Two lads from Rockhampton – Thomas Busby and Jeremy Marou – seemed to wander out of the rainforest a few years back and straight onto the playlists of both indie and mainstream Australian radio.
The then-duo, Busby Marou, brought their country-tinged, sea-folk sound with them as they casually and effortlessly made their mark on the Australian and international music industry with their self-titled debut. They won awards, hearts, and coveted spots on Australian television, and yet remained seemingly devoid of ego and full of life. They have since expanded permanently into full band mode and are readying themselves for the circus that will accompany album number two, Farewell Fitzroy. Tom Busby decided that the best thing he could do before getting sucked up by the vortex of a new album cycle was to head off to Vietnam and get engaged.
“I knew it was going to be a really big couple of years and that’s the way I want it to be,” Busby says. “But I had to get some holiday time and a bit of relaxed travel out of my system before that all began. My girlfriend was also well aware that she was probably going to hardly see me for a couple of years and I figured it was the perfect time to propose. So yeah, I asked her to marry me.”
Talking to Busby is like chatting with an old mate who you haven’t seen in a while and is demanding you have a beer with them. The funny thing is, by the end of the chat you really feel like having that beer. He seems to have the sort of relaxed energy that, if able to be bottled, would put anti-depressants out of business. When Busby Marou’s debut album hit, though, even they were a little rattled. Suddenly they were thrust into a media swarm with virtually no experience. They handled it well – from the outside, at least – and Busby is confident they’re ready for the oncoming attention this time.
“We had absolutely no idea the first time around, and that was what made it so exciting but so overwhelming. We had our first radio spot and then our first TV interview and it was all so new. Our first radio interview was terrible, but then we got better. The first TV interview was even worse and we were so dead set nervous, and then we got better. This time – well I kinda forgot for a second about what last time was like; it was two years ago. But this time, although I haven’t really had that much time to think about it, I know we’re better at doing all the little parts of the promo world. Playing the songs is what we do best, so that’s no trouble at all.”
In fact, Busby Marou’s musicianship has always been the least of their worries. They have, however, had to endure the syndrome that occurs when a band who were self-made fall into the guidance of the industry. Initially, Busby Marou did it themselves and did it well. They wrote the first album with little expectation and very little pressure, and the resultant collection of songs was sublime. This time they have a label – and when a label is involved in the creative process things can become somewhat tense. The band wants the freedom they had first time around and the label wants to ensure it helps the band realise their full potential. And then there’s the matter of selling product. It gets murky but usually works out for the best.
“We’re not like any other band, we don’t rehearse – I know it sounds crazy,” says Busby. “Jeremy’s talent comes out just so naturally. He doesn’t work on things like other musos; he hates being called a muso. So we did have the pressure of label people saying, ‘Where are the new songs?’ and we were just like, ‘We’ll be right.’ They wanted us to show them all these songs before they’d let us get into the studio. Eventually we went in over a weekend and we smashed out a whole heap of songs and then everyone seemed happy. I still knew we were gonna have at least three or four songs on the album that hadn’t even been written yet, but we just had to get everyone off our back.
“There was also this tiny comment that kept appearing for us not to be too ‘country’ – not that we’re country at all – but Jeremy’s guitar playing has some flaring country riffs to it. It really kept annoying me and it was the only part that I hated, because this is Jeremy Marou. He’s a Torres Strait Islander from Rockhampton who doesn’t wear shoes and can grab a guitar with four strings and entertain the hell outta ya – he should be allowed to play whatever he wants. And you know what? He’s going to, whether you try to make him do something else or not. That’s our sound, that’s who we are, and if it comes out that there’s a country lick over a pop song I’ve written then that’s us.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Busby Marou play The Small Ballroom, Newcastle on Friday November 8 and The Standard, Surry Hills on Saturday November 9 with Harry Hookey and Nat Dunn. Farewell Fitzroy out Friday October 4 through Footstomp Music/Warner Music Australia.