Words Anthony Moore.
Photos Stephen Boxshall.
For me, there are a select few musicians that can cut through anything their band is playing with their vocals, and shine like rays of light through storm clouds to bring a slice of heaven to a room. In Melbourne, think Adalita, Amaya Laucirica, Rich Davies, and on this night at The Gasometer Hotel, we were lucky enough to have Ella Hooper.
The launch is for New Magic, the “90s tinged swirling pop piece” follow up to last years heartbreaker EP, Venom. It feels like the whole idea of the new EP was to create something that could be played first and foremost live. With the creation of a new band and a month long launch by way of Wednesday residencies, and with an eclectic mix of supports, it’s a great way for punters to experience these songs for the first time.
Kira Puru was the main support on this night. She was kept company during her set by a lone keyboardist to her right who filled the space behind her vocals with at times, quite a Portishead-esque vibe in the beats and sound. She has such soul, and beauty yet with such strength, and with a bit of a haunting echo behind her vocals, it danced about between us and held us to attention.
Ella Hooper has always possessed that girl next door kind of charm throughout her entire career. It always feels like you’re getting her true self, there’s no second stage persona when she’s performing, just the one Ella for all occasions; her beautiful tones, the heart felt lyrics, the funny off the cuff remarks between songs and banter with the crowd, everything feels natural.
When Puru was performing, there was no loud backing band to hide anything, you could hear everything, and that is what makes intimate gigs so personal. Hooper however, was backed by a four-piece band, Robin Waters (bass / guitar / synth), Mads Davey (keys), Mitch Finglas (guitar) and Johno Edmonds (drums). It was evident though from the outset that this band knew their roles so well and how they complimented and affected the other. There was space for us all to hear each of them and to let Hooper’s at times delicate vibrato trail off into the distance and still be heard. Nothing overpowered the other and all fitted together like your favourite jigsaw.
One of the stand outs of the set was definitely Finglas’ control over his guitar throughout the track ‘Sarah Sarah Laura’ from 2015’s Venom EP; slowmo slide guitar-like with such an ethereal quality that it would feel comfortably at home in Twin Peaks. The gentle picking, subtle bends, and breath it took away from each of us was alone, well worth making to the trip out midweek to see the set.
The ‘New Magic’ harmonies were simply stunning. It’s like the band all came from the same musical womb, siblings through tone and beauty. It’s wonderful to so totally lose yourself in the sound of live music and the comments we heard around us during the set and after affirmed it was the same for everyone in the room.
You know those days that you wake up in a fog and when you finally walk outside the front door, you realise the sun is shining, the colours are rich, tones vibrant, all the layers perfect, life is beautiful; that was the affect that Ella Hooper and her band had on the room.
I strongly recommend to anyone who hasn’t been along yet, to go for the last of her Wednesday May residency at The Gasometer on the 25th, and anyone who has knows they should really go again. This last show coming up includes Mouth Tooth and Van Walker.
The double EP ‘Venom / New Magic‘ will be released in June, with a national tour to follow.