Expect the Unexpected with Fairtrade Narcotics

Written by Freya Stockman


Picture this, you’re walking down a dark alley-way at night when you hear whispers of funkadelic jazz-rock tones oozing from behind the doors of an underground bar. A collection of rhythmic trumpet-infused instrumentals and playful moody vocals lure you inside where you find an eclectic five-piece band by the name of Fairtrade Narcotics. This is the type of vibe that you can come to love and expect when you see this pocket-rocket trumpet-fronted group on stage at various Melbourne venues they frequent including the Gasometer, the Night Cat, Revolver, Retreat Hotel, Workers Club and countless more. Band members include vocalist/trumpeter Brooke, vocalist/keys Liam, guitarist Ned, bassist Matt, and last but not least, Georgia the drummer.


Meet the Band

If you ever have the pleasure of meeting this zany collection of creatives, you would know that Brooke is a true Scorpio who only operates between extremes, Liam is a calculated perfectionist, Georgia is the baby of the group, Ned owns five independently named guitars, and Matt loves his puns. However, Liam thinks that “Matt’s puns are a plague on society and they have no foreseeable conclusion”. Ned’s five guitars are named Goldie, Ruby, Bernard, Angel, Spike and Taylor, but rumour has it that he is naming his sixth guitar Freya after me.

The band has proven to each other that they can pull through even the most testing of scenarios, even including that one-time Georgia and Matt climbed out of a train window together after being trapped for hours – a great example of how anything is possible when everyone works together! Matt, Liam, and Georgia also tend to rock up to band rehearsal wearing the same outfits which is super cute if you ask me!


Fairtrade Narcotics: A Revolving Door Ensemble Project

This explosive and soulful collaboration started when the group first met at university, the Australian College of the Arts, where they played covers of Cat Empire and Roy Hardgrove. At first, the group considered Fairtrade Narcotics as a “revolving door ensemble project” because different musicians would become involved at different times depending on the sound they wanted to create. As a result, the group has experienced several reincarnations and their sound isn’t dictated by a particular genre - they are constantly experimenting with new styles to create a whole new sound altogether. Brooke: “There’s no pretence, no glamour, we’re just making music and having fun at the same time”.

What’s the Go with The Band Name?

Now, I know what you’re wondering folks… is this jazz-rock fusion group involved in the reasonable sale of narcotics as their band name would suggest? As much as we love to

speculate here at ONTAP, the band was quick to explain that Fairtrade Narcotics was “just a whacky band name they were using as a placeholder until they came up with something better”. I think it is fair to say that a better name didn’t come along because that “whacky” name grew on them like a pair of new sneakers being worn for the first time - at first it feels a little unfamiliar, but soon enough you’re skipping down the street on supportive clouds. Moral of the story: Band names don’t need to make sense, as long as they feel good.


Head Over Handlebars - Not Your Average Love Song

Head Over Handlebars is the title track of their upcoming debut EP release and carries serious sentimental value for the group as their 1st original recorded song – exciting! The title plays on the phrasing “Head Over Heels” because the quirky lyrics associate catching unrequited feelings for another person to flying head first over your bike’s handlebars onto the concrete footpath. Unlike most modern love songs, this track provides relatable comic relief when your infatuation slowly begins to ruin your life. Brooke wrote these lyrics because she was wrestling with her own romantic infatuation for a certain somebody at the time. C’mon Brooke, give us a hint! We promise we won’t tell anyone…

Brooke: “Going head over handlebars isn’t so unlike being head over heels for someone…I was in a constant tug of war with myself over whether I was going to do anything about this crush, and this song was the result.” Every song that Fairtrade Narcotics creates has its own unique sound and message and Head Over Handlebars is no different. I want you to envision jazz-infused, topsy-turvy rhythms, playful spoken word vocals, bright bubbly keys, cowbell, vibraslaps, and brassy unison lines…It’s a really interesting mix!

The Head Over Handlebars EP will be available Thursday July 4th across all music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Triple J Unearthed, and Bandcamp. Want to attend their exclusive Launch Party that is sure to be as rowdy as the band itself? This Melbourne-based event will kick off at 7pm Thursday July 4th at the Toff In Town supported by Velvet Bloom, Dez, and Butterfunked. Come and check out all the hype - see you at the bar!


Performing Gigs - What Is It Like?

