Adelaide Folk Collective Sturt Avenue On New Single “Best Friend”

Adelaide folk / alt-country / Australiana collective Sturt Avenue have released a new song into the world. Coming off the back of the success of their first collection of songs, How Do You Think It Should Be?, which garnered the band extensive local and national airplay along with tens of thousands of streams online, the band are looking to cover new ground with this next release.

Best Friend is a breakup song written and recorded at the start of the pandemic. This was not a particularly great time to be needing to write a song like this, with the post-breakup end-of-the-world energy being mirrored quite alarmingly in the daily news cycle. In keeping with the emotional tone of the song, the band has stripped their sound right back to its most delicate form, with plaintive vocals accompanied by gently intertwining acoustic guitar and acoustic bass, soft drums, delicate mandolin, and a pinch of accordion for flavour. Bryn from the band gives Hi Fi Way greater insight to the single.

How was the build up to your new single Best Friend?
The build-up to releasing this song has been pretty good! It’s a bit nerve-wracking because it’s such a personal release, but we’ve had some great support and good feedback. Got a spin on Double J which was a pleasant surprise, it’s our current goal to get into rotation there. Just putting that out into the universe.

What is the story behind the single?
Best Friend is a breakup song that I wrote and recorded after getting dumped from a long-term relationship right before COVID started really taking off. Late March of 2020 was a particularly grim time to be having to put together a song like this, but I sent the first draft to my friend Katie Pomery and she was very supportive of it. I made it one of my first lockdown hobby projects to assemble a team remotely to track the different instruments – Katie recorded backing vocals and her partner Tom recorded the drums from the other side of town where they were isolating, my friend Isaac sent in the bass from his house too. It was a quick one to put together because nobody had anything better to do, but once I had the track most of the way finished I started second-guessing whether I wanted to share something so personal, and I didn’t manage to convince myself to release it until the dust was a lot more settled on the whole situation and I felt a bit more removed from the lyrical content. I’m still not sure how I’m going to go performing this one live…

Can you believe how much work goes in to a new release?
It’s honestly such an ordeal. When you first start, you have this dream in your head that you’ll write an amazing song and shoot it out into the world, and it’ll just take off of its own accord and rocket you into the limelight. The truth is so much more mundane, and involves sending a hell of a lot more emails than I was anticipating when I first started. If you really believe in your work though, you have to keep pushing it and trying to get it in front of people who can help to amplify your signal. I’m hoping this track can reach the ears of people who need to hear it, it’s what I wanted to be listening to when I wrote it and I would love for it to be of comfort for anyone going through something similar.

Sonically, how would you describe your music?
The music of Sturt Avenue is pretty firmly rooted in the folk tradition, but lately I’ve been really enjoying exploring the limits of where we can take our sound while still staying true to the things that define us as a band. We’ve got some interesting tunes on the horizon – one track could probably pretty comfortably be described as psych-folk, we’ve got a Pogues-esque folk rock ballad, a track drawing inspiration from a weird fusion of country and Dixieland jazz, and even one that is coming dangerously close to what you might define as pop-punk, as well as plenty of the bluesy rootsy folk rock we’ve come to define our sound as. We’ve been having a lot of fun in the studio lately.

Who would you consider to be the biggest influence on your music and why?
Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes has been a huge influence on my lyricism and composition, but I wouldn’t have even considered writing music as a possibility if it hadn’t been for the early music of the Mountain Goats. It helped me to redefine my understanding of what music could be, that it could be this incredible powerful thing even when it was just a guy in a basement with an acoustic guitar, pouring his heart out into a Walmart boombox. No shade whatsoever. I’ve also been listening to stacks of Big Thief lately, it’s pretty unreal how much ground they can cover while still making it all sound so natural and organic, and owning it all so well.

How did the band start?
Relationships in the band run back a long way – my dad John Soden is our lead guitarist, I’ve known him for my whole life. My sister Tarn provides backing vocals on most of our tracks, I’ve known her for a while too. I’ve been friends with our bass player Isaac since high school and he introduced me to our drummer Bryce and our piano/accordion player Dave not long after we left high school. We’ve been playing together in various projects for a long time, our violinist Ollie we met through other bands in the scene. I feel like our music is influenced in a big way by our shared history, I have so much love for everyone in our lovely little band.

Is there a hidden meaning behind the band name?
Sturt Avenue is the name of the street that we lived on when I was a kid. It’s this very typical suburban street, except for the fact that there are a pair of gum trees right in the middle of the road near where our house was. They’re right in the middle of the two lanes, not even separated by a curb or anything. It was a pretty charming place to grow up.

Are there plans for more new music, possibly an album this year?
We’re currently working with Isaac Barter, the Melbourne-based producer who mixed Best Friend, as well as a whole bunch of my favourite tunes to come out of the Australian folk scene, on about twelve more tracks. I think we’ll have another single out before the year is done, stay tuned for sure.

Are you looking to tour more broadly around Australia or overseas?
We’ve not explored this avenue much yet, apart from putting in a few folk festival applications here and there – hopefully the showcase slot we played at the National Folk Festival this year will get us a bit more traction with those ones. In the meantime, we’ve just put the finishing touches on a soundtrack to a surf documentary put together by Solside Studios, called ‘Shaping Dreams’. There’s some talk about potentially playing some stripped-back shows at some in-store screenings for one of the sponsors, probably in Melbourne and a couple locations on the East Coast. We’re playing at the premiere in Exmouth WA on September 15, if anyone happens to be in the area!

What’s next for Sturt Avenue?
Tunes galore, hopefully. We’ve got a lot of new material that I’m very proud of, and I’m keen to start putting it out into the world – even if it does mean sending a million more emails.

Interview By Rob Lyon

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