Dami Im Sheds Every Illusion on Sixth LP My Reality

Photo Credit: Glenn Hunt

“I feel like this is [the] dream album that I’ve always wanted to make since I was a teenager, so I’m really looking forward to having it out there,” says Korean-Australian pop singer Dami Im of her latest LP, My Reality. With five previous albums and a decade of music industry experience propelled by her success in reality television singing competitions, that’s no small claim. Each step of Im’s journey brought her closer to fully manifesting her artistic vision – honing her voice, sharing her views, building her contacts, and weaving the threads of her identity into one cohesive album. Along with its October 29 release comes a sense of liberation and empowerment, too.

“I needed to understand how to achieve it. I feel like now, I’m at a point where I do have the drive, the maturity and the skills to be able to create what I actually hear in my head, and to try to make the vision come to reality,” Im says. “You can know what you want in your head, but executing it is a different question… I didn’t know how to get there, and work with the right people, collaborate, and follow through with that vision to the end… I feel like I now have that confidence and the strength to do that.”

My Reality is musically-rich, multi-textured pop, drawing from Im’s love of electro, rock and dance and her background in classical and gospel music. Hip-hop and pop producers Andrew Burford, One Above (Hilltop Hoods, Illy), Andy Mak (Vera Blue, Tina Arena) and Konstantin Kersting (Tones And I, Spacey Jane) were all on board for the project. While the album’s title is a cheeky reference to her reality TV fame in Australia, it more importantly illuminates the contrast between knowing someone from the hour or so each week that you see them through a screen, and actually, really knowing someone.

“What I consider to be my reality may be different to how other people perceive it,” she attests. “It’s factual and a fantasy all at the same time. Because of all the television and reality TV shows, people assume they know me and they know me a certain way but I don’t think they know me all the way, all the different ways.”

In Australia, Dami Im first became a household name on the fifth season of popular TV show The X Factor Australia in 2013. In 2016, she represented Australia at Eurovision, becoming the highest scoring Australian entry ever with her “Sound of Silence.” Two years later, she performed at the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony. In between, there’s been five albums, a reality TV dance show (Dancing With The Stars) and a reality TV cooking competition (Celebrity MasterChef), and number one albums and singles.

But Im’s love of music stretches back much further, to her childhood in Seoul. “My mum was trained in opera and classical singing, so we always had lots of music in the house, lots of classical music. We couldn’t not play music, me and my brother. My dad loved playing a lot of instruments as well, and singing,” she recalls. She began piano lessons at the age of 5, later singing and writing her own songs. When the family moved to Brisbane, music provided a sense of belonging and connection in Im’s new and unfamiliar surroundings.

“Playing the piano was not only helpful for me musically, but I think that’s what gave me some kind of identity and confidence when I first came to Australia,” she says. “I couldn’t speak English very well, so I felt really dumb…[but] whenever it came to music, I could play piano and at that really tiny school, everyone thought that I was the best. I felt really proud as a little kid. Music gave me this other language that I could use.”

By age 11, Im began studying piano at the Young Conservatorium of Music program at Griffith University in Queensland, later becoming a national finalist in the Yamaha Youth Piano Competition. In 2009, she graduated from the University of Queensland with first class honours in a Bachelor of Music, and also completed a Masters of Music Studies degree in contemporary voice. Her formal schooling might have pointed towards a classical career – especially given her mother’s success in that realm – but the art and science of making pop music held heightened allure. Im’s thorough understanding of theory allows her to convey her vision to collaborators and fully realise it, knowing what is technically achievable.

“There’s a lot more to it than musical skills,” she counters. “I got thrown in to the industry pretty quickly through The X Factor and even though I had been making music all my life… it was different when I had to do it on a really big scale, and I had, suddenly, so much pressure… All of a sudden, I had to make something that would be played on radio, and what does that even mean?”

A condition of her X Factor win was signing to Sony Music Australia, which provided her with a recording and management deal after she won with the single “Alive.” She left Sony last year; last month, the label made national news in Australia for an investigative TV revelation on ABC’s 4 Corners of decades of abuse, harassment and systematically firing women when they were on maternity leave.

