Thirsty Merc is headed to the Tamworth Country Music Festival with a sound that’s far removed from the twangs of country.
The band will play the Albert Hotel Marquee on January 24 at 8.30pm and is expected to be one of the highlights of the festival.
Thirsty Merc are best known for it’s song Summer Time which is the theme song for the television programme Bondi Rescue which may be why a critic at the Sydney Morning Herald once accused Thirsty Merc’s albums as being written for radio.
The band’s frontman Rai Thistlethwayte passionately disagrees.
A classical pianist and jazz musician by trade, Thistlethwayte learned piano from his mother, a career teacher who always loved strong melodies.
“These were by classical composers who had been dead for 300 years,” he said.
“It’s strong music that stays in the history books, I’ve been lucky enough to understand that melody is a key element in great songwriting.
“There’s a difference between trying to write songs that are compact and efficient with strong melodies and trying to chase what’s already popular in the market.”
Fans can sense inauthenticity quickly, and Thistlethwayte has consistently written about real stories, relationships and coming of age events in his own life.
He doesn’t plan to bring anything less to Tamworth.
I was 21 and I’d stay up on all-nighters for a week and it wouldn’t matter.- Rai Thistlethwayte
Bass player Phil Stack met Thistlethwayte when the pair were studying music at the Sydney Conservatorium at college jam sessions.
Quickly they formed a jazz duo and performed anywhere from bar residencies to background music at weddings.
They recorded one album and it’s never seen the light of day.
“If you listen to a Thirsty Merc record you wouldn’t think we’re jazz musicians straight away, but if you came to a rehearsal and saw how we improvise you’d get it quickly,” he said.
“I used to enjoy listening to sax and trumpet players, you could hear while they were improvising there’s a lot of leaps of faith going on in their performance and when I saw that live it was an irresistible element of music for me.”
Much of the band’s music is written about the often tumultuous journey into adulthood, now they’ve matured themselves.
That perspective has been an interesting lens for Thistlethwayte to look at his early music through.
“I think it depends what stage of a band’s life you intercept, certainly when we were younger we were more crazy,” he said.
“I was 21 and I’d stay up on all-nighters for a week and it wouldn’t matter.
“Now I’m a bigger critic of my own music… I look back at the stuff I’ve recorded and there’s always room for improvement, back then I didn’t have the emotional maturity to know what I do now. “I think the brilliance of it is that you make what you make and it’s a great document of where you were at the time.”
The band is playing at The Albert Hotel on January 24 at 8:30pm.
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