The Gold Coast music scene is teeming with hidden gems, including fresh new indie-rockers Local Safari, the talented five-piece band exploding onto the scene this year with two vibrant singles and a collection of innovative and energetic live shows.
Having just released their second single ‘Daffodil’, which sees Local Safari really come into their own, we had the opportunity to sit down with founding members and best mates, Leah Horn and Josh Heaton, as they took us on a guided tour of their sound, the Gold Coast music scene and what it's like to debut during a pandemic.
Leah and Josh’s camaraderie was obvious right away, so I wasn’t surprised when they told me that they had been friends since meeting in grade nine english. It was more of a shock to learn that they had never actually played together until years later.
Josh: One day I was playing the guitar and then out of nowhere Leah started singing and I was like "hold on, what do you mean you can sing?" So we started writing - I think we had four different choruses of four different songs, we never wrote a full song but eventually we did so we were like "okay who can we get in? Who do we know?"
In classic Gold Coast style, Local Safari came about one sunny afternoon over a few beers and a jam sesh. It didn’t take long for the group to realise that they wanted to make this a more frequent occurrence and thus Australia was blessed with a brand new indie-rock band.
Leah: "We met the other boys through mutual friends and through work. We used to jam out with acoustics and electric drums and then one day we thought, 'this is so much fun, why don't we just do this all the time?!' So at the start of the year we thought we should just make a band and see how it goes. So we did."
Six-months on and with a few changes to the line-up, Local Safari are now settled with a very talented quintet comprising of lead-singer Leah, Josh on rhythm guitar and back-up vocals, Kale as the lead guitarist, Marco playing bass and Brad on the drums.
Josh: Five is such a good number. More of us on stage and lots to vibe with. Enough noise to cover you if you f*ck up!
Debuting during a pandemic was obviously not the plan for the group when they decided to form a band at the beginning of the year, however COVID-19 actually presented them with a unique breakout experience that also provided some amazing opportunities.
Leah: Because we started during COVID, we’ve never actually had that crowd response or engagement that most bands get where you can test if you are on the right track and if people are vibing or dancing or reacting well to the songs. So we’ve had to self-asses. It’s been good because we’ve had to self-reflect more than basing it solely on the crowd.
Josh: I still think, even despite COVD, the response we’ve had has been pretty good. Although people can’t dance, they definitely shout. For the few first gigs we had, it was just our mates, as it always is, and we were just having a good time playing for them. Then because the Gold Coast scene after COVID was eager to bring back live music, we got put on a few gigs which is really lucky. We played like five gigs in five weeks.
"In a way it’s actually been more of a benefit than a hindrance. We’ve had more time to practice, more time to self-reflect and we’ve gotten way more gigs."
Restless from isolation and eager to play live for the first time, Local Safari made it happen, hosting a concert in their backyard by inviting a line-up of Gold Coast artists to join them in creating a mini-festival.
Leah: Our first ever gig was during that tiny window in the middle of the year when you could have a hundred person house parties. So we jumped onto that and hosted a party here, in my backyard, with Peach Fur, Pure Milk, Acer Spade, Girl and Girl - some really really amazing Gold Coast artists that wanted to play because they hadn’t had any gigs in ages. So it was free, they all played for free, it was live streamed, people came and it was so much fun. That was our first ever gig and it was in my backyard. That never would have been able to happen if it wasn’t for COVID.
Local Safari are passionate about supporting local artists, already setting an important standard by creating local gigs that support local talent and generating opportunities their peers as well as themselves.
Leah: What I’ve definitely seen at the moment with COVID is this idea of support your local. At the moment there's not one Australian artist in the Top 50. Americans support American artists because they’re huge, they're worldwide. Music that comes out of Australia is second to none, it’s just as good but it’s not getting that same support. This movement encourages us Aussie’s to attend local gigs and look up Australian artists before mindlessly playing the top 50. I think that’s so cool that COVID has brought about this support your own and support your local energy. It’s really exciting for the Australian music scene and for us.
"I think we need to push to support our own in the music industry and it’s exciting that it’s starting to happen."
From Australia’s Spacey Jane and Ball Park Music to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as Oasis and Arctic Monkeys, Local Safari have a vast range of music influences that they draw from when making their music.
Leah: I draw influence from a lot of Australian artists. Two of my favourite bands are The Jungle Giants and Ball Park Music. I love the way Ball Park write their songs; it doesn’t rhyme and it’s quite disjointed but they make it work. That’s something that I admire because I struggle to write lyrics that don’t follow a poem structure. I’m also influenced by local bands, like Girl and Girl, they’re incredible. Pure Milk, Peach Fur, Citrus Daze - there’s so much awesome music coming out of the Goldie at the moment.
Josh: I also love the Australian music scene, some of the bands I'm hearing that have got less than a thousand listeners on Spotify are just so so good. There's a few bands from Newcastle that I've been listening to at the moment; Rum Jungle and Camino Gold. Spacey Jane are another big one, especially because people have said that we have a similar sound. So they’re a pretty big influence. I like their songwriting a lot as well, it’s really simple and to the point but also contains that airy, wavy flow that we share. We have so many music influences between all of us:
Marco is a huge Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, especially their amazing bassist Flea.
Brad comes from playing in metal bands, so he’s got some heavy music influences. That’s why he’s such an excellent drummer, because the drumming in heavy metal music is insane.
Then Kale and I are influenced by English music; Oasis, Arctic Monkeys.
With Triple J’s nominees for Australian Album of the Year just landing, we had to know Local Safari’s top picks from 2020.
Josh: Mine is definitely Spacey Jane, Sunlight, no competition. It’s just perfect, from start to finish. Every song on it is just so good. There's been some really good albums this year, Hockey Dad’s Brain Candy comes to mind as my second pic