Newcastle country rock Hurricane Fall are relatively new but already attracting fans with their melodic sound. The band is comprised of Jesse Vee (lead vocals and guitar), Pepper Deroy (lead vocals and bass), Jimmy Hick (lead guitarist) and Lachlan ‘Dusty’ Coffey (drums and percussion). I spoke to Pepper about the band's new single 'How We Get Down' from the EP of the same name.
How did the band form?
Jesse and I were in a cover band together, gigging with that, and we needed a drummer so we brought Dusty in. Then we started to write some material, the three of us, and we needed someone who was a bit more like minded for that writing process so we stumbled across Jim, then we changed the name to Hurricane Fall and the rest is history.
What sort of covers were you doing?
Rock. We were always influenced by country music and we all come from country backgrounds so that was what our heart was in, but the rest of it was just to make coin.
And get practice, I suppose.
Yeah, that’s it. So when we started to write it came out country, so we went down that path.
Your bio says you were Tamworth born and raised – are all of you from Tamworth?
Dusty, myself and Jesse are from Tamworth. Jim was born in Sydney – actually, I think he was born in California. He grew up in Sydney.
Growing up in Tamworth, a country music influence was probably inevitable whether you wanted it or not.
Exactly. I got Slim Dusty rammed down my throat from an early age.
I don’t think Slim is music that a kid likes – he wasn’t overly melodic. Listening to your sound, there’s a lot of melody and a lot of harmony, so as you grew up what were your musical tastes.
We all have very broad tastes but at the root of all of it is musicality. Jim has a blues background, Jesse has country and pop, I have a lot of country. We all love Keith Urban – everyone does, because he’s an Aussie boy. Florida Georgia Line, the boys love. I love Clint Black and Garth Brooks – they’re the guys that started it all. Reba McEntire, a lot of that sort of stuff. Jo Dee Messina. That sort of real rocky country but melodic and well-written songs are the ones we follow and they still influence me, certainly.
There hasn’t been a lot of that melodic country rock in Australia and that’s where you guys are part of a new sound, in many respects. McAlister Kemp had a very rock sound but that more melodic sound – I’m scratching my head to think of anyone other than Keith who really did it when he went to the United States. Has it been difficult to find a foothold with your style?
We’ve picked up a pretty good fan base. I wouldn’t say they’re country fans initially, though. We put a lot of emphasis on our live performance, so that attracts people to watch us because it’s entertaining outside of what the music’s doing. In terms of the music, I think because we’ve drawn that crowd it’s become popular and we’ve got a couple of the country music fanatical people watching and they’ve picked it up because they like it now too. But you’re right, it’s been hard to find our groove and who we are. I guess the songs that we write are from the heart and we put them out there and we love playing them and we love people listening to them. So we put it out there because we love it, and if people can latch onto that, well, good, but we’re not out there to try to write popular country songs. That’s just the stuff that comes to us
How did you choose your name?
Jesse came up with it, actually. We were brainstorming ideas and there were a few good ideas. He came up with it and we said, ‘That’s pretty good, let’s run with it.’
You guys now live in Newcastle and a lot of country music performers live not too far away, on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Why did you pick Newcastle?
It’s sort of a natural progression for people from Tamworth. There’s a lot of Tamworth people in Newcastle. But it is a good hub for musicians – there’s a good live scene here, you’re close to Sydney and it’s great to live on the beach. The Central Coast and Newcastle are just a great spot.
When you write songs, do you have an established method for doing it? Does one of you write a song and bring it to everyone else?
That’s essentially what happens, where one person writes the song and then we bring it in and collaborate on it. That’s how we’ve done it in the past and that’s what seems to be the most successful out of all the writing methods, for us anyway. I write – I could be going down an escalator and an idea comes to me and, bang, that’s where the song comes from. I don’t sit down and write a song, it just comes along when you’re doing everyday stuff, and then you sit down and piece it together. That’s how I write and that’s how Jimmy writes. We recently did a writing session, Jesse and I, which was good but it was different to how we usually do it.
Would you attempt it again?
We would, because it was a learning process. I guess when a song comes from the heart they’re very personal, so when you’re sitting down with someone else it’s hard to let go of it. When you take it to the boys it’s easy to let do – ‘Here’s my baby, let’s work on it.’
Four people in a room, each of you with opinions, can get a bit tricky but it sounds like it’s a fairly harmonious process.
It’s good. That’s not to say there’s not a fair share of arguments because we are always arguing, for some reason. We love each other but it we had a GoPro in that car – my god.
Do you fight over who drives when you’re going to gigs?
No, it’s the front seat. I always drive.
I guess the arguing is the sign of a healthy relationship, because you can express your opinions and still stay together.
They’re expressed, for sure. Nothing’s held back, ever. I’m surprised at how personal it gets and we all still play together. It’s that intense. But it is one of the keys to our relationship as a band, that you don’t bitch about each other, you say it to your face. If you feel that way, you say it straight up to the guy’s face and then it’s over and done with.
It also suggests that you’re four passionate individuals, prepared to back up what you’re saying.
[Laughs] Yep. It isn’t always a good thing, but yes.
