Melbourne has long prided itself on being one of, if not the best city in Australia in terms of the variety and availability of live music. So renowned is Melbourne’s live music scene in fact, that in recent years it’s begun to draw comparisons to Austin, Texas – long considered to be America’s mecca of live music. It’s a comparison that Thomas Vecera, the mastermind behind local cinematic folk outfit Broken Splendour, understands, appreciates and supports. After moving to Melbourne from Austin to continue his career as both a solo performer and a member of Broken Splendour, Vecera is eager to compare the two cities.
“I can definitely see the similarities,” says Vecera, reached on the phone after, coincidentally enough, just returning from America. “Melbourne is probably three times bigger than Austin, it really has tons of places to play, there’s cafes, bars and hotels in Austin just like here. It probably seems more saturated than Austin; similar feel, very similar vibe. Grungy, garage rock to roots and everything in between, blues as well. That’s one reason why it wasn’t a real struggle to find places to play. I think Melbourne is a lot more spread out in a good way.”
It’s clear that in talking to Vecera, whose accent now features hints of both Australian and an affable Southern drawl, he doesn’t regret relocating to Australia in the slightest.
“I was in Los Angeles for three years and had a chance through a booking agent to do some solo shows here when I was on a three-month holiday,” he recollects. “I booked a lot of shows; some in the Peninsula, Melbourne and others in the country. Those shows extended my stay every three months so I ended up visiting for a year.”
Vecera became comfortable enough with his surroundings to release two solo albums, Always Going Somewhere and Strange Company. When he met with fellow musicians Damien Ellis (Drums) and Adam Spiegel (Bass) they released their debut On the Bright Side. Now, Vecera and co. have returned with Broken Splendour, an EP that only continues with the band’s momentum. Literate and growing, Broken Splendour is intense with atmosphere. It’s put to Vecera that Broken Splendour is best heard on a pair of headphones, a notion he agrees with.
“What I envisioned is pretty much there,” he says. “We got carried away, not necessarily in a bad way. You’re right, it’s headphone music, there’s a lot going on in those songs. Though it’s all pretty much what I was envisioning: big ideas, interesting sounds. It’s what I like to hear as well.”
“A lot going on” may be something of an understatement, but that fact that Vecera was able to pull in the reigns during the recording process is a triumph. After all, Vecera’s made a name for himself on the strength of the expansive, improvisational nature of his live set.
Broken Splendour stretches, and Vecera insists that while he might not have a hard and fast formula, he had to continually be conscious of his efforts.
“Recording to me is a double-edged sword,” he says. “I’ll love it, then these songs become these big things; I love that aspect of it. Yet on the flip side, at times it can feel a bit sterile, when you’re not playing well, and you kind of have to stick to something to make it a quick track. Some of the songs we did, you have to adhere to a structure, which I’ve become used to and it’s the standard way of doing it. But I do as many solo shows as I can for that reason. Not that I drastically change each song every time. I do love the freedom, sometimes I’ll add a verse. Either on my own or if I’m playing with the bass player, he can follow me. So there’s a love for both ways. It’s the best of both worlds and I love having a band behind me. I also love the freedom of being on my own and screaming a bit. I think songs work well; if you record them, they’re not necessarily finished and you can tweak some things and keep it interesting when playing live.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
BROKEN SPLENDOUR will launch their self-titled EP at The Grace Darling on Saturday November 10.