My QPF 2009 program is already suitably inked, with many sessions marked that I just cannot miss. One of those sessions features the blistering soundscape rock of Bremen Town Musician. Their 2008 album, No one is holding a gun to your head (Songs to Run to), is still stealing my breath and I am busting at the seams with excitement to see them stretch their sonic wings at the Judith Wright Centre when they take centre stage on Saturday August 22 in the session, A Canary In Our Throats alongside Brianna Carpenter. To help build the excitement, here’s a recent interview with founding member of Bremen Town Musician, Marisa Allen.
How does a song begin for you – an idea, an image, a phrase, a chord?
All of the above really. It seems to be a combination of these things backed up by a strong feeling. When there is a feeling associated with these then there is a kind of momentum that kicks in harnessing all the elements of bringing a song together. They may not all happen at the same time, it may a period of minutes or even years to piece it all together. I’m finding that there is strong visual element to my songs, that the music and the words combined (on a song that is really working) tend to stimulate a visual side when listened to and from this a story is begun.
What role does poetry play in your songwriting process?
It’s actually very important. I started out writing poetry independently of songwriting. Being an instrumentalist first, words and hence vocals took a back seat in the process for a very long time and were a separate thing to any music that I was making. Then after coming out of a period of illness and journaling a lot I decided I wanted to write songs with words and indirectly that meant adding vocals. So I just wrote. And because I had always written poetry first, it was familiar to me, that’s what I started writing. I gave myself 3 years to work on the craft and then another period of time to get co-ordinated enough to sing and play at the same time. Every time I had a strong feeling I would write it, that was the only guide I really gave myself. It was a very gentle process and I just allowed myself to write without critiquing anything. It was also a very disciplined process because I kept aiming for something, so there was a focus, I didn’t know what I was aiming for but when I hit it I knew, if that makes any sense at all… Through this process I like to think that I’m now able to discern quite well between what is certainly a poem and what is a song, at least in my own work. Sometimes though the line between what I would consider should remain a poem and what should become a song isn’t so clear but when that happens it can become a really unusual song.
Who are your artistic beacons and how have they shaped your work?
Oh dear! Everyone and no one??? Such a hard thing to pin point. I’ll stick to contemporary artists. If I said one it would be Polly Jean Harvey. I’ve been listening to her work since I was 15 when I first heard Sheela Na Gig coming down through a crackly radio reception on 4ZZZ (how we even picked up 4ZZZ 2hours north of Brisbane I’ll never know!) and I was like who! the! fuck! is that, it was 7 in the morning and I was going to school but that weekend I was down at the only independent record shop in town facing up to the independent record store guy saying have you heard of this person..?? can you order it in..?? I don’t think he really knew what to make of me and could’ve easily just said no, but anyway he ordered it in and I got the album and that was that. Whoosh! .and I cannot explain what it is that resonates with me but it just does. Certainly Dirty Three also. But then there are also such obscure and strange things that are like a light for me such as landscapes and experimental musical instrument makers that shape the entire way I do things musically.
Nick Cave once said that inspiration is a word used by people who aren’t really doing anything. What’s your take on this?
Hey I answered this question in Pascalle’s spoken word workshop in 2007! Inspiration is like an elusive mist that you can never actually capture, some people spend their time chasing the mist, but they are misguided. Inspiration actually comes out of working and is like a muscle or a cog that starts turning once you actually start doing something.
What are the words you live by?
“Say it in as few words as possible”
About Bremen Town Musician:
Bremen Town Musician are a three piece with Marisa Allen on violin/vocals, Arron Bool on guitar/bass and Dave Bell on drums/percussion playing a blend of experimental/blues/folk at times accompanied only by a single violin to create mesmerizing performances.
Formed in 2005 Marisa Allen emerged as a soloist with the name Bremen Town Musician releasing her first independent solo EP ‘Silent Arrows’ a lo fi exploration of the violin. Performing as a street musician since 1995 in Australia the U.K and Iceland she was mentored by Geoff Adeney (ex Bullamakanka ‘79 -’81) and Cleis Pearce (DHA, Michael Luenig).
She has toured the United States with Icelandic/American country rock act The Foghorns and performed at Bad Taste Records (Iceland), the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival and Yeppoon Village Festival and was invited to collaborate with Icelandic improv/jazz/noise collective Spuni/Graupan for the Governor of Reykjavik, at Reykjavik City Hall, Iceland.
Bremen Town Musician offer audiences a unique show. In a live setting the band take one step further bringing an album of songs to life with instrumental improvisations and delivering the raw energy the band harnesses.
Watch Bremen Town Musician perform a solo set at SpeedPoets here.
Find out more: www.myspace.com/brementownmusic
Catch Bremen Town Musician at QPF 2009:
Saturday August 22 – 6:00pm – 7:00pm
A Canary In Our Throat: feat. Bremen Town Musician & Brianna Carpenter
All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.
For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com