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Successful Trial & Error: Naked on the Vague

Sydney’s duo cum four piece Naked On The Vague’s unique style and aesthetic has been achieved in an almost accidental, or rather, circumstantial way. For a band that belongs to an almost unclassifiable genre, their sound stands out from those who sit in a similarly ambiguous state – and it has all been the result of simple trial and error.

“It all began when Matthew [Hopkins] and I found ourselves playing our first show in Brisbane with Kiosk and the Grey Daturas before we even have a name,” tells Lucy Phelan, the band’s primary vocalist and keyboardist. “Once we got back home to Sydney we were keen to keep it going and worked on getting things together, experimenting with different ideas. Starting the band was really exciting. It was a special time in the Australian music scene, where I think a whole bunch of like-minded bands and people found each other and were able to thrive. All I'd ever wanted to achieve with the band was to release at least one 7" single. It was very strange to us, but totally incredible too, to think that people were interested in our band.”

A Public Notice

Dear Everyone,

It’s been a while between my letters to this unknown public whom I so adore, so I’ll start with HELLO! I hope you had a nice weekend and that your Monday hasn’t made you want to shoot yourself!

So I suppose I could babble for a while about loads of things – the weather, for instance (cold; bring summer back); how I’m loving my new home in Sydney’s inner west (prior to this, I’ve only ever lived in the Eastern Suburbs. I KNOW.); how I am craving a burrito (the proper kind, Los Angeles style). Blah blah, blah. The thing is, I want to keep you on this post, so I’ll get right to it… but first, would you like a cup of tea?
And that right there is EXACTLY why news made ME want to shoot myself. Cutting it straight to the chase has never been one of my strong points.

The main reason I’m writing this is to let you all know that Side Street, Sydney is about to undergo a massive transformation, so that means things on this site are going to change a little over the next few months. I don’t want to bore you with all the nitty gritty details (that’s not true… OF COURSE I do) but in a nutshell, if I’m going to get it to where I want it to be I really have to focus on growing it… and spending so much time writing and editing daily posts is making that a little difficult. Plus I have a few other jobs that are advancing at a very speedy rate, and I do miss sleeping from time to time.

And so for a little while, Side Street will be posting a little less and also putting up maybe a few things that aren’t so… LONG. Of course we’ll keep you posted via Facebook and Twitter whenever we do update the site (so if you’re not following us, please do now!) and our pretty little mailing list will continue to be sent out from time to time, which you can sign up for on the top right corner of this site.

In other news, we are hosting an exhibition for the lovely Lisa, who has been shooting for us since way back in the beginning. It’s entitled Side Street, Sydney (fitting, don’t ya think?) and it’s going to be on next Thursday (that’s July 8) from 6pm to 9pm at the Sugarmill, Kings Cross. We would REALLY like to meet you so we really hope you can come. Bring your friends! We totally want to meet them too.

And in record time, I think that’s all! Well it’s not really, but it’s all we need to say for the immediate future. We’ll be back… soon. Very soon. Like, in the next couple days soon. We’re not going that far, really. You probably wouldn’t even have noticed. I guess I just wanted to… talk to you.

See you sooooon!
Seema x

The Camera-Man

photo: Jerico Lee

Sneak Peek

Our exceptionally talented photographer Lisa will be having an exhibition at the Stairwell Gallery, Kings Cross, on July 8 from 6pm to 9pm. We really hope to see you there. xx

photo: Lisa Zhu

More Art than Theatre: Cageling

Going to the theatre in Sydney can often be described as a middle-class rehash of the same old thing. The larger companies tend to go for the more commercial pieces written by well-known authors. Experimental? Visually exciting? Not usually. But Cageling, starting at the beautiful Carriageworks building this week, is a work that defies the expected theatre choices. It’s more art than theatre.


Too many side projects, not enough real projects.
Too many synthesisers, not enough Stratocasters.
Too many backpack rappers, not enough strapped-up rappers.
Too much posing, not enough disclosing.
Too many guitars as props, not enough guitars - props.

A Shoebox of Originality: No. 9 Café

Kings Cross is bordered by foodie heaven. In Potts Point, you have the sweet delights of Yellow Bistro & Food Store, Macleay Street Bistro and delis filled with the who’s who of food. In Darlinghurst you have, well, too many delicious restaurants to count. But there’s one side of Kings Cross that until now has only been home to apartment buildings and one oddly placed aquarium – Ward Avenue. Here, you can find a tiny little hole-in-the-wall that’s as far from the shabby strip as you can get. On the outside, No. 9 Café is so demure only the trained eye would notice it. But once you step over its threshold, you will be greeted by a shoebox that has an old school charm and exuberant waiters.

