Husky headed for musical heights

Husky Gawenda (left) and Gideon Preiss.

Popular indie band Husky has drawn on new inspirations, including a year living in Berlin, to deliver an exciting new experimental album which has just been released. Yael Brender reports.

INDIE folk band Husky, the partnership of Melbourne musician Husky Gawenda and his cousin Gideon Preiss, are celebrating the release earlier this month of the band’s latest album, Punchbuzz, with a national tour.

Husky, 37, who has been making music since 2008 and recording since 2012, said they have drawn upon new inspirations –including a year living in Berlin – to deliver their most exciting and experimental record yet.

“The overall sound and pace and feel of this album is quite different to the first couple of albums,” Gawenda explained to The AJN

“The differences came about mostly through the songwriting process. Usually I’d write lyrics, or start with just an acoustic guitar, but it was in reverse order with some of these songs. We allowed the songs to dictate the sound.”

Punchbuzz follows on from 2011’s breakthrough debut album Forever So and 2014’s stellar Ruckers HillMost of the songs on Punchbuzz came about while Gawenda was experimenting with an electric guitar and a loop pedal.

Husky Gawenda with his new album “Punchbuzz” on limited edition vinyl.

“The songs came out quicker and leaner and with a bit more momentum, which then affected the lyrics.”

Gawenda said he is constantly jotting down notes and poetry, especially while on the road, and records short melodies and chord progressions into his phone as they come to him.

When it’s time to start writing new songs, he has more than enough material to draw from.

“Everything you do feeds into what you do next, so it’s really important to me to have that time where I’m just living and jotting stuff down about the people, places, things, parties – the moments that I’m moving through,” said Gawenda. 

“And then when I sit down for a focused period of writing time, all of that feeds into it. I can draw on the little bits and pieces from life.”

Along with Husky’s longterm influences such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Simon and Garfunkel, Gawenda cites The National, War on Dugs and Tame Impala as his contemporary influences, as well as popular American indie rock singer Damien Jurado and Los Angeles-based record producer Jonathan Wilson.

“They are great at mixing the more organic elements of folk and rock music with electro and psychedelic, which we really love,” said Gawenda.  “That definitely had an impact on how we fleshed these new songs out and the kind of sounds we explored on this record.”

Husky’s new album “Punchbuzz” was released on June 2.

In 2015 Gawenda and Preiss relocated to Berlin for almost a year, partly because Husky had multiple European tours booked and decided that it was more economical to be based in the northern hemisphere than fly back and forth from Australia. 

Gawenda said he revelled in the exciting German capital which has become a hub for artists in recent years, and spent time visiting the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust memorial as well as the Berlin Wall.

“What you can explore in Berlin is endless,” he said. “It’s a vibrant city now of artists and musicians. It’s a city full of eccentrics and a city that never sleeps.”

However, Gawenda was happy to return to Melbourne, which has always been his home. However, he had to delay the start of their national tour to promote Punchbuzz when Gawenda came down with a bout of glandular fever.

“I’m really sorry about the change of dates, but I’m going to make sure I get back to full strength pronto,” he said when it was announced that the Melbourne concert due to be held tomorrow (Friday) and in Sydney on June 29 had been postponed until August. There is no change to scheduled shows in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia.

In October, Husky will undertake its largest European tour to date, with gigs in Sweden, Germany, Austria, Spain, France and Belgium before travelling to Britain for their final shows in early November.

Two singles from the Punchbuzz album were released early – Late Night Store and Ghost – but Gawenda admitted his favourite song is Cut The Air.

“I’m fond of it because I feel like it pulls together a lot of different aspects of our band and our sound. The journey of the song is almost like a journey through our albums,” he said. 

“It starts off quite familiar, very much a ‘Husky’ sound, and it ends up somewhere entirely different, that you’re not expecting at the beginning of the song. It even surprised me as we were writing and developing the song. It’s a good indication of our journey as a band and the six years since we released our first record.”

The challenge now for Husky is to perform the new songs on the stage.

“This is the best part of the album cycle,” Gawenda enthused. “Just before [the record] comes out, when you haven’t played the songs hundreds of times, they’re still really exciting. It’s an exciting challenge to bring the songs to life on the stage.”

Fortunately, he has the perfect creative partner in Preiss. They are cousins, but Gawenda said that they are more like a cross between brothers and a married couple. 

They’ve spent the past five years writing and touring together, even living together for some of that time.

“We have an amazing, great music chemistry and creatively we’re both super excited about making music and writing,” said Gawenda. 

“We make each other excited and that to me is the most important thing – when you’re doing something creative, you have to be excited and surprised by it and I think we do that for each other.”

Apart from Husky, Gawenda can also be found playing with his other band, The Bashevis Singers, which performed at the In One Voice festival in Melbourne in March and at the Shir Madness Jewish Music Festival in Sydney last year. 

Gawenda (left) performs with the Bashevis Singers at Shir Madness in 2016.

The group recently recorded a self-titled album, which Gawenda describes as a beautiful record of old Yiddish folk songs as well as some original songs that Gawenda wrote with his father Michael, a former editor-in-chief at The Age.

“Dad wrote the poems in Yiddish and I put the music to them,” explained Gawenda, who is a fluent Yiddish speaker. “My family all spoke Yiddish to us and it’s very close to our hearts. We love the language.”

His sister Evie and their mother have also performed with The Bashevis Singers.

“They are both beautiful singers. I grew up listening to them sing, so there was no way I wasn’t going to sing growing up in a house like that.”

YAEL BRENDER

Husky performs at the Oxford Art Factory, 38 Oxford St, Darlinghurst on August 12, supported by Tia Gostelow and Hot Spoke.  Bookings: www.huskysongs.com