I’VE BEEN DOING THIS SERIES FOR A WHILE NOW, AND ALTHOUGH I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING A WHOLE HEAP OF EXCELLENT INDIVIDUALS, I HAVEN’T REALLY ENCOUNTERED MANY WOMEN. THIS MONTH, MY LUCK CHANGED, AND I GOT TO HAVE A REFRESHING CHINWAG WITH THE TERRIBLY TERRIFIC AND INCREDIBLY INVOLVED CAPREE GAUL: A LOCAL TREASURE WITH A LOVELY SMILE WHO DEDICATES PRETTY MUCH ALL OF HER TIME TO IMPROVING THE MUSICAL COMMUNITY IN NEWCASTLE.
Growing up in Tenambit, Capree’s family was full of tuneful talent.
‘I started playing piano when I was six,’ she explained. ‘I was lucky that way, because that was always supported. My brother is also a musician, and my sisters all play piano and stuff like that too. Mum and Dad always played in dance bands and stuff.’
Her musical upbringing encouraged Capree to blossom into a brilliant, busy woman, working casually as a music teacher and playing in local original bands.
‘I’ve worked in the industry all my life, starting with teaching piano, cello… Well, I guess I’m a bit of an 80s chick, going right back. I was working a lot in bands around the 80s and 90s,’ she said. ‘I played in Happy Dials. We did a lot of work locally; it was an alternate pop rock kind of band. Then I was in a band called Lipp System, and When in Rome was another band… Then I went to Sydney.’
Her move to Sydney brought along some new ventures, with Capree adding ‘Jingle Queen’ to her list of impressive job titles.
‘I worked in Sydney for about three years. I was writing jingles mostly at the White Studio, and that was basically 30-second ads, or one-minute ads in those days,’ she told me. ‘As well as that, I was playing in original bands in the Cross. We worked every Thursday night at the Manzil Room from about 2am to 5am, something ridiculous.
‘I was actually teaching at the time, but I was dressed as a punk. So I had a shaved bit there and then bright pink hair, and then I had boots and stockings and stuff. So I’d have to go from that at 5am then go home, shower, get changed into conservative teaching clothes, and then go and teach casual music… It was fun!’
Capree’s success continued, with her going on to play in well-known Aussie pop band, Koo De Tah (Koo De YAH more like) from the late 80s onwards. They managed to grace the Aussie music charts a few times, and were even featured on family programmes such as Hey Hey It’s Saturday and Countdown.
‘I played in Koo De Tah, which was the main band I was in. I played keys and sang backup in that one,’ she reminisced. ‘We did a lot of film clips and stuff on television, lots of radio interviews, and lots of touring.
‘We were touring with Wa Wa Nee, Eurogliders, Pseudo Echo,’ she added. ‘When you’re touring at that level, you’ve got huge audiences… You’re playing six nights a week in six different places around regional Australia, and you’re travelling hours and hours every day… And it’s fine for a while, but after a few months it starts getting really taxing.’
After spending years being a feather-haired, jewellery-laden rock chick, Capree decided to pitch her tent permanently in Newcastle and have a family. Her involvement in the music industry refused to settle down, however, and she went on to be a part of some pretty incredible projects.
‘I started NIMA [Newcastle Improvised Music Association] in 2009, and that was about creating a venue space for emerging acts and musicians that were writing their own content. That happens every Tuesday night under the Grand Hotel,’ Capree said. ‘We’ve been able to develop that so we’ve got a good audience each week, and the musicians are getting paid through the door.
‘We’ve got 20 or so volunteers that help that to run… It’s been a real mix of people that have helped it to work, which has been a great thing.’
As well as her great work with NIMA, Capree continued to spend a lot of her time blessing young, talented brains with her endless bounty of musical knowledge.
‘I’ve taught music right from kindergarten through to tertiary students, and I’ve developed music programs for those students with the real focus on practical music-making, rather than too theory-based,’ she told me. ‘I enjoy teaching kids about music and trying to help them create what they want to play… Whatever they want to do, I’ll try and support them in it.’
Capree’s considerable commitment to the musical community doesn’t stop there. She also went on to establish a local orchestral group for young musos in the area.
‘I started NYO [Newcastle Youth Orchestra] in 2013. There was a real need for an orchestra here… I used to work as a program convener at the Conservatorium at the university, so I was doing music education, and there was a real need for that: for young players to have somewhere to play that wasn’t Sydney Youth Orchestra,’ she explained. ‘I guess I just kind of did the start-up and I was involved for 12 months, managing, and then they created their own board.
‘I’m not involved with NYO anymore now, although I do like to go to their concerts and support them, and they sound great! It’s really a great ensemble.’
And it isn’t just the Youth Orchestra that Capree enjoys listening to – she recognises that Newcastle actually produces a whole bunch of dope music.
‘We’ve got so much talent, and we always have,’ she asserted. ‘We’ve always had so many amazing acts come out of Newcastle, and we’ve got some incredible creativity in every genre. Not just in rock, or in alternate or jazz or orchestral… It’s all a big melting pot.’
But as Capree points out, our ample amount of prime Newy noise can’t be properly enjoyed if we don’t have enough venues to showcase it, which is something she hopes to develop.
‘People are writing lots of original stuff… And there are places where they can showcase stuff, but there aren’t enough of them, and those places have to be given more support to do that,’ she said. ‘It’s about educating venue owners so that they understand it’s not just about the food and drink; it’s about providing an atmosphere in the space.’
A scarce sum of performance space isn’t the only challenge Capree has encountered, unfortunately; she also identifies a lack of women in the traditional music industry as being another prominent issue.
‘I get along well with the guys, don’t get me wrong, but there weren’t enough females around… I think I’m making up for it now by being in an all-girls band. I’m getting more girl time than I ever did in the 80s and 90s,’ she said.
And although touring provided her with lots of laughs and terrific after-parties, Capree admits that life on the road can be pretty darn difficult.
‘It was fun in a lot of ways, but I think it was outweighed by the constant amount of work. It was A LOT of work, and people think it’s not. It’s not until you’re in it that you realise it’s full-on,’ she shared. ‘I got sick of living out of a suitcase and a different hotel room every night.’
But putting in the hard yards is a strong suit of Capree’s, and she isn’t planning on exiting the industry any time soon!
‘I play in a band called TranceMission… That’s a lot of fun. The other band that I’m in is Hot Flush, which is the all-girls one. I’m a keyboard player mainly, but in the girl band I play drums,’ she said. ‘I’m having a great time, loving it… But there’s still a lot more to do.
‘I’d love to see a lot more happening in Newcastle in a live capacity – we need that. More shows, more venues, more support, and more audiences!’
Couldn’t agree with you more, Capree! Keep on doing you gurl, Newy Cappreciates your work!