Emotive Sunshine Coast singer songwriter Zac Gunthorpe announced his arrival on the music scene with his 2015 debut ‘Glory Bound’, a manifesto of his stated desire to immerse himself in the song writing process. His dedication to the craft was grounded in following the trajectory of the greats, while looking to make sense of the world outside and the person within.
Said Gunthorpe at the time: “It was always songwriters that I went to, to try and make sense of life, before I began writing and playing music. I got to a point where I realised they were writing their own songs to make sense of life for them, and I needed to do the same if I was going to make sense of mine.”
His latest effort, ‘Ghost Of The Town’, mines a rich seam of electrified, tough as teak roots-rock, in thrall of the great such as Neil Young And Crazy Horse and The Gun Club but with a foot also planted firmly in the contemporary realm, bringing to mind cult artists such as the sadly departed Jason Molina and his Magnolia Electric Company project.
It’s an honest, heart wrenching affair that oozes emotion and authenticity, with tales of downtrodden drifters set to windswept musical vistas in turns shimmering, rollicking and grizzled.
In the lead up to his upcoming show at the Currumbin Soundlounge on 19 October, we got an insight into the man and his music, from Zac himself..
At the time that your first record came out, you said that you immersed yourself in the song writing process partly as a way of making sense of your own life and the world around you. Do you feel that you’ve progressed on this quest with album number two?
Sure. I now feel like making sense of life is somewhat of a fool’s errand. Song writing can be a good coping mechanism. It doesn’t really help make sense of life for myself, but can help to develop compassion and to help understand that there are some things people see and feel that you never will and may never understand. And realising that it’s ok. Empathy is a beautiful thing.
Can you provide a bit of an insight into the genesis of ‘Ghost Of The Town’?
The eight songs on ‘Ghost Of The Town’ were written back to back but not with the intention of all going on one album. I got to a point where I realised these songs all kinda related to each other in one way or another. We recorded this album live in four days. And that is the nature of the album. It’s about five guys expressing themselves via the spirits that live in these songs. No second guesses, just complete emotional dedication to every single note. Like an abstract artist is dedicated to each stroke. What will be, will be. And that’s life. You get one chance to live in that moment, so you’d better bloody find it and feel it! That’s what we tried to capture.
Could you introduce us to The Brown Byrds – who plays what, and what they bring to your songs?
The Brown Byrds are: Zach Miller – Guitarist, Neal Purchase Jr – Guitarist, Brett Layton – Bass
and Ryan Miller – Drums. Zach Miller also produced, mixed and co-engineered the new album. The Brown Byrds bring a wild and raw, driving sound that goes hand in glove with these songs. We’ve had a lot of comparisons to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. People have been saying The Sunny Boys, The Church, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers… I mean these are beyond unbelievable bands, so I’m pretty happy.
I’m loving the new albums raw and heart wrenching vibe. Who are some of your biggest influences and inspirations, that you feel helped you capture this?
I just love music that captures real life. Not overly produced. It’s about capturing the moment even with imperfections, fumbled lyrics, an off note, wavering vocals.. If something shit happens in life, you need to use it. Let that moment give you drive to spread your wings and find that next moment of contentment or happiness – and that’s how I like to make music too. Perfection is dull, boring and unsustainable.
What can we expect from you in the live realm for your upcoming shows?
You can expect a wild and raw dedication to bringing out the essence and true spirt of the songs from ‘Ghost Of The Town’, as well as a few songs from my back catalogue. We’ve got our mates Mexico City performing as well and there is a good chance some stage sharing may go on. We are itching to perform these songs – it’s going to be a hoot!
I get the feeling that you’re in this music caper thing for the long haul. Where do you see your muse taking you over the coming few years and beyond?
I’m glad you get that feeling, because I feel the same. I honestly don’t know. John Lennon said on the recording of ‘Beautiful Boy’; “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. It seems ‘life’ may be my muse, so I guess I just need to keep making ‘other’ plans.
Zac Gunthorpe And The Brown Byrds are playing three special album launch shows, starting at the Currumbin Soundlounge on 19 October. Then they will be in Brisbane at The Milk Factory on 20 October and at Thomas Surfboards, in Noosa, on 3 November.