The Sugarcanes

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The Sugarcanes

It’s not everyday you get to talk with a rising artist moments before they vanish from a flesh-eating, horse infested mountainside. Most people avoid ever encountering such circumstances, as The Sugarcanes’ frontwoman Lucy Wilson would’ve attested if she hadn’t just been set upon by crazed hippies in the woods and turned into a stew (it’s a busy mountain). With the band’s album launch fast approaching, it leaves the fate of The Sugarcanes slightly ambiguous, but happily there is also a measure of fantasy to Wilson’s fortunes.

“I should be all right, because hippies don’t eat meat,” she considers, tramping up a distant hill far from her colleagues. “Or maybe I’ll suddenly emerge from the trees one day, and I’ll be dressed in old-fashioned cheesecloth clothes, waving my arms and screaming, ‘The portal. The portal.’ ”

Wilson laughs, and then pauses to catch her breath. “God, I’m so unfit.”

She’s not out there hiking solely for pleasure: Wilson works for an organisation that takes people with disabilities out on camp. Wilson is a jack of all trades – she’s also a primary school teacher – and this ability to wear multiple hats serves she and her bandmates quite well.

“We’re still self-managed, self-booked, though we do get a little bit of help from our label. That’s more about steering us in the right direction of things we should be doing, or usually things we shouldn’t do. Mostly my brother Jack [Wilson, bass] and I are there fielding emails, working out what to do next. I did the solo thing for a while, and I never realised how easy that was until I had the comparison of having five people in a band. I had a nice little network of friends that I’d played with from solo days, which did help even though it’s a completely different scene we’re playing in now. But it’s all about the connections and making friends.”

That’s no casual sentiment – any artist worth their mud will tell you that the community you surround yourself with contributes both to how you develop creatively, and to the opportunities for exposure and collaboration. For The Sugarcanes, their formation is a blend of family members and festival friends.

“Jack has known Alister [Self, guitar] and Dave [Gualtieri, keys] for years, seeing shows together since they were young. We started as a country band, really. We went through a few little growth spurts since then, you might say. But we landed somewhere we thought was comfortable and thought, ‘Hey, now this works.’ And we found Lizzie [Dynon] about a year ago. We needed a new drummer, and a mutual friend recommended her. It turned out we’d met at a festival a few months earlier and talked about music, so it was a nice moment of six degrees of separation when it all came together.”

At the time of speaking, the album launch at The Tote is just days away, the anticipation is starting to mount. There has been a strong soul music resurgence over the last few years. And though it never truly disappeared, The Sugarcanes’ debut LP is representative of the fact it is now stronger than ever.

“It’s like when it’s Christmas and you just want it to get here, but you also want to savour it all. It’s been such a long time coming, it almost doesn’t feel real quite yet. This is my first album and it was a lot harder then I thought. But you’re right, soul never went out of style. Otis Redding, Etta James – James is such a Godzilla of music. Those guys were just phenomenal. They wrote and played their instruments so well. And the precision of it. Some soul music is so accidentally perfect.”

It’s suggested that last sentence would make a rather lovely inscription on a tombstone. Wilson laughs. “Here lies Lucy Wilson. Accidentally perfect. I think I’ll stick with that.”

The Sugarcanes will bring the music from their newest release to venues across Australia this June, hitting up The Bridge Hotel in Castlemaine on June 19.

Written by Adam Norris

When & Where: The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine – June 19