Interview: A quick pint with Carla Geneve
I never understood using the term ‘meteoric’ to describe an artists’ rise in popularity. Isn’t that an oxymoron? To liken rapid success to a hunk of space rock burning up through friction with the atmosphere as it hurtles toward the earth. Metaphorically, it feels upside down.
And yet, Carla Geneve’s musical accomplishments are described as ‘meteoric’ time and time again. I can see why many grasp at this description – it is hard to capture in one word how the not-quite-21 year old singer-songwriter has gone from strength to unshakable strength in the past 2 years.
I caught up with Carla the night before her solo show at The Bird. As she shyly teases that there will be quite a lot of ‘new stuff’ on show she reflects that being alone on stage can be a ‘scary’ process. In the same breath she reveals a contrasting confidence;
“I feel like I’ve been playing quite a bit recently solo but, in some ways yes [it is scarier], in some ways no. I feel like there’s less things to go wrong. But I think the scariest part of doing solo stuff is there’s more talking – there’s more of a need to speak. So that’s the part that makes me nervous.”
Even as she is peppered with anxiety-inducing questions about a recent break-in and loss of a two particularly sentimental guitars, Carla remains quietly calm and accepting. Reflecting that writing can be cathartic she reveals why she was late to the interview, “I got caught up playing guitar actually.”
When I ask Carla if it feels strange to have her self-titled EP ready to go but unreleased she admits that it’s been finished for a while, “But I can’t change anything now!” she laughs.
Anyone who has seen Carla play in the past two years may have an idea of what her debut EP holds. The live shows can be a means to ‘flesh songs out’ but end up being a double-edged sword;
“Yeah I do, I end up getting sick of [the songs] after a month or so. Meanwhile I’ve got to keep playing them though!”
With the extensive live shows that Carla plays around Perth, I ask her if she feels she has reached saturation point with the local music scene;
“I mostly just feel bad for people who keep coming to the shows. I’m like “You’ve seen this before!” I dunno, I just like living here. I guess that’s why touring is fun, you get to watch other music, most Perth bands, not to say they aren’t brilliant – its some of the best music – but it’s nice to see things you haven’t seen before, meet new people as well.”
As we chatted more, it became clear that Carla was more at ease giving heartfelt backing for other artists in the Perth music scene than she was promoting her own music. As we got to talking about her support acts for The Bird show, all she had was praise for artists like Jacob Diamond, New Nausea and Ribs;
“I’ve known Georgina, Ribs, for a while and she’s always been so good. I went to WAAPA with her and every time she would play a song live I would just cry. Every time. She just gets me. The way she writes songs is so powerful. I haven’t seen her in ages so I’m really excited to see her play again.”
Impressed by the staunch support of local music I ask Carla about her favourite albums this year;
“I love Julia Jacklin, obviously, but I feel like there’s been another album that has been big for me this year… Stella Donelly, well yeah, there’s a lot… I think my new favourite band, they haven’t released an album yet, but they’re called RAT!hammock – yeah great name – but I think when they release an album it will probably make my list.”
Carla goes on to describe RAT!hammock as “really solid alt-rock” and “the best songwriting I’ve heard in a long time” so naturally, our conversation quickly turns to musical influences. Within moments Neil Young is mentioned followed by Lucinda Williams and The Waifs, when I point out that a devotion to the latter seems to be a requirement for South-West residents, Carla chuckles, “Yeah they kick you out of the town if you don’t like The Waifs. But in terms of songwriting, I think I take a lot from them.”
We dwell for a moment on what it means to come from Albany and I mention the attempts of the local Farmers Market to lay claim to her success. “Why not?” she chuckles. ”I think that’s why I sing so loud is because I had to project”. It makes sense that most Farmer’s Markets don’t come equipped with a fully-fledged PA System and fold back, Carla continues reminiscing, “That was such a great place to play – everyone would give me veggies in my guitar case”.
The days of being paid in bio-dynamic produce must seem long ago and yet I get the sense that Carla prefers to keep things modest and minimal, especially in her approach to gear;
“Yeah I really only use an overdrive and then I use a fuzz for maybe 10 seconds. The overdrive is just really for a volume boost but I pretty much just use pure amp tone for 99% of the set. I just like it better! I don’t really get off on mucking around with gear that much, it’s fun but I know so many of my friends who could just spend years doing it [mucking around with gear] but as much as tones matter to me, they really do, I think I’m attracted to the simplest being the best then I can spend more time on the words or the actual performance… maybe a day will come when I get heaps of pedals... I don’t think you can really beat pure amp, it just makes sense that everything you add to that would dilute it.”
As the sun is setting in Fremantle, I ask Carla what is next after the EP:
“I’ve been writing lots of songs. It would be cool to do an album I guess…” She trails off and then looks to her manager, “Am I allowed to say that?” He smiles, nodding into his pint and Carla continues, “I’m really excited to go to America and do a bus tour. It’s going to be very ‘rock and roll dream’ and all of the San Cisco guys – the team is so great. It is just going to be a fun holiday where you get to play music. I fly out the day of the EP release.”
I ask Carla if a pilgrimage to Melbourne could be on the cards any time soon, she ponders for a moment;
“I dunno, maybe one day but I’ve felt like I’ve only just moved here really… I really like Freo and I’ve only lived her for like a year, it’s not long, I’m not sick of it yet and in a funny way Freo feels a bit different [to Perth]… if you feel like a holiday you can just go back to the Bird.”
If the past 18 months are anything to go by I sincerely hope that brief sojourns to William St are enough to keep Carla firmly in WA. Regardless, the local support and pride for Geneve is tangible, as I start up my car to leave the interview I hear the gritty opening notes to Carla’s new single - Yesterday Clothes. Safe to say, I cranked it.
Catch Carla played at Mills St Records to celebrate the release of her self-titled EP on June 7th before jetting off to America with San Cisco. Check out her EP below: