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interview: the dunes

If you love Mazzy Star (and let’s face it, why wouldn’t you?), then I can confidently say that you will likewise love The Dunes. The Adelaide dream pop duo are just about to launch their debut EP, Between Midnight and Dawn, and vocalist, Stacie Reeves, was kind enough to have a chat to lip about getting started in music, combining geology and music (or not), and keeping her feet firmly in the real world.

How did you get started in music?
I come from a pretty country town in Texas, and my grandfather and his brothers would all sit around and play music, so lots of acoustic guitars and lots of Johnny Cash. There was music around a lot and I just loved singing from a really early age but I never really set out to join a band as an adult. I always had friends that were musicians but I never played an instrument.

So how did you and Matt start playing together?
I met Matt out one night, we had a mutual friend and I started going to his shows in his other band and we would have house parties and people would bring their guitars around. I think he heard me singing a Johnny Cash song one night and the next week I got an email saying, ‘do you want to start a band with me?’. He didn’t want to sing but he wanted to write music and he had a lot of music that he wanted to get out and I’m not a writer. I just wanted to sing and it worked out perfectly!

Have you ever written your own songs?
I haven’t really tried to. At the moment I’m happy for Matt to take the lead on that because I do think he’s a really good writer and I’ve never felt a creative urge to write my own songs and my own music and my own lyrics.

Do you find it ever odd or difficult to be singing someone else’s lyrics? Does it ever feel inauthentic?
When Matt and I first started, he didn’t really have a sense of my voice and he obviously knew me as a person but he was writing songs like he would always write them. But once we started singing and playing together, he got more of an idea of what my voice was. I think he now writes with me in mind and he tries to write from a female perspective and if there’s a lyric or something that I don’t feel goes, I certainly let him know that and we rewrite it. I definitely bring my own interpretation to the songs, especially when I’m performing because for me, the lyrics are secondary … I’m singing these words but my voice, the sort of tune that I’m singing, that’s something else. The words are just sort of there to let people understand what I’m saying.

You talk about your work as a geologist with quite a lot of passion and it doesn’t seem as though that’s just this side project just in case music doesn’t work out.
Matt and I both have day jobs and we had day jobs long before we started this band. I think for him and for me as well, it’s not about making it or being rich and famous. If that were to ever happen, which is very unlikely, that would be fantastic but I think for Matt and I, we very much live in our real world. And for me, not having been in any bands previously, I lived in the real world for 30 years so it’s not like I’m a struggling musician or that sort of thing. Playing music just is a passion. I love performing, I love being on stage, I love singing and if other people like it as well and respond to it, that’s fantastic, I love hearing when people enjoy it. But I think for us it’s just about producing music that we can be proud of and that we really like and that we would listen to ourselves. If ever it got to be a job or a task too hard, I don’t think we would do it.

As a woman in the music industry, do you find that you are treated very differently to Matt or that it is pretty egalitarian?
I can’t say that I’ve felt that I’ve been treated differently. Matt, because he’s been in the music scene for so long in Adelaide, he’s the point of contact a lot but that’s just because he knows who to go to, it’s not because people want to go to a man or that sort of thing. I think anyone that knows me knows that I wouldn’t put up with that sort of treatment anyway so if anyone tried it, then they would hear about it. I’ve never felt passed over, if anything it’s been quite good because I think people like seeing something different. I think there aren’t a lot of bands out there that have a strong front woman that actually gets up and performs and so I’ve only had positive experiences from that.

A few of the songs on the EP in particular, the rhythm section plays a big part but what I really love is that it hasn’t drowned you and Matt, you’re still very much the focal points of The Dunes – was that a really conscious decision?
It was and it’s something that I always said: I wanted the songs to be recognisable when Matt and I played, because Matt and I, we are The Dunes, and the other musicians have been kind enough to come and play on our EP and will also play at the launch. But at the end of the day, it’s Matt and I, so if we decide to continue our duo, we want those songs to be recognisable and we don’t want people to feel ripped off when they come and it’s just the two of us. That was really important.

And how do you mesh something like geology with music?
Can I be really lame and say that “geology rocks”? I don’t really mix it, at times I feel like I live a double life because my day job is very analytical and very scientific and lots of dirt and rocks and those sorts of things and then my night job, performing and dressing up and being the saucy minx on stage … it’s certainly a divide. A lot of people that I run into at work don’t know that I’m in a band and they’re extremely surprised. It’s a division but I think it’s a good balance, I think I need the music because my job is so analytical and so straight edge and straight thinking that I need that sort of creative, artistic outlet.

The Dunes will be launching Between Midnight and Dawn at Adelaide’s The Jade Monkey tomorrow night! Find all the details here.

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