Introducing Folk Band Haystack Mountain Hermits

Haystack Mountain Hermits
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

Haystack Mountain Hermits are a family band like no other.

They formed in 2011 when they packed every instrument they could find into the van and took off around Australia on a seven-month odyssey, with the kids learning to play their instruments on the long, straight bits of the A1.

A finalist for Artist Of The Year and People's Choice at the 2023 Australian Folk Music Awards, finalists in the ICMA 23/24 Awards, semi-finalists of the International Songwriting Competition, and previously Australian National and Tamworth Busking Champions, this band is punching above their weight. No wonder their hashtag is #weplaywesingwefight

Ahead of their live performance as part of SPARK Ipswich – the annual celebration of live music, theatre, arts, and hands-on cultural experiences that will light up Ipswich next month from 4-14 July – at the world music event WOMI (alongside other performers Paco Lara Flamenco, MZAZA, Mango Matic, Run Rabbit, Gosti, Guava Love, Shanasheel, Innessa, Melaka and others) on 7 July, we find out all the backstage goss from the Haystack Mountain Hermits.

Located just 30 minutes from Brisbane's CBD, Ipswich is home to an array of world-class artists, musicians and performers who are spotlighted by the SPARK Ipswich 2024 programme.

We sound like... Oh bloody hell. We don't know. We're a mish-mash of hillbilly/ folk/ skiffle/ bluegrass with a dash of country and blues. Some would say newgrass or indie bluegrass. We think we're more like drygrass, haha – a mix of Australian folk and bluegrass. If you can work us out, please let us know.

Our first gig was... In Alice Springs, on our Are We There Yet? busking tour of Australia. We got a permit via phone to busk, got all dressed up, took our instruments into the mall and attracted a huge crowd.

Then an officious ranger told us we couldn't busk without a paper permit. The crowd were NOT happy. Our second gig was in Darwin, at the Mindil Markets, where we were invited to play live to air on ABC Darwin. The next night, same markets, we were interviewed for Australian Geographic, which more than made up for our dodgy first ever busk.

When did you settle on the group's name, and was it a unanimous decision... Haystack Mountain is a real place, and our family property stands in its shadow. We chose it as we travelled around Australia busking, never thinking we'd need it for anything else! It's the hardest name to say and remember; emcees trip over it and get it wrong all the time, but we wouldn't change it for quids.

In the studio we... Need a big room! We are looking forward to recording our first album of original songs live around a couple of mics, old-style and authentic.

Previous studio time is remembered for Year 12 music assignments being written, takeaway Thai feasts, arguments over whose harmony was on the tonic and saving the hard drive from meltdown by putting it in the freezer.

If we could tour with anyone... It'd have to be with Punch Brothers or Mighty Poplar. They've influenced our playing, our songwriting, our arranging and our performances around a single mic. You can dream, right?

Social media is... Both a blessing and a curse! We've all read 'Stolen Focus' (Johann Hari) and reckon he's on the money. Do yourself a favour and look it up; and turn off those darn notification pings on your phone. Or don't, we're not your mum.

My favourite app at the moment is... Uber Eats. For us mountain folk, it's fun to use when we rehearse or play in the Big Smoke. Oh, and apps that change facial features in photos. We made Marcus' head as big as his massive Western hat in one social post.

To date, our most embarrassing moment was the time... In a family band, you pretty quickly learn not to be embarrassed as everyone pays you out all the time. You can't show any weakness. One sniff of that, and it's all over. You never hear the end of it.

Life on the road can be... Brutal in a family band! We've travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres in the Blunderbuss. We break down and get lost, but we've never missed a gig. We've started a collection of signatures of musicians who've travelled with us on the door, it's an eclectic bunch! Brave too, as #weplaywesingwefight while travelling.

If you'll have us on your bill, all we ask is that our rider contains... Our first ever rider was a huge jar of Arnott's biscuits, which we demolished. Cold (ice cold) beer is popular in Tamworth, but our favourite rider is cheese. That keeps Kez happy. Happy mum, happy band.

