HEARTFELT FOLK FROM DOWN UNDER
Old Soul’s Eyes is the name of an album released digitally towards the end of 2014 by Walrus & The Carpenter, the Australian band formed the previous year by Maltese musician Matthew Engerer and Mat Akehurst. Having established a firm foothold on the music scene in their region thanks to their transcendent live shows, the band, also featuring multi-instrumentalist Maria Stratton and bass player Al Brooker, went on to play at the Mullum Music Festival and the Falls Music and Arts Festival in Byron Bay. Re-released last June through Aussie label Vitamin Records, Old Soul's Eyes has brought Walrus & The Carpenter to the attention of a wider audience; its folk sensibility, melodic flow and heartfelt authenticity bringing to the surface the band’s inspired songs in all their glorious simplicity. Citing the album among his personal favourites of 2015, Michael Bugeja interviews Matthew Engerer about the band’s progress so far and what its plans for 2016 are.
With Old Soul's Eyes now in circulation, your comments about the album in terms of its musical coordinates and how it compares to the time the band started and where it wants to go.
Mat and I started playing music together in early 2013 and it wasn't long before we noticed that our musical tastes and styles really complemented each other’s. We rehearsed a couple of times a week and mainly worked on the original songs in regards to structure and dynamics. By the time the recording dates were chosen we had a dozen solid original tracks ready to be put down. That was when Maria (Stratton) and Al (Brooker) came into the picture. Being very seasoned players with distinct musical voices they played an integral role in achieving the sound we have as a band and which is reflected on the album. Not straying from our core line-up on the album was essential in successfully recreating the sound and feel of our live performances. With any luck we will be able to keep this line-up for our next album and any tours we hope are on the way.
What would you say the album represents in relation to Walrus & The Carpenter's earlier material and the long hard road getting to this point in your history so far.
I wouldn't consider the road getting to where we are hard or long. I've always considered my music to be more of a hobby so it’s been more of a slow and steady build-up. I feel really lucky to be in the position I am in, playing music with three extremely talented individuals who are also just playing for the love of it. The album itself has a mix of songs as old as 13 years to songs that were written the month before the recording. We worked on each song as if it were an album in itself, breaking down into segments so that we could create a solid structure and above all interesting dynamics.
Having released your debut album on your own steam just a few months ago what does this deal with Vitamin Records mean?
I think above all it’s more a confidence booster than anything else. Vitamin Records is more of a distribution label. Our album is now available in shops all over Australia and all over the internet. It also gives us the opportunity to meet and work with other bands that are signed with the label.
In light of the way the music industry operates these days how do you perceive this deal will boost your profile in Australia and hopefully beyond?
I feel that venues and festival organisers take a band a bit more seriously if they are signed to a label. Hopefully being signed to Vitamin Records will give us the opportunity to travel a bit more around Australia with gigs and festivals lined up. Once recognised in Australia we can start thinking about the beyond.
Your music isn't quite mainstream, which I'm sure is a challenge in itself in trying to reach a wide audience...
Our music has been really well received by both the public and the media. We always sell a number of albums at gigs and busking and have been on the local radio for interviews and playing live music quite a few times in the last couple of months. I think our music, although not mainstream, is easy listening and tends to connect on different levels with people from all walks of life. Different people connect with different songs from the album, I think most people really appreciate the honesty and meaning in the songs we play.
What's next for Walrus & The Carpenter…any thoughts of touring Europe someday?
Ha ha...the furthest we've been from Mullumbimby for a gig was Kingscliff which is a 45-minute drive. We recently finished our first mini-tour on the east coast of Australia. My philosophy ever since I started playing music is to take things one small step at a time, but we would definitely be interested in playing in Europe, and especially Malta of course.
This article was first published on The Sunday Times of Malta's ESCAPE magazine (17 Jan 2016)