the AU interview: Russell Webster of Shining Bird (Sydney)

In the midst of preparations for local shows ahead of their debut album Leisure Coast due out in September, including an appearance at the At First Sight event at Carriageworks this weekend, Antigone Anagnostellis talked to Shining Bird’s Russel Webster about their single “Distant Dreaming” on Rage, living on the coast and song-writing from scratch.

What are you guys up to at the moment?

At the moment we are just finishing off bits and pieces for the album. And also rehearsing to get ready for shows.

How has this year been so far?

Yeah it’s been going really well. We’ve been finishing off the album and got the single out there and the reception was really good, we’re surprised. And also with the video which went really well.

That’s been on Rage, right?

Yeah, it’s been on Rage and it got picked up by a YouTube channel called Majestic Casual, which is a guy based in Germany. We don’t know that much about him but he contacted us and said he liked it and wanted to put it up.

What do you do in the Bird?

I do most of the songwriting at my house. Dane is the singer and we work together along with my little brother [Alistair]. It’s the sculpting and the mixing and the twiddling around for hours on end. Then it’s a process of getting the lyrics done. We kind of all work together.

What’s your musical background? Have you played other instruments? Have you always written songs?

Definitely not songwriting. I’ve been doing my own stuff maybe for ten years, and I’ve really learnt just to play basic things on the piano. I mostly have a background in computer-based chopping and editing and electronic music. The songwriting thing’s mainly been in the last three years or so with Shining Bird. It’s been a big learning curve. Dane’s the same – he’s done some singing in barber shop-style groups and my little brother is kind of the same. We only just got into the actual songwriting process in the last three years. It’s all pretty new. I came into it from a different approach.

Do you mean different as in no training?

Not as classically trained. It’s all just listening to records, coming up with ideas.

You’ve been marketed as the beach side band – how is that affecting the music?

I think generally we’re massively into the Beach Boys –we went through that phase about the time we started writing songs. There’s that side of things where we thought an Australian modern-day Beach Boys aesthetic or approach. It’s probably just living near the coast, really – probably more subconsciously in there in the production than anything.

How’s the debut record coming along?

It’s all finished now. We’re just doing the artwork and layout to send it off. We were lucky enough to get a local artist – Paul Ryan – to do the artwork, which is really exciting. He’s been a local legend. He’s just got this really deep knowledge of the local area and we just threw the idea out there, we didn’t really expect him to pick it up, but he agreed and he ended up doing some portraits of us as well. So we were stoked.

What’s the ideal place/time to listen to the new record?

I’m not sure when you would listen to it -probably by yourself. There’s a bunch of songs that you could listen to, as more of a communal kind of thing but a lot of it’s a solitary listening environment. I’m not sure. It’s real tough to describe the sound. There was definitely a subconscious effort to make it sound Australian but then I guess I was conscious to make it sound like a whole bunch of things as well. It’s just really spacious and lush and it takes a while to absorb it.

Who will you check out at Carriageworks At First Sight?

We’re certainly excited about seeing pretty much all of them. We haven’t seen any of them before – I really want to see The Laurels and The Twerps and keen to check out Songs. I think they’re all just great. It’s a really good calibre of music. I’m pretty psyched about it actually.

What are you guys listening to at the moment?

Recently, I think everyone’s been listening to the new Kanye West album. It’s just something totally different that we wouldn’t usually listen to. I think the last couple of years I’ve been listening to albums trying to steal ideas or whatever and or just looking to kind of get something from it to use something – it gets a bit like that. Kanye is just something totally different. It’s cool. You listen to it for what it is. Over the last year – I’ve been trying to consume as much Australian cultural whatever as much as we can. Not just music but a lot of film and stuff by Peter Weir – really into him – and a whole lot of poetry and art. Also, I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Nick Cave. Lots of the new National is good.

What’s coming up? What do you talk about that you want to do?

I think we talk about ourselves. We talk about the Bird a bit too much. It’s getting a bit ridiculous. We’re excited for the album to come out in September on Spunk and we’re going to be touring from then to the end of the year. We’re just trying to plan and get everything together. We’re hoping we can get some gigs with cool bands. Hopefully play some more festivals over the summer and start working on new material. Trying to stay productive.

What else?

We got a show on the 17th of July – the wed before Carriageworks – at the Beach Rd Hotel. We’re headlining the show at the freebie gig there. We’re going to be trying out a bunch of songs we haven’t played yet.


Don’t miss Shining Bird perform as part of the At First Sight concert and record fair at Carriageworks in Sydney next Saturday afternoon, July 20th. Tickets are just $35 and the event also features HTRK, The Twerps, Beaches, The Laurels, Songs, Super Wild Horses, Straight Arrows, Day Ravies, Holy Balm and many, many more. More details can be found HERE.