Harper's BAZAAR Australia, June/July 2013.
The Falls, Musicians
Sydney-based Folk duo Simon Rudston-Brown and Melinda Kirwin met while studying at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music, fell in love, fought, made up and then broke up, the whole time crafting an autobiographical record of their relationship in the form of a heartfelt EP, Hollywood, which they released to critical acclaim last year — on their own terms. The duo remains self-promoted and managed, a shining example of DIY culture. “I think there were moments where we thought it was going to be too hard,” admits Kirwin. “With everything that happened with us — even while going through a hideous break-up, we had just worked so hard, so we saw it through.” The duo admits that occasionally, playing the songs can hit a raw nerve, but from a selfish listener’s perspective, this is what makes The Falls so uniquely beautiful. “Performing can be very emotional, but it means so much to us as it is representative of who we are,” says Kirwin. It’s not all self-promotion, though: the duo also started Folk Club, a regular live music night in Sydney which has given other artists a much-needed platform.
The Falls have just returned from a self-funded North American tour, where they performed at Canadian Music Week and the coveted SXSW festival. The duo grabbed the attention of heavyweight agents in the States simply through word of mouth — a phenomenon repeated on our shores, with invites flowing in to support international acts on tour. It’s significant that the agents behind these invites are often overlooking their own signings in favour of this independent duo — a testament to both their talent and the level of support the Australian music industry is showing towards DIY artists. “So many people say this industry is tough and people are really critical, but it’s not all true,” says Kirwin. “There are so many generous people out there who just care about good music.” Count us in.
Listening to: Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, The Byrds, The Rolling Stones
Artists as inspirations: “Yoko Ono; designers like Lover and Kate Sylvester; F. Scott Fitzgerald; and our photographer friends Carine Thevenau, Mclean Stephenson and Dean Podmore.”
Personal idols: “Artists like The Lumineers and Passenger, who have forged their own, sometimes unconventional, paths and have given us the courage to do the same.”
Danielle Rowe, Dancer
After 10 years at The Australian Ballet as a principal artist and 18 months at the Houston Ballet, Shepparton-born Rowe last year switched from classical to contemporary to join the prestigious Nederlands Dans Theater. Rowe, who is often praised for her graceful, delicate style and flawless classical execution, says it was an itch for change that sparked the move: “[In Houston] I was doing a lot of traditional ballet roles that I’d always wanted to do, but I got to this point where I was craving to move differently, to be uncomfortable. I have always been intrigued by the NDT and I love that we draw upon the ballet vocabulary, but take it into a different direction where you move your body in all these weird and wonderful ways. I love being part of the creative process, rather than learning steps that have been done for years.” There is a heightened buzz around Rowe right now, as this month she performs her first Australian show since she danced in The Australian Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker two and a half years ago.
Nederlands Dans Theater will perform at Sydney Opera House June 12–15.
Favourite ballet: “Bella Figura. It made me fall in love with contemporary dance and made me come to NDT. The Australian Ballet is about to perform it.” [Part of Vanguard, until May 18 at Sydney Opera House; at Arts Centre Melbourne from June 6.]
Travel destination: “Melbourne. It’s home and I absolutely adore it.”
Reading: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Image by Rahi Rezvani
Alice Babidge,Production, set & costume designer
With her infectious laugh, sunny personality and endless creativity, it’s easy to see why the theatrical world wants to work with Babidge. Her collaboration credits span the English National Opera, Sydney Theatre Company (STC), Sydney’s Belvoir theatre to music videos and films, from shorts to Justin Kurzel’s acclaimed Snowtown. The NIDA-trained designer says a passion for costumes has always been in her, recalling how she would redesign actors’ dresses, “mostly big ball gowns”, as a child. “I loved drama, but was a terrible actor,” she says. “I loved the spectacle of it and the idea of creating a world onstage.” This month, Babidge’s world is the set and costumes for Benedict Andrews’s production of The Maids starring Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert. Says STC co-artistic director Andrew Upton, “Alice doesn’t just have her finger on the pulse, she is the pulse, with a throbbing, sequined heart.” Blanchett agrees: “She has altered the way I look at the world.” As one of the busiest women in her field, Babidge admits she works superhuman-hard, but says it’s all worth it. “I love it,” she enthuses. “The act of theatre and the act of performance, and I love the idea of presenting a story, because that’s the core of what we do.”
