sooky la la is out now!
Perth four-piece smol fish recently unveiled their debut EP sooky la la. We caught up with Clancy Davidson to chat about the release, their origin story, their collaborative process and so much more!
Tell us about your background in music and how smol fish came to be...
We have all been practising and learning music since we were kids! I went to school with Hannah and Josie and met Cat at a music school called Rock Scholars. A few years later, I decided to expand my solo project into a full band and messaged Hannah, Josie and Cat to see if they were keen to join, to which they all responded with a very enthusiastic yes!!
Congratulations on your debut EP sooky la la! Walk us through the themes explored across the collection of songs... Thank you ! We are all very excited for this release. The songs in the EP have been in our live set for quite a while and signify a time when we came together to form the band smol fish. These songs were written in the 3 years since leaving high school. Looking back over the lyrics I think they really encapsulate my awkward, who the hell am I and why can’t I function like everyone else feelings and anxieties. I often hear myself describing them as my musical journal (I know, what a wanker) but it really does feel appropriate, I’ve never been able to keep a real journal so it’s nice that I have this little record of my feelings towards situations and relationships.
How did you arrive at the overall sonic exploration and sounds present on the release? With smol fish starting as a solo project, melody and storytelling were always the most important aspects for me. This has led to our songs having a strong melodic focus, accompanied by cute counter melodies and vocal harmonies. When we took these songs to the studio they further developed to include more instrumentation and different textures that I think helped us encapsulate the different moods of our music, sometimes silly and sometimes introspective, but always fun! Our producer, Jack Seah definitely has had a big influence on the overall sound of the EP. As well as having great new
ideas, he always understood all of our suggestions and visions for the songs and so quickly made them a reality.
Could you talk us through your creative process when writing and recording this collection of songs? Sad Girl Summer was the last to be written and the first to be recorded, it is literally about my 2020/2021 Summer so that was fun to get into the studio and record as we were still slightly finalising things. Nothing like a studio session to cement an arrangement. The rest of the EP was recorded mostly in one week at Tuna Fish recording studio in Fremantle with our great friend Jack Seah of Airline Food. I cannot express how ridiculously good he is to work with. With Jack we explored a lot more layering and textures than we usually would, such as the auxiliary percussion / clapping and ambient sounds and subtle audio effects which I would say are the elements that bring the songs to life. We also invited some very special guests to play violin and clarinet on Shoes that helped make the track wonderful and folky. Honestly so much was crammed into that week of studio time that it’s all a little blurry. As someone who, at all times, is either bored or hyper focused, recording is super weird to get in a good headspace for so I’m very thankful for the support and hard work of the band. Cat, Hannah and Josie; I do not deserve you. We had more sessions later to add and finalise things and give input in the mixing of the track. In true 2021 fashion, we had a mixing session over zoom during a snap lockdown and I honestly felt like an excited boomer, amazed by modern technology. During this zoom call Jack came up with the outro for Sunnier which has become maybe my favourite thing on the release. Another huge help in this whole thing was our lovely manager Bella. If it were not for her we’d probably still be trying to organise our first single recording. She is my hero.
How did the EP evolve and change as you were creating it, and were there any tracks left on the cutting room floor that you think might have a life in the future? Most of the songs on the EP we had been playing in our live set for a while, the actual event name of our band launch was Be Quiet, which is one of the songs on the EP! I guess the songs mainly evolved once we took them to the studio. There’s something about tracking songs that really makes you think more about what you’re playing and how making changes could benefit the final product - probably because you’re constantly listening to the same song/s over and over again. Some of the main changes we made to the tracks were adding an outro to Sunnier, and including violin and clarinet parts in Shoes - both decisions that we are super happy about! We did actually record one song that we didn’t end up including in the EP, I think just because we didn’t have time to finish it and we preferred to keep the EP at just 6 songs. We are excited to return to it in the future though!
Which song off the release would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan? Sad Girl Summer, I think it’s a good summary of the sort of themes we explore and it’s also silly, fun and catchy.
If sooky la la was a piece of pre-existing visual art, what artwork would it be and why?
One that comes to mind is an untitled painting by Molly Fairhurst from a New York Times article titled The Cult of the Literary Sad Woman. It’s about a bunch of books that we resonate with and have been influential to our writing style. There’s no shame in the painting about needing to cry - something we at smol fish definitely believe in! Link to the article:
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why? We love so many Australian acts it’s hard to pick ! Here are 5 of our favourites:
Nika Mo - most times we have seen Nika Mo we have stood in the audience with tears in our eyes because of how much the music and lyrics resonate so much, I think to be able to have that effect on people is super rare and super incredible!
