Coming to us off a European tour, Australian band Grace Before Meals is set to play at Yu Yin Tang tonight at the Indie China Showcase, along with six other bands from around China.
We had a chance to talk to frontman Vic McEwan in between his band’s crazy rehearsal schedule:
Where: Yu Yin Tang 1731 Yan’an Xi Lu (entrance on Kaixuan Lu), 延安西路1731号
Starts: Saturday, July 4, Showcase starts at 9pm
How did the band come about?
The band started as a solo recording project by me. As the recording was completed I realized that I wanted to play these songs live but didn’t want to plat under a solo name such as Vic McEwan, so The name Grace Before Meals was born.
I started practicing these songs with my girlfriend at the time Sarah Moor. She is a drummer and also plays piano. We organized to play a show together and realized that it would be nice to have some strings and of course needed some bass guitar to round out the sounds we had recorded. I had played in a band called Box Freezer Romance with Amelia Reid for some time so asked to come and play at our first show. Another friend Fiona Berry, was a viola player and so we asked her to join us and play. After a few rehearsals and a gig we realized we really liked playing together, and somehow it just felt very easy.
Another friend from Box Freezer Romance, Penny McBride also had some rehearsals with us. She was busy for our first couple of shows but continues to play with us and is on tour with us here in China. Fiona Berry, the viola player, wasn’t able to travel at this time so our line up for these shows is piano, percussion, xylophone, bass and trumpet.
Mostly the people in this band came together because they are all so lovely to spend time with. And Sarah Moor and I got married the day before we left on this 3 months European and China tour. So this is really our Honeymoon Tour.
Why the name Grace Before Meals?
Grace Before Meals was simply a name that I had had in my head for maybe ten years and thought a band would be good with that name. To me the name isn’t about anything religious but about a moment of quite contemplation and thanks for the good things around you. Maybe these songs are the sound track to that moment of quiet contemplation before people engage with the FRENZY of life.
Your first show was in 2008- what’s it like to be playing a worldish tour already a year later?
We have all played in other bands all our lives, and still do play in other bands. Organizing a world tour so quickly is a great way to utilize the fresh energy that we have together. We all have a lot of energy for this band, not just for the playing music side of it but for the organizing part and for creating different experiences, whether they are musical, cultural or whatever. This band is full of people who have all had interesting life experiences and love to explore and to look into the cracks to find the undiscovered beauties.
How do you factor instruments like a viola and clarinet into a band?
The viola is such a beautiful instrument and under utilized in what is loosely termed “rock music”. To me it is like adding a lace collar or a beautiful antique necklace to an outfit; it has such a haunting, beautiful, sad and uplifting tone, all at the same time. How could we have anything other that a viola?
The clarinet is an instrument I have been playing for only a few years. It doesn’t feature in our live show much because I am playing piano, but there are plans to have some songs that are based on the clarinet in our live set. These songs are being explored in rehearsals at the moment.
Now the question every band hates: How would you describe your music?
I would describe our music as beautiful and creepy creepy music, that sounds a bit like a haunted house. I think at the same time our sound manages to feel beautiful, like the first stages of love, and sometimes fearful, like you’re a tiny child lost in a crowded market place and all you can see is the legs of tall adults and the deafening drill of human chitter chatter and endeavor. Complete loss with no plan of action for escape.
What do you know/think about the Chinese bands you’ll be playing with at Yu Yin Tang?
We don’t know much about the line up for the show at YYT. The person who has organized this show for us seems to be involved in some interested music from China so we are excited to play with some current underground players in this country. We are looking forward to seeing and hearing what is happening here.
What next after China?
We have many plans! When we get home to Australia on the 22nd of July, myself and Sarah will be traveling to Townsville in Northern Australia where we will be installing a sound installation along the foreshore of Townsville. This will be exhibited for a month as part of an outdoor sculpture festival.
Before that we have our double EP launch in Sydney, then in October we travel to Melbourne for a launch and also play a show in the middle of the country in a dried out river. This will be part of a theatre show about water and the current drought in Australia that turns water into a precious commodity like gold. The show is called Gold.
Four days after we get home to Sydney, we have our first show there as part of a ten month program of shows/exhibitions that are being funded by the Arts Council of The Australian Governement. It is a very exciting opportunity for us to be given some support to showcase some underground music and art from Australia. Ideally we would love to bring out a Chinese band or two to showcase as part of this series of shows.
Next year we plan on touring Europe and China again and hopefully to spend one month together in Frankfurt, Germany making a theatre performance together.
What are you expecting from your show on Saturday?
On Saturday we hope to experience a real part of Chinese underground culture. Hopefully we will get to give and receive at this gig. I think there are some interesting angles being explored in this band that aren’t very common in typical rock music, so we are looking forward to sharing that and to sharing in a real experience of Chinese underground music. We hope to learn from every little part of it.