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Album Review and Interview: The Teskey Brothers Live at The Forum (Ivy League)

Roger Bowie

The Teskey Brothers have just released a live album after only two studio albums, but 15 years of hard slog which last year’s sold out shows all over Australasia and the USA tells them and us that all that effort is starting to pay off.

The Teskey Brothers Credit Ben Houdijk

Ben Houdijk

I am chatting to bassist/keyboardist Brendan Love and he tells me they were equally intrigued by the notion of doing a live album after just two studios albums. Might be a touch pretentious? But hang on, the boys always think of themselves as a live band, even in the studio, and when they are in the studio they always record to tape, analogue, none of this new-fangled digital shit. And why not, the Teskeys are rooted in the roots of the 60s and 70s soul, rock, jazz and blues, and that’s the way it was done way back when.

Then, when the Forum in Melbourne sold out, not just twice but four times, they got a hankering to record as well as document the moment, and of course, as crazy as it was, it could only be done on tape, so they found an ancient one, 8 track but 24 input lines and Alex Bennett had to go to work, harder work than the easy stuff on stage, mixing on the fly, and changing the tapes every half hour while Josh Teskey and the band doodled away with the audience playing things on the “mouth organ”. What? The mouth organ, what the fuck is that?, sounds like a blue movie, but Josh loves to call it what it was when we all grew up, and it’s an in-band kind of joke, just to wind everybody up with something which sounds so dorky.

Brendan emphasises the fact that they create the songs in both a studio and live context by playing everything on their instruments without fancy toolkits or back ups or loops, and so recording live to analogue is not only authentic it’s also kind of bizarre. It’s more rare than common these days. So that of course makes the vinyl offering such a temptation. It may be retro, but it’s real.

There’s a short video which accompanies the release, and it’s well worth a look, as the boys take us through the tape saga and play a couple of classic tracks. Full band onstage, a comparatively recent luxury which a thing called money allows them to do, indulge in an extension of sound to make them sound even more retro and rich and reveling in it. It also shows the band as a unit, a team, a family, right down to the pre-gig warm-ups which get them in the mood as well tunes up the voice. Doesn’t need whiskey to sound like whiskey, which is probably a good thing if these guys want to carry on past their thirties and into their fifties and still be doing their thing. And there is Didirri singing along on stage in an un-credited cameo.

Nice touch.

 

Let’s cheat a bit and delve into what the press release tells us about the new album:

“Ivy League Records is thrilled to release Live At The Forum, the incredible new live album from The Teskey Brothers - available on double blue vinyl, CD & all digital services!

Live At The Forum features songs from the band’s two critically acclaimed albums, Run Home Slow (2019) and Half Mile Harvest (2017), as well as a special cover of John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’. Alongside the CD & digital release, the live album is available on 180g double-blue gatefold vinyl. A limited version (with a different front cover) is also available exclusively to indie record stores

The decision to release a live album was a natural one for The Teskey Brothers, who’ve spent the past few years captivating audiences around the world. Their non-stop touring schedule has included sold-out shows across Australia & NZ (20+ sold-out dates in 2019 alone), New York, LA, San Francisco, Denver, Toronto, London, Dublin, Manchester, Glasgow, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich and more. The band have also played to mammoth crowds at festivals such as Latitude Festival (UK), Firefly (US), North Sea Jazz (Netherlands), Bonnaroo (US), and at home, Splendour in the Grass, Meredith Music Festival & Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, to name a few.  

2019 was an incredible year for the Warrandyte four-piece……….”

Yadi yadi yada……but it’s good to see hard work and grind and resilience and stamina and passion finally get its due in a surplus of superlatives which record companies are good at.

What I’m more interested in is where does this band go? I had this moment of paranoia at the Powerstation last December where it all sounded a bit slick and a bit showbizzy and I worried that they’d end up with a residence in Las Vegas playing covers, before something happened to smash through the torpor and celebrate a new potential.

I put the question to Brendan but my little speech gets lost in the translation between a normally flawless Trans-Tasman conversation and one which straddles the world between me, my recording app and Melbourne. Which means I have to repeat it, which is reason enough not to put you, dear reader, through the pain of listening to the interview. Brendan’s got a nice Aussie voice, that’s all you need to know.

Brendan’s not sure. There’s no long-term plan. How can you predict your audiences changing tastes? The good news for The Teskey Brothers is that they have never sounded new, which I guess means there’s nothing to defend. But there is insurance of a kind in that they don’t feel bound to any one genre. Because there’s an intrinsic awareness that they don’t want to end up sounding or being tired by doing the same thing for too long. Which is true, when you hear the New Orleans jazz, and the blues come through on the last album. They all write, and they all have different influences driving them, so they are keen to continue to explore each other’s curiosities. I like that. Stay curious.

What saved me that night at the Powerstation happened just after San Francisco with the song Honeymoon, and you can hear it when you buy or stream the album, and that’s when they cut loose into southern rock boogie and with a little bit of imagination and maybe an extra guitar, you can see an Allman Brothers or a Widespread Panic emerging and wouldn’t that be a good thing?

I’ve touched a chord here, and Brendan tells me that The Allman Brothers Live at The Fillmore was one of the albums which they used as a reference point for Live at The Forum. And guess what? The Allman Brothers did two studio albums before breaking through with their third and live album. Let The Teskey Brothers rest their case!

The Teskey Brothers RHS Lead Photo Credit Nick McKinlay low res

Nick McKinley

 

Live At The Forum
The Teskey Brothers
Album out now through Ivy League Records
Available to buy/stream here


Written By: Roger Bowie Roger Bowie has been collecting music since 1964, starting with 45 rpm singles, and then building an LP and CD collection from 1970. 1.8 per week since then. Not a vast collection, but eclectic and occasionally obscure. Roger is a big Americana fan, and regularly attends AmericanaFest in Nashville, held every September. Also, he once played golf with Alice Cooper...