If there is one song that typifies the West End spirit and sets the tone for our interview, it’s Timber and Tin; a song constructed with solid West End identities, themes and inventiveness.
FORMED SIX YEARS ago, Yellow Bird is a band from a small suburb, inspired by the big themes of love, humour and friendship. Seeking an outlet for their own musical ambitions, friends Peter Lehmann, Tony Moore, Cesca Lejeune and Geoffrey Smith soon found themselves jamming and constructing songs on the back decks of their West End homes.
Cesca explains: “We all love West End and, with so much music here, we were encouraged by an inspirational community spirit to just get up and play.” Having played their first gig at The Music Café, the band has been regulars at a multitude of community events, including the Foco Nuevo Folk Club, flood fundraisers and the Ryan Street Festival. In 2011, as part of the Brisbane Festival, they shared a stage with The Transformers, a choir whose members experience disadvantage in their communities. “It was really inspiring for us to join them on stage,” said Peter. “It typified our love of community events and allowed us to work with such a wonderful group of people.”
A couple of years ago, a Canadian busker — who had spent his first night in Brisbane sleeping rough in the park — asked if he could join the group on stage during their regular gig at Grill’d in Boundary Street (a business which does a lot to support and encourage local music). “He typified the West End spirit,” Cesca said. “He ended up staying with us for a week and even joined us in recording a couple of songs, The Daybreak and Follow the River.
The music is largely folk tinged, but the band draws inspiration from a much wider palette. Tony explains: “We embrace music from the blues and rock of the Stones, The Go-Betweens and Townes Van Zandt, to classic singer song writers of the 1970s such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.” Geoffrey adds: “We need a strong medley. Although we all play an instrument, it’s about the song and the harmonies, not the histrionics.”
When asked what inspires their songs, they speak as one. “We all contribute to the song writing. Our songs reflect our interest in the environment, politics and the community but mostly they are forged by humour. We do tongue-in-cheek very well.”
Despite the rumours, there are no plans for Yellow Bird to play Glastonbury next year. “We are planning on releasing a CD and getting some engagements further afield,” Peter said. “We play private parties and are always looking for new opportunities to share our music. For us, we just love playing and writing songs, embracing new ideas and, well … having fun!”
You can contact Yellow Bird via their Facebook page at YellowBird (Band) West End.
Words and images by Colin Bushell