-Special Ones'. -Breathe in Now'. -Time to Begin'. -Snapshot'. -Page One'
You know Katie Noonan.
She's been part of your sonic life since george first appeared in the mid- late 90s, and since then she's done… well, damn near everything.
Jazz? As befits a classically-trained musician, she's recorded with world-class musicians including John Scofield, Ron Carter, Joe Lovano and Paul Grabowsky as well as working with her trio Elixir with Stephen Magnusson and her husband Zac Hurren.
Dance? Her smoothly funky Skin album went top ten, and her remixes with Mr Timothy led to the smash Second Skin remix album, as well as tracks with the likes of Flight Facilities, Pound System and Katalyst – and she's currently working with Pitchfork-approved and internationally-beloved electronic kids Seekae.
Classical music? She's been guest soloist with every Symphony Orchestra in Australia, toured and recorded with acclaimed classical guitarist Karin Schaupp, toured with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Dance Company performing Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations, and later this year she'll be collaborating with the iconic Brodsky Quartet.
She's done commercials, soundtracks and written songs with the likes of Tim Finn, Don Walker and Josh Pyke. She was voted one of the top 20 Australian vocalists of all time, has won multiple ARIA awards, and racked up seventimes- platinum sales across a range of projects and genres.
However, despite this diverse activity, 'bands are where I started and where I feel most comfortable."
And that brings us to the story of Katie Noonan's Vanguard, whose debut EP Peace Is My Drug is out now.
'I started in george in April '95 – I was only just 18! – and that was my main thing for ten years," she explains. 'And then I had the challenge of becoming what you'd call a solo artist."
The result was 2006's Skin, which was 'very pop and very fun, but I realised how much I missed working with a band and working with guitars and pedals and making different sounds."
Her desire to find 'a bigger, broader, trippier, dirtier palette to choose from" led to Katie Noonan and the Captains, formed out of the musicians who helped bring Skin to the stage: guitarist Cameron Deyell, keyboardist Stu Hunter and drummer Declan Kelly, whose acclaimed Emperor's Box appeared in 2010.
Though Deyell's move to the US called early time on the Captains, a run of solo touring had Noonan hungering for a band again.
Hunter and Kelly were keen to see what came next, 'and I got to work with Ben Edgar last year on the Songs That Made Me project, and he came up with awesome sounds and was so good to work with. He was the perfect fit for this project, and thankfully he was able to join the band and do this tour." The new band's debut, Peace Is My Drug, takes its lyrics from a Michael Leunig poem: 'His poetry is so powerful and profound and he says so much with so little."
'This EP is a nice taste of the sound of the forthcoming album – and we've got some really cool young producers to do remixes of the track: cln, Oisima and Inkswel. They're great versions, and really musical."
There are even more projects on the horizon: more collaborations, more classical work, and even a full-length album collaboration with Leunig and Elixir: 'It's simmering away, there's no rush."
But for now, it's all about Katie Noonan's Vanguard, the latest project for a creatively restless soul.
'It's very much a clean slate," she declares. 'New beginnings, new stuff!"
Question: What can you tell us about Peace Is My Drug?
Katie Noonan: Peace is my drug is a song I wrote with the beautiful, iconic poet and artist Michael Leunig. I believe Michael has the unique ability to capture the psyche of the Australian mind in a profound and deceptively simple way. He ended up writing a 2nd verse to his poem for me as I needed more words to complete the song- lucky me! I think it reflects the struggle we all have to find peace within ourselves and also within this beautiful, strange world.
Question: What was the main motivation behind the Peace Is My Drug EP?
Katie Noonan: My main motivation was to return to producing my original material again in a band format. Shaping the sound of a band is how I started in this industry with my band 'george' so I guess this project is a return to my roots essentially, almost like a full circle almost 20 years since I started out at 18 :-)
Question: How long does it take to get used to a new band?
Katie Noonan: I am lucky with this band as I am returning to playing with two of my very favourite musicians - Stu Hunter and Declan Kelly from my band The Captains and for this project we are joined by the very lovely and brilliant Ben Edgar on guitars. Rehearsals last week felt like putting on and old comfy cardy- felt wonderfully familiar straight away.
