the end of a sudden rush of Finnigan and Brother activity

image by adam thomas

Well, Colombia is pretty magic.

For five weeks over July-August, my brother Chris and my self were living and working in the city of Medellin in central Colombia. Or more precisely, just above the city of Medellin, on the north-east slopes of the valley that leads upwards to the town of Santa Elena and the peaks of the Andes. We were in residence at 19th century coffee plantation-turned-artist-residence Campos de Gutierrez, writing and composing a series of new music and spoken word pieces.

Although the farmhouse was built in 1844, Campos is a very young arts space – Chris and I were the 11th and 12th artists in the residents program, which kicked off a year ago in mid-2011. Debonair artist and curator Andres Monzon was born and raised in Medellin, but his family moved to the US in the late 90s to escape the violence and corruption, and Andres studied as an artist in Florida, New York and Korea. Returning to Colombia in 2010, Andres was inspired to transform his old family home into a space for international artists to live and create in the lush beauty of the equatorial mountains.

image by adam thomas

Chris and my self operate in a duo called Finnigan and Brother – Chris plays guitar, loops and FX, and I say words and sometimes play an FM/AM radio. We’ve worked and played together for most of our lives, but since 2007 we’ve also collaborated musically, placing my spoken word and fragmented stories against Chris’ ambient psychedelia. We’ve performed at festivals and concerts in and around Canberra and presented a live radio play on Sydney’s FBI Radio, but owing to life circumstances we haven’t been able to play together much in the last two years. So we applied to Campos and they accepted us. And over the course of a month, in between hanging with our awesome fellow residents, exploring Medellin, exploring Colombia, chilling with the cow cat dog and roosters, Chris and I locked ourselves in our beautiful (haunted) downstairs studio and hammered out 18 new songs. We had planned to play a gig while we were over there and ended up playing four, including an outdoor gig in the town of Altavista, a performance as part of a Latin American dance event at La Mantana que Piense in Itagui, and presenting our own solo concert at the Centro Plazarte Gallery.

Colombia was manic – so much so that I feel like I don’t even have the energy to talk about it – and inspiring and exhausting and exciting and – and –

at plazarte. image by michaela dabson

So we got back several weeks ago. We flew over the Antarctic ice shelf (it is pretty!), landed in Australia, then a few hours later we were setting up in the Phoenix Pub for our feature set at the Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit! poetry slam. Bad Slam is always fun, but this was without doubt the best time I’ve ever had at that event – amazing poetry, great mix of readers and writers, and Chris and I had heaps of fun playing. We played a tune that we’d written in honour of the fact that we were sharing a bill with Fred Smith (our song Fireflies in the Dark is an echo of Fred’s song Blue Guitar, with political unrest in Colombia replacing political unrest in the Solomon Islands), we played a song about making art in Canberra named after our beloved Skyspike, we played our ridiculous 90s Spin Doctors cover, and we were finally able to try out our tune Anyone Can Play A Christian Music Festival, which had never felt like a good fit for our Colombian audiences.

Exactly one week later we performed our second Canberra set, featuring as part of Scissors Paper Pen‘s new storytelling evening Something Else at Smiths Alternative Bookshop. Smiths has become my favourite Canberra venue, and it was lovely to perform some of the slower, sadder and more abstract tunes that wouldn’t work in a noisy pub. Also we performed our cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, about which all I can say is,

image by adam thomas

And then we did a live set on 2XX FM on the Live and Local show with Leon Twardy, Bad Slam’s Andrew Galan and Ashley Harrison. And it was great, good debates about the Canberra arts scene punctuated by a few songs performed live on air.

So then, next, what next, we travelled to Melbourne for the week, where the redoubtable Nickamc, aka Mr Nick McCorriston, had invited Finnigan and Brother to record our new material at the RMIT studios. So we entered into a world of strange new luxury, plugging our instruments into sleek high-functioning machinery, yelling our spittle-ridden nonsense into finely filtered microphones and performing our semi-coherent Colombian fairy tales to the padded basement walls. And Nickamc took us well in hand, too, squeezing us for the best performances we could give, tweaking every element of the sound and feel until we stumbled onto something new and real-feeling. And Nickamc’s RMIT comrades jumped in as well, with a Mr Cameron even stepping in to play the filing cabinet for Elephants at the Walls when I proved myself utterly incapable of keeping the beat. And at last, we had 18 tracks recorded, and while we mixed them we debated and discussed which song will go where, what makes it to the album and in what order, and what’s the B-side of a B-side, and so on. And that was fun, believe me.


image by adam thomas

And now: so for now, we put Finnigan and Brother aside for a brief moment. I’m going to the Philippines in a couple of days and then London, and Chris has another band plus his solo recording plus an imminent interstate move up his sleeve, and so for the next few weeks we pretend that this all never happened.

Then, over October and November, the tracks will be mixed and mastered, ready for the release. When December hits, we start work on the music video for our I-want-to-call-it-a-single-but-really-what-does-that-mean song, a love story about our nation’s fair capital. And just as Christmas returns every year, with no hurry or delay discernible in its steady approach, so Finnigan and Brother will return, strolling towards you

with a sack full of presents.

image by adam thomas

image by adam thomas