Interview: Little Bastard
By Jake Ausburn - Photography MR OWL.
I met three members of Sydney’s favourite bluegrass-grunge band Little Bastard at the Young Henry’s brewery in Newtown. A motley bunch, Matty, Johnny and Ross rolled in one by one, each rolling thin cigarettes. Each of them offered to buy me a beer. Top blokes.
It was fitting that there were big boots, big jackets, a beer garden and durries a-plenty that afternoon. We were there to chat about Young Henry’s Small World, a celebration of Inner West vibes curated by the Newtown brewers themselves.
After we got the introductions and a few beers out of the way, I asked Little Bastard what it was about the Inner West that made it such a creative hub.
Matty: There are heaps of bands around here at the moment, and we’re all sort of pushing each other and motivating each other to just keep going at it.
Ross: It’s just a great crew and good times, too. If there is competition, it’s in a real positive way. Like, “Oh, those guys just did that – we should step it up!” as opposed to “Fuck those guys, they did better than us.”
Johnny: Everyone plays in each other’s bands, as well. It’s so fucking incestuous, it’s crazy.
Ross: And Newtown especially has heaps of live music, so we all just play two or three gigs a week.
Johnny: Yeah, definitely. In the last year, live music has gotten so much better. All of a sudden there’s Corridor, Miss Peaches, blacksheep, The Bank, The Vic, The Union, The Toxteth – so many places are just doing live music and for a lot of us, that’s become our job.
Aside from the burgeoning live music scene, there’s an unmistakeable character to the Inner West. I asked the guys what they thought was behind it.
Johnny: Everyone’s pretty down to earth in the Inner West, I reckon. One thing you realise about the Inner West – and Newtown especially - is that lots of the people who live there didn’t grow up there.
If you were to grow up, say, in the Eastern suburbs, and all your mates are surfies. If that’s not your thing people call you a fucking emo, so you sort of go ‘Hey, maybe this isn’t the best place for me to hang out – I can go fifteen minutes that way and there are a group of more like-minded people.’
Like, I grew up in Abbotsford and when I moved to Newtown I met Ross, and before that I hadn’t really met anyone who’d given Bluegrass or Americana a chance, you know? It’s unique.
When I left school and started playing in Underlights, Matt Rule who ruled The Annandale Hotel was our manager, so that was a place that I met lots of people from the Inner West.
The boys took a moment to reminisce about the good ol’ days.
Johnny: Man, once The Annandale shut down, people weren’t hanging out there doing those crazy 5am lock-ins. I miss that shit.
Ross: They used to close at midnight, then locked the doors with probably 60 or 70 of us in there, and we’d just party all night – people would be pumping tunes, smoking everywhere. That place had the stickiest floor in Sydney.
A fondness for outrageous nights out has certainly helped to shape the feverish sound of Little Bastard’s live show.
Johnny: We don’t really rehearse. I think we’ve rehearsed three times in two and a half years, because there’s always someone that doesn’t show up. The only time we’re all together is when we’re on stage.
Matty: It’s also the kind of music that sounds cooler if it’s a bit under-rehearsed.
Johnny: It’s kind of like when the Stones get so wasted, and it didn’t matter if it was loose, or the harmony was a bit off. It was just the style of the music.
Ross: We’re not comparing ourselves to The Rolling Stones, obviously.
Johnny: But as opposed to a traditional bluegrass band which is so precise – like, bam, bam, bam, this is the song, this is the solo, this is the melody, this has to be perfect – we’re not like that at all, and the moment we start doing that, we’d just be a boring traditional bluegrass group. It’s more of a jam, a good bit looser than that.
Expect that same looseness from Little Bastard when they play at Small World – especially when, in the words of Johnny, they get clash with a certain group of Melbourne rockers.
Johnny: “We’re going to blow The Delta Riggs off of the fucking stage! Nah, we’ve met those dudes a few times around the traps – they’re really good dudes, really nice guys. We’ll still start a beef, though.”
A celebration of the Inner West’s music, art and food, Young Henry’s inaugural Small World festival promises to be a cracker of a day. On the music front, the day will feature live sets from Tumbleweed, Snowdroppers, The Delta Riggs, True Vibenation, Steve Smyth, Pat Cappoci, Richard in Your Mind, Bloods, The Upskirts, Royal Tennyson and, of course, Little Bastard. Eats will be provided by pop-up stalls run by Mary’s, Bloodwood, Cornersmith and Porteño, and you’ll be able to check out street art from the infamous Apeseven, Grizzle, Mulga, and a whole bunch more. All these goodies will be crammed into a block party on a closed-off street in Marrickville. If you’re a local, or an Inner West-y at heart, you’d better get amongst it.