For a debut single, ‘Shoestring’ is quite an introduction; it’s sprawling, epic and very exciting. Its ambitiousness in many ways mirrors that of the artist. Dune is the new musical brainchild of Jade MacRae, who many will remember had much success as a solo artist a number of years ago, in addition to working with both The Sleepy Jackson and Pnau.
MacRae’s musical past in some ways has helped to shape Dune’s musical future.
‘The reason I decided to give my new music a new name is because of that whole battle I had already been through – once you have a public persona there’s a certain type of ownership people feel they have over you … an expectation and a preconceived idea of what you are, who you are and what you do. That was something I was continually coming up against. What I am doing now is so far removed from what I’ve done in the past, I wanted it to have its own opportunity to have its own life and its own identity.’
So is Dune to Jade MacRae what Ziggy Stardust was to David Bowie? ‘It’s a chance for me to have a new incarnation. It gives me a new lease on my musical life. New, fresh, reinvigorated.
‘This music speaks for itself.’
Dune is an enigma. The press photos (showing her wrapped almost entirely in bandages and shoelaces) complement the single almost perfectly; ‘Shoestring’ is an eclectic mix of styles, difficult to pin down and identify. Afro-beat percussion, recorded live, sits under washes of vintage synths, while Dune’s vocals (at times multi-tracked to euphoric heights) feel dramatic – like they’re making a statement. It’s an interesting mix; a mystery of sorts which leaves the listener waiting impatiently for the next piece of the Dune puzzle (an EP will be released soon).
‘I wanted to go into the project without putting too many boundaries around where I was going to go with it. You might call that indulgence but I just wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t give myself any rules.’
Dune the musical identity, ‘Shoestring’ the single, its music video (directed and funded by Dune herself, edited and choreographed by friends), the forthcoming EP and even the studio in which the songs were recorded are all entirely independent affairs. The decision to eschew the major-label route was deliberate and there is pride in Dune’s voice as she recounts the reasons for taking the indie route.
‘I had a basic studio set up at home. I’d been meeting up with labels trying to get a new recording deal happening to finance a new record. I was continually coming up against pre-conceived ideas about what I should do, who I was and where I should go next. The only way I was going to get to do what I wanted to do was to build my own studio.’
With help from her husband, it was a lengthy process: ‘Last year we spent three months converting a storage area in the back of a friend’s shop into a recording studio. It was a lot of work. A lot of long hours sanding, plastering and painting. We literally did the whole thing ourselves. Building walls, building windows. Everything. The pay-off is now I have the freedom and the space to make music and do it how I want and take it to a final product. I’m loving it.’
Dune’s passion for the recording process is clear. As the discussion moves from the studio to its contents (a heavily-utilised Roland Jupiter 8, various analogue outboard gear), her readiness to embrace her inner studio geek is evident.
‘I’m a real dork, I can’t deny it. I’d love to [move into music production]. It’s one of the things I do enjoy. That’s the real difference with Dune to anything that I’ve done before is that I’ve really made it more about the music and production – not just about the singing.’
Working these days exclusively in the independent realm, where once her music resided more so in the mainstream, Dune has seen and experienced the role of the female singer/songwriter/performer in the Australian music industry from both perspectives. Unsurprisingly, the gender divide is as wide as it often appears.
‘With my previous releases there was always this huge pressure to play on my looks or body to market myself. I guess that’s something, now that I’m doing everything independently, I’m really mindful of [not doing]. I look back on some of my old videos and I’m rolling around in underwear – that makes me feel strange now. At the time I was a bit young and impressionable and felt like that’s what I had to do to make things work. There are some significant pressures that exist and I think most people just roll with it.’ She laughs before adding, ‘…I think I’ve come out of it all okay.’
‘[There are] positives and negatives to being a female in the music industry. It’s definitely a male dominated industry. Especially in Australia. It’s quite a small industry so there is definitely a bit of a boys’ club that exists. They’re dominant over a lot of key decisions. I’ve been quite lucky. Because I’m a trained musician I’ve never really been treated as a lot of other female singers get treated, in a patronising or dismissive way. Because I’ve made it quite clear that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to music, I’ve been lucky to be treated with a little more respect than other female artists. There’s a long way to go before there’s any kind of balance or equality. ‘
Two shows in late August will give Dune an opportunity to road-test both ‘Shoestring’ and the forthcoming EP in a live context. ‘We’re in the process of trying to figure out [the forthcoming tour]. All of the songs on the EP are quite textural and quite layered in the production. Quite lush and rich. The challenge will be translating that without having 20 people on stage with me. I’m genuinely very excited. My favourite part of being a musician is playing good live shows. There isn’t anything like it.’
Dune released her debut single ‘Shoestring’ on July 6, 2012 and is available as a FREE download via http://soundcloud.com/this-