By kath The Boat People Interview
Article By Kath on Oct 26, 2002



"We're just nice young men and the embarrassing thing is lots of people's parents like us!" says The Boat People's singer/bassplayer James O'Brien.

Kath Orgovany gets permission from Mum and Dad for this interview.

The Boat People started life as Four on the Floor winning Triple J's Unearthed in 1997 and Nescafe's Big Break a year earlier but being quite young at the time they couldn't really capitalize on it and it's all ancient history now anyway.

The Brisbane 4-piece formed in High School in 1995 at the tender age of Year 10 and went onto complete Jazz degrees at the Conservatorium of Music. This obviously sets them apart from many of the indie pop kids around today in that they can actually play!

James explains: "I think the main difference that comes from having that jazz training is things can end up a bit more complicated, the music's a bit more complex, we tend to use complex harmonies and rhythms, not to be wankers or anything it's just what we're interested in."

Their jazz background also allows them to jam at gigs and improvise, something that doesn't really happen a lot in regular rock music, yet their focus is still on writing a good song.

The Brisbane jazz background is more common then you think, with recent Aria winners George also coming from that scene, with singer Katie studying at the Jazz Conservatorium as well.

What is the Brisbane original music scene like?

"I think that in Brisbane there are a hell of a lot of good musos and there aren't actually a hell of a lot of venues. Bands have to be pretty good and I think in that sense people work really hard."

With only four or five venues providing regular original music in Brisbane we here in Melbourne forget how spoilt we are.

The Brissie scene is a tight-nit one though with musos bumping into eachother where ever they go. This has resulted in a website popping up called Brispop which James says has helped the cohesiveness even more.

The Boat People have sailed to Melbourne before and have enjoyed the experience. "Melbourne has, out of any city in Australia, the best and most interested punters….they're a tough crowd but they're interested in music. In Brisbane it's a struggle, like when we put on a big night we do a lot of promo and we push a lot of our friends to come along….in Melbourne that's the difference, there's a population of people that are interested and really keen."

The band have also done some good supports with Pollyanna and Dallas Crane and have had a crack at the All Ages scene, a mean feat considering they're not a punk band.

The Boat People have just released their second EP entitled 'Squeaky Clean EP,' the title a tongue in cheek reference to the band's lack of a rock star lifestyle. They don't take themselves too seriously, strange for an arty-type band. Their new EP is a diverse slice of pop with everything from uptempo songs to angsty prog-rock.

Musically this EP is different to their debut. "It's definitely way more consistent. Because we've got three vocalists and three songwriters there was a tendency on the first EP for things to be very all over the place I guess. Stylistically the jump could be quite jarring, you know? And that's part of our sound to some extent but we wanted this EP to be more consistent…."

Musically the band has been described as "jazz influenced fancy pop" which is a good description. Their arrangements are clever but not too complicated which is interesting considering their jazz background.

Ben Folds and Whitlams comparisons abound due to the fact they have keyboards yet they manage to remain original and with three songwriters the band is into quality not quantity.

As well as The Boat People James is also involved in a band that is featured on the latest Candle Records Compilation called DOPH. The band also features members from Gorgeous and Weave and could very well be a giging band in the not too distant future if they are ever in the same room together!

The future for The Boat People looks bright. After their current tour to promote their new EP they can look forward to being Triple J's Feature Artist in November and are already thinking about their next EP. They also have a cool website at