Sunken Ships and Singing Fish – a chat with Gordon Wallace from The Crooked Fiddle Band

The Crooked Fiddle Band. Image: Warp Magazine.
Although the Crooked Fiddle Band are based in Sydney, their music speaks languages from all over the world. As the band get ready to bring their Moving Pieces of the Sea album tour to the Brisbane Hotel this December, guitarist/ citternist/ bouzoukist Gordon Wallace shares the stories behind the songs, and discusses the different cultures that have found their ways into his music.Moving Pieces of the Sea was written in multiple sessions that took place across in the beautiful Blue Mountains, Scandinavian Europe, and then recorded in Chicago. It doesn’t matter where he is – Gordon says he gets a “sort of feeling when you know something’s going to come.” This musical intuition results in a style induced by Scandinavian folk, cinematic post-rock, punk and gypsy (often, all at once).

“There’s some sort of spark of something musical about to happen,” Gordon explains.

The spark was ignited when the four piece band traveled through Norway, Finland and Sweden on tour, and Gordon says the Crooked Fiddle were “quite excited” by the experience.

“Norway was just this incredible place with fjords and waterfalls, and the Viking history and sea battles, and sunken ships in the mud. That sort of inspired quite a lot of songwriting.”

‘The Deepwater Drownings’ (or, as Gordon calls it, “the long track at the end”) tells the story of a sea voyage gone wrong as it’s caught in a storm. While Moving Pieces of the Sea shares the strong water themes of the Scandinavian landscapes, the album does have a few contrasting moments – as found in ‘Shanti and the Singing Fish’, which Gordon started when he was in Sri Lanka.

“That was inspired by a legend in a little town on the east coast of Sri Lanka about a singing fish.”

“In the ‘60s, there was this big kind of thing about hearing a singing fish, so we wrote a tune.”

Making world-inspired music isn’t new to Gordon, who has spent his whole life weaving in and out of different cultures.

“The first time I realized I liked music was when I was a kid from South Africa, and when we were on family holidays,” Gordon remembers.

“None of the rest of my family are that in to music, but on the family holidays in the combi, we had a choice of a couple of cassettes when we were driving to our holiday house. There were some awesome kind of strange, pop-disco stuff.”

In this mix, however, was Paul Simon’s controversial Graceland, and Gordon says, “as a kid, I really remember liking that album much more than the commercially produced pop-disco, and that’s when I realized I really liked music.”

You don’t need to go to Scandinavia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, or any other place in the world starting with ‘S’ to enjoy Moving Pieces of the Sea. Gordon encourages listening to the whole album in one sitting, and as it has a perfect balance of long and short tracks, you can be sure to expect a quick payoff at the start and an appropriately big finish.

“If you sit somewhere, maybe with headphones, and listen to the whole album, chill out with no distractions and a glass of wine, that sounds pretty good.”

Take that glass of wine to the Brisbane Hotel on December 7.


This article featured in Warp Magazine November 2013

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