Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission release Lilac Trees and announce new album

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Mick Thomas’ Roving Commission release Lilac Trees and announce new album

Following a hectic end to 2022 - including a full national tour supporting their Back In the Day EP - Mick Thomas' Roving Commission have today announced that they will release their new album Where Only Memory Can Find You on May 5.

The album is the band’s first for esteemed Brisbane indie Coolin’ By Sound and will be followed by a national tour starting May 8. Simultaneous to the new album, Mick will also be releasing Volume 1 of a graphic novel Away Away, created in partnership with illustrator Angelo Madrid, and which tells the true story which inspired one of Mick’s most famous songs from his Weddings Parties Anything days.

The ball starts rolling with the new single Lilac Trees, which is out today.

Of course, the title track from the Back In the Day EP was effectively also the first single from Where Only Memory Can Find You, so we’ve already had a taste of the new album and the themes that run through it. New single Lilac Trees is not only about memory, but also a song about a song; an old song from the American South that was taught to Mick as a child, and which, upon reflection, is one he now realises he could never sing because of its racist undertone.

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Where Only Memory Can Find You marks the return to the fray of Mick’s former Weddings, Parties, Anything bandmate, violinist Jen Anderson – joining founding WPA accordion player Mark Squeezebox Wally Wallace in the Roving Commission ranks – who oversaw beautiful string arrangements on Lilac Trees and a number of other songs.

Adding to the bolstered female presence is the fact that, by some quirk of fate, six of the nine songs on the album are co-written by Thomas with prominent Australian female singer-songwriters; two tracks with Amy Saunders from ‘90s Indigenous folk trio Tiddas, and one each with Saunders’ bandmate Lou Bennett, Oz country legend Sara Storer, Melbourne veteran Barb Waters, and Brooke Taylor, who also happens to be a recent addition to Mick’s Roving Commission.

Where Only Memory Can Find You takes its name from a line in one of Thomas’s most famous songs, Away Away, which he first recorded with Weddings Parties Anything in 1987, and which is now also the title of Mick’s new graphic novel.

Lilac Trees also ties in with memories and perceptions of the past.

Mick explains: “I played a songwriting workshop as part of a festival alongside Jessie Lloyd who collated the Mission Songs Project. The theme of the workshop was something like Home Songs and the only thing I could think of that was anything like a ‘family song’ for me was one we used to call Lilac Trees.

“I looked online and couldn’t find it, but then I realised the actual title was Stay In Your Own Backyard. It is a song from the American South, and reading through the lyrics I realised they were at best condescending and patronising but no – let’s say it plainly: it’s a racist song.

“It was taught to us by my grandmother who was far from racist herself – in fact she’s probably where a lot of our decent family politics and egalitarianism comes from, a really kind and fair woman. But even for the purpose of historical illustration, it’s a song I could never bring myself to sing. It just has a really bad sentiment to it.

“So Lilac Trees is a song about that song, and about realising something that had been passed down from generation to generation wasn’t what you thought it might have been.”

Stream Lilac Trees here.