| You could search for years and never find a man who deserves a spot at Homebake more than Paul Dempsy. Not only is the Something For Kate frontman a fantastic songwriter, imaginative guitarist, and distinct vocalist, he is also a guy with a firm belief in Australian music and just as importantly, genuine, workable ideas on how to help it flourish.
Asked what the most admirable feature of Aussie music is, Paul’s answer is simple. “Honesty,” he laughs. “That’s probably a big generalisation, but it seems to be something that Australian bands need to possess.” Of course, this honesty arises for a lot of reasons the fair dinkum’ Aussie attitude most obviously. However, Dempsy also sees it as the positive flip side of the struggle Australian bands face in winning support in an increasingly global music scene. “Within Australia there seems to be an unconditional acceptance of anything that comes from overseas with any sort of hype behind it,” explains Paul carefully. “Australia has so much quality and variety, but it still doesn’t seem to be able to generate the same sort of excitement as the flavour of the month from over seas.”
It’s a sensitive subject especially on a day when Australian music celebrates it’s own existence but Paul is a long way from writing off the Australian music industry altogether. His feeling is more a question of why the spirit of a festival like Homebake isn’t something we carry around with us all the time. “I think Australian bands can suffer from a short attention span on behalf of the Australian music industry,” explains Paul. “Being a small populace, with a relatively small music scene, that can place limits on the attention Australian bands receive, regardless of any question of the quality of what they’re coming out with. There are some Aussie bands at the moment who are putting out like their sixth, seventh or eighth record and not getting the attention they deserve because everyone is like oh, it’s just them again’.”
It’s a tough fact, but also one we shouldn’t shy away from. To Dempsy, both the reason and solution for this situation are pretty simple, and as Australian as gumboot throwing and goannas. “I’d like to see our cultural cringe go, and I’d like to see our tall poppy syndrome go with it,” he says. Paul points to initiatives like Homebake and Triple J’s Australian Music Month (which ran all through November, including a fantastic J Files on SFK) that are helping to smash the glass ceiling, seeing a bright future down that path. “Homebake is so wonderful because it’s just a big day of Australian bands,” he says. “I think it’s the only festival that always features exclusively Australian bands, and it’s wonderful to see it go so well.”
And so with all this talk of Australian music, what exactly does Paul Dempsy think an Australian band should sound like, if it is to be genuinely Australian. Once again, the answer is pretty simple. “No band should try to sound like anything. It’s fine to have your influences, the music you love. But remember, nobody wants to listen to you just reinterpret those influences, they want to listen to you.”
(This article appears in this year’s official Homebake program, availabe on the day for $4.