The Gypsy Scholars

Australian indie Folk outfit The Gypsy Scholars are starting the new year in the best way they can, by releasing new music. Cold Hands is the first single off their forthcoming debut EP and is symbolic of a more refined and mature sound for the band. With the talented song writing of lead vocalists James Kelly and Conagh McMahon-Hogan, The Gypsy Scholars have taken years of shows, travel and mateship and concentrated it into a release that is consistent with their story telling style, yet reveals a steady progression in the curation of their music. To help celebrate this first release off the EP, the band are playing eight shows along the East Coast of the country, taking their high energy and captivating live show to major cities and towns over January and February. James Kelly answers a few questions about the EP for Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.

Is it an exciting time building up to the release of Cold Hands?
Yeah certainly! The build-up to any single release is exhilarating, but this one was particularly exciting because we knew it was such a nugget of a song. We were particularly excited about releasing it because it showed a new, slightly more refined ‘scholarly’ sound.

Can you believe how much hard work and time goes into this?
No! It’s such an unbelievable amount of work. It’s hard to even measure the amount of time we put in, from writing the song to releasing it, you have to consider so many things; who’s going to listen? Where do we want to release it? How are we going to afford the recording without a label? Which city’s will we tour? How should we arrange the song? I think we’re really lucky to have such a good friendship to get us through the nitty gritty side of the music industry and get the hard work done!

How would you describe the single?
It’s thoughtful, catchy and fun! I think Triple J Unearthed producer Max Quinn picked up on something I really like about the lyrics of the song when he said that there were some “great observational quips”. Conagh has a unique honesty to his lyrics which is something I really admire about his compositions.

Is the challenge now maintaining the momentum?
Yeah to some extent we need to keep pushing forward, but being on tour at the moment really makes me feel like we are gaining a sense of momentum. We’re starting to be put on larger bills and getting played on radio across the world, so it’s important to channel that momentum and push forward onto our next release.

Are there any significant influences that have shaped your music?
Yeah for sure! Paul Kelly would be one, the way he tells a story is something we certainly are inspired by in our writing. We listen to a lot of Australian folk/ punk bands like; Smith Street Band, Courtney Barnett and Camp Cope. Although they have a slightly different sound to us, there’s qualities about their music (mainly in relation to the punchy lyrics) that we incorporate into our music.

How did the band get together?
So basically, three of us (Joel and Conagh and I) lived together on campus at ANU and instantly became mates. After the friendship started, it turned out Joel could play base and Conagh had the voice of an angel. I knew there was going to be something special in the making when we first jammed together in Conagh’s room which he had turned into a pub. From there we jammed a little with our good friend Bec Taylor (Glitoris/ Fun Machine), and when she entered her Teach For Australia course she’d run out of time, so we looked for a new drummer. We found Alec at a show where both our bands had been supporting Touch Sensitive. We instantly hit it off as friends, had one little jam and the rest is history.

How does the creative process work for the band?
Usually either myself or Conagh write a little tune of the guitar and then spend a fair bit of time perfecting the lyrics and chord progressions. From there, we take the music to the band and arrange it all together. Joel writes the funky bass lines, Alec arranges the rhythm and Conagh and I work out the harmonies! Then we bring it all together and see what happens.

What can music lovers expect from the EP?
Honest stories. Catchy hooks. Beautiful harmonies. And lots of energy!

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far?
The most important thing in a band is a friendship. If you don’t have that you don’t have the chemistry you need to create golden songs and push through the hard times.

Any plans to tour Australia more extensively?
Yeah, we’re planning to do a long line of shows along the East Coast of Australia from the start of July to celebrate the release of the EP. We’re also talking about heading over to Europe.

What’s the plan from here?
Yeah so we have some pretty big plans to try and get the single recognised by Spotify playlists, build our fan base and keep the momentum pushing forward. We want to keep writing great songs and perfecting our art. We’re planning on releasing the EP in June 2018 and taking it all over the world.

What would you write on the description card at JB Hi-Fi to describe the EP when it comes out in a few words?
A collection of honest and catchy songs that will leave you perfecting your dancing skills.

Interview by Rob Lyon

Catch The Gypsy Scholars on the following dates…

The Gypsy Scholars ‘Cold Hands’ Tour
2nd February 2018 – The Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle NSW
9th February 2018 – Moonshine Bar @ The Steyne Hotel, Manly NSW
10th February 2018 – Untapped Festival, Goldcreek ACT
16th February 2018 – Australian National University O-Week Canberra ACT
24th February 2018 – The Polish Club, Canberra ACT


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