I’m not going to lie… When I commenced my research to write this article, I quickly found myself sidetracked, watching countless videos of Siberian and Alaskan huskies, forgetting that the actual reason I had sat down at my computer was to read up on Melbourne’s warm, enchanting folk duo, Husky.
Similar to actual huskies of the canine kind, Husky are both soft and sweet, yet hard-hitting and strong in their sound when required. Since taking out the triple j Unearthed Push Over comp in 2011, the duo has been making their way to almost every corner of the earth, building a loyal fan base in Europe, the US and of course, the motherland, Australia.
Their music is a prismatic array of their musical versatility, taking the best bits of the ‘70s folk persuasion, the ‘60s rock’n’roll and the current new indie wave, fusing them together in a charming harmony of a song. Now with a couple of albums under their belts, Husky are about release their third and most contrasting album yet. Straying away from their folk roots and going for a bit more of an indie feel, the boys have constructed Punchbuzz, an album that was written after a stint in Berlin. Vocalist and guitarist Husky Gawenda speaks of the creative process being an ongoing one.It was nothing intentional, but I think it was a mixture of things. We found that when writing the songs, they were coming out differently to what they had in the past. I was writing with an electric guitar and a loop pedal and writing songs around guitar riffs. Often the lyrics would be the last thing I’d write after we’d put together a bed of guitar, bass, drums and keys. The songs were built differently from the ground up and I think they just came out with more pace and momentum than they had in the past.
“It was nothing intentional, but I think it was a mixture of things. We found that when writing the songs, they were coming out differently to what they had in the past. I was writing with an electric guitar and a loop pedal and writing songs around guitar riffs. Often the lyrics would be the last thing I’d write after we’d put together a bed of guitar, bass, drums and keys. The songs were built differently from the ground up and I think they just came out with more pace and momentum than they had in the past.
“Also, probably part of it was what we were listening to at the time, stuff like The National, The War On Drugs, Beck and Tame Impala. A lot of the music we’re into is quite layered and atmospheric. There’s a lot of emphasis on the production. This is the first album we’ve released with a producer across the whole record and we were lucky because he had quite a similar outlook to the two of us. He really enhanced the direction of the sound.”
After being based in Berlin and touring around Europe for the best part of 2015, Husky made their way back to Melbourne in early 2016, where Gawenda began writing. Taking inspiration from the things he had seen and experienced in Berlin, Europe and where he was after the tour, a diverse spectrum of topics and creative themes were covered.
“I think the songs probably draw on bits and pieces of both Berlin and Europe. I remember I was writing a lot of poetry and taking a lot of notes, trying to jot things down as I was touring. Probably more of the stories and people on the record are actually from Melbourne. A lot of the stories took place in a time of transition. I’d just returned to Melbourne and it all felt new to me again. Everywhere was full of life, my senses were alive and I was taking things in and noticing what was around me. I was staying at a place called The Hotel which is a bit of an artist collective sharehouse. There’s a lot of parties, late night hangs and a lot of eccentric people moving in and out. It kind of felt like I was still on the road because everything was still so colourful. It was a place that I could find peace and quiet to write but also come out of my room and find all sorts of things happening.”
Finding the creative spark again, Gawenda also spilt on the contrasting aspects of different cities and how they bring different elements to the creative table.
“Every city is different and has its own soul and beat and it influences your life and your writing in all kinds of subtle ways. There’s no place like Berlin, as much as people always compare it to Melbourne or say they are similar, but there is truly no place like Berlin. It’s so vibrant and full of art, musicians and eccentrics. It also never sleeps, so it’s very easy to get lost, in a good way. But in saying that, it’s also easy to get lost and not do any work. Coming back to Melbourne was great for me in terms of getting to work and pulling all those experiences together in order to create the album.”
Now looking into the future, Husky are about to embark on their biggest tour yet playing all over the country and then journeying over to Europe for a huge string of dates. Gawenda tells about the jump in show size and how important the audience vibe is when playing a live show. I also asked about the best gig they’ve ever played and the worst gig they’ve ever played, which gave me a fascinating insight into their live show experience.
“We start off with Australia in a few weeks and it’s been a while since we’ve done a tour here. We have a long history with our audiences here, which is a beautiful thing. Within Australia, you get different kinds of audiences and the same goes in different countries. We very rarely don’t have a really good audience. Wherever we are, audiences tend to be lovely and open. If the audience is there with you, I think it gives the band the opportunity to take off and that also gives the audience the opportunity to do the same. The audience is such an important aspect, it’s never just about how well the band plays.’
“We’ve started rehearsals for the new songs and it’s a fun and interesting challenge to bring those songs into a live setting, so we can’t wait to play them. Then we head over for our biggest tour to date. We’re playing in 26 cities in Europe. We’re playing a lot of new places, which I’m sure will be quite the adventure.
“On the topic of the worst gig I ever played, they also sometimes happen to be the best gigs I’ve ever played,” he laughs. “We’d show up to these pubs where the sound system would be absolutely thrashed. The audience would consist of about ten people, half of which were bar staff and that’s often part of being a new band. In a way, it toughens you up and prepares you for the real world, so those people that were bar staff, they told their friends and the next time we played, we probably had 20 people, half of which were the bar staff’s friends. The next time was maybe 30 and so on, so that’s why I say our worst gig was maybe also one of our best.”
Plans post-tour for the boys are exciting and at this point, loosely planned. Gawenda tells me of some saucy summer shows and activities but also being careful to not give too much away. “Plans after the tour will commence in about November, so I guess those plans are still unfolding. We’re probably going to be heading to the States after Europe for some touring. Then we’ll come back to Australia to play a few festivals over the summer, but I can’t say too much about that yet. In terms of unwinding, the best thing for me is surfing. There’s nothing that takes my mind of everything like surfing. I have a van that I’ll spend a week or so sleeping in and surfing down south of Melbourne.”
17 June, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
23 June, Corner Hotel, Melbourne w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
24 June, Jive Bar, Adelaide w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
29 June, Oxford Art Factory, Sydney w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
30 June, 48 Watt St, Newcastle w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
6 July, Bello Winter Music Festival, Bellingen
7 July, Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
8 July, Solbar, Maroochydore w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
15 July, Grand Poobah, Hobart w/ Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke
22 July, Mojo’s Bar, Fremantle w/ Teischa
23 July, The Rosemount, Perth w/ Teischa