Each week, John Moyle brings you the best examples of recent Australian songs and music videos. This week: Dog Trumpet’s ‘Walk to the Moon’.
Last year, just as Covid hit, Dog Trumpet released Great South Road, their sixth album, which includes the gently seductive track ‘Walk to the Moon’.
The band that started as a side project for brothers Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) and Peter O’Doherty from Mental As Anything now has a body of work that has earned them their own identity away from the Mentals’ legacy.
The pull of further side projects, which for Reg included producing artwork for Mambo, saw the brothers step away from Mental As Anything altogether and concentrate on Dog Trumpet along with their individual art careers, as both were quickly picked up by prestigious Sydney galleries.
Since the early nineties Dog Trumpet has had a stellar but changing lineup of musicians that has now settled to include Bernie Hayes on bass and ex-Cruel Sea’s Jim Elliott on drums, with writing duties being shared by Peter and Reg.
Reg would design many of the covers for their singles and albums, and Peter fell into home producing so that expenses were limited and the pressure decreased.
Great South Road was recorded at Peter’s home studio.
Dog Trumpet’s sound centres around Reg’s slide guitar and Peter’s acoustic guitar and mandolin that can produce anything from psychedelic folk to blues based rock.
Their latest single ‘Walk to the Moon’ is a shimmering masterpiece of Appalachian folk-based music set to Reg’s whimsical lyrics that make you believe that you really can ‘walk to moon’.
With just mandolin and dobro, the band have painted a mesmerising landscape of a world where such things are possible.
“My brother Reg writes songs that are more exterior and mine tend to be more internal songs,” Peter O’Doherty said.
“I think ‘Walk to the Moon’ is probably Reg’s most personal song, it is virtually a love song, and it is really hard to prise those types of songs out of him.
“He’s the king of three or four chords and this is infused in the way he puts his songs together – it’s very simple but it also what gives it its strength.”
The film clip, which is what brought my attention to the song, is as simple and intriguing as the song’s lyrics and simple folk melody suggests.
Simple in its execution and austere in its palette, the video captures perfectly the song’s sentiment as the camera follows the musicians cast as two Brechtian characters bathed in the glow of a moonlit night.
Shot and produced by Peter’s wife, artist Sue O’Doherty, it is in perfect simpatico with Dog Trumpet’s lo-fi approach to recording and production, and is a very different approach to the innovative film and often complex clips the Mentals were known for.
Along with her husband and brother in-law, Sue O’Doherty is a highly regarded artist who has shown throughout Australia and overseas, including at the 8th Beijing International Art Biennale in 2019.
“The idea came from Renaissance painting where there is a lot of soft atmosphere floating up towards the Moon,” Sue O’Doherty said.
“Because it is about the Moon it needs to be a nightscape, so a lot of it is black and white with a bit of colour coming through, which gives you a bit of depth and scope and distance.”
Keeping to Dog Trumpet’s lo-fi traditions, Sue used her iPhone 11 to shoot with and then put the video into iMovie, where it was treated for blacks and colour highlights and sped up or down as required.
“Sue and me are both artists and we just [make] the records and the clips at home and you never have to leave the house,” Peter O’Doherty said.
Both Peter and Sue admit the approach they are using has its restrictions including a lack of ability to zoom and focus, but they have fallen in love with their work method and have no intention of going back.
“The difference is that if you book a film crew to do a shoot you have to work out exactly what shots you need and then do it over and over again, but with us doing it in a home made way, the filming and editing can take weeks as there is no deadline and you can keep adding to it,” Peter said.
Sue added: “While our clips might not be the best technically, they usually have an intimate homemade feel about them and if you have a good song it makes it easier as everything falls into place
“It’s a steep learning curve when you first come across the technology, but once you do, it is hard to go back.”
Song: ‘Walk to the Moon’
Artist: Dog Trumpet
Album: Great South Road
Writer: Reg Mombassa
Camera: Susan O’Doherty
Editor: Peter O’Doherty
South Road Films
Licensed to Electric Entertainment, Kobalt Music Publishing
For more on Dog Trumpet, visit www.dogtrumpet.net.
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