Words by Lauren Abineri
HALF STRANGE FESTIVAL is upon us - kicking off at Format last night, a soiree at the Bowls Club tonight and a final whirl on Sunday at the faithful Metro. This 3-day multi-venue festival showcases local, interstate and international music of quite a calibre and variety. Curators Harriet Fraser-Barbour and Celeste Juliet have teamed up to create an inclusive, exciting and above all super-fun-time music experience. In the leadup to the big weekend, Yewth chats to some of the artists you can catch at this ripper fest.
HALF STRANGE FESTIVAL ARTIST #2 - FAIR MAIDEN
You know what, now is probably an okay time to tell everyone on a public platform that I listen to Fair Maiden a lot. I'm a gusher. Each song is an ear-worm. I had a chat with lead vocalist Ellen Carey, who excavated Fair Maiden from her own solo work before collaborating: the line-up of this freak-folk quintet has included her brother Joel (Wolf & Cub), Liam Kenny (WIREHEADS, Bruff Superior) and Noah Renolds (oh hello again SECOND SIGHT). At HALF STRANGE this year Fair Maiden will be Steph Crase (Summer Flake), Hamish Baird (Work Horse) and Harriet Fraser-Barbour (Work Horse, WIREHEADS et al). The groove sits somewhere in between spooky incantations, country twangs and some running-from-the-devil bass/drum patterns - come revel in the ritual.
Lauren: Hello Ellen! Could you tell me a little bit about Fair Maiden and how it all began?
Ellen Carey: I was in a band called JemimaJemima, then another called birthglow around my early twenties. Due to people moving states or overseas, both bands came to a halt and I realised how much I depended on singing as a creative outlet and I didn't want it to stop, so I thought jeez why not try writing my own songs. I started off solo, singing over poorly recorded vocal tracks on my iPod like a weird karaoke performance. It was a nice start, but my talents could only take me so far, which is why I enlisted a team of musical mates and formed a band instead. We've had a few different members come and go, which has really helped develop the style and is kind of a cool point of difference with every recording I think. Steph Crase (Summer Flake) is the only original member left thank god, I'd be lost without her.
L: I love how I can really hear your personal voice in the songs on the record. I also heard that you were a church singer? Or something like that? Or am I making this up?
EC: My voice is pretty weird, I sound like a chirpy bird in real life haha so I'm not surprised that my personal voice comes through, but I love that you like it. Um babe, if I was a church singer I would have gone up in flames a long time ago. I have no idea where you got that but it is hilarious!
L: Haha omg woops, maybe I'm just making up rumours like 'church music gone dark'. There is this cool psych element to Fair Maiden, it's a bit witchy and salem-y. How would you describe the sound?
EC: God I'm so bad with this question. Umm, I guess maybe; not-quite-right harmony heavy folk music, with each song majorly influenced by bad dreams, confession and consequence.
L: I like that. I would also throw 'freak-folk' in there. What's it been like as different members move to different states?
EC: It was hard to deal with initially. Having Liam and my brother both move to Melbourne first, then bloody Steph joining them, I thought that was it to be honest. I realised it didn't have to be though, and asked Hamish and Noah to replace the fellas. Replacing Steph wasn't an option so she has to fly between states now, sucked in. Then Noah moved and I met Harriet who could play the drums and now here we are. It's been really difficult to write new songs as a band, but I usually just send through some ideas and watch the magic happen on the rare occasion that we're all together. All members past and present are insanely talented, I've been really very lucky to have had the chance to work with them all.
L: That's so beautiful! What musicians have infuenced Fair Maiden over the years?
EC: It changes constantly, but some of the core influences for me have been: Beefheart, The Holy Modal Rounders, Julee Cruise, Buffy Sainte Marie, Leonard Cohen, Allen Ginsberg, Maya Deren, Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Manson Family Album and church hymns remembered from my childhood
L: Lovely! There's kind of a murder-ballad element in there too, especially on track like Lady of Fortune. Where did that song come from? (It's a banger, btw).
EC: Lady of Fortune was inspired by a pokies machine at the Metro with the same name. It had some bejewelled evil looking sorcerer woman as the graphic which caught my eye. I came up with the idea of her covered in riches, riding a horse through a village and all the impoverished town folk crawling behind her with offerings etc. as she promises them / lies to them for a better life etc etc
L: What can we expect from Fair Maiden at HALF STRANGE?
EC: Right, you can expect us all to have had a couple too many, to be very under rehearsed but super happy to be playing at this festival.
L: And finally, who is your *pick* to go see at HALF STRANGE?
EC: My pick would be The Skids for sure! I'll be cruising on into the front row when they play, I can't wait. Oh and SECOND SIGHT!
Fair Maiden will be playing on the Saturday of the festival, Day 2 / Bowl Job at the Adelaide Bowls Club.