'Means What It Means' is the long awaited debut album from Triple J Unearthed winners The Ellis Collective (out 11 July), with Richard Kingsmill himself praising the "classic Australian sound" of their studio release.
Winning Unearthed is just one of many highlights in a massive year that has seen them feature on the program of Australia's largest regional touring festival ‘Groovin The Moo’ beside international names including Architecture In Helsinki, Data Rock and House of Pain. No strangers to a festival stage, The Ellis Collective’s recent successes are testament to their distinctive brand of songwriting that has also won over festival crowds at Australia’s iconic Woodford Music Festival and National Folk Festivals. They have also had the honour of working alongside some of the best in the business including Gotye, Washington and US folk punk legends Tom Gabel (Against Me!) and Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music).
Stepping away from the spotlight in 2010 to focus solely on recording, The Ellis Collective have carefully crafted a studio sound that remains faithful to their unflinching live performances. The Ellis Collective’s debut album ‘Means What It Means’ (out July 2011) was lovingly recorded on old-school two-inch tape at Infidel Studios and is a captivating record of brutally honest Australian song-writing.
The album underscores The Ellis Collective's ability to seamlessly blend and borrow from a diverse range of styles, wielding an ambidextrous musicality to create a sound that is undeniably unique and unmistakably Australian. Featuring vocals that echo Gareth Liddiard with lyrics to evoke John Darnielle and Conor Oberst set against a backdrop of soaring string sections and multi-layered harmonies, The Ellis Collective take an unconventional approach to storytelling that recounts the jagged-edged disappointments of everyday Australian life. The album has already garnered critical acclaim:
'a classic Australian sound' - Richard Kingsmill - Triple J
'an utter find' - Timeoff Magazine
'a masterful storyteller' - Drum Media
'one of the most intelligent, compelling and honest male singer/songwriters to emerge in a long while' - Rhythms Magazine
'Emotive and gutsy... it takes our breath away' - BMA Magazine
'Unflinchingly honest... raw and powerful songwriting' - Rave Magazine
'the heart of a struggler and the charm of a millionaire' - Inpress Magazine
Sam King - electric and slide guitar
Dan Kempers - drums and percussion
Simon Milman - Bass
Grahame Thompson - Cello
Matty Ellis - Vocals, Guitar
Emma Kelly - Vocals, Violin, saw
'Means What It Means' Released July 2011
'Don't Go' (Single) released 2011'
'7 Days Later (Single)' released 2011
Means What It Means (Single)' released 2011
Inpress Magazine Album Review
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Bloke Folk Unearthed: The Ellis Collective Says What It Means and Means What It Means
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Drum Media Album Review
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Any Means Necessary: an interview with The Ellis Collective
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ANY MEANS NECESSARY 1) Your soon to be released (and eagerly anticipated) album Means What It Mea...ANY MEANS NECESSARY
1) Your soon to be released (and eagerly anticipated) album Means What It Means has been a few years in the making. Is this album the end of a season for your creative career, or the beginning of something new?
The album is definitely the end of something – there will be some closure in its release. The opening track, 1997, is named after the year I wrote it. For over a decade I’ve held onto these songs like a fucked up Catholic girl and her musical virginity hoping and waiting that the right people would come along and help me make it. I am forever grateful I didn’t rush the album as it led me to this amazing band and an incredible experience recording to analogue tape at Infidel Studios.
2) Why was the track Means What It Means chosen as the figurehead of the album?
If I had to showcase our sound to a stranger with one song – this is it. This is the only track where everyone in the band has a chance to really cut loose. It features layered harmonies, an amazing string arrangement, relentless bass lines and snare chops, a vicious violin solo and a shredding final verse. Add some cranky lyrics and that’s The Ellis Collective to a tee.
3) Canberrans have been watching you perform on our stages and in our backyards for years. But for how long have you been writing music?
I started playing the violin at five. Not a hugely popular instrument in West Queanbeyan at the time. I started dabbling in songwriting when I was 17, but was hugely influenced by the time I spent working at the old Gypsy Bar in the late ‘90s. In my time there, I learnt a lot watching young artists like George, John Butler and Jeff Lang starting out.
4) How and when was The Collective born?
I have always been a pretty average guitarist, so I spent years looking for a band. After a string of awkward jams and failed auditions, I gave up on the band idea and started playing solo. As soon as I stopped looking for a band, it arrived. A year later after a series of bizarre coincidences, we suddenly had this wonderful band. The combination stuck and we’ve been mates ever since.
5) Your songs seem very personal and are often emotionally charged. What is the inspiration of your songwriting process? Do you think you need to be sad to write a good song?
Every songwriter is different, but I often compare my own songwriting process to dreaming. You can’t really explain it, but in its own strange way it clears out the clutter in your soul. I don’t keep songs based on how musically strong they are or how much people like them. I only keep songs if they have a deep cathartic effect on me.
