BackGround – Union 42: Somewhere in the Sunshine
This interview with the multi-talented and punctual David and Marcus, of Union 42, is a discussion about their new album, ‘Somewhere in the Sunshine’, the follow-up to their first album, ‘Sketches from the road’.
Although, it’s not the usual album review employing such niceties as, “matchless power wielded by a unique artist uncoupled from musical trends” or, “dense mesh of musical influences” or, “literary and historical allusions”…something, something.
In fact, there is little talk of the music at all. Instead, it concentrates on how the band is currently going about the process of getting their album out to the lovely people, in the hope that their experience can help others.
Also, there are some fun stories about fast-food advertising and blues/funk fusion adventures.
Fun Union 42 Fact#1: Union 42 do their own cover art, instead of employing someone who knows what they’re doing. That way they are unhindered by annoying, and overly cautious, design theories and principles.
Dave and Marcus have played in lots of different bands over the years. Dave played with, among others, Adelaide funk legends, Pornland, and Sex Hurricane 1975. Marcus, has played in bands across the globe (well, in the UK and in Australia, but ‘across the globe’ is much more impressive so I’m going to stick with that, even though it is a slightly modified version of the truth), including Cambio – “South-West London’s most punctual band”. Punctuality is indeed a noble trait, but it doesn’t sell records, so let’s continue.
As experienced publishers of your own music, have you got any advice for the kids?
Dave – Stay in school. Unless you want to become a musician, in which case just drop out.
Marcus – There’s no such thing as selling out.
D – Any chicken ad you can get on, do it.
M – Yeah! We were almost on a KFC ad (Fun Union 42 Fact #2).
You were not!?
M – Dressed as chickens!… No, it was one of our songs (on the ad). It was a close run thing, but KFC didn’t want us…
(Dave’s phone rings)
It’s KFC? They’ve reconsidered?
(It wasn’t. And they hadn’t. After a short break to deal with the disappointment, we continued.)
M -Yeah, so we were almost on a KFC ad. We were possibly let down by the fact that, in the KFC add, our song was – ‘mama… don’t… fly’.
(Cue laughter from all corners of the room.)
D – The lyrics weren’t the most suitable for selling chicken.
M – Which was a shame cos the tune itself fitted really nicely.
What song did they end up using?
D – Some crappy song (Fun Union 42 Fact#3; they take rejection well, and don’t harbour grudges).
M – Some crappy song that sounded just like us!
How does one go about releasing an album in this, the age of the dark and mysterious internets?
M – We deal with this one site which puts our music on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Napster… there’s probably ten, no, more than ten sites that can distribute our music. And I guess with some of those it’s blind luck whether Joe Public comes across it. The rest of it’s up to us.
M – So we put out the album online. We told everyone that the album was available as soon as we were told that it was up on iTunes. The word then went out on Facebook, which is the standard first port of call. And pretty quickly we got some feedback from 3D radio.
How does one make an album visible to the press and to the punters?
D – I just approached a lady who reviewed our first CD in The Independent Daily, and told her that the second album was out if she wanted to review that as well, and she said she’d love to.
D – Also, we’ve got a long list of community radio stations around the country that have played our stuff, through the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project site, which is like a collection – like a centralised database for radio stations; they can just go through that list and access any song they want for free.
(Fun Union 42 Fact #4: They’ve sold a few songs off the first album from Spotify, and from a French website they’d never heard of before. They’ve sold quite a bit in Scandinavia, Spain, and America.
D – The website is coming out soon, too – an interactive website – it’s got stuff that moves on it!
H & M (Together) – Ooooooh!
Have your lovely songs been played on the wireless?
M – Triple J’s Unearthed has been pretty good to us. Also, we had one song that was played on Triple J’s Home and Hosed.
M – Mama don’t fly (just let it go, autocorrect!). Good enough for Triple J, not good enough for KFC (*see Fun Union 42 Fact #3).
Have you played many live shows to promote the album?
M – So… it turns out we should probably push the album a little bit more with more gigs, but we did do a show at the Wheatsheaf Hotel. That was a pretty cool one because there was a girl, a Melbourne artist – Mon Kerr, her name is – she toured and she wanted to find some bands to support her so she looked on Triple J Unearthed and apparently just filtered through heaps of bands… and came down to Union 42.
Do you play with a band when you play live, or is it just Dave and yourself? – not that you two aren’t satisfying enough on your own.
M – It’s just the two of us. When we do a live show, I’ll play mandolin and Dave plays guitar.
Do you have any mandolin solos?
M – There’s one or two, yeah.
D – But on the recordings we do everything, so bass, drums, mandolin…
M – … kazoo, triangle, mouth trumpet…
What’s a mouth trumpet? – I hadn’t asked a stupid question in a while, and I was due.
M – dvvveaa dvoo dvoo… (Marcus plays the mouth trumpet for me; which, it turns out, is just him making trumpet sounds with his mouth… which I feel like I should have known).
Marcus doubles over with laughter, directed at me, but in a supportive way.
Oh, god, it’s just your mouth. I’m going to delete that so no one sees how stupid I am.
D – No, no, you have to lead with that!
M – It’s not often that the journalist has to remove his own material from the interview.
Band competitions are weird (having played in some, I feel I can say this). Have you played any?
M – I’ve not, have you (to Dave)?
D – I came 2nd in one, not bad out of 24 bands. Revolver (excellent Adelaide band that kicked around in the 90s) came first.
M – Actually I have been in a band competition, I lied (tsk, tsk) when I said I hadn’t been in any band competitions, I have been in a band competition, well it was a song competition, very recently, out of two bands… and we lost.
(I laugh supportively; that’s terrific! – I’m such a bastard.)
M – Well, the whole thing was rigged (*see Fun Union 42 Fact #3).
D – It wasn’t serious.
M – It was for me (*see Fun Union 42 Fact #3, again)!
Tell us more tales of interest!
M – Dave jammed with one of the legends of delta blues; a guy called T-Model Ford (Fun Union 42 Fact #5). We went on a road trip through the Mississippi area in 2009. We ended up in this little town called Clarksdale.
D – He was playing at this ‘juke joint’ that we went to, and I got up and played some drums with him.
D – He had his grandson with him on stage,
M – He was the drummer
D – Another guy got up and played harmonica, and then the harmonica player’s wife asked if she could play a song on drums – she was terrible. At the break, I asked the harmonica player if I could play, and he said yeah, go ask T-Model. I asked and he said yeah, sure.
M – So, with Dave’s Pornland upbringing – you’ve got T-Model just plonking away on the delta blues and then Dave just funks the whole thing up, and T-Model was like “what is this stuff, man?” “This is so cool!” “I’ve not heard this groove, what is this?”
(Apparently, you never stop learning)
In conclusion, Union 42 are fun, polite, and handsome young men who like to play inspired music and teach the elderly. They are clearly worthy of our adulation.
OK, well, the path Union 42 are taking is only one of many possible ways of spreading the musical love, but try some of their methods, see how it turns out. Just don’t write to me bitching about how you haven’t been nominated for an ARIA yet. Be patient. Work harder. And be nicer to bus drivers.