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SPOTLIGHT ON IAIN T. MCKELVEY & THE MIDNIGHT TANGO

Iain T. McKelvey & The Midnight Tango’s new single, Raise Your Wine, is out now! We chat to frontman Iain T. McKelvey about the release and more.

Image: Four Minutes To Midnight (Maria Boyadgis).


Last month, Iain T. McKelvey & The Midnight Tangos unveiled their new single, Raise Your Wine. The track serves as an ode to accepting and moving forward from your mistakes, and sharing a drink with the people who have stuck by your side.


Recorded by Ben Moore (Tim Rogers, Sarah Blasko, Le Pie, Julia Why) whilst the group spent a week working on their debut EP, the release continues the bands genre-defying blend of folk, blues, country and classic rock influences, with McKelvey's honest and relatable lyricism woven throughout the track. Raise Your Wine sees the band expand their musical circle, bringing in fellow Evening Records artists Caitlin Harnett on backing vocals, and piano from Carl Manwarring (River Dreams).


The band are currently set to return to the stage later this month (fingers crossed lockdown restrictions lift!), supporting The Wattles with Big Dog at Waywards in Newtown. Tickets are on sale now!


Raise Your Wine is out now! Read our interview with Iain T. McKelvey & The Midnight Tangos below.


Could you tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey, and your background in music?

Music has always been something that’s been present in my life. My parents, while not being musicians, were pretty musical. It was always playing, you know? Buddy Guy, BB King, Carol King, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Joni Mitchell. Really cool stuff. I was awful at learning instruments when I was a kid. I quit both the guitar and piano. Guitar finally stuck when I was around seventeen. It took me years to build confidence and a tonne of half-arsed songwriting before I started entertaining the idea of being a musician. Truthfully I have only really taken music seriously in the last five years, actually committed to it as something I wanted to do. I’ve been in a few bands here and there, I was even in a metalcore band for about three days. For the most part it’s just grown organically, but deeply rooted in the singer-songwriter realm.

Your new single Raise Your Wine serves as an ode to accepting mistakes and sharing a drink with the people who have stuck by your side. What influenced the conceptual nature of the track?


I’ve always been pretty fascinated with human behaviour, particularly in the growing disconnect between the ‘human’ aspect of our nature. The facade of knowing what's going on. This past 18 months have been incredibly introspective, I think for a lot of people. The silver lining of a global pandemic is that it’s helped reveal how valuable human connection and interaction is to our survival. How much we miss it when it’s not there. It also exposed the magnificent mess we’ve got ourselves in. And when people are still there to help you up or through something. That’s worth celebrating.

How important was it for you to document these themes on this track?

This kind of ties into what I was saying above. I think it’s incredibly important, for me at least. It can act as a reminder that we are only human and we will make mistakes. But also not to get too caught up in those, learn from them and most importantly have a bit of fun while we’re here. The importance of friends and family has really become solidified for me in the last few years. I felt like I was drifting from my oldest friend some time ago and he summed it up really well for me. He said, we’re basically married at this point, I shouldn’t have to say I love you everyday for you to know that I do. He should have been a poet haha. Basically, I have no idea why we’re here but we are, it’s wild, let’s be kind and have fun. Existentialism eh?



The song features backing vocals from fellow Evening Records artists Caitlin Harnett, and piano by Carl Manwarring (River Dreams). How do you think they elevated the track within the recording sessions?


The track simply wouldn’t be what it is without their input. Also very clearly, Wade, Marshall & Calum (The Midnight Tangos) are the structure in which this song sits, they smashed it and I’m incredibly grateful for them. To have Caitlin and Carl lay down their magic on top of my song was amazing. I remember Carl coming into the studio to play piano for a different song. Earlier in the day Ben (Moore, producer) and I had been talking about some cool Warren Zevon style piano on the song. So when he came in I gave him the chords and within the hour he had this amazing piano part and feel. Caitlin’s vocals are like the icing sugar. Velvety goodness. That was fun in itself. She’s super busy and nailing it in her own right, so we actually recorded her vocals in my bedroom on a spare day. Figuring out the melody line on the fly in our pyjamas. It was really fun, a nice reminder of why we do it. I am deeply, deeply fortunate to have artists I greatly admire be on our track.

When you’re gearing up to raise your wine, are you pouring red or white?


I make an Aperol Spritz, if I’m honest. Haha. That’s a vibe. It turns any dingy room into the Amalfi Coast. I’m a red wine drinker though when it comes to it, slightly chilled. Raise Your Wine is a much better title than ‘Raise Your Nondescript Beverage Of Choice’.

