Just to be clear, Melbourne-via-Sydney’s Georgia Fair are wholesome and pleasant lads. The music made by Jordan Wilson and Ben Riley might be characterised by its rough and ragged appeal, but the creative minds in the band continue to be the upstanding young men their mothers raised on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Wilson is amused at the suggestion that touring with The Panics frontman Jae Laffer for his solo shows in October has matured the band. “Ha,” he laughs, “I’m not sure if that’s the case. We’re probably still the same guys who met in high school.”
Wilson and Riley remain the unaffected fellows who bonded during drama class in year eight. It’s just that now they’ve toured the world and released two memorable and successful long-players, produced by some of alternative country and punk’s finest sound engineers. Oh, and they’ve become firm friends with The Panics, fellow Melbourne imports and Western Australia’s vanguard of purposeful instrumentation.
They first toured together towards the back of 2011, between the release of Georgia Fair’s second EP Times Fly and debut album All Through Winter. Fast-forward two years and Georgia Fair are in a similar position: they’ve just finished supporting Laffer and have released their second album, the Ted Hutt-produced Trapped Flame. They’re also looking at a huge run of shows to meet the summertime demand of fans.
“There’s something about the back end of the year for us,” Wilson says. “We always seem to be busy at that time of year. Even if we’re not playing shows we’re working away on something, whether it’s recording or trying something out, around then. And I keep fairly busy anyway, ’cause I’m always writing wherever I go.”
The band chose to travel to California earlier this year to work with Hutt – a founding member of Gaelic punks Flogging Molly and producer of Dropkick Murphys and Old Crow Medicine Show – after spending a glut of 2010 in North Carolina working with Band of Horses bassist Bill Reynolds on Times Fly and their debut album. Los Angeles offered different opportunities to those in the Tar Heel State – working with an alt-country maestro is one thing, but recording in the same studio where The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was created is a whole other prospect.
The drums, bass, piano and guitars were recorded and tracked at EastWest Studio on Sunset Boulevard, before vocals and overdubs were mixed onto the record. “I haven’t fully got my head around the process of an album,” Wilson says. “But I still feel as though it’s the best way for us to be doing what we do. The way it works for me is that there’s always something there, going on, that I need to write about. And this is the best way for that to be expressed. Writing is probably the thing that makes me feel worthwhile.”
Hutt’s prescience saw musicians Steve SideIynk (PJ Harvey, Madonna) and Jonny Flaugher brought in to augment the rhythm presence, on percussion and bass respectively. Despite the added instrumental bulk introduced during pre-production, Wilson argues there is a minimalism which defines the record’s aesthetic. “The title Trapped Flame really embodies the record. Ben managed to get these sounds that have that bare-bones quality we were searching for for ages.”
The structures of Trapped Flame’s compositions were shaped by the California sojourn, Wilson adds. “It feels like these songs were all built slightly differently. Right from the start, the contributions and the rehearsing and the writing were all happening in different ways than they have before.”
Just don’t say Georgia Fair are all grown up. “Every time I walk in the room – even yesterday at FBi – I still feel like the youngest person,” Wilson laughs.
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
Georgia Fair play Hibernian House on Saturday November 30 and Sunday December 1. Trapped Flame out now through Sony.