Jacob Diamond - We have all been fans of Jacob Diamond since before we started playing smol fish gigs. He has such an interesting singing style, and his ability to make his solo sets so captivating is really inspiring He also used to perform a really beautiful and memorable cover of "Cosmogony" by Björk that we all would love to see again
Noah Dillon - Noah never fails to cheer as up. He has such a cool lyrical style, and his songs have this unspeakable quality that makes you always want to dance - even if you didn’t think you were in the mood beforehand. The four of us can often be found doing a box step dance front row of his live sets.
Julia Jacklin - we are always in awe of Julia’s voice, storytelling abilities, song structures, honesty and vulnerability
Stella Donnelly - Stella and her band are fun and quirky and so impressive - and wow what a crazy vocal range she has!
You celebrated the release with a show Perth What can audiences expect from a smol fish live show and will we be seeing any national tour dates once restrictions ease? Yes we do ! We are currently planning on how to decorate the stage. I think we are going to hang chains of paper fish cut out from Josie’s university chemistry notes! I guess other than fun decorations, audiences can expect from our shows lots of silly jokes (including some wonderful fish puns), many warm and fuzzy moments, the chance to see a (very realistic looking) lemon egg shaker in action, and a whole room of people yelling about crying all the time. As for national tour dates, we would absolutely love to book some shows once restrictions ease. I’m sure one day we will get there!
You’ve toured alongside the likes of Spacey Jane, Noah Dillon, Demon Days and Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks. What knowledge did you gain from those experiences to further influence your own approach to performing? We have been lucky to share the stage with so many amazing and diverse acts, all who offer such different experiences for their audiences when they perform. I think because all these acts have such different and personal approaches to how they engage their audiences, it has helped influence us to be more genuine and authentic and go with our own sort of natural style when we perform.
Biggest influences? Our all time biggest influences are Stella Donnelly, Frankie Cosmos, Faye Webster, Florist. For this EP, we were definitely inspired by Lomelda and their use of cool, unexpected time signatures.
Dream collaboration? Working with Georgia Ellery from Jockstrap would be amazing! Her style is quite contrasting to ours, but similar enough to mean that working with her would make sense. I think we could learn a lot from her about things we may have never thought about before.
Album that has had the most impact on you? Atlanta Millionaires Club by Faye Webster is definitely up there. I think this album influenced my lyric writing in a huge way, especially in the sense of teaching me that it’s ok to write self-deprecating and self-indulgent lyrics.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words? Cute, fun and upbeat!
Best song of 2021 so far? We are all in love with Noah Dillon’s most recent release - Losing Touch. It’s so incredible in a kind of way that is hard to put into words. The best way to understand is to just listen to it!
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be? Probably some sort of coming of age film! Maybe something like Girl Asleep, it’s just so super cute and visually interesting and I think fits with our aesthetic quite well.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus? Miley Cyrus she soooooo pretty. But a special mention for Hannah Montana as an ode to our bassist Hannah who used to get nicknamed Hannah Montana all the time when she was a kid.
What was the first song you loved to sing? The honest answer would probably be something from High School Musical.
A song you would love to cover on tour? We have joked about becoming a cover band because of the amount of songs we want to cover! I think if we did tour we would probably go for Fool by Frankie Cosmos.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip? Andy Shauf - The Magician. We actually have already listened to this album together on multiple car trips! Has definitely been a record that we have all bonded over.
First concert you went to? Paul Kelly at Kings Park.
Best concert you have been to? We all went to see Aldous Harding when she came to Perth in 2020 and it was just so special. Feel super blessed to have been able to see her before international touring shut down.
First album you ever bought? Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy? Spice Girl!
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be? Silly Spice - Cat Sooky Spice- Josie Saucy Spice - Hannah
Spunky Spice - Clancy
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed? I would say our first ever single launch. It was our first ever proper headline show and it ended up being so successful and fun.
Guilty music pleasure? Kylie Minogue! This is another artist we have listened a lot to on road trips we share together.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be? Frankie Cosmos for sure.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry. In the current Perth music scene, Stella Donnelly !
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now? Don’t let social pressures make you feel like you always need to be productive ! It’s okay to take a break.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
That’s hard to say, I have never imagined myself doing anything else. It’s what I feel best at!