On a Thursday night at ‘The Bearded Tit’, a homely Redfern bar, amongst the hub-bub of a birthday party, I meet Julia Wylie. We’ve both had a long day, but having a chat over a lager ended up being the perfect way to end the day.
Julia Wylie started as a solo musician back in 2011, releasing two EPs, Part One and Part Two, the year after. Her music sounded a lot different back then, tending towards emo-shoegaze rather than the grungey-rock of today.
“It’s pretty embarrassing. My voice was really different, I think. It still has the grungey kind of stuff going on, but my voice was a lot sweeter. Back when I was young!”
The band that is Julia Why? today is a combination of Julia on Bass, Caleb Jacobs on guitar and Peter Beringer on drums, although Sarah Pie (aka Le Pie) will be filling in on drums during the coming tour. With the release of two songs from the upcoming album, Candy and the most recent, Pocket, the sound seems to be leaning more towards a polished grunge sound than the more frantic garage-rock base of their first album.
“The album is definitely a mix. There’s some really fast stuff, like before, but there’s a lot more slower stuff, more dreamy and pretty as well. It’s prettier, with a lyrical punch.”
The lyrics are something that Julia is passionate about. Not afraid to pull punches and sing about hot-button social subjects (Pocket was written in reaction to the Liberal government’s call to drug test welfare recipients), Julia uses her musical outlet as a way of releasing the angst.
“I’ve always been passionate about political or social justice stuff, but it gets personal as well. I tie it in with personal experiences or what I see other people experiencing. It feeds into the broader picture of what’s going on – it’s a release for me. I feel so many things. I feel really strongly about things that sometimes I can’t even talk about it. I find it easier to write about it and that’s my way of saying what I want to say.”
Julia continues, describing that on stage is where she feels like she can get out what she wants to say. That therapeutic release is just as important to feel as it is to share and it highlights that we all need an avenue, whether it be rants with colleagues, public protesting, hearty discussions with family or on-line outbursts; we all need a way to express our feelings and vent about the world around us.
Following the release of 2015’s Wheel record, the band embarked on a tour through Canada after being selected to play at Canadian Music Week. The intense five-week tour saw them lose their bass player at the time, but pick up a whole lot of amazing experiences and knowledge, especially considering Julia booked the entire tour herself.
“The tour is probably what really got him to leave!”, explains Julia, discussing the departure of Matt Frederickson. “It was still good. I just can’t believe we did that. How the fuck did I organise that?” Playing 15 shows in four weeks, the group ended up at Canada’s primary music industry event, but Julia reflects on the lopsided representation. “It was weird. It’s like the BIGSOUND of Canada, but it was a bit of a sausage-fest. I was one of the only women in the whole thing! It was really intense.”
This leads to us discussing the current state of gender balance in the Australian music scene. With, what I perceive, as an exciting shift in dynamic of non-male artists over the last few years, Julia tends to cautiously agree.
“I think there’s heaps of really great musicians, female and non-binary musicians doing cool stuff. I just want it to be more in festival line-ups – headlining shows and festivals. It is getting there. I think it’s exciting at the moment, because we’re experiencing the shift. We’re in the change phase. I think people are just getting more aware of it and also on-board with it and doing things to change it, so hopefully the next generation, it won’t even be an issue.”
This leads us to another beer and slipping into a political discussion of where the country is at. It’s an easy back-and-forth as we are on a very similar page, both lamenting the political environment in Australia right now. It’s a discussion that is probably happening in pubs, bars and living rooms around the country at any given moment, but right there and then in a Redfern bar, it’s nice to meet someone who gets it, especially when there are so many out there, that don’t.
We eventually return to the topic of music and what’s coming up for Julia Why?. A mini-tour for the release of Pocket commences in Sydney on Friday, following by dates in Newcastle, Thirroul and Melbourne. The album, due out early next year, is sparking a rejuvenation of the group.
Julia elaborates, “[the album] is all written. It’s all recorded. We’re just mixing it at the moment. I want to shop it out to see if anyone wants to press it for us, so we don’t have to press it! That would be nice. We’ll release another single before the year is out and the album, early next year….if we can.”
It highlights the DIY nature of the group and how many hurdles musicians face in trying to release their music. Sure, you can pop it online after it’s complete, but to actually make the physical copies can be a risk in this environment.
“I just want to concentrate on the music, as much I can.“
It’s a positive end to our chat and gives me hope that not only will Julia Wylie continue to rock-out in front of Julia Why?, but is motivated to create, inspire and lead us through the shift in the Australian music scene that I would gladly follow.
Sydney – September 27 – Waywards
Newcastle – September 30 – Croatian Club Foreplay Festival
Thirroul – October 4 – Franks Wild Years
Parramatta – October 5 – Beat Disc Records
Melbourne – October 11 – The Tote
Melbourne – October 12 – Grace Darling
Sydney – October 13 – The Lady Hampshire’s Octoberfest