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PIERCE BROTHERS From Dawn ‘Til Busk

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The Pierce Brothers’ Northern Lights national tour takes them to Settlers Tavern, Margaret River, on Friday, December 5, and the Indi Bar on Saturday, December 6. MATTHEW TOMICH reports.

The Pierce Brothers use space as a weapon. Whether they’re on stage at the sold out Corner Hotel or serenading commuters on the Paris Metro, the twins – Jack and Pat – utilise every inch of air around them to put on a performance that’s as kinetic as it is musical.
It was only two years ago when the duo started busking around Melbourne’s CBD after years of playing on stage together that their shows became an exercise in human acrobatics. Faced with an audience of the general public that hadn’t paid to see them, the pair were forced to do anything they could to catch the attention of the average passerby.

“It’s not because people were standing around us,” says Jack. “It was because nobody knew who we were. So we said, ‘we’ve gotta get them to look at us on the street. This isn’t a stage so we’ve gotta make it act like a stage and work in our favour’. So we used to start jumping around, hitting stuff with sticks. Then I did a somersault one day and Pat said ‘do that again!’ So then I started doing a somersault during the set, and then running around and playing drums on the ground and syncing that up with the music and then making it like a dance thing. And we’d just try to make it as enjoyable as possible for everyone, and before we knew it there were lots of people there so we started incorporating it into our live show, and so I’d move around the room and play different things around the room and the venue.”

Evidently the busking paid off – before long the duo quit their part-time jobs and began busking permanently. On the odd weekend off  between tours they’d hit up the streets of Melbourne’s CBD where, these days, they have little trouble finding an audience – a recent tweet from mid-November shows the brothers surrounded by a crowd of hundreds in the Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall.

Eventually the rest of the world started taking notice, and in August the brothers were invited to the Lowlands Festival in Holland – on a bill that included Queens Of The Stone Age, Boy & Bear and The Cat Empire, amongst others. As a self-described attention seeker, Jack sought to put his acrobatic skills to the test, emulating the tendencies of his musical hero Eddie Vedder who spent much of the ‘90s ascending the rafters 20-plus feet above the stage.

“We said, ‘can you put a microphone on one of those things?’ Because we had a sound check all morning we got to do that, so halfway through the festival set, I’d walk over to the side of stage and then start climbing up and then start drums playing on the metal pole. And it doesn’t take any skill whatsoever, but people just lost their shit. And I always found that interesting – because it’s something different and you haven’t seen it, that’s what people are more excited about. Because there’s no skill involved at all. They just enjoy somebody climbing something.”

The Pierce Brothers are in the midst of their third Australian tour this year, and 2015 is looking to be even bigger as the twins gear up to release their debut album and tour the country again with Dan Sultan. But even with bigger stages and bigger crowds, the twins are happy being buskers on the same level as their audience.

“We certainly are aiming for bigger stages, and if we can achieve that we’d be thrilled,” says Jack. “But we’ll never stop busking because no matter where we tour in the world, we can just go out and find a pitch and start busking and see how you go.”

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