What’s one line from the track you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?


One that I find stuck in my head is “And in the unlikely event I lose my duel with death...” I like the defiance behind it, toying with the absurd notion that we might actually die. I think we all entertain the idea of immortality or perhaps feel like it on a good day. There’s a line I come back to a lot which is “I found out the hard way, you were never a possession to own.” Plain and simple, humans are not possessions or playthings to own. As much as certain levels of authority might like to think so. If you’ll permit my self-indulgence, there’s two lines.

If Raise Your Wine was a piece of pre-exisiting visual art, what piece would it be and why?


Oh man, I feel like this is some sort of psychological entrapment and analysis of ego. Maybe ‘Romans During The Decadence’ by Thomas Couture. Haha. It’s a pretty classic painting and deeply layered but I think it really wraps up the beauty and the madness of human excess, consumption and just general living. We’re disillusioned and exhausted but we still want to drink and dance. It was that or Burning Giraffe With Telephones by Salvador Dali, if that’s any sort of window into my mind.



Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording?


It would probably be viewed as a shit-show, but it makes sense to me. I used to always start with words and then I’d sit down with little compositions and see what worked and what didn’t. I guess it's kind of fitting music around little poems I’d written. Lately it’s been flipped and a little more erratic. I’ve got a little notebook I carry around to jot down ideas or little phrases that stick out. It’s a little bit, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Not very elegant haha. Recording wise I am very much in support of having everyone in the same room and trying to limit overdubbing. I’ve tried both but the feeling you get when everyone’s in the same room and can look at each other is amazing. Very much about the feeling of capturing the live essence.

You’ve hinted at the release of an EP later this year, what can listeners expect from the release?

I am really excited about the material we have for this EP. It feels like a really great step forward into more of a band territory. Full sound, still rooted in the singer-songwriter beginnings I think, but just a bit more varied and explorative. It’s a really interesting step forward. I think I am also starting to lean a bit further into the rock side of things. The sound of four people in a room tring to make the best sounds they can. In theory, it will showcase what we’re capable of as a unit.

Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why?


Oh man, I could go on forever. There’s so much amazing music flying about. I’ve noticed lately that my playlist seems to be filled with artists that call the Inner West home, or at least Sydney (Eora). I know that’s not really diverse but maybe that’s a product of me not being able to leave Sydney for the last 18 months and in turn becoming slightly insular because of that. The entire Evening Records roster is incredible, check it out. Seeing each of them play live has taught me so much about musicianship, the art of a song and how to have a really good time doing it. In addition to that, I think Green Buzzard’s album Amidst The Clutter & Mess is one of the most criminally underrated releases of 2019. Joe Liddy & The Skeleton Horse are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. The same goes for Andy Golledge Band too, loose and honest fun. Aislinn Young is an artist that continually floors me with the presence she has on stage. I saw her at The Lansdowne Hotel in full band glory and it's an incredible thing. EJ Worland is a new one for me, but just makes me feel so good everytime I listen to him. A superb voice. Georgia Mulligan constantly cracks my heart open with each new release, really moody, melancholic and beautifully simple songs. Hiatus Kaiyote’s new album is just flawless. Cinta (also plays in The Regime) recently released an album called Feel Good which is one of the most sultry, groove filled things I’ve listened to in a while. Speaking of that, Smiling With No Teeth by Genesis Owusu is a wild ride, sonically and in it’s genre bending. I really want to catch him live. There’s so much I’ve missed and so much amazing music at the moment. I think Australia has generally always had a really vibrant music output, despite the lack of support at times. I feel really excited by the growth, tenacity of it at the moment.



You were set to perform at this years Shake It Up, prior to its cancellation. Will fans be able to catch a live show soon? (Details etc…)


The Shake It Up event was a real bummer. It was such a good line-up and for such a good cause. The pandemic, the ensuing lockdown and collateral damage that’s had on the music industry is devastating. It’s something I have an ultimate goal to do every year, raising money for Parkinson’s Research. Pre-COVID this event had been running for two years and I have no doubt we’ll bring it back again, it was just such a shame we couldn’t do it this year. We’ve got a gig on the 22nd July supporting The Wattles at Waywards, Newtown. We’re really excited about that one, but as is the way, the lockdown is threatening to postpone that. I’m optimistic that we’ll get to play it. Otherwise we have some things in the works for the end of the year that are shaping up to be pretty special. You’ll have to keep an eye out.

Raise Your Wine is out now! Listen to the track below.