There comes a point in many a band’s career where they have to make that life-altering decision … quit the day jobs and go for it or remain safe and continue the status quo? For Melbourne-based, all female rock trio Tequila Mockingbyrd, it was a no brainer. They’d been gathering an ever-increasing following in Melbourne since the release of their first EP, T-Byrds Are Go! With a debut album Fight And Flight now out and some rockin’ videos reaching out all over the world, the UK and Europe are now calling and the girls have decided to pack the T-Byrd and go! Before they head overseas in September however, there are some tour funds to be raised via a Pozible campaign and an appearance at the Melbourne Guitar Show to attend to. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips caught up with Tequila Mockingbyrd’s singer, guitarist Estelle Artois to chat about the band’s bright looking future.
It was around seven years ago that Estelle and bass player Jess Reilly answered an online ad to join a rock covers band. After just one audition, it quickly became apparent that a covers band wasn’t there thing as both were eager to work on original material. Enter drummer Josie O’Toole and Tequila Mockingbyrd had been born. While there’s common ground for all three in their love of rock n roll, their early influences were varied. “I was listening to anything from metal to blues and anything in between,” Estelle tells me. “I like world music as well. Jess is the biggest AC/DC fan in the world. She knows every single word to every song. She’s into classic rock like Rolling Stones and Motley Crue. Josie has a lot of pop punk influences … her idol is Travis Barker. So all our influences come together in what we do now.”
With the band’s EP T-Byrds Are Go, it was clear that not only did the trio have a knack for writing a decent song but they also had the goods to pump out a rockin’ rhythm. Of course the debut album Fight and Flight has further reinforced what many already knew. “When we went to do the album, we now had some recording experience,” Estelle says of the band’s development. “With the EP, it was the first time we were in a professional studio, so doing the album we knew exactly what we wanted and knew how to verbalise that. We knew the lingo to get what we wanted. When it’s your first time, it can be kind of daunting and you think you just go with whatever the producer wants because they know what they’re doing.”
Rock fans around the world haven’t been the only ones with their eyes and ears focussed on Tequila Mockingbyrd. It seems that our armed forces took a shine to the band too, when they invited the band to perform for our troops in the Middle East late last year. Estelle explains how that trip came about. “We have a friend who had done the trip,” she says. “There’s a whole department in the army that are in charge of organising entertainment for the troops, so they are always scouting for bands and comedians. They put our name forward and we got the offer. We sat down with a guy from the army and he said there’s no dumb questions, I’m here to give you as much information about what to expect as possible. After the first meeting we looked at each other with our jaws on the ground and we were like … we have to go! To date it is one of the best things we have ever done in our lives. It’s something money can’t buy. How many people can say they went and partied with the army in the middle east? We were there for about 10 days and we did 5 or 6 shows more or less back to back. They took us around a few different bases, took us out for a day in Dubai. I got to visit an explosive range. I got to set off some dynamite in a boot and we got to experience really intense heat.”
