INTERVIEW: Rocking Horse

In the leadup to Rocking Horse‘s show at the Soundbreak formal fundraiser tomorrow night, Radar had a quick chat to guitarist Bobby Keys.

Tell us a bit about Rocking Horse
That is a bit of an intimidating question. I’m only one of them. There are seven of us up there, all doing our thing. We’re a family. I think that’s an important thing to know about Rocking Horse.

How long has the band been together?
Christie and I have been playing for two and half years. I guess the name “Rocking Horse” has been around for a lot of that time. I’ll say we became a “band” about 18 months ago when Rory joined us on drums.

You recently added “…and the Baby Dolls” to the name. What’s changed, or been added?
I think the change has been towards making more of a ‘show’ for the people who get out and see us. That has effected a completely different band. We added four new members – Our three backing singers, Margaret, Jamelle, and Taylor, collectively the Baby Dolls, and a new bassist, Mr. Stratton Jackson.

How does that addition change your sound? What does it add?
Completely. We’re a different band playing different songs from what we were a year ago. Less jam more construction. We had the intention of filling out the sound palette a bit more, but three more voices ends up being more than just texture. Everyone’s part really has to be thought about – you have to ask “is what I am doing adding or not?”

What other bands or musicians are the band influenced by?
A lot of American 50s, 60s, 70s R&B, the chart topping stuff from those days. Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to Bill Withers.

Your Facebook bio lists you as a “conceptual story-telling band”. How much does this story-telling come into your music?
For those who listen very closely, you’ll hear that most every Rocking Horse song is about a character, a collection of thoughts from a new protagonist. They’re all different people, all with different stories. This makes it a little sad when we cull one from the setlist.

What can we expect from a Rocking Horse live show?
A bit of dancing, a lot of colour.. Part of our consideration in changing the name and lineup was that people go to see music, not just to hear music.

You released your EP, ‘Causa Sui,’ in 2010. Tell us a bit about the record
That was early days! It’s folk music. A bit bluesy, rootsy. Growing up, Dad promised he’d fund my first recording session when I joined a ‘real’ band. Two songs on that EP are the result of that promise. I still like it, but it’s not at all in the same vein that our new sound is.

Your Facebook page also lists that you’ll be releasing your debut album sometime this year. Any firm recording/release dates, or album details, locked in so far? 
It’s going to be a five-track EP. We’ve got about eight or nine songs to choose from. It’s very much underway. We’ve had a few meetings with a few different studios. We’re taking the overall tone very seriously this time. Instrumentation, vocals, and mixing are all going to be done at different places. Expect it before September.

What’s on the horizon for Rocking Horse? Any recording/tours coming up in the foreseeable future?
This is quite a timely question – all these ideas are going around right now. I think we’ll be going in to record in around three or four weeks. Once that’s all done we’re planning a release tour – Wollongong, Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle. Canberra after, if it all goes well.

There’s been quite a few new venues popping up in Wollongong lately, with Otis Bar, Yours & Owls, The Patch and Rydges CBD Bar. What do you think about the new venues appearing in town?
I think it’s great, especially if they’re unique. At the last “State of the Scene” forum, I recall a few people saying that we “don’t need more venues”. That makes a lot of sense, but, I for one love going to see music at venues you can’t play – It’s about diversity. Yours and Owls is great. It’s a circus when someone fits a three-piece band in there. It’d be raucous to get seven of us horses in there.

How do you see the state of music in Wollongong, generally? How is the scene going right now?
There is obviously something not quite right – it seems like every major story or every interview has some kind of reference to the “state” of it all. That constant awareness might be a good sign, though. Every gig I’ve been to for the last three months I’ve had this feeling of ‘doing something right’ for the scene.
I will say, though, there is something that I haven’t heard addressed yet… no one has asked the question “Does Wollongong actually like live music?” Personally, I do like live music in this city, but to make such a commitment to a music scene, you have to consider that maybe people would rather go clubbing or play pokies or whatever. It’s sad, but wasting energy forcing something unwanted is also sad.

What are some of the best and worst things about music in this region?
The best thing? Without a doubt, it’s the quality and enthusiasm of the musos here. There are a bunch of bands around that are intent on playing good music. Just listen to them – My Little Underground, The Pennys, Yardvark, Mother and Son, Tommy M & The Mastersounds, Bec Sandridge, Jack Reilly… that’s just a few off the top of my head. Good music and good people.
The worst thing about the area is the disregard some venues have for the scene. It seems like a venue hosting live music is really just pulling a temporary publicity stunt. It’s going to go well for about four weeks, then they’ll just move along. There’s a level of commitment a venue needs to understand before one day announcing, “Live Music every Thursday!”

What can be changed, or improved, to help support music in Wollongong?
I don’t mean to sound un-fun, but I think everyone needs to show a little responsibility. Support bands should really support the headliners, it’s everyone’s job to bring a crowd and play a good show. Venues should do their research… and give the bands a few more drinks. Go to shows if you want to see them.

Rocking Horse play Rydges CBD Bar on Friday, as part of the Soundbreak formal fundraiser. Tickets are $5, with all proceeds going to the Starlight Foundation. Kicking off at 7pm, the night also hosts The Good God Damned, Pat Arnold and A Cat Named Kesey. For all the details, click here.

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