Soulful Melbourne nine-piece Saskwatch are celebrating the release of their new album Nose Dive. Trumpeter Liam McGorry talks friendship, The X-Files, and playing for children in Spain.
Nose Dive is quite a shift away from Saskwatch’s first release Leave it all Behind, which came about rather unintentionally.
“We started out busking without any original songs and we weren’t trying to be a band or anything, but it slowly came together over two or three years,” Liam remembers.
“People saw us busk and we started playing sets of covers then started writing our own songs. I feel like the first album represents this progression from busking on the street to being an actual band, because it’s literally the first 12 songs that we wrote and rehearsed.”
Liam says Nose Dive saw the band give themselves more of “a push to write better songs and make it a bit more into the context of an album rather than just a bunch of songs. While we’d written songs before, we wrote because we felt we had to, not because we wanted to be better at writing. That’s the mentality that we have now.”
Liam can scarcely remember a time when he wasn’t making music. While he started off with the bugle (I know, right?), he eventually graduated to trumpet and has stuck with the brass bombshell ever since.
“When I was in year three, apparently I just came home from school and my parents were like, ‘you want to learn trumpet? Ok, sweet’. I started on bugle for a year to try and get technique down because I was pretty young, and then I just took it from there.”
“I’ve also played a bit of guitar and bass – I tried trombone as well but wasn’t very good at it.”
All of Liam’s practice, practice, practice compelled him to start thinking bigger about what he wanted to do with music – and like a rebellious and curious young teenager, he used to sneak his way into bars and clubs to watch music played live.
“A lot of my high school teachers were great players, and I wanted to see them play regular gigs outside of school. I’d be 15 or 16 and sneak in the back door to the gigs and watch them. Seeing them playing in bars and clubs in Melbourne was one of the major reasons I started to take music seriously.”
From a passionate school boy, Liam has grown into a talented young man – and with his experience he is able to kick back and enjoy the work involved in his successful musical career.
“I don’t really see it as a career, but more like playing with friends. Just getting better at playing and writing and just having fun when we play.”
The trumpeter certainly hasn’t let the fame get to his head, and admits “I didn’t think we’d get such success – we are happy doing what we are doing, playing with friends. I feel very lucky that we’ve done half of what we have done – putting out an album and touring internationally. It’s beyond what I thought we’d do.”
One of Liam’s most memorable experiences from his time spent entertaining overseas was during a festival in the fiery nation of Spain.
“The Spanish people are really fanatical about music. It was amazing – they were so lovely to us and they loved the show. It was a great experience, but really confronting as it was the first time I’d played to a non-English speaking audience as well.”
You know you’re onto a great thing when your music crosses the barriers of language – and age groups.
“We also played at a kid’s version of the festival to about 25 Spanish kids, which was pretty weird but great.”
The band have been crazy busy since their sophomore release, playing shows and festivals right around the country – but Liam likes to keep the momentum going strong.
“When you’re doing things every day, having days off can be a bit confronting, particularly when it’s your own original music and something you can’t turn off or switch off. It’s not like a day job; I’m thinking about it 24/7. It’s not really a downside, but it’s just about trying to switch off.”
When Liam does get some time to himself, he relaxes like the rest of us – binging on The X-Files (he’s currently up to season three), and hanging out with his mates.
He also passes on his skills to young trumpet students as a tutor, and holds an enjoyable job at Melbourne’s Northside Records.
“It’s amazing working in a record store because you just listen to whatever you want. It’s great to be exposed to new music and getting into stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to.”
This certainly gives Liam a break from the original Saskwatch hits the muso thinks about on a daily basis – along with his eight other band members.
“Being around people 24/7, you can get sick of them – but with our band, we’ve got nine people so it’s a bit hard to get sick of each other.”
“It’s been sort of a blessing. It’s really easy to travel with the band and everyone has their own thing they’re good at and sticks with it. We’ve evolved into this sort of self-sufficient unit because we’re touring a lot and playing a lot of shows, and we’re all in the same boat so we know what it feels like.”
“I feel very lucky and I hope that’s translated into the album”
Though Liam describes the band as a “real tight unit,” the album isn’t all about the joy and friendship they experience during their time rehearsing, gigging, and touring together.
“We’re trying to give a well-rounded view, not just about being happy all the time. Sometimes everything isn’t ok. Things are not just black and white – but different shades in between. The album is trying to fill out the spectrum emotionally.”
BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
This article featured in Warp Magazine, July 2014. http://www.warpmagazine.com.au.
Image source: Warp Magazine.