Arts

Noise Annoys: All Our Exes Live in Texas return to Ireland

Noise Annoys chats to Hannah Crofts of deceptively demure vocal harmonising Aussie indie-folkers All Our Exes Live In Texas about drinking, tattoos and their love of Ireland

All Our Exes Live in Texas (with Hannah Crofts, far left) return to Ireland next week

FORMED in Sydney back in 2013 for the purposes of performing at an O Brother, Where Art Thou? tribute show, All Our Exes Live In Texas have been working hard on becoming Australia's premier four part harmony-powered country/folk outfit ever since.

Having supported everyone from reformed US pop phenomenon Backstreet Boys to Aussie legends Midnight Oil, the quartet – Hannah Crofts (vocals/ukulele), Georgia Mooney (vocals/mandolin), Elana Stone (vocals/accordian) and Katie Wighton (vocals /guitar) – released their partially crowd-funded debut LP When We Fall to great acclaim earlier this year before heading to the US for the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Texas.

This successful 'coals to Newcastle' style mission was documented in the form of an amusing tour video which reveals the Exes to be a lot more rock and roll fun than their rather twee image would suggest.

Indeed, they might be the only band in the world whose merchandise range includes both commemorative teaspoon sets and tattoo kits.

Having gone down a storm with local audiences during a three-week Irish tour in 2016, the Aussie songstresses return to Ireland next week for another run of shows, including an appearance at the Harvest Country Music Festival in Enniskillen on Saturday August 26.

As Hannah explains, they can't wait to come back – especially to Clonakilty, where the tour begins on Thursday August 24.

"It was honestly the best three weeks of my whole life," enthuses the ukulele mistress, whose richly melodious musical output belies broad musical tastes which stretch to a love of punk and grunge.

"We've all been itching to come back. I seriously just feel like we had this bizarre time which feels like a lie when I say it out loud – like 'that couldn't have happened'.

"When we played at the Clonakilty Guitar Festival, my parents flew over for the show. They live in Amsterdam and had never seen me play before, and even though the crowd had never heard of us, they'd all learned the words to some of our songs.

"There were heaps of people there and they were all singing along. My parents were watching and I was like 'yeah, this is what all our gigs overseas are like!'"

Apparently it wasn't just the Clonakilty show itself which proved to be strangely special, as Hannah explains.

"During the gig we asked people what we should do while we were there and if anyone wanted to be our friend. This woman called Jess, a total stranger, asked us to come to her house for dinner.

"She and her husband had built their house and made hot tubs out of whiskey barrels on hot coals in the back field, so we ended up in them having wine and cheese.

"The whole trip was like that – every few days something like that happened. It was amazing!"

Indeed, the Exes were so taken with Ireland that they recently recruited one of our own up-and-coming bands with a nice line in close harmony singing, Derry's indie folksters Ports, to tour with them in Australia.

"We met them at the Folk Alliance Festival in Kansas City," explains Hannah. "We did an in-the-round session with them and when they started playing we were like 'wow, a brother band!' They kind of had the same reaction about us, so we hung out for four days.

"They were absolute legends, so when we were working out the support for our tour we emailed them to say 'we can't pay you heaps but come and tour Australia with us'.

"In the end I think they got a grant, so they came over and did a whole six weeks. They really are our brothers now."

Described as a 'fantasy draft of Sydney's finest singer-songwriters, the Exes' origins stretch back to when Hannah and Georgia met while studying jazz singing at university, where they "both failed music together".

Hannah was a fan of Elana, who was a solo performer at the time, and eventually they met Katie through going to gigs.

"The four of us were just hanging out in this bluegrass music scene in Sydney," Hannah recalls of their early days.

"Then a friend of us asked us if we would put together a 30-minute set for an O Brother Where Art Thou? tribute show he was hosting. So we all went out and bought instruments, picked a band name and chucked together this set which was pretty crappy because we didn't really know how to play."

Apparently, there is video footage of this historic debut Exes show ­– although it has been kept under lock and key out of pure shame ever since.

"We filmed it but we've never put it on the internet because it is so cringe. I think at one stage we actually wear fake beards! But somehow we got booked for a second gig."

While it took the quartet a while to polish their playing and performing to peak levels, the impact of their combined vocal talent was immediately apparent to all concerned.

"It was actually really wild," recalls Hannah of when they first sang together.

"We'd all been singing in choirs for so long, so it was so bizarre to have four voices that were so different actually work together.

"That's super rare, and I think that really struck all of us. It was such a surprise.

Now well established enough to be able to do "a couple of laps" of Australia every year and with a solid debut album in the locker ("Never listen to our debut EP!" chuckles Hannah of their previous, scrappily recorded release), the Exes are starting to now going worldwide.

Indeed, it seems only right and proper that a band named after the hit All My Exes Live In Texas by Texan country popster George Strait should make a point of visiting the 'lonestar state', and the Exes definitely enjoyed their time at SXSW in Austin earlier this year.

"We had a wonderful time," confirms Hannah of their visit to the infamously boozy US week-long music festival and conference.

"Many margaritas were consumed, more than you would think a normal person should have. But we don't get drunk until after our shows, as a general rule.

"I remember one gig where I had one too many wines beforehand. I was thinking 'wow, this is the best I've ever sung, I'm so good at this!'

"But then at the end the girls were like, 'no, you were *so* loud'."

As mentioned, fans who are totally onboard with the Exes can purchase tattoos to better proclaim their love for the Australian group – and these temporary transfers are identical to the real tats inked upon each band member by Hannah herself.

"They're little bomber jackets that say 'EXES'," she explains.

"I did them on all of us in the back of a hairdressers in the country one night. Ours are basically like prison versions of the ones we sell online."

Told you they were rock and roll.

All Our Exes Live In Texas play the Harvest Country Music Festival at Enniskillen Airport on Saturday August 26, tickets and info via Harvestcountrymusicfestival.com. Full Irish dates at Allourexesliveintexas.com

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