Ladyslug began as Kodi, Ben, Luke and Lachlan, four uber-talented virtuosos who met while doing a music degree in Lismore. Fast forward two years, some collaboration and lineup changes later, and these unique nu-jazz ninjas have scored slots on some of the country’s most sought-after stages. For the second year running, Ladyslug will be setting the stages of Mullum Music Festival on fire with their explosive contemporary sounds. We caught up with frontwoman Kodi Twiner ahead of the performance.
From the outside looking in, it feels like Ladyslug kind of burst on the scene, making a name for yourselves quite quickly. Does it feel like that for you as well?
There was definitely huge energy over the last two years, we built a repertoire and sound really quickly. It was quite intense, but it’s hard to know how far that extends into the outer world, the music industry is a mind warp. It’s slowed down over the last 6 months, everyone’s side projects became real projects. So it was time to take stock and assess what can actually work.
What are five words you would use to describe the Ladyslug journey so far?
Intense. Creative. Stimulating. Hilarious. Resilient.
What kind of artists and styles are your main jam when you’re just hanging at home?
Right now I’m listening to Beady Belle’s new album. She is an EPIC Norwegian musician with incredible repertoire. I saw her live at Jakarta Jazz Festival last year and it blew my mind. Her improvisation is off the hook. Leon Bridges new album ‘Good Thing’, and a couple tracks off Laura Mvula’s ‘Dreaming Room’, like ‘People’ and ‘Phenomenal Woman’. As I grow into being a composer, you start listening to different things. Sometimes it’s Lalah Hathaway, some days it’s instrumental jazz, like Nubya Garcia, and other days it’s minimalist Aussie folk, like Archer and William Crighton.
You’ve played a few festivals already. How do you feel about playing festivals vs regular, more intimate gigs?
Festivals are an injection. It’s suited the band so far because I’ve been back and forth between Australia and abroad, so festivals provide this window. Our repertoire is also kinda…loud. Maybe too loud. I want to write some chill groove tunes so that intimate gigs are on the cards. But sometimes the song wants to go somewhere big. Maybe next year will be the intimate year.
There’s a lot of talk these days about male-dominated festival (and gig) lineups and we understand this is a subject you are passionate about. What’s the solution? Is it as simple as every single promoter instituting a 50/50 lineup parity, and exposing all the awesome chicks out there to an audience who wouldn’t otherwise get to hear them?
I’m on a Women in Music panel at the festival this year, where this is gonna be a hot topic! In my opinion, bookers and promoters are in positions of power and influence. They lend a space to amplify certain voices, stories and narratives. This in turn effects the audience, and our culture. What culture do we want to be part of, what culture do we want to create? For me, booking women and gender diverse people into amplified spaces is a crucial step in encouraging a culture that embraces diversity, that values the wide, wide range of demographics that make up our community. How can we create a more just and caring society, if we have only amplified the narrative of one demographic? I want to see events that give a shit about our culture, that care about the influence they hold, that book line-ups representative of the dynamic, wonderful, diverse, colourful community we have in Australia, which like it or not, includes women and folks of all colours, abilities, shapes and expressions.
Who are some female artists right now that you are dying over but feel like they aren’t getting the love they deserve?
Casii Williams, who I saw in Alice Springs recently. Her voice is so effortless and rich in tone! I also loved Ripple Effect band, from Maningrida in the NT when I saw them at Bush Bands Bash. Go have a listen! Outside of Central Australia, Thando is a boss, she’s at Mullum this year too. Madeline Leman is up to spicy stuff down Melbourne way. Mojo Juju is smashing it… Mama Kin Spender…
What is your personal definition of ‘nu-jazz’?
Ooooh, this question. It’s all very contemporary, isn’t it? For me I’d define something as nu-jazz, if I listen to it and can feel or hear that it’s informed by jazz, but doesn’t totally conform to ‘jazz’. It’s a blend. I’ve spent three years trying to think of a ‘genre’ that Ladyslug fits, but for now, nu-jazz is where it’s at.
How did you all find each other, and how did your unique sound develop?
Ladyslug formed in Lismore in 2016 when all the players were based there, and we were all connected through our music degrees at SCU. Things have changed around, all the original players are spread out over the country, so now that Ladyslug is a collective, it’s more flexible. I’ve taken on the songwriting in full, which is exciting and intimidating. I’ll miss writing with the original players but it was hard because I move around a fair bit, and the real magic moments come from being in the same room as your collaborators. I’m co-writing with some new folks and exploring my own creativity a lot more. Super stoked to play in the new format at Mullum Fest!
What are you looking forward to most about playing Mullum Music Fest, and do you have any memorable stories from the last time you played there?
Playing new repertoire! Taking risks onstage, seeing what bangs… and what might fizz. The lineup’s different, the vibe is fresh, the tunes have changed. Mullum Fest crowds have always been kind to Ladyslug, so many good memories! Some are late night memories that can’t quite go to print. But they exist like a gingernut cookie in the sunset, out front of the RSL. Looking forward to seeing the incredible talent on show at Mullum, what a splendid time it will be!
Mullum Music Festival takes place from 15-18 November 2019. Tickets at mullummusicfestival.com.