Image Credit: Jakob De Zwart
Maybe on any other day of the year you could miss the Sails in Brunswick Heads. Packed between two imposing looking store fronts, it’s relatively inauspicious; charming and compact, but not the kind of building that impresses itself upon you.
It’s one more beautiful, unassuming building in a town of beautiful, unassuming buildings – even if you’ve studied its picture on Google maps, you could easily stroll right past it, which a small army of critics and music industry folk heading to the Sails for the launch of the Preatures’ new record Girlhood do, wandering about Brunswick Heads in bemused circles.
The locals, for their part, seem equally bemused. There’s a small gang of them out the front of the Sails, and more still inside in the bar, leaning against the counter in a way that calls to mind the phrase “part of the furniture”. The local police mill around, watching the sound check. Although they have to be there, you get the sense that they’re pretty happy about it: they seem relaxed and friendly, chuffed to field questions and quick to laugh.
Izzy Manfredi of the Preatures is holed up inside one of the rooms in the Sails, curled up in the corner of a couch. The band’s guitarist Jack Moffit sits across from her, dressed in a suit, his long hair bunching up on his shoulders. He wants to know what time it is; he’s pretty sure that there’s a time difference between Sydney and Brunswick Heads. There isn’t.
“What are you talking about?” Manfredi laughs.
“Isn’t there a time difference?” he shoots back. The room stares at him, deadpan.
By his own admission, Moffit doesn’t have much of an excuse for getting his time zones confused. The band have played it relatively quiet recently, so it’s not like the last few weeks have been a blur of dates and crossed state lines; it’s been a while since they’ve been on the road, and they’re pleased to be touring again.
“This is our first time out of Sydney in a while,” Moffit says. “It’s been too long since we’ve done this.”
“That’s the thing about touring,” Manfredi says. “You finish a long tour and you’re like, ‘Oh thank god.’ But after a couple of months, you’re like, ‘Fuck, I wish I was on the road again.’”
The pair miss homecooked meals when they’re touring (“You go into restaurants asking for weird shit just … because you want these specific things to eat,” Moffitt says) and they miss playing shows when they’re at home.
“Every show you play, the audience is completely different, so the energy is always different,” Manfredi says. “Though I think the thing I love most about touring is that the worst experiences always produce the best memories.” Her arm shoots out and she whacks Moffit on the shoulder. “It’s like, ‘Remember that time you spewed in my face?’”
“That’s what becomes addictive,” Moffit says. “You get addicted to those experiences when you’re writing songs.”
“Spewing in my face, spewing in my face,” Manfredi starts to sing. “We’ve gotta write that song.” She shoots a look over at the label rep in the corner. “That’ll be a song on the trap album.”
Outside, a camera crew is beginning to assemble. There are rigs getting set up; these long, sweeping mechanical arms that are flying back and forth, flexing in preparation for the evening. And the audience, mostly quite young, although not entirely, and mostly dressed in denim and wide, flat brimmed hats, although not entirely, are pressing up against the front barrier.
“I am so ex-ci-ted,” one young woman hisses to her friend, crumbling the word up into three distinct syllables with her tongue.
She’s not alone. Everyone is here because they want to be here; there is no sense that anyone has turned up because it’s a Thursday and there is nothing else worth doing in a small town like Brunswick Heads.
Because of that, when the Preatures take to the stage a few hours later, it is to genuinely ecstatic, if ever so slightly deferential, cheers. They lean forward, but they don’t move forward – not until Manfredi, mic clapped in her hand, beckons them closer.
“Come on now,” she says, smiling. “You’re making me nervous.”
The band play well, because of course they play well – because precision and technical mastery has always been the key to The Preatures sound. The stage is small, but the band push back against it, Manfredi hanging off the front lip and Moffit dancing back and forth around her.
Tracks from Girlhood dominate the first half of the set. If there was any concern before the gig that the audience might be suspicious about the band playing new material, such a concern evaporates quickly: one man towards the back won’t stop shouting “We love you Izzy!” and the young punters up the front dance along to songs like ‘Yanada’ as if they’ve been doing it for years.
And about that song, actually. With a chorus sung in Dharug, an Indigenous language of Sydney, and lyrics about “the dream time” and “shedding our skin again”, in the hands of a lesser band the track could be insulting at worst and misguided at best. But The Preatures are not that band, and the song, poppy yet nuanced, is a perfect microcosm of their talents. It is heartfelt. It is powerful. Yet it makes no undue claims on your attention – never begs you to listen as much as it just quietly, undramatically does its thing.
Quite like The Preatures themselves, actually. When the set is done, they walk offstage together, ending not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but with something inbetween; with the relaxed gait of a group of young people who have just spent 40 minutes doing exactly what they have always wanted to do.
Girlhood is out now.