It's not often you find a combination of dark gypsy jazz-noir, sultry blues and melodramatic folk music on the contemporary scene, but anything is possible in Melbourne town. Anne Of The Wolves - lead by Melbourne singer, musician and songwriter Bek Chapman (Rich Davies & The Low Road, Damian Cowell's Disco Machine, and formerly of The Nymphs) is that one group.
As a follow-up to their 2013 EP Rainmaker, Anne of the Wolves has released Triffids and Trees - a triumphant collection of remarkable and unique songs that play around with less explored genres. Bold, melancholic, vunerable, haunting, fierce, fun - Triffids and Trees is all these things; a wonderful achievement. It's unfortunate that the timing of the Triffids and Trees release was accompanied by a prolonged bout of chronic laryngitis which, for a time, derailed Bek's career. But she's getting back on track, and a long awaited official launch of Triffids and Trees is beckoning ...
So, tell us the story of Anne of the Wolves ...
I had been playing around with different pseudonyms for awhile, using different combinations of my middle name and my cat’s name, Wolf. He went missing, and has never been found, unfortunately. I wanted to honour Wolf in some way; it sounds silly, but he was an extremely special friend, and I loved him. My friend, Emma Harris, and I were having coffee and she helped me come up with the name.
But over the years, I’ve come to realise, it goes a lot deeper than that. It’s a metaphor for the reason I write music: it’s a catharsis for dealing with anxiety and depression, something which I feel very lucky to be able to say freely, now that the stigma has been softened.
So The Wolves is actually a name for the darkness - something that can feel like it’s going to overwhelm you at any moment (or the wolf at the door). In order to be okay, I have to actually let the music flow - to open that door and not only let the wolves in, but run with them rather than fight against them (or repress what I’m feeling). Writing music helps me do that.
Who is in your band, and what do they each do?
Nathaniel Poynter plays clarinet and keyboards when I’m on the uke. And he tells a tall tale.
Hayley Gibson plays the double-bass and writes charts like a flippin’ boss.
Matt Gibson plays percussion and created the thunder-roll-like sound that’s become very much synonymous with Anne of the Wolves.
And Stirling Gill-Chambers plays violin...and scoffs at our coffee choices.
You've just released a new album - how would you describe the music on this album?
Triffids & Trees is enigmatic and fierce, strong and joyful - and extremely vulnerable. It’s filled with resignation and longing. I wrote most of it whilst dealing with being in a relationship where I was excluded, dismissed, ignored and forgotten. It was the hardest time of my life, and I almost didn’t make it.
Tell us about the title of your album?
It’s about finding your true friends.
Who was involved recording this album?
Thomas Strode (PBS Live) recorded us live in the Gibson’s lounge room. Later on, my dear friend, Myles Mumford (Rollingstock Recording Studios) recorded extra vocals and piano at the studio. He’s a gem.
How has your song writing and sound changed from your previous album?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s much change yet. I guess the Rainmaker EP was like a sample of what will be. There’s a ballad, a jazzy tune, a melancholic song and a gypsy dance. Triffids & Trees is like that, too, just more of each. I like to mix it up with different styles, otherwise I get bored.
Now you've finished your album - what next?
At the moment I’m waiting to get better - I got chronic laryngitis from overuse and illness in late 2016 and couldn’t make a noise for a couple of months. It scared the bejeebers out of me and I had to uproot my whole career - I had two day jobs and three bands and they all required a voice.
So I have been resting this past year and eventually have been able to keep doing gentle warm-ups and then backing vocals in my other two wonderful bands - in Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine (ex-TISM frontman) and Rich Davies & The Low Road.
But singing main vocals for every song for a straight hour set is still too much for me, unfortunately. But with voice therapy and possible surgery, I should be okay soon. Then I want to do a proper launch of the album.
What are three critical elements that influences your song writing?
Harmonies. I’d layer my voice over and over if I could. I’m playing around with a loop machine for the next album, listening to Petra Hayden’s version of The Who, and Moses Sumney and Bjork’s Medulla and Camille. Heaven.
Funnily enough - metal music is an influence for me - whenever I hear certain metal tunes, I want to cover them. I always used to do that. System of a Down and Glassjaw were my favourites for doing that. And, of course, I arranged Enter Sandman for The Nymphs when we were on Spicks and Specks.
Lastly, I think, expression. You’ve just got to get it out, sometimes.
If you could put together your own music festival, who would be on the bill and why? Who would headline?
It would be a “Party Like You’re 6 Festival” and would involve a lot of daggy dancing and silliness. I would definitely have Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine Play along with the Burnt Sausages, and Moreland City Soul Review. There would also be a petting zoo and adult-sized bouncy castle.
If your music was to be used as a soundtrack for a film, who would you want directing and starring in it?
The ballads would suit some sort of weird period drama/ horror thing, I think. And I love mystery-horror. Robert Eggers (the Witch) could write and direct as long as he’d work with Black Phillip (Charlie the goat) again. I heard he was an absolute arsehole to work with, that goat. Loads of character. I like that. Molly Parker and Helen Mirren would star. Those two are incredible.
If you had to play a completely different genre of music to what you do now, what would it be?
Traditional Irish folk. Raglan Road is my favourite, and I’m listening to a lot of The Dubliners and Luke Kelly, thanks to my Irish partner.
If you could convince one person or band to retire from music, who would it be - and why?
I’m actually against this very thing. Mainstream media is very focussed on youth, looks and fame. Talent is not only secondary, it’s practically optional these days. Thus, long-standing and older artists, traditionally of retirement age, like Neil Diamond, Eric Bogle, Bette Middler and Barbra Streisand, for example - they show us that good art and a truly good artist, is timeless, and no one should be forced to retire.
Tell us about a gig you’ll never forget.
When I saw Moses Sumney for the first time at MONA. What a light.
What food/drink serving suggestions do you have for this album?
Tony Proudfoot said of the album that it is a “perfect winter album” - great to listen to “inside by the fire with a glass of red.” I’d recommend Pepperjack and some cheese. Lots of cheese!
Find out more about Anne Of The Wolves