Andrew Tuttle: sensitive suburban troubadour

Andrew Tuttle. Photo: supplied.

Each week, John Moyle brings you the best examples of new Australian songs and videos. This week: Andrew Tuttle’s ‘Hilliard Creek, Finucane Road’ and ‘Sun At 5 In 4161’.

The sun setting over an outer Brisbane cookie cutter suburb does not sound like inspirational material for a music track, but in the hands of ambient musician Andrew Tuttle it becomes something of gob-smacking beauty.

Alexandra Hills is a satellite suburb about 45 minutes outside of the Brisbane CBD, bearing the postcode 4161.

It is also the epitome of Australian suburbia and for much of his life, home to musician and composer Andrew Tuttle.

“It is a slice of suburbia, over the years it has been built on with shops and bits of suburbia, but it also has a koala corridor,” Tuttle said.

A quick look at Alexandra Hills’ facilities show that it has an Aldi, a Red Rooster, a Hungry Jacks, an IGA and a shopping centre, much like many unexceptional suburbs across the great Australian urban sprawl.

But it also has seven parks, bushland, recreation centres and a mobile library service.

Tuttle holds this small piece of suburbia dearly, it being where he grew up, discovered cricket and music, as well as the bushland remnants still in existence across the suburb.

The suburb is also the inspiration and title of Andrew Tuttle’s fourth album, simply titled Alexandra.

“The album came about from there and each of the tracks correlates to sections of the suburbs,” Tuttle said.

“Some of the suburb I knew intimately and other parts I had rediscovered in my mid-thirties after growing up there, and this was both the man-made and the natural elements.”

Elements made by humans, such as Finucane Road, now dissect the suburb and challenge the natural elements for dominance, and it is in this intersection that Tuttle has found the inspiration for his album.

Official music video for ‘Hilliard Creek, Finucane Road’ by Andrew Tuttle. Video: ROOM40/Youtube.

“In the album there are elements of recordings that I did from the food court that was the basis for the tracks and I built the melody around that,” Tuttle said.

“Other tracks also incorporated file recordings from [the area] and there are these loud and vibrant birds that I was sampling, along with the shops.”

Since his recording debut in 2015, Tuttle has made a reputation as much overseas as here with his unique approach to ambient and folk sounds using analogue synth, resonator guitar and banjo.

His approach is not inspired by random selection but with the use of the careful melding of sounds, moods and structure, producing an album far from the mundanity of its subject.

The suburb is at the heart and centre of the album, with track names relating to places such as ‘Hilliard Creek, Finucane Road’, ‘Cambridge Drive Shopping Centre’ and ‘Platypus Corridor’.

A standout is the opener, ‘Sun At 5 In 4161’, a beautiful pastoral piece that captures the suburb in the gloaming of the day.

Official music video ‘Sun At 5 In 4161’ by Andrew Tuttle. Video: ROOM40/YouTube.

“It was sunset rather than sunrise and was shot around five o’clock, and because it was winter, it gets quite dark towards the end,” Tuttle said.

All the music video clips for the album were shot by Tuttle on his iPhone, and like his music, they explore a deeply personal relationship between the creator and the subject.

“I was using my iPhone and the quality is pretty great and it also lends itself to more surreptitious recording,” Tuttle said.

“A lot of the clip [for ‘Sun At 5 In 4161’] was recorded on a bus as there is one direct bus each day from the city to where my parents live, and I was recording in a way that if I had a normal camera I probably would not have gotten away with.”

While ‘Sun At 5 in 4161’ is a loving interpretation of Tuttle’s relationship with the suburb, the video for ‘Hilliard Creek, Finucane Road’ is inspired by the bushland that still exists in patches across the suburb.

To date, Tuttle has eschewed pursuing a more commercial road to expose his work, preferring to work with the Someone Good imprint released on Lawrence English’s eclectic Brisbane label, Room40, which also releases the work of pianist Chris Abrahams and many other experimental and electronica artists.

Alexandra by Andrew Tuttle

Written and edited by Andrew Tuttle at James Street and Alexandra Circuit, September 2018–April 2019
Engineered by Aidan Hogg at The Plutonium, January–March 2019
Mixed by Chuck Johnson at Cirrus Oxide, April 2019
Mastered by Lawrence English at 158, May 2019
Andrew Tuttle: banjo, resonator guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, signal processing
Chuck Johnson: pedal steel guitar (tracks 2, 6)
Gwenifer Raymond: microtonal electric guitar (1), fiddle (4)
Joe Saxby: saxophone (1)
Joel Saunders: trumpet (9)
Sarah Spencer: piano (1, 7)
Tony Dupe: cello (1, 9), piano (1, 7), pump organ (1, 7)

Alexandra is a Someone Good release.