Upon arriving at the appointed Sydney cafe for our interview, I discover that there are in fact two identically named locations on either side of the city, and while Melody Pool and Marlon Williams are waiting patiently at one, I am sitting in a flock of businessmen waiting for them at the other. By the time I arrive, Melody is passing time online, while Marlon reads Camus’The Myth Of Sisyphus. Hoping the title won’t prove too analogous, I realise the most likely reason for meeting in a public space is the fear of assassination. Are they frightened of me, or am I the poor schmuck who should be concerned?
“I’d be worried about Marlon,” Melody warns, eyeing her partner suspiciously. He ducks for cover behind his book.
“I’m innocent! I’m just reading!”
Pool and Williams are an affable duo, both quick to laugh and unpretentious. Though Melody tells me afterwards how nervous she was that the interview would be a disaster – she hadn’t slept well the night before – the pair are remarkably attuned to each other’s answers, bouncing off jokes and responses in quick succession. You suspect that their stage banter must be quite incredible.
“There’s not particularly a conscious theme or plan that we’re trying to get across up there,” Marlon explains. “We’ll each do a different set, and then some together.”
“And while there are certain similarities in how we sound,” Melody adds, “I think we’re different enough to make it work, to showcase our individual sound and have fun with that before performing anything together.”
Given the scope of their co-headline tour, it is surprising that Pool and Williams have only met relatively recently. There was no crossing paths at festivals, no slow developing musical bond. After doing a show together and realising just how compatible they were, their tour basically grew from that one fateful encounter. Marlon suddenly seems oddly apologetic about that.
“Really it was management who organised things,” he tells me, and Melody nods.
“We really need to work on a better story than that,” she says, “give it some more excitement. But we just found ourselves thrown together, and it really stuck.”
Not that either of them are strangers to comprehensive (one might say exhausting) tours. “I did two weeks of solid touring, with shows every day,” Melody says. “But this is easily going to be the longest tour that I’ve done. It’s pretty exciting.”
Marlon, however, has her beat. “I did 30 shows in 34 days around New Zealand. That was a real eye-opener,” he laughs, shaking his head. “Finding out what it’s like to actually put your body through something like that. You soon realise that you can’t get absolutely wasted every night.”
While Williams already has several records under his belt with various groups in his native NZ (including two nominations for best album from the APRA Music Awards), Pool’s crowdfunded debut came in 2013 with her evocatively titled The Hurting Scene. She sounds both whimsical and pragmatic when she reflects on the time of its release.
“You listen to it all the time at first, but a few months ago I heard it for the first time in ages and I sound like such a baby. I have no regrets about how it sounds or how we made it, but my voice has just become so much stronger now. I’m proud of it, because when I started out on it the main thing I wanted was to have no filler songs on it, and I think that’s how it turned out. Hopefully,” she adds, laughing.
“You have to let it go,” Marlon agrees. “Once it’s been heard a number of times, it’s not really yours anymore. It goes out there and becomes something else, and also somehow becomes something that’s easier to perform. It’s just something that happens between the recording and being onstage. I played with Justin Townes Earle for a couple of shows, and just watching how one man can hold together a set like that was amazing. I saw him play once with a bit of a band, maybe three others, and these other musicians were playing exactly what he was doing when he was alone. I’ve never seen anyone play guitar like that.”
While Pool and Williams have released a handful of videos together demonstrating the extraordinary combination of their voices – their duet on ‘Heaven For You’ is gorgeous – they have yet to find the chance to sit down together and pen lyrics, and any stirrings for a potential album together are still on the backburner.
“We only see each other now for the odd gig, or interviews,” Marlon says, “but that’s never the best kind of space to try and write something. Maybe on tour.”
“We’ll write a little ditty in the car,” Melody suggests.
“Or just get drunk some night and try it then,” Marlon grins. “I can’t think about it too much. Just every now and again a song comes along somehow, and I’ll try to get it out of the way.”
One suspects, however, that talk of an album has come up in conversation between the two before. “Let’s just see how we feel about each other at the end of the tour,” Marlon says. Until then, they have a crazy five weeks of performing to go, and many ditties to write along the way.