Water With Cause: Water for Water

For those of us born in the first world, the myriad inherent privileges are so commonplace that we rarely give them a second thought, and it is only when we are reminded that others do not share the same liberties can we truly fathom just how lucky we are. Danielle Saleh is one such person who is prompting the message with her newfound business, Water for Water, which sells bottled water within Australia in an effort to provide clean water to those who do not have it so freely. As 100% of the business’s profits go towards facilitating pure drinking water in Calacoon City, Philippines, people who drink Water for Water can consciously help those less fortunate attain one of their fundamental human rights while unconsciously exercising their own.

Fictional Pixel People: Brian Walker

Sydneysider Brian Walker is making a living out of poking the absurdities of fashion photography straight in the eye. Avoiding the obvious targets, his approach is thankfully (and refreshingly) more a cheeky nudge than an all out philosophical slur. The beautiful and disturbing imagery in Brian’s current collection are inspired, he says, by “the intriguing world of the retouched magazine models whose non-fiction bodies are pulled, stretched, coloured and smoothed into hysterically fictional pixel people.”

Blue Suede Shoes

photo: Seema Duggal

On Broadway

photo: Lisa Zhu

Fashion & Art Become One: Somedays

If you know us at all by now, you’d know that two of our favourite things are fashion and art (What can we say? We like pretty things.), so naturally, Somedays Store and Gallery in Surry Hills is one of our favourite places ever. Not only does it celebrate everything that is aesthetically pleasing, but it’s aesthetically pleasing itself! Does that make sense? What we mean to say is, the interior décor complements everything that the store represents ever so perfectly. Featuring timber floors, vintage trinkets and downlights, the space has a refurbished warehouse vibe to it with a little bit of old world charm thrown in there. Stocking an awesome selection of Swedish (and a few Australian) brands and holding exhibitions regularly, it’s pretty clear that the people behind Somedays have managed to successfully merge the same passions we have. We sat down with the owner, Mattias Friberg, to talk about the concept and the journey.

A Garden of Gold: The Butcher's Daughter

While gardens often serve as the backdrops to enchanting fables or eternal tales of romance, their essence is mostly distant in day-to-day reality. But Lisa Cooper has managed to capture such magic and transform it into an exquisite jewellery label, The Butcher’s Daughter, creating pieces that most certainly evoke fairytale reminiscences upon their wearers. They represent jewellery in its most exceptional form, and have marked Lisa as one of the city’s only true artisans in a field whose progressive mass production can be disheartening at times. As every piece is handcrafted and one-of-a-kind, Lisa’s adherence to her vision is at once both admirable and desirable. She has not traded it in for profit, and the stunning detail that goes into each and every object is representative of this allegiance. As a former employee at Sydney’s distinguished Grandiflora, Lisa’s expertise in floral arrangements has become immortalised in gold, each element handpicked from a garden of precious metals – and ultimately, her own originality.

Toys will be Toys: Toy Death

If it were possible to record the soundtrack of the subconscious childhood memories of talking Barbie dolls, video games, mini keyboards, Speak and Spells and Godzilla, the resulting hyperactive noise would be the sound of Sydney electronic trio Toy Death. Their sugar-induced, ADHD-fuelled, glitching, screechy soundscape is made up entirely of circuit-bent toys, and reminds us that, in the words of front man GiJoe, making music is “creative, easy and lots of fun!” It’s precisely the sentiment that reminds us to never let go of our childlike enthusiasm.

Forming in 1995, Toy Death have maintained a cult-like status both here and abroad as one of Sydney’s most progressive, outrageous and entertaining DIY bands. When playing live, band members GiJoe, Big Judy and Super Mario Dad are the heavily costumed, disturbing enigmas that brandish a range of reverberating toy instruments, from Hulk fists, Jesus dolls, fairy wands and a twin-neck, button-operated Kawasaki guitar, all while skipping along to choreography with the panache of an Eighties glam rock group.