“I did watch it and yeah, yeah, that’s where I was,” says Im with a nervous laugh. “Whatever the staff experienced there, the artists also experienced…for me, I don’t think I’ve ever been silent about it. I’ve always said things about my experience and I guess people didn’t pay that much attention until now.”

It’s not surprising that artists have been less willing to talk about their experiences with Sony – especially those that still feel indebted to the label, whether emotionally or contractually. Im not only feels she’s paid that debt, but that Sony’s insistence on pushing her to record covers rather than originals sold her extremely short as a creative force, ultimately driving her to sign with competitor ABC Music. “All I can say is when I was at Sony I had some really great opportunities and really great experiences as well… [but] on a creative level, I felt that I needed to have more control,” she admits. “I learnt that I like to be the boss when it comes to my songwriting, so for me it was time to leave.”

There were certainly clues to her struggle in the first singles she released independently, beginning with 2019’s “Crying Underwater,” which addressed the pressure to look content while secretly suffering. Then, in January 2020, “Kiss You Anyway” revealed the more emotive route Im would be taking; she recorded a Korean version in November last year. The third single, “Marching On,” was a love song from a daughter to her mother, anchored by piano and hand-click-style percussion.

After signing to ABC and dropping “Paper Dragon” last year – a siren song that declares her newfound confidence – she followed up with the mid-tempo, sunshine pop of “Lonely Cactus.” A twangy bass line roots the song, layered over with synth claps, funky drums and Im’s lyrical paean to being alone, prickly and defensive. “I try and go to those uncomfortable problems and thoughts and experiences, because I think when I go to those dangerous places, people relate to it more,” she confesses.

All of these songs appear on My Reality, showcasing Im’s emotional versatility. But her latest single, album opener “Pray,” is perhaps one of the most powerful. Im’s literal faith has always been front-and-center in her career, but “Pray” is, perhaps even more poignantly, a celebration of Im’s faith in herself. Never faltering in that belief has resulted in an album of funky, rhythmic, danceable pop that both addresses and unites us in handling everyday injustices and micro-traumas of life – one that Dami Im has every right to be proud of, now that she’s made it a reality.

Follow Dami Im on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Brisbane artist Tori Forsyth Hails Her ’90s Heroes on Provlépseis

Photo Credit: She Is Aphrodite

Starting off her career as a country artist enabled the public to pigeonhole Tori Forsyth. But Forsyth can’t be tamed. Her voice – rootsy, impassioned, and earthy – has all the glorious storytelling, lived-through-it quality of a country singer, and Forsyth hasn’t packed her bags and left country. She’s eased out the door, but left it ajar.

“When you’re starting somewhere you’re going to get remembered for that particular thing,” says Forsyth. “Country music is definitely something I still listen to and love. As a musician, I learn from listening to different genres and I love indulging that. I do make a point of normalising creative freedom. I was 19 when I wrote that first EP and I’m 26 now, so I’ve had experience as an adult that impacts how I see the world, how I consume and create music. I’ll always make music that is true to my life. Who knows what’s next for me?”

Her newest album Provlépseis is a maturation following her debut EP Black Bird in 2015, and her debut album, Dawn Of The Dark in 2018. Its title means ‘predictions’ in Greek – though Forsyth isn’t fluent, she understands the language due to her mother’s Greek heritage. It was written pre-COVID, but Forsyth says, “It’s interesting to see how much more relevant this record is to me now in post-COVID times than it was when I wrote it.” While that might be true lyrically, Provlépseis will likely sound like a bit of a throwback to those of us brought up on Sonic Youth, Hole, L7, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair.

“I was listening to predominantly ’90s [music] when I was writing this record. A lot of PJ Harvey, a lot of Hole, a lot of Soundgarden, even some Audioslave…a lot of Alanis Morissette and The Cranberries,” admits Forsyth, adding that the album “is very much a ‘90s lovechild for me.”

