Australian band The Buckleys introduced themselves to audiences with the single ‘Daydream’, an infectious tune that combined country sounds with influences from pop and other genres, and also established the band’s sound. Their second single was ‘I’m Comin’ For Ya (Love)’. Then, just as people around the world started to head indoors, they released their first global single, ‘Money’. Each song has its own characteristics, but they all have one element in common: they’re irresistible. It’s almost impossible not to feel uplifted after listening to a Buckleys song, so in that way their music is right for a time when we probably all need a positive distraction.
The members of The Buckleys are siblings Sarah Grace, Molly and Lachlan, who come from the Byron Bay area of New South Wales and are 20, 19 and 17 years of age respectively. While they’re still young, they’ve been a band since 2011 – although the formation of the band wasn’t really a surprise because, as Sarah says, ‘We have always been playing music. We grew up in a musical family so it’s always been something we’ve done.’
‘I feel like it was Dad’s dream,’ says Molly. ‘Before he even had kids with Mum he was saying, “We need to have a family band!” He’s always been a muso and Mum was telling us the other day that he was always into the fantasy of all of us playing music together … We’ve always had a massive connection to music since we were younger. Wanting a career out of it. And we all performed as we grew up.’
‘But we’ve never been pushed into playing music or anything like that,’ Sarah explains. ‘Our parents have always been so supportive and “just do whatever you want to do”. In some other families they go waterskiing or horse riding, and we played music and grew up on the road with Dad as well [their father is the drummer for Australian band The Radiators]. But I got the bug first when I was 10 or 11. I went to the Tamworth Country Music Festival for the talent competitions there and then really started getting into songwriting. Then Lachlan started playing bass and Molly was writing, and playing mandolin.’
The mention of a family band evokes the Von Trapp family singers, whose story was told in the film The Sound of Music. When this is mentioned, Sarah laughs and says, ‘That is so funny you say that, because someone asked me what my favourite movie was and I said The Sound of Music!’
And, of course, there’s a very famous sibling band already working in Australian country music: The McClymonts. When asked if the McClymont sisters might have any advice to offer, Sarah says, ‘When we were really little – when I was about 9 – we interviewed them. We still have the footage somewhere. We were asking them, “What is it like travelling with siblings?” They gave us all this advice. It was so cool.’
The Buckley sisters believe that working with siblings has distinct advantages. ‘We can be really honest with each other,’ says Sarah. ‘No hard feelings and no one’s going to get too offended.’
‘You get mad at each other, of course,’ says Molly, ‘but you get sick of being mad. And if someone’s giving you the silent treatment you’re thinking, I just want to say this really funny joke, and you can’t do it!’
‘We get over it pretty quickly,’ adds Sarah. ‘Usually with food.’
When they do have disagreements, they’re more likely to come up in rehearsal, says Molly: ‘That’s everyone’s creative flow. That’s when everyone’s getting all the ideas, pitching every idea they get.’
‘And also no one wants to be told what to play or how to play by their sibling,’ Sarah says, laughing. ‘If I tell Lachlan, “Why don’t you try this?” he’ll say, “I don’t want to try that because you’re my sister.”’
‘But usually it’s fine,’ says Molly. ‘We’re just very passionate. We’re very strong in our opinions.’
Given how long the band has been together, and how long they’ve been playing instruments and creating music altogether, they would be entitled to have their opinions. But, says Sarah, ‘We’ve definitely gotten better over time. We used to run a jam session at our local pub when I was, probably, 12 – I said to Mum and Dad, “We should start a jam session.” So they helped and we started doing that for a while. So we were on stage when I was 12, 13, 14 – and we wouldn’t write out a set list – and I’d say, “Guys, I want to play this song,” and Lachlan would say, “No, I want to play ‘Jailhouse Rock’.” “No, I want to play an original!” So we’d have these little sibling things on stage in front of an audience. We don’t do that any more, which is good!’
The Buckleys’ first performances as a band came while busking during the 2011 Tamworth Country Music Festival. ‘We played “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Berry,’ remembers Sarah, ‘and we did a song that was the first song Molly and I wrote called “Hillbilly Robby”, who was our neighbour at the time. He played all these different instruments and taught Molly how to play mandolin.’