Estelle, Jess and Josie are particularly excited to be playing at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show. They’ll be performing on Sunday August 7 at 2pm, just before the huge Triple M All Star Jam. The girls almost attended last year’s show but a gig got in the way. “I saw an ad for it last year and I mentioned it to the others but we had a gig, so we missed out but I am very aware that it’s a big thing and I love that there are whole days dedicated to guitars,” says Estelle. “When we got the call, it was like … we have to do this! We have a gig in Sydney the night before so we’ll be on an early flight to get back to do it.” She has no qualms about playing in front of a crowd full of guitarists either. “It’s no different playing to the Melbourne rock scene,” Estelle retorts. “I feel like everyone at gigs in Melbourne is a bit of a guitarist. I’ll just do what I do but it will be nice to debrief with a few of them afterwards, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Currently Estelle is playing a Dean Z Series Explorer, a guitar she’s thrilled with. “It’s got humbuckers. When I first started playing, I had a Les Paul Special Series which used P90s, so going from P90s to humbuckers … they have more clarity and they’re more trebly, they cut through. Jess’s bass is really booming so I really like the contrast of how her bass and my guitar sound together. I got my hands on a Blackstar Series one stack, so having the Dean run through that stack, it’s such a strong powerful sound. I think because we’re a three piece, you really have to fill that wall, so I was looking for a really thick texture and I have found my ideal sound. I love it. It’s really working for me. I’m a bit of a fanatic about pedals too. I window-shop like a normal girl would shop for shoes. I like to look at pedals. I have an Electric Mistress flange, which is my favourite. It’s the mini version. I have a Cry Baby wah. which is out of action at the moment, I need to get that fixed. I’ve got an MXR Noisegate which I don’t need now with the Dean. I bought it to use with the buzzing of the P90s, so that’s gathering dust now. I’ve been trying to be more sparse with pedals recently, just using things you can get to really quickly. I picked up an Ibanez Tube Screamer as well. I love that, especially when I am using someone else’s amp. I love to run the Tube Screamer because I know what grungy tone I will get with that pedal.”
A current guitar hero for Estelle is Joe Bonamassa, who will be touring Australia in late September. (You can also win the chance to meet Joe at his October 5 Melbourne concert by coming to the Melbourne Guitar Show!). “I have been listening to heaps of Joe Bonamassa, he’s just released a new album,” says Estelle. “Because I do vocals as well, I find he has a very vocal approach to guitar, the way he writes his melodies. I really like that as opposed to just being incredibly technical. I feel like you can have two kinds of guitarist, one that’s really technical and focusses on shredding and packing as many notes into as little time as possible … which is very impressive and something I will never get to do but I think also being a vocalist, I really admire guitarists who can sing with their guitar, like Joe Bonamassa. He’s got a real grit in his songwriting too.”
Once the Melbourne Guitar Show gig is out of the way, all focus will be on the girl’s trip to the UK and Europe. The band has some funds together but have needed to start a Pozible campaign to finance essentials such as food, accommodation and tour transport. They’ll be playing as part of a tour package called the Australian Wrecking Crew tour alongside Massive and The Black Aces, before settling in the UK for an indefinite period, where they’ll be touring and playing a few winter festivals including Hard Rock Hell.
“Going to the UK was something we always wanted to do,” says Estelle. “Actually, Josie is from the UK and what people don’t really know is that Jess is from the UK as well but she left when she was quite young, so they are both going home in a way. It was always on our agenda to go and the timing seemed really good because we have launched our first single over there and we’ve had a lot of great feedback. We were originally going to go around October/November then this Australian Wrecking Crew tour opportunity came up, with Massive headlining with us and the Black Aces, and those bands have been gigging around since we started, so it’s like going on tour with friends, a little rock n roll Kontiki tour. We couldn’t say no to that. On a personal level, I have been trying to do so many things at once … hold down a job, hold down a degree, be in the band, also have time for friends and family and the others are in the same boat. It’s refreshing that we get to put a few things on hold and really just focus on the music for now. I think when the wave comes, you really just have to ride it. If nothing comes of it, we have done it and not live in regret and enjoy the trip overseas together. Not many people get to go to Europe with their friends.”
And the grand plan for Tequila Mockingbyrd Estelle?
“We just want to play as many shows as we can, make as many contacts as we can … do this for as long as possible. England has been very kind to us so far and it will be a lot easier to explore possibilities once we are over there. We have a few videos as short term goals that we want to film and release. We are constantly writing and definitely want to do a follow up album. Whether we record that here or overseas remains to be seen. The goal is to do this as long as possible and keep improving and moving up.”
You can support Tequila Mockingbyrd’s Pozible campaign at this link
Buy their album Fight and Flight via their website:
Tequila Mockingbyrd play the Melbourne Guitar Show Sunday August 7th 2pm on the AON Forecourt Stage
Buy tickets here