Hurricane Fall are a five-member band originally from Tamworth, NSW, but with four members now calling Newcastle home. In January 2020 they released their debut album, Ain’t Leavin, then saw it garner a Golden Guitar nomination before the end of the year.

The album was released after the band had a rather distressing experience when their Air Canada flight back to Australia hit such violent turbulence that band member Pepper Deroy was seriously injured.

‘We got back from Canada and he knew that he’d injured himself,’ says singer-guitarist Jesse Vee. ‘He knew that he was sore and they told him that he just had bruising and that sort of thing on his back and his shoulder and his arm. When we got back we went straight into doing Groundwater Country Music Festival [Gold Coast] then we were booked in to do another show the week after but he had a doctor’s appointment on the Tuesday after Groundwater and they basically told him to not move at all, put a neck brace on him and said, “You’re going straight to the hospital. The ambulance is coming now. You’re not allowed to move. We don’t know how you’re walking.” So he was pretty shook up about that. He’d broken his spine in four places, two up the top and two down the bottom. Then he’d had a piece of spine floating in his neck, and he broke two or three ribs.

‘He had his operation on the Thursday and he was back gigging a week and a half later. I take my hat off to him straightaway. He’s one of the most dedicated people I’ve seen in music. To go through something like that – I know myself I would have said, “No, I’m gone for six months.” I would have had a long break to sort myself out. He wasn’t allowed to hold his bass guitar anymore so we had to rig up a stand for him. So Wheels made one out of an old drum stand so we could strap his bass onto it and he could stand behind his bass and play it that way.’

By that time the band had about half of the album recorded.

‘We’d gone to Spinlight Studio in Newcastle – we’ve worked with Rhys quite a lot, he did the first two EPs of ours. We tried some different things and we went to another guy at Hazy Cosmic Jive Studio. He’s done a lot of work with my sister – he’s done my sister’s album and gone out and toured with her, so it was nice to work with someone else that I knew. And he does an amazing job as well. Gareth Hudson’s his name. So we did a few songs with him. We were jumping between studios and trying different things for different songs, so we went with who we thought would do justice to the different styles on the album. It was a big puzzle trying to figure it out before we released it and making sure we were happy with it all.’

Apart from seeing out the year with a Golden Guitar nomination, Hurricane Fall also fit in a live show, at Wests in Tamworth.

‘It was incredible to get in front of a live crowd again,’ says Vee. ‘It was really fun.’ 

The band has a high-energy, super-tight live sound, but obviously COVID meant they couldn’t rehearse for a long time, and obviously me living in Tamworth and the boys living in Newcastle travelling was a bit hard,’ says Vee, ‘but we got there. We had heaps of fun just jumping in a room together and playing together again after eight months. That was really, really exciting funnily enough – it was only rehearsal but we had heaps of fun just hanging out again.’

When it came to the show, Vee says, ‘I laughed because the boys and I were all going on about [how] we were starting to get nervous again. We’ve done this a thousand times but it’s one of those things that you really forget how much fun it is until you do it again … [and] you still care about playing music if you get nervous. And I said that to Bill Chambers when we played in Taree. We did the acoustic festival there, which was a livestream festival with a bunch of artists who played through the day. And he said the same thing – “I started to get a bit nervous.” It’s funny, that’s Bill Chambers and he’s been playing for years and years and years.

‘It’s good to see that we’re not the only ones!’ Vee adds with a laugh.

When asked if the unpredictability of a live show might have had something to do with the nerves, Vee says, ‘I can’t describe the atmosphere of playing in front of the crowd again and the support we got from the crowd. But as I’ve said to other people, the support through COVID as well, with the livestreaming and doing little acoustic things on Facebook and our socials and things like that, the support that you get from them for people to take time out of their day to sit and watch a screen while you talk away and jot comments on a screen, it’s just unreal.

‘For people to take the time to watch us on a screen it was just such a surreal thing and we never thought we’d have to do it. And it was a bit of a scary time, trying to figure out a way to still had to get our music out there and enjoy doing what we enjoy doing.’ 

Part of the adjustment for the band might have been the fact that they’re usually electric and livestream shows often had to be acoustic, but Vee says, ‘We still hang out and just play around on acoustic and that’s how we do most of our writing. Going into writing we’ll do acoustic versions and then go into the bigger elements when we do rehearsals and stuff like that. The boys coming with their own ideas.

‘It was still a bit different. We really love doing our big shows and we’re all about tightness. We used to do three rehearsals a week. A lot of people didn’t realise that’s how much effort we were putting in but that was what we wanted to do. We wanted to show that that’s how much dedication we’ve got. We did that for a couple of years then went back down to the two and one rehearsal a week. Then playing shows every week we started not having to do much rehearsal, because we were playing that much before COVID we didn’t need to.’ 

Given how much they rehearse and play live, replicating their live sound in the studio requires attention to detail from certain band members.

‘Our guitarist Wheelsie [Luke Wheeldon] calls himself a guitar nerd or geek,’ says Vee. ‘He’s one of those really finicky people that when he gets a sound he really likes he makes sure he programmes it. In his guitar gear he’s got a Kemper, which has thousands and thousands of elements in it. And I don’t know much about that because I’m an acoustic player! So he kind of goes all nerdy and I just sit back and enjoy what he’s doing and tell him he’s doing a good job.

‘With the recording he’s already pre-programmed the sounds he’s got into his Kemper, and when we play live he’s already got those sounds, so it’s not too hard to portray through live shows. The same as Tim [Hickey] on keyboards – he runs a Nord and they’re all programmed. The boys know what they’re doing with their gear – they live and breathe their instruments. Because I’m acoustic I just have to make sure I’m in tune,’ he says, laughing. 

