Niki Burnside

Leader Cheetah
Date Published: Tuesday, 13 September 11   |  Author: Niki Burnside   |     |  5 years, 8 months ago


With the recent release of his new album with band Leader Cheetah, Dan Crannitch is oozing enthusiasm and love for the world. He talks happily of the “mysterious and magical” experience of performing. Described as timeless, the sound of Leader Cheetah is hard to narrow down, being a mix of rock and folk, reminiscent of ‘60s groups like The Beatles and Crowded House. It is infused with sweet, quirky harmonies and with a vague, other-worldly quality.

Currently in Adelaide, Leader Cheetah are “back to our day jobs”, and eagerly anticipating the upcoming tour. “We’re a bit unsure of the timetable,” Dan admits, when I ask where they’re off to. Timelessness, it seems, refers to more than just their musical style. It is a general attitude that helps the band stay calm and happy even amidst the chaos of tour. “We don’t really ever fight,” Dan says thoughtfully. “I guess sometimes there’s tension, but that’s just what travelling is like.”

In this sense, timelessness is an apt description, capturing the essence of their sound which is neither “insanely original”, as Dan says, nor at home the more modern sounds of their contemporaries. Leader Cheetah are the remnants of two separate bands that fused together, including Dan and his brother Joel. These Adelaide siblings wrote the pensive outpouring that is their new album, Lotus Skies. “Joel came up with five little embryos of songs which I took and tinkered with, and we just jammed as a band to make it all come together.” Dan admits there is something vaguely melancholy and dramatic about the record, but insists he is not personally a naturally sad person. Instead, he hopes the album will allow people an emotional release. Just because you like melancholy music, he adds, “doesn’t really mean you’re like that.” He says simply that he hopes audiences will have “a pretty enjoyable, deep, meaningful rock and roll experience.”

For Leader Cheetah, honesty takes priority over ego. Disinterested in money or fame, Dan wants simply to travel and share music with others, and “bring something beautiful to people” and to receive it in return. Growing up in the Adelaide hills, he and Joel were encouraged to pursue whatever they wanted, in a creative atmosphere. There are no demons to be dealt with here. “I used to say that I needed something bad to happen to me to be able to write songs, but now it happens more when I’m happy and focussed.”

One difference to their last album is a stronger sense of reality, a less “jammy” feel. And despite his contented outlook, it’s clear that Dan is more conscious of reality since their debut album. “In life I do find whenever something really great happens there does eventually seem to be some karmic retribution,” he says cheerfully, perhaps revealing a little bit of drama, after all.

Leader Cheetah will be playing at Transit Bar on Thursday September 22. Tickets are through Moshtix for $18.40 a pop, and doors open at 8pm.

Date Published: Tuesday, 29 March 11   |  Author: Niki Burnside   |     |  6 years, 2 months ago


Standing on stage at the recent Summer Rhythm Festival, hip-hop artist ILLY precedes the opening of his tune Cigarettes with a warning: “Don’t smoke”. It’s almost as if his mother is in the audience. He bounces around grinning and feeding energy to those below. The audience is made up of paint-splattered 20-somethings, plus plenty of teenagers. The paint is orange, and its source a mystery. This crowd knows all the words; they dance in a bubble of knowing happiness, because, from what I can tell, they came to the festival just for Illy – just for the songs of this well-spoken Melbourne-born law student, whose rise to fame was sudden and entirely deserved. Discovered by Daniel Merriweather only a few short years ago, Illy’s recent single It Can Wait, featuring Owl Eyes, was the # 3 and #4 most played on Triple J through the first two weeks of October 2010.

On the first day of The Chase tour, however, Illy is without pretension. Asked how he gets in the right headspace for a gig, he cringes at his own words as he admits to a few minutes alone backstage, quietly preparing for the performance. Then he laughs softly and shrugs. It’s the same as when we discuss his opponents, those who misunderstand his music as aggressive. If Illy himself is at all angry about this negativity, he doesn’t show it. “They just get a totally built-up image of hip hop, but they don’t actually know what they’re talking about. I try to take it all with a grain of salt.” He shrugs again. Out here, with the gum leaves literally glowing in the late afternoon sun, it’s hard to be annoyed about these things when there’s a gig to be enjoyed.

What does he do in his spare time? Study. Illy doesn’t elaborate on his degree in Law. He could have said he takes long bubble baths and enjoys 1920s films, but it’s clear that his focus is divided two ways: music and university. Is this layered personality the appeal of Illy? Aussie hip hop, which relies heavily on the words spoken to the music, obviously benefits from an articulate front-man. Illy’s lyrics are topical, and his fans trust his words. Somehow, it's hard not to. Today’s fans have trusted enough to come to the Summer Rhythm festival, whose eclectic line-up may have deterred those solely committed to hip hop. What’s more, they’re united by orange body-art.

There is a striking contrast between this calm bush setting and the poster for Illy’s tour, which is dominated by a busy highway against a backdrop of an ominous cityscape. Rain falls in sleeting, harsh droves. Despite this image, the theme of happiness dominates his album and Illy seems content. Fittingly, the festival was in aid of Mental Health Awareness. “I’m not sure what the charity is, but,” Illy grins again, “I’m happy to be here”.

