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Laura Imbruglia is about to embark on her own web-based variety show, Amateur Hour, bringing together a stellar cast of Australian bands, artists, and performers. Each episode will feature a selection of interviews, skits, curios and live music filmed in Melbourne’s most iconic bars and rehearsal spaces. Tomatrax caught up with Laura to talk about her show.

You’re about to start your own variety show, how did this idea come about?
Australia has no shows of this nature. We have no late night shows for bands or comedians to perform on either. The closest we have is Rockwiz (a game show) and The Today Show (hideously commercial and inappropriate for a lot of great bands- i.e. You will NEVER see Batpiss or Hard-Ons on The Today Show). I’ve been complaining about this for a while, and my friends agreed with me. A few even said I’d be an entertaining host if I ever wanted to make a show. I thought about it some more and decided to give it a go. I was feeling a bit bored with making music anyway, so decided to focus on something I was excited about.

What will the first show feature?
The first episode (Tune in to amateurhour.tv at 8PM on Tues Sept 1) features performances from The Gin Club and Miss Eileen and King Lear (they’re in the band Perch Creek- this is a side-project). It will also feature comedy from local comedy group Trillcumber, a feature interview with artist Celeste Potter, animation from Lluis Fuzzhound and a taste of our regular segments “Cats”, “LJ’s Lazy Guide To Health” and Ray Ahn’s “Memories With Ray”.

How does hosting a show compare to making music?
I’m not very good at either, but at least with music, if you practice the same song over and over again, you’re likely to perform it well. With interviews, you never know how the subject will respond or how much they’ll “give you”, or where they’ll lead the conversation to. It’s like jamming on stage with someone you’ve never played with, and in addition to that, having no formal training or knowledge of your scales. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I hope the awkwardness is amusing. I’m not the greatest host, but I DO have extensive experience hosting music trivia. So, when I run out of things to say to guests, I go to my default mode and ask them “What’s this lyric from?…”

Where did the name Amateur Hour come from?
Wicktionary defines “amateur hour” as “A situation or activity in which the participants show a lack of skill, sound judgment, or professionalism.” That pretty much sums us up to a tee. Some of the people involved with the making of the show at least sort of know what they are doing, but none of us have made a web show before. We are all amateur to a degree. I’m the most inexperienced person out of everyone AND I’m steering the ship. We were looking for something that would give us a get-out-of-jail free card if ever anything sucked. “Oh, of course there’s a boom mic in shot- amateur hour!”. Also, a lot of the people featured on the show are probably considered amateur by the greater population, as many of them don’t live off their craft. We thought it could also be a sarcastic title, and shed light on just how un-amateur these people who walk among us really are.

The show will feature musicians doing some non-musical things, such as Laura Jean hosts a cooking show. How did you choose what non-musical things each guest would do?
I guess I have a good idea of what would be entertaining, as I’m working with people I know really well. I’m friends with Laura and I know she’s a bit of a foodie and had aspirations to host a cooking show on community radio, but nothing had happened with that idea. I asked her if she’d like to host a quick cooking segment and she took it seriously and pitched a fleshed out idea, which I loved the sound of. She’s also really hilarious, which is what got the idea over the line for me. As for Ray from the Hard-Ons, I used to work in a record store with him and he tells the best stories I’ve ever heard. He’s also an amazing illustrator and I’d seen him draw excellent caricatures of customers in under a minute. I simply proposed that we combine his story-telling with his caricature sketches and film it- it was a no-brainer. My buddy Ben Salter told me he wanted to be on the show and gave me a list of things his segment could be about. I think it was cricket, video games, cats. Out of those options, I went straight for cats and told him I wanted him to interview cats. Ben tours a lot and filming himself patting a cat on the street is probably the most I could get him to reliably commit to.

Was it hard to convince people to appear on the show?
It was surprisingly easy. Sometimes it even happened by accident. For instance, I contacted Sarah Blasko to ask if we could use a portion of one of her music videos in an interview piece with Celeste Potter (who animated it). I knew that she probably didn’t own the rights to it and that Universal Music would probably have to clear it, but it seemed hard so I tried to take a sneaky shortcut. She scanned through my email quickly, and thought I was asking her to appear on film to talk about the clip and said “I’ll be in Melb on these dates, I’m sure we can sort something out”. To which I replied “Oh! I just needed a yes or no answer about us using your video, and I don’t think you can even provide it so don’t worry about that BUT can we film you doing a song?”. To this day, I cannot believe she agreed to do it, providing us with our highest profile musical performer of the season. What a legend.

I’ve been around the music scene for almost 15 years now, and my greatest achievement is probably just making a lot of friends. I also had the booking help of our Music Producer Lara Soulio, who has been a sound tech at Old Bar and volunteer at 3CR Radio for years. She knows a lot of talented people and everyone loves her. I doubt anyone could say no to either of our tiny angry faces. People are excited about the show and wanted to see it happen, so they got involved.

Will you be singing on the show?
Nope, if I did that in a pilot season, it would be a weird Laura bonanza that would push the show over the edge into vanity project.

You’ve also been able to put the show together with virtually no budget, how did you manage this feat?
Enthusiasm is contagious, and I’m really enthusiastic about the show. I also made a lot of sandwiches. I think there is a type of person in this world that needs other people to round them up and light a fire under their arse if they want to ever achieve anything. Some of the volunteers are that type of person, and they were actually grateful to be involved in something that they could see was definitely going to come to fruition and be a cool thing. It’d definitely be a much scrappier show without everyone else’s input. I would’ve been filming it on an iphone and editing in imovie. I know I personally wouldn’t agree to work for a year on something for no pay unless I was really excited about the project, so the fact that I found about 50 like-minded people to work for free makes me feel really proud and excited about our show, and what we’ve achieved.

You have 6 episodes coming up, are there plans to do more shows after this?
We would LOVE to continue making the show, but we can’t make any more episodes without funding. There is a permanent donation button on our site, which people can donate to. But in my heart of hearts and biggest dreams, I want a production company or netflix or something to see the promise in the show and the gap that we’re filling and give us a deal to make more shows. Is that likely? I dunno. Writing grant applications is pretty taxing, I guess I could attempt that too. If all this comes to nothing, this pilot season will be a nice time capsule and a painful reminder of what Australia is missing out on, whilst they pump millions into sports broadcasting every year.

What do you have planned after the Amateur Hour series?
I think I’ll give myself a few weeks to rest and then I’ll start planning my next “You’re Lookin’ At Country” fundraiser. I’d also like to write some new songs on the guitar I bought last year, but haven’t had the time to play.

Check out the Amateur Hour website to find out more!

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