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Australian Guitar’s Fresh Frets: Vol. 9

Ella & Sienna
(Image credit: Ella & Sienna)

ELLA & SIENNA

THEY ARE trailblazing youngins from the Adelaide Hills (aged 15 and 18, respectively) cranking out rivetingly impassioned slivers of sharp and summery folk. Acoustically inclined, the duo’s performance wields a uniquely charged energy: the soundscape’s core is always a dry, cleanly produced strum, fleshed out with crisp and thumping drums, subtle atmospherics and layered lead vocals jam‑packed with character even in their most understated moments. Peter Noble, if you’re reading this, get these girls on a Bluesfest lineup ASAP!

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Kasey Chambers, John Butler, and Missy Higgins.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Save Your Breath”, an emphatic folk belter written in response to the ruinous bushfires that tore through the country in January of 2020. The sisters are also active on YouTube, where they regularly post live cuts and covers. We recommend checking out their takes on Redgum’s
“I Was Only 19” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

THE LAST MARTYR

The Last Martyr

(Image credit: Andrew Basso)

THEY ARE a Melbourne-based quartet of metalcore maniacs with a keen ear for earwormish melodies, all tied together with Monica Strut’s goosebump–inducing vocal runs tailor-made to soar over monolithic festival crowds. We’d believe it if you said axeman Ben Rogers was secretly a wizard – there’s no way one man can fill a mix with fretwork so dextrous or destructive without the aide of magic. His riffs weaved enthrallingly around dark and driving basslines courtesy of Ricky Andes, the band reign with an infallibly potent chemistry.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Spiritbox, Halestorm and Make Them Suffer.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Hindsight”, the band’s first studio material to land since October ’19. The lengthy wait paid off in spades, though, with The Last Martyr delivering some of the tightest, most punishingly powerful riffs we’ve heard all year. Especially given its world-class production, you’ll need at least a dozen spins to fully appreciate every enchanting idiosyncrasy the band have laced this all-out rager with.

MUM FRIENDS

Mum Friends

(Image credit: Soph Alexandrou)

THEY ARE an Adelaidian pop-rock powerhouse wielding the perfect balance of wholesomeness and fury. With axe in hand, Katie Wright is a force to be reckoned with; her playing is punchy and prickly and delightfully intense, and the melodies she drives are so inescapably catchy, you could listen to their two tracks on repeat for hours at a time and not get bored. So too is bassist Mia Neale – she and Wright often sharing vocals – an absolutely stalwart player. We give it three years before they’re the biggest live band in the country.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Cherry Glazerr, WAAX and Teenage Joans.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Woke F***boy”, a scathing smackdown on sketchy dudes that feign progressive attitudes to prey on women. It is, naturally, an all-out stormer of a track, channeling palpably authentic and raw ferocity into a rousing and poignant – and explicitly timely – feminist anthem. Certainly one to crank the volume up for.

PORPOISE SPIT

Porpoise Spit

(Image credit: Tom Dowelling)

THEY ARE a rockin’ and rollin’ four-piece from Melbourne whose intensely sharp and scintillating blend of strumming, shredding and storytelling made putting in this column one of the easiest calls we’ve ever had to make. They describe their sound as “equal parts rosé-rock and suburban punk-ballad” – and honestly, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Courtney Barnett, Midnight Oil and Joy Division.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Middle Of The Night”, a cinematic scorcher that makes full use of every second in its tight and tempestuous five minutes. The focal point is certainly the track’s mightily emotive, towering lead vocal (and rightfully so), but the polychromatic six-string interplay between Mill O’Sullivan and Elly Hewitt cannot be understated – especially in that breathtaking solo about three-and-a-half minutes in.

SESAME GIRL

Sesame Girl

(Image credit: Zosia Franka)

THEY ARE a quadrant of Canberran dream-pop debonairs with songs as spirited as they are shadowy. There’s a warbly, psych-esque bite to Yasmine Hosseini’s tantalising leads, frontwoman Heather Duncan soaring over them with ambrosial vocals equally bold and buttery, and luscious rhythmic strumming that glues the whole mix together.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Soccer Mommy, Beach House and Julia Jacklin.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Get Up”, our first taste of a debut EP set for release in the latter chunk of 2021, upon which (we’re desperately hoping) the band will became a smash hit on festival stages everywhere. Per their Triple J Unearthed profile – which you should definitely go follow – Sesame Girl are inspired by the alt-rock greats of the ‘80s and ‘90s. That nostalgic flair is crystallised beautifully on “Get Up”, with a slick of the glittery, melancholic radiance of acts like Mazzy Star and The Cure.

