Live Review: Methyl Ethel in Sydney

methyl ethel

If you happen to love modest and dreamy Australian pop-rock and didn’t catch Methyl Ethel and support acts on Thursday night, you may as well just question your whole existence. Collectively, Methyl Ethel, Phantastic Ferniture, Good Morning and Sunbeam Sound Machine are the future of an emerging scene of a nostalgic Australiana sound. It isn’t boastful, but instead relaxing and transporting. If you have even the slightest of an ear for this sound, you could easily have your summer road-trip sorted based on a playlist comprised of these bands.

Luckily I managed to catch all four acts at the accommodating Newtown Social Club, with local Sydney act Phantastic Ferniture opening the night. The band have a great thing going with their catchy bass lines, toe-tapping beats and the extremely talented and sultry vocalist, Julia. The band combines together the serious sounds of Warpaint, Tess Parks and Caitlin Park with their playful personas on stage. After an 80th birthday shout out to Julia’s Grandma, Carol, who was present, Phantastic Ferniture dove into their last song for the night “Fuckin ‘N’ Rollin” to an “unexpectedly large crowd” – and indeed it was a great early turnout for the opening act. Full of attitude, “Take It Off” was my personal favourite track due to Julia’s flawless vocals hitting controlled high notes then dropping back down to the sensual moody tones.

Next up and waving the flag for chilled, lo-fi, pop rock, Melbourne’s Good Morning is the project of Liam and Stefan, a band getting a lot of attention worldwide. So much so, they’re heading to the US of A to play their dreamy, jangly riffs. What makes this band so impressive is their beautiful arrangement of pedals that really brings their lazy sound together when playing live. With their dual hazey vocals and perfect blend of stoner lo-fi and layered psychedelic sound, Good Morning are the best of both musical worlds I like to drench myself in.

By the time Sunbeam Sound Machine took to the stage I was already heavily relaxed. Nick Sowersby is the sole mastermind behind Sunbeam Sound Machine – an act with a swirling DIY psychedelic sound that can be compared with Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala. The distorted vocals and exquisitely layered instrumentation creates the lush sound that had the crowd swaying like the blobby wax bits within a lava lamp. The standout song Wandering, I is one of the most beautiful tracks I have heard live all year and I cannot get enough of this sound.

Methyl Ethel’s ‘Oh Inhuman Spectacle’ full-length record has been on repeat in my office for most of the week after catching them at Volumes festival on Oxford Street the other weekend. When I found out they were back in town Thursday night for a more intimate setting at Newtown Social Club, I immediately decided to catch them once more. There is truly something in the water in Perth these days, and Jake Webb is steering the ship with his nostalgic dreamy vocals that evoke a passionate soundscape. The song H1 N1 A is an accomplished track of shifting falsetto tones that makes a perfect example of Webb’s androgynous vocal talents. I was admittedly a little less sensory at Volumes to take in the extremities of his unique voice, but upon seeing the band again at Newtown Social Club, any doubts were quashed. Unbalancing Act delves into the echoed build-up of vocals similar to Animal Collective, which many critics see it as a contributor to any negativity towards the release, but live it had quite a positive response from the crowd. Twilight Driving has had its fair share of plays on the radio over the last six months and was an obvious crowd favourite with its loopy guitar riffs and nostalgic vocals. When Webb announced that the next track had a ‘German title’, I squealed like a little girl, because Also Gesellschaft was easily the standout track on the album for me. Avant Garde in its approach (by Australian standards) due to Webb’s brooding vocals, Also Gesellschaft is dark and haunting, but somehow still catchy thanks to a punchy bass-line and a head-bopping beat, it was a perfect slow-groover for the crowd to finish the night.

melissa barrass


Words and picture by Melissa Barrass.