Wally Kempton is stuck in traffic, and it’s annoying him. “I’m on the Westgate Freeway, on way to Torquay with Money For Rope,” Kempton says. “I can’t fucking believe this traffic! What the fuck is going on here?” Kempton is scheduled to speak about Even’s appearance at this week’s Sacred Heart Mission fundraiser, the Heart of St Kilda. While avowedly not a spiritual person in the evangelical sense of the term, Kempton is full of praise for the work of Sacred Heart Mission.
“They help people who need help, and they do a great job, so that’s why we should support them to do what they’re doing,” Kempton says. “It’s just a pity they can’t help with this fucking traffic.”
This week’s Heart of St Kilda event marks the sixth year that Even have performed at the event. “It’s always a joyous and festive atmosphere when we play at the gig,” Kempton says. Kempton has many highlights over the band’s time at the Heart of St Kilda gig, most notably when Rebecca Barnard, also a regular performer at the event, took a fall during her appearance on stage. “She said the heel on her boot gave way, and she just rolled backwards,” Kempton recalls. “She was playing guitar at the time – it was very Spinal Tap. But she didn’t stop playing at all. So that was definitely a highlight.”
There have been genuine musical highlights, too, such as when Even had the opportunity, as the house band for the show, to back legendary Australian ‘60s pop singer Normie Rowe. “I also got to play The Real Thing with Russell Morris, but only in soundcheck, because his bass player was running late. That was a real hoot.”
And then there was the memorable time when Even provided the soundtrack for former Sherbet lead singer Daryl Braitwaite’s rendition of the classic Australian hit, Howzat!
“Being that guy who plays the opening bass line to Sherbet’s Howzat! with Daryl Braithwaite was fantastic,” Kempton says. Sadly, Kempton and his bandmates eschewed the opportunity to recreate the full satin and bare chest aesthetic of Sherbet of yore. “I don’t quite have the same physique as (Sherbet bass player) Tony Mitchell,” Kempton says dryly. “I thought that wasn’t really necessary to do – we’re there for happy times. People don’t need to see my torso when I’m playing.”
In addition to Even and Rebecca Barnard, this year’s Heart of St Kilda gig will feature performances by musical artists Henry Wagons, Lisa Miller, Saskwatch, former Ferrets lead singer Billy Miller and Kate Ceberano, as well as comedians Dave Callan, Hannah Gadsby, Rachel Berger and Russell Gilbert.
“It’s a cast of thousands, just like other events. I’m very excited about playing with Kate Ceberano, because Kate’s one of the sexiest women I’ve ever seen in my life,” Kempton gushes.
Kempton has played with Miller at previous Heart of St Kilda shows, but sadly has never had the opportunity to back Miller on a rendition of a track from Jesus Christ Superstar (in which Miller featured many years ago). “Billy’s there every year – he’s a fixture of the event,” Kempton says. “We’ve had plenty of chances to do Jesus Christ Superstar, burning around the corner in my Yamaha, but I don’t think it’ll ever happen.”
Another band playing at this year’s Heart of St Kilda show is Wishful, a young trio from St Kilda, described in promotional material as “performing their own indie folk style with edgy pop melodies”. Kempton hasn’t seen them play, but is always keen to see any new young band. “Isn’t that what’s all over triple j at the moment – edgy pop melodies?” Kempton asks rhetorically. “They’re bound to be huge playing that type of music. I’ve never heard Wishful, but I wish them all the best. Just like I wish for there to be a full house at the Sacred Heart Mission show. They normally get about a thousand every year, which is the biggest show Even plays every year.”
While still a much-loved staple of the Melbourne music scene, the band members’ competing commitments – lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Ash Naylor remains one of the country’s most in-demand musicians, while Kempton’s musical interests include managing Money for Rope, Tumbleweed and Minibikes – mean that opportunities to see the band play live come few and far between. Apart from the upcoming launch for the Even best-of compilation, Even First XVIII, at Ding Dong Lounge on May 25, Kempton says the trio doesn’t have a busy band schedule.
“We’ve got sweet fuck all planned for this year,” Kempton says. “Ash’s brother is trying put Ash’s solo records are released on vinyl, so we’ve had fuck all time. We haven’t even started work on album number seven – lucky seven – but I know that Ash has got some songs in the can, in the armory, trying to burst out, so I imagine we’ll get together soon and start playing them. Although rehearsal is a dirty word with Even.”
BY PATRICK EMERY
EVEN play the Sacred Heart Mission’s Heart of St Kilda Concert at The Palais Theatre on Tuesday May 14 along with Rebecca Bernard, Henry Wagons, Wishful, Lisa Miller and more.