MEET: Luke Yeoward of Half Way Records
A white picket-fenced, red-bricked suburban dream is the unlikely setting of one of our favourite videos doing the rounds right now. The Half Way Sessions featuring Press Club, sprung forth from the fertile lawns of Pascoe Vale in Melbourne’s North. Specifically, from Pascoe Vale resident and all round legend, Luke Yeoward.
The former King Cannons frontman, now solo artist and force behind label/analog recording service Half Way Records, has kickstarted the live recorded series with the filmic chops of Agostino Soldati. An honest, stripped-back performance, recorded straight to tape in Yeoward’s living room, complete with cameos from a roaming toddler. A perfectly rough-hewn 12 minutes of video, guided by nothing more than, ‘this would be fucking rad thing to do’.
We chatted to Yeoward about what he’s got going on…
How’s your day going?
We’re just mixing some music and running some errands.
We’ve been really loving the Half Way Sessions of Press Club.
Awesome! Yeah how good that turn out?
So good. How did it first come about, the project?
I think I was just thinking of different cool things to do. Pretty much. And wanted to do something that could showcase other artists in a really raw and stripped back manner. Because I just got sick of seeing all these other sort of, either online sessions or stuff on television or video clips and hearing audio that had this big shiny facade over it in terms of the way it sounded and the way that the artists were represented visually. You know what people do on social media and things like that. It was kind of just something that I wanted to do a) to be able to re-credit and show an artist in a certain light and with a certain sound in an environment they wouldn’t necessarily usually be in or be seen in - like my lounge room - and I dunno, I thought it’d a cool way to launch that in conjunction with the label and me doing more work as a producer and engineer and all of that kind of stuff.
It’s such a nice - the word ‘content’ is really overused - but…
No, no but that’s the word for it isn’t it? I wasn’t really thinking ‘this will be great content’ and thinking too in-depth about how that all works. More just like, I just think ‘this would be fucking rad thing to do’ and to be able to see artists recording live to tape in weird places, that just seems rad to me because then the focus becomes on their performance and their personality. And then you can really see the actual process and have it be quite realistic and not over-edited and over-produced and things like that.
Yeah it’s so nice and raw and lived-in I guess…because it’s at your home!
Yeah totally. And the future sessions are going to be in some other interesting places as well, you know some might be in the new studio, some might be someone’s garage, some will be more elaborate than others, it’s just case-by-case, do what’s right for the band and for the artist, take it as it comes. They won’t all be in my lounge room!
So that set-up, that mixing desk and everything, that looks really permanent. Is that where you’re running the label out of?
Well that was what I had been doing for the last year-and-a-half, was running everything out of my home. So we’d bring people in and, like in the video, turn the lounge room in to a studio and this little tiny backroom into a control room. And that’s where it all started, that’s why I thought it would be great for episode 1 while that stuff’s all still there to be able to showcase how we did it there. But now all of that equipment is in my new studio and base camp of the label, down in South Yarra (in Melbourne) so the next couple of studio sessions that we film will be in there, then we might do something where we take a two track tape machine out to location and do like a two mic recording or something. Do something really old school. I guess you’ve got to wait and see what we come up with.
If only you weren’t Melbourne-based, you could come and do it at the brewery!
Oh totally. Well you never know. Like if they let me on an aeroplane carrying a tape machine we could come up to Sydney and do it at the brewery, that’d be dope.
How do you go with the neighbours at your place?
Yeah they’re sweet. They’re great, I mean we’re not really making too much music out of the house now. But they were great, one was a guitarist on one side and the other was a pianist. So I was just like look between office hours you may hear some music coming from the house and they’re fine from it.
And do you have an act booked in for the next one?
Potentially lined up, we’re just locking in the dates now. But I don’t really want to say who because it could be a bit of a surprise.
It seems like you’ve had a bit of upheaval in the last few years with moving back to NZ then returning to Melbourne. Are you feeling a bit more settled now?