Rock on Paper: Audio Dirthbath/Mark Zeidler

Many creative types are inspired by the alluring, mysterious and seemingly glamorous culture of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; the most obvious being rock musicians. But what happens when these musicians switch mediums and start to work in the visual arts? The whirlwind of fame, passion and notoriety has appealed to many artists over the generations and remains a massive influence on modern culture, and when a musician crosses over from audio art to visual art we get to see what rock ‘n’ roll music looks like in a more tangible form. AudioDirthBath’s stencil works mix up our senses; we can see the colours, feel the textures; and smell the sweat, making the resulting works like a dirty guitar riff for your eyes. We spoke with the man behind the name, Mark Zeidler.

It Ain’t the Money, Honey

At the fresh age of fourteen, my friends berated me for spending fifty dollars on a swimsuit from Sportsgirl. At Christian schools it just wasn’t the done thing to lust for fashion, and it was absolutely unthinkable to be in any way money-oriented. At the time, fifty bucks seemed like a lotta dosh (bless our cotton socks naivety!). With the religious fervour that only silly teenage girls can muster, the righteous outrage that my spending so much on a swimsuit was fervent to say the least. They considered my focus on the fiscal to be positively lascivious.

Fine & Dandy

photo: Jerico Lee

Street Sight: The Botanical Gardens

photo: Lisa Zhu

Multi-Disciplinary Energy: Robyn Wilson/Flutter Lyon

If a creative existence can only be pursued by the truly passionate, Robyn Wilson (aka Flutter Lyon) was cut for such a lifestyle. The inherent give and take of security and true love is something Robyn was perhaps predestined to exchange, as once you meet her, you cannot imagine her living any other way. Her high energy conspicuously radiates through the room, inescapably latching on to all those around her. As a visual artist who works across a variety of platforms, she is a creative who cannot be defined to any particular genre, and she prefers it that way. Whether she is performing, creative directing, illustrating, or fashion designing, her vigor – and her vision – consistently remain intact. And she does it all, as she so aptly puts, simply because she can.

“I have too much energy to do one thing,” she says, laying down the obvious. “I am complex in the way I think about things, and extremely emotionally driven. I don’t see genres. People always ask me what I do, and I hate how it’s the practice that defines you, not your work. For me, I just do whatever is most important to me at any given time.”

show with Jared Underwood from Sydney Symphony

A Bar with Aesthetics: Pocket Bar

Amidst the rather hectic Sydney bar and restaurant scene lies Pocket, a little venue that definitely offers a point of difference. It is primarily a wine and cocktail bar at night but also serves as a café during the day. The graffiti-style murals that adorn the walls are the first sign that you’re not in Kansas anymore, and the rest of the décor even further proves this point. From the eclectic mix of knick knacks encased underneath the glass on the bar to the green army men lined up along the metal beams near the ceiling, there is a feast for the eyes indeed.

Pub for Breakfast: Radio National

Newcomer band Radio National have found fans with their warm and delicate guitar sound with its tones of alt rock country running through it. Twins Stephen and David Kelly are joined by cousin Brenton in this family affair that has hailed from Wagga and recently made its way to Sydney in search of a life with a bit more action. In an interview with the band, Side Street Sydney took a peek behind the curtain.

You’re a fairly new band, so for the Radio National virgins, describe your sound, your band ethos, your haircut and your favourite tattoo?
We collectively have listened to a lot of guitar bands from the 70s to the 90s. There is no pigeonhole really; we like the sounds of guitar rock. My haircut is perhaps early 80s and there are no tattoos as yet apart from the obligatory anchor on the forearm, a souvenir from my days as a merchant seaman.

Who exactly is in the band?
The band consists of David Kelly (Drums, Vocal), Stephen Kelly (Bass, Vocal) and Brenton Freeman (Guitars). Dave’s other roles have included a cameo as Mal the Muso for a charity football match, where he and Humphrey B Bear were involved in a melee. It is bittersweet watching your childhood bear hero go head to head with a giant Treble Clef.

