Japanese Vintage: Black Rabbit George

Paul George was the most-named artist at the 2018 Gold Coast Music Awards, nabbing five finalist berths across his music projects. While best known right now as guitarist with Tijuana Cartel, he’s been quietly making a name for himself as Black Rabbit George, with heart-felt, Dylanesque songwriting and exceptional guitar work.

This week, Black Rabbit George releases a shiny new musical offering, in the form of ‘Japanese Vintage’. The track is more upbeat than previous singles, yet stays true to his simple recipe of sad yet beautiful songs with subtle harmonies alongside voice and guitar which take centre stage.

Paul proudly admits his previous singles were more brooding and somewhat sinister but feels he himself isn’t quite as brooding these days and his music is reflecting that new era in a “weird and strange journey”. Samantha Morris spoke to Paul while he was on tour, about the new song and where he hopes to take Black Rabbit George in the future.

‘Japanese Vintage’ is a story of unrequited love. What happened?

Haha, well, if you’ve ever been in a long term relationship, then single and thrown into the dating scene again, you might know what it’s like to start again. Sometimes too keen, sometimes too cool, usually out of depth and confused. I tend to get everything backwards and wrong before I get it right. That might sound like I’m avoiding the question, but in the end that’s part of the reason I write music, I can’t figure out my own story.

Black Rabbit George songs often sound like they come from another time and place, yet the recording process for ‘Japanese Vintage’ was anything but old-school. Can you tell us how you pulled it all together?

Life on the road can get hectic, I am juggling three touring acts at the moment. So finding a spot to get the musicians I wanted at the same time and place was impossible. In the end I recorded a basic outline of the track and emailed it to the different musos. They recorded some parts in their home studios and some parts in our studio on the Gold Coast. All the parts were emailed back to me and I stitched them together on my laptop. It was a bit like a digital musical conveyor belt

You’ve recruited a band for some of your recent shows. Adam Felton (Ash Grunwald) and OJ Newcomb (Band of Frequencies, Xavier Rudd), both accomplished musicians in their own right, are joining you for your August tour. Is that what you envisaged when you started down the BRG path?

It’s been really hard to find the right musicians to play with. I tried out a lot. These guys got it from the start. Both of them are easy to tour with and great musicians, they also take the music in a new direction. It’s been a real blast so far playing with these guys.

Where do you intend to take Black Rabbit George?

Lately I feel it all coming together, I’ve been making more music than I ever have in the past. I have a lot more textured and ambitious songs. I originally wanted to keep everything as simple as possible, I’ve given up on that and started letting myself go in any direction that feels right.

You’ve been making music for a very long time Paul, and Tijuana Cartel and Black Rabbit George are pretty different music projects. Are you going to surprise us with a punk or hardcore venture next? What else do you have on your music-making bucket list?

Haha, well, I used to be in a Punk band back in the 90’s. Though I don’t see that coming back out in the near future. I think between Black Rabbit and Tijuana I have it pretty well covered. I have been talking to a couple of directors about adding scores to film. That’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I can never tell though to be honest, I just hope to keep making music as long as I can.

You’re a talented storyteller when it comes to songwriting. Who’s the number one songwriter you look up to the most? And why?

Ah, there’s so many to choose from that I don’t know who to pick. I think I’ll go for Leonard Cohen. No matter what I always end up back there. I always think lyrics are very different from poems, mainly as you’re a slave to the feel of the music and the rhythm of the beat. To me Cohen is the only one to traverse both, something that I believe will elude my writing skills in this lifetime.

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You can catch Black Rabbit George, with his new bandmates, 9 August at Junk Bar in Brisbane, 18 August at NightQuarter and 31 August at Beach Hotel in Byron Bay. Check out the new track via blackrabbitgeorge.net.

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