Adele Pickvance interview

I was lucky enough to ave seen Adele Pickvance play the basement before everything closed back in March, with her new outfit Adele and the Chandeliers. Supporting there cracking new 7 inch German on my Mind, they played a great set of catchy powerpop tracks and definitely a band I wanted to see more of. The Chandeliers is Adeles first band up front, aving played with some of the finest musicians this country has ever produced. Adele has played with both Robert Forster and Grant McLennan on their post Go Betweens projects, and then became a member of the Go Betweens and played on their final record Oceans Apart, and was also a member of the Dave Graney Show.

Adele was kind enough to join me on the phone from her Brisbane homebase for a phoner

Munster: Let’s start with your early days, you were born and raised in Manchester is that right?

Adele: Yes I was born in Greater Manchester, just outside in a place called Bury. It’s a typical kind of small industrial Northern English town. Then we moved a little further out to a place which had more of a norther English Village vibe, not too Village but further away from a town. So a bit more country, more hills and things

Munster: Your grandfather was a violin player in orchestras and your dad played piano in clubs so I take it music had an early impact on you?

Adele: Yeah my grandad used to play the violin at silent movies, before they had sound, so they had a small band, this was in Rochdale, he’d get there with a pianist and just play music. I don’t know if the music was specific to the show or the film, from what I understand it wasn’t necessarily old films, was more bits of footage of things. He also had his own dance band, it was a wired name, it was called the Billy Pickvance Dominate Dance band. And my dad, he’s always played gigs, Manchester Workers Clubs and places like that. So I came from a family of musicians, and especially musicians that love to play live.

Munster: was it the kind of household where your dad would be playing songs on the piano and you’d all gather around and sing?

Adele:  (laughs) No it wasn’t it was more like someone was playing and you’d wait your turn for your piano lesson. I used to play the violin because my grandad used to play it and I also played piano. No we never did that everyone singing around being happy. I think that was a dream of my mothers. We did it as Christmas, but my brother plays drums and my other brother plays keyboard. But Johnny would be too loud on the drums and dad would be in a different key and everyone would be squabbling (laughs).it was a happy family, but not everyone singing around the piano.

Munster: with the violin was it your granddads influence that steered you towards that?

Adele: it was definitely my granddads influence. At school they handed out free violins so that was an opportunity to take it up. And my granddad he gave me my first violin as well. He always played and he’d teach me as well we’d do duets together. Which I think is where I got my love of harmonies from. I love harmonies and being the second violin, or as the bass player you’re not the lead, I prefer to play the harmony or accompany the lead.

Munster: and your dad, was he also constantly gigging?

Adele: he was doing, so in those days the late 70s and early 80s, at the workers clubs you’d get, I don’t know if there stars, but you’d have someone, a lead singer and they have their 45 minutes’ worth of a set. So they had an in-house band in each club, and dad would be given some music to play and the artist would come on and do their set. They’d count the band in and it would be all over as soon as it started. It was all middle of the road stuff. I remember before we left the UK before 82 I was 14 and my dad, that’s when I picked up the bass because he got one for me. Its 4 strings and accompanying the band, so I managed to go to a few shows he was doing. It was cool to see what he was up too. He was playing the organ, it was cool kind of band stuff. Lots of beer and ciggies and workers club vibe. You could smell it a mile away

Munster: When did you land in Brisbane?

Adele: yeah I think 82-83. I think Thatcher had done us over in the UK so we were ready to leave.

Munster: and then you landed in Bjelke- Petersens Queensland

Adele: yeah that’s it. At least the sun was shining at least we had blue sky and not so rainy and cold. Mum and dad were happy to come somewhere brighter.

Munster: as a kid going from Manchester to Queensland it must have been a 180

Adele: absolutely. I actually thought, the funny thing is we had no idea what we were in for. We went to the Australia house in Manchester, there was a couple of Aussie blokes with beards and shorts that greeted us, I thought I’d be riding a pony to school. I couldn’t wait. I used to go to the horse club in the UK and we’d walk around in circles indoors because it was too wet to go outdoors and slippy so we sit around and trot around, so I thought I’d get a pony to go to school. Of course that didn’t happen we had to ride our bikes in the heat (laughs) quite different. Not what I thought it would be. No kangaroos in the street.

Munster: so when did you join your first band?

Adele: my first band, proper band, was at school, round year 11-12. I arrived at grade 10 from the UK, and that was a tough year. In year 11 I had the bass guitar, I gave up on the violin as there was no violin teacher at school, nothing was going on violin wise so I picked up the bass more which was good. So I brought the bass along to one of the music sessions, and some guys practised at lunch time. We had this great science teacher Mr Bowden he was the teacher who walked around in his RM Williams and flaggy hat, had the full handlebar moustache. He had his telecaster he would be twanging, even in his earth science lesson. He was a country guitarists and really cool. He was the supervisor of these gatherings and it was great. That’s where I learned Jimi Hendrix and the classic rock you learn your chops from. I’d say that was my first band from there I developed friendships with these guys and we had our little covers band that did gigs around the traps. Just covers, Stones, Hendrix Led Zeppelin, really rock n roll covers. We do gigs round the traps, maybe one or two gigs in our lifetime. So it was covers, I didn’t know you could write your own songs

Munster: so when did you first meet Robert Forster? Where you aware of the Go Betweens and were you a fan?

Adele: I thought the Go Betweens where a German punk band. That’s what I thought of them. I left school and was living in shear houses. I was playing in a folk rock electric band, we had a lot of folk music in Brisbane in the early to mid-90s. I was in a band called the Natives of Bedlam. I had a double bass and did a bit of that. I got a call from Robert out of the blue. He got my number from a chap named Jeff Earlbarker who was a sound guy. Robert was living in Brisbane at the time, he had done Calling From a Country Phone, I think it was that era. I think because I was female and I was a double bass player, he was given my name he gave me a call and I said yeah sure no worries. I’m always up for a gig and music takes you on adventures and I always put my hand up for an adventure. I met Glenn Thompson before, he played in a lot of Brisbane bands, like Madam Bones Brothel. He was the drummer Robert was on guitar, and I was on double bass. It was the beginning of the Warm Nights Record he was working on. It was very three chord grove ordinated sit back and play very simple, which suited me fine because I was on the double bass. From that point on we rehearsed a lot, that was the warm up for the warm night’s record. It was a beautiful three piece. After three rehearsals I moved to electric bass from double bass. We played a lot, I was looking in my diary we rehearsed maybe 2-3 three times a week. And we played for a long time we play a song again and again and again. It was that time in Brisbane, I was in my mid 20s and I had my kombi van  cruising the streets of Brisbane where there wasn’t much traffic still and bumping into Robert Forster and picking him up in the kombi and driving him to rehearsal. Life was good

Munster: you worked with Robert Solo, then with Grant McLennan in the Far Out Corporation, what was the similarities and differences when it came to their attitude to work?

Adele: There both quite similar, its very work orientated. A lot of playing and a lot of, the rehearsal time goes for a good four hours, with both of them. With my band we do an hour and half. Two hours then we’re exhausted. I always remember with Grant and Robert we’d do four hours of rehearsal, with a break. A good long session. Pretty much the same way they’d rehearse, separate or together. With the Far Out Corporation it was a collective. It was Grant singing and he brought the melodies and the words, we started to get that record going looking at images. An experiment of playing to photos and moving images on a screen. After a while we thought this is really good we should record. And of course with Ian with the Powderfinger connection we had the studio and get it out with Polydor record label

Munster: How did you come to be apart of Far Out Corporation? Did he find you or did Robert recommend you?

Adele: what happened was when I was playing with Robert, Grant had just come back to Brisbane and he came to a show, I actually played a show supporting him. But he came to a Robert show when we were doing the Warm Nights gigs and that’s when I first met him. And we also, there was a gig set up by a French rock n roll magazine, they invited the Go Betweens to play as they nominated them as one of their favourite bands. So because of the Robert connection and Glenn came along. Thats when me and Grant got to play as we did all the Go Betweens songs for that show. We did a Go Betweens show in the mid 90s somewhere. That’s when I first played with Grant, then we did the Far Out Corporation, then Glenn and I were doing demos with Grant. So both Robert and Grant where using Glenn and I for their solo records, for rehearsal and demos, quite often.

Munster: What was the general feeling like when the Go Betweens reformed? A lot has been written about them and Robert and Grant both had partners in the band and things seemed tense at various times within the band, but the way Robert has written about Grant it seems like they always got on, so was it a much more relaxed environment this time around?

Adele: it was, its funny there was never, and there was never any unfriendliness between them. And they’d known each other for so long they just kept their distance to, when you’re in a band you can just walk off and go to the newsagents everyone knows where you are, then you come back 30 minutes later. It’s not like you disappear never to be seen again. It was harmony between the two of them, sure they might get grumpy and roll their eyes but it was a jovial thing too, there was a lot of love there you could see that. And that was one of the great things being a part of that reformation, I think the pressure was off them. Well it was on them, bit in the sense of the politics, it was quite similar, the band wasn’t as complex as it had been

Munster: But before that you were apart of the Dave Graney Show how did that come about? Was that you Dave Clare and Billy Miller?

Adele: Stuart Perera. So this was when Dave had stopped the Coral Snakes. And I met Dave and Clare in London when I was playing with Robert, doing the Warm Nights tour. And I was living in Brisbane and finished the Far Out Corporation record, round 1998 I got a call from Dave saying “hello Adele its Dave here you want to play bass in my new band”. As I said I’m always up for an adventure so I said yeah sure. Oh you’re in Melbourne? Sure I’ll come to Melbourne. I think we did about four LPs. So it was me Dave Claire Stuart and Billy joined a year later. Then it was the dulling guitars of Stu and Billy. That was great did a lot of playing with Clare and Dave. It was really busy because the Go Betweens started in 2000 so I had to negotiate the time, and I still had a day job. It wasn’t this glorious life of being on tour, didn’t happen that way still had to juggle work.

Munster: Did you enjoy your time in Melbourne?

Adele: I love Melbourne. It was great. I just turned up. It was weird I did one of those terrible young people thing, I filled my kombi up with everything I wanted to take and I stated to drive off, and it used to overheat all the time. When a kombi overheats the petrol evaporates, and it just stops. So I had to wait for it to cool down. I had been driving for two hours so I just drove back. I put it on the train then I flew down. Picked up the kombi then I realized I had no accommodation. I knew one person who lived in Melbourne so I stayed at their place for a while. Then I happened to meet the guitarist from TISM Jock and he was a sweetheart and I slept in his lounge room for three weeks I had my kombi parked outside like a wardrobe. That was just outside St Kilda. So that was my introduction to Melbourne. But I loved it. I’d still be there if, I’d still be in Melbourne if the sun was just a little bit brighter. It’s a little bit like Manchester really. Anyway that’s one of the reasons why I came back to Brisbane, but I lived in Sydney for a bit before I removed back to Brisbane.

Munster: one of my favourite stories in Daves book 1001 Australian Nights is the story he tells, when he was going through a Jim Morrison phase he would turn to each member of the band and say play for my cock, a la Jimbo. He tells a night when you and Clare downed tools and refused to play. Treu story?

Adele: So true. Dave he can just go a bit too far, and further. So when he goes too far it’s like well its Dave being Dave, but when get goes further. And it’s great you know he likes to be cheeky with the girls. But me and Clare stuck together like comrades and said no we will not play (laughs). And we didn’t and he kept begging us.

Munster: you’re new band Adele and the Chandeliers, what lead to you starting that up?

Adele: it was one of those things, so I lived in Sydney for six years and came back to Brisbane two-three years ago. In Sydney I did one record with Glenn Thompson but hadn’t done a lot of playing but I was missing playing and I’ve always been a bass player in bands and that’s my comfort zone, just joining in  turning up to rehearsal on bass and other people sing and I just turn up and have a great time. And I wasn’t getting any offers to do that. I thought my world, my gigging world has dried up. So I thought there’s only one way to do this and that’s to start my own band. So basically it came from having to desire wanting to play so I had to do it myself. It’s been a struggle as that’s not in my DNA so ive had to take that on. But its great as I’ve had really great people in my band like Scott Mercer and Ash Shanahan who are very supportive in the sense that my kind of, I’m not a great leader its not in my DNA. Put it this way I’m learning how to do it and I’m getting there. We’ve only been together a year and a half we got an LPs worth of songs recorded. We done a vinyl single and ready to play shows. It’s good, come a long way in a short time. I’ve just had to rearrange my head.

Munster: I’ve interviewed Don Walker and Penny Ikinger and of course they both started in other bands then went solo, they told me it was hard for them to adjust when they went from being on the side of the stage to being front and center.

Adele: yeah its different, also times are different now. This social media do it yourself. I’ve never had to collect money from a gig before. I’ve been handed money from the manager or band leader. It’s very different, having to organize and think ahead. I never had to plan ahead before. I can plan a holiday. When I look back its like there’s so much to do and plan this. When you release a single there so much to do, but you can do it all yourself and that’s a learning experience. It’s a push a consistent push, and it’s not just this there’s the daily grind of life and a day job you have to stay on top of as well. But it’s all fun. Thats what I was doing today I walked to the record shops, one in the Valley called Face Crawl and Rocking Horse Records and gave them five single hopefully they’ll sell them. But that’s what you do every day or weekend do something to help get the music out there

Munster: German on my mind is the first release from the group a great little 7 inch, what’s the story behind that song?

Adele: that’s funny that. One of my favourite places in the world is Germany. I spent a lot of time there, the Go Between played there a lot and Germany loves Australian bands.  And I spent a lot of time in Berlin just living there. I have a lot of interest in Germany, the politics the history and the craziness of the wars, and the food and of course the beer. So I do have German on my Mind. So that’s how it came. I used to have a German boyfriend, and some family. Karin Baumler, whose Robert’s partner, she came in and did her vocals  so she did the German take. And she’s Bavarian so she has a different kind of German accent. “Why do you have German on your mind your going crazy Adele”. So she’s questioning why I have German on my mind

Munster: you mentioned before you started with covers and you didn’t know you could write your own songs, so when you started writing your own songs did you learn anything having worked with Grant Robert and Dave or was it something you discovered for yourself?

Adele: just to clarify with the rehearsal we didn’t do one song we did a lot of songs but we focused on songs quite a lot individually, we’d play them five-six times. It was quite, the hardest part is playing with these great songwriters, the best songwriters around, and comparing mine to them, I go all my god its shit. So it took a lot of, I didn’t’ have the confidence to think my songs where worthy of putting a band to them. I do a lot of home recording and enjoy that. I have a home studio I like putting stuff down. But I’ve always had, Glenn or someone to do songs together and I do feel like I’m supported. Scott and Ash we met via Triple Z and the first time I met Scott properly was in the practice room. It took me a while to get over that and know I realize these songs are ok even though there’s just three-four chords. And people seem to dig it which gives you a confidence boaster.

Munster: you also played on Roberts 2008 LP the Evangelist, the first release he had done after Grants passing, which featured three McLennan/Forster compositions, what was the vibe like for that recording?

Adele: we used Mark Wallis who worked on Oceans Apart, so we had everyone from those recording sessions  apart from Grant. It was really hard but nice for us as a band, we had some nice times we hung out a lot together. We stayed in a great hotel which used to be a castle where they used to play golf in these golfing rangers, we’d meet under the apple tree. Was a really nice time. We had this area where this guitar and mic was and that was Grants spot so he was always there. It was tough but beautiful. And it comes across on the record those songs you can feel the loss, and it was an honest capturing of the mood which was quite low and the room had beautiful lighting, Grant was definitely with us

Munster: I heard you on Daves show Banana Lounge Broadcasting and you were talking about the art present in Brisbane, is much happening up their culture wise?

Adele: It is really nice but I don’t think its open under Covid. But Brisbane has turned into a nice city. This is my third time. First time was when I was young, second was after Melbourne next time after Sydney. Brisbane has grown up a fair bit. It’s easier to be here. Not maybe because I’m older and happier to be a bit slower.

Munster: I guess with what’s going on its hard to predict what will happen but any future plans right now?

Adele: I think we’re just gonna keep releasing singles to the radio. I don’t know if it’s worth releasing an LP now. Not sure if it’s a waste of time or not. We have music but we can’t play it, that’s the frustrating part. And I find it hard to write. I’m a nurse so there’s been a lot of changes with the covid stuff. Work has been good as it’s kept the mind going but it’s also unsettling. I’m not very, some people have said oh its great I’m writing all these songs and started these projects and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. My place needs a good tidying up and need to do the washing and all that (laughs) I’m not feeling inspired. But we have music up our sleeve so we’re lucky

Munster: and finally do you have a favourite Fall LP?

Adele: oh my god. Ah, I don’t know. Was so funny I was looking at one earlier at the record shops. I do, with the radio show we do on Triple Z we like to play the Fall. He does a song where he shouts I’m not from Bury where I’m from. I’ll go for Totally Wired as that’s my favourite song of theirs. I think Dave Supported him. A bit of a character I’ve seen a few interviews with him. He always seemed the same person all his life. And he had amazing girlfriends (laughs) somehow he did it till the very end

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