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‘Folk Bitch’ Mindset

26 March 2024

2024 is the year of the Folk Bitch. 

It’s March and Heide Peverelle, Jeanie Pilkington and Gracie Sinclair of Folk Bitch Trio have already performed at Riverboats, WOMAdelaide, Panama Festival and South by South West in Austin, Texas. These shows are a continuation of their 2023 hot streak, which saw the release of the ‘Analogue’ music video and supporting sets for international talents like Alex G. And it’s not over yet. On Saturday, April 13, Folk Bitch Trio will perform at Melbourne Recital Centre’s Primrose Potter Salon.

As I prepared for this interview in November last year, I wondered whether it was appropriate to ask Folk Bitch Trio about their distinctive hair colours. Did they need to gain each other’s permission before dying their hair? Would that even be allowed?

Although these seemed like important questions, I knew they could easily sway from lighthearted to belittling. As the trio is comprised of female and non-binary performers—whose music has been characterised as 'angelic', 'gentle', and 'emotional'—I was wary of asking questions that wouldn’t be asked of their male contemporaries. 

I needn’t have worried, though. Immediately after each band member stated their name for the recording—so that I could determine whose voice is whose when transcribing—Heide asked, 'Do you want the hair colour as well?' The floodgates opened. I soldiered ahead with my burning, if slightly sexist, questions. The general consensus was that they were all unwavering in their fashion tendencies. Gracie lets the unfinished phrase 'if it ain’t broke' hover in the air. 

ANNA STEWART Tell me about the upcoming performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Have you had any comparable gigs before?

GRACIE SINCLAIR It depends on how you want to compare them. I feel like the Salon will be so special in its own right because the setting is so special. The capacity is not necessarily as big as the biggest gigs we’ve done. There’s a beautiful formality to it. An iconic-ness. It’s going to be really special.

JEANIE PILKINGTON I feel like performing in  any venue that has the city in its  name is really hot and professional. 

AS Does that mean that after this one, you’ll be graduating to the Sydney Opera House?

JP Oh yeah. Keep you’re eye out.

AS Do you have anything special planned for the show?

GS We haven’t fully decided, but the treatment of the room makes it one of the only venues that would allow us to do some acoustic stuff.

JP Some unplugged, very intimate stuff. We played a show in Sydney at this place called Phoenix, and it was probably the most similar in terms of being not just a venue but a beautiful artistic space.

HEIDE PEVERELLE I think it was probably my favourite gig.

AS So this was another opportunity to replicate that unplugged performance style?

JP Yeah, to have a set that reflects the beauty of the space.

AS Is leaning into the acoustic side of live performance something you’re looking to do more of?

GS Not necessarily. I think that’s why this is special. I don’t think we’re gonna necessarily try and lean into that. But it’s interesting. Obviously, singing a three-part is a big part of our shtick.

JP It could be argued that it is the shtick.

AS [Laughs]

GS But hearing any acoustic harmony is really powerful. I don’t know if it will all be acoustic and unplugged. 

HP We’ve got a bit of time. So, I think the plan is to just…

GS The plan is ‘intimacy’!

HP Yeah, an intimate set.

AS Put that on the poster! And speaking of, on the MRC website for the gig, there’s a quote about you that reminded me of something from Flight of the Conchords. Have any of you ever seen it?

GS Yes! 'See one of Melbourne's most exciting folk trios.' Immediately, I was reminded of when the Conchords refer to themselves as New Zealand’s fourth-most popular folk-comedy duo.

FBT [Laughs]

GS That’s so funny!

AS So, I wondered, who are the other artists in the scene that someone like me, who’s less acquainted, wouldn’t know?

JP I mean, I don’t want to go on record and say that the Folk Bitch Trio is the only folk bitch trio in Melbourne. But I can't think of any. I would encourage it, though!

HP It’s a mindset.

AS So it’s not about the number of folk bitches in your group?

GS No, if you’re a folk bitch, you’re a Folk Bitch! 

JP Many people have said to us, ‘We’re going to start a folk brio trio’ as a prank. But I think that they should! Enough gags; let’s see what you’ve got!

AS And beyond trios, are there any similar groups? Or is it really just a lot of talk and no action?

HP I think a lot of our friends’s music is pretty similar in it’s folk-indie-rock style. There are a lot of folk indie bands that have definitely influenced us. But I don't know if there’s a particular band that we sound like.

GS Also, in terms of bands with such equal songwriting,. 

AS The even split of songwriting?

GS Yeah.

JP That’s a weird schtick that you don’t see very often. I think we should avoid a Lennon and McCartney breakup situation. But you all seem to be holding it together so far.

JP Early days!

AS [Laughs]. Hopefully you’ll at least make it through your upcoming shows, one of which is supporting Alex G. Was that a meaningful gig to land?

JP We love Alex G! It’s pretty crazy. I don’t even know what to say about that one. We talk a lot about how, with these shows, it’s not really imposter syndrome so much as it’s just so bizarre. Just surreal.  ‘Is it a joke?’

AS So you feel  an element of disbelief but not  unworthiness?

HP There’s some of that!

AS [Laughs]

JP It’s just a funny position to be in. You start a band with your friends and then you end up sharing stages with such amazing artists. We played [laughs] with Julia Jacklin on April 1st last year and we kept joking about how it was gonna be a prank. It happened though! Hopefully this will happen too.

AS Well since you brought her up, Julia Jacklin released her version of The Boys Next Door’s ‘Shivers’, a song you had previously covered.

JP She did. She came for our gig there.

AS Was that a big moment for the band?

GS She sheepishly told us before it came out. 

HP We hung out at the APRA awards and she was like, 'Aw guys, I have something to tell you. I did a ‘Shivers’ cover as well.'

JP We were like, 'Why? That’s okay.' Courtney Barnett did a cover of it, and then we sang with Courtney last year. I think it’s nice. Songs like that are supposed to be heavily covered. We absolutely cannot claim that song. 

AS Well, I’m glad it wasn’t the beginning of some beef between you all.

JP Let the record show, Folk Bitch Trio and Julia Jacklin are on really, really good terms. 

GS Imagine if we were like, 'Yeah, we’re in competition with Julia Jacklin.'

AS [Laughs] I mean, that would be sort of fun.

JP That would be some good drama. Some good clickbait.

AS Another cover of yours that you play with Bones and Jones is ‘This Must Be The Place’ by Talking Heads.

GS I reckon we’ve done it at every show.

JP It’s a crowd-pleaser. It just makes everyone  feel good. I reckon it’s one of the greatest love songs of all time.

GS David Byrne is a genius.

JP Yes, let the record show!

AS The record is going to have so much to show after this.

JP [Laughs]

AS Did any of you see the rerelease of Stop Making Sense?

GS I had tickets to go see it at the [Northcote] Social Club months ago but I couldn’t go on the day! But then one of my friends showed me Stop Making Sense after we did that cover, and it was one of those things where he was like, ‘Just put it on. If you don't like it, we can turn it off.’ We put it on and I was fixated. It blew my mind.

AS I also wanted to ask about the ‘Analogue’ video, which came out this year. You’re wearing chain mail and carrying swords, which are things that don’t have an obvious connection to the song’s lyrics, at least in my shallow reading of them… 

JP No.

GS I mean, you could probably...

HP Of course, you could, but...

GS Because ‘Analogue’ is about not representing yourself very well. If you're dressing up as a knight, you’re putting on a false pretence of being really brave.

JP Yeah, you can read into it. But our music is really earnest and vulnerable. I love that our music videos are really fun and stupid. Its important to have fun and that’s what we were doing.

HP It was a lot of fun.

JP It was tiring, though. It was a lot of exercise, a lot of running around.

GS I danced the whole song through twice or three times. That was enough. 

AS How did the idea of being knights come about?

GS Our friend Carly does set and costume design. It was partly  Jeanie’s idea, but Carly also came to us and showed us some photos of Kate Bush, saying, ‘Do you guys want to do a photoshoot like this?’ And we were like, ‘Say less!’

HP She organised everything.

AS Well, it’s lucky she did. I’ve heard of other performers having to join LARPing groups in order to get access to chainmail.

GS I think Teenage Dads are due to release a video in chainmail as well.

JP Are they? Coming for our gig.

GS Yeah.

AS Now, there’s another quote that I wanted to run by you, but it’s dawning on me that you probably get asked about the name ‘Folk Bitch Trio’ all the time, don’t you?

HP We’ve got a good answer now.

AS Okay, I’m going to get a stock answer?

GS It won’t necessarily be new or fresh.

AS Understood. Well, Rolling Stone once wrote , ‘There’s just something so delightfully unexpected about a group whose music is resplendent in such gorgeous harmonies and confessional songwriting having such a prickly name.’ 

HP Yeah, I like that!

AS Jeanie, I’m sensing that you feel differently…

JP Well, firstly, I love Rolling Stone and of course it is prickly and a lot of people do have that takeaway. But I think Boygenius said  it quite well, ‘Always an angel, never a god.’ Its sort of like, Oh, they’re angels, singing so beautifully, yet they  have this harsh punk name.’. And personally, I’ve never felt the juxtaposition that strongly.

GS Maybe our music is the same, with three-part harmony and guitar, but a lot of the subject matter is quite dark.

HP Quite 'prickly'.

GS I don’t mind that quote.

AS The name is undeniably prickly. 'Bitch' is not a word that everyone is comfortable using. But when I hear it, I think about ‘Folk Bitch’ in a self-deprecating way.

GS Yeah, that was the joke! But then Heids and I spoke about it, and your mum spoke about how we should stop saying that it’s a joke.

HP, I said that!

GS Well, we came to the conclusion that it was a joke!

HP That's a safe guard.

AS What do you mean by ‘safeguard’?

GS We’re poking fun at ourselves.

HP So that no one else can.

GS Yeah, we’ve already beaten them to it. Especially because we started when we were 17. None of our other friends had started bands. 

AS Right, so it felt like a vulnerable thing to do and the prickly name became a means of self-protection?

JP Yeah!

HP Can I show Anna the text?

GS Yeah

AS I am so excited for whatever this is about!

GS This is the reason for the name.

HP Jeanie texted me in July of 2019. We were in Year 12. ‘Folk Britch Trio. You, me, Gracie. Beautiful harmonies with drums and bass. Write songs together and bring our own happy medium between Gillian Welch-country heartbreak and Julia Jacklin-major 7th inner-city Melbourne. What do you say?’

AS What a proposal!

HP My response is so cringe. I say, ‘Oh me oh my, look at my friend Jeanie. Yes sir to that Trio.' Then you were like, 'Awesome, can’t wait. Gracie’s in. My mum is organising ‘emerging artists’ gigs. If we have a set by September, we would have a gig.'

GS But we ended up playing on December 17, so we must not have got that set together in time.

AS But look how far you’ve come! Do you have any releases coming up?

HP We’ve been in the studio recording, which has been really fun. Definitely a different vibe from  our other stuff.

JP More developed.

HP We recorded that stuff with Bones and Jones a couple of years ago.  We recorded our other singles when we were 18 or 19. So, I feel like it is a lot more developed and more aligned with what we want to be making.

AS Well, that should give people plenty of reasons to buy tickets to your shows.

HP Yeah, that’s the plan.

Folk Bitch Trio are performing at Melbourne Recital Centre's Primrose Potter Salon Saturday April 13, 2024.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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