There is a strong argument that 1994 was the last great year of revolution in popular music.
That year, grunge’s decline jumpstarted Brit Pop (Blur’s Parklife and Oasis’s Definitely Maybe), punk returned (Green Day’s Dookie), singer songwriters discovered an edge (Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Tori Amos’s Under The Pink), and rock regained its bite (Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral).
Meanwhile, one of West End’s homegrown sons was sidestepping all the influence and gathering together the fruits of his rich musical heritage to produce a 1994 masterpiece of his own. Rusting With The Chrome Boys was Paddy Dempsey’s glorious opening salvo, a diverse mix of musical imagination that reflected his own creative restlessness.
“In the early 90s, West End was a streetwise place. Tough. But it’s changed a lot,” Paddy said. In fact, as the other members of Sissybones – Paddy’s collective of recent years – arrive, it quickly becomes clear that West End is the [not so] silent fifth member. Vocalist extraordinaire Alison St Ledger, vocalist and violinist Sallianna Campbell, and bass player Robert Pound are quick to share their feelings on our unique suburb. “There is plenty of change, and the gentrification has created a juxtaposition between the old and the new, but it has deep roots and it remains just ‘weird enough’ to hold strong.”
The Sissybones relax at Paddy’s West End home, whose garden doubles as a rehearsal space: leafy, ambient and eclectic. It’s the perfect mix for their music, and the musician-come-City Hopper skipper is keen to remind us of the forthcoming fruits of their labour. “Our new album, Confessions of a Ferryman, is released on the 5th July at the Brisbane Sailing Club. A single, The Greatest Freak, will be revealed at The Powerhouse on the 5th June. I don’t want to give much away but let’s just say, the theme of the album is all revealed in the title track!”
While Paddy has dipped in and out of music over the years, Sissybones kicked off about three years ago, after he worked closely with Alison. “We work at a good leisurely pace,” Alison said. “We do quality, not quantity. We enjoy making music and have a lot of fun; especially at practice!”
Alison is one of West End’s creative dynamos – at times past and present, a director of Women in Voice, and the Cabaret Festival. Sallianna’s resume reads like a who’s who of musical A-listers: Bernard Fanning and Russell Morris to name but two. And Robert – a member of The Toothfaeries for years – seems enthralled by the multitude of genres in which he plays.nOn the forthcoming album, Paddy’s young daughters also feature. Maeve and Orla provide vocals, while Abbey contributes vocals and viola on the song, Open In.
This has been the most fun I’ve had at an interview for ages, and Paddy sums it up. “We love to sing and play. It makes us feel good on the inside.” You’ll feel good too, as soon as Paddy and The Sissybones release that intriguing new album.
To keep up to date, check them out at www.facebook/Sissybones
Words and Images by Colin Bushell