If you had to pick The Soul Movers’ Facebook relationship status, it would be, ‘It’s complicated’.
…you get the feeling that, six years into this current incarnation, they’re really starting to hit their straps and getting to be what they set out to be in the first place, which is anything they damned well please, as long as it gets your body moving.
Look into any band’s family tree and you’ll find layer upon layer of band-relationship archaeology, more than enough to satisfy any budding musical Lara Croft or Indiana Jones. In this, The Soul Movers are no exception and particularly noteworthy, because among their ranks they include two past/present members of seminal Sydney punks, Radio Birdman, and a Wiggle. It’s almost like the set up for a joke, you know, ‘What do you get if you cross Radio Birdman with The Wiggles?’. Only it’s no joke at all, because the only punchline is, ‘One damned fine band!’.
The constant in The Soul Movers’ camp is singer, Lizzie Mack. who founded the band with Deniz Tek, former Radio Birdman keyboard player, in 2007. After the original line up went their separate ways, Mack continued making music, and expanded her network of musical colleagues.
“When Deniz (Tek) and I split up after so many years,” Mack said, “I went off and started making other music. It was Murray (Cook, guitar and Red Wiggle) who suggested putting the wheels back on The Soul Movers. You see those funny stories about a band trying to replace someone — because Deniz is pretty famous in Australia, Radio Birdman was a big band for their generation — but not many people would pick us changing Deniz Tek for the Red Wiggle. That’s pretty left of centre.”
Yep, left of centre about sums it up. And, surprisingly, Cook wasn’t a walk-up start for the guitar spot in the revamped Soul Movers.
“When he came to rehearsals,” continued Mack, “when he first said, ‘Hey, do you need a guitarist?’, let’s put the wheels back on The Soul Movers’, me and Andy (Newman), who’s been my bass player for about 12 years would notice that every week he’d come with a nice pair of boots, a cool guitar, another shirt. Next week, another Stratocaster, nice boots, nice shirt. After about three weeks, we decided we had to put him in the band because he’s got so many great guitars, but, more importantly, he knows how to play the bloody things!”
Testify! Mack and Cook obviously have a great affinity (as well as a ready-made name for a TV dramedy about detectives who solve crimes of haute cuisine, should they ever quit the music biz), so it’s no surprise that Mack would talk up her bandmate’s guitar prowess. But she’s not overstating it at all.
If you’re of a certain age — either quite old like me, or a twenty-/thirty-something — you couldn’t help but be familiar with the original line-up of The Wiggles. Likelihood is you loved them and still do. But it’s unlikely you would have attended one of their live performances or listened to their Big Red Car CD over and over and over again with that pre-schooler you’ve still, somehow, managed to keep loving dearly into his adult years and come away thinking, ‘Geez, that Murray Cook can really shred.’
Well, he can! Have a listen to The Soul Movers’ current offering, Bona Fide, or go see them live and you’ll come away with a different impression of the Red Wiggle all together. The man is a serious talent on the guitar.
It’s the sort of shift of gears that doesn’t always pay off, of course. Lots of artists have moved from a successful vehicle into a solo career or another band and, in spite of their musical pedigree, have bombed. No so with Murray Cook and The Soul Movers. Asked to speculate on the secret to their cross-generational success, Cook said, “It’s quite interesting, we get a lot of young people coming to the shows, because they’re curious about what I’m doing, but then they stick around, because they genuinely love the music that we’re doing now.
“We also have the older audience that are about our age that get into our stuff. We’re still pretty energetic, we can rock and do all sorts of different things, so we’re kind of fortunate in that way and it’s about getting the message out that we do have both those audiences. We’re quite unique in that way.”
Cook confessed during our conversation that he’s no good at blowing his own trumpet. So, while he was doing his best to damn himself with faint praise, thank goodness his counterpart Mack is no good at holding back.
“I think we’re unusual in that we have triple j kids come to our shows,” Mack interjected, “— although triple j won’t program our music a lot of the time — and they love our music! They’re not ageist. They listen to our music and they love it. And, if you’ve got a red Wiggle front and centre, what’s not to love? We always knew our music had appeal, but they say it to us over and over again, ‘We came for Muzz, but we love you guys’ music.’”
The people of all ages who pack venues wherever The Soul Movers do their thing aren’t wrong, either. Having witnessed them on their last trip to Perth, it’s no stretch to say that The Soul Movers are one of the grooviest rockin’ soul outfits going around. And they have the choons to back it all up, too. The sort of Stax soul, rock and roll that sounds instantly familiar from the very first time you hear it and, even for this lead foot, just makes you want to move.
Current album, Bona Fide, recorded across seven legendary studios in the USA, crackles with the intensity of a band at the peak of their powers. From what Mack and Cook told us, The Soul Movers’ upcoming album won’t be too shabby, either.
Speaking about their upcoming platter, Mack said, “We always try to have some diversity about our albums, but I think this might be the most diverse yet. What do you reckon, Muzz?”
“Yeah, I dunno, the last one was pretty diverse.” Sharp comeback, thanks, Muzz, see you still haven’t located that trumpet of yours.
So, we’ll leave it to Mack to round out the story.
“This one’s already got a full-on rock and roll slash MC5 vibe to it and then a Dorothy Parker meets Etta James song on it, so that’s a pretty broad spread, I reckon. It actually feels really good doing an album with no pressure. When we finished writing for Bona Fide, I’d brought down so many songs in such a short period of time as well as coordinating that seven legendary studio tour. It was such a big process and our song writing muscle was quite strong after that. I fired off another three [songs] which we’ve had in the set since last year, so we’ve got three or four already quite well played, I reckon they have 20 shows under their belts already.”
“So, we’ve got a bit ahead of the game this time,” said Cook, managing to get a few words in before Mack brought it home.
“It’s actually a really cosy feeling,” Mack said. “We’re the opposite to last year. We’re well ahead of deadlines, we’ve got heaps of interesting cinematographers and people that want to work on our first clip for us, which will come out in June or July, before Splendour (in the Grass). It’s going to be a big year of festivals for us, too, which is great, because it gives us a bit more space when we’re doing bigger shows. Last year was fairly relentless with touring, so we’re being a bit kinder to ourselves.
“This new album takes us back to our roots. It’s got that tight but loose feel that Deniz was always reaching for with Radio Birdman. But we’ve kind of got the same sort of energy with the current line up, so it’s funny to see how that circle comes around.”
The current line up of The Soul Movers, with Mack and Cook at its heart, kicked into life in 2014. There’ve been some adjustments to the personnel since then, but the fire still burns strong and you get the feeling that, six years into this current incarnation, they’re really starting to hit their straps and getting to be what they set out to be in the first place, which is anything they damned well please, as long as it gets your body moving.
The Soul Movers have got a bunch of festival dates lined up for 2020, including WA’s Nannup Music Festival and Splendour in the Grass, along with some yet to be announced. Prior to that, they’re due to play The Sewing Room on 27 February and Freo.Social on 28 February.
These are shows you should not miss, so jump on the link right here for more information and tickets.
The Soul Movers are supported by The Bambuseae Rhythm Section at The Sewing Room, who have a new single out, ‘Till The Day I Die’ and Sunday Lemonade (VIC).