Photography by Anne Moffat
Tell us about your set-up.
At home, I run a combination of Cubase and Ableton with a host of midi controllers. I have a Rode NT2000 microphone and a pair of Yamaha studio monitors. I often use a Shure Beta58 microphone too. There’s an eclectic collection of percussion instruments, guitars, basses and synthesizers. In addition to this, I rely heavily on VST software to produce my sound.
Why does Ableton work for you specifically?
Taking songs from the studio to the stage is a piece of cake with Ableton. Though it has its flaws, I’ve grown to like the economy of its engine.
Tell us about your transition to live and your “big break.”
I’ve always been more comfortable in a home studio setting, where you can record as many takes as you want to make a part perfect. In a live setting, you only get one shot. My live show has existed in many different formats, from 6-piece bands to solo with just a laptop or a guitar. In the traditional sense of the word, our “big break” hasn’t come yet. My team and I are still all working day—jobs to fund our creative passions. If you’re talking about how we’ve cracked the code to putting on a good live show — well, it’s all in the energy which we inject into everything we do. Enthusiasm, confidence and hours of practice help us connect with our crowd.
Who are some of your favourite Melbourne musicians/producers? Why do they impress you?
There are many, so I’ll mention a few I’ve got a personal connection with. Terry Mann of Coach Bombay unashamedly writes/produces pop with boundless energy and catchy ideas. Jim Lawrie pens a tune that will haunt you for months and he can also play a mean drum-set. Ainslie Wills has an unusual way with harmony that is beautifully brave. Luke Brennan plays almost every instrument and writes/produces golden hits with the most rudimentary of technology.
You’re a producer at SBS. How do you balance making music with your day job?
Just barely. I have a close relationship with everyone I work with. Both SBS and my music team understand the sacrifices I have to make (mostly sleep/money) to excel in either field and I rarely fail to deliver on time. If I do fail, I don’t hesitate to take full responsibility. Also, it’s important to say no when you have to. Socially, a tight-knit family of friends is paramount to my sanity.
You’ve been quite vocal on your resentment towards the music industry. Where does this bitterness comes from?
It sometimes feels hopeless here in Australia. We’re treated like a sad telemarketing team that’s used to getting rejected, even though we show up on time, convert crowds and release consistently. Each of us knew the hardships we would face when we decided to give music a go. I guess after a while the rejection starts to seep into your bones. The classic Aussie daisy-cutter in me sees lots of new acts being given huge opportunities based on anything except integrity; their organisational skills are non-existent and their live show/music is bat-shit boring. It all still goes ahead because making money takes priority. People will listen to them, even if it’s only for the next 6 months. It makes sense on a business level – but it hurts the little guys who are in for the long haul. In the end, there’s no one to blame and all we can do is keep working hard and trying to get better. I lose sight of that all the time, probably because I’m far from perfect.
How are Melbourne musicians affected by the industry?
The smart ones choose not to be affected by it. Dreams live strong in their minds. Others are totally broken down by it and give up. The other thing that happens is that a lot of our talent is driven overseas.
How did you build your fan base? Was it through networking, social media, music streaming, playing live? All of the above?
All of the above. I’m not the best networker because I am quite furtive, but I don’t mind a chat. I don’t like bugging people or asking for things, so I often direct them on to my manager Sophie Woods. Soundcloud has been crucial in providing an accessible platform and my publicist Zac Abroms has been working hard to push my profile online — he’s almost fully responsible for the splash we made with Girl last year. He’s such a legend.
What’s been your biggest challenge yet?
Staying in the game. I often feel like quitting and I joke about it all the time. I’m trying to ignore the rubbish and focus on making better music. I have to sit myself down several times a year and tell myself that though the big breaks don’t land on my lap, I’m doing the right thing; that the only way to combat all the crap situations is to write a better tune. Zac said to me once, “There is a shortcut through the bullshit. Write a hit song.” I agree with him 100%.
What’s the best advice you can give to independent Melbourne musicians?
I have two quotes for you.
“Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman
“Don’t be a dick.” – Richard William Wheaton III
Check out Yeo’s music via www.yeo-yeo.com