I don’t find that this means I have to be happy or sad to write a song – there just needs to be something that’s strong enough to fight its way out from inside of me.
6) How much do you feel emotional health is wrapped up in the artistic process? Is artistic expression reflective of health, or rather, is it healing?
See above on this one.
7) What is the significance of recurring images, such as beer and cigarettes, or carvings/scratchings, within the album?
This album is a chronology of important moments that have changed me in some way. For good or for bad, I’m marked by what I was walking through or who I was walking with at the time. Some of these scratches heal with time and others a little more indelibly carved into who I am. As for drinking and smoking, I think they’re the hallmark signs of a destructive self pity so they often seem to sneak themselves into my songs.
8) As a band, are songs ever written collaboratively?
The Ellis Collective has a two stage collaborative approach. Even though I wrote most of the album before I met the band, they transformed my tunes with such amazing and sensitive arrangements.
There’s also an indirect collaboration. Working with such an extraordinary group of musicians for so long has dramatically changed my songwriting. The band’s influence is amazing – while I write them, you’ll see their fingerprints are all over the songs on the next album.
9) The local Canberra music scene is rich in diversity and also contains a lot of cross-genre collaboration. Do you think that this tendency for collaboration has created a uniquely “Canberran” sound?
I think that strong collaboration has certainly led to shared musical ideals and standards amongst Canberra bands. For us, and I think generally within our genre, this is characterised by avoiding over-production with a greater focus on capturing genuine musical performances. It’s a very honest approach to recording.
10) What do you see as the future of Canberra’s local music scene?
Across all genres, Canberra bands are some of the best in the country. I think this will continue. Canberra audiences are beautiful. They embrace the music, not ‘the scene’ and I think this makes them less fickle compared to audiences in larger cities. I think this will continue. Bands seeking a national or international profile will continue to find leaving Canberra an attractive option.
In the future, you may not be able to stop bands leaving Canberra but you’ll also never stop good music being made here.
The Ellis Collective will be launching their album Means What It Means live at The Street Theatre on Saturday March 26. Support will be provided by Mikelangelo, Vorn Doolette and Tom Woodward. Tickets are $33 and can be purchased via the venue’s website.
Star Stands Up to be Counted
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Album of the week: The Ellis Collective 'Means What It Means'
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“ Bloke Folk”, it’s an intriguing term. Made up of two nouns which, taken as singular signifiers, br...“ Bloke Folk”, it’s an intriguing term. Made up of two nouns which, taken as singular signifiers, bring to mind two very opposing images: a stubbies-wearing, Tooheys-toting, hairy, smelly man’s man; and the gentle, lilting tones of Appalachian mountain music. Yet under the hand of Matty Ellis, of The Ellis Collective, something is created which becomes entirely universal. Means What It Means is the debut album from the Canberra six-piece. It is an hour’s worth of intelligently crafted and achingly honest music: songs of heartbreak, loss, longing and self destruction. An eclectic mix of instrumentation (from guitar and drums, to Hammond organ, flugelhorn and saw) creates a musical layering that mirrors the layering of emotional intensity within the lyrics. Faultless harmonies combine with pizzicato-driven rhythmic tension, as we are propelled along the album’s journey. The penultimate track, Don’t Go (“…stay saving my soul”) ends with two minutes of silence. But just as we shakily exhale, reeling from the preceding songs, the hidden track begins. Guitar strikes up, echoed by simple and steady percussion, and at the heart of it all, Ellis’ raw, emotive and gutsy vocals. And it takes our breath away.
Interview: The Ellis Collective at Groovin' The Moo
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Winning the latest Triple J Unearthed competition has given Canberra six piece The Ellis Collective ...Winning the latest Triple J Unearthed competition has given Canberra six piece The Ellis Collective new found fame as well as the opportunity to play at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo (GTM) festival. It lands in the capital on Sunday 8th May and frontman Matty Ellis couldn’t be more excited.
“So many good bands make great music and bust their arse putting it out there. We’re just one amongst the many,” Ellis says modestly. “When it boils down to it, opportunities like this are down to luck. Needless to say we’re stoked that luck went our way.”
Sitting somewhere between folk, indie and country, The Ellis Collective is just as their name describes; a bunch of people Ellis collected to hang out and play music together. After playing around Canberra, Ellis lucked out and found his band amongst an assortment of other local acts. “I’m the musical equivalent of a sad loser using online dating services for years and then suddenly hooking up with a supermodel,” he admits.
Since then, The Ellis Collective has garnered support all over Canberra, playing various festivals and numerous gigs. Their debut album Means What It Means was released exclusively through Landspeed Records last month, with the rest of the country having to wait until June to get their hands on it.
