MEET: Matt Rule of King Street Crawl
Matt Rule, King Street Crawl 2015. Photo by Colin Lucas Photography.
Matt and his brother Dan Rule are the Music and Booze Company. Before they were the Music and Booze Co. they were the Annandale Hotel. For over a decade they fought tooth and nail to keep the ‘Dale alive with the sound of music. As is becoming a well-worn Sydney tale, they lost in the end and handed the keys to the pub over to the bank (not before a final knees-up, but more on that later). These days through the MBC they work with a bunch of different venues (including our pals at The Botany View and the recently re-invigorated Lansdowne) on their music program, along with festivals such as Fairgrounds and of course King Street Crawl. Which just happens to take place this Sunday 10th September!
How did King Street Crawl first come about?
It’s been an idea that I’ve had for quite a while. It was inspired originally by a visit to South by Southwest music festival in Austin, I went there years ago just as a punter. I ended up discovering a bunch of bands by just walking around and trying different things. When you’re over there you can buy a wristband as a punter and it’s a bit of a 'first in, best dressed' scenario, so all the well-know artists playing in small venues tend to pack out very quickly. So you’re naturally forced to wander, to go from venue to venue, just find space which you can get into and I just absolutely love that. And from there I remember that’s the first time I saw a band called The Bronx in a little space there and I’ve been a fan of them ever since. And I just saw these amazing artists - even back then, Australian artists who were big back home, no one knew about over there. I remember walking in to this one small, tiny bar which fit about 100 people, there was Powderfinger, Jon Butler, End of Fashion who were big in Australia at that time… were all playing this line-up.
So I was just thinking I’d love to do something like that, you know, we love the Inner West. We’ve been involved with the Inner West for the last 17 years or thereabouts. I feel like that’s the most natural space that something like that could be done. We don’t want to be like South by Southwest but that was the original inspiration, so that’s where the idea came from.
Yeah you do have so much potential for discovery. I haven’t been to South By Southwest but I’ve been in New York when CMJ’s on and just that wandering around and at the tiniest little venues there’s a line-up…
Yeah it’s outstanding. And you know the thing about Newtown. - the other thing I’ve always loved from the moment I started going there, around the late 90s/2000 - I always loved the diversity of Newtown, it was a real melting pot. It’s still there, 100%. Back in the day, I used to love all the goths used to hang out on the street in the middle of Summer, 40 degrees, with their makeup melting. You know, it was just every single walk of life, you’d walk past. That’s something I love about Newtown and I think even today it retains some of that.
So it’s on a greater scale. What we do is musically-driven 'cause it’s naturally what we’re able to do. But the ultimate goal is to showcase the area, to promote the businesses, and ideally over time create something which is a landmark event which people come to Sydney to be involved with. Obviously long-term, it helps the area, to keep the supporting the arts and the creatives and the musicians that make that part of Sydney their home.
Do you have your own plan of attack for the day?
Ah not really…it’s a bit of a funny one for us, it’s a bit hectic. We traditionally try to find one place and make a bit of a HQ - a Music & Booze HQ. Where we can hang out and use as a base. We usually invite whoever’s been playing to come down to that space, in between sets as a hang as well. We’ll probably use The House Diner, the boys there are great. And just kind of wander from there. We have to keep an eye on things, even though all the venues take care of themselves, it’s just one of those things, you know, you’ve got to have one eye open…one eye watching the bands and one eye keeping an eye on things.
And setting up the Music and Booze Company, you now work with many venues on their music programs as well as the festivals that you do…how do you find that compared to having one venue as your focus?
It’s great. Obviously, the Annandale was amazing, and we loved it and I never ever regret having that place. One of the things I always did find frustrating was we were always really broke there which was obviously frustrating because we had a million ideas which I think were really really great ideas but no money we couldn’t actually realise any of them. So that was difficult. The other thing about having a space like that which is so all-consuming, because it was me and my brother pretty much every day, it didn’t allow you to kind of branch out. And I think we’ve always had really good ideas and the only reason that place was able to stay open for the 13 years was because we were forced in to a situation where we had to implement different ideas every week to kind of get people through the door. That was great training but again having that one space was restricting.
Whilst I would love to own a venue again one day, down the track, in the future. Currently I love the freedom of being able to - pretty much our meetings now revolve around 'this is a cool idea…alright, well let’s do it'. And that’s pretty much how we do things. That freedom is great, I do like that.
And how do you find booking bands at the Lansdowne in 2017 versus the Annandale back in the day?
