In the past, we’ve described Sydney’s Betty & Oswald as “having their own brand of music– a swirling blend of jazz, cabaret, folk and something a little more slippery.” Now, they bring their international adventures home with them in the form of one awesome and insightful travel diary for AU Abroad. Enjoy all the behind-the-scenes action and happy snaps…
We arrived in Toronto after 10 hours of driving, 20 hours of flying, 5 hours of waiting, one missed flight, one night in a seedy NYC hotel, and one giant burger.
We have a not-so secret love affair with Canada, so arriving back here felt pretty damn fine. This time in Toronto we stayed at an Airbnb place near Kensington Market so we spent the first few days hanging around there, checking out vintage shops and eating lots of fish tacos at this legendary little hole in the wall place called ‘Seven Lives.’
On Saturday we played our first show at Drake Underground with some sweet Canadian bands. Afterwards we dragged all our stuff across town to the Hilton where we were being put up as part of Songhubs. The Hilton was super fancy and we got free water bottles.
Here’s us hanging at the Drake before our show.
We were lucky enough to be picked by APRA and SOCAN to do this rad four-day program called Songhubs. We were one of 5 acts selected (all Australian), along with Caitlin Harnett, Demi Louise, Phebe Starr and Morgan Evans. It took place at a beautiful studio in Toronto called Noble Street Studios. Each day we worked with a different producer, wrote a completely new song, and then produced and recorded a completely finished version of it by the end of the day. It was crazy intense. We’d end up spending about 14 hours in the studio each day. Mostly writing. A little bit of party.
Everyone was pushed out of their comfort zones. On the first day Caitlin, who usually writes Americana/folk, wrote a top 40s pop song and we wrote an electronic soul tune. Throughout the four days we got to explore so many genres, work with some incredible producers and engineers, and experience some really indescribable highs.
One of the craziest moments was working with Gavin Brown on a new song, ‘Look What You’ve Done.’ We recorded the whole thing in about two hours. Gavin put down organ and drums, and the whole experience was very raw and powerful. It felt like we were all very passionate and completely immersed in the song. We were also fortunate enough to write a sweet little electronic tune called ‘Feelin Fine’ with Tawgs Salter and Mike Wise. They had this organic and seamless creative relationship and it was inspiring to be a part of.
Throughout Songhubs we all got to know each other and it became a little family, at the head of which was Glenn Dickie from Sounds Australia, who became everyone’s Songhubs dad. The whole thing was like a sleepless, mega creative epiphany.
The best spot at Noble Street Studios was the roof. This is where we’d go to hang, procrastinate, stare at the city, write lyrics, smoke, drink, have late night jams and soak the whole experience in.
This was one night, our friend and producer Nate playing some tunes into the Toronto dusk.
And this is us at some point during Songhubs, clearly lovin life.
And then we got drunk.
On the last afternoon of Songhubs we had a listening party and heard all the tracks that everyone had made during the workshop. It was pretty rad and we all had a few drinks and cried because it was all over. Well maybe I was the only one crying.
Then we left to get ready for our CMW showcase at 1AM that night at Johnny Jackson. When we got to the venue at midnight we were told the band before us had dropped out and we had to get on stage.
Since we’d told everyone we were playing at 1AM we went ahead and did the slowest set up and sound check known to man. We finally got on stage just before 1, to an audience of five unenthusiastic looking souls. Luckily the bar filled out pretty quick and it ended up being a rad, late night, rambling, drunken event. We were riding on some wave of delirious exhaustion, but everyone seemed to really love it and all in all it was a great time.
Picture by Neil Van Photography neil-van.com
By this point we’d been on tour for about three weeks and basically hadn’t slept. So the delirium was seriously setting in. We got up to co-host a radio show at Shoelack Radio, where we talked shit on air for about two hours with Fred the host, who was hilarious. We also had chats with some other Australian bands; Tora, Caitlin Harnett, Jordan Léser and Tom West.
Then we left to get ready for our show that night where about 100 people came and partied in an office building. Here’s a video of us at Shoeclack radio, which also has some footage of the show later that night.
Friday was our last CMW showcase which was at The Horseshoe Tavern for Sound’s Australia Aussie BBQ, along with a bunch of Australian bands including Tora, Pierce Brothers and Olivers Army. It was a pretty high energy experience. The sets were short, the changeovers were even shorter, I got my lead tangled up in every possible instrument as I tried to leave the stage. But overall it was rad gig and there was heaps of people. And Glen, aka Songhubs Dad was there to make everyone feel great and give out sausages. He also thrust us on stage at the Rivoli when Kingswood didn’t rock up in time to play their set. Now we have a joke with Fergus from Kingswood that we’re going to follow them around and steal all their gigs.
Picture by R C Stills richardcliffordphotography.com
A week on into (still not-so) normal life, we are having big CMW and Songhubs withdrawals. The experiences we had were truly incredible, very sleepless and quite crazy, and we’re ready to do it all again. We met some amazing people, heard some great music, but most importantly, we ate the best fish tacos of our lives.
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