On their debut at GTM, Ellis says The Ellis Collective will be easy to look out for. “I don’t think there’s any other GTM acts that include a string section and a singing saw, but it gives you an idea of why our music is hard to categorise,”
“‘My hat is off to GTM for being a massive touring festival that has given local artists their due credit. I cannot wait to stand front of stage to see that. I think that the audiences turning up to see bigger names would do well to check them all out.”
Fly Magazine Album Review: Means What It Means
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Indie Folksters' Talents Unearthed
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Canberra Band Scores Festival Slot
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After 15 Years, Ellis Finally Collects
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Rave Magazine Indie Review: The Ellis Collective
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Triple J Unearthed winners The Ellis Collective have offered up a debut album of unflinchingly hones...Triple J Unearthed winners The Ellis Collective have offered up a debut album of unflinchingly honest acoustic indie and bloke folk. Lead vocalist Matty Ellis leads the rag-tag team from our favourite fireworks-and-porn-wielding capital city through a repertoire of bitter songs. Featuring topics like Australian culture’s love of alcohol abuse, as seen in 7 Days Later, vocalist Ellis could be a male version of Missy Higgins, with a blinding Australian accent set to acoustic guitar, violin and cello. The six-piece have created a distinctive album with raw and powerful songwriting; songs like the album’s namesake Means What It Means show passion and a belief in what they’re writing about. It’s full of simple melodies and sweet harmonies courtesy of Alison Oakleigh’s perfect background crooning. Their debut is also packaged in a super soft case, and who can say no to nice wrapping?
The Ellis Collective Win Triple J Unearthed
Congratulations to The Ellis Collective....
The Ellis Collective Single Launch with Special Guests Waterford @ The
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After braving a line so long that passing hectic kids mistook it for Mooseheads, myself and what fel...After braving a line so long that passing hectic kids mistook it for Mooseheads, myself and what felt like hundreds of punters were finally embraced by that old familiar mildew smell of The Phoenix for a show that was well worth the wait.
Kicking things off were Phoenix regulars Waterford. The boys played their hearts out for a rowdy yet respectful crowd who lapped up the smart lyrics and Britpop vibes with as much gusto as they lapped up their beers. Waterford’s infectious indie sounds make the dance floor seem an irresistible option, even in a venue as crowded as The Phoenix. While only a few brave souls, possibly a few drinks ahead of the rest fully succumbed to the temptation, the entire crowd bopped along in their seats for the whole set – more than warmed up and ready for the main show.
Thankfully, the buzz was long-lasting, as a few technical issues pushed The Ellis Collective’s starting time back a fair bit. A few microphone squeals and expletives later, however and the group had the whole bar under their spell. Frontman Matty Ellis may very well be a bald-headed behemoth who could snap his guitar in one hand while punching you with the other, but his powerful voice injected life and emotion into the beautifully crafted lyrics. Add to this the combination of folk, gypsy, indie and pub rock that forms the talented Collective’s distinctive sound and barely an eye was left dry in the house.
Of course, Matty Ellis doesn’t get his best blue singlet on for nothing and there was a point to all the fun – Means What it Means, the title track off the band’s debut album, had its very first public outing on Friday night. The track is typically Ellis; poetry and gravel-voiced vocals that perfectly encapsulate the ‘bloke-folk’ label the band has adopted and it offers a tantalising taste of what is surely going to be a highly sought-after album.
So if you’re a fan of folk-rock, local music, or even just guys in singlets, then grab a copy of the single – available now. For those who still can’t get enough of The Ellis Collective, get to the Means What it Means album launch, I’ll see you there.
The Ellis Collective Means What it Means album launch @ The Street Theatre, Canberra, Saturday 26th March
Interview: The Ellis Collective Return To Wintermoon
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WHEN The Ellis Collective touched down in Canberra after playing at the Wintermoon Festival last yea...WHEN The Ellis Collective touched down in Canberra after playing at the Wintermoon Festival last year, front man Matt Ellis sent an email to the organisers saying the band would love to return and perform.
And this year the band will return to the festival, which will be held over the May Day long weekend, at Camerons Pocket.
“It is such a beautiful place, when we went there last year we did not know what to expect, but it had this great hippy vibe and it is such a beautiful spot.
“I think what makes a great festival comes down to its location,” Ellis said.
The band has recently won Triple J Unearthed competition and will launch its debut album Mean What it Mean as part of Wintermoon.
Joining The Ellis Collective will be local talent Charlotte Boumford and Swoon, along with the Lamplights, The Old Boys Gospel Band, The Fat Cigars, Pearl, Dave Flower Band and many more stellar acts.
