In Depth: A conversation with Eileen Grace & Wrangler Studios
I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Chantelle Saunders of Eileen Grace and Britt Pearce from Wrangler Studios to discuss musical inspirations, community & the value of 'all ages' live music venues.
Gabby: So, starting with Chantelle, tell us about Eileen Grace and how you got involved with music?
Chantelle: Before I moved to Melbourne I did a little bit of music here and there, mostly open mic nights and then packed up and started to travel with my guitar around New Zealand and Southeast Asia. That's where the idea of being a collaborative artist came from, meeting lots of different musicians along the way. I then moved to Melbourne and met Britt on Fairy Floss, and have been living with her ever since. The first night after moving in I also met Deano who is now a huge part of Eileen Grace.They introduced me to Wrangler Studios where we spent a lot of our time making music and developing our sound. Melbourne is where it really took off for myself with music. Deano and I jammed, and then I met a whole bunch of other people from around the western suburbs, all through Wrangler. It’s such a great community space to meet new people, try different sounds, and meet different people to write with.
Gabby: Your latest single is ‘Rage and Wine’, can you share a bit about what the song is about and what kind of inspired the track?
Chantelle: ‘Rage and Wine’ started as a jam session at Wrangler, playing around with different riffs and lyrics until we found some that stuck. There was something about the song that we really enjoyed and decided to work on further. Something that has always been quite present for me is the struggles of coping mechanisms I've fallen into whilst growing up. I grew up in a pretty really troubled childhood which formed a lot of childhood trauma. I’ve always found that we unknowingly fit into certain coping mechanisms that aren't necessarily healthy. I think the main intent of the song was a little bit of an apology to myself, and wishing that I could have gone back and changed that. The song is structured, so it's really calm and then really big, and then there's really angry bits and then there's really soft parts. It's trying to explain that same feeling, everything is so up and down and you can be so angry at yourself, but it's kind of room for forgiveness as well. For example the line ‘try to go back in time instead of drowning in my rage and wine’, its about wishing i could go back and take care of myself a little bit more when I was younger instead of just drinking a lot, and ending up with anger issues. So, the song was kind of used to work through that, I like to use music to work through my issues as a kind of self-therapy, in a way.
Gabby: I love it! All right, I'm gonna direct these ones to Britt now, tell us a bit about Wrangler Studios, when did it open, and what prompted its creation?
Britt: So, Deano is the owner of Wrangler Studios. He started it in December 2012, before starting Wrangler he studied music and sound engineering. He started mixing friends gigs in warehouses and just realised how much he really loves mixing music and wanted to start his own venue. He jumped on Gumtree, met with the owner and saw the blank, office space as something so much more. It started off just having parties and BYO shows. Jayden Roy (our booker) started booking more all-ages shows, and then over time, developed into a very special space for all ages. We're the only space in Melbourne that's a DIY volunteer-run space, specifically for kids to be able to learn and enjoy live music. We have a studio out the back, We try to keep it super cheap, and even use it to record the live shows, providing the recordings to bands free of charge.
Gabby: I mentioned Wrangler to my business partner and the band manage and they all had the fondest memories of going there when they were 14 or 15. I think for them, it was like the first venue that they were able to go and see live music and really somewhat prompted their own music.
Britt: It’s heartwarming, to be honest. It's genuinely the best thing I've ever done in my life. I run the canteen .I make toasties, bake cookies and make coffee and just make sure everybody's hydrated. We have a venue dog named Oslow. He’s a beautiful smiley boy that just brings so much positive energy. It's just really lovely because we see kids that play their first gigs when they're 12, and then we see them when they're 16, and then we see them at their favourite bands shows. We all develop these friendships, just watching them grow up. Having the kids volunteer at Wrangler, being able to learn so much. We give them access to opportunities; they can support their favourite bands, We help them record their first EP and be able to really teach them the etiquette of the music industry, in a way. Don't be a douchebag to people, how to really communicate with a sound engineer to get the sound you like, and how to set up the stage. It is a very open and inclusive place, and we make sure everyone is comfortable.
Chantelle: With Deano, because he did the sound when we did the gigs every weekend, he's the most welcoming and like Britt was saying if you get nervous on the stage, he's the best sound guy because he’ll talk you through it if you get stuck and is really, really helpful. I think for these kids it's a great introduction to what you've got to do when you eventually go into other gig spaces.
Britt: Yeah, Deano has been teaching guitar for over 10 years to kids. He's really intuitive when it comes to people skill level, and being able to make it relatable/easy to learn.
Gabby: It's so important to have all-ages gigs and just really inclusive spaces because it really reinforces that music is like such a great space to be in and younger people should get into it if they're passionate about it. It’s so great that it's in the west too, the west is so great.
All right, onto my next question, what’s it like operating in the west of Melbourne? What makes it different?
Britt: I’ve worked a lot around the Footscray area as a chef, and I love Footscray. I love the community vibe of Footscray and the west, everybody’s so friendly. I live in Yarraville and it's just like a country town in the middle of the west. All the neighbours look out for each other, we even do little veggie trades over the fence, it's really nice. Businesses just really want to support each other, the local MP is a legend and she's very involved in everything and very supportive of local businesses, which is such a great support system to have.
Gabby: It's such a common thing that I've been hearing when talking to people, the west just creates such a feeling of community. You’re always going to know someone, and someone’s always going to know you, wherever you go.
Chantelle: I'm originally from Perth, WA where the music community is, especially like the alternative music community, is much tighter knit. It's moving from somewhere like Perth, which is a country town of, you know, cities in Australia to Melbourne. I originally was living in Coburg, so overwhelmed, I didn't even know where to start meeting people with music. I went to a few gigs but it was quite overwhelming. Then I moved west and moved in with Britt and it was just this feeling of warmth and lot more like home, that closer-knit community. And so I volunteer at Wrangler, I work at the door and meeting all the different bands that come through and making friends, The Grogans have played a few times and they're the loveliest dudes ever, and then Velvet Bloom as well have come through. There's such a feeling of community around here. I've done a few open mic nights in Yarraville and you’re just like, ‘hey, I know you, you do this’, and I've run into a couple of people that were like, ‘I saw you play here, or I've seen your Wrangler’. And it's like, oh, this is such a family that you've created in the western suburbs, you know, so close-knit, it's really lovely.
Onto my final question, which I’ve been asking everyone because I think it’s really cool. Who are some of your favourite local artists at the moment?
Britt: I really love Luna Tunes, he's done a lot of the work for Wrangler internally, a lot of artwork. He’s local to Melbourne, he’s an absolute legend.
Chantelle: I just think The Grogans, they’re just great guys.
Britt: I also really love Velvet Bloom. I think they're an incredible duo and everything that they stand for.
Chantelle: Really beautiful songs about female positivity and really amazing feminist power as well. I guess that's who I’d say as an artist too. Talktalkdie is another, she does some really incredible artwork too. Also, Odette, she’s doing really well, she’s got a beautiful range with her music and she does spoken word in her songs too. She's a really incredible artist that I look up to a lot.