FOURPLAY are hitting the road once again.
After more than 20 years of wowing audiences around the world, the electric string quartet are heading on a six show tour of Australia’s east coast to showcase their latest single Wish. A power ballad with haunting melodies, Wish evokes ’70s folk protest songs with its powerful message about living in a climate-changed world.
FourPlay’s Tim Hollo joins us on Close-up Culture to tell us more about the story behind wish Wish, the changing face of the music industry, climate change and much more.
Q: FourPlay have been thriving for over 20 years now. What has been the secret to your longevity?
A: IN a word – fun! We just have a lot of fun together, musically and as friends. I think it’s also partly that we haven’t treated the band as a career. We all have a lot of other things we do, and we come together every couple of months to do some gigs or write some music or record, and we have a bunch of fun, then head off to our own separate lives again for a while. It’s a good, healthy pattern.
Q: As you mention, you have all done remarkable things individually. What keeps you coming back together?
A: OUR manager keeps booking us gigs! No, really, it’s that sense of fun. And we all love making music together. And, really, now we’ve been going so long, it’s hard to imagine life without it!
Q: We are now in the age of digital music that can be accessed anywhere and at anytime. But there was a time when you would self-distribute albums by POX. Do you miss those days? What do you make of the current landscape of music?
A: YEAH, those days were a lot of fun, but they were also hard work! It’s so much easier now to get your music distributed. But, at the same time, a lot harder to get it heard, actually. Part and parcel of the same trend. And, other than at gigs, it’s a lot less personal than it used to be. There’s a really great personal connection that comes with actually writing someone’s name and address on a CD box and posting it to them. You don’t get that with streams or downloads unless someone takes the time to write an email. Which a surprising number of people do!
I personally find streaming a really disconnected way of listening to music, though. You’re not sharing it with anyone, unlike radio, and you don’t interact with the artist, unlike downloading or buying a record. There’s no denying the convenience, but we have lost something in that shift.
Q: Can you tell us more about your latest single Wish, how it came to be and the message behind it?
A: WISH is a song about living in a climate-changed world. We were lucky enough to have a weekend writing retreat at Bundanon on the NSW South Coast – a stunningly beautiful place in the bush which used to be the painter Arthur Boyd’s home and is now an artists’ retreat.
The only way in and out is on a little road that fords a creek flowing into the Shoalhaven River. Unfortunately, while we were there a huge storm came through, which caused floods up and down the whole east coast, and the river rose 3 metres overnight! The road was completely underwater and we couldn’t get out. Luckily we had over-catered as usual, and there was a cupboard full of red wine, so we were fine.
But my older daughter, who was back home in Canberra, kept calling me to check we were ok. She was worried we’d be swept away! At one point, she said to me “I wish that I’d been born before climate change happened.” As someone who’s been campaigning for climate action for 20 years in various ways, that hit me in the guts like nothing before. I talked to her about how we can’t wish away the times we’ve been given – we just have to do with them what we can. Then this song just came flowing out of me.
Q: What is the creative dynamic of the group like and how that has evolved over the years?
A: WISH is quite unusual for us as a song which basically I wrote and the band arranged together. Mostly, these days, all our music develops out of jams. The four of us sit around, chat, listen to some music, eat lots, and improvise together. Someone will start up a groove or a riff, or come up with a chord progression, and we all play around with it. Over the course of a few hours, if we’re lucky, or a couple of days, it turns into a piece. That’s a process that has emerged over a long period of time.
Originally we did mostly covers – which we would arrange together, the four of us – and sometimes someone would come in with a song or piece written which we would arrange and play. It took us a while to learn to improvise, as classically trained musicians. But now we love it, and it’s how we write.
Q: Australian music is in an incredible place right now. What is it like to be a part of this and are there any Aussie artists you guys really admire?
A: Australian music has always been awesome! I grew up in the ’90s, and The Clouds and Not Drowning Waving have a super special place in my heart. But, yeah, there are amazing musicians doing brilliant work now, too (as are the members of those great bands). It’s hard to single people out, but as someone who loves music with a message, it’s worth highlighting Briggs / A.B.Original, Missy Higgins and Ash Grunwald as people doing a wonderful job of raising the profile about important issues through their music.
Q: FourPlay are heading off on a six show tour of the East Coast. What most excites you about getting back on the road?
A: FOOD. We always eat so well on tour! No, really. That’s great, but it’s not the most exciting thing. You know, it’s amazing, but no matter how many times you do it, playing music for an audience who get into it just never gets old. There’s a connection there that develops between the musicians on stage and the people listening. It’s really special to be part of.
Q: Lastly, what can audiences expect from the live shows? Any surprises?
A: EVERYTHING is surprising in live music – you never know what’s going to happen! FourPlay’s music comes from so many different inspirations, we just enjoy taking people on a trip. No two shows are the same!
Fourplay ‘Wish’ Single Launch Tour
Friday 14 September
Smiths Alternative, Canberra ACT
Sunday 16 September
The Toff In Town, Melbourne VIC
Thursday 20 September
Waywards, Newtown NSW
Friday 21 September
Bison Bar, Nambour QLD
Saturday 22 September
Brunswick Picture House, Brunswick Heads NSW
Sunday 23 September
Brightside, Brisbane QLD