There are moments throughout the album where the very ‘90s grunge vibe feels less like a homage and more like a nostalgic indulgence. The promotional artwork for Provlépseis does seem like a recreation of PJ Harvey’s iconic 1993 album Rid of Me, in which Harvey is depicted in black and white, her dark, wet hair whipped around her bare face. In other artwork to promote the album at the time, Harvey is in a bath, half emerged. Forsyth, too, has released promotional media shots of herself…in a bath. “[Is it] a complete copy? Absolutely not,” she says. Having been born in 1995, Forsyth is not reliving the ‘90s – she’s discovering it anew, and if younger listeners are inspired to seek out the ‘90s artists who’ve inspired current acts, they’ll be richly rewarded. “I’ve definitely pulled inspiration from PJ – like I said, she was a massive influence on this record. It’s not my intention to be a carbon copy of somebody else, but I definitely pull inspiration from artists that I listen to.”

Another ‘90s icon gets namedropped in the slow-burning clap-back “Courtney Love.” Forsyth croons, “I paid rent, so long/Empty house, broken throne,” and it’s hard not be furious on her behalf, even though the melancholic acoustic ballad doesn’t quite reach “Violet” levels of scorched earth. In a video directed by Emily Avila, Forsyth sits in a bathtub full of dirty water, hugging her legs as the water goes cold.

She’s also worked extensively with Bradley Murnane, who directed the video for “Down Below,” both glamorous and grungy in the style of Garbage and Nine Inch Nails. When it comes to her videos, though, Forsyth says, “I’m definitely very heavily involved, probably a control freak. I love the visual element of creating a story in conjunction with a song. It’s another facet of creativity for me to indulge and I feel lucky that I get to do that in this career. I write the concepts up for pretty much all of my film clips.”

For the new album, Forsyth has again called upon nationally-celebrated producer and country artist Shane Nicholson. “I met Shane at the very beginning of my career,” says Forsyth. “We have a really great friendship now and I worked with him on Dawn Of The Dark. We get along so well because we have very similar musical tastes. It’s an awesome relationship that is built around love for a lot of different music.”

They recorded Provlépseis in Nicholson’s home studio in Gosford, on the central coast of New South Wales (Forsyth had been living in NSW at the time of recording but has since moved back to Queensland). “As far as production, Shane was heavily involved in engineering and producing both my albums. We’ve gone heavier on guitars, which was hinted at on Dawn Of The Dark, but it’s definitely expanded here [on the new album],” says Forsyth.

Provlépseis was written with the intention of being performed live and Forsyth is still in the planning stages. “I’m definitely organising a tour for after June,” she says. “This record was very much written with live shows as a focus. I want to do the songs justice in the way that I see them. When I tour, I’ve got a band: Reece Baines and Zach Miller, who have been a permanent fixture with me on stage for a long time now. My ex-partner was my guitar player so we’re in an in-between stage at the moment.”

Once the logistics are worked out, Forsyth will take her show on the road – enabling her audience to discover the weird and wonderful voice she’s learned to prize. “Early on in my career, I was told I had a strange voice. A singing teacher told me my voice was hard to work with because it was ‘different.’ Being told that it’s weird kind of sticks in my head, but now I’m pretty grateful for my weird voice,” shares Forsyth. “For me, creativity and writing have been about that therapeutic element of self-expression. Having a career out of that as a by-product is incredible and I’m grateful.”

Follow Tori Forsyth on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Indie Folk Singer-Songwriter Asha Jefferies Releases “Crybaby” Ahead Of National Australian Tour

Photo Credit: Josh Tate

Brisbane-based singer-songwriter Asha Jefferies was suffering a serious case of writer’s block last year, when inspiration struck. The end of a long-term relationship provided her with permission to question her identity, her goals, and – ultimately – her sense of self; it wasn’t an ideal situation, but it certainly cured Jefferies’ creative paralysis. She wrote the beautiful, reflective “Crybaby,” which features a more poppy sound than the melodic indie folk of her previous singles.

“The song is mostly about realizing the personal freedom that I had, and that I wasn’t allowing myself to have,” Jefferies says. “It’s so easy to tell yourself that you can’t do this or you can’t do that, but at the end of the day, you’re the only one that’s holding yourself back.”

