Project Description

Interview with

FELIX REIBL

(from THE CAT EMPIRE)

regarding his new project

‘SPINIFEX GUM’

Interviewer – Dave Bruce

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PROJECT STORY

BY

FELIX RIEBL

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In 2014, while in the studio with The Cat Empire, choir-guru Lyn Williams asked me whether I’d like to write a song-cycle based on the Pilbara for The Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.  Within a few months we were travelling through Roebourne and its surrounding Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi country, and over the next three years I got to know members of both those communities, went into the iron ore mines, and came face to face with aspects of Australia I’d never confronted at such close range: the intensity of its capitalism, its racism, but also the strength of Indigenous language and Law.

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I was mesmerized by the abstract beauty of the landscape, both in its starkness and myriad colours.  How incalculable the distances seemed from one place to the next.  Rain, for example, appeared as its own object on the horizon.  In contrast, the iron ore trains cut across the land in ruler straight lines, perpetually carrying the stuff they were made of – each carriage a metric unit and a reminder that two very different realities existed here; two different economies, and two very different ways of relating to the land.

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At first, I had no idea what I’d write about or how it would sound.  I had the doubts of a non-indigenous person entering a community, wanting to both create and to show respect, which would involve several years of returning there to build relationships.  I was determined not to appropriate any creation stories, or fall into music that was too careful and polite.  I was excited to have the chance to write for something as joyous and life affirming as a teenage choir, and simultaneously troubled by what I witnessed and discovered about the areas I travelled.  I spent a lot of time going awkwardly from place to place with a field recorder.

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It was only later, when I teamed up with my long time friend and collaborator Ollie McGill (engineer, arranger, and co-producer), and listened back to hours of recorded noises, that I realized what we had. These sounds; the scratch of feet on gravel, the gliding, crunching, groaning, squealing of trains, the bouncing basketballs, the falling coins, the grinding gearboxes and radio static, the barking dogs, the running, screaming, laughing kids and their shouting parents, the cracking branches, bird song and shaking leaves, the humming conveyor belts and metallic shudders from within the mines, the smashing bottles and the dinging crossing-bells, would become the rhythmic skeleton of the entire album.  We chose moments within that long soundscape, sampled them, and turned them into drum machines.  That production idea combined with the lush voices of Marliya became the sonic world of Spinifex Gum.

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I believe this is an Australian album above all.  It reaches across the country and involves both an Indigenous and a non-Indigenous creative team. Its lyrics are a combination of English and Yindjibarndi, its stories emerged from the Pilbara, and its choir of Aboriginal and Torres Strait teenagers hails from North Queensland.  It’s an album none of us could have predicted, but one that opened itself up to us.  We just followed the music.  The same goes for its politics.  I didn’t go to the Pilbara with my mind set on writing protest songs, but the combination of my experiences and following where the songs went naturally made certain events impossible to ignore.  Both Ms Dhu and Locked Up were instances where songs on this album entered an immediate social and political context.  To me at least, it indicated we were on the right track.

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Throughout, we’ve made it a priority to show respect and follow proper channels of transparency, while also being prepared to collaborate and take risks. In every instance where I’ve written about a deceased person or a local story, I’ve been in contact with the families involved and received their permission to record those songs.

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Many of the tracks on this album have Yinjibarndi names.  Singing in language is something the young women in this choir pride themselves on.  Yurala means rainmaker, Malungungu is a creepy spirit, Gawarliwarli means butterfly, Wandangarli means going crazy, but the most important one is Marliya, which means bush honey.  It became the name of the album choir.  Nothing is as sweet as you my friend.  Above all else, the inspiration for this album is the young singers who champion it – their individuality, their laughter and friendship, and the power of their collective voice.

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AMNPLIFY – DB

My nickname is “The Amnplifier”. Why? Because around here my focus is on being a conduit for providing greater outcomes that people come here for. My day to day “work” is living in the moment, and I love helping others concentrate on finding their connection to themselves through their experiences.

Why start a music environment? The truth is I love music, I love writing, and I love life. I work with musicians every day, and I feel certain that I will be until they put me in the ground. I have been managing people in businesses of some sort for over thirty five years so along the way I have developed some “wisdom” from my regular and constant “observations”.

Amnplify your experience. That is what we want you to do here, and if you want to let me know why you do, or don’t, shoot me a message on Facebook.

Hope you enjoy yourself here and find something that hits you somewhere.