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Toucan: Interview

Words by Monica McClure.

It’s impossible to not like Toucan. Jess and Shea off-stage are much like their on-stage personas: full of smiles and genuine enthusiasm. Acid Stag got to hang out with the delightful duo behind the scenes at Sydney’s Big Day Out on January 18.

What are you wearing?

Jess: I’m wearing a Serpent & the Swan shirt that I was very kindly given. They’re a really cool indie brand that make all their own stuff in Australia and I wore it on stage. I’m also wearing some Mister Zimi for the rest of the tour.

Shea: I’m wearing jeans, which was the worst mistake I ever made.

Jess: Shea’s wearing a Stussy shirt – funny story. Shea turns up at this gig we play last week and I’m like “nice shirt.” Guess what, we both got given the Mr and Mrs version of the same shirt for Christmas.

Shea: It’s quite a loud shirt!

Jess: Mine’s the exact same one. So I sent him a photo of my shirt and he said “you can’t wear that to the gig.”

You released your EP today, are you excited?

Shea: It came out 20 minutes ago.

Jess: A culmination of events have led to today! It’s a bit different from the first EP, you’d hope you’ve learnt more in a year and we’re really proud to listen to the second EP. It sounds different.

Shea: A lot of the songs on the EP are more orchestral with string parts, horn parts, trumpets. In our last EP we weren’t so concerned about the live versus the recorded dichotomy. We’re really fortunate to have friends who play stringed instruments, trumpets and trombones from uni so there were lots of favours.

You had a massive 2012. How did you feel about all your national tours?

Jess: When you look back on it you pinch yourself a little bit because with this industry you’re always thinking what’s next, what are we doing next, what single’s next, what tour is next, and then you get to the end of the year and everyone’s making their new year’s resolutions and you realise this year was really busy.

Shea: We saw the year in at Peats Ridge watching Gotye, and then as soon as it hit 12 we had to drive home and get our stuff together and get on a plane to go to The Kooks tour the next day. We had to pinch ourselves.

Jess: Meeting all these bands who come out here you have to pinch yourselves because we’ve met The Kooks, Mystery Jets, Daniel Merriweather, and you also start meeting bands through other Australian bands you’ve been supporting like The Jungle Giants and Last Dinosaurs, you meet the bands they’re supporting. Everyone is so nice!

Shea: It’s a really strong community, and we’ve been fortunate to be part of that this year.

Apart from releasing your EP, what are the rest of your plans for 2013?

Shea: Until 20 minutes ago that was our goal.

Jess: We’ve got to stop and enjoy this for a minute. I think after this tour it’s up in the air. We’re also recording some more, we like to continue writing. Maybe we’ll go on a two week vacation and write music. Hopefully an EP tour, that’ll happen.

Shea: The Big Day Out tour is our first live shows bringing the EP songs into a live environment. We’ve brought a bass player onto the tour, Jess is working with a lot more live vocal effect pedals and I’m bringing the keyboard in as well. A lot of the produced elements from our EP we wanted to bring to life.

Jess: We’re pretty relaxed that things will happen and we’ll enjoy them when they happen. Sometimes you get too wrapped up in where you could be. We could be saying we wish we were the headliners of this, but how good is it that we’re here? Then if you get there, at least you can say you had fun playing on the stage at 11.

And you’ve only been together for less than two years?

Jess: We still like each other! So that’s always a plus. No one has gone off the rails yet.

Are you going to see any of the other bands today?

Shea: Definitely. Foals is a definite for me but they clash with The Killers. Jess really likes Alabama Shakes. We just saw Animal Collective soundcheck and they sounded really great. And I thought we were getting technical with our effects pedals.

Your single ‘Warrior’ is up for voting in triple j’s Hottest 100. How are you finding the reaction to the single so far? The video is great.

Jess: In the half an hour it’s been on iTunes, good so far!

Shea: James Fraser everybody. He’s phenomenal. We did the Mr Television clip with NIDA students and he was the editor, and then we got talking. We work in the sonic realm and when you’re talking with people in the visual realm you might both have ideas, but what we really appreciated was that what’s in the final cut of that video fit the quality of the song so well, we were so happy. I think that’s hard with videos, you can only talk so much and then you have to let the visuals speak for themselves. It just felt right, and that was really important.

Jess: It’s really nice to meet people from other artistic mediums that align with what you’re about. We just got together one night in Glebe and filmed this, and then the effects were added later by Julian Tynan and Ben Blyth from AFTRS. We’re just a baby band so developing relationships with those kinds of people is great, and the fun part about it.

Shea: We didn’t want to tell people “do this,” we wanted a visual representation of how you interpret the song. For us it was beautiful, it really worked.


You can check out Toucan’s freshly released EP, Swim, out now on iTunes.

Here’s the music video for aforementioned single ‘Warrior’: | |

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