At the tail end of 2020, we had the opportunity to sit down (virtually) with the folksy, whimsical and ever-eloquent front man of the Bush Chooks, Jack Davies as part of our Western Australian artists feature.
What was intended as a snappy Q&A quickly evolved into a warm, effusive dedication to the community of bands that make up Perth’s small but electric music scene, delving to the depths of mentorship, communal success and the experience of an entire state being detached from the mainstream industry of a country whose mainstream industry isn’t all that big anyway.
As he joined us in a bright pink Stella Donnelly shirt in honour of Aus Music T-shirt day, he jokes about layering on every WA band t-shirt and slowly take them off throughout the day so “everyone could have equal exposure” - welcome Jack.
Insight into detachment from the industry.
Jack noted that there is a real sense of having to scrabble a bit harder if you are from WA, from financial strain, industry recognition and management time differences.
“When you are wanting to go on tour, it punches you in the knee a bit, because it’s so f**king expensive leaving the state. We are West of the middle of nowhere, so even though Australia’s music industry isn’t huge by itself, we’re on the fringe of the nowhere.
“We don’t have a huge team but all of our PR and management is over east. We aren’t able to meet our team in person very often – the distance, the time difference and delay does slow us down a little bit.”
He pointed out that industry institutions are, on a whole, based on the east coast, and that their focus in terms of awards, contracts and larger scale gigs are thus naturally inclined towards their home area, in the thick of things.
“I can’t comment generally on WA artists as a whole, only for myself and the band specifically, but I do think incidents like Spacey Jane getting a bit snaked for ARIA nominations highlights the difference,” he said
“It’s likely down to the fact that the important people have all of their offices and meetings and the big gigs on the east coast and that sort of directs the industry to focus more towards itself.
“The lesser focus on states like WA and South Australia and the Northern Territory could definitely lead to nominations not being made where they might have been if the artist was based somewhere closer to them.
“The east coast naturally has a one-up because they’re in the thick of it, where things are happening, so there is a sense of detachment from the main industry in WA.
“It’s not a huge difference but it’s big enough that we all notice it.”
Less pressure, more playful.
Despite the disadvantages of being an artist living and working in WA, Jack says there are infinitely more positives than there are negatives.
“It’s an advantage living where we do as the amount of additional support and reception you get being a band in a smaller, tight-knit city is unmatched. In WA you can work on your craft, play shows, meet fans and really get to know who you are as an artist with very little pressure.
“You can spend time developing your sound without worrying about industry pressure to be likeable or create something that ‘works’.”
Jack reports hearing from artists living in more metropolitan cities with bigger industry feeling nervous whilst writing, recording and performing due to the heavy sense of competition.
“You will be recording an album and know that there’s a bigger band down the road or in the next room and it’s competitive and nerve racking. It sounds like you have influence coming from all angles.”
In comparison, WA appears to be a bit more chilled out.
“It’s just a bit more playful for us over here and it never feels very serious, like this is our career. It feels like something we are really passionate about and there's just people who happen to like us and support us.
“We don’t have big labels or big agents rocking up at gigs, so for the most part it is just us having fun and not worrying too much about the bigger picture.”
Sharing is caring: the music scene is a tight-knit community
In terms of what it’s like to be a working artist in WA, (apart from being one of the only places in the world you CAN be a working artist right now), Jack says the best thing by far is the relationships other bands and musicians have with each other.
“There is a very real sense of community and genuinely fun comradery that we have in the WA music scene and I’m pretty sure is similar in other Australian cities. We aren’t in competition with other artists, we are friends.
“Because Perth is a smaller place, we don’t have the pressure to stand out, and it’s easier to feel accepted by your friends and colleagues. We can just play the music we want to play and do your own thing without being judged for it.”