Image: Jamie Hutchings and Darren Cross.
Author: Bradley Cork
There are many commonalities between soon-to-be tour mates Jamie Hutchings and Darren Cross. Both have been orbiting in and around the Sydney scene for a few decades now; both have fronted pre-eminent projects that took shape in the 90’s; and both have written some of the most interesting and eclectic alternative rock songs to ever come out of Australia. I meet up with Darren and Jamie in Glebe, a night for the two to speak candidly about where music can lead you when you have a drive to pursue it constantly, as well as some of the pit-falls artists can have if they don’t put their autonomy and craft ahead of the industry’s expectations.
Jamie and Darren have known each other for over two decades and so it’s no surprise that they’re teaming up to promote their rich and respective back catalogues and new material. Their shared history and encounters over the years are quite noteworthy with Jamie recalling a gig where Darren’s formative band Gerling were on an unlikely bill. ‘I saw this show where you guys were supporting the Clouds. The Clouds are amazing singers but I thought ‘oh Gerling’s playing, that’ll be an interesting combination’. They were first on so there weren’t too many people and Darren was just losing his mind.’
Darren also recalls this gig having had a few more interesting turns: ‘Yeah, they closed the curtain halfway through our set. We played two sets that day and when your rider has a crate of whiskey, you get stuck into it at 23. That was really bad! Maybe we should discuss these on tour and not on tape. [Laughs] I remember Jamie just being a gentleman and focused and never saying anything wildly un-PC, which is probably what I spent most of my time doing. Always focused, wearing a bloody velvet Jacket!’
While 2018 saw the delivery of Jamie’s delicate and intimate Bedsit, Darren released the lo-fi, scuzzy and brilliant Peacer. Both solo records took the method of being released through two successful Pozible campaigns, a format where the audience and the artist are able to engage directly and there is a choice between how much of people’s hard-earned money they can put across. Despite this, Darren was initially unsure of engaging with his audience in this way. ‘I was really reluctant to do it at first. I talked to Jamie and asked ‘should I do it? What do you think?’ I trust him because we’re from the same era of getting kicked out of the machine and he was like ‘Yeah, just do it!’ He really encouraged me.’
Jamie’s experience and thoughts behind the Pozible campaign are more pragmatic than anything else. ‘It’s just by necessity. It’s a lot of work but I felt like I really didn’t have a choice. I was with a longstanding label for a long time and when it folded I would speak with other labels and they’d be interested and then change their minds. People are too polite to say they’re not interested. I always thought it would happen where I would be putting out my records myself.’ In this way, it is possible to bypass record labels and other third parties – cutting out the middle man – to liberate yourself and your art. And to Jamie, his audience has appreciated the equal exchange. ‘Your audience knows that it’s coming from you. They know they can contact you directly. They know that their money is going directly into what you’re creating.’
The mutual respect between the two musicians is another big part of why they’ve decided to team up together. Both men have spent a great amount of time honing a large body of work that many would be proud of. While Jamie fronted the adventurous and genre-spanning Bluebottle Kiss, Darren was a part of the larger-than-life and danceable indie rock of Gerling. Both projects have been defunct for some time but what’s most interesting about Jamie and Darren is the lack of resting on one’s laurels. Projects like Jamie’s Infinity Broke or The Tall Grass and Darren’s Jep and Dep prove that they’re still writing songs that are vital and that they are reaching beyond what they achieved with their initial outfits.
When asking about this constant need to create and form new projects, Darren is adamant about the need to pursue creation for art’s sake. ‘I’m very reactionary. Especially with the way the music industry is these days. When I’m doing music, I firstly work out what I want to express and then definitely take a step away from trying to be too much of a commodity. Once something becomes a tangible product of the industry, I really don’t feel like wanting to be a part of that.’
Jamie is quick to note having multiple projects is a necessity that also comes with timing. ‘Infinity Broke is now the more rhythmic and explorative type of music that I write and then sometimes I have a real hunger to have hypnotic racket and then eventually you get exhausted from all that and it’s good to walk away and do something that’s the opposite. I really enjoy that. One thing invariably influences the next. None of them are full-time enough for them to take up all my time so you can sort of dabble or have two projects happening at the one time.’
As the conversation carries forward, we talk about the idea around the music industry within Australia being obsessed with the idea of artists seeming new or at the very beginning of their journey. Jamie makes a great point in regard to being proud of the material that came before your current project. Age and experience within anyone’s craft should be seen as something that is both valuable to the person creating the work as well as an audience who can look back on an extensive body of work. Jamie has always encouraged friends to embrace their rich and varied history, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist, or acting as though they’re ten years younger than they are. Darren is very much on the same page: ‘There is a massive difference between actual supportive fans and the industry. Me and Jamie fall more into the bracket of people who love our music and want to support our heritage.’
With the idea of exploration within art and performance, the tour looks to expand to the more regional outskirts of the Australian East-Coast. When asking them both about differences between playing in towns like Lismore or Port Macquarie, they’re both quick to state the importance of playing places that most would skip. Darren adds that ‘I think the major difference is people actually listen to it. If you go to Orange they want to hear you and see what you have to offer. In Sydney, you’re more of a serviette. In the country or regional areas, people are like ‘play me your songs.’’
Jamie has recently ventured out on a tour where he performed in places such as Nimbin and he enjoys the idea of it going either way. ‘I treat them as an adventure; if they’re abysmal then I can deal with that. With playing more and more solo shows for years, I’ve learned how to engage with the audience. When you’re playing in places where no-one is listening, you just kind of deal with the situation where you have to realise that even if Bob Dylan was playing, no one would be listening. If someone said to you ‘what’s the best tour story you have?’, you don’t tell them about the time it was a sold-out gig and you played perfectly. You tell them about the time where someone threw a shoe at you. Those are the things that are more of an experience.’
With that image in mind we finish up our meals and all head our separate ways. There was a real humorous honesty and humility in talking to both Jamie and Darren that was quite refreshing. Both men have created music that is well worth investing your time and energy into. In a world that is obsessed with things that are shiny and new, it is enriching for many listeners to be become invested in an established world that’s been created over a few decades and can at times almost feel like a secret. While the back catalogues of these two are strong, it’s also the songs that are yet to be written and released that are something to look beyond and forward to.
Jamie Hutchings and Darren Cross Bedsit For Peacer regional NSW tour:
- Thurday March 7 – Lazy Bones Level One, Marrickville NSW
- Friday March 8 – Disgracelands, Wollongong NSW
- Thursday March 14 – Federal Hotel, Bellingen NSW
- Friday March 15 – Dusty Attic Music Cafe, Lismore NSW
- Saturday March 16 – Tapp Bar, Port Macquarie NSW
- Sunday March 17 – Flow Bar, Old Bar NSW
- Friday April 5 – Egg Records, Newtown NSW
- Saturday April 6 – Hardys Bay Club, Hardys Bay NSW
- Sunday April 7 – Halfback Books, Dee Why NSW