Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird on always searching for the answer
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Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird on always searching for the answer

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At last year’s Bigsound, few bands had people as intrigued asCousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird. Part of that is the name, of course – though as frontman Lachlan Rose admits, the eponymous name is really whoever you want him to be – but mostly it was their energised set, and the impression that they were really just up there having fun.

With their album, Electric Brown now out in the world and its bittersweet single ‘Transient’ adding to their story, it seemed a fine time to chat to Rose about life, art, and musical theatre.

“Generally, I take a very long time to write songs, and that’s to try and encapsulate those long feelings that set in,” Rose explains. “Take ‘Transient’ as an example. It’s not necessarily about one person passing away, not one specific moment. It was a several-month period of my life where I was coming to terms with loss in different forms. Slowly I had this idea, not that’s its new, but I felt compelled by where I’d been emotionally sitting, [that] I was in this place for long enough I thought I understood it well enough to turn it into a piece of music. It’s not one specific instance.”

Hearing Rose talk about his writing insights, you learn very quickly that he has thought long and hard about his motivations, and what precisely he hopes his music can achieve. Performance has always been in his blood, but with age has come a greater curiosity of the peculiar magic of the written word.

“I played a lot of music growing up, and I was really into musical theatre and wanted to be an actor. That desire to perform slowly subsided, and I think in my early 20s I fell in love with the idea of writing more. I didn’t necessarily think it was going to be music, I just really appreciated people who made content from scratch. That was the emphasis; it wasn’t performing or being a frontman. I don’t think I am particularly captivating,” he laughs. “I don’t think the essence of our show is what I’m doing between songs. I’m just focused on the music itself. It’s a gradual progression of allowing more and more of my personality to emerge on stage.

While Rose’s writing and composition interests are hardly limited to Cousin Tony alone, his other pursuits do still tend to seep into his music; one style of writing becoming entrenched in its neighbour.

“When I’m not writing Cousin Tony stuff I love scoring films. A lot of influences come from screen composers, but also just thinking in more cinematic ways when I’m writing. ‘Melbourne Bitter’, one of our early songs was a good example of that. I’d walk around Melbourne, and didn’t know specifically what I wanted to write about, I just wanted to score the city, to write something that was melancholic and industrial. That kind of approach is how a lot of songs start for me. Like a film, just trying to sonically capture the essence of a place or a feeling before I start writing anything.”

Though the immediate future will likely remain committed to sustaining the band’s momentum and dreaming of strange new scores (a Cousin Tony musical, however, may be some time away), Rose is happy for their destination to remain unknown; to stay some hazy outline on the edge of the horizon.

“While I was writing the record, you’re constantly trying to offer an answer, offer some sort of wisdom in each song. Especially in a song like ‘Transient’, writing about life and death, or ‘The Fear’, talking about fear and love, I often have these moments thinking, ‘Who the hell am I to be writing about this sort of stuff? Who would want advice from me?’

“You have those moments as an artist and a person. Maybe there is no answer. I’ll probably never figure it out, but that’s kind of the point. It’s about the searching, it’s the question. If people want to listen to me trying to work it out, that’s awesome. But I’ll probably never find an answer. Or if I did find that answer, well, I probably wouldn’t need to write songs anymore. If you found the meaning of life, you probably don’t need to live anymore. It’s all in the pursuit.”