Electric string quartet FourPlay have been wowing audiences around the world for over 20 years with both their radical stringed reinventions of pop songs and their wildly eclectic original material, such as the latest single, ‘Wish’ – a powerful ballad about living in a climate-changed world. ‘Wish’ takes this to the next step: with haunting melodies and tones reminiscent of Not Drowning Waving and ‘70s folk protest songs.
Tomatrax caught up with the band to ask a few questions (all answers by Lara Goodridge except where indicated).
You’ve been making music together for over two decades now, what is the secret to the band’s longevity?
I’d say we are really family now (oh, and Peter and Tim really are family!). We’ve been through our 20s and 30s together, so we’ve been through thick and thin! We have a lot of fun together, share similar sense of humour, and love food! Bands are like any relationship, you need to have love, care and respect for each other so that everyone’s different needs, schedules and hopes are heard and met enough to continue. I think we do that as best we can. We still have a great time together and love making music together.
What was the inspiration behind the video for ‘Wish’?
(Tim Hollo) We wanted to do something visually powerful that conveyed the journey of the song, which was inspired by my daughter’s anxieties about climate change, and our conversations about how we can’t “wish away” the times we live in – we have to do with them what we can. It follows a young girl, portrayed beautifully by dancer Marigold Pazar, as she takes in the shock of climate change disasters, sees and perhaps gets involved in activism to face up to it, and becomes able to walk with confidence into the future. The film-maker, Heidi Douglas, is also a passionate environmental activist, and was able to bring her wonderful ideas to life with footage from 350.org and others, as well as wildlife photographer Rob Blakers. The idea of projecting images onto us was particularly inspired, I feel.
Are there plans to put out another album?
Yes, we have an album ready to go to release for next year, and we also have a collaboration album with author Neil Gaiman which will also probably come out later next year!
You’ve just begun a tour round Australia, what can fans expect from your show?
We are playing a lot of our originals. It’s the non-genre-specific melange it’s always been! Some rock, some gypsy, some jazz, some post-rock, some vocals. It’s big, it’s fun, it’s intense, it’s beautiful.
You’ve done several cover versions, transferring guitar driven music to the strings, how does playing your own music compare with making covers?
We really do love writing our own material nowadays. We also find it harder to agree one what we want to cover! We looooove doing our version of Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine, and the audience loves that without fail, and we aim to find some more killer rock songs like that, that aren’t in some way a gimmick for us to play. We feel in some sense that we’ve moved on from that and performing our own music is really fulfilling for us.
Has anyone ever suggested making guitar driven covers of your original material?
No they haven’t. You need to spread that word!
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
Well, we write a lot of instrumentals, so ya know, no words there! Often it’s a riff, a small idea, we will jam on it, and it grows into something, or doesn’t. We write together as a band, in the room together, plugged in and making sounds, and things take shape over hours and hours of playing. With lyrics, that’s usually added to the music afterwards.
(Tim Hollo) – With Wish, the two came together. I had the chord progression in my head, but tweaked it as the lyrics started forming. And the arrangement of the song, which we did together as a band, as always, came after the lyrics.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
No, not really! Although I like to go back and listen to the most recent recordings to make sure I’m still happy with them before it goes out. So far, yes, I’m happy and can’t wait to release it all!
What music do you listen to?
We all have very varying tastes. Peter has an enormous and very wide ranging eclectic interest in music which will range from folk to electronica to Egyptian jazz, I’m a bit more singer-songwriter-y, Tim loves his 90s music a lot! And Shenzo loves jazz and 80s rock!! But we all love a huge variety of music.
What do you have planned after the upcoming tour?
We plan to rock! And move you with soaring string melodies and harmonies, with driving, crunchy rhythms and glorious musical twists and turns. Ya gotta come and see it live!
Waywards, Newtown NSW
Friday 21 September
Bison Bar, Nambour QLD
Saturday 22 September
Brunswick Picture House, Brunswick Heads NSW
Sunday 23 September