A couple of months after breaking up, Jefferies got back together with her partner, Josh Tate. He’s also the visual artist, filmmaker and photographer for much of her work, so they had to reshape both their professional and personal relationship. The song, and the breakup, have led to a deeper connection, according to Jefferies.

“We were able to re-form our relationship. [‘Crybaby’] was all about the transitions and how positive relationships can die, but the relationship can [be repaired and] move on. Josh does all the creative content for my work, so it’s been a really interesting time collaborating and putting together a music video for the song about that breakup.”

“Crybaby” was created during the pandemic, at a time when Brisbane was not under the same harsh restrictions as Melbourne. Jefferies was able to meet with her producer Aidan Hogg (also a co-writer, producer and bass player in Jaguar Jonze) several times a week to write and record. They’d first met when Hogg was working as a sound engineer in the studio where Jefferies was recording and the two remained in touch; Hogg also played bass for her during her live performances in 2019.

Jefferies reached out to Hogg in May last year and asked if he was interested in writing and recording. That kicked off a few months of productive sessions at Plutonium Studios in Brisbane. “Going into the studio and talking to Aidan was so good for my mental health,” she says. “Being able to leave my home and be able to go and work.”

Home was a “really, really busy share house” last year, and Jefferies was limited to creating music on GarageBand in her bedroom. “I didn’t really feel that comfortable playing my guitar and building songs that way, so I would just put headphones on, sit on my computer, and record chords and melodies. It’s really addictive, and it’s been such an awesome way to teach myself how to produce in a really basic way.”

Working with Hogg was a contrast to her experience working on previous release “Break” with producer Ian Haug, songwriter and guitarist for both Powderfinger and The Church. Jefferies had applied to the American Express Music Backers Fund, winning a day of studio time with Haug and engineer Yanto Browning at Airlock Studios in Brisbane. Though they’d never met, Jefferies says the Brisbane music scene is one of pure support and “wholesomeness,” where emerging artists are given the friendship, support and advice to become recognised.

“A lot of the songs I’d written were with Aidan, so I brought in a bunch of demos from the last two to three years,” Jefferies remembers, adding that they settled on “Break” because everyone involved felt connected to it. The finished version shimmers in morning light, sparse piano chords, romantic layered harmonies, and luxuriates in the enormous spaciousness created by clever composition. “The way that Ian produces is so intuitive, and he really listens to all the lyrics especially, and [knows] what parts should be really delicate and what parts should crescendo. He’s always got so many mixing notes. He’s just so into it, it was really cool.”

They’ve talked about working together again in the future, but for now, Jefferies is writing by herself, a process she says feels organic, authentic, natural. Jefferies uses these same words when describing the artists she admires most, including Australian indie-folk pop acts Kate Miller-Heidke, Josh Pyke and the John Butler Trio and New Zealand artist Nadia Reid.

“I started singing really young and I wanted to be a diva, a pop star, but when I was 10 or 11, my dad took me to the Woodford Folk Festival. It was the first time I’d seen live music and all these really rootsy artists,” she recalls. “I think what really struck me was how real they were, and the connection that they were having with the audience. From then on, and throughout high school, it was so much about what the story is that I want to tell and how do I want to connect with people.”

Asha Jefferies will be connecting with audiences again soon – she’s assembled an all-female band (Jaymee Watkin, Vlada Edippulit and Jo Davie) and they’re preparing for a national tour, kicking off May 1 with a Sunshine Sounds Festival set at Eumundi Showgrounds in Queensland. Tickets for headlining gigs celebrating the release of “Crybaby” in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and her hometown of Brisbane, are on sale now.

Follow Asha Jefferies on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

Jaguar Jonze Slays COVID, Abusers, and Racism to Become Her Own Antihero

Photo Credit: Georgia Wallace

Brisbane artist Jaguar Jonze, the alter-ego of Deena Lynch, is brave – both in the bold moves she makes as an artist, and as a woman navigating a tense socio-political climate. Despite her lengthy 2020 hospitalization due to COVID-19, she released her first EP, Diamonds & Liquid Gold while literally in the back of an ambulance; completed her second EP, Antihero, released April 16th; began collecting statements from victims of a Melbourne photographer accused of sexual assault; and revealed her own experiences with racism directed at the Asian community.

