what it is and it totally nails it. Wonderful.
The Saints – “Know Your Product”
Like The Saints, my parents grew up in Brisbane in the 60’s/70’s. When Chris Bailey (singer) died last year, The Saints were thrust back into our lives in a big way. Similar to “Fistful of Love” – the horns on this particular song just elevate it to new heights. It really inspired the horns on “When This Is Over” in particular.
Blur – “The Universal”
I’ve whipped out this song on numerous special occasions in my life. As the name suggests, it speaks to a feeling of oneness with the universe itself. When those rare moments occur, when I feel like the waveforms have just aligned for a moment, “The Universal” comes on. Blur weren’t afraid to go big, and this song exemplifies it. It really, really, really could happen.
Hans Zimmer – “Cornfield Chase” (Interstellar)
When I was writing “Beauty & Doom”, I was playing those organ arpeggios incessantly. My brother overheard it and said it sounded like “Interstellar Rock n’ Roll”. He totally nailed it. Hans’ score for Interstellar is as good as it gets in my book. I studied film scoring and composition and this was always a top-shelf reference. Musically, it’s understated and works with the church organ to let the instrument speak for itself. The organ has always been a direct voice to the heavens, which was the perfect choice for Interstellar and exactly what I needed to finish the album.
Yo La Tengo – “Dream Dream Away”
I could really chose any song from YLT’s album There’s A Riot Going On. They’re just so textural and gentle. But also you see them live and it’s a full-on distorted shoe-gaze showdown. But this album really showed me what it meant to slow down and listen to your bandmates. I wrote this song called “Happy Place” which, to me, is basically a homage to Yo La Tengo and those kinds of bands. It’s just one groove, a place, that we all have to sustain together, and live in together. We’re responsible for it.
Big Thief – “Cattails”
Adrianne Lenker and the music of Big Thief were only really starting to sink their tendrils in towards the tail end of me making Smiles of Earth. But the live version of “Cattails” was the nail in the coffin. It has a really subtle odd-timing which I adore. Irregular timing can often be distracting and more about the songwriter than the audience, but Big Thief aren’t that kind of band. It’s a subtle trick that adds so much quirk and playfulness to the feel. I love the pursuit of finding that balance. Our song “Gabriel’s Horn” toes that line. Hopefully the audience knows it’s for them!
COUSIN TONY’S BRAND NEW FIREBIRD TOUR DATES
23-25 September – Wanderer’s Festival, NSW
Friday 30 September – Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Gold Coast, Qld
Saturday 1 October – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, Qld
Thursday 6 October – The Cambridge, Newcastle, NSW
Friday 7 October – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW
Saturday 8 October – La La La’s Wollongong, NSW
Friday 14 October – The Eastern, Ballarat, VIC
Saturday 15 October – The Lab, Adelaide, SA
Friday 21 October – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 5 November – Euroa Music Festival, Euroa VIC
Saturday 12 November – Backyard Festival, VIC