If there was a soundtrack for the feeling of drinking the world’s rarest, finest whiskey, The Teskey Brothers would be it. Smooth, sophisticated and a little sexy, their smoldering heat fills your ears and glides down your body, leaving you with a subtle tingle like you’ve just taken a sip of some finely aged single malt.
It’s a rare find when three young blokes from Melbourne all find a common passion for soul and blues music, let alone start band that would melt the masses all over the country. Members Josh Teskey, his brother Sam Teskey, Brandon Love and Liam Gough all grew up in Warrandyte, a small town east of Melbourne. Meeting through their high schooling years, the boys found both musical talents and friendship in one another.
“Brendon and I went to high school together and were always both playing in bands,” drummer Liam Gough explains. “We always used to see these two – what we thought were cool – young guys on the bus coming from the school on the other side of town. Josh and I played in a backing band together and then Brendon and Sam joined us and it turned into The Teskey Brothers.”
The boys have been playing together as a band for almost 10 years now, but over the past year, The Teskey Brothers have flourished into one of the most sought after acts on the Aussie music scene. Playing two sold out shows at the Gasometer Hotel in Melbourne and then playing four sold out shoes at the Corner Hotel, it only went up from there as the band’s popularity spread like wild fire. Being billed to play at the 2018 Bluesfest is a testament to their overnight success, a decade in the works. Liam tells of the unusual ways in which their fan base was built.
“I think Spotify has really changed the game for us because we’ve been put on a few playlists and then people who like vintage-sounding soul and blues have us pop up on their recommendations; we’ve had a lot of people come to our shows and say, ‘I just found you guys on Spotify,'” he shares. “It seems to be a pretty powerful tool and I know a lot of musicians complain about it, and how you don’t make money from it, but the way we see it is that if you can convert someone to become a follower through Spotify and then they come to your gigs, then that’s great for us because I guess one of the new ways to sustain a band is to get people to come to shows.”
Understanding that his comments might spark discussion, Gough believes the times have changed with the platform of streaming music.
“I might get stabbed in the back by other musicians for saying something like that because ethically it might not be right, but with the way the worlds going, it’s becoming a global community with music. There’s no such thing as borders or limitations anymore. Once upon a time, you used to be stuck in Australia with no idea of how to get exposure to countries like England and the US, and now it’s the power of the internet.”
At a time where pop and electronic music have such a dominant impact on today’s music scene, it’s a welcome contrast to see a blues and soul album taking to the stage. I asked Gough how their sound came about and if they’d always been inspired by those genres.
“We always had a sound that was blues and a bit of soul. We all have eclectic tastes, but we also all grew up listening to our parents record collections. In Melbourne there’s also a strong blues community, which is a bit more of a modern setting for it, but we like that. It was a bit of a gateway to us listening to a lot more of the older stuff like BB King, The Allman Brothers, James Brown and Otis Redding, so really we kind of started with our local heroes and then worked backwards from there.”
This year the boys independently released their first full album Half Mile Harvest, a title that came about from moving a studio 24 track tape machine from Jimmy Barnes’ household to their own.
“Sam and I played in another psychedelic band at one point, and we were on tour when he got wind that Jimmy Barnes was selling a studio 24 track tape machine, which is sort of the Rolls-Royce of vintage recording gear. So, we had two vans with us on tour and we went around to Jimmy Barnes’ place to pick up this machine, which is about the size of four fridges taped together,” he laughs.
“We took it apart into two pieces and carted it from Sydney to Melbourne and put it in Sam’s home studio. We were trying to think of a name for his home studio one day and he mentioned that the length of the tape that was on the tape machine was about two and a half thousand feet. Someone then said that length was about half a mile and we came up with Half Mile Harvest.”
Consisting of eight beautiful tracks, the songs on Half Mile Harvest tell stories of heartbreak and personal experiences. Combining vocals like coffee and cream and some brilliantly delivered instrumental layers, Half Mile Harvest is a modern day blues masterpiece.
“The album is a pretty even spread of all of our songwriting and it happens in different ways. There were broken hearts, trials and tribulations. I know a few of the songs are about a time I remember when we were on tour and Josh kept getting knocked down, essentially by a massive speeding fine and these huge bills. We were just sitting back watching thinking ‘When is this going to end?’, so I know a few songs came out of that which have been powerful.”
As an independent band, it can be difficult to find a driving force that is going to get your music heard, which is usually when record companies and labels step in and offer their help. There’s been a substantial increase in recent times of independent acts, setting the Australian music scene abuzz with fresh and unique sounds. The Teskey Brothers have made the decision to remain independent which admirably has worked in their favour. Their reasoning for this speaks volumes of their dedication to their craft and love of what they do.
“The industry has changed a lot and we’ve been meeting with lots of labels around the world, trying to learn as much as we can about the industry. As a band, we’d like to hold on to as much creative control as we can. We’ve heard a lot of stories so we want to hold on to our control and we don’t necessarily want a label to have a bit more say in what songs could go on an album. We want to stay true to our music as much as we can and have as much freedom to explore and be creative. The more we can do by ourselves the happier we can be. We’d all like to have long careers playing the music that we love.”
With the growing ascendancy of the independent music game, Gough commends bands who have something more to give than just a fabricated sound.
“I think it’s doing pretty well right now. There’s a bit of resurgence with support behind bands who are a bit more independent and have their own message, not so much pop and manufactured music. I’m sure it’s still out there, but there’s just so many amazing bands in every city of Australia. I look at bands like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who have released four albums independently just this year. I also heard that they’re the highest selling LP vinyl in the world and it’s crazy that they’re independent and Australian.”
When asked about challenges faced over their past nine years, and what their ultimate goal is as a band, Gough only speaks of persevering through all tough gigs and audiences they’ve encountered and finding a balance of doing things that set them alight.
“We spent ten years not taking it too seriously which in a way was a blessing because I feel like it really allowed us to hone our craft because we were in the trenches playing these pub gigs and wet gigs. Things like that, when you’re playing to a crowd who doesn’t know you and you’re not playing top 40 covers, everyone’s kind of thinking ‘Who the hell are these guys?’ You just have to plough through it and say, ‘We believe in this music’ and keep going. If you can combine a love of touring and travelling with a purpose, it’s sort of our dream goal. It’s great because we’re four best mates who have grown up together, so if we’ve withstood everything so far, I think we’ll be doing well in the future as both friends and as a band.”
Catch The Teskey brothers this weekend at Meredith Music Festival AND Fairgrounds Festival, and Bluesfest in 2018!
8 December, Fairgrounds Festival, Berry
9 December, Meredith Music Festival, Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre
26 January, Melbourne Zoo
29 March – 2 April, Byron Bay Bluesfest, Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm