in conversation... Fraser A. Gorman
The sky is turning dark as I arrive in Hackney. Either side of the road are independent shops and cafes with the bristling London traffic edging its way in between. I take a turn off Hackney Road and make my way down a small passageway, not much wider than my shoulders. At the end of the passageway is the Sebright Arms, a gem of a pub in the heart of London. The only downside is that it wasn’t yet open. It wasn’t long before a head topped with curls popped out from around the corner and a thick Melbourne accent says “Hello”. Fraser A. Gorman had just arrived at the venue and was also waiting, alongside his two band mates, for the pub to let them in. After a few moments of hassling around, Gorman and I head into the bar where the staff are cleaning up. “It’s probably quiet round the corner mate,” so we walk to the dark corner of the Sebright Arms and have a seat. Gorman takes a moment to examine the walls which are lined with different illustrations in old and battered frames before stopping and pointing at a picture of the Pearly Kings and Queens. “Who are they?” he asks me. Truthfully, I don’t really know the answer. All I knew was that they were the Pearly Kings and Queens and told him, in hope he wouldn’t try and ask me more questions about them. “They remind me of Jack White when he went through that period of pearls and that.” It’s no secret that the 23-year-old singer-songwriter knows his facts when it comes to musical knowledge, especially American music. “I don’t know where it comes from,” Fraser tells me whilst trying to dig back to the origins of his love for rock and roll. “I guess I listened to a lot of it when I was a kid.” He reflects to the times in which himself and his friends, whom now are in King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, used to hang out at home playing PS2 and listening to their brother’s music collection. “He’d play The Doors, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Dylan whilst we were playing and it kind of washed through my mind.” Gorman thinks back to when him and Stu Mackenzie from King Gizzard were in a band together. When asked why they never continued the band, Gorman smiles and says “I guess they wanted to play rock and roll more and I wanted to take the singer-songwriter approach.” Fraser and I take this time to go off track and talk about Bob Dylan, an artist that Fraser has loved for a long time. “I love Dylan… I’d be lying if I said he isn’t my favourite artist.” It’s the song-writing that Gorman finds so gripping about Dylan. “I like what most people love about him… his lyrical depth and the way he can just like, fuck with people.”
The bar behind begins to get their first customers for the evening. An elderly man sits a few chairs away with a pint and flicks through some pages of a newspaper. I can’t help but wonder what hewould find of Fraser’s music. Fraser has released his debut record, Slow Gum, this year and it’s the kind of record that anyone and everyone can take a little piece from. It’s a melodic ode to folk with the essence of rock and roll hidden somewhere under the cover. “It feels good to have it out… I remember when it came out all I felt was thank fuck!” The reason why Gorman felt such relief was because of how long it took for the record to come out, which influenced the record’s title. From the public eye you would have no idea how long Fraser took to release the album but he talks about how to his family and friends it felt like ages and he laughs as he quotes them, “man, you’re taking so long”. Fraser explains how now he feels like he is an artist and finds it easier to identify as one. “I was trying to find the right position to be in before I put it out so people would actually give a fuck… and it was also putting together pieces of the puzzle, like signing to an actual management company and putting together a touring band which is logistically hard to do which is something not many people think about.” I ask Fraser if, despite it taking so long, he learnt a lot from the process and he sits up in his chair nodding, “oh yeah, I learnt heaps! You learn a lot of things about time, money and people and how you need to deal with everything. The process of making art is not always as simple or easy as it seems.” It’s obvious that it was a positive experience for the musician and now he’s excited to get back in the studio to do the second record, which he hopes to have done by the middle of next year. If there was one single thing that Fraser learnt from recording the debut album it would be how to be efficient with time. “You learn how to do things by making every mistake you possibly can.”
Fraser A. Gorman is a long way from home. “It feels good,” Fraser tells me with a smile on his face. He comes across as a man who was born to travel, him and his guitar, and it’s what he enjoys doing… as long as he has a plan. “I like touring a lot because, I’ve never been like, oh my god I want to go backpacking around Europe, because I’ve never been aimless… I like having things to do as I go around.” His music somewhat represents travel. The rhythmic guitars and honest vocals are perfect to listen to when you’re staring out a bus window. His home in Melbourne where he also grew uphas left an impact on Gorman. “My home definitely influences my music. People say my music has this old time Americana style to it, which I guess it does the first time you hear it, but lyrically it’s very Melbourne-centric. All the stories are set there and it’s where my music is based.”
Melbourne is also home to the record label Gorman is on which is founded by pal and fellow Melbourner Courtney Barnett. Milk! Records is an indie artist led label which most certainly has its perks over major labels. “Courtney first asked me to join Milk! before she had even taken off… She was working in a bar and playing shows in other bars so we kind of became friends in a really organic way.” Gorman thinks back to those days when they would support each other at different gigs in the city. Last year Gorman and Barnett toured the UK together and played a string of sold out shows across the country. “Courtney went into Milk! without really knowing anything which is something a lot of people found refreshing.” As artists on Milk! Records grow the label also grows, creating a great community within the label, a positive difference from the dooming and soullessness of major labels, which for Gorman feels like they’re tying to “kill you”.
Fraser is on a fast track forward in the music industry whether him and his chicken realise that or not. You will know what chicken I mean if you’ve watched pretty much any of his music videos. “That’s just my chicken,” Fraser tells me as he laughs. “It just lives in my back yard… We’ve got five of them but that one that’s in all the videos is just the first one I got. She’s very loyal and cool. You don’t really need to prompt them to do funny shit… They just do it.” We continue to chat about various animals and how ridiculous goats look when they are chewing. Who needs Bradley Cooper when you’ve got so many goats?
Gorman’s music is blossoming and with such a great debut record out it’s exciting to think what may be on its way. He is a breath of fresh air, bringing the singer-songwriter niche back to its core, maybe something that should have never changed. He’s as honest as his music and following him into the basement where he picks up his Fender to sound check he has a smile on his face and humming what I imagine to be a Bob Dylan song. Fraser is a taste of the ever growing Australian scene and his positivity is something that will infect anyone he meets.
All photos copyright to the author. Do not use without permission.