HUSKY The Hill Is Alive


“You’ve got to answer to yourself on all of these things. In 20 years’ time you want to feel like you created something you’re happy with.”

Touring in support of their second album, Ruckers Hill, Husky head back our way on Thursday, December 4, at the Dunsborough Hotel; Friday, December 5, at The Bakery, and Saturday, December 6,  at the Prince Of Wales, Bunbury. MEG CRAWFORD reports.

Previous interviews with Husky Gawenda and cousin Gideon Preiss – respectively, the frontman and keyboardist of the indie-folk four-piece sensation Husky – leave the impression that although they’re super polite and lovely lads, they err on the serious side.

Today, even though they’re sitting at a boardroom table in the midst of signing about 800,000 copies of their new album, Ruckers Hill, they’re happy to relax for a bit. For a start, while it’s well known Preiss used to watch with envy while Gawenda and Preiss’ brother played guitar in the garage, it turns out there were at least some awkward musical years.

“There was a tiny, little metal phase,” confesses Gawenda. “It wasn’t that tiny,” Preiss chortles. “I remember when Husk got his first electric guitar, which was a BC Rich. It’s a metal guitar and it’s set up for shredding and playing fast. I used to go around there and Husk and my big brother would be working out Guns N’ Roses and Metallica solos – Enter Sandman, that kind of thing. I could not have been more jealous.”

“But that phase didn’t last long,” Gawenda interrupts, trying to regain some ground. “That guitary, wanting-to-shred thing lasted a couple of years and then I went back to Leonard Cohen songs.”
The boys have made no secret of the fact they’re influenced by singer/songwriter greats. Husky draws on Dylan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Beach Boys and, of course, Cohen. They’ve been life-long loves and despite a few musical lapses, it’s clear they’ve always had pretty mature musical tastes. For Gawenda and Preiss, it was the stuff playing in their folks’ cars when they were kids and they’ve always connected with them. “They’re artists that you grow with as you develop,” Preiss explains. “But I loved Dylan, Neil Young and Cohen as a kid. I loved them then and I love them in a different way now. I guess we were lucky to have good musical influences early on – good records playing in the lounge room.”

Gawenda and Preiss once described the experience of recording their debut album, Forever So, as unique, insofar as they’d complete creative control over the process. They recorded it at Gawenda’s rented Fitzroy abode in a shed out the back, which also meant they weren’t fettered by time or money constraints. So, if holding the reins is something the band values, how did the experience of recording Ruckers Hill compare?
“I think we did have the same degree of creative control,” reflects Gawenda. “The difference this time was that the label and other team members invested in what we were doing. That creates some pressures and expectations that we hadn’t dealt with before, but, essentially, we were totally in control of what we were doing and I still feel that the greatest expectations and pressures came from ourselves, as they did on the first record.”

Similarly, the fellas have said they didn’t write Forever So with any particular audience in mind and it’s equally true this time around – the band’s musical integrity is not up for grabs. “You’ve got to answer to yourself on all of these things,” says Preiss. “In 20 years time you want to feel like you created something you’re happy with. When we made the first record, we never really had any expectations around how people would receive it. I was actually very surprised that it was well received. I feel like I don’t have a choice about it. You have to set those standards for yourself. There are certain things that you don’t compromise and authenticity is one of them.”

“It can be a little bit like chasing shadows with a flashlight though,” qualifies Gawenda. “If you’re trying too hard for authenticity – that’s not authentic. You need to let go of trying too hard for anything. Often, it’s best just to let go of all of that stuff and just write and record.”

Did they achieve that with Ruckers Hill? “An album’s a snapshot,” reflects Gawenda. “Forever So was a snapshot of three years ago and Ruckers Hill’s a snapshot. If the album sounds different, that probably has more to do with the fact that time has past and life has changed and we’ve read different books, listened to different music.”

“And spent time touring,” Preiss interjects. “That has an effect on the things you write and what you want to do going forward.” However, they both agree it can be a detrimental to their mental health. “In other words, we go crazy sometimes,” Gawenda laughs.

Although they say you should never work with mates and family, Preiss and Gawenda are an exception to the rule. It’s obvious not only are they good mates but their shared history is an advantage. Preiss has a nice spin on it. “I feel that it makes at least parts of working together easier,” he reflects. “The best example I can think of is when you’re touring, because when you’re away for long stretches and you’ve got family there you feel like you’re taking a bit of home with you and there’s a lot of comfort in that for me.
“If someone had said to me when I was a kid that I’d get to tour and work and play music and do all of the things we’ve done together with my big cousin, I would have been the happiest little kid in the world. It’s nice to remember that.”