Lynch and her band had been working on Diamonds & Liquid Gold since founding Jaguar Jonze in 2018. Released in April last year, the EP established the project’s eclectic, vintage-meets-futuristic pop sound on tracks “Kill Me With Your Love,” “Beijing Baby,” and “Rabbit Hole.”

“I’m really proud of my debut EP, especially because I had worked so hard for so long in the lead up to it,” recalls Lynch. “When it came time to release the EP, the world had gone into a pandemic. All of my plans and structures had like fallen out of place, and my health was something that I was battling. I decided to release Diamonds & Liquid Gold regardless of the fact that my entire plan was shot to bits, because it was the only constant that I had in an environment of chaos, and I felt like letting that go would also further devastate me. It gave me something to look forward to every day and work on while I was under hospital care, recovering from COVID.”

Antihero provided an opportunity to further investigate and experiment with what Jaguar Jonze sounds like, and what it could sound like. “On my debut EP, it was me figuring out who I was as an artist, what I wanted to say as an artist. It was a really slow experimentation,” Lynch says. “I’m really proud of the body of work we pulled together to help identify what that Jaguar Jones sound is, and now we just get to play on from that and experiment further, which is what hopefully I’ve been doing with Antihero too.”

Lynch is the ultimate multimedia artist – outside of her music, she’s a portrait photographer, a graphic designer and a painter; Jaguar Jonze, Dusky Jonze, and Spectator Jonze each have an Instagram account. Prior to assuming the Jaguar Jonze alias, Lynch performed simply as “Deena,” self-releasing two albums. In fact, Lynch doesn’t see herself as the Jaguar Jonze; her bandmates are an essential element of the project. “I’ve got Joe Fallon on lead guitar, Jacob Mann on drums, and then Aidan Hogg on bass, who is also producer alongside me, and each of them are so important. They’ve been with me since the project started,” she says. “Each of them bring their own individual parts, but we work so well together. That’s why we were able to record Antihero without physically being in the same space, because we’ve spent years working together.”

The band signed with Nettwerk Music Group in 2018, who brought US producer John Congleton on board for Antihero, working together remotely due to the pandemic. Congleton’s previous work with St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey and Angel Olsen had won Lynch over years before. “It allowed me to push boundaries and think outside of the box and comfort zone of where I would normally go,” Lynch says, of sharing production roles with Hogg and Congleton. “I think also because of the environment that I was in through the entire making of Antihero – it was actually recorded and finished off while I was in hospital with COVID – there is that layer of darkness, anxiety, uncertainty and desperation, that kind of seeped through the music and gave it a more industrial, dark undertone.”

Lynch was born in Japan; since her father was Australian, she moved there aged six, but the process of waiting for her Taiwanese mother’s citizenship meant moving between homes for years, which Lynch believes is the catalyst for her complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Her PTSD experience was the subject of “Rabbit Hole,” which she performed as part of Eurovision Australia Decides in February last year. Her inclusion was a last minute opportunity, since the original artist had pulled out. Once Lynch was assured that she’d have full artistic license to collaborate with the Eurovision directors, she got on board.

“I got to have some really amazing experiences,” she enthuses. “It was my very first live TV performance. It was the biggest show that I had ever done, physically, in a room of 3500 people. I’d never had lighting design, never had any ear monitors, I never had set design. It was like, if Jaguar Jonze was doing stadium shows, what would it be like, and I got to play in that fantasy world for a night.”

With Antihero, Jaguar Jonze takes the fantasy even further, bringing each of the EP’s songs to life with a series of visually striking videos. Lynch’s flamboyant outfits and take-no-prisoners energy are like beautiful armour against a harsh world, one in which Jonze has been on the pointy end of some vicious microaggressions and outright racism.

