Celebrating a fusion of contemporary Persian music with Western motifs, Melbourne based Garden Quartet is launching their debut album this month, celebrating with a stop in Ballarat. We chat to Iranian-born frontwoman Gelareh Pour ahead of the show.
Hi Gelareh. First up, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your band Garden Quartet?
I was born in Iran and have been playing music since I was six years old. I sing and play Kamancheh (Persian Spiked Fiddle), it’s an ancestor of the violin. In Iran I mainly performed in Classical Persian orchestras and acapella groups. When I migrated to Australia I was blown away by the diversity in the Australian music scene and quickly began getting involved wherever I could. Classical Persian music has roots in improvisation, so I naturally gravitated towards experimental and improvised music scenes in Melbourne.
Within my first year of being in Australia I’d released an album (Tanin-e Melbourne) of mostly improvised pieces with a bunch of incredible musicians, including Adam Simmons (The Usefulness of Art, Origami), Brian O’Dwyer (Warpigs, and now Garden Quartet) and Andrew Polydorou (Warpigs, International Karate). Not too long after that I recorded a duet album, again improvised, with Mick Trembath, arguably one of Australia’s best finger picking guitarists. I’ve been really blessed to work with and meet world class musicians in Australia, and everyone has been so keen to include my sound in what they’re doing. I’ve performed with Mick Turner (Dirty Three), and recorded with Terry Vainoras (Subterranean Disposition) and Andy McKenzie (Legends Of Motorsport, Maps Of Tasmania), as well as putting out a Persian take on post-rock called Minimum with Brian O’Dwyer and Gerard Mason (Goodbye Enemy Airship). So I’ve been pretty lucky.
After a few years of working in improvised settings, I really wanted to put together a group that was more composed, more conceptual. By this time I’d become an Australian citizen and I began thinking about what it means to be an Iranian-Australian artist. I wanted to create something that reflected calling more than one place home, to explore what it means to be where you’re from but also where you are.
All of this led me to Garden Quartet.
You’re launching self-titled debut album Garden Quartet, which we understand draws on your experiences and stories about living and creating music in two very different cultures, together with your bandmates’ differing cultural backgrounds and the stories you’ve carried along in personal journeys. Tell us about the process of conceptualising this in an album?
Garden Quartet, as the name suggests, is a place of growth. We’ve created a very deliberate space where we can share stories with each other and work together to express those stories musically. It’s actually always been quite easy for us to put our sounds together, there really is only one rule, be yourself. Everyone in the band brings their own way of doing things, and we’re all really supportive of what each other brings. It’s really very natural and organic. Because we’ve taken this approach from the start we’ve been able to develop our own sound, that whilst influenced by a variety of different styles and genres, doesn’t really fall into any one category.
You’re celebrating the album with a national tour beginning in July! What are you looking forward to most about the tour?
We’ve been really lucky with the venues that are supporting us, looking at the places we’re playing is kind of a dream list of venues for me. Performing in six different cities in Australia, I’m really excited to be playing in new places and meeting new people, but also I’m looking forward to celebrating this release with old friends. In venues like The mechanics institute in Ballarat which have been supporting my music for years, so I’m super excited to be able to have a Ballarat launch.
What do you enjoy about taking your music on a live touring circuit? Do you prefer to be up on stage, or are you more at home working on your craft away from the spotlight?
They’re very different beasts, the studio is where the seed is planted and the seedling nurtured, the stage is where we get to eat the fruit! In terms of Garden Quartet, we spend a lot more time in the studio than we do on the stage, so we all really look forward to performing live.
Can you describe your live show in just a few words?
Intimate. Emotional. Giving. We’ve put a lot of ourselves into this music and we share that live.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a female singer in Iran. How did you navigate only being able to perform covertly in underground venues (as women are forbidden to sing solo in public under Islamic law). Did this only fuel your passion for wanting to become an artist?
I think if you’re born an artist then you are one. Some people may express that in their cooking, or in the way they dress, or speak, I was just lucky enough to have a family that supported my passion for music and stood by my decision to pursue it. It is difficult to be a female musician in Iran, but it never stopped me from being me.
Thanks so much for chatting. Any final words for our readers?
Thank you for having me. I just want to say we’ve put a great deal of work into this album, it’s been three years in the making, so come and celebrate with us.
When & Where: Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, Ballarat – July 13.