Yeah tell me about it, it’s nuts. Because I kind of got to the end of my tether with music for a little bit for the first time ever. I’d never really taken a step back from it. Then a few years ago I was just like I’m just gonna put the breaks in for a bit. I’m just gonna step out of the picture for a little bit and recalibrate. But then my wife got pregnant and we decided to move back to New Zealand to be closer to family, so when we decided that that wasn’t the vibe either and we moved back to Melbourne and I think it was after the move back here, going through that whirlwind of shaking things up and wondering what the fuck we were going to do, I thought I should probably use what I’ve got here and I guess I just got passionate about music again and I sort of needed it. You know, it starts with a little jam and then nek [sic] minute you’re in a band, nek minute you’re making a record and then fuckin’ a year later you’re making a studio. Holy shit! It’s been a bit of an all-in or all-out kinda thing. It’s exciting you know.
It sounds really stressful too.
Yeah but that’s grown-up life, it’s just about trying to manage it and trying to do rad stuff. The alternative is for nothing to happen and you just sit there idle and you might just work a job and just do the basics. Some people can do that and I’m down with whatever you wanna do, but I’m not wired that way. Might as well just keep trying til I die, you know.
Yeah well you gotta take the risks to get the rewards…
Yeah totally. And in some ways taking the risk is the reward…you’ve got to enjoy the process. If you’re not enjoying the process of the grind then that’s a bad move as well. So I guess you try and work in the fields that tick both those boxes.
There’s something I read in your bio that I wanted to ask you about where you said, “Becoming a father solidified the importance of music”. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Well if you’ve ever turned on a song and watched the way, if it’s a song that resonates with a small child. Especially one of your own, if you’ve seen the way they react and start moving and clapping and dancing around completely uninstructed and unprompted and uneducated. That should be enough of a reason for anyone with half a musical bone in their body to be able to want to have more music in their life. Because if you think about that - and I think about when I was a kid - being in my socks and dancing to Michael Jackson in the kitchen and I was like 4 or 5 years old and thinking that was the coolest thing in the world. You know, music’s super important and somewhere along the line as people get older and people get more intellectual and less instinctual then all of a sudden those sorts of simple, beautiful things start to phase out. When I saw the way my daughter was reacting to music, me playing or playing something like a record in the lounge, it’s just like music is pretty magical and pretty special and pretty important.
And [your kids are] developing excellent taste in music or are you still up against The Wiggles?
Yeah I think I’m always going to be up against Frozen and The Wiggles and all that sort of stuff but that’s cool they’ve got to find what they like. You can’t just be a music Nazi with them.
And how are you finding the solo life?
In terms of being an artist out on my own? I like it, it’s good. There are pros and cons to it, you know when you’re making records as a solo artist you’ve got a lot of freedom in one way but then you can also create a new set of restrictions. If you’re making records with other people in a band then it’s a different sort of energy, and I think if you’ve got the right sort of chemical the you can create a pretty unique and special energy that you can’t create by yourself. I try and do both and balance both, my solo stuff then with my other band, 131s. Just try and juggle it so I don’t get bored of either process, either way of doing things.
And what’s next - is it all about setting up the studio at the moment? Is that your next big kind of focus?
Because the kids are so young I can’t really justify going on tour, at the moment it’s just not really fair. One thing I can do is put a lot of the creative energy into music production and to helping out artists with the label side of things and using whatever skills I’ve obtained over the last few years and then I can always bring in what I do in terms of recording and writing and performing and making records and stuff at any point, like that’s not going anywhere. But at the moment I’m very much focused around building Half Way Records and building a bit of a community around that and making that a real staple pinnacle in the Melbourne and global music community.
And what was the first gig you ever went to?
I think the first real gig that I went to, I was 13 and it was in New Zealand and we drove from Rotorua to Auckland, which is about like a three-and-a-half-hour drive and went and saw a punk band from Sweden called Millencolin at a venue called the Powerstation. I remember thinking that was pretty cool back then but we were just all in to skate punk and riding skateboards and drinking beers and just being scallywags really. We thought that was pretty cool at the time, I probably lose cool points because it’s not like Bob Dylan or something.
And the last gig you went to? Maybe you can redeem your cool points…
Last gig that I went to, I went and saw Press Club play at the Reverence Hotel’s birthday party, that was cool. I thought it was cool! There was a bunch of other people on the bill but they by far smoked everybody.