Words: Molly Schmidt
I open my front door to Soulin Wild.
Matt Bracknell and Dan Gunn, two Albany boys, new to the big smoke. They are the core of folksy, rootsy, psychedelic band Soulin Wild, and they’ve packed their instruments, their dogs and memories of their hometown by the river, to relocate to Fremantle so they can share their sounds with us.
They stand on my doorstep with their long windblown hair and bright eyes. They’ve just ridden their pushbikes up the hill from their house to mine. Matt holds two glass bottles of kombucha, and he holds them out to me with a smile. “A little offering,” he says.
We make tea, and I set them up on cushions in our loft. The boys are just about to release their first album, Balance, which has been quite a journey in the making.
Their story begins many years ago, with Pearl Jam covers and school music concerts. But once school days were over, Matt and Dan packed up and traveled around our sunburnt country. They took their guitars and sang covers as they went. Dan says once they got back home they were really ready to start creating their own music.
“We had this phone call and we talked about how we were really sick of playing other people’s songs, and we wanted to make our own stuff and really put effort into that.”
Dan describes the way they both really liked each other’s song writing style, so they started getting it down with some gear he had where he was living.
“At some point we realised we wanted to see if we could really make it. We wanted these songs to be more than a scrappy recording. From there it was all stepping stones, and four years later, here we are,” he says.
“If the songs were seeds, we planted them at the start,” says Matt. “But it took four years for them to find their potential. Balance is just that, it’s the product of just wanting to let our music be what it would be, and it morphing and changing with us, till we’ve produced this album.”
I ask them about their songwriting process, and Matt answers in his deep and mystical ways.
“Basically in the abyss of creativity I will find a seed that is an idea of a song, whether that be lyrics or a riff, or sometimes it’s almost a fully formed song. And Dan will also fish in the abyss and find a song. And then we come together and we will both nurture each other’s songs, until they become our songs.”
The boys worked on the album whilst living together on Matt’s family farm.
“Sometimes Dan would wake up and I’d been up all night creating something on one of his songs, cos I had an idea, and that’s when it becomes Soulin Wild, our song,” says Matt.
“Dan would come down and be like ‘oh my god that’s exactly what it needed’ and I’d come back from work and Dan would have worked at something of mine, and I’d just be like ‘oh of course, why didn’t I think of that?’ And yeah, we are two fishermen. Two fishermen are better than one.”
“Matt’s such a good cosmic fisherman,” laughs Dan. “I’ve spent ten years plus playing guitar, but then sometimes Matt just brings me an interesting guitar riff or chord progression, and I’m like wow, how did you get that?”
I can’t help but smile, imagining the two of them side by side, fishing for songs. You can feel the bond between them, like a brotherhood written in music. They smile wide at each other when one says something the other agrees with, congratulating each other for being able to articulate their special secret.
To help them create their sound live, they have carefully chosen new musicians to add to their Soulin Wild family. On stage Matt sticks to percussion and vocals, with Dan on vocals and guitar. They are joined by Jake Edwards on guitar, Owen McGinnity on bass, Sarah Gamble on backing vocals, and Luke Olejnik on drums.
With music as unique and heartfelt as theirs, I have no doubt their sounds are going to take them places. I ask them if they always knew the musician life was the one for them. Dan laughs and looks into his teacup as if trying to read the leaves.
“No,” he says. “But you just catch some sort of musical bug, and it becomes more and more a part of your life, and you pour more and more time and effort into it. And then there was a point where I realised I’d already put too much into it, to not make something out of it. Like instead of learning a trade, or life skills, I was playing my guitar all the time.”
I ask them what they’d like to say to their new city.
“Greetings,” laughs Dan.
“Hello,” says Matt. “It’s really, really creatively vibrant up here, and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Balance is available as of today, and you can catch them live for their album launch in Fremantle on the 4th of November at the Fibonacci Art Centre.