It’s a lot different…It’s a completely different time, a different scene. It’s a great time to be involved in that venue. I think it’s pretty much the perfect storm really. I really am positive about what’s happening in Sydney with regard to live music. There’s definitely challenges with lock-out laws, but a lot of the work that we do is in the Inner West and I think there’s so much positivity coming out of that space, it’s fantastic. And then when something like the Lansdowne comes along, you know I think with our history and the goodwill and the reputation of Jake and Kenny with Mary’s and all the great stuff they do, you know combined with an iconic hotel which was shut down and was never going to do music again…to being reopened better than it ever, ever has been. The venue it is today is the venue that it probably should have been 20 years ago. So the reincarnation is, it’s a rarity but it’s better than it ever has been…the job they’ve done. So it’s a bit of a perfect storm, I think there’s a great team there, and people want to play there, staff want to work there, we want to book it, we want to be involved, we want to see it succeed. That’s a really positive environment to be in.
You’ve been working alongside your brother for years, have you ever had any major blow-ups?
There’s no way in the world we could have lasted as long as we did if it wasn’t family. There’s certain things you can get away with family which you can’t get away with anyone else because there’s just an understanding, you know. It’s just of those things, like I said, we’re very close. You know, if it wasn’t your brother that partnership would have dissolved probably in the first couple of years. With family there’s an underlying understanding when not to talk and when to talk. When to put your two cents in and when to shut up. It couldn’t have happened without him, there’s no way in the world it would have lasted if we weren’t brothers.
And I wanted to ask you about the first gig you ever went to?
The first ever gig?? I think the first ever gig I went to was Smashing Pumpkins at the Hordern Pavilion. When that was -I’m having a guess - late ‘80s maybe? I don’t think I was 18. That’s the one I can remember.
And the last gig that you went to?
I tell you where I went…I mean obviously I’ve been to a bunch at the Lansdowne and the Botany View and a few of the places we do stuff at…but the last one I actually went to was last weekend or the weekend before it was at Coledale RSL which is an hour south of Sydney, this old school RSL. All these local bands were playing down there, I can’t remember the line-up now. But all these cool kinda punky bands were playing at the local RSL.
And your favourite memory of live music in Sydney/your most memorable gig?
I guess the most memorable would be when we knew it was all over [at the Annandale] and we were handing the keys into the bank on the Monday to basically to go under. The night before we just told a bunch of friends and whoever was around what was happening and then we basically drank the bar dry, what was left at the pub. Friends of ours The Mess Hall were in there having a drink - Jed and Cec and it was all young bands were there having drinks with us. Everyone loved them, so we said ‘come on play’ and they had no instruments. So all these young guys they had instruments upstairs cos we let people use upstairs to rehearse…So everyone just got their gear and put a stage together and they just played in the little back bar at the Annandale and that was the last ever show at the pub and everyone just went absolutely nuts. We locked the whole pub up, closed the doors and they played in front of the doors which you head out to Parramatta Road there. Yeah it was good, we had about 150 people there and as I said it was a free bar so everyone was making use of it. Mind you the hangover the next day walking in to the bank wasn’t ideal…
Last night at The Annandale. Photo by Colin Lucas.
In your opinion, what does Sydney nightlife need?
I think the lockout laws, what they’ve done has been really detrimental. Look I never agreed with the lockout laws, I still to this day don’t. I think they’ve got to be pulled back. I think what Sydney needs is intelligent people getting together, taking politicians pretty much out of the equation. And pulling them back but coming up with a really great blueprint plan to pull the lockout laws back but put in place measures that are really going to invigorate our nighttime economy. So if we’ve had to go through this period of abstinence - locking people out and treating them like two-year-olds - now’s the time to roll them back, but treat people like adults. Put measures in place so we can create a really vibrant nighttime economy which is supportive of everyone.
So I like live music. Electronic music is ok, it’s not really my ‘go-to’… but I find it weird in a lot of the talk and the discussion about rolling back or giving people late licences based around live music and it’s kind of distinguished well that’s ok [electronic music] - I just find it completely stupid. I think there is a different culture in that nightclub scene. People who run those things are professionals, and they get their cowboys easy enough.
Sydney’s such an incredibly wonderful and beautiful city, I love it so much. I think we’re all sick of being treated like infants, I don’t think anyone likes being told you know what they can and can’t do and I totally 100% disagree with that. But now is the first time to go ‘alright well we’ve had [the lockout laws]…what were the mistakes made in the past, how do we encourage people to be out but be responsible, how do we encourage food operators to stay open later, what concessions do we give them with regard to licensing to encourage them to cook food at 2 in the morning and create a really vibrant nighttime environment that both Sydneysiders can really love and visitors and tourists can embrace as well and we do become that international and European city that I think everyone craves.