A Few Quiet Words with Fraser A. Gorman
When Fraser A. Gorman strolls out the back of the Old Bar, the soundtrack to a Star Wars pinball machine accompanies him, giving the fella an aggrandising soundtrack; a regal air. “Hey mate, do you mind if I grab a glass of hot water? I’m coming down with something and it’s fucking annoying.”
Maybe regal isn’t quite the right term.
Hailing from Torquay, Gorman cuts a curious character. Put a pair of black Ray-bans on him and you’d swear Bob Dylan circa ’64 was in the room. As the interview gets underway Gorman develops an unexpected stutter, which betrays his affable, larrikin stage demeanour. A young troubadour in the style of Justin Townes Earle, whom he fiercely admires, Gorman is a gifted songwriter, coupling affecting storytelling with engaging melodies and hooks. Apt at capturing an audience by himself or with a band in tow, he’s made recent appearances at Queenscliff, Port Fairy and Boogie music festivals, and was recently added to the healthy Singhala music roster.
What’s been going on aside from this cold you’re developing?
Not too much, I’ve been so busy trying to finish Uni, I do Psychology at La Trobe. I do that, but in saying that it’s low on the importance, I kind of do that to keep Mum happy as opposed to what I really care about which is to play music.
You’re doing plenty of that, how many shows have you been playing recently?
I just did my APRA list the other day, which is like a songwriter’s log book; I counted since the start of July last year we’ve played over sixty shows. So that’s pretty decent. They’re all in Melbourne, so I guess we’ve been smashing it pretty hard, which is I guess what you’ve gotta do to get your name out there.
You’re from down the coast, right?
I’m from Torquay, and our guitar player Sam is from Ocean Grove and our violin player is from Geelong, so we’re all kind of from down there. We played the Queenscliff Music Festival and the Port Fairy Folk Festival.
Port Fairy’s where I first saw you. Did you see the Bob Dylan gospel choir?
Yeah I caught a bit of them, but we didn’t really have time to see that many bands because we had to play three or four shows, and the rest of the time we were drinking at the house we were staying in, or sleeping. I caught the end of one of the Gospel shows, and saw The Bamboos a couple times, and The Perch Creek Family Jug Band but that was about it.
I remember one of your songs was about your Grandad. It struck me as interesting because while you introduced it as coming from quite a sad place, it was a very upbeat and life-affirming track.
Yeah cheers, I was having a chat with James Young (Cherry Bar owner) after a show, we were talking about a real knack in songwriting, which is really prevalent in country songwriting; is being able to write a very topically depressing song but not have everyone in the crowd wanting to kill themselves. You’ve got to look back to one of the great country songwriters, Hank Williams, so many of his songs are topically fucked, like ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’, and he’s got so many songs like that, but they’re all upbeat and in a major key which is cool. I write tonnes of songs about my family because that’s probably the best thing I know.
You’re good mates with the King Gizzard guys, who write surf-garage rock which is really big right now, whereas your stuff is very traditional. Do you take a lot of influence from new artists?
The thing about the King Gizzard boys and The Murlocs guys, we all grew up together. All those guys are Geelong musicians. Stu from King Gizzard plays snare in my band, and he’s one of my best friends since God knows how long. All of us, and The Frowning Clouds and The Murlocs all came from a band called Sambrose Automobile. It’s all very interconnected.
Are you the ‘Lone Wolf’ of that crew then?
I used to play in a band called Revolver and Sun, we used to play pretty straight garage-psych rock and roll. So I come from that background. I just always really wanted to play country music; I’ve always dug country and folk stuff. I thought when my old band fizzled out, now’s my chance to go out there. And around the same time I started getting into Justin Townes Earle, Gillian Welch, Josh T. Pearson, who if you haven’t heard you’ve got to get into. I’ve come from more of a blues background than a country one; I’ve got a lot of Sonhouse, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters records and stuff. But as far as country musicians go, I’ve kind of only got into Townes Van Sant, Steve Earle, Emmy Lou-Harris and earlier ones like Woody Guthrie. I mean if you’re going to get into earlier songwriters, there’s so many subgenres, so many places to look.
So did it all start with Bob Dylan?
Yeah, totally. I never really got any musical influences from my parents. But Dylan is definitely my primary influence. I went to the Modern Times concert, and tonnes of people walked out because it didn’t sound like him in 1964, and I thought ‘mate he hasn’t sounded like that since ’64!’ And people always expected him to be someone he’s never wanted to be. And of course he’s never been interested in that. I mean even when he was labelled as a protest singer he always denied it. I thought the concert was bloody fantastic, I love Modern Times. ‘Thunder on the Mountain’; I’ve never heard a song written by someone so old that just makes you want to dance like fuckin’ nobody’s business.
After that you’ve got your EP launch at the Toff, tell us about recording the EP.
We recorded it in a little beach shack in Point Lonsdale with a friend Nick Huggins, who’s a really well known recorder and producer in Melbourne. You can’t pull parallels between the kind of music he records and what we play, but he’s a good friend of mine and has a really broad knowledge of music and a beautiful recording technique. And he’s also a really good bloke.
We punched out the EP in a day and a half. I’m a pretty strong advocate of doing things while they’re hot, not tediously going over every tiny imperfection. I find that a bit wanky I guess. Also in saying that, maybe not I guess. *laughs*
We probably won’t be touring it. We released it originally for Port Fairy and didn’t plan on doing much with it, but it got picked up by RRR; and PBS gave it a hell-of-a-floggin’ so we thought we might as well have a big party in Melbourne and re-launch it. We pressed 150 and sold them all before the launch was even an idea, so we’ve pressed some more. We’ve got some more recording booked in late July, we want to get this launch done and then we’ll head back in to finish recording for this full-length.
You can catch Fraser A. Gorman supporting Mark Lanegan at Ding Dong’s reopening next Friday, July 6th; or head to his EP launch at the Toff in Town on Saturday July 14th.
Tagged blues, Bob Dylan, country, fiddle, folk, Fraser A. Gorman, Geelong, Justin Townes Earle, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Modern Times, Old Bar, songwriter, The Frowning Clouds, The Murlocs, Torquay, troubadour