In a recent Instagram post, Lynch shared some “brutal truth” with her followers, writing: “Today marks one year since I received my positive test result for COVID-19… The Asian hate and racism I dealt with from friends, the public and those who were looking for a place to project while I was trying to recover from COVID-19 was unacceptable… Racism is not new to me or to my fellow Asian communities but the pandemic has heightened and threatened our safety to a level where we can no longer be compliant and stay silent, nor should we have to. I will no longer push past the feelings I’ve had over the year and allow it to continue to hurt those around me. My body has healed but my heart remains broken. We NEED to make a change.”

She reflects on the post now as the beginning of a series of “snapshots” of the reality of racism for herself and so many others. “To be honest, I haven’t had an interview talking about racism yet, so it’s something I’m still learning to process and articulate and that post was my first time talking about it,” she explains. “The reason it took me a year to post about it was that society wasn’t ready to hear it and accept it, and that environment had been finally broken down because of Black Lives Matter and the current movement in the US, with #StopAsianHate. The work of other people has made it easier to digest what I’m saying. I just want to create conversations and to learn from that and hopefully it creates a safer environment for people to take accountability and create change, rather than instilling fear into everyone.”

Shedding light on racism hasn’t been Lynch’s only form of activism; in July last year, she became aware of several women’s stories of being sexually harassed by a well-known Melbourne photographer. Having had her own experience in the past, Lynch was compelled to open her inbox to women who wanted to share their stories. Consequently, over 130 women came forward with allegations of harassment against the photographer. Lynch shared their stories anonymously through handwritten post-it notes on Instagram.

“Reports have been made to the police, and not much has happened, and been acted upon,” she admits, with an evident tiredness to her voice. “I’ve been working on a lot of investigations behind the scenes, but all of that takes time. It’s a bit of a waiting game of whether or not society is ready to make an important change. The fact that calling it out, like I did, took on the momentum that it did, is a miracle in itself. It’s really sad that [coming forward] is a difficult feat to achieve.”

Lynch still suffering post-COVID fatigue, but it hasn’t prevented her from writing new material, and getting excited about supporting San Cisco on their national tour, which kicks off May 26 in Western Australia. She’s particularly hyped to perform “Murder,” since she never knows what version of the song she’ll end up delivering.

“I really love performing ‘Murder’ because I get to play the flute in it, and I get to sing without my guitar so it’s just me and the mic stand,” she says. “Depending on how I’m feeling that day or what the crowd is vibing to or the environment or how the band is collaborating together, for some reason it’s a song that seems to be versatile to different interpretations. So I always have a lot of fun with it.”

Having fun with murder while saving society from itself, and overcoming a deadly virus while releasing an EP from the back of an ambulance? It sounds like Jaguar Jonze has all the material for a memoir. Here’s hoping.

Follow Jaguar Jonze on Instagram for ongoing updates.

Brisbane Trio The Disgruntled Taxpayers Transform Old-School Aussie Punk Into Modern Anthems

This week for Playing Melbourne, we’re taking a detour up the East Coast of Australia to Queensland, where 3-piece band The Disgruntled Taxpayers are based in the capital city, Brisbane. We’re taking this long, humid and scenic trip because a couple of weeks ago, my beloved Melbourne community radio station 3RRR played “Fried Chicken Gave Me Boobs,” which laments the consequences of hormone-pumped poultry resulting in some alarming (ahem) developments. Before you write this off as boys-making-jokes à la Weird Al Yankovich novelty, hear me out. The track is wiry, angular, dynamic and a deprecatingly modern political protest.

At first, I’d wondered: was this an obscure Iggy Pop song I’ve never heard, or some amazing relic of the ’70s punk scene? In fact, the Disgruntled Taxpayers formed just over 12 years ago in Brisbane, their sound and energy that of three musicians who are thoroughly comfortable and attuned to each other. Not a relic, but a living, raging, rocking beast of an act that channels the best of The Stooges or The Ramones along with the hilariously sardonic political commentary of Melbourne’s own Snog.

