Elixir have collaborated with Michael Leunig on their new album 'Gratitude And Grief'.
Cartoonist Michael Leunig has become the fourth member of Katie Noonan's longest-running creative project Elixir with their new album 'Gratitude And Grief'.
Over four years, Leunig and Elixir have collaborated to reinterpret ten of his poems into song, including 'Love Is Born', 'Peace (is my drug)', 'The Path To Your Door' and title track 'Gratitude And Grief'.
“I really wanted to work with Leunig because I feel that he's just such a beautiful philosopher and the intimacy of his words really suits the intimacy of what kind of music we make with Elixir,” Katie says.
Katie started Elixir in 1997 as a way to explore Australian poetry and find a place for quieter acoustic music that didn't fit with her other band at the time: george. “Our first [Elixir] album was with Martin Challis, who is a beautiful Brisbane poet and the second album was with Thomas Shapcott,” she says.
“This album is a ten-piece body of work, about half of which have been extended beyond the original form to suit the music. It's great to have [Leunig] with us because it really does feel like he's in the band now.”
Elixir and Leunig will be performing together as part of Brisbane Festival accompanied by the Camerata Chamber Orchestra in a vivid fusion of music, poetry and art. “[Leunig] speaks the poems live, I sing and the band plays, and then he draws the beautiful accompaniments to each piece live onstage,” Katie explains.
She goes on to say that the particular poem from which the new album takes its name, ‘Gratitude And Grief’, holds a special significance for her.
“It's one of the most incredible poems and certainly has been a beautiful theme for me to ruminate on, and really sums up my life in the past couple of years more eloquently than I could,” she says.
“It’s been beautiful for me to sing his words; they’ve been very cathartic for me. In his words I find solace and I find a sense of calm, which are two things we try and make in Elixir as well.”
In approaching the creative challenge of transcribing Michael’s poems, which can be just a few sentences long, into a full-length musical composition, Katie says his brevity actually offered a lot of material to work with.
“I sat there with all of his books open and kept on following my instincts and picking things that spoke to me, that I could sing and felt that related to my life and my heart. It's about being in the moment and letting the notes drop where they're meant to drop,” she says.
“I think Michael's lyrics are some of the easier ones because he is the master of less-is-more, which is always the sign of a great master of their craft, in that he says a lot with very few words and I think a great song should do the same thing.”
With this collaboration, Katie says and her bandmates in Elixir have also achieved one of their long-term career goals.
“Our whole dream in life was to become a Leunig cartoon, and we have become a Leunig cartoon – our album cover is a portrait of us as a four-piece band by him, and oh my god it's the ultimate bucket-list tick, done,” she laughs.
'Gratitude And Grief' is available now.
Elixir With Michael Leunig Tour Dates
Sun 9 Sep - QPAC @ Brisbane Festival) Fri 28 Sep - Hobart Federation Concert Hall (with The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra) Fri 26 Oct - Perth Concert Hall (with The West Australian Symphony Orchestra) Sun 18 Nov - LiveLoveLife Festival (Daylesford, VIC)