FRANK’S FISH TANK Ready to land

Local folk trio Frank’s Fish Tank will launch their debut album Muddy Landing this Friday, June 14 at Kidogo Arthouse in Fremantle. The Fremantle act released their debut EP Tubular Snouted Sessions just months after forming in August last year, which showed their penchant for earthy melodies, intricate musicianship and storytelling inspired by growing up in regional Western Australia. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with singer, songwriter and banjo player Francesca Hocking to find out how local folk artist Justin Walshe brought the best out of the group in the studio, as well as op shops, shoe making and what we can look forward to on the launch night (with impromptu after hours folk jams sure to be on the cards!) 

Congratulations on releasing your debut album. It’s come about really quickly given the group only formed last year, what’s your secret?

Probably impatience and a desire to get things on the road! And all of us generally quite like the actual process of making an album, milling about couped up in a room together, camped out and sleep deprived, has its own charm you know! Rachel and Jason are also in the band and have been in a lot of other bands and have a lot of experience at making things happen, whereas I’m relatively new to it all. So I guess they’ve helped push the process along since our first gig, having walked the path a few times before. Deadlines and financial crises help too.

Collectively you must have had some shared ideas of where you wanted to go musically, how did you come together and was that apparent from the beginning?

Sort of! We all like and play quite a few different kinds of music, but the kind of music we’d play together I think we knew would turn out somewhere along the lines of how it has, given that Jason is a mando(lin) player and Rach a fiddler and me being into the banjo, the three instruments make a mess folk dream combo! Mine and Jason’s share house was really quite heavy on the folk music, listening and playing and sourcing dusty old music books from op shops and libraries, as well as other country themed things like vegetable planting and shoe making, so we probably first started jamming together in this environment, and then Rach grew up on the folk fiddle as a kid in Albany, me trailing a few years behind her, and she’s been playing with Jason for ages in Salary and the Galloping Foxleys and Racoo (and the Moke Folk). One day I was like, “I’m gonna go jam some of my songs with Rach” and Jason was like “I’ll come” and thus Fish Tank was born.

Your first EP of last year Tubular Snouted Sessions ​was self-recorded in a kitchen and a shed I hear? How did it differ when recording this album and did you retain some of those DIY aesthetics?

I think this time round we actually knew our songs and what we wanted from them more, although there’s still charm in Tubular Snout because some parts of it are unpredictable and spur of the moment and that’s really amusing. I mean we had no idea we would use the material while making it so it really was just for fun. A lot of the DIY has been retained though I say, I mean this record was recorded in a lounge room, with huge pillows covered in sequins stuck to the walls and hunger stricken journeys to the slightly too expensive IGA and bottle-o of Mossie Park (where we recorded).

Notably Rach was out of town on a Tasmanian sojourn at this point, (so) we luckily snagged the fine stylings of Jesse Woodward, a fellow Justin Walshe Folk Machine unit, to step in with fiddle in Rach’s absence. It was great to work with him and it all slipped into place pretty quickly considering our joint enthusiasm for old time folk bluegrass. But it was really good to just focus time on getting a sound we really liked out of our instruments, and run through things over and over and over again to get that glam kinda sound.

You recorded with popular local folk artist Justin Walshe. What did he bring to the production and why was he a good fit for the group to work with?

Justin is fabulous! We all felt he’d be a really good fit from the moment we knew it was a possibility. He listens to a lot of acoustic folk music and groups that we’re quite inspired by, as well as his own style being somewhere along the same road as ours, so he understood pretty well from the get go what we wanted to get out of our instruments and how we wanted to sound. He’s also really really dedicated… I mean three coffee fuelled all nighters in a row dedicated!

There are lyrics and stories on the album that I feel have been influenced by growing up in regional WA. What are some examples of this and how has it come to be part of the music?

Living in the country growing up, your social life isn’t always popping off, so there’s a lot of time to just sit and observe what you see and ponder over how you perceive it in your mind, combined of course with a very rugged wild coastline and long stretches of rain soaked fields. And the social life that you do have is pretty slow paced, and very routine. This sort of inspired boredom definitely lead to a lot of writing and drawing in reflection of this sort of passive observation, perhaps it could be called daydreaming. Yes, Albany is a very very good environment for constant daydreaming. I didn’t really write songs back then, but every time I visit I do, or at least it leads to a lot of music playing.

With so many instruments used on the album, are you able to replicate the songs onstage?

There’s tracks on the album we are yet to replicate on stage. Mainly Marron Melody as it uses mini banjolele and Jason on assorted percussion and jaws harp and backing vocals and there’s just a lot going on. I think we are definitely going to play it at the launch though. Normally it’s a case of a bit of shuffling about, and mainly Jason deciding to play mando or guitar on a track. We get a few guest stars now and then to broaden things out and folk party them up. There might even be a few at the launch. Not gonna give too much away though!

You’re launching the album at Kidogo Arthouse in Fremantle on Friday, June 14. Who else can we catch on the line up and what kind of night can we look forward to?

We’ve got Nika Mo and Jacob Wylde and their spellbinding lyrical craftsmanship teaming up for a duet set, which I’m really excited about. I never cease to feel anything less than euphoria every time they take to the stage, as well as some beautiful local artists to decorate the walls with their work for the night. And the venue itself is incredibly atmospheric, being by the windy rugged Bather’s Beach, and it has beautiful acoustics as well. And then we all hope to wind up at the Kelp Bar (the back room of Kidogo) for a pint and a jam afterwards!