Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Profile - Amarillo

Published in the EG section of The Age, October 7.

Amarillo find reward in new project of their own 

The term ‘side-project’ can be a dirty one in music. With connotations of said project not being as important as an artist’s main gig, it can often slip under the radar, nothing more than a blip, soon to be relegated to the oft-used dustbin of musical history.

Despite these implications though, there are projects that stem from others that do stand tall in their own right. Defined by strong writing and playing, they’re bands that truly become their own entity – Melbourne quartet Amarillo fit firmly into this camp.

The brainchild of Raised By Eagles co-founder and guitarist Nick O’Mara, along with singer-songwriter Jac Tonks, Amarillo are the real deal – a vehicle for this pair, along with bassist Trent McKenzie and drummer Alex Rogowski, to showcase songs written outside their respective main gigs, the band has blossomed over the past couple of years.

“When Jac and I met, she had a whole lot of demos, and I’m always writing songs,” explains O’Mara on the origins of the group. “It really came about from helping each other finish songs, sitting around playing songs together, then deciding we should play them for the public.”

“Some songs are suited to certain projects,” he goes on. “Jac likes a lot of bands that I really love that aren’t touchstones or influences for other bands I’m in, like Raised By Eagles, so Amarillo is a really fun outlet for those kind of bands, those English bands like XTC, The SUNDAYS, stuff like that.”

These influences, along with a healthy does of Americana, define the band’s debut long-player, Eyes Still Fixed, which follows on from their 2014 eponymous EP. The album, a lot of which was written on the road in the Northern Territory, is warm and lush, the songs, as you would expect, the true focus.

“We wanted to try and capture the distance and broadness of the environment in [the Territory], we wanted that atmosphere,” O’Mara explains of the album’s nine tracks. “We didn’t do it so consciously, but we wanted the feeling of where we’d written the song, to still be in it when we recorded it.”

Produced by O’Mara’s cousin, Shane O’Mara, Eyes Still Fixed carries a lot of weight. Yes, the band’s members are known for work elsewhere, but it’s in this incarnation that they’re shining just as brightly – with this album, Amarillo have proven they’re something all their own.

Samuel J. Fell

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