Fiona and Her Holy Men (note the shortened name from Fiona Lee Maynard and Her Holy Men which, Fiona pointed out, was too much to say and they couldn’t be bothered saying it all) are launching their double A Single on October 31st at the Exchange Hotel South Yarra. The songs ‘To Be the Woman’ and ‘Leading You On’ are their second recordings under the shortened name. By their own admission, they are really pleased with the recording. The two songs have a different feel and vibe. Fiona agreed and said “We have been playing music for such a long time that we are much more old school.” The old school approach, Fiona says, helps them to recognise the value of songs in a set enabling a set to be interesting. “Having a little bit of movement within the set, having some different paces and different moods; the music not having to be all just one dimensional,” she explained to me during our recent phone interview.
“Being fairly reflective in our forties and thinking back at what worked and what was fun in the past, the double A side single was a really good idea.” Fiona explained. She said that by releasing two songs she is hoping people will listen to both. “To Be the Woman’ is the one that most people seem to get straight away.” she went on to say that she has also received a few comments about ‘Leading You On’ being a favourite too. I confessed that ‘To Be the Woman’ is my favourite of the two songs, which pleased Fiona as she said she wrote it for the woman. I asked her if she is specifically speaking to women or someone in particular when she sings the line ‘I want you to understand what it’s like to be the woman’. “To everyone,” was Fiona’s response. She went on to say “Women have a different experience and females have a different experience in life, in most cases, in the world to what men do and also we have a different experience to what society expects us to have. I think that it’s like me extending the hand of friendship to all women and saying here you go; let’s sing it together and get on with being sisters instead of pulling each other apart because it can be hard for all of us’.”
Fiona hopes more women get support in managing families and homes so they can write and get their stories heard. She has noticed the presence of women in the music industry goes up and down. At one stage she noticed there were a lot of women in bands with other women and they no longer felt they had to be as good as the men. “The young girls came out and there were heaps of them. I was going to venues and there were lots and lots of girls, playing well, but it stopped. It started to dry up.” One theory Fiona has is women’s lives are so busy with managing their families, household and jobs “so having the time to write and practice is shrinking.” Fiona teaches music to children, which she says she loves and “it means I have to practice and be very disciplined in what I do.”
With many radio stations now playing classic rock, I asked this Melbourne musician how hard is it to get radio airplay. She explained with digital recordings it is now actually a bit easier. “The thing is I have always been connected with the community stations such as RRR and PBS and they are really, really good at still championing Australian music and independent music and music that is different, not just the same as what we hear on The Voice and things like that.” Fiona said that she hopes MMM, through their home grown show, pick up ‘To Be the Woman’, as she believes it does fit in with their music format, “Except for the fact it’s a woman’s song, not a blokey song,” Fiona said with a laugh. She went on to explain that artists need to think laterally when it comes to getting their music out there and find different avenues to get their music heard rather than just radio. ‘I am rapt I can send a music file via the computer and people can hear that and that’s something I wasn’t able to do before; I would have to send the whole physical copy.” She pointed out that to send a link to your music is less time consuming and expensive than sending the music out as hard copies. “I think there is a lot of competition for people’s time as well. It’s not even just radio but getting anybody to listen to it no matter how you send it, it’s hard.”
Fiona went on to say it helps to have a video clip as “people are a lot more easily stimulated by their eyes” therefore video helps to get more attention for your music. She hopes to have a clip for the new songs by Christmas.
The theme for the record launch is Countdown. Fiona told me that the room at the Exchange Hotel reminds her of the Countdown set and she loved going to recordings of Countdown from the age of 12 when her mum’s friend who worked at the ABC could get them tickets. “I really wanted to play on Countdown but I never got there.” Fiona is hoping the punters will come dressed as their favourite artists that performed on the iconic Australian music show. I asked Fiona who she is hoping to see in the audience. “I am hoping for a lot of Iggy Pops. His performance of ‘I’m Bored’ was one of the most controversial and dark performances that ever really happened on Countdown.” Having a theme for the record launch is part of Fiona’s sense of having a fun night out. “With this band we have captured a few people’s imaginations and they like coming to see us,” Fiona told me. “Even though we are deadly serious about our music, when we play we are there to have fun with anyone that comes.”
Another avenue for taking music seriously in a fun way is the St Kilda Music Walking tours that Fiona is involved with. Rock Club 40 plan to take a tour soon and will post a review. The three hour tours, as Fiona puts it, are “heaps and heaps of fun.” It is a great way for people to hear stories and make connections with the St Kilda music scene. Fiona first played in St Kilda in 1985 and has seen venues come and go but was pleased to tell me that new venues are popping up on Fitzroy street, including The George opening up its theatre for live performances. She told me that music is still valued in St Kilda and she doesn’t believe that the bohemian aspects of life in St Kilda will ever go away, despite the loud noise of developers. When I suggested to Fiona that she organise a gig outside the Palais theatre to highlight the value of this concert venue that is in great need of a makeover, she said “That’s exactly what we thought. My husband and I were walking past a development going on down here and thought we could do a pop up gig and see who is louder in real life.”
Fiona’s sense of fun and music extends to holidays. She told me she is going to Europe at the end of the year and she wants to “busk in Amsterdam until I get arrested, I’ve always wanted to do that and never had a chance,” Fiona said with a laugh.
by Suzanne Bunker
Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2014. All rights reserved
Fiona & Her Holy Men will launch their new A/A Single
‘To Be the Woman’/’Leading You On’ at Exchange in South Yarra, Melbourne
on Friday 31st October