Question: Can you tell us about your PledgeMusic campaign?
Katie Noonan: Well I must admit up until now I have been hesitant to join the crowd funding bandwagon as I guess ultimately I am not that comfortable with asking for stuff from my audience- I feel they support me so much already with buying my albums and coming to my concerts. However I now feel that pledge music and the like have really become a genuine and legitimate model for independent artists to continue their work. I have felt really empowered by the whole experience. I have pledged for bands I love before so I am not new to pledging but was new to the asking for pledges bit! But I now truly believe it is an exciting era in band-artist relations and empowering on both sides of the fence. I am also very honoured to be part of significant moments in people's lives with the home concert series that are part of the pledge options - I am doing 3 gay commitment ceremonies, a proposal and a 40th and feel priviliged to be part of those milestones!
Question: Do you write your own songs? What's your inspiration?
Katie Noonan: Yes I do- all these songs have been written by either me alone or a few in collaboration with people I admire. My inspiration is wild and varied! Great visual art, choreography, sculpture, theatre, film, music.... More than anything though I am inspired by my friends and family. I am incredibly blessed to have wonderful people around me.
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
Katie Noonan: Elbow, Bjork, Father John Misty, Sia, JS Bach, Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Husky, Lior, Jack Carty, Playwrite, Radiohead, Jonsi, The Alabama Shakes, The Australian Chamber Orchestra and Totara Jack (aka Cameron Deyell from The Captains).
Question: What's next? Tour/Album/Single?
Katie Noonan: Ep tour, finish album, film clip, photos, album tour - everything album!!!!!! Then back working with the Sydney dance company on our Les Illuminations project in Sydney and then touring that in Asia and Germany.
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel?
Katie Noonan: Oh yeah often. I must admit I am pretty road weary - but at the same time of course I love it, so it is a continual dichotomy! The main challenge is missing my family and struggling with mothers' guilt - I grew up catholic so guilt and I go way back!
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Katie Noonan: Hmmm both for very different reasons! The immediate connectivity of live is truly awesome but then the magic little world you can create in the studio is equally awesome!
Question: What is the biggest challenge you have faced along the way to your musical success?
Katie Noonan: Being a good mum, wife and musician.
Question: What's a typical day like?
Katie Noonan: Well let's take today shall we- my days vary a lot so it's tricky!
Up early after a late night packing to get the kids off to school. Have extended cuddles as I am away for 6 sleeps :-( Back home and pack the car for the drive to Brisbane. Cuddle hubby Zac and my puppy Sassy and hit the road for 1.5 hours drive. Stop at various points on drive to do phone interviews for tour. Go to electronic store to get tech supplies for the tour. Buy pressie and visit my parents before my dad goes into rehab as part of his continuing tricky health journey. Get my hair colour touched up while catching up on my exploding email inbox and also do another phone interview. Drive to abc radio and have a chat and live performance. Drive to airport, lug lotsa stuff to check in and then fly to Melbourne. Do emails on plane (like this one!). Get to Melbourne and lug all my (bloody!) heavy stuff into a cab and go to hotel. Get to hotel and stay up finishing my bas (joy- it's overdue!) and practicing for tour and then wander the streets trying to find a decent late night feed! Check emails again and call hubby and get the daily report on the family. Try to sleep while missing cuddling my boys and get ready for promo, rehearsals and two gigs tomorrow! Finally probably get to sleep around 18 hours after waking up.... in a lonely hotel room about 2000kms from home - but excited about the gigs :-)
Question: What has been your favourite part of becoming a music artist?
Katie Noonan: Connecting with people. Music makes strangers feel like friends and connects us in a way nothing else can. It helps us realize we are a tiny, tiny part of something majestic and limitless.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Katie Noonan: Joni Mitchell! She is my idol.
Question: Do you have a website fans can visit?
Katie Noonan: Katienoonan.com
Question: What message would you like this EP to say to your fans?
Katie Noonan: We are all in this together. It will be okay. You are rad. Life is rad.
Interview by Brooke Hunter