Ever since Courtney Barnett appeared on the musical map around four years ago, she quickly went from ‘promising newcomer’ to ‘new leading lady of female indie rock’ within a short time. Three years after her praised debut album Barnett returns with the anticipated follow-up and in many ways the forthcoming Tell Me How You Really Feel shows the protagonist in a new position. Not only is she facing increased attention, but the record itself delivers a more mature and progressive approach towards her sunny indie rock. It might be too early to say ‘Damn, she’s gotten serious’ but all in all the record proves that you haven’t seen all facets of Courtney Barnett‘s musical character yet.
However, besides her status as stubborn independent rock heroine Mrs. Barnett also remains a true Australian girl, for sure. So when we met with the Melbourne-based musician we decided to shake things up and play a game of ‘Australian Associations’. We let her pick various photos from a big pile of pictures related to her home country and let he name the first things that came to her head. There are a few surprising answers by Courtney in here for sure but they are as entertaining and diverse as her music.
I love her. She used to be on this show called Neighbours and later she became a pop star. And she dated Michael Hutchence which I really adored. She’s sort of ‘Everybody’s Darling’ in Australia and I totally agree. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head is probably my favourite song.
It’s funny because the more I have travelled the more people talk with me about it, despite it being from the 1980s. They are like ‘Oh, you’re Australian. You like Crocodile Dundee?’ This guy and kangaroos are the two things people always bring up when it comes to Australia. If you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely do it. It’s still quite funny although I haven’t seen it in ages. It’s probably quite sexist and racist if you watch it today. (laughs)
They are quite a thing in Australia! They are just yummy chocolate … well; I don’t even know what’s in them. They’re some sort of biscuits, I think and pretty delicious. And they are not that big so you can eat quite a lot of them.
I didn’t know that he’s been accused of sexual assault but I’m actually not surprised about that. Weird guy. But the current #MeToo debate is really good and helpful. I really like how it’s opening up so many conversations. It also made me think about blank sexism in politics in general. Before Tony Abbott became prime minister Julie Gillard was the first women to have that job and she was witch hunted out of office. And our recent deputy prime minister also resigned because he had an affair. And I was thinking: What if the tables would have turned here and it was a female deputy prime minister who had an affair. The media coverage would have been quite different while now many people tend to ignore it. Anyway, Tony Abbott is an idiot, to cut a long story short. (laughs)
It’s like a spread you put on toast and I’m not really good as describing it. It’s not really sweet, nor quite sour. It’s a yeast extract or something, quite bitter. I ate it all the time, just a tiny bit on a toast is enough. Otherwise it might be too heavy. Besides that I highly recommend it.
The guy from Men at Work. Yeah, I think in the realm of Crocodile Dundee it might be the biggest Australian hit single ever, Down Under. But I actually don’t know anything about him and his band beyond that song.
[Editor’s Note: She’s Courtney’s partner] A lot has changed over the past three years, indeed. But I think Jen and I did a great job in keeping it together. I recorded her last two albums and also joined her on tour. It’s still quite inspiring and so is the whole Melbourne music scene. Our label Milk Records allows us to help our friends and get there music out in the world. And it’s especially great to see more women getting in the focus. I mean, it’s not like those talented female indie rock heroines come out of the blue. They’ve always been there; they just didn’t get that much coverage.
Uuuuh, a quokka! It’s a small marsupial and they only live in one place, I think, Rottnest Island in Western Australia. It’s a, well, bunny-sized rat. (laughs) Plus they are extremely cute and quite tame. I mean, even I did a selfie with one once. They are simply not scared of humans. My favourite animal however is a koala which also turned out to be my spiritual animal.
That’s our current prime minister. Originally I thought he was okay but you know how it is with politicians … sometimes, it’s hard to tell. He’s proven to actually be not okay. I followed the all whole asylum seeking issue in Australia pretty closely. There’s the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre which I supported in the past. They are an incredible team, doing astonishing work. It’s been pretty rough in Australia. The government got those detention centres offshore for refugees and they got really terrible, terrible conditions. I read interviews with people who worked at war zones and in prisons before and said that they’ve never seen something like this before. The people are treated like animals, it’s disgusting. And the government does nothing because technically it’s not Australian territory. It’s pervert. It’s hard to avoid these issues in my songs because they are part of my life. In my early twenties I made the conscious decision to not stop looking at things just because they are too hard or too political. You can’t be in a privileged position and do nothing. I’m not Bono; I can’t throw Millions of dollars around. But I can spread a message. What bothers me most about the Australian asylum seeking problem is the total lack of empathy. People are dying and there’s simply no rational justification for that.
There’s this stereotype that literally every animal in Australia can kill you… and it’s true. (laughs) Fortunately I never had a dangerous encounter with one of those so far. There’s also the common joke that these redback spiders are under your toilet seat. Still, haven’t spotted them there yet.
I love him. His live shows are extraordinary and I’ve seen him a couple of times. I’ve been listening to the Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus album a lot which shows more of his acoustic side. The Dig, Lazarus, Dig!! record is also pretty great. I always feel like I barely skinned the surface of the whole Nick Cave cosmos as there’s so much to discover there. I love how he’s always trying to do new things.