Interview with Liam Gough of the Teskey Brothers
As a drummer for acclaimed Australian band, The Teskey Brothers, Liam Gough has toured the world, and even been at it long enough to have a past life in industrial design. Now with several ARIAs and a new album, "The Teskey Brothers, Live at the Forum" under his belt, Liam sat down with us to discuss lugging around 400kg musical equipment to get just the right sound, his relationship with Cleopatra's Bling founder Olivia Cummings, and the joys of playing so quietly on stage you can hear a pin drop!
Tell us about how the group formed, and what it is about making music together that you love.
The four of us grew up and met in our hometown of Warrandyte in our teens. I went to school with Brendan the bass player and then met Josh and Sam on the bus one day. They were carrying guitars and I thought, "Hey, these guys look interesting!" We played in numerous bands together, but the Teskey Brothers lineup as the four of us solidified quickly and has been constant for 12 years now!
We love collaborating in the studio together. We write music individually and together. Sometimes one of us will bring a nearly fully realised song to the group, other times we will start with a simple theme or a concept and flesh it out from there. We are very lucky to have our own analogue studio in Warrandyte where we record all of our music.
How would you describe the Teskey Brothers’ music in a few words?
We seem float between genres and people often use terms to label our music as soul, blues, RnB, rock 'n' roll, folk, pop…. We don’t know! We all have rather eclectic tastes in music but definitely relate most to the sounds that came out of the 60’s and 70’s….
Your latest release Live at the Forum involves tracks from both Half Mile Harvest and your second studio recording Run Home Slow. You’ve said that your first album, Half Mile Harvest, drew on feelings that came from painful relationships and their endings. How did it feel to perform these songs for recording again, several years later? How has your experience and feeling towards them changed over time, and with the chance to capture them in front of a live audience?
Thats a great question. We have been playing songs from “Half Mile Harvest” for three years now, touring heavily, and we still love playing those songs. It may not feel new to us but the feeling that comes from the audience when we play them gives them new meaning and feeling for us.
We love to hear from fans what the songs mean to them, be it a sad or painful memory and how a song helped them through, or a joyous moment like the meeting or marriage of two lovers.
The songs have also evolved since the studio album recordings. We enjoy the nuance of dynamics when playing live, we love to play with the audience by dropping the volume to a whisper, where you could hear a pin drop, and then building it back up. Thats when it really feels like the crowd are with us the most!
We had dreamed of recording a live album to capture the energy in the room that we love so much. The Allman Brothers live album “Live from the Filmore East” and BB King's “Live from the Cook County Jail” have always been favourites of ours.
There’s something so unique to live albums, and how they capture a moment in time. Studio albums can potentially be over-polished, so to take a leap of faith and record a live album with no chance to change or add things, in a 100 year-old venue like the Forum Theatre in Melbourne, gave us the opportunity to try and create something with the vibe and energy of the live albums from the 60’s and 70’s.
There is obviously a lot of technical expertise that goes into recording a live album using analogue technologies that aren’t commonly used any longer. Why was it important to you, both to record these tracks in front of a live audience, and to do so using technology from a bygone era? Is it more about creating a certain ambiance for your listeners, or does the recording technology have an effect on the sound?
We enjoy recording with vintage audio gear from the 60’s and 70’s. Its a big part of the sound. We also love to use vintage instruments as they impart a sound and feeling when we use them. Our studio in Warrandyte is centred around a 70’s Studer A800 2” tape machine that we have recorded both of our studio albums on. Its a temperamental old machine but was at the cutting edge of recording technology in its hay day.
Its sound characteristics are one element that we love, but the other is the way it makes us work. We embrace the limitations its sets for us: there is far less ability to edit the recordings and therefore we don’t have the temptation or option to change too much other than in the mixing of the final song.
A lot of the time we will play with most of the instruments in one room to help capture the interaction and live feeling between us which means that different instrument sounds bleed across to other microphones in the room. This is a big part to the sonic qualities of recordings from the 60’s and 70’s before digital recording became the new standard and the goal was to polish the music as we headed into the digital age.
We started out recording digitally when we were young but soon found so much joy in working with vintage analogue gear. As for the recording of our “Live at the Forum” album, we had a friend and engineer Alex Bennet from Sound Recordings in Castlemaine drag his MCI 1” 8 track tape machine (weighs about 400KG) and a vintage mixing console into the Forum side stage broom closet.
He monitored and recorded as we played. He would signal us at each 22 minute mark as he would need to change over the reel of tape. We would talk or play a song that wasn’t to be recorded as he changed over the reels. We would then get his signal from side stage that he was ready to continue recording and boom we were off again. It was a very stressful and exciting time to do all of this in front of a packed house of 2000 people!
The Teskey Brothers won the award for Best Group at the 2019 ARIAs (among others), and are increasingly recognised as one of Australia’s most exciting young bands. Would you recount for us a defining moment (large or small) from the band’s career so far? What was that like?
For me some of the defining moments have been playing Meredith Music Festival in our home state of Victoria. We’ve spent the last 10 years going to Meredith and watching bands from around the world. It was my personal goal and dream to play on the Meredith stage. It was an amazing and emotional experience to play infant of a crowd of so many familiar faces. The next big milestone was playing at Fuji Rock festival in Japan. I'd always dreamt of going and playing internationally acclaimed festivals around the world!
You are in a relationship with Cleopatra’s Bling founder, Olivia Cummings. What is it like to be in a relationship with another creative - how do you share ideas, motivate each other, and support each other’s drive and ambition?
Its actually amazing. Olivia has fuelled the fire of creativity in me and helped me realise my potential to push further. Its been so beneficial to have each other as a sounding board to throw ideas and concepts around in a safe and caring space. Strangely enough I have an industrial design background from a past life, and Olivia comes from an extremely creatively talented and musically accomplished family, and is an accomplished musician in her own right.
So to have each other with an overlap in each others professions as an external platform for testing and developing ideas is something I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing! There's never a dull moment for us as we learn, teach and experience things together, be it cooking, traveling, making, playing, designing, walking, talking, meditating or loving.
The Teskey Brother's latest release, Live at the Forum, can be purchased at their website. You can also find videos of live performances, tour lineups, and merch there.
Follow the band @theteskeybrothers, and listen to them on Spotify, here.