Perth’s Bad Weather are set to release their debut EP sometime later this year and, having had a listen to the early mixes, it could just be the release of 2021. It contains four tracks of eighties-tinged pop with a modern twist. It’s immediate and really rather beautiful music that carries in it the heart and mind of it’s creator and Bad Weather progenitor, Callum Robertson. We caught up for a cuppa at an Angove Street eatery just over the road from the Rosemount Hotel and chatted for a while about all things Bad Weather. We were too early to have a pint in the pub.
Yep, there it is, the racing pulse of the driven musician who makes their best music when their heart is raw and bleeding and never lets anyone or anything stand in their way.
“I don’t really know where it stems from,” Robertson said, when asked about the origins of his journey into being a full-time musician. “I do remember living in Albany from when I was about five years old and we’d make the trip up to Perth to visit family and my parents would always curate a playlist and it had such a wide range of stuff on it, a lot of 80s stuff like The Smiths, The Cure, and I remember this one time my Mum turned around in the car and I was dead silent and looking out the window really analysing what was coming through the radio. I think she knew that there was something there that I was interested in and after that my parents asked if I would like to have guitar lessons.”
Robertson’s Mum obviously saw something in him that he wasn’t quite yet ready for at such a tender age. “I hated guitar lessons, I just wanted to be outside, away,” he recalled of that pivotal moment in his life. But he persisted and, over several years, began to do something rather remarkable. “I started to find my own way of playing, my own sound,” Robertson said. “I continued lessons through high school and then stopped as soon as I left.”
Stopped with the lessons, that is. Robertson continued to make music, but the remarkable part is how he started so early to pursue his own way of playing the guitar, his own sound.
“It’s always been my instrument for as long as I can remember,” Robertson said. “I remember being heavily inspired by Johnny Marr, hearing the kind of licks he was playing and all the arpeggios and stuff that he was playing was really, really interesting to me. Alongside that I had the kind of emo world, the power chords and the kind of… yeah, it was a kind of weird blend of this indie emo kind of sound. I started getting into weird tunings and stuff and doing all of that as well, and I just found a lot of joy in doing that, in experimenting and trying to sound unique.”
There are very few guitar players who have a signature sound. Johnny Marr is certainly one. If we’re talking the eighties, Bernie Sumner also comes to mind. In Australia, players like Ian Moss and Ed Kuepper are in that echelon. Even closer to home, there’s Diesel. And now, perhaps in the near future, Callum Robertson may join that club.
Which is interesting, because, on first listen, the music he’s producing isn’t at all guitar first. But, listen more closely, and there it is, the Marr-like arpeggios that sound nothing like The Smiths, the disco cluck that’s reminiscent of Nile Rodgers, the folky acoustic that could have Robertson doing session work for the likes of Pete Murray and Riley Pearce. It’s all there and it could just be the first awakenings of something like a 21st-Century Robert Fripp. Maybe, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of water to go under that particular bridge just yet, but all the parts are there, and Robertson sure knows how to put them together.
The deft placement of the guitar parts in Robertson’s music stems from his writing technique. “My writing process almost always starts on a laptop,” Robertson said. “Even though I’m a guitar player it never starts with me sitting down with an acoustic jamming chords, it’s always making a synth sound or a pad, a drum beat, or whatever, and structuring things around that. Guitars are usually the last things that go on a song.”
His approach to song writing is another sign that what we see emerging is here is a major talent, not just a guitar player, but the complete package, which is what makes Robertson the guitar player even more notable.
What’s not so notable is how Bad Weather came about. Robertson played in a bunch of bands in high school, saying, “I’ve always been in and out of bands since I was in high school, I think I had about three or four different bands in my time there.” Unsurprisingly, they played covers and wrote angsty songs about their crushes. Nothing to write home about there, but what Robertson said next was of rather more interest.
“Then, I left high school and I still had one band that was quite solid. We were going places and I really believed in it, and then we disbanded. The other guys didn’t see it, they just didn’t want to do it anymore. It broke my heart because I really believed in what we were doing. The next day, I decided I was just going to do a solo project, because I couldn’t not be putting out music and writing music. That’s how Bad Weather came about.”
The next day! Yep, there it is, the racing pulse of the driven musician who makes their best music when their heart is raw and bleeding and never lets anyone or anything stand in their way.
Robertson continued, saying, “As soon as you get that taken away from you the onus is on you to make things happen. I’d always been writing music for myself anyway. I think it was a day or two later I decided I was going to do a solo project. I’d never been a front man, I’d always been the lead guitarist, so that was quite a hill to climb at the time, but I think I had to push myself to be able to do it and just really take control of where I wanted to push my music.”
If we deconstruct that paragraph, we get to see the essential ingredients for success as a musician and song writer.
The onus is on you. No one else can hand you success, although many will say they can, usually dodgy manager or promoter types.
Write for yourself. If other people like your music, that’s a bonus, but the minute you do it for the people is the minute you lose your way and start heading down the path to bloated excess.
Push yourself. Always be learning and doing something else/new/extra. Never stand still.
Take control. This one’s self-evident, really. If you cede control, you give up on what it was that made you create in the first place.
“I can’t not do it,” Robertson said, as the final summation of what makes him tick as a musician. That’s what separates the musicians from the three-chord hacks, creating is not a choice, it’s the core of their existence. But without the drive and the need to take control of their creative directions and output the inevitable alternative reality is drinking in the pub before lunchtime. Luckily the Rosemount was closed on the morning we met, or I could have been singlehandedly responsible for the demise of what is potentially one of our greatest talents. Fortunately, our country’s presbyterian licensing laws helped Robertson avoid that fate, for now, at least.
“Honesty is the best policy, said Robertson, as a parting shot before he wandered over the road, ostensibly to check in with his manager. “If you’re going to write music, it’s got to come from an honest place.”
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Bad Weather’s EP Fundraiser is on Friday 18 June at Lynott’s Lounge with support from Stapleton, Dear Soldier and Sago.
Get your tickets here.