Family jug band no more: Perch Creek turn a musical corner

Perch Creek have stepped away from their “jug band” roots and entered a brave new world. 

Known and loved for their infectious old-time folk and raucous live performances, the band has turned a corner with their new self-titled album. 

“After our last album we felt that our folk/roots/jug band phase had come to a natural conclusion, so when it came to writing this album we just jammed and let the music come naturally,” said bassist James Chandler, the only band member who is not part of the Hodgkins family. 

“It’s just music to me but if I had to describe it, I would say it’s quite ’70s folk rock-ish, I suppose. It’s definitely got a retro feel. We have always been retro but more a nod to the 1920s. Now it’s the ’70s.”

Perch Creek enjoyed a hiatus from touring recently. They bought a warehouse in Melbourne and have been busy renovating it as a space for artists to work and exhibit. It has been fun, Chandler said, but Perch Creek are itching to hit the road again and share their new music. Much of the album was written in Wales during a UK tour. 

FAMILY AFFAIR: Perch Creek is Camilla Hodgkins, Lear Hodgkins, Eileen Hodgkins, Christi Hodgkins and James Chandler.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Perch Creek is Camilla Hodgkins, Lear Hodgkins, Eileen Hodgkins, Christi Hodgkins and James Chandler.

“One week we couldn’t get any gigs so we decided to book a house and just write songs,” Chandler said.

“We literally just sat around and someone would play something and we’d all join in and if it sounded half decent we’d press record. We needed to do something fresh and new but we didn’t know what that was. I guess we had a mutual understanding with one another about a new sound.”

As always, the music and lyrics were written as a five-way collaboration between band members. The end result was recorded and produced by J. Walker (Paul Kelly, Jen Cloher, Machine Translations) and mixed in collaboration with Andy Stewart (Gotye). 

Chandler played electric bass on an album for the first time, rather than his usual double bass. The electric guitar also made its debut.

“It’s an enjoyable indulgence to be in the studio and to realise that any sound is possible – that you’re the creator of a sonic experience,” he said.

So, what can fans expect on this tour? Multiple lead vocalists and lots of vocal harmonies, of course, plus the band’s trademark mix of intensely high energy songs interspersed with atmospheric ballads. And Newcastle just happens to be Perch Creek’s favourite place to play. 

“We just got back from a gig at a fund-raising dinner and it was all very lah-di-dah. We played and the crowd were just sipping their champagne and not paying any attention to us. I thought to myself ‘If this was Newcastle everyone would be going nuts’. Newcastle crowds are really good. They know how to show their enthusiasm.”

Catch Perch Creek at Lizotte’s on June 7.