They loved the experience, ‘especially when we came top ten in the busking comp and it was the first big stage we’d ever played on together. And after that it was, “Oh my gosh – we’ve got to do this. Let’s really knuckle down and do this thing and try to make a career out of it.” So ever since then we’ve been playing every day and all together.’
Country music was formative in their musical upbringing, with Sarah saying she grew up listening to Patsy Cline, Kasey Chambers and Felicity Urquhart every night before she went to bed.
‘It’s where me and Molly learnt a lot of harmonies,’ she says, ‘just listening to those records over and over again. We had this CD player and I’d start singing along as I was falling asleep. Then we started singing these other things and they were apparently called harmonies, so that’s where we learnt those.
‘Then songwriting – Keith Urban and Taylor Swift were massive influences. But then we also grew up with a lot of rockabilly and rock ’n’ roll and funk – a lot of different genres we’ve been influenced by, because our parents are so musical. So we’re really lucky to have a really broad spectrum of music that we’ve been inspired by. We love bringing all of that into the music we create, which is natural because you’re influenced by the things you hear.’
Of course, influences can sometimes be hard to edit out when you’re trying to develop your own sound. Sarah says that for her the band’s musical identity crystallised about four years ago, when she was in Nashville.
‘We had been doing this thing for a while,’ she says, ‘where we’d been trying to have this certain sound that was a lot of country sound, which we love and still love. But then I was watching this Tom Petty documentary and something clicked in my brain – “Why are we trying to do what everybody else is doing and try to mould this thing when we have all these other influences that we love and are inspired by? Why don’t we make music that comes out – just try to write the best song possible, create the best music possible without trying to fit it into a label or trying to be anyone else? Let’s just be really, really authentic.” Ever since then we’ve really been loving discovering new music and experimenting. I think the authenticity is the most important thing for us. So that’s when we started saying, “Here’s our music and you guys decide where you want to put it.”’
Each member of the band writes songs individually – sometimes for other artists to perform – and they have been writing as a trio for the past few months, although Molly and Sarah have been writing together for a while.
Molly says that the process is ‘pretty equal. Lachlan is coming out with so many awesome riffs and guitar licks, and Sarah comes up with heaps of melodies, and it all kind of fits in really well with what we each specialise in.’
‘It’s still evolving,’ adds Sarah, ‘but it’s really cool finding out where we all fit in the creative process. Lachlan is really great at guitar, so he focuses on that. I love melody. Molly’s really great at lyrics. So finding where we all fit is really fun.’
While Molly plays mandolin in the band, she also plays piano, organ and guitar, and writes mainly on piano and guitar.
‘When I listen to Steve Miller Band and all this 70s stuff and The Doors and listening to their organs,’ she says, ‘I love how they sing around it and how they work it into their sound, it’s really inspiring. I just write with whatever I’m feeling at the time.’
Sarah plays acoustic guitar while Lachlan plays electric, but says that she too would like to go electric. ‘That is something we’re working on! That would expand the sound, and it looks pretty awesome,’ she says with a laugh. ‘As a band we constantly love bringing in new instruments and new ways of sound.’
The new single, ‘Money’, may have been released around the world at a time when the band is unable to travel to support it, but they say that there’s been some great press coverage overseas.
‘It is a strange time,’ she adds. ‘I think we were thinking, “Oh, what’s it going to be like?” I think it’s good in some way – everyone’s home and wanting something as a distraction. Some positive thing to look at in the craziness of everything. But everyone’s really excited about [the single] – we have an awesome label in Universal Music overseas, in LA, and Petrol Records, and everyone’s really pumped to get it out there and hopefully it brings a bit of happiness into everyone’s households.’
The Buckleys have recorded an album which is tentatively scheduled for release later this year – as with most other things at the moment, plans could change. But with three stellar singles already released, and the band’s passion for music and tight band unit, it is pretty much guaranteed that the album will be exceptional. So whenever it comes, it will surely be most welcome.