Band: The Ellis Collective
Album: Orange EP (2007 Independent)
The Ellis Collective, a folky community of some of Canberra’s best known and most well respected musicians, put out a quiet and unassuming EP last year to go along with their likewise nature, and managed to make it right up to the top of my favourite Canberran releases of 2007.
Lead singer and guitarist Matt Ellis has been kicking around the Canberra music scene for many years now, formerly a Gypsy Bar regular, but only really had the guts to get up and perform his self proclaimed ‘bloke-folk’ onstage in the last couple. He trooped around as a solo singer-songwriter for a while, more than happy to be just pushing his music out of his lungs and into the air. Drafting in the affable Alison Proctor (The Cashews) and multi-faceted drummer Dan Kempers (Fire On The Hill) to play and jam with him every now and then, Matt continued on his merry, relaxed way, playing the Phoenix and other such lonely local establishments. However, at the 2007 Folk Festival, he had a chance meet up with the now former members of local folk superstars One Night Jam, with vocalist Vorn Doolette moving onto supposedly greener pastures in Adelaide and taking his songs with him. Guitarist/vocalist Sam King, violinist/vocalist Emma Kelly and cello virtuoso Grahame Thompson found themselves suddenly without a frontman, and although that’s something that’s hardly a problem for these musical lifers, they immediately fell in love with Matt’s songs. After some solidly beer-fuelled rehearsals, Matty suddenly found his songs fleshed out larger than he ever imagined.
Four of the Ellis Collective’s catchiest, most heart-string-tugging-est songs have found their way onto the apparently self-titled, but wonderfully coloured, Orange EP. Originally pieced together only to have something to apply to folk festivals with, the opening ‘Forgotten Song’ breaks those shackles easily by the end of the first chorus. Dealing with personal topics of lost love and relationships, his song writing holds such an amazing maturity, that you’d swear Matt has been living and playing his music in venues and pubs across the world for years. His voice holds a certain timbre that makes his words sound wiser, well beyond his current number of years onstage. ‘Don’t Go’ soars with chilling beauty (Don’t go, stay saving my soul), accented so mournfully and chillingly by Emma’s violin. Adding a vocalist with each chorus, the song builds to a strangely sing-along ending, probably the saddest sing-along I’ve ever wanted to join in on. ‘7 Days Later’ shows the more traditional folk side of the EP, skipping along with stone-skimming melody (I can see you walking, just look how fast I’m talking, you take time and you get older. You believe the things I told ya.). Matt’s ‘bloke-folk’ tag surely refers to the “occa-ness” of his accent, which adds a calm innocence to his lyrics that makes you want to hear the next line urgently. Closing with ‘Uh-Oh’, a staccato-guitar’d acoustic pop tune, they leave you on a positive note with Emma and Grahame’s classical instruments urging you to see them nuzzle the necks of their strings on a stage somewhere soon.
The Orange EP is a prime example of the class that is held in Canberra’s quiet but active folk scene, and its’ performers show their ability to blend the sincere folk of the tunes with a myriad of styles and musical virtuosity. Go see them and buy Matt multiple beers. He’ll chat with you for hours.
Next Ellis Collective shows:
13 Feb – 9:30 pm – Canberra Fringe Festival
20-24 Mar – The National Folk Festival
Buy The Orange EP right here!