Words and images by Nadia Gradwell
My introduction to this band was during the 2015 Wollombi Music Festival. The musical sound, described in four words, is sci-fi prog folk. Listening to this band takes you on a magical journey about invasion and inter-planetary travel. You will also find other aspect such as Klezmer and Celtic music in their sound. Their musical inspirations may have started by listening to Play School singalongs but right now some of their favourite inspirations come from bands like Chaika.
In 2012 Vanishing Shapes formed at Newcastle Conservatorium of Music, planning a once-off performance of three traditional folk pieces. During improvised rehearsals they wrote their first piece, ‘The Road to the Cuckoo’s Nest’, a twisting, ten minute arrangement featuring bastardised renditions of the traditional melodies over constantly shifting harmonic and rhythmic textures.
Vanishing Shapes have since been pushing themselves to defy the laws of tradition in folk music, creating narrative driven pieces that bounce between being playful, harrowing and ethereal. They have put out two releases; a full length album entitled ‘Urcheon’, and the concept EP ‘Tiny Planets’, which saw a landmark development in the band’s collaborative writing efforts.
How did you all meet?
We met at Newcastle Conservatorium through the Bachelor of Music program, and originally came together as a one-off university project (which ended up lasting way longer than one semester).
What inspires your music?
Our music is inspired by a lot of things. Folk music is a huge influence, along with prog rock. There are some classical influences within the band, as we’ve all had classical training at one point. More recently
there have been some jazz influences as we’ve all started listening to jazz. We’re basically one huge melting pot of all the music ever.
What is the funniest thing you have seen on tour?
We played at this rad place in Nimbin called the Phoenix Rising Café. The owner there has a bunch of free-roaming roosters which by the end of each of our sets were cock-a-doodle-dooing in time with our music.
Who would you love to collaborate with and why?
If we were to answer this properly we would literally have to churn out a several hundred word essay, but as a condensed list it would be: The Crooked Fiddle Band (they’re a chainsaw-folk band, who we may have stolen our band name from), Deepsea Lights (they’re a rad, experimentalish, electronic trip hop duo), Pickpockets and Rascals (this is a orchestra project lead by Michael O’Donnel from The Squeezebox Trio. He basically chooses a band he loves, then orchestrates their music and puts on a rad show) and Chaika (like us, they’re another ‘genera non specific’ folk band, but tend to take their influences more from Eastern Europe).
What would you do differently if you could turn back the clock?
I’m not sure that there would be anything we’d do differently. All of the achievements we’ve had and mistakes we’ve made have shaped us as a group.
Where do you play on the Coast?
Jen’s from the Coast so we love playing there. So far we’ve played at the Rhythm Hut, which we love very dearly, and The Lounge Room. We’ve only played once at The Lounge Room, but we absolutely love the vibe and hope to see it grow.
What’s next for Vanishing Shapes?
We’ve got a tour coming up in July. We’re starting in Sydney, then heading to Canberra and Melbourne, then Bello, and finishing up in Newcastle.
Musically, who do you recommend we look out for?
If you’re into folk, keep your eye out for Baltic Bar Mitzvah. They’re an Eastern European inspired, Newcastle-based band who will blow your mind.
Inspired by the most ecstatic of dances to the saddest of laments Vanishing Shapes are influenced by the musical traditions of Ireland, Russia, Romania and Peru and tainted with the gritty coal dust from their port side home of Newcastle, NSW. Their debut album, Urcheon, is full of narrative driven songs that bounce between being playful, harrowing and ethereal.
Vanishing Shapes are Jenny Hankin (flute, piccolo, vocals, egg-shaker), Joshua Rea (cello, piano, vocals), Jake Kennedy (guitar, train whistle), Tim Merrikin (bass, charango, triangle) and Nick Jamieson (clarinet)