HATTIE O’DONNELL speaks to the baben’ Eliza Sarlos, and finds out what tunes the author of Amazing Babes recommends for an encounter with your earholes.
What would be the first song you’d put on the stereo for someone you’ve only just met?
Maybe The Microphones – ‘I Want Wind To Blow’? It’s such a perfect song that I think if you played it to someone and they knew it, you’d instantly be BFFs forever, high-fiving at what is a weirdly structured, recorded and written song that just works. If they’d never heard it, it would be a useful tool in working out how likely it was you were going to be friends. No Microphones = a friendship that’s unlikely to last.
What song do you think of when you think about see someone you haven’t seen for a really long time?
I have a terrible memory, and the way I overcome this a little bit is through attaching music to certain events, periods of time, and people – so it’s impossible to think of just one. Instead I’m going to cop out and give you a song that I think suits that act of leaving – and remembering leaving – really well: ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ by Bob Dylan. It’s a really beautiful, heart-wrenching but kind of spiteful song, and if I can be a total a-hole about it, go for the demo version – it’ll floor you even harder.
What song or album best describes your experience of first moving away from home?
The album that reminds me most of moving out of home is Yo La Tengo’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. I discovered it on the t-shirt of a guy at uni who I thought I’d like to be friends with, and went to the record store in Glebe on my way home to listen to the band. I loved them – they sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before, and they ended up being a band through whom I discovered so much of the music that’s important to me. I remember turning them down low on my stereo because I didn’t want my Mum to think I was weird for listening to the drone that starts the album. More than 10 years on, and I’m still friends with the guy who wore that t-shirt.
What are 3 essential songs you’d put on a car mix CD?
I am all about Solange right now, so ‘Losing You’ for sure. Great sing along, great for hand dancing, great for passing time on road trips. I have two little kids who basically love it when I act like an idiot, so anything I can hand dance to is a hit. Song number two would probably be ‘The Valleys’ by Electrelane, for similar reasons, but also because I think I discover something new every time I listen to it. And the third has gotta be something you can air drum to – maybe ‘Sueisfine’ by My Bloody Valentine. Extra points for the car mix because it sounds best if you listen to it as loud as possible in the smallest place possible.
What’s the weirdest encounter/experience you ever had as a kid?
When I was young I was o b s e s s e d with rugby league, specifically the Canberra Raiders. I kept scrapbooks, stayed up late to watch Sports Tonight, woke up early to watch the rerun of Sports Tonight, and travelled to Canberra on a regular basis to see the Raiders play.
My favourite player was Mal Meninga, and for my 13th birthday my Mum bought me tickets to his book launch where he signed my jersey (aka the best day ever). About two years later I was watching a juniors game in Queanbeyan, just outside of Canberra (yup, I was that obsessed), and Mal was there. I went up and asked if I could have a photo with him, he agreed, we’re their posing for the photo and he asked if I was smiling, using my name. Which I hadn’t told him. Which was probably the weirdest/most mysterious encounter I’d ever had.
What’s the strangest encounter you’ve had so far living out of home?
My first job out of uni was as a publicist for Popfrenzy Records and Popfrenzy touring, and pretty much the first job I had was working on the first Calvin Johnson tour and attached album release. Calvin is a total hero – he started K Records, was in Beat Happening, and has been involved in some of my favourite music, so this was a big deal for me. We toured around Australia in what was a pretty intense week or so, and our last stop was Brisbane. The two of us were cruising through Brissie airport and my eyes locked on another hero of mine, Mal Meninga. I couldn’t really share the moment with Calvin but it was one of those perfect encounters where two worlds collided: a hero from the past strolling past a hero from the present.
What song or album springs to mind when you think of the concept ‘encounters’?
Arthur Russell’s World of Echo seems like the best album for encounters for me – it’s such a special album and plays out like the strangest of encounters between all kinds of ideas, musical and otherwise. I couldn’t recommend this album enough for how it makes you think and feel.
What are five tracks are you really into at the moment?
I’m a classic old crony at the moment and am really only listening to what are probably my comfort foods of music –so a lot of the people above, but I’ve also been rediscovering a lot of the women that have made the music I love, kind of in line with Amazing Babes.
Some classic folkies like Karen Dalton and Vashti Bunyan, the music I grew up with – mostly Tina Turner and a bit of Ike too (my Mum was obsessed), and then some of the women who activated my interest in feminism through their music – a lot of Kathleen Hanna. There are so many more, but to limit it to five I’ve got to throw Queen Bey in there too – I think she’s such a positive role model to have access to, and love that she’s ardently incorporating feminism into her image. I also adore that her latest album came out so close to when Beyoncé had Blue Ivy, debunking the myth that mothers exist in this singular world of parenting in those first years of a bub’s life.
I can’t pick specific songs from these babes–because there are too many great ones! Go find their albums and fall in love.