Interviews

Megafauna are reframing the picture and they’ve barely even begun

Megafauna

From poetry to nature’s liminal beauty, no band out there hits quite the same as Megafauna.

In Sydney, the name on everyone’s lips is Megafauna. And so it should be. In the hallows of lockdown, Freyja Fox (vocals, guitar), Ellen Fitzgibbon (keys), Lily Keenan (guitar), Lucy Warriner (bass), and Tess Wilkin (drums) joined forces to spearhead Australiana’s newest chapter. A chapter not defined by its sensibilities or its once-revered conditions, but by pure, unadulterated joy.

Rather than the stark “no fucks given attitude” that most their contemporaries have, Megafauna rather give a fuck about all the right things. Gender equality, liberation, environmental conservation: a theme which underpinned their first, sparkling release Jacaranda. In the midst of their rise, we caught up with the band to learn more.

Megafauna

HAPPY: I saw you guys play a few weeks ago at the Marly. Such a great show! Tell me, why did you choose to play that breakdown set as well as your regular repertoire?

FREYJA: The poem was actually born out of not having enough songs ready for our first show. Tess knew that I wrote a lot of poetry in the past and had a secret poetry blog and suggested that we perform one of the poems to fill out our set. We thought it could also be a fun chance to change things up and swap instruments around to do something fairly improvisational. Now, it’s kind of become a crowd favourite part of our set so we do a different poem each time we play. We don’t practice the poem together, we just jam it out on stage.

HAPPY: I know you guys all do other projects on the side. How was Megafauna born?

FREYJA: Tess hails from the all-female Sydney rock band The Buoys. Ellen plays in Skeleten and Lucy has played guitar in multiple other bands in the past, including The Mother’s Club. Lily and Lucy also play in our sister band Sweetie, which started around the same time Megafauna did. Previously, Tess and I were both in a concept band called Rochelle Rochelles. We played the songs of our dear friend and iconic Aussie enigma Nathan Roche.

I don’t think I would have started writing my own songs or had the confidence to start Megafauna if it hadn’t been for Imi Ireland, whose idea it was to start Rochelle Rochelles. She could see the musical potential and lack of self-belief in a bunch of her female friends and wanted to get them on stage together. Women supporting women feels fucking awesome and we are all about supporting other female artists.

LILY: Megafauna was born through absolute and unyielding positivity, spearheaded by our personal hype-woman and cheerleader Tess.

HAPPY: What is it that drives your music?

FREYJA: Initially, it was realising how much fun it could be to play in a girl band and wanting to have a strong female voice in the Aussie music scene.

TESS: Yeah, we were sick of only ever watching men/our boyfriends on stage. We figured if they can do it, we can too. Freyja and I decided to make music together and we really wanted to create a project that connected women. We decided to find women neither of us had made music with before, who didn’t really know one another, and who weren’t established musicians. It’s been a dream to watch it evolve and we have become such incredible friends. Our friendship and this collaborative approach is a big part of our music.

HAPPY: Covid has been such an interesting time to start up a project. Do you feel that like the energy shift of the last year has influenced your music in any way?

TESS: Absolutely. It was pretty devastating having some dream tours with The Buoys cancelled, and we really needed a break. So Covid allowed us all this time to focus on Megafauna.

LILY: I think that Covid threw a spanner in literally everyone’s lives, so we’re all doing things with a bit more confidence and abandon. 2020 taught us that life is short! You never know when you might be stuck at home for months not able to see your close friends. A massive part of this band is relishing each other’s company, we really just love hanging out! I think the “fuck it” mentality shines through our music, we’re having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously.

Megafauna

HAPPY: Nature appears to be a really amazing catalyst for you guys and your music. What role does nature play in your songwriting as well?

FREYJA: I grew up in the countryside in the Southern Highlands of NSW and appreciation for nature has always been very much a part of my upbringing. I think it’s intrinsic to who I am and also something I want to share through Megafauna. It was really important to me that this project celebrated what is unique about Australia and that includes celebrating our natural environments.

It’s an interesting time for the world right now, we are on the cusp of an environmental crisis. I feel really strongly that it’s one of the most important issues we face as a human race right now. My dad used to say, “you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar,” which means you can change a person’s perspective more easily by being warm and friendly than by being hostile or demanding. So, by writing music that celebrates nature, we hope to encourage people to think about their environment and what it means to them.

HAPPY: Do you need space when you want to be creative?

TESS: Being together seems to be more important than having space. We really bring the ideas out when we spend time together. We are all really creative women, but we make a great team because our creativity manifests in very different ways. A real driving force behind creating Megafauna was to not just be a band, but use it as an umbrella of our different creative projects and ideas.

In terms of space, it is more important to give each other the space within the project to use their own talents and figure things out. For example, a few of us hadn’t been in a band before, hadn’t even played that instrument before they joined the band, so we spent a lot of time just jamming out ideas to figure out parts of songs. It might be a slower process than with someone who is an expert at their instrument, but it’s about providing a supportive environment to try things, have fun, be a bit silly.

 

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HAPPY: There’s this false narrative circulating that there’s very few all-girl bands in Australian music. Do you feel that this is more an issue with representation than anything?

TESS: All-girl bands seem to be represented in the Sydney music scene, but perhaps this is still a wider issue in Australian music. You can take a look at any music festival line up and see that although there might be female-fronted bands, there are few bands made up of majority women. There are some amazing all-female bands in Sydney and we have had many a euphoric chat about this femm-punk scene that seems to be emerging. Classic, Dead Witch, Sweetie and Megafauna are a few examples. We all share this “don’t give a fuck” attitude. It’s about making music accessible. Being in a girl band is the most fun you’ll ever have and you don’t need to be an expert at your instrument. It’s a really different vibe to all male/majority male bands and it seems to be really inspiring other women.

LILY: It’s also worth noting that the point of these bands isn’t to exclude anyone – men or otherwise – from a scene or from our music. We have heaps of male musician friends who we love and respect and have given us loads of support while starting this project, lots of us play music with male mates too. Everyone would like to see more diversity in the music industry, and the response from everyone of all genders so far has been “go for it, you can do it.” I only started playing my instrument recently and I think if I had seen more groups of people encouraging each other and unselfconsciously giving it a crack, I might have picked up the guitar earlier. Hopefully, Megafauna’s message of inclusivity is being received by anyone out there dreaming of starting something. Fuck it, just do it!

Megafauna

HAPPY: What’s next on the cards for you?

TESS: Our music video for Jacaranda is on the cusp of release. We have been recording with Bowen Shakallis down south. We will have a couple more singles and hopefully an EP to release over the next few months. We also have some great gigs lined up. Next in line is Bowlarama at Leichhardt Bowlo with an incredible line-up of all-girl bands – Dead Witch, Sweetie, Megafauna, and headlined by Body Type. It’s sold out but there might be a new release of tickets soon…

LILY: In other news; Freyja is filming for a lead role in a feature film and transcending into the spirit realm. Tess is finishing her science PhD and learning how to talk to animals. Ellen is working on her jewellery-making business and harnessing the power of the four elements. Lucy is studying at university whilst simultaneously travelling forwards and backwards through time. Lily is running art projects and lighting things on fire with her eyes.

 

Jacaranda is out on all platforms. Grab your copy here

Photoshoot by Charlie Hardy

Styling by Jacky Lestrange Vintage