Hailing from Adelaide, Australia, the Axe & the Ivory bring us their latest single “Find it”. The track opens with Rosie’s solo vocals over whole-note piano chords—at once confident and quavering with emotion—before erupting into a soaring duet. We had a chat with them to hear a little more about their process and how the song came together. Check out our interview with the Axe & the Ivory below, and give them a listen on our Singer Songwriter & Indie Folk 2022 playlist.
I see you’re from Adelaide, could you tell us a bit about who you are and how your hometown has influenced your music?
We’re an indie-folk band from Adelaide, South Australia. The band consists of Ben Lovell (vocals, guitar), James Lovell (drums/percussion), Paul Cooper (banjo, mandolin) and Rosie (vocals, piano). We’ve also just got a bass player, Mark Oosterveld, which we’re super excited about. And sometimes, when we’re really lucky, local cellist Briohny Taylor joins us on stage.
Ben and James grew up in the Adelaide Hills, but went to school in the suburbs, and have talked about their music being influenced by the space. You can live in the hills 20 kms from the city and have so much distance between you and your neighbours. You can hear birds in the morning instead of neighbours clunking dishes and rambling before work or school. Maybe that’s how Adelaide has influenced us. It’s quiet enough here to hear yourself think.
I (Rosie) grew up on a farm a couple hours north of Adelaide on Ngadjuri land. I’ve definitely written songs about growing up there. That sense of connection to that place is pretty strong for me. The older I get, the more I seem to write about that place, and memories of childhood, rather than the city.
you have to feel comfortable enough to not let that stop you. You can be a total fool in front of your mates a lot easier than a stranger.
You recently sold out your single launch show, how did that happen, and how was the show?
It was so much fun and we were really grateful for the turnout! It was at the Queen’s Theatre in the city. It’s the oldest surviving theatre building on mainland Australia and just such a beautiful space and all the crew who work there are awesome to deal with. We’ve loved the recording process because we took songs that were fairly formed into the studio, but then as always happens, got to experiment with different sounds and structures. That meant the songs we have been playing live for a while now, sound a little different to the recording. But that was really cool because it meant we got to figure out, or reimagine, how we could translate that back into a live setting. So the Queen’s gig was fun because it was the first time we got to play some of the new arrangements.
You’ve known each other for quite sometime, can you tell us a bit about how that has influenced your process?
Ben and James are brothers, so they’ve grown up writing and working on lyrics together. Ben and I are best mates. That actually helps so much when you’re writing a song. Let’s be honest – writing a song with someone, particularly if you don’t know them well, is pretty damn scary because you’re throwing a bunch of lyrics out into the open, some of which are going to sound terrible at first. So you have to feel comfortable enough to not let that stop you. You can be a total fool in front of your mates a lot easier than a stranger. In saying that, I think it’s really great to write with other people too, because it challenges you and forces you to write in different ways.
In terms of the song writing process… Ben and I write songs separately and bring them into the band context to work on them and we also write together. We definitely have different song-writing styles but I think that keeps it interesting (for us anyway). Hopefully others like it too.
Can you describe how you developed your sound? Did it come from trial and error or was it an intentional direction from the beginning?
Definitely trial and error and also just that we are influenced by lots of different music. We grew up listening to great songwriters like Paul Kelly, Paul Simon, James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt. Ben also played in punk bands and an earlier iteration of Axe & the Ivory was a bit heavier than our current sound.
Tell us a bit about your new single, “Find It”, how did that song start?
I started writing the song during the ending of a decade long relationship. It wasn’t actually a track I thought would ever be out in the world. I wrote the verses during the first part of Covid, so we weren’t able to catch up as a band to practice or write. Once we were able to do that, Ben came round and worked on the chorus/bridge sections with me.
What was one of the biggest challenges in writing and recording “Find It”? How about one of the funniest?
The biggest challenge but a really positive one was working with a producer for the first time. We were lucky enough to work with Mario Spate, who is a total talent. We learnt so much from that process, particularly around dynamics and structuring of songs and we’ll definitely take that knowledge into our new writing projects. In terms of funniest… probably when we put the track through some auto-captioning software. The lyrics were fairly R rated! Haha. But I won’t say more than that.
The harmonies are such a defining part of the chorus on Find It, how do you all go about arranging that section and what it’s like to perform with three vocalists?
We love working on harmonies. Our music has always included them. I guess because we don’t have a lead singer but share the main vocals between Ben and I and have James doing vocals on quite a few too – it means we can experiment with different harmony lines.
What’s next for Axe & the Ivory?
We’ve got a couple more tracks ready to release early next year and we’re working on some new material at the moment. We’re excited to keep writing and keep playing! We would love to do some festivals and Australian touring next year with bands we really admire. So that’s something we’ll be working on too.