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The Rock-itt : January 2010
The Green Mohair Suits are an interesting eclectic bunch of musicians, originating from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, playing their own blend of homegrown Country/Folk/Bluegrass music. I was fortunate to see the band perform when they supported established Sydney band, The Pigs doing their CD launch at the Bald Faced Stag Hotel, Leichardt, 5 December, 2009. A very appreciative crowd witnessed a 7 piece line up including drums, with their unique brew of musical styles, and with everybody singing and playing their acoustic instruments, culminating in a show that was entertaining, energetic and always exciting. We caught up with Mikey Floyd the 'boatbass' player to tell us the Mohair story. The Green Mohair Suits, formed 5 years ago in response to a newly purchased banjo and a tribute to Gram Parsons gig. Originally the band was just Jason Mannell on banjo and vocals, and Brian Campeau on guitar/vocals. The emphasis from the very start of the band was on the singing and the harmonies, hence today everybody in the band sings! A few odd gigs and a year later Richie Cuthbert (of Cutherbert and the Nightwalkers) had just bought a mandolin after being inspired by the film 'O'Brother Where Art Thou? who is also a strong singer, if not yet very nimble on the mandolin. Ben Romalis sort of hovered in the wings as a slide (or Dobro) player studying in Lismore and being a Mohair Suit when in Sydney. In the meantime Mikey Floy, a long time guitarist looking for new inspiration, built himself a double bass out of boatbuilding off cuts just to cut his teeth on, and this sea-worthy bass has become something of an icon for the Mohair's now dubbed the 'boatbass'. The Mohair Suits in this line up launched their debut album A Heathen Hymn Book, 13 songs written, recorded, mixed, mastered, promoted, managed and entirely produced by the Mohair Suits with their mixed of talents and handicaps. With Ben Romalis now permanently in Sydney and the latest addition of Elana Stone (of the Elana Stone Band) on piano accordion (again, a very accomplished and talented musician but the piano accordion was a new instrument for her), the Mohair Suits were beginning to push the stage size and mixer channel limits of some venues. With 6 acoustic instruments and 6 vocals across the stage, the sound and complexity of this eclectic line up had come a long way from the original 2 piece Gram Parsons tribute band. Adding to this line up, the band often has various people sit in from our semi regular Joe (from the Crooked Fiddle Band) to other fiddle players and vocalists. With so many of the band members in other more serious bands, (4 of the 6), it has become the accepted norm that as a Mohair you have no commitments. The gigs get booked and whoever can turn up turns up. This leads to a myriad of potential line ups from the whole 6 (sometimes more with the extras) down to just 2 people, with the usual turn up being somewhere between 3 and 5. Lots of stuff gets remoulded to suit the day's line up on the fly and they also often play new songs with most of the band having never played them before! This sometime works and sometimes less so, but it's all part of the slightly chaotic homegrown Mohair experience. The band has a strong local origin with Jason living in Frenchs Forest and also owning the Mona Vale Billy Hyde store. Mikey lives in Clareville (with his bigger, iconic home-made boat), Brian and Richie both used to live in Belrose. Locally the band has played at the Shack at Narrabeen, The Music Room at Barrenjoey High School, The Kinmar School in Terrey Hills, but has mostly played in the inner city of Sydney venues as TheVanguard, Excelsior Hotel and regularly at The Fringe Bar to name a few. The band piled into the Tarago van last April and did a 5 date tour of Melbourne taking in the extremes of what Melbourne has to offer venue wise, from the classy jazz club Bennett's Lane to the grunge and sticky carpet of the Greyhound Hotel in St. Kilda. Rehearsals are rare, and songs still evolve and change when performed live, and new songs get written and/or learned, and often they just happen to make it on to the stage after being sung through in the car on the way to gigs! Where does the band go from here? We have no idea. It's never discussed, there is no plan, we're just having fun. I think that is part of why we seem to get such a broadly positive reaction, we are truly enjoying ourselves. There is no pressure to impress, there is no mistake or blunder that can't be laughed off as it happens all the time! For more Mohair information and sample their home brew of music visit them at www.myspace.com/thegreenmohair suits