Brendan Maclean talks ‘Queer Discovery’

Brendan Maclean. Photo: supplied.

Indie-pop identity Brendan Maclean talks to the Sentinel about queer creativity and his involvement in the upcoming Express Yourself – Queer Discovery showcase.

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and musicians rights’ organisation, APRA AMCOS recently announced the debut of Express Yourself – Queer Discovery – a series of three music showcases giving emerging queer artists the chance to perform to a room full of tipsy punters and music industry juggernauts.

The first showcase is on Saturday, 28 November at the Beresford Upstairs, and will feature a headlining performance from ARIA award-winning pop-starlet, Montaigne. Two of the best emerging artists at the showcase will get the chance to perform alongside Montaigne at Mardi Gras in 2021.

The host of the showcases and Australia’s king (and queen?) of queer indie-pop, Brendan Maclean, hopes the initiative will bring queer Aussie musicians back to the forefront, and bring people back into gay venues.

“I’m looking forward to getting back out into a gay bar!” Maclean told the Sentinel in his signature ‘dorky dad’ tone.

“I just want to put some new music in front of some new people. I want some queer artists to discover an audience that maybe they didn’t have before. I can really see a need for that. And I know that everyone’s really exhausted right now. That’s why I’ve gone out and done the work!

“I just want you to turn up. Have a good time. Learn about the Australian queer musician. And if you are a queer musician, maybe get yourselves in front of people who can get your career rocketing out into the universe where we want you.”

Brendan Maclean. Photo: supplied.

The Covid-19 pandemic delivered a harsh blow to Sydney’s live music scene, and creatives across the country are now beginning to pick up the pieces. 

Express Yourself – Queer Discovery is part of the Great Southern Nights music initiative, which hopes to resuscitate NSW’s live music industry by featuring 1,000 Covid-safe gigs across Sydney and regional NSW throughout November.

Maclean hopes that in the process of reinvigorating live music, more opportunities will be given to unestablished queer artists – opportunities he wishes were available to him when he began music career. 

“We’re not mainstream. That’s the whole point of it. That’s the joy of being queer, that we’re not mainstream. But it also means that maybe if you don’t have a big record label, you don’t get the same chances as everybody else,” the Tectonic singer told the Sentinel while comically referring to himself as “Uncle Brendan”.

Tectonic by Brendan Maclean. Video: macleanbrendan/YouTube.

“This has to happen, because we don’t work hard enough to get our queer Australian musicians up and running [and] we kick butt! Australian queer musicians are amazing! So, if we push them up and give people a leg up, they’ll take care of the rest of their career. This is just giving everyone a leg up and evening out the playing field a little bit more for us.

“I think people have started to think of me as the friendly … I don’t want to say ‘Uncle Brendan’ – but those are all my babies out there.”

While we may see familiar faces such as Cry Club and Lupa J, Brendan at the showcases, Maclean affirmed to the Sentinel that this is a chance for every queer musician to showcase themselves.

“I’m making a point, too, to find people from Queensland and Melbourne. I want people from South Australia. I want to see people from Perth … But yeah, I’d better see some of those amazing acts that I’ve been hearing on Unearthed,” he said.

Maclean is confident that this new showcase will put Mardi Gras back in touch with its rowdy activism roots, as a community project that prioritises platforming queer voices and creativity.

“I think the queer community is very good at connecting with each other. I don’t think we remember how powerful we are sometimes … We should be banding together and lifting each other up,” he said.

“I hope this is just one event from Mardi Gras that starts looking at the community … after it’s become so big and so commercialised, I really hope that this is a great moment for Mardi Gras to start giving back to the community. 

“I feel like I’m giving them a tug on the pant sleeves and that’s all I wish for this. I really hope that musicians get a kick out of it. I hope that I hear some new music. And if you can’t get along to the venue, we are going to be streaming it as well. So it’s for everybody out there!”

The Express Yourself – Queer Discovery showcase kicks off at 6pm on Saturday, 28 November at The Beresford Upstairs.

For more on the 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, visit www.mardigras.org.au and check out the Sentinel‘s recent story about the 2021 parade.

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