the AU Big British Sound interview: Fergus Brown (Sydney)


In advance of his stint as part of the Big British Sound in Sydney this Friday night, we chatted to Fergus Brown about the genius of Jon Brion, his not-so-secret soft spot for Green Day, experiences in Canada and at SXSW, and of course, what we’ll expect from his show later this week!

Larry: I understand you recently returned from touring the US and Canada, including Nova Scotia!

Fergus: Yeah, I did a whirwind 5 week trip, sort of a showcase tour – I went to SXSW and some of the other music conferences.

I didn’t realise you were at SXSW!

Yeah I had a couple of gig there! It was a crazy time! Pretty frantic.

I went to Canadian Music Week, too. And also to a similar smaller thing in Eastern Canada, in Nova Scotia. So I jumped off South by quite hurredly, but it was cool. It was pretty crazy.

Was it your first SXSW?

It was, yeah. I think it would be hard to be prepared for it.

So as much of a whirlwind as it was, how did the rest of the tour go?

Yeah it was good! I played a couple of shows in LA as well, and did a bit of songwriting for myself and for other people while I was over there. That was something I’m new to. And the things in Canada were sort of mini SXSWs, so pretty frantic, you plant lots of seeds, try to throw your hat in the ring – some material things might come from it or might not, still pending I suppose! But it was cool to get home, I’d sort of gone broke about a week before I came back, so it was nice to crawl back into the airport. 

I read you got to see Jon Brion perform while you were over there, too?

Yeah he was amazing. I went along to my friend’s band, who’s making a record with one of his acolytes at the moment in LA – so we went along to see him play. He was incredible. He was sort of an idiot savant or something – he played every instrument all at one, everything looped. And it could be quite touching, it wasn’t a gimmick. Live footage was looping, with all these orchestras playing. People would call out these covers, and he would just play them from start to finish, including all the solos, on a xylaphone. Quite classic 70s pop rock influenced at times, too.

He’s been doing that same show for years I think, at the Largo (in LA), so you should check it out! I saw a few gigs while I was in LA, it was cool to check out that city and see how it all worked, cause I’d only really spent a couple of days there at a time.

It can be a pretty bizarre place.

It is. Either it’s extremely exciting or very frustrating or disgusting and dirty. You have one day where your mind is blown, and then the next you’re stuck in a parking lot going “What am I doing!? I don’t want Subway!” But I loved my time there.

Moving back home, you’re playing the Big British Sound at the Metro on Friday night.

Yeah, it’s going to be a pretty exciting thing I think. I’ve been doing a bunch of gigs since I got back, just went down to Melbourne the other day – spent about 11 hours there – airport trip to airport trip which was a bit crazy. But this show will be good, I like all the bands on the bill, so it’ll be a nice change of pace.

And how does your involvement in something like Big British Sound come about?

I don’t really know specifically – I guess whoever books it either likes you or doesn’t like you, maybe thinks they can get you for cheap or something! *laughs* I think it’s like any gig really, they’ll have a short list and whoever’s available will make the lineup. I met one of the organisers and she was really lovely. And apparently we get free clothes which I’m really excited about. My Mum used to buy me Ben Sherman shirts, but they’re all long gone! So maybe a new one’s in store for me.

And what can we expect from your set?

Well we’re having a little jam tomorrow, I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Pulp, I’m a big Jarvis Cocker fan. So I’ve got a few ideas for songs – maybe a Bowie, and a song by the Rutts, Pulp song – I think whatever sounds good when we jam we’ll go with. I’ve chosen a couple of punk songs, like the Rutts, and I think they might sound pretty crap when we give it a go. So who knows! And we’re thinking of doing an ironically slow version of “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones. So we’ll see! Whatever we can actually remember the chords to. It should be a fun night!

Onto something completely different, last year you won a SMAC award!

Yeah! Quite cool! I was a bit surprised. 

You were up against some stiff competition, so a on your Myspace page you commented that it will probably be the only time you win the same award as Cate Blanchett. So have you taking up acting since writing that?

I was in a MasterFoods commercial! If you look closely when you’re watching bad rugby league, you might see me flipping a fish over! But that’s probably a really daggy thing to say, but no I haven’t taken up acting. But it’d be a fun thing to do. I could join the long list of musicians who could JUST play music, and thought they could also be an actor.

Well there’s a Green Day musical on Broadway – so I suppose if they can do that, you’re in for a shot!

Yeah man – I could be Billie Joe! I could get those tattoos put on me by makeup every night. I’ve got a soft spot for Green Day, actually. I think they’re really daggy, but write really good songs. And they’ve never really changed they’re thing. They were always writing cheeky pop songs. People always used to have the cassette of Dookie when I was a teenager! But yeah, if I got offered a role in the Green Day musical, I think that’d be the most fun job. And a good way to get overseas!

And then maybe you’d be up for the same award as Cate again!

Yeah. I’d whip that bitch!

And I read you won the John Lennon songwriting award too?

Yeah that was a cool one. It was for an earlier version of a song that’s on my record. I had a demo that – I don’t think it had drums on it yet? – anyway, it was an earlier version. It’s nice to get a pat on the back from somewhere so far away. Because I think often that these sorts of things are predetermined – like you know the person, the vibe, the scene – so it’s nice when something’s like a blind litmus test. I was quite proud of that one, it was fun.

Does it help to have that “on the resume”, so to speak, when you’re overseas?

Yeah I think so. I mean I didn’t really think it would. But then you’d meet people and they go “No! You’ve got to tell other people that! They really know what that is, and they’ve never heard of this other thing that you’ve done.” Anything that’s American, or anything with someone like his name on it – people care. So you sort of begrudgingly  put it on your CV, or you mention it awkwardly to people who might be able to help you out, feeling like a bit of a sell out. But yeah, definitely it’s like a little calling card. Your bio ends up being a bit of a braggy story. In person, you don’t nessecarily want to mention it, because you feel like a tosser, but if you want people to know who you are and what you’ve done, you’ve got to piece it all together. Make it easy for them.

Try to keep the songs real while being a bit of a dancing bear!

Milk it for all it’s worth!


So finally, apart from the acting awards and the Big British Sound performance, what else will 2010 be bringing for Fergus Brown?

The acting awards, yeah! Save a table at the Oscars for me and my buddies. Well I’m doing a bunch of demos for my next record, and I’m going to put our a little remix EP – or maybe even an album that both I’ve done, and friends of mine are going to have done. And I’ve got another single and a video. And tonight I’m recording a song for a Canadian artist, who’s going to release that on her EP. It’s shaping up to be a year of many different things, and then hopefully my own proper release will be forming around that, if that makes any sense! But I’ve made a couple of demos lately, and they sound nice to me! So I’m happy.

Well we look forward to hearing it!

Ah, thank you very much!

Thanks for chatting to us Fergus! We’ll see on on Friday at the Metro.

No worries. See you Friday!


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.