Melbourne duo Great Aunt, whose members are Megan Bird (mandolin, guitar, vocals) and Chelsea Allen (double bass, vocals, percussion), were supposed to release their new double single, ‘Oh, Won’t You Save Me’ and ‘Rock Paper Neighbour’, in April and go on tour with The Weeping Willows, who have also just released a new single. But it will be no mystery as to why they’re not on the road, even as they prepare to release their debut album, It’s All Downhill From Here.
Instead, they’ve created two animated video clips – with Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman for ‘Oh, Won’t You Save Me’ and Vanessa Cox with ‘Rock Paper Neighbour’ – to help the songs tour in another sense: online.
‘Oh, Won’t You Save Me’ is an upbeat, a cappella song with hand claps – except it’s about hurting oneself and others, about searching for self-worth and looking for faith. That doesn’t mean that the song doesn’t know what it is – more, that despite the difficulties described, that faith is actually there. Joy is there in the way the song is delivered, which suggests its not too far away for the protagonist.
‘Rock Paper Neighbour’ tells the story of neighbours at odds with each other – specifically, the neighbours of Great Aunt, who are a couple, didn’t much like the pair living next door.
‘It hurt us a lot at the time,’ says Allen. ‘We were deeply fearful to go outside for a while, wondering if it would continue to escalate. We went from having spoken a few friendly words across the fence to our neighbour, to finding attempts at spiking our car tyres, meat on our doorstep, rocks being thrown, having homophobic epithets shouted at us by their kids. We’re quiet and private but friendly, and although we potentially had lots in common with the father and would have happily returned many a lost frisbee for the kids, now we’re at a very sad and hate-driven impasse.’
Just as they do on ‘Oh, Won’t You Save Me’, Great Aunt create a symphony out of simplicity. They deploy lyrical sophistication and ruthless musical discipline to leave space for the listener to layer their own interpretation on what’s in the song, to bring their own experiences and, indeed, room to leave their judgements aside. These powerful songs are each shorter than three minutes yet their impact lasts considerably longer, and while the band can’t tour yet these songs can and will travel, most likely to the people who need to hear them the most.