SNARK

Snark

(Image credit: Act Four Photography)

THEY ARE the Melbourne-native mentees of Kisschasy frontman Darren Cordeaux, who follow boldly in the footsteps of those long-dissolved hitmakers, though with enough of their own snarling incandescence and zesty pop energy that it never feels like they’re playing teacher’s pet. The root of their sound lies in big, bold lead guitars and deep, driving basslines, Stefan Sepulveda’s mighty lead vocals bouncing off them with striking finesse.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Kisschasy (duh), The Wonder Years and Placebo.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Pressure”, a spine-ratting blast of calamitous, pseudo-nostalgic pop-punk with a hook stickier than caramel, and melodies just as sweet. If we weren’t pining to get back into the pit before, we sure as hell are after a spin (or 12) of this absolute ripper. Ditto for their 2020 EP ‘Imposter’, meticulously crafted to make all hell break loose when Snark take to the stage like seagulls take to abandoned chips.

THE SPAGHETTI STAINS

The Spaghetti Stains

(Image credit: Chelsea Sienna King)

THEY ARE a trio of Gippsland’s finest surf-rockers who, despite having one of the dorkiest band names we’ve come across, sport a slate of wickedly tight and tireless tunes. Cuts like “No Wuckin’ Fay” and “Trippin’ At The Beach” lean wholeheartedly into the carefree, tongue-in-cheek blitheness their aesthetic teases, but there’s also a wealth of sober emotion, poignancy and soul galvanised in their catalogue (see: “Summer” and “The Mountains”).

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Spacey Jane, FIDLAR and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS Essential Ingredients, a ten-track feast of feisty rock ’n’ roll stuffed with sun-drenched spirit and jovial jammage. The record was fast-tracked with a ‘Level Up’ grant courtesy of Triple J Unearthed, and we’re glad it was; there’s a loose and lively rawness to the album – an unfalsifiable youthfulness – that likely would’ve bled out had it spent a few more years in gestation. It’s a must-suss for any surf-, psych- or indie-rock fan.

THOSE WHO DREAM

Those Who Dream

(Image credit: Those Who Dream)

THEY ARE Perthian brothers raised on a healthy diet of Fearless Records and Fueled By Ramen, hellbent on thrashing out bold and bombastic pop-punk anthems for a new generation of angsty teens. They’re like Australia’s answer to Waterparks, fusing influences spanning everything from Britney Spears to Nine Inch Nails with an impenetrable swagger and explosive indignation.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Waterparks, You Me At Six and Good Charlotte.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Bubblegum”, which in just a shred over three minutes, paints Those Who Dream as the obvious choice to lead Australia’s next wave of pop-rock revolutionaries. They also kicked the year off with the single “Tension Headache”, which ended up going viral on TikTok and racking up over a million plays – and with its gnashing lead guitars, glitch-inflicted production and downright spicy beats, we can easily see why.

TOMORROW'S FORECAST

Tomorrow's Forecast

(Image credit: Dom Gould)

THEY ARE three resoundingly gifted high-schoolers from the Gold Coast who dole out jammy, animated indie-rock better than bands who’ve been in the scene for twice as long as they’ve been alive. Their sound shines with a breezy, leather‑jacket cool that makes four minutes feel like a snap of the fingers. None of the band’s members are old enough to drink, but their tracks feel perfectly suited to play in a hazy, dimly lit speakeasy.

THEY'RE FOR FANS OF Wolf Alice, Middle Kids and early San Cisco.

THEIR LATEST RELEASE IS “Room On My Shelf”, a cruisy slow-burner that simmers and swells with rugged, reverb-slicked strumming, glassy plucks and bewitching strings, over which Bonnie Kruger's (goddamn angelic) lead vocal flows like custard over warm Christmas pudding. Last year’s “Ur Baby” is also essential listening, thanks in no short part to its visceral and volcanic guitar solo.

YEN STRANGE

Yen Strange

(Image credit: Ash Rosas)

SHE IS an enigmatic alt-pop upstart from the rural town of Moruya, NSW. But although she comes from relatively lowkey origins, Annabelle Scobie’s sound could not be more enormous, melding rich and dynamic guitars with shimmery atmospherics, crisp 808 beats and velvety synth leads. On her debut solo single “Donnie Darko” (Scobie also fronts the indie band Spit Chewy), she does a wondrous job exemplifying how the guitar can be used as a textural element, rather than what leads the track – it’s subtle, but undeniably effective.

SHE'S FOR FANS OF PVRIS, Halsey and Billie Eilish.

HER LATEST RELEASE IS “Donnie Darko”, a melancholic indie-pop bop with summery undertones and a emo-tinted hook that’ll get stuck in your teeth like eggs to an old pan. Scobie’s honeyed lead vocal gives the cut a drowsy, spectral edge – it’s like the musical equivalent of a late-night drive down country roads drenched in fog. And it’s phenomenal.

NOTE: When this edition of the Fresh Frets column was published in Australian Guitar #144, we'd mistakenly attributed the above photo of Yen Strange to the wrong photographer. The shot was actually taken by Ash Rosas, to whom we apologise profusely. You can check out more of Ash's fantastic photography here!