When I sit down with Cameron Avery it’s probably the hottest day of the year. The cool air in Three Williams in Redfern is a welcome relief.
Probably exhausted after his flight from New York, Avery talks freely about his take on being an Australian artist, the complexities of working alongside contemporary music and his latest self-titled solo project.
This follows from extensive periods performing with Tame Impala, POND and The Growl, all of which pay tribute to the talented multi-instrumentalist and his diverse background in writing and performing.
Cameron Avery is a nostalgic and brooding sound, conjuring vivacious imagery and darkened metaphor with every new track.
Avery’s debut album Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is due out March 10. Intentionally cinematic and a personal compendium “It was a lot more cathartic I guess I wasn’t filtering anything.”
Filled with nods to his esteemed influences Serge Gainsbourg and Lee Hazelwood, Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is achingly romantic and memorable.
“I’ve always loved cinema and I guess that’s what the record shows. In some ways I feel like people can’t be bothered making this kind of record, whereas I love them. Being honest with my music being honest with myself, then I can feel good about it… now and in 50 years.”
Having walked many of the world’s most impressive stages and played alongside acts including Father John Misty and The Last Shadow Puppets I was curious to see how Avery viewed himself as an Australian musician on a global platform and what this means to his music.
“We’re still such a young country and such a young demographic. Its hard to tell what’s Australian music, I don’t think there’s been a long enough time to be able to say ‘that’s Australian.'”
The dream for any musician is to record in some of the best studios in the world and according to Avery, Los Angeles went above and beyond.
“In between touring commitments for other bands I just started recording stuff and the infrastructure of the recording studios in Los Angeles is insane, it was created out of necessity because of Hollywood, I got to work in some of the best studios in the whole world.”
“A bit of recording we did at Electravox studio, which is across from Paramount, which is the old broadcasting room and the sound stage…there was a piano in the room and they were like ‘oh yeah this is Duke Ellington’s piano’…It was really inspiring sonically.”
But even this veteran approaches his first solo tour with slight apprehension and Avery admits that the first show, in hometown Fremantle, was cause for some nervousness.
“It was in front of my peers and family and friends and all the Tame guys were there… playing to your aunty who you haven’t seen in like 10 years. I’m very much like ‘don’t count your chicken’s until they hatch’, but it’s exciting that I can put something out into the world that has my name on it.”
Avery describes how the purpose of this record was largely to identify himself as a solo artist and to explore an element of catharsis within his music; given his career both sentiments are understandable.
“I think it took a bit of growing up, as a person and as an artist, being able to be a bit more honest with yourself. Being able to bare stuff, I guess lyrically it was a bit different and it came really naturally, I was just writing as I went and not second-guessing anything and letting it do its thing.”
“I want to be proud of the records that I make, on my deathbed to say that I made a record that was completely and honestly and utterly true and what I wanted it to be, I haven’t really though beyond that at the moment.”
“I’ll always endeavour to try and make it as honest and only humouring my taste. Not forcibly, but I don’t really listen to a lot of modern contemporary music, I just try and make music that resonates with me”
Conversation steers to his latest release single C’est Toi and it’s accompanying music video. Voluminous in narrative and smeared in dark drama, the clip sways between a recall of classic lounge artist audience intimacy and a contemporary story line.
Tragically beautiful and true to theme, C’est Toi provides the best introduction not only to the Cameron Avery sound but to his aesthetic as well.
“I’m huge into Serge [Gainsbourg] Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits… those guys definitely rub off on me more than like, Young Thug. It’s more than sonically or musically, it was more how they did things in an age where there wasn’t social media, it was very much like ‘this is how I’m doing things, this is how I’m going to do it.‘”
“The important thing is why you do it, there’s how you do it and there’s what it is, but your ‘why’ is what’s going to matter to anyone. If I wanted to make loads of money I could try and make records that I think would be popular but it might leave me feeling empty.”
“If you took me purely by my Instagram you might think a completely differently about me, I think it’s amazing that people can have a character, as an artist or a musician, have a shtick and I think that’s great because it’s theatre but I like honest and bare bones art where you can see what it is.”
“I do love art and music where you can see it [in its rawest form]. If I can sing a song that might remotely relate to something that remotely happened to you then I’ve achieved something.”
But Avery is also adamant that there is a huge amount of hard work and sacrifice that goes into pursuing a career in music, apparent from years of touring and personal experience.
“When people start making music it’s not like ‘I might go get my uni degree and then start playing music’ …it doesn’t work that way. Like I toured with POND for a few years and barely even got paid for that, the life experience I got was invaluable, but I did have to hustle. And you lose relationships, it’s a job, you can’t afford to take your wife or your girlfriend in tour with you. Music has its ups and downs, but you’re obsessed with what you’re doing.”
Though this single promo tour is short, we can expect the return of Cameron Avery in 2017 .
“When the album’s out hopefully in May, then we can hit up some larger cities, but we just have to wait until the album’s out. With this tour, it’s the exact same band as The Growl and we haven’t played together in years so we thought before the album comes out we should probably do some shows.”
Even without the air-conditioned refuge of Three Williams, I would have stayed for far longer than the interview allowed. One can see that we have caught Cameron Avery on the precipice of a game changing new venture, reverting new music back to glorious romanticism and cinema.
Bold and brilliantly produced, this debut album is surely just the beginning.
Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is out March 10 via Spinning Top Music.