Something In The Water

18 May

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Triple Js Robbie Buck states in the rockumentary Something In The Water that if he knew why Perth, the most isolated city in the world, was such a breeding ground for successful indie rock bands, he would bottle it up and sell it.

Eastern States expats Aidan O’Bryan and Janelle Landers, who run the media production company WBMC, were at the 2007 Big Day Out and it hit home that over half the Aussie artists on the bill were from Perth.

They got to work filming and interviewed a multitude of artists and industry folk like Eskimo Joe, The Panics, EMI’s Managing Director John O’Donnell, Rolf Harris, INXS’Andrew Farriss and the Hoodoo Gurus’ Dave Faulkner and asked them for their rationale on our sparkling pool of talent.

“The story was originally very different,” says director Aidan O’Bryan. “We drew a new hypothesis when we started filming and then as we got into it, every time we spoke to someone, it turned out we had to speak to someone else to get another part of the story.

“We wanted to know what was so special about right now, but in trying to answer that question we needed to talk to The Scientists and The Triffids to find out what it was like before.

“We needed to learn about the past to work out what had changed. I don’t think there’s suddenly this huge nut of talent – there’s been talented people here for a long time. But no one really knew that.”

There have been some attempts in the past to pinpoint what makes Perth a vibrant hub for music, such as Tara Brabazon’s academic book, Liverpool Of The South Seas. But nothing on screen that is specifically WA-themed.

Something In The Water isn’t some slick, big-budget production either, but it does go some way to explaining why Perth’s music scene has only exploded in recent years. It’s certainly timely and a fantastic history lesson on Perth bands from the late 1970s onwards.

“I’m now a bigger fan of some bands than I was before and I’ve discovered new bands I’d never heard of,” O’Bryan says. “But from the business side of things, I’m now even less enamored. Just the way that it works and watching the film you might get that sense… record companies are largely the reason that Perth got held back for such a long time.”

As is often the case with independent, self-funded projects, O’Bryan originally thought he was making a film for a select number of music buffs and maybe to remind those in Sydney in Melbourne that “even though we’re far away from the rest of the country we shouldn’t be ignored in the West.”

Late last year the film had a short cinema run and screened at some festivals, but gradually more people became excited about the story to the point that it had to be aired on television.

“It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but the ABC were keen to get it so we found a way to make it work,” says O’Bryan. “The trick is just working with public-broadcaster budgets… but they really wanted it so we worked something out.”

What will be shown on ABC2 tonight is a shorter version than the original, but it does include different interview grabs and some additional songs. There’s also a DVD release in the not too distant future and the soundtrack is available on CD.

“We uncovered such a great story and so much good music… people were reminded of songs they hadn’t heard for a long time, so we felt it was warranted to release a selection of tracks that we think are really good and important.

“They’re the bands we think have been important to the West Australian story and the bands we think are kind of cool.”

[An edited version of this appears in The West Australian newspaper on Wednesday, May 13, 2009]

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