The Victoria Star Cruiseship is set to burst with a lineup of some of Melbourne’s best and most ambitious indie bands, selected by Riley for their combination of talent and determination. “I tried to pick bands for the event that I know bust their balls in the management side of things, and in the business sense,” she explains. “They’re awesome bands as well in their own right, playing live.” The bill comprises local legends Cooper Street, who made a solid impact on Melbourne’s live scene last year with their clever blend of pop, rock and punk; Scaramouche, the fuzzy-haired jokers who aren’t afraid of wailing vocals or guitars within their opulent tracks; The Naysayers, three lads creating sweet, suave harmonies to complement their jangly guitar rock, and who’ve earned themselves a quick and loyal following in the last 12 months; She Said You, the excellent four-piece originally from Adelaide whose fantastic vocalist Greg Horan injects a rasp of heartache into the band’s melodic but still drum-heavy poprock; and Tequila Mockingbyrd, composed of Riley, Estelle Artois on lead vocals and guitar, and Josie O’Toole behind the kit.
With such a clearly energised squad ready to sink their teeth into the Victoria Star’s deck, one might wonder what sort of person would agree to captaining the floating mini-fest. The answer is, a French one. “He’s hilarious,” Riley giggles. “He was like, ‘Oh, you want bands?’, and was pretty cautious about it at first. They normally [host] dance, DJ stuff, corporate functions, wedding receptions. But we were like ‘No, no, it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be great.’”
Riley’s band have had a tremulous few years, beginning as Mannequin Alley in 2010 and playing a few shows before going their separate ways due to disparate commitments. “But we got back together in September, and that’s when we became Tequila Mockingbyrd,” Riley explains. “We’ve kind of brought back the old setlist, and we’ve added new songs, and we just thought ‘Fuck it, gung-ho!’” Artois’ voice packs a powerful biff and she also has excellent range, being unafraid to sing in lower registers, which sounds incredible when it is truly part of a female’s vocal sweep. Riley agrees, and adds: “She has a very defined speaking voice. She’s just one of these fucking cool chicks that you can’t actually…” she pauses to ponder. “She stinks of talent, it makes me sick. Me and Josie, it makes us sick. We’ll play her a little basic riff, and instantly she makes it sound so ballsy. I don’t know what it is, but she just does it. And we’re like, great. You are out the front,” she laughs. Artois has been coaching the other two on their harmonies, and the “vocal Sundays, where [they] gather ‘round the piano” have resulted in a new layer to the girls’ purposeful punk sound.
The spirit of interaction between the acts performing at Ship Rock’d and the crowd is something which the event aims to encourage. “There’s no worry about who’s opening, or who’s headlining,” Riley says. “Everyone’s seeing everyone!” There’s also a big bash planned post-cruise, at everyone’s favourite rock‘n’roll bar, Cherry. “We’re going to have a raffle; I’m getting some music gear and CDs to give away. It’s basically an opportunity for the hands to hang with people: for everyone to get smashed and hang out afterwards, and [give] a big ‘hoorah’ to the bands for performing. Everyone’s been chipping in and we’ve all been sharing the promotion and stuff. It’s a real, indie, ‘all for one, one for all’ thing, which is awesome! They’re such good bands,” she concludes warmly.
There will be plenty more well-put-together events to come from Riley in 2013, as the music business graduate plans to spend more time organising shows for some of Ship Rock’d’s performers and others. And I’m pretty sure she knows what the people want. “You know those big face cut-out things, at carnivals? Where there’s a giant mermaid and a giant pirate, and you put your face in?” Yes. I bloody love those things. “We’re doing a bit of stuff like that,” she says serenely. “It will be cool to check out.”
BY ZOË RADAS