Most musicians can relate to the feeling of nervous anticipation when awaiting your 1st live performance on stage, a feeling all too familiar to Brooke who compares it to “driving in a six-lane intersection fresh off your red P plates”. Brooke used to be wracked with anxiety but now considers performing live as 2nd nature. “Playing with Fairtrade is when I can be myself the most… whether it be crazy, flirty, vulnerable, loud, it’s all exposed and out there. You can love it, hate it, but at least it’s honest”.

Georgia: “When you start playing in any band, the equal amount of nerves you all feel is normally what keeps you focused throughout the performance… we can hit a point in a show where we are playing so well it legitimately makes me feel fearless… that is a feeling I strive for in every show” – what an absolute VIBE.

However, Ned seems to enter his own world while shredding the guitar on stage. “I become Ned Zeppelin. Queen of the Seven Strings and First of her Shred… sometimes I’ll do a guitar solo that I think is absolutely killer, but when I ask my bandmates afterwards they say it was too much”. Fair enough Ned, it must be a tricky balance between blowing everyone’s socks off and maintaining a reasonable volume!

Matt has really enjoyed the switch from being a drummer to being a bass player in Fairtrade Narcotics and although he “occasionally feels a bit nervous”, he also feels like he is growing into his role gig-by-gig and has a good stage presence at live shows.

Liam simply responded that performing live gigs was “Pretty good hey” – glad to hear Liam, turn down that enthusiasm please! However, he did share a great story about an embarrassing incident at one of their gigs. When Liam saw an attendee rapping along with him in the crowd, he held the microphone out but the person completely forgot the lyrics in that moment. “It was hilarious for me personally because they were nailing it up until that point and I didn’t expect them to get stage fright”. If you’re reading this innocent civilian, Liam is sorry for any subsequent embarrassment!

Fairtrade Narcotic’s Key Lessons from Within the Music Industry

So, what are the band’s take-home messages after experiencing several years as a band in the Melbourne music scene?

1. Managing a band as a whole as well as individual relationships as both friends and colleagues is hard, you can only learn it when you get your feet well and truly wet. Brooke: “I’ve learned that this industry is an absolute maze. I’ve been fortunate to have one-on-one mentoring with Dallas Frasca, mostly revolving around covering event & campaign management”.

2. Music is a language. Ned: “At the end of the day, each musician brings their own style and influence to the group; a jazz musician will make a rock song sound jazzy, and a blues guitarist will make a bossa-nova song sound bluesy, and I love that about music”. According to Matt, every musician to some extent can play bass… wonder if we can test this theory?

3. A positive attitude and professional approach will get you far in this industry, especially when you rely so heavily on your sound engineers to make a show work. So be kind to everyone, gigs are a team effort!

4. The music industry is very competitive and every musician runs the risk of losing a lot of time and money to host a gig. So, if you want to become a muso, money should not be the object of your desires.

5. There are minimal music platforms out there that help up-and-coming musicians build exposure which makes a platform like ONTAP really exciting. Brooke: “ONTAP bridges the divide between venues/bookers and independent bands that are looking to get out there! The videos and interviews are super polished and professionally

done. Really excited to watch this platform grow and expand!”

What’s on for 2019 and Beyond

As we know, Fairtrade Narcotics are gearing up for their debut two track EP release and boisterous Launch Party at the Toff In Town, but what about future-future plans?

Well, the band are hosting a celebratory 1st Birthday gig at Boney on Thursday August 1st in the heart of Melbourne. You can legitimately expect cupcakes (*high pitch shriek*). Support acts include good friends Tyrants & Earl Grey’s Breakfast Tea. Don’t miss out, this will be the gang’s last gig before they go on a small hiatus to record a five-track EP.

But what about 2020? Well, Fairtrade Narcotics have several plans for a mid-2020 regional VIC tour, more releases, and plenty more shows at all your favourite Melbourne-based drinking dens. And while it’s not finished yet, the band are working on a new song called Spinning Top which has more of a quasi-Spanish flair. Brooke keeps coming up with new ideas for trumpet lines and motifs though, so it may be some time before we get a preview of this track. You really know how to keep us in a perpetual state of suspense guys!

Brooke: “We’re hoping that ONTAP will open doors to bigger and better opportunities for our band, whether it be collaborating with other artists, connecting with new bands for shows, or performing larger scale events and small festivals!” It is clear to us that Fairtrade Narcotics have no intention of slowing down, a sign that the future looks very bright for this rambunctious jazz-jazz group.

Until next time everyone!

- Freya


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