Ain’t Leavin has the same high energy as a Hurricane Fall live show, and Vee says that ‘one of the things we always talk about going into the studio is we always pride ourselves on our live shows and trying to capture the live element into an album is so hard, and to do it in a studio and you’re not playing together at the same time, it’s a difficult thing to capture, that live sound. We feel like we caught it a little bit in the last album but we think we can do better. We’re always pushing ourselves to do even more than we’ve done before. 

‘When it comes down to crunch time the boys are constantly writing, even in the studio. We don’t really go in with a fully produced song. We might be playing something and say, “Oh, this might sound good too”, Or someone might be doodling around on their guitar and we’ll say, “Wow, that’s a pretty cool little lick that you’ve done there.” So we’re always writing in the process of recording, it’s not like we have it set out and then just go in and record what we have.’

When they first started writing songs together ‘it all fell into place pretty quickly, actually,’ says Vee. ‘As soon as Tim and Dusty [Lachlan Coffey, drummer] came on board with us – we’d had other members before when we first started out but we’d known the guys through other bands and growing up together – the first rehearsal we had together we wrote our first song, and that was “Other Side”, which was on our first EP. That was kind of unreal because it was the moment when we said, “We write really well together, we’re really happy with how we write together”, and we just knew it was going to work. It was that instant click feeling. And it’s always carried through like that. All the boys write their own parts.

‘Dusty doesn’t play guitar or anything like that – he’s the drummer – or play an instrument in that style, but he still comes in with songs and writes. So everyone’s writing their own parts for their own songs but they’re just trying to get people to element what they’re hearing in their heads, and the boys do it really well. Like I said there’s a click there that they say, “I know exactly what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling.” Or, if not, it comes out better than what you’re thinking. It’s a nice writing process to have and there’s not much argument in it. Everyone gets a go of everyone’s song and if we can’t figure something out we say, “Rightio, we’ll put that on the backburner and see if we can figure out something later.”’ 

That cohesion the band has in rehearsal and writing and recording seems to be a wave that carries them onto the stage and helps create their live sound. That comes about because, says Vee, they are five friends.

‘I think that’s the biggest thing. We were all living in each other’s pockets when we were first touring around and you always had to make sure that everyone was comfortable and that sort of thing, so that friendship thing was more important than the band element, I think.

‘We love that element of our band too – it’s not just five musicians playing, it’s five really, really close friends. We basically call each other brothers. We all hang out with each other’s parents. Even if we’re not gigging, even through COVID and all that stuff, we still see how each other are doing and what they’re up to and how the families are.’ 

When told that it’s unusual to have five adults working so closely together with no one spitting the dummy, Vee laughs and says, ‘Oh, don’t worry, there’s been a few times! But we always put the friendship first and if there are any quarrels we sort them out pretty quick.’ 

Hurricane Fall invited two other people into their family by collaborating with Newcastle duo the Crawford Brothers on ‘Aftertaste’, a single released towards the end of last year. It turns out that the Crawfords’ father was in the music scene while they were growing up, as was Vee’s.

‘They’d crossed paths before and knew each other pretty well,’ he says. However, that connection was ‘just a coincidence – we worked with these guys then found out that information later.

‘They’re unbelievable writers too, the boys do a really awesome job, with heaps of their own tracks out that are just insane. As [singer-bassist]Pepper said, one of their songs is on his gym playlist and he didn’t even mean to – it was just a song that he liked and then he realised that it was them after we started working with them. So I think that pushed him to try to do some writing with them and do this collab.

‘We started that before COVID and then it obviously pushed us more when COVID kicked in. We had a project that we’d started working on and it gave us time to work around it and finish the writing process then do it through Zoom and try to get it finished it to the point so that when restrictions eased we could go in and record it.’

The song marks a musical change for Hurricane Fall, as Vee acknowledges.

‘It is such a different sound for our band,’ he says. ‘Our band’s always had that guitar-driven sort of style and the [Crawford] boys have so many different elements in their sound, so it was nice to do something a bit off skew to what we’re used to. And obviously times are changing with different sounds of country. There are so many different varieties of country, so it was nice to put in a bit of this R ’n’ B, poppy sound that we’ve got with them. And the fans have been amazing. They are so used to other things but they love the fact that it’s something new for them to try on’.

The experience has spurred on the band to look at doing other collaborations.

‘We are currently looking at doing a collaboration with a female artist. We’re trying to find someone who is willing to work with us,’ Vee says with a laugh. ‘There are so many great female artists and it’s been something we’ve always wanted to try, the male-female aspects of a song, so we’re really looking forward to trying it.’

Also on the agenda are festival shows that have been booked for later in 2021, as well as a few singles to be released. And ‘we’re really looking forward to the Golden Guitars,’ says Vee. ‘We are really excited and overwhelmed with being able to go to that and be a part of it in such a strange time. It’s a really memorable year to be part of the Golden Guitars. It will be really good for a lot of the artist because we’ll finally get a chance to see each other in person again rather than through screens and commenting on stuff and messaging people. It will be really nice to just catch up with some musos and other acts we get along with and love their music.’

The 49th Golden Guitar Awards will be held on 23 January 2021.

Festival appearances:

Thursday 26th – Sunday 29th August 2021 – Gympie Music Muster, QLD

Friday 1st – Saturday 2nd October 2021 – Deni Ute Muster, NSW

Tuesday 23rd– Tuesday 30th November 2021 – Rock The Boat