ABC Radio Album Review: The Ellis Collective
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Most album review on 666 afternoons follow a predictable path: a CD appears, accompanied by a block ...Most album review on 666 afternoons follow a predictable path: a CD appears, accompanied by a block of chocolate produced by Marcus Kelson and then a gentle half hour of argument and discussion about some people we've never met. Not so this week, when the album in question was Means What it Means by local heroes The Ellis Collective. Genevieve and Marcus were joined in the studio by Matt Ellis and Sam King, and after hearing Wanderings from the album we talked to Matt about the album's long gestation and origins.
It's a piece of work that springs both from a strong sense of place and Matt's sometimes tortured creative process. He spends long periods of time alone working through the feelings behind his compositions and says that the songs have a greater meaning than simply sounding right - they also need to serve an emotional purpose. Matt and Sam played Seven Days Later, which is the current single, and followed that with Not That Kind.
It's been an interesting journey for the band, who recently won Triple J's Unearthed competition. They've avoided touring extensively, preferring the festival circuit, although that may change with increased attention for their music. You can catch the Ellis Collective live at the National Folk Festival on Good Friday and they'll also be at Groovin the Moo in May.
Review of Merry Fest 3: Rock vs Folk
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Local, original, world class,’ read the stamp on punters’ wrists as they came in from cooler climes ...Local, original, world class,’ read the stamp on punters’ wrists as they came in from cooler climes and into the school hall-esque warmth of the Polish White Eagle Club for the 3rd Merry Fest. On the menu was a smorgasbord of local bands – The Ellis Collective, Waterford, Mr Fibby, Fire On The Hill (a late replacement for Voss) and Super Best Friends – representing the opposing sides of folk and rock. Which side would emerge victorious?
Local folksters The Ellis Collective took to the stage first, promising to try and warm things up a bit, though lead singer and guitarist Matty Ellis, seemed to be warm enough in his trademark blue singlet. The Ellis Collective offered up a laidback take on folk, with Ellis’ voice, raw and honest, blending perfectly with the rich sounds of cello, fiddle, the odd bit of musical saw, bass, slide guitar and the slinky sound of drums played with brushes. Emma Kelly, on fiddle and musical saw, harmonised well with Ellis, bringing additional life to the wonderful storytelling inherent in so many of The Ellis Collective’s well-honed tunes such as What it Means and Wanderings.
Representing the first of the night’s rock contenders, Waterford continued to warm up the crowd with talk of the (allegedly) coming Rapture and allusions to fire and brimstone, with lead singer Glen Martin quipping that those who ended up in Purgatory would likely be stuck in open plan offices in Civic for eternity. Luckily before that could happen, the crowd was treated to a wealth of new material from the band, which seemed to get increasingly rockier with each track. Despite Martin’s warning that the fact that they were playing a new song was code for “…we don’t know how it goes yet,” the band pulled off an energetic set of undeniably rocking songs, intricately weaving together Martin’s distinctive voice with guitars, bass and drums in a steadily increasing wall of sound.
Mr Fibby proffered a unique brand of folk, complete with theatre and crowd participation, choosing to perform at ground level rather than onstage. Familiar faces from The Ellis Collective made an appearance alongside an animated storyteller, who would have been as equally at home in a circus tent as the ringleader as he was in the centre of the floor of the White Eagle. Mariette, a love story told in two halves, got the crowd chuckling with its story of a lovesick poet eaten by a crocodile, while another song told the story of Lucia, a woman both unlucky in love and in receiving a cup of tea at the correct temperature.
The members of Fire On The Hill filled the stage of the White Eagle (close to overflowing), while their music got some of the more enthusiastic members of the crowd to the dance floor. The band played a blend of cruisy rock and roots that would be the perfect soundtrack to a late night highway drive, complete with a 12 string pedal steel guitar which Lachlan Coventry put to good use in a few of the band’s earlier numbers.
After a longer interlude than the previous changes, Super Best Friends took to the stage. The trio launched a shock and awe rock attack on the audience, with the lead singer’s guitar strapped across his back like a weapon at the ready while he played a small keyboard and roared into the microphone in Karma Karma. Super Best Friends, whilst clearly representing the side of rock in the night’s battle, also showed hints of electro and punk influences, with the bass player at one stage exchanging his bass to play the Tetris theme on his new rather folk toy, a piano accordion. These “super best friends since year eight,” gave the stayers in the audience a real treat, breaking out tracks like the upbeat Ready Aim Fire, keeping the crowd entertained until the very end by rocking out all over the stage.
It was a close match between rock and folk at the White Eagle, perhaps too close to call, but if you were in the crowd, you certainly enjoyed a night full of local, original, world class music.
Time Off Magazine Review
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Original Tracks Only
7 Days Later
Not That Kind
Means What It Means
The Ballad of 3rd Time Lucky
I Have Nothing
Out To Sea
Give This Up
Walk Back Down
Sayin' I Was
PDF RiderRider: The Ellis Collective
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