It sounds like if it’s personal disagreement there’s not so much musical disagreement.
No, there’s not. I think it’s one of the keys – if you look at all the really successful bands, they talk about chemistry in terms of stepping into a room and it just happens. And we’ve worked on it but that’s where we are now. We knew as soon as we came together that it was going to work. It all gelled together. So we feel we have that chemistry there. That makes it easier straight off the back.
Coming together like that and feeling it’s going to work – you still have to trust in that feeling.
Yes, you do and that’s one of the hardest things too. You do second-guess yourself at times but it all seems to come together and even in the space of a two-hour writing session for a song at the start of it you might be feeling a bit flaky about it but at the end it sort of comes together and you think, Trust in the boys and it’ll come good, and it does. But you’re right – there’s a fair bit of trust there.
And that’s pointing back to the elasticity of the relationship, that you can have your opinions and come back together, so even though to an outsider it may sound noisy, it seems like it’s a really healthy unit of four equal individuals rather than one leader and three followers.
For sure. We’re all very individual. Which is good – we don’t like the classic cliché of a band. It’s sort of like the Four Musketeers – one in, all in.
When it comes to singing lead vocals, though, does that flow with whoever the songwriter has been?
Usually. What I’ve tried to adopt lately, though, is to write two-part songs. ‘Love Her Right’ is a two-part song so there’s two lead vocal lines and then we swap with the harmony lines. Same with ‘Don’t Miss Me’ and ‘How We Get Down’, we both sing lead parts and both back up and do the harmony parts. The only one we don’t do that on is ‘Dance With Me’. But when we’re mixing the masters we say we want the vocals sitting level, so we really push for that, so it sounds like it’s one voice rather than two.
You mentioned ‘How We Get Down’ and that is the single off your new EP. What is the story behind the writing of that song?
We did a tour out northwest, and it was early on so we were into the party stage of it. We went pretty hard on the weekend, drove back on the Sunday, washed up, Jimmy went home and wrote that song. So that pretty much is how it happened. Partied all night and drove all day. It was good because it was the first song that was inspired by what actually happened on the road. It’s a good song, we like it. We’re proud that Jimmy went home and put it into a song.
The process of choosing a single always interests me, because sometimes it’s not always the most radio-friendly song – particularly in a country where radio for country music is not that strong, unlike the United States. So how did you come to choose this song as the single?
There was a couple of options on there. We were planning to go with ‘Don’t Miss Me’ as the first single but it all came down to the film clip, actually. We had a mate of ours come up with an idea for the film clip – Tom from Gravity Films – and we said, ‘Righto, we like that idea, so let’s push that as the first single’. I think a ballad is better in the winter anyway – it’s more of a summer feel-good song.
I’ve never contemplated the idea of ballads being better in the winter, but you’re absolutely right.
Our publicist taught us that.
Good fire-side stuff, I guess.
That’s it. She’s a smart woman.
You’ve played quite a few great gigs, support slots and festivals. Is there anything on your wish list that you’d like to play? I notice that you’re playing the Mt Isa Rodeo later in the year.
That will be a big one. To be honest, we just like playing. The boys are probably more excited – I don’t really get excited about stuff, I just love playing every weekend and going on tour. We’ve got the Grapefest Run, that’s a different sort of gig for us. We just did one of those in Bendigo. That’s where they do a fun run through the vineyards then get all tanked up and party with us in the end. They start – bang, they’re gone. We’re hanging around – ‘Oh, they’re back!’ ‘Oh, they’re drunk – let’s do this!’ I was a bit dubious, actually, I thought it wasn’t going to work, but it worked really well. The concept is new to Australia but they’ve done it in France and the States and it’s worked exceptionally well. They get 20 000 to an event over there. It’s in its infancy in Australia but I think it’s going to take off for sure.
And something else that’s been taking off is the cruise for country music and I can see that you have one lined up in October – will that be your first?
It will be. Actually, I’m excited for that one.
I wonder with those cruises if it’s difficult being the artist, because you can’t leave the venue. But I guess you’ll find a way of keeping the lines between you and the audience clear.
[Laughs] Yeah, staying in your room.
If you want to keep them clear – for all I know, you want to mingle. And I’ll ask one last question. You’ve put two EPs out. The usual trajectory is to release an album after that but the way people find music and play music is changing. Is it a consideration for you guys – are you thinking, yes, an album because the country music audience likes an album, or are EPs more suitable to your life? You’re on the road, perhaps it’s easier to get out four or five songs than an album’s worth?
It was logistically for the last two EPs and time wise – you’re on the road all the time, it’s harder to block that couple of weeks out to record, let alone the time to write and finish songs so that they’re album ready. But we’ve certainly got the material, so this next project will be an album because country fans do like albums. But everyone’s doing EPs now, and we sell more in streams than we do in downloads. That’s the way it’s going nowadays.
My theory about why the country music audience likes a CD is because they like a memento of a show.
They do, and we’ve sold heaps of hard copies – thousands. And we appreciate that too. It’s good to go [to a show] and sell merch. That’s wicked.
How We Get Down is available now. Get it on iTunes.