An interview with Caitlin Park

“One of my favourite things to do is to play to a crowd, find one person who is not listening and try my hardest to get them to notice.”

It’s a plan that seems to be working well for Caitlin Park. Her intelligent, looped brand of folk with electronic edges is captivating audiences across Sydney and she was recently a finalist in FBi Radio’s Northern Lights competition. It’s surprising then, considering her talent and growing reputation, that this isn’t a path she has always desired to tread. “I started playing the sax when I was nine, but I wasn’t interested in music in high school,” she shrugs. “I was pretty much forced to go to music lessons.” Despite this initial disinterest, she gained a place at the Conservatorium of Music and, while she admits to being at odds with the mindset there (“The Con has the idea that music is this tiny little thing whereas it’s actually a massive broad spectrum,”) it was at this time that she discovered her passion and her sound. “The thing that interested me most and still interests me now is music and film. I got to do quite a lot of that through the electronic courses I did at The Con. I started playing guitar in that undergrad period. I also worked at The Video Shift [in Balmain] and I started making a sound which has turned into what it is.”

Inspired by the likes of Tunng and The Books, Park’s live show and her elegantly crafted debut album, Milk Annual, are an intriguing mix of intelligent lyrics, guitar-led musicianship, quotes and sound-effects. The result is something distinct and atmospheric. “It just started off just as folk music. Then, when I began playing live with the sounds effects, I noticed people’s reactions. A lot of the time they were extremely weirded out by it. You could see their faces turning slightly sideways and them thinking ‘What the fuck?’. I really enjoyed that.”

Park talks with passion and knowledge about the movies she was introduced to through her work in the video store, and her songs include many references to classic cinema. “The thing I like so much about 1940s/50s film is how the dialogue is put together. It’s such a beautiful way of speaking. I started taking snippets from films and using them out of the context of the storyline. Then I started collecting a lot of vinyl of French cinema sound effects.” However, it isn’t simply a case of dropping some pre-recorded clips into her tracks. Copyright laws demand that she takes these ideas and reproduces them herself or records people reciting dialogue that she has written. “On my Masters course [at the Con] I studied re-appropriating sounds. That helped me figure out how to rerecord these things to make them sound like something beautiful from a 50s film.” On her record, she also utilises the striking of matches and the ticking of clocks to create ambience and beats. “I’ve always wanted to record the thing from a Kinder Surprise popping too. I haven’t done that yet.”

During our conversaion, Park explains excitedly about how, after her album tour, she is off to Europe to play some shows. She also speaks of composing for theatre in the future and it’s abundantly clear that she is not in the industry to sell records for the sake of selling records, or to chase fame. “I don’t think I would ever sell a zillion records and I’m fine with that. It’s not that sort of music. These days you have to be four boys in an indie-pop band to get anywhere.”

Whether she sells a zillion records or not, you would do well to allow the talented Caitlin Park into your world.