When a band has been recruited by Brian Ritchie to play at the festival of Music and Art (MOFO) at MONA in Hobart you lean into your screen a little more. Emma & the Hungry Truth is led by Emma Dean on vocals and violin, who stamps ‘cutting edge’ like a red haired version of Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, channeling the woodland nymph look. The band looking like they have similarly stepped out from Sydney Long’s art-nouveau pagan paintings.
The first song – Alwayss The Last To Know on their debut EP Feast, has sucked me in right at the piano plinkin’ intro. We can hear depth of sound with weaving string arrangements and a tinkling glockenspiel. The chorus, “My heart… I am always the last to know,” is pure pop.
Barks Like An Animal begins with the chords of a melancholic organ and ramps up with Emma Dean’s high vocal register. She is often likened to the legendary Kate Bush and equally so Kate Miller-Hiedke, but less operatic. This is a sermonic song, but definitely not tedious.
Bite of My Broken Heart lures you with Emma’s deep alto tones and the band’s vocal harmonies. Time changes and key changes abound – Broken Heart is the token ‘Queenesque’ anthem song hidden in the middle of the EP that really explodes. Written by Emma Dean like all the songs on the EP, the instruments are being manipulated to their creative potential, forming a tight arrangement.
Piano anthems aside, I am Fire contrasts this time solely with Emma’s vocals and the driven repetitiveness of the tribal drums accompanying the lyrics, “I’ll pick you an apple, I’ll pick you some fruit, open up I’ll feed you the Hungry Truth.” The latter lyrics being the name of the next title — The Hungry Truth. A song bursting with rock sound reminiscent of Chrissie Amphlett – added with the rawness of the thumping high hat, drums and rhythm guitar.
Let Us dance With Our Fear ends with a pop/musical styled number that bops along then cleverly contrasts to a floaty Bowie-inspired ‘Starman’ intermission, then back for another pop flourish to finish. Feast is a sublime mix of body moving pop and rock; there is no need for any indie, alt or folk hyphens here.