Devotional Do Old Hollywood
Nestled in amongst the hustle-and-bustle of busy cultural hub in Sydney, Surry Hills, lies the Hollywood Hotel. A run-down pub, plated in rustic gold, that sings of a busier time.
Tonight however, The Hollywood is packed and full of life. It not only houses its usual local rat pack, but is filled to the brim with familiar faces to the Sydney music scene who have come out of the woodwork on a chilly Sunday evening to support Devotional as they launch their new 7”, ‘My Baby Loves Me (All the time)’.
Originally conceived as Madelaine Josephine Lucas’s soft folk solo project A Casual End Mile, the group went through a reincarnation and re-branded themselves as a dark shoegaze three-piece, taking its cues from Sonic Youth, Mazzy Star and at times modern dream pop sensation, Beach House.
The end product sees Lucas sharing the stage with her partner Rob Irish (formerly of SOONERS) and Luke Bacon, who together have created an original take on a popular genre – combining their wall of sound effect with poignant and direct lyrics usually heard in ‘girl group’ songs of the 60’s.
Not alone in setting the mood, rock royalty Lo Carmen provides a fairly stripped back opener to her usually grungy blues. Armed with a small parlor guitar –presumably the same guitar she picked up in the USA’s deep south, which inspired her latest offering, The Peach State – Carmen wades through a host of songs that are at once both arresting and captivating in their tales of lost love and loneliness. Sticking largely to chord patterns familiar within the blues genre, it is Carmen’s voice and lyrics that really allow her to fly; one minute you’re hanging on a whisper supposedly cooed into a rebel lover’s ear, before falling under the spell of desperation in ‘Gauloises Blues’, a personal favorite.
Devotional hits the stage at a sharp 7. Lush flower arrangements of reds and creams surround the trio calling to mind the beauty and death juxtaposed in nature, much like the songs of the group itself.
A surprise cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ rings out to an audience in total captivation. Madelaine works her way through the classic with a new-found confidence the group seemed to lack before their brief hiatus, returning stronger, and with more direction than ever. When eyes weren’t fixed on Madelaine, there was an equal amount of energy and flamboyance to be found in the performances of Rob Irish and Luke Bacon; keeping pace with a staccato stutter and vicious cathartic strums.
True to form, their lyrical pictures of religious iconography and dead devotion shine through during set; ‘Paradise’. ‘Devils’. These are songs that feel raw in honesty, dripping in honey and reverb. At times it feels as though you could reach out to touch Madelaine’s voice, in all its pure honesty, and touch a slice of heaven hidden amidst the brambling guitar effects.
“Not leaving the best till last” new single, ‘My Baby Loves Me (All of the time)’ goes down a treat, as still bodies begin to jangle to a punctured groove. It is in set closer, ‘Hell or High Water’; a song rolled over and saved from the ‘Casual End Mile’ days, or perhaps from years before, that plays out like a still ripple on the water. A Rhodes accompaniment that slowly builds in momentum works its way around the quiet room, causing those who hadn’t already surrendered to the band’s dulcet tones, to break onto their knees in suffrage.
As I walked away from the celebratory chatter on a job well done, and the faded hues of the Hollywood, I was reminded of how this band had grown, changed and persisted over the years, (like so many of us do) turning into a formidable force to be reckoned with. It is their strength and nostalgia that worked their way into my heart, and the hearts of all of those who braved the cold to let some warmth in before the winter set.
For more on Devotional check out their bandcamp here.
Words by Jack Colwell.