I call Toni at 10am, and she’s racing for the car to get away from the noise of the kids, 10, 8 and 3. I can empathise, but my family has a 29-year spread, so I win the opening round!!!
But we are here to talk to Toni Randle, one half of the jazz-tinged folk sound which is Eyreton Hall. Her husband Andrew Keegan is the other half, and bandmates include brother Tim Randle, James Fistonich and co-producer Ben King (Golden Horse, Grand Rapids, Bads).
Tell us about Eyreton Hall first of all, and then we can talk about the new record.
Once upon a time Toni and Andrew trained as jazz musicians, moved to Sydney, where Andrew is from, then to Japan, where Andrew taught, then to Melbourne where they formed a band called The Portraits. Family started to arrive, and creativity took a holiday, to be revived when they made the move back to Christchurch, Toni’s hometown, in between the earthquakes.
A debut album, Featherstitch was partly recorded in an old hall near Toni’s parents place just out of Christchurch, which became the name of the band when they were ready to release the album, but remained incognito as artists. And thus they became Eyreton Hall, and are living happily ever after...
Well, as happy as you can be as struggling musicians trying to make a new album, teaching music to make ends meet, and bringing up a young family. Especially when number 3 comes along unexpectedly.
So here we are, four and a half years’ effort later, and Spaces is being released this month, May 24th, with the release party at Galatos the following evening, May 25th.
Spaces is your sophomore album, notoriously challenging, although in my case it isn’t so, because I’m not yet familiar with Featherstitch. So it’s all new, I’ve been listening to it, I went to sleep listening to it, the best way to go to sleep... Tell us about the album…
How to grieve, how to move on, how not to forget...
Spaces has been inspired by two life events and the way to deal with them. Firstly, the arrival of their third child. Not planned. “It’s amazing how something that you thought was complete, becomes more complete,” says Toni. And the second thing was the loss of a dear friend to skin cancer in 2015. How to grieve, how to move on, how not to forget. Both those events require space and time to fit into an already busy life, where there was no such time before. Hence, Spaces.
How do you fit in creative time to such a hectic life?
Happily, Toni finds the muse arrives while she is busy, not idle. From snatched time in between teaching lessons or waiting for baby to wake.
I profess admiration for lyrics in music that are thoughtful and deep... and frustration when good music is let down by platitudes and blandness. Without an in-depth listen, I can already tell that the words in Spaces are thoughtful, considered, more deep than shallow. What comes first, lyric or melody?
... a speed date session between carefully crafted words and melody where the result has to be an instant spark.
An oft-asked question it would seem... But the answer, in simple terms, is that the words are mulled over, and the melody has to come quickly and sound good both to her and Andrew, almost at first listen. My analogy of a speed date session between carefully crafted words and melody where the result has to be an instant spark, and then there is a marriage, is well received. (Once done, though, it’s hard to divorce a song).
I have an incurable need to make comparisons, even at the risk of offending, and fortunately, artists are in my experience too polite to show offence, but this time I offer Toni first go… just to be safe…
Not, as it turns out, artists whose music is similar to theirs. But everyone who creates great melodies and writes thoughtful lyrics. Dave Dobbyn, Neil Finn, Crowded House, Bic Runga are amongst the Kiwi favourites. Fleet Foxes, Rufus Wainwright, Joan as Police Woman (Jeff Buckley’s girlfriend… every day a school day!!), Radiohead.
My offering includes k.d. lang, Over The Rhine and Ben Folds, particularly in the latter case as the music has very little acoustic guitar. Toni offers, in disbelief, Cleo Laine, and my response to that is absolute, many of the songs evoke smoky late-night jazz bar settings. Jazz-tinged folk.
That’s enough about the album, this is a teaser interview, the reviews will follow, and of course, the release party will be the place to be to hear Spaces, the excellent sophomore album from Eyreton Hall.
There, I’ve given you all a clue... and I congratulate Toni on the outcome… so have a guess how I feel?
Join us at Galatos on May 25th to celebrate Eyreton Hall's new album release. Tickets available at UnderTheRadar.