SS.Sebastian's newest release is the single 'Moon & Mountain'.
With a decade-plus experience, singer, sound-maker and multi-instrumentalist Brett Harris returns to his SS.Sebastian project (after a half-decade absence) with the charming and beautiful single 'Moon & Mountain'.
A track that leans hard into its '60s influences, it's an upbeat, jolly ride through piano-driven pop (think 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band') with speckles of saloon-flavoured alt. country swing – the perfect sing-along anthem.
"It is about sentimentality," Brett says, "holding a flame for other times, or people we once cared about, while simultaneously burning it a little too brightly."
After commencing his music journey as a member of Brisbane folk-rock outfit The Good Ship (2010-2016), Brett has since expanded to write music for a number of theatre production soundtracks, as well as collaborated with the likes of Sahara Beck.
A move to Tasmania has fuelled his creative desires, and although he now finds himself located in a different state to his SS.Sebastian collaborators, a larger body of work is in the pipeline as is a solo show next week in Brisbane.
Your new single is the '60s-sounding, jangly pop of 'Moon & Mountain'; how does the track showcase the current incarnation of SS.Sebastian? I grew up listening to a lot of my parents '60s and '70s record collection, and the thing that really stood out to me with so many of those bands, is that they didn't always play to a genre.
Like The Beatles – they just appeared to write what came up, and if they liked the song, they recorded it. This is kind of like that. It made us feel a little nostalgic, so we did it.
Did the song come about fairly organically or was it a song that required a fair bit of to and fro teasing it out? They always do for the first little while. Then they shift and change as I do.
I was re-writing lyrics at the eleventh hour and even rearranging the structure while hearing the girls' backing tracks for the first time. I think that to and fro and teasing out is all part of that same organic process.
The creative behind the music video; band member Kat Cooke played an instrumental role in bringing the clip to life, right? Kat is a brilliant film producer and responsible for both the 'Moon & Mountain' video and 'Nightmare Of 1984' (our last single).
She calls in favours, pays bribes, blackmails and just flat-out physically intimidates people until they produce music videos of the highest quality. None of this is true of course; she is a consummate professional and always invests herself whole-heartedly into these projects.
Kat presented the music and my initial concept to our directors Sam Scoufos and Josh Bartlett – I wanted a whole chorus of dancers in the street, boom shots, confetti canons. . . during a lockdown. So together they came up with something that would work with a smaller crew and even smaller budget. Something more practical, and thankfully much more considered and beautiful.
Is 'Moon & Mountain' the first taste of more new music from SS.Sebastian? Absolutely. I am by no means a prolific songwriter with what I choose to share publicly, but I am trying to change that. There will be more new music in the new year. And for the first time in a long time, that makes me happy.
Recording the new music remotely from the other band members, the restrictions of COVID; how have you managed to work-through these different issues? It's not as difficult as it might seem when you are all on the same page. James Lees wore a mask with my disapproving face on it to the Brisbane recording sessions, and I kept a photo of him on my metronome.
Aside from that, working with talented engineers like Jamie Trevaskis, having creative bandmates like Janey, James, Kat and Dave, and communicating very clearly with each other is really all we'd be doing if we were in the same room.
Given your remoteness to the band, has that at all shaped the sound, creative direction of the new music? I guess this seclusion supports the singular expression of my music more than the big band sound, but SS.Sebastian as a project is quite fluid – it might be one person just as readily as it may be many.
So I'm still very keen to explore whatever works best to make the music sound like it does in my head. So often that involves a loose choir and too many instruments, and that's really hard to do alone.
You have scored a number of soundtracks for theatre productions as well as collaborated with other artists like Sahara Beck and Silver Sircus; is music-art your full-time pursuit these days? Contributing to other artist's projects is such a nice way to step out of your own skin.
Whether that's scoring hours of sound for a play someone else has written, remixing a song for Silver Sircus or recording a few backing vocals for Sahara [Beck], it doesn't really matter. I think it should be everyone's full-time pursuit to make things. Especially when it means you can work with other people who already do it so well.
You're now living in Tasmania; how has the move shaped your creative juices; have you found yourself being active with more projects? The move to Tasmania has certainly begun to shape my view of the world, which flows into creativity for sure. I've actually been spending a lot of time in the garden, which for some reason has me obsessing over the Cmaj7 chord.
What's the best thing about the Apple Isle most mainland residents wouldn't even think of? Seasons. Actual, quarterly, real life, goddam seasons. Also less 'Apple' more 'Whisky' Isle.
You have a Brisbane launch show planned towards end of November; what are you planning for the solo performance? I miss sing-alongs. I'm hoping to have one of those. I may even get everyone in the room to hum that Cmaj7, so I can record it. Do you think they will?
Silver Sircus will also be playing. . . no doubt it'll double as a reunion event given the lack of travel in recent times? I never thought it would be so long between drinks – I guess none of us did – but damn, if that doesn't make you so thirsty to see everyone while you can. I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe not so much the weather in Brisbane; late November though. . . F... that.
SS.Sebastian and Silver Sircus play It's Still A Secret (Brisbane) 25 November.