Two Bright Lakes Turns Five
A sense of commonality and friendship is at the heart of artist-run collective Two Bright Lakes, which celebrates five years this weekend. Words by DOUG WALLEN.
Has it been five years already? Five years since a group of Melbourne musicians and creative types – Chris Bolton (Seagull), Blake Byron-Smith, Nick and Simon “Tig” Huggins, Hazel Brown and Mark Gretton – came together to form the cooperative Two Bright Lakes. Kid Sam’s Australian Music Prize-nominated self-titled debut in 2009 turned the national spotlight on TBL, and since then the output has only strengthened: Hello Satellites’ self-titled LP, Collarbones’ Iconography, Seagull’s Goodbye Weather and Council Tree, Oscar + Martin’s For You, Batrider’s Piles of Lies, Otouto’s Pip and Galapagoose’s Commitments. That one label put out records of that quality in that time boggles the mind, to say nothing of Two Bright Lakes’ communal setup.
To coincide with TBL’s fifth anniversary party tonight (July 20), Tig Huggins answered a handful of questions about the label’s past and future.
Two Bright Lakes seems to have evolved from singer-songwriters, like Hazel Brown’s solo record, to more experimental, electronic and R&B-slanted stuff, just as Hazel has moved somewhere new with Otouto and Psuche have with Oscar + Martin. Has everyone moved in that direction together?
In many ways the music that’s being made now is a continuation of the conversations we were having in the early days. Blake [Byron-Smith], Adrian [Simons] and myself came to the label with a deep love of hip-hop, house, disco and electronic music from younger years spent on dancefloors around Melbourne and in particular at [defunct CBD venue] Honkytonks. Whereas Hazel, Nick [Huggins], Kishore [Ryan of Otouto and Kid Sam], Chris [Bolton of Seagull] and Kieran [Ryan of Kid Sam] all came from songwriting backgrounds, and I think we always tried to find common threads between the two.
We’re all good friends, and I guess like most people we look for commonality rather than difference. Stuff like Kraftwerk, Arthur Russell, Gillian Welch and Brian Eno were great talking points for us all at that time and those conversations inspired the label in many ways. Now it feels completely fine to allow people to explore different musical inclinations. Whether it be R&B, house, folk, country or ambient music, it all kind of makes sense to us if we know the people and their motives for writing music. The R&B thing, though, owes a lot to Martha [Brown of Otouto], Hazel, Martin [King of Oscar + Martin], Marcus [Whale of Collarbones] and Oscar [Slorach-Thorn of Oscar + Martin] – that’s the music they grew up on and love. I think they really bonded over those influences and the results have been wonderful.
How much effect did Kid Sam’s Australian Music Prize nomination [in 2009] have on attention for TBL?
It had a huge impact: the association was really positive and the networks that came from putting that record out are still really important to us today. We met the wonderful team at Remote Control through that process and we always feel indebted to [them] for their persistence and hard work on TBL.
Was there any uncertainty about bringing relative anomalies like noisier rock [Batrider] and cleaner electronic [Dream Kit] onto the roster?
Not for me. A lot of us went to Batrider gigs at Alberts Basement shows in Northcote and loved the band. We jumped at the chance to work with them. Declan [Kelly, Dream Kit] was a big influence on Blake and I as DJs; his sadly defunct radio show Against the Arctic was a early supporter of the label and we got on really well with him. So it made sense for us to work together.
What are some upcoming records? The Harpoons? Speed Painters?
Collarbones, Fox + Sui, Harpoons, Nicholas Krgovich [of No Kids] (http://nicholaskrgovich.bandcamp.com) and hopefully we can find time to finish the Speed Painters record.
Are there any new acts coming to the roster? I thought Where Were You at Lunch might have ended up on TBL, given the Kishore connection…
We’re pretty full at the minute and despite wanting to take on so many of the wonderful bands we know and love, we’re constrained by how much time we have.
What’s the status of Nick’s band Touch Typist?
Touch Typist is dormant. Songs were recorded sometime ago; I’m not sure if they’ll come out. I think the original ideas we had for TT have found homes in our other musical endeavours, which seems a perfectly natural thing.
Will his soundtrack for I Am Eleven (http://vimeo.com/5547134) be made available at any point?
We’d love for it to be made available. Nick’s soundtrack work is a wonderful extension of his musical brain. In the meantime I highly recommend getting along to I Am Eleven while it’s in cinemas. It’s a lovely film.
Why did you choose Knxwledge as the import act for the anniversary party?
Serendipity, affection, shared aesthetic among some of our newer acts and a new relationship with Astral People, who have some very exciting projects coming up in Sydney.
There are ties between TBL and //This Thing// collective, like Galapagoose. Have you offered advice to them about successful running a co-op-like operation?
No, those guys have it pretty sorted. I don’t think they need our advice. They’ve been such a breath of fresh air in Melbourne. I’m really excited to see what comes next from them. Hoping for a Zanzibar Chanel record! Blake helped the //This Thing// guys with one of their first shows at Horse Bazaar and Speed Painters have played a few of their shows. So I think there’s a natural connection between the two entities.