Guitar and isolation: getting to know Carla Geneve at BIGSOUND

I must have seen upwards of 30 artists perform at BIGSOUND 2018, and they were all phenomenal. However a few stood out as extra special, and one of those acts was Carla Geneve.

Her songs were sharp, delivered like a pro with a righteous guitar backing from the woman herself. Some research soon showed she was being booked for festivals as big as Fairgrounds and Queenscliff – it was clear Carla was heading nowhere if not upwards.

We sat down at on the last day of BIGSOUND to chat guitar, snappy songwriting, and how a little isolation could help us all.

carla Geneve interview BIGSOUND
Photo: Mikaela Grob

At BIGSOUND we sat down with Carla Geneve, a bright new songwriter and guitarist pricking up ears all over Australia.

HAPPY: You’re one of many musicians in Freo at the moment, but you were originally from Albany. What made you want to move?

CARLA: It’s pretty hard to be a musician in a small regional town. I also just wanted to move to a new place.

HAPPY: It’s weird seeing it from a distance, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what’s making Freo such a hub at the moment. There’s an abnormal concentration of artists there… but I can’t really tell why.

CARLA: I think it’s always kind of been like that. It’s definitely always had a lot of venues, Mojos has always been there which is a great venue. There’s some really good bands in Perth as well, but it’s like… it’s got a kind of small town vibe, everyone knows everyone, I love it. Everyone just groups together.

HAPPY: I read something that Nick from POND wrote about what was going on in Perth, and the crux of it was that there… wasn’t actually a lot going on. So people were kind of filling this void.

CARLA: Totally.

HAPPY: Do you still think it’s like that, or would you say the void is starting to be filled?

CARLA: I think people have definitely filled it with stuff that’s great. I don’t know, other than music there’s probably not much else going on… but there is a great scene with a lot of great artists. I guess being isolated from everywhere else is a good thing as well, everyone kind of feeds off each other.

HAPPY: Someone recently told me that Perth is the most isolated city in the world.

CARLA: It is! It’s crazy. It’s annoying when you’re a touring musician.

HAPPY: I assume Albany is kind of the same?

CARLA: Maybe. It’s pretty isolated.

HAPPY: Your songwriting… you pack a lot into short lines, emotionally. When you write does it flow out this way, or is there a distillation process?

CARLA: I guess it mostly comes out straight away, but I do examine what I write to try and make it more… packed.

HAPPY: Succinct.

CARLA: Yeah, succinct, that’s the word. I’ll go over stuff, but not too much.

HAPPY: What are your big motivations to write?

CARLA: I don’t know, I just don’t really think about it too much. I’m a fairly private person, so I’ve always thought that maybe writing’s a really good way for me to express myself in ways I don’t do socially. But yeah, that’s the best I can do.

HAPPY: One moment you’re writing about a chemist, then it’s a love song. There’s a big spectrum.

CARLA: I don’t know. I just write about life, I guess.

HAPPY: As for the physical act of writing, do you have any habits that you keep coming back to?

CARLA: I try and do different places, to try and put myself in different head spaces. Nah, not really… I try to go to different rooms, go outside, it generally happens when I’m not expecting to write.

HAPPY: Nice, and assuming that there’s an EP or an album coming at some point…


HAPPY: …was this first group of songs written at the same time?

CARLA: Not really, no. Our set at the moment, the singles were probably written over a year. Some of the songs were written over two years ago, but we try to keep it new-ish.

HAPPY: Do you feel like they’re getting better then?

CARLA: I hope so! I don’t know, I think everyone progresses as a writer, but they’re just different, because I’m writing about different stuff.

HAPPY: Just writing about life. Now we’re actually going to talk about guitar for a while.

CARLA: Cool!

HAPPY: Your guitar playing was awesome! How long have you been playing?

CARLA: Since I was 12. I don’t know how many years that is…

HAPPY: It took me by surprise, because in the two tracks you’ve released there aren’t these big, dramatic guitar moments. It’s something people would only see live.

CARLA: Yeah.

HAPPY: Are there any of those moments in the songs you have coming out?

CARLA: Yeah, definitely. I don’t know, I’m trying to think of the new songs… I haven’t planned it like that.

HAPPY: For the guitarists, what guitar and amp combo do you play on?

CARLA: I have a Tele with a humbucker. It’s like one of the slack topped ones. I like it a lot, it’s a Japanese one from the ’80s. And I use a Vox AC15, only.

HAPPY: There’s a ton of musicians in Sydney I’ve noticed, religiously using AC15s despite how heavy they are.

CARLA: Yeah they’re kind of clunky, better than the 30s though, they’re ridiculous. I just love the way it’s smaller and it breaks up real early, I love it.

HAPPY: I didn’t get to check out your board, is there a pedal holding everything together?

CARLA: I use three pedals, for my solos and stuff I use a Boss OD-3, just as a boost, but it’s got such a warm tone. I use a Holy Grail Reverb, and I have a Swollen Pickle Fuzz which is great, it’s fun. I just use it because it makes a shit-load of noise.

HAPPY: It’s what a fuzz is for.

CARLA: That’s pretty much it, it feeds back heaps.

HAPPY: It was really cool to see you owning the stage as both a singer as a guitarist, especially as a woman, BIGSOUND has really impressed me that way this year.

CARLA: So many great female acts.

HAPPY: So I know Courtney Barnett is super important to you. I spoke to Alex Lahey a while back and she was the first person to ever mention how good Courtney’s guitar chops were…

CARLA: Definitely.

HAPPY: Has she been an influence on you as a guitarist as well as a songwriter?

CARLA: I don’t know, not really as a guitarist but definitely as a songwriter. She has such a way with lyrics and that simplicity that I love… I actually only saw her for the first time live a couple of weeks ago, and I was blown away by the guitar playing. ‘Cause it’s not something that I really listened to in the songs that much.

HAPPY: Exactly.

CARLA: But she fucking killed it onstage, it was awesome. But mostly as a songwriter I would say, for Courtney.

HAPPY: Do you think there’s a tendency to breeze over someone’s playing skills when they have that songwriter vibe?

CARLA: I guess it depends on the person. Some people do really do the guitar thing, some people don’t.

HAPPY: I mean, do many people ask you about guitar stuff?

CARLA: Not really, actually. I guess not. Maybe it’s because we haven’t got those guitar-y songs that we’ve released.

HAPPY: They’ll come! Any other guitar heroes, or anyone at BIGSOUND that’s really impressed you?

CARLA: In terms of heroes I love Neil Young, Neil Young’s awesome. Here I saw CLEWS, they were sick, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, they’re great.

HAPPY: Cool. To finish off, you’ve done a few singles, there’s a few festivals in the pipeline… what’s coming up next?

CARLA: Hopefully some more recording, I’m going to do an EP soonish. Definitely going to be some singles coming soon.


Tour dates

Sep 21 – C.W Stoneking support – Rock Rover, Fremantle WA
Sep 21-24 – Wave Rock Weekender – Wave Rock Caravan Park WA
Nov 23 – Queenscliff Music Festival – Queenscliff VIC
Nov 30 – Fairgrounds Festival – Berry NSW
Jan 13 2019 – SumerSalt – Rottnest Island WA
Jan 25 2019 – John Butler Trio/Missy Higgins support – Albany WA
Jan 27 2019 – John Butler Trio/Missy Higgins support – Margaret River WA