The Fashion Editor: Glynis Traill Nash

In Sydney’s front row of fashion, there are a few faces which have remained consistent throughout the industry’s fickle flipping of mastheads and media politics over the years. Conspicuously seated with bright red hair and square, black-trimmed glasses among the herd is the unmissable Glynis Traill Nash, a Sydney fashion editor veteran who has managed to land many a young girl’s dream job time and time again – be it at In Style, The Sydney Morning Herald or, most recently, Harpers Bazaar. Carrying her discerning eye for fashion and her expertise of all things style-related with her as loyally as she does her handbag, Glynis has become one of the most trusted voices of opinion in Australia’s fashion media landscape. She will be imparting a few spare thoughts from her wealth of knowledge when she MCs Higher Learning on June 18, where she will be presenting some of the most well respected names in the local industry, including Romance Was Born’s Luke Sales and Friedrich Gray’s Ben Pollitt as well as leading buyers, editors and PR reps. The event aims to take those inspiring to be in the industry far inside of it, providing them with an awareness that would normally take years of experience to achieve.

A Concept, Medium Format: Sixteen

Making some last minute preparations for Sixteen, the group photographic exhibition Oliver Bryce Yates and I have spent curating and organising over the past six months, we’re both a little tired and nervous, and probably a little worse for wear. While the organisational process itself has been long and much harder and more complex than anticipated, the role of curator was a completely different set of exhaustions altogether, and one I was confident to hand over (read: pawn off) for Bryce to manage. Lucky for me, it was a role he was more than willing to accept.

Bryce seems, at first, an unlikely choice for curator: his photography is self-taught, he is primarily a painter and has no degree in Fine Arts or Art History. On the other hand, likeminded creative individuals are few and far between, and from the start I trusted and believed in him almost as much as he believed in himself (almost). While I was happy to spend my days emailing in my pyjamas, he was running across Sydney meeting with artists and sourcing new talent in an effort to bring together sixteen of the finest Australian established and upcoming photographers. And while I can’t help but be a little bias, the line up, which includes Jackson Eaton, Pedro Ramos and Sam Ash, speaks for itself (a picture tells a thousand words…or something).
Gallery contracts and cameras aside, we met for coffee in the same regular fashion we would have any other week, but instead of discussing the formalities of the show, I met with Bryce in the hope of exploring and further understanding his art and collaboration in Sixteen as curator and artist.

Jacinda Fermanis

Red Socks, Cropped Jeans

photo: Liya Dashkina

Cockatoo Island

photo: Lisa Zhu

The Inspired's Inspiration: Jess Scully & Creative Sydney

For those who write, it’s pretty much impossible to not look at Jess Scully’s career with awe. At the moment her life is consumed with organising every minute detail of Creative Sydney as the festival’s creative director, but come a couple weeks, she can go by any of her many other titles – as the editor of Summer Winter or Creative Cities East Asia, the director of SOYA, or, of course, her original job description; journalist. Her long list of creative pursuits is, by and large, the future to aspire to for anyone who has been trained in a similar field. Ambitious, driven and intensely passionate, Jess isn’t someone who has gotten as far as she has by chance or any other undeserved navigation. Rather, her position(s) – which seem to be growing with more and more depth and enviable status with each passing year – have been nothing but the result of endless hard work. Sure, there has been an element of being at the right place at the right time, but that’s because she has strategically made sure she was. After all, the ability to network to one’s greatest advantage is perhaps the most important skill set a creative can have.

Creative Sydney 2009

Sing-A-Long Crowds: Cloud Control

Alister Wright is very sweet in the morning. Talking to us from a hotel room in Perth having played a sold out show the night before, he apologises for all the background noise: the other members of Cloud Control are trying to decide what to have for breakfast. After muttering something to the other people in the room, Alister then explains that everybody is about to go out to Coles and have “a big cook up”, before he laughs and begins retailing the adventures of their gig night before.

“It was crazy. Everyone in the audience was really drunk, which normally doesn’t happen all that much for us, and it got to the point where people were getting kicked out and pouring beer all over each other. Perth has been awesome. Really, really cool.”

Comic's Dark Side: Matt Huynh

There’s something ultimately comforting about comic-like illustrations and their power to take us back to the early, cartoon-filled mornings of our childhood. Although their subject matter can range from simple to explicit and everything in between, the way they are presented almost acts as a type of buffer against their potential to confront their viewers. One of the most notable names to rise through Sydney’s graphic novel ranks would be Matt Huynh, who will be presenting his first solo exhibition in three years at the Australian Museum tonight. Matt never fails to capture the essence of the narrative, with his newer work conveying the ideal level of irreverence for the macabre. Death, ghosts and superstition all play a role within his work, urging the viewer to perhaps not take such topics so seriously. With hours to go before the festivities, Matt chatted to Side Street Sydney about how far he’s come.

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