Jake Donehue fronts the band on vocals and guitars, older brother Paul Donehue is on drums and Mark Heady tears up the atmosphere on bass. “Fried Chicken” features on their most recent EP, $5 Toaster, which came out in 2018. It followed up their 2014 debut, Over-ambitious, Selfish Corporate Whore; both offer biting, off-the-cuff observations on the absurd.

“I’ve got a book of thoughts,” Jake Donehue explains. “The best songs are the ones that fall out of you in 15 minutes flat. We jam as a band, we’ve got a good little set up where we rehearse, experiment a lot, and so a lot of the songs and riffs come out of that. The world’s such a ridiculous place – it just keeps on giving, so we’ll never run out of material.”

That includes new songs the band has “banked up and ready to go” for their next album, which they intend to release in mid to late 2021. “We’re excited about playing new material. It’s gonna be even more stupid than the last one,” Donehue warns. “But, before we record the album, we want to get gigs in and be match ready. I think we fill a void. I’ve tried writing serious songs, it doesn’t work.”

What does work is the sardonic humour of songs like “Crabs Are Much Better When They’re at the Beach” which lampoons a sexually transmitted disease while also celebrating the little seaside creatures that “entertain your kids.” Or “Insecure Men,” with its crunchy guitar riffs and throaty refrain: “Look at my clothes and look at my car!”

The band gigs in Brisbane, northern New South Wales and Queensland towns, like Toowoomba (“always fun”), Lismore, and Ipswich (“we’ve got a little following out there, which is cool”). Currently, the border restrictions due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak in northern New South Wales has ensured no artists are doing interstate gigs without extensive applications, testing and quarantining; thus, the trio have been gigging significantly less than usual. Perhaps the only thing to do is to listen to $5 Toaster and have a laugh.

“You either laugh or you cry, don’t you?” Donehue suggests.

The band had played a “stinking hot” gig in Brisbane the night before our interview though, so as stifling as the restrictions are, they’re not a total impediment to live music in Queensland. “People are a bit sketchy going out. It’s good we’re still rolling, but it’s frustrating 30,000 people can go to a footy game but there’s only 50 people in a gig,” Donehue says. “Considering there’s no international bands here for a while, it’s good for Aussie bands at the moment, so we’re taking advantage of that. Last night, it was 50 people maximum and everyone sat down.”

It’s no surprise to learn that the Disgruntled Taxpayers are fans of Australian punk bands formed in the 1980s, typified by Radio Birdman, Hard-Ons and The Meanies. “We’re all big Midnight Oil fans, early Midnight Oil,” says Donehue. “Our bass player ran away from home as a teenager to follow them on tour, actually! We used to sneak into gigs as teenagers, like Cosmic Psychos, The Celibate Rifles and all that sort of stuff. I was also into jazz, though. Mark is more into heavier stuff whereas Paul is more into world music. We don’t want to be constricted by genre, ever.”

Donehue’s punk rock ethos dictates that he doesn’t seek to please everyone, not even fans. It’s an approach that has, however improbably, attracted a broad and loyal fan base. “We’ve got a lot of young people in their late teens who like us. I’m mid-40s and there’s a lot of people my age as well,” admits Donehue. “The Brisbane music scene is really inclusive. I lived in Sydney during my 20s and it’s a lot more cliquey, and Melbourne can be a little like that, but up here it’s too hot to be fashionable. Everyone is welcome. A lot of people come to cheer up. If that’s what I can do for the world, then so be it.”

The Disgruntled Taxpayers, with their bank of new material and enough gigs to keep them “match ready,” plan to record their next LP with Jeff Lovejoy at his Blackbox Recording Studios. “Once we start it, it will be a pretty quick process, a couple of months,” Donehue predicts. Lovejoy is a great asset to have on board, having worked in both engineering and production for Powderfinger, Shutterspeed, Wolfmother and Black Mustang amongst other notable Australian bands.

Despite their larrikin image, Donehue says band affairs are mostly a wholesome endeavor. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a fight,” he says, adding that his bandmates are “both family men, so they’ve got that going on as well. There’s not much rock ‘n’ roll going on. I have to make it up for the other two – it’s ridiculous!”

Follow The Disgruntled Taxpayers on Facebook for ongoing updates.