The Dershwins, by Brooke Tunbridge / by Kian West

I will (hesitantly) forgive you if you haven’t heard of Newcastle four piece The Dershwins, as they only played their first gig in August, debuting their alt-rock sound at No-Fi Records’ Winter Wonderland.

Lindsay O’Connell, Paige Cooley, Lochlane Huntington and James Hodgett make up The Dershwins and while the band is a fresh addition to Newcastle, the members are no strangers to the local music scene. Lochlane and James play in William John Jr. while Lindsay can be found collaborating with Raave Tapes and other local artists, or as Lochlane says, ‘doing a harmony here and there’.

When asked how they all knew each other, Lindsay explained that it was very intricate, ‘like a bubble of love’. From what I understood, they all either met through school, Graphic Design at uni, or through a friend of a friend. I might be wrong – I struggled keeping up with the tangled web of relationships I was trying to follow.

Before Winter Wonderland, the band played at Paige’s 21st, taking the time in between to practise. ‘Kind of on and off though. We weren’t practising for the whole duration… At the start we made all of our songs and then we kind of stopped, then before Winter Wonderland we started practising heaps again,’ James explained.

Lochlane added, ‘It’s just strange how it happened, though. We played Winter Wonderland and it’s almost like we just started getting offered gigs. We didn’t even really have to go out and take much initiative – things just kind of started landing at the doorstep. It was very interesting how that happened. We got lots of good opportunities. Got very lucky, I suppose.’

‘It’s not like we were strictly rehearsing and making music. It was quite a fun process,’ James noted.

Chatting about their tastes in music, the whole band agreed on Warpaint, Queens of the Stone Age and Foals as music they listened to when they started The Dershwins, and perhaps bands that have influenced their sound.

For now though, if you want to hear their sound, you’ll have to head along to one of their gigs (you should be supporting the local live music scene already anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?).

‘We don’t have anything recorded 100%, nothing we can put up. Like us on Facebook and come to our gigs,’ Lindsay says. Unless you want the band to ‘airdrop [their] beta demo version of “Dilute You” via iTunes’.

‘We’re focused heaps on getting a set together and the live performance more so first,’ James explained. The band mentioned that they’re trying to do the recording themselves so are working on things when they all have free time between day jobs and other projects.

‘There’s a few things going on for us. It gets a bit hectic at times, but it’s fun – it’s always fun. Really enjoyable,’ James added.

The Dershwins are locked in to play at The Cambridge on 26th February in a new Like A Version/Boiler Room style event, where local bands perform an original and a cover.

‘We might have to get a raffle hat,’ James suggested when questioned about the cover they’ll choose to perform. Paige chimed in to describe the different tastes in music they all have, which makes it difficult to decide on one song.

Lindsay titled herself as being the ‘cover person’ in the band: ‘Usually, [at] every jam I’ll come in and say that we should cover [a certain song] and I usually get shut down a few times. I keep trooping, I keep going!’

Lochlane explained that the phrase ‘We should cover this’ has lost its meaning to the band now. ‘Yeah, it’s been abused,’ James added.

I asked the band to name a song where they prefer the cover over the original. Lochlane and James were quick to say DMA’s rendition of Cher’s ‘Believe’. Their different music tastes revealed themselves as Lindsay expressed her distaste for the track: ‘Oh, that’s horrible, that is so shit!’ The whole band did seem to agree on one track: Placebo’s take on ‘Running Up That Hill’.

Hearing people’s thoughts on their hometown is always interesting, especially when it’s not quite what you expected. When asked about their favourite thing about Newcastle, Lindsay sighed, ‘I went home last night and complained to mum and dad about all the horrible things in Newcastle, like the cockroaches and the traffic, the heat and the fact that sometimes the people aren’t fantastic and the stupid café culture and crappy customers…’

James decided to defend Newy: ‘But then you go on holidays somewhere and you go, “Oh, actually, Newcastle’s alright”, and then you come back and you don’t mind it.’ Lindsay wasn’t fully persuaded… ‘Yeah, I’ve missed my little cockroach homies.’

‘Can we change the band name to Cockroach Homies?’ Lochlane asked. ‘We’ll all be able to survive without our heads for 10 days.’

Looking for something positive, Lindsay added that the record stores in Newcastle are the best thing. ‘I’m just in love with The Edwards’ shop now, and the guy who runs it, he’s awesome.’

Back to music with The Cockroach Homies/The Dershwins. The band are excited to have full artistic control on a project. James notes that it’s a completely different dynamic, working collaboratively, which is much more comfortable for them.

In terms of live shows, the band mentioned a ‘super-secret gig’ coming up, with ‘a huge Australian act’. Paige noted that they’re not even aware of all the details yet, while James had no idea what they were talking about. ‘It’s so secret that even members of the band don’t know about it yet,’ Lochlane joked.

The band already have the Cambridge event, the ‘super-secret’ show and a headlining gig at the Lass (‘The Perfect Sunday’ on January 29th) planned. As well as working on their live show, the band want to smash out an EP as quickly as they can, and follow it up with a video clip and EP launch – one step at a time.

‘Now that we’re scoring headlining spots, there’s actual pressure – people are coming to hear our music; they’re interested,’ Lindsay explained.

The Dershwins already have hype surrounding them; having no music available online, it has all come down to their live performance. They hope to finish recording and have an EP for people to listen to soon, but in the meantime, they’d love support at their shows. Paige and Lindsay mentioned the number of girls who have approached them, commending them for what they’re doing and saying that it’s awesome to see girls up on stage. While Paige notes that there are a lot of awesome female soloists in Newcastle, there aren’t enough bands with females, which may drive people towards The Dershwins as it’s a different dynamic to the usual Newcastle bands that take to local stages.

Perhaps you could take some pressure off Lindsay picking a cover and hit up their Facebook page with suggestions, or catch them at The Cambridge Hotel on February 9th to see for yourself which track they decide on.