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article imageInterview: Women in docs Special

By Adrian Peel     Mar 19, 2014 in Music
Chanel Lucas, one half of the popular Australian folk duo, speaks to Digital Journal about the pair's latest album 'Carousel'.
The curiously-named women in docs consist of Chanel Lucas (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and ukulele) and Roz Pappalardo (vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica and banjo), and although they live very far apart (Chanel in Brisbane and Roz in Cairns), these two dedicated musicians succeeded in putting together their latest record, their first in eight years, with the help of a few stolen moments here and there - and the Internet.
Over the course of their 15-year career,
the fun-loving twosome, known for their quirky and entertaining live performances, have had their folk/pop - with a hint of country - sound compared to The Dixie Chicks, The Waifs and The Indigo Girls and have performed all over the world at such prestigious events as Austin's South By Southwest (SXSW), the Shanghai Spring Music Festival in China and the Vancouver Islands Folk Festival. They have also sold 30,000 records. Not bad for an independent act.
"Well, we've done a few shows..." begins Chanel, who had a hand in writing five of the album's ten tracks, filling me in on the duo's recent developments. "We've been on the road doing a couple of festivals. We were down at the Adelaide Fringe a couple of weeks ago and in Melbourne playing some shows. Doing lots of interviews and things like that..."
Discussing the excellent Carousel, Ms. Lucas observes, "We're two songwriters, Roz and I. Sometimes we write separately and bring a song and then arrange it, put harmonies on it and change it into something that sounds like a women in docs song. Then a few of the songs we've written together...
"Because Roz lives in Cairns and I live in Brisbane - our drummer also lives in Brisbane and our violin player lives in Melbourne - it's been quite a challenge to produce an album across the country!
"So we've found that we've really made good use of the time we do have together... Sitting backstage, Roz and I have written a couple of songs, including the title track of the album."
Which songs on the record particularly stand out?
"I really like 'Carousel'," muses Chanel. "It really captures some of the themes of the album, of travel and following your dreams and doing the things that you love... I also really like 'Raining On Me' and the reason I like that one is it's a really collaborative effort...
"We were recording the song in the studio in Brisbane and we decided that we needed a choir on the end of it. So we sent messages to all our musician mates and said, 'Hey, who's in town this afternoon? Anyone want to come into the studio' At 5.30 when everyone had finished work, we were left with a little choir of four or five...
"It's also got some guitar from a fella called Danny Widdicombe who plays with The Wilson Pickers and a bunch of other bands. Yes, it's our song, it's a women in docs song, but it was also a real team effort."
Interestingly, the last track on the record is a version of "Wagon Wheel," previously recorded by a number of other artists, including Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Songs and Darius Rucker. How did it end up as the only non-original tune on Carousel?
"We discovered 'Wagon Wheel' on one of our American tours... We discovered it at a festival. There was a band called The Gruff playing this song called 'Wagon Wheel' and they did a very old-timey version of it, and we just really loved the song.
"We started playing it and after we learnt if off them, we discovered that it was an Old Crow Medicine Show/Bob Dylan song. Ketch Secor from Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the song using some lyrics from Bob Dylan. But it wasn't until after we'd been playing it for a while that we found out that it was actually a Bob Dylan/Old Crow Medicine Show cover!"
Responding to the question of why it has taken these two friends - purveyors of a uniquely 'Australian' folk sound - so long to release their third album (the gap between their debut LP, 2003's Under a Different Sky and the follow up, Red Wine & Postcards, was only three years), Chanel replies, "Well because we're an independent band, we have to pay for everything ourselves!
"But also, we spend a lot longer marketing albums, so when our last album came out, we actually spent a good three or four years promoting that. We released it in Australia and did a whole bunch of gigs and that took a couple of years...
"Then we took that same album to America and did the same thing again, so that took four years out of the eight! Then we had a couple of years off and we've just come back together in the last couple of years. So it really only took us two years to write all the songs and get everyone together and record it."
As mentioned, some of the tracks on Carousel came about via the Internet, specifically through the use of SKYPE and Dropbox.
"It's not ideal, obviously," says Chanel of working this way, "but there was a lot of file sharing and sending things backwards and forwards. I would play a bit and send it to Roz and then she'd play something on top of it and then she'd send it back.
"Yeah, lots of discussions over the phone and SKYPE about the music. It's been a very interesting experience, using all this technology that we have now. I still think you can't beat sitting down together and having a jam, but sometimes life takes you to different places, but we still like producing music together so we did the best we could."
And for those of you wondering where the name women in docs (all lower case) came from, wonder no further:
"It started as a bit of a joke," laughs Chanel. "We went to a folk club and the woman said to us, 'You can't just be called Roz and Chanel, you need a name if you're gonna keep doing this...' She said, 'Well if you don't think of something, I'll call you something'. She introduced us as 'women in docs' and then we started getting phone calls for gigs as women in docs and that was it - that's who we were.
"It started as a bit of a laugh because we used to wear Doc Martens when we played - and we still do. Now that we're called women in docs, we have to!"
Carousel is out now.
For more information, visit women in docs' official website.
More about women in docs, chanel lucas, roz pappalardo, Australia, Folk music
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