Video Premiere: Meet Grove, Ballarat’s most unintentionally inspiring band

Video Premiere: Meet Grove, Ballarat’s most unintentionally inspiring band

Be Hear Now

Some bands don't exist to be popular, successful, or even particularly good at what they do.

Sometimes, a group comes along that challenges the idea of what a band should be, and in the process, tap into the true meaning of what music’s really about.

Grove, a rather anonymous band from Ballarat, would undoubtedly baulk at the grandeur of that introduction.

But when we sat down with their vocalist, Abby, in an interview that we never would have had the pleasure of, were it not for the Be_Hear / Now series promoting local artists, there was something inspirational about the way they describe their love for what they do.

“This is going to be a funny interview,” Abby laughs. “It’s all ‘We don’t know what we’re doing.'”

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They’re explaining how Grove came about, and it sounds as jambled as it probably was. Some members kinda knew each other at school, others were thrown together in a loungeroom at their first rehearsal (“Okay, you’ll all be friends now”) but the overriding message is positive: some know what they’re doing and others don’t, but they’re all going to grow at the same pace together.

“I played in a couple of bands before and I realised I disliked playing music to be really good at music,” Abby explains. “I just want to play music with my friends, and Grove came about like that.

“Nothing expected, just remaining really calm, playing with friends in a loungeroom, everyone comes into the project with their own capacity.

“Josh, our bassist, is the only one who really knows what they’re doing. Ruby and I just put our fingers on instruments until something sounds good.

“Keith played drums in high-school but hadn’t picked them up for awhile, so I was like ‘Well, you sound like the perfect drummer if you don’t know what you’re doing’. We’re just working it out together.”

The band are generally described as folk rock or trans rock, with both Abby and Ruby identifying as trans. Their gentle, lackadaisical sound stems from “not knowing how to do anything else” but its soft simplicity has a raw beauty to it.

“As tempting as the Melbourne punk scene is, I don’t think I could ever be a rock’n’roll babe, so folk rock it is,” Abby continues. “Low energy, relaxed. We might not play any fun festivals that are all very rock and roll, but it’s about enjoying the practice of sitting in a room together, playing music.”

While they don’t take their music too seriously, they are quite serious about their responsibility as an “all white band” to give back to their community. Two years ago, the band donated the entirety of their collective savings from gigs to the First Nations Fire Relief fund.

It’s one example of a series of social justice issues the band campaigns around. “We have to do something,” they say. “I see a lot of big bands are just arseholes and they get all this credit for doing the bare minimum. I feel like giving back is an obligation in this day and age.”

Still, Grove are in Be_Hear / Now for a reason.

They would have released their debut album already, were it not for COVID restrictions (two members live in Melbourne, two in Ballarat). They’re a constant presence on the Ballarat gig circuit when able, and have been recording tracks in their own style.

“We recorded two songs at Campbell’s Creek in a beautiful analogue studio, this beautiful bush escape,” Abby continues. “When you get into the hustle and bustle of recording and releasing an album and having a social media presence, it can all get a bit much.

“We laid around drinking cups of coffee and playing music. It was a beautiful, really grounding experience.”

The band showcase one of those tracks, ‘All In Due Time’, on Be_Hear / Now’s second performance in the series, shot in the beautifully tranquil backdrop of Cokes Reserve, where giant trees and vibrant grasslands abound.

“‘All In Due Time’, to be honest, there’s not much to it,” they continue. “Alex said he interprets it as missing friends from the city. Half of us are based in Melbourne, half in Ballarat. It’s a longing to be connected with each other again.”

It’s very unlikely that a band like Grove would receive support from programs like Be_Hear / Now in Melbourne; there are simply too many harder working, highly-talented and incredibly ambitious groups, all deserving of the meagre opportunities on offer.

But the diversity of the music scene thrives on having all shapes and sizes, with Grove’s unique perspective providing a refreshing take on Victoria’s approach towards the arts. Grove are now looking towards an era of new possibilities, which they’ll pursue at their own pace, as Ballarat’s buoyant community springs back into life post-COVID.

Abby says it’s Ballarat’s small town mentality – where everyone knows each other, and therefore supports each other – that has sustained the regional city’s bands for so long.

“Everyone supports each other. I went down to Play On Victoria last weekend and it was just awesome, really cool to see things opening up again. It was epic to see the support people were giving each other,” they say.

“I just want people to make music and go out and support it. I don’t care if people are making rubbish or good music, I just want people to support the little ideas that are being made. Buy a beer from your favourite pub, support a band you’ve never heard of, take a bet on a ticket and hope it doesn’t get rescheduled for two years. Start making things and connecting with people.

“The music industry will thrive regardless. Through alternative streaming, DIY festivals, regional tours or gigs in people’s houses. People will find a way.

“We’re hoping, either late this year or early 2022, we’ll release some music. Otherwise, come into Ballarat and say ‘Hi’ and I’ll sing you a song.”

Follow Grove on Instagram here, or on Facebook here. Otherwise, check out Be_Hear / Now’s full program here.