The most scary scenario we've found ourselves in, was... We tried to get to a gig in NSW and it was raining so heavily that we had to turn back. The roads and bridges were going underwater and we rounded a corner in the dark and ended up in fast flowing water, right near a waterfall.

We made it through, but it was terrifying. If it's flooded, forget it, folks! And then there was the time we got stopped by a massive bushfire. . . ironically, on our way to a bushfire fundraiser festival in NSW. We made it, but had to go the (VERY) long way around and walked straight onstage as we arrived.

What celebrity/ famous person would you love to be spokesperson of the band? Imagine Morgan Freeman saying 'Haystack Mountain Hermits'. . . woah!

If you had to live in a city abroad, where would you choose and why? Nashville. Marcus has just come back from three weeks there and we're all envious.

Three people you'd like to invite around for a dinner party? Oh man, there's so many more than three! However, we agreed Paul Kelly, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jamie Oliver – there may be an ulterior motive in inviting Jamie!?

If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us? Pre-rehearsal family dinners are common in the Hermitage.

Davo is king of the Saturday night roast, Kez loves making sourdough pizza and soups, Jackson is currently banned from cooking after mac 'n' cheese seven times in a row, Marcus makes a mean curry, Lachie does great breakfasts (and knows the protein content of every item), and Ella is queen of sourdough and baking. Dinner is at 6 so we can start rehearsal afterwards, so don't be late.

When it comes to pets are you a lover or hater of our furry friends? We have a dog, Banjo, a cat (named Clyde, his partner-in-crime Bonnie is no longer with us) and three chook.

We spend travelling time occasionally writing lists of pet names, and have some spectacular chook names on the list. Our current chooks are Motherclucker, Eggspresso and Layla. We love our furry friends, but they are a pain-in-the-butt when it comes to touring. Festivals with pets, anyone?

No matter the expense, send me a case of... Witches Falls Wine. They're a local winery on Tamborine Mountain and they've hosted our EP launch and our 'One Last Ride' film clip premiere. They are legends and their wines are just exceptional.

The last time I saw the inside of a gym was... Today for two of our band. When you see us onstage, you can decide which two! In the band, we also have a rock-climber, a kettle-bell workout enthusiast, a motorcyclist (does that count as fitness?) and a dog walker/ Pilates pilatee – surely that's a word? Well, it is now.

What's the one chore you dislike the most? Doing tax. We all hate it. And anything to do with budgets on grant applications.

Do you have any phobias... Marcus cannot be further than 1m from a guitar at all times. He's been known to come out of the dunny playing. It's paid off. He just took up a scholarship to a bluegrass guitar camp and met and played with many of his idols.

Would you ever partake in a reality show? We were invited to be part of the ABC reality series 'The Recording Studio', which still plays frequently on iView.

We got to work with Shane Nicholson in the ABC Sydney studios, which was incredible, and even better, Gran and Pap featured on our recording. Pap played in a dance band for over 50 years and had never heard his voice recorded.

If you could prank any of your friends, who's your target, and how are you bringing them down? Why prank friends when you can prank your family in so many ways!? Ella's fave is to say something is stuck in the CD player (yeah, ancient vehicle) and to whack you with her spiky wombat hanging from the rear vision mirror.

Davo can't tell the difference between gravy and chocolate sauce on ice-cream, and Jackson often ends up with an almond in his food. It's been happening for so long we've all forgotten why.

Best local takeaway joint for a midnight feed that will leave you with a food coma? Well, we live regionally where there is no local takeaway open at midnight. It's probably for the best, but if Ella has been baking, there are quite often tonnes of muffins in the freezer when we get home. Raspberry and white choc or blueberry streusel?

Which fictional character best describes your personality? As a band, it would have to be Bluey, as we LOVE to play!

Last show you binge-watched? Some of us binge-watch, some binge-read and some binge-listen, and some do all three. It's all about storytelling – a good story is incredibly satisfying and captivating. We love to tell stories in our songs, and our new songs are full of intriguing and lesser-known stories from Australia's past.

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