The Maids, June 8–July 20, Sydney Theatre Company, sydneytheatre.com.au.
Favourite film costume: Gwyneth Paltrow’s “excellent fur coat” in The Royal Tenenbaums.
Currently listening to: James Blake and Wu-Tang Clan. “The juxtaposition between my work and music like Wu-Tang is really useful.”
Reading: Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger and The Fight by Normal Mailer. “Not necessarily influencing my work, but they make my brain work differently, keeping it open to possibilities.”
Play I’m looking forward to seeing: “Simon Stone’s Hamlet [October 12–December 1, Belvoir, belvoir.com.au]. That’s my pick for the year.”
Benja Harney, Artist
From pop-up books to intricate sculptures both bijou and enormous, this self-taught “paper engineer” is yet to meet his match when it comes to the possibilities of paper. He created a giant cartoon set for Romance Was Born’s S/S 12-13 show; a supersized floral installation that dangled from the roof of Sydney’s QVB; and a pop-up book for Kylie Minogue. Harney’s hawk eye and fine motor skills are so sought-after that he became the first Australian invited to take up a residency within the prestigious Hermès “Petit h” program at the house’s Parisian atelier. There, he worked with artisans and designers to create incredible works using Hermès’s leather offcuts. Harney’s craftsmanship continues to create waves on a global scale; recently he worked on a project with Google and presented his beautiful pop-ups in Seoul as part of the World Pop-Up Art Exhibition at Art Center IDA. But his heart lies in his studio. “My studio is the epicentre of my creative output. It’s a space where I can make lots of mess, which allows me to dream big,” he says. One look into this inspiring cave of folded, cut and rolled curiosities and it’s easy to see his love for paper is boundless.
Reading: Irving Harper’s Works in Paper
Luxury: “Having a whole day to cook something incredible, like boeuf bourguignon.”
Inspiration: “The street. I’m a very visual person, so the art of ‘looking’ at the world is very important to my creative process. An idea or a spark can come from anywhere, usually when one least expects it.”
Gracie Otto, Filmmaker & Actor
For more than two years, Otto has been working on a self- and crowdfunded documentary that tells the story of one of the most important and flamboyant film and theatrical producers in London, Michael “Chalky” White. “We say he is a social connector,” says Otto. “He has always looked after women and is always looking for the next big thing; he knew Kate Moss when she was, like, 18, and Naomi Watts [an associate producer of the film], when she was 25 — he took her to all the right parties and introduced her to the right people.”
Otto first met White in Cannes in 2010. Her curiosity was piqued, and he invited her to one of his celebrity-studded dinner parties. “I began asking about him and everyone was like, ‘You have to talk to this person and to this person’, and it just snowballed.” The end result is more than 50 interviews conducted around the world with celebrities and theatre icons. “I think it’s important to give back; I want Michael to know how loved he is,” she says. Having grown up in the theatre world (Otto is the daughter of actor Barry Otto and sister of Miranda Otto), she is a great champion of the stage. “That world has changed so much, so I think it’s important to put the significance of the theatre out there, especially to the younger generation,” she says. “Many people my age wouldn’t even know how much of an impact Michael has had on culture, but it’s something I really want everyone to see.”
Gracie Otto stars in Alex Munt’s Poor Little Rich Girls, an homage to Andy Warhol’s 1965 Pop Art film (minus the “s”) starring Edie Sedgwick, which screens at Vivid festival on May 31, vividsydney.com.
All-time favourite directors: David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, Julie Delpy and Xavier Dolan
Really looking forward to seeing: War Horse. "I also try to see most plays at Belvoir and STC.”
Current obsession: “Collecting film soundtracks. I get inspired by locations and music before stories.”
Reading: “A Katharine Hepburn biography [Kate Remembered: Katharine Hepburn, A Personal Biography by A. Scott Berg, Simon & Schuster] at the moment, which I really love. I have also read Grace Kelly’s and Bette Davis’s biographies — I love these old Hollywood women who were so independent, in a way.”