Illy is playing the ANU Bar on Friday April 8. Tickets are available through Ticketek for just $15!

Date Published: Tuesday, 29 March 11   |  Author: Niki Burnside   |     |  6 years, 2 months ago


DRAPHT – aka Paul Ridge – and I are talking about the important things in life: “I bought a portable air-conditioner,” he says, “but it made too much noise... I didn’t want to invest in anything in-built because I’m renting”. The musician and songwriter finished recording his latest album only three weeks ago in his own apartment, without air-conditioning. “It was the hottest summer Perth has had in a year”, he says. He also refers to it as “this bullshit summer”, and credits it with some of his mental blocks over the recording period. Nonetheless, The Life of Riley, his soon-to-be-released album, is an impressive feat. Astonishingly, Drapht has never hired a sound engineer. “I don’t think I could go into a studio now,” he says, confessing that the routine of recording everything himself in his own space is by far his preferred method of creating his music. “I’ve never worked harder on anything before,” he adds.

Based on his employment history, that latter statement is certainly saying something. Previously a rooftop carpenter, he produced such tracks as Jimmy Recard while putting in gruelling hours. “I got sunburn in winter, because I’m so pasty,” he says of his apprenticeship. “I got insomnia, and worked on two hours sleep a lot of the time.” And yet hard work was not the problem; he was simply in the wrong job. “I nearly went crazy, and so I quit.” The carpenter Paul Ridge embraced the songwriter Drapht to produce The Life of Riley. As a result, this record is less about working for “the Man” and contains more tracks about enjoying and embracing life.

One track on the new record certainly speaks to Drapht’s need for a fresh start. Titled RIP JR, the song is a response to the many people who have wondered how he will follow the huge success of Jimmy Recard, his self-confessed alter ego, for whom he has a lot of loathing. This is probably down to the fact that there is a strong sense of jealousy for Jimmy in the song. Of RIP JR, Drapht says “I had the idea to reveal and expose the real Jimmy Recard and the arrogant asshole that he really is.” Perhaps now there is less jealousy and more pity for his alter ego, as he sheds the misery of his past.

Of the upcoming nationwide tour, Drapht speaks excitedly. “It’s an amazing feeling, to see everyone moving to your music, something you’ve created.” This time, there will be more Drapht and less Jimmy reaping the rewards of a hot summer’s work. But for those of you who still worship the dead, there’s no need to worry: “I think I’d have bottles thrown at me if I didn’t play Jimmy Recard,” he says, grateful to the alter ego who, despite his flaws, launched him into fame.

Catch Drapht at the Groovin The Moo Festival on Sunday May 8, held at The Meadows at the University of Canberra. Tickets are $99.90 + bf and are available through Moshtix.

Phrase - The Turns of Phrase
Date Published: Tuesday, 15 February 11   |  Author: Niki Burnside   |     |  6 years, 3 months ago

I don’t know if I’m alone here, but I’m one of those people who listen to songs and hear the lyrics completely differently to how they were actually written and sung. Case in point – Skylight, by PHRASE, who is of Melbourne origin and you’ve no doubt heard on triple j. Here I was thinking that Phrase had actually woken up in a skylight. As you can imagine, I was curious to find out how he found himself in such a predicament. Must have been quite a night out, I thought.

I was partly right; it was a big night. And, according to the man himself, he woke up the next morning on a plane. As he himself, ahem, phrases it, “I woke up in the skylight.” And so the song was born. He did not clarify whether he was meant to be there, or how he got there. If you want to know if he was thrown on the aircraft involuntarily, having already passed out, I cannot tell you.

For those of you heading to the Summer Rhythm Festival this Saturday February 20, things are looking promising. For one thing, it will be an eclectic combination of Canberra talent and exciting exports from around Australia. Phrase guarantees “extreme and unadulterated partying”, having been tucked away out of sight and out of trouble lately, recording his latest album. Phrase is one hip-hop artist attempting to escape his genre and create an original style. Not comfortable with such a singular definition, his upcoming album is all his own, without the intertwining of samples from other artists, a well known stylistic move made by other hip-hop artists to popular effect. Phrase’s artistic goals and meteoric rise to fame suggest that what’s to come will be innovative and fresh. Coming from an already heavily pigeonholed musical style, his has an ambitious purpose.

Despite the stories of big nights and the kind of rumours that surround someone like Phrase – whose teenage years, allegedly, were a troubled time – his present life is, unsurprisingly, more complex and definitely mellower than his hip-hop persona. A married man, Phrase admits to escaping to retreats like Phillip Island to write his lyrics. Like any artist, seclusion is a useful way to develop his music. That and Jameson’s, he says. When he’s relaxing, it’s also good food and nice people. On that note, I assume he’s looking forward to the Summer Rhythm Festival and sharing a green room with his own particular favourites M-Phazes, Illy and DJ Flagrant.

The festival will be celebrating the summer, when it’s especially enjoyable to flee outside, enjoy a cider in the sun and listen to anything you please. There is no one musical style dominating the weekend, with everything from folk to rock to hip-hop. Based on his own particular musical goals, this should suit Phrase just fine.

Catch Phrase live at the Summer Rhythm Festival, held at Goolabri over Saturday-Sunday February 19-20. Tickets range in price depending on whether you go for one or both days and they’re available through Oztix.