Here at Say It With Garage Flowers, we’ve been fans of Wesley Fuller since we heard his debut EP Melvista, a killer collection of crunching power-pop, ’80s New Wave synth sounds and anthemic glam rock songs, when it was released in the summer of 2016.
The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter followed it up a year later with the album Inner City Dream , which was more of the same, but with some added ’60s psych and vintage electro pop.
On a cold, wet night in November last year, 28-year-old Wesley played his first ever show outside of Australia – in South London, at The Windmill in a Brixton backstreet. And we were there…
During an exclusive interview before the gig, he told us that he wasn’t sure what to expect, but he needn’t have worried, as he and his band played a storming set to an appreciative crowd. It was easily one of our favourite shows of last year.
We spoke to him about having great glam rock hair, growing up in Perth and moving to the ‘bright lights’ of Melbourne to pursue his inner city dream, and recording his debut album in his bedroom…
“I’ve never played a show outside of Australia – it’s very exciting and a little bit scary,” says Melbourne singer-songwriter Wesley Fuller, sat on a sofa in the tatty backstage area of The Windmill pub, in Brixton, South London, on a cold and wet night in late November. It’s a few hours before the first gig on his UK and European tour.
Say It With Garage Flowers apologises for the awful British weather, but, as Wesley points out: “Melbourne weather isn’t that much better to be honest – it’s quite like London. It’s interesting to get an experience of what a gig is like in a different country. A lot of music is the same, but the surroundings are different… I don’t really know what to expect…”
You were born in Perth, but you moved to Melbourne in 2013. The title of your debut album is Inner City Dream, from the song of the same name. Did the title come from the idea of you wanting to move from Perth to Melbourne to pursue your dream of becoming a successful musician?
Wesley Fuller: Spot on. The whole reason I wanted to leave Perth was to reach the bright lights of Melbourne. I left Perth at the start of 2013 – Perth is quite a small, isolated city and I lived out in the suburbs. I wanted to live in the entertainment area of Melbourne – the inner city – and move to a place where I didn’t know anyone.
What was the music scene like when you were growing up in Perth?
WF: There are a lot of great bands in Perth and a good music scene, but it’s on a small scale – the city is isolated, so you can’t really tour. I’ve always loved the idea of touring with a band – getting in a van and driving around to different places. You can’t do that in Perth – you have to fly across to the other side of the country.
So you moved to Melbourne…
WF: Yes. I lived in Fitzroy, which is an inner-city suburb of Melbourne, for a couple of years, but I realised that it was a little bit overrated. I was paying so much for my rent that I didn’t have any money to spend on going out to places…
The album is one where I’m at a crossroads – ‘what do I want to do? Do I want this inner city life, or is it just an illusion? Do I want a quieter life out in the suburbs?’
What’s the scene like in Melbourne? Do you feel a part of it, or are you out on your own?
WF: I’m definitely out on my own – I’ve never really felt part of a scene, but I’ve tried to create one. Melbourne is very much a trending city – trends come and go – but there are lots of different little scenes. I’ve found it a lot more promising than Perth because you can find an audience.
‘I got into ’60s music because no one else I knew was getting into it. Once I discovered it, I thought it was awesome!’
Let’s talk more about the album. Was it written in Perth or Melbourne?
WF: Most of the songs were written in Melbourne in my first year there – I was in a new environment, feeling and experiencing new things. I had a very creative period there.
Did the album come together quite naturally?
WF: Most of it came together how I wanted it to because I was doing it myself from my bedroom studio – I produced it myself. I was lucky enough to have quite a large bedroom and I set up all my instruments in there, so it was like a mini studio. I did everything, apart from a few lead guitar parts, and some backing vocals. I wanted to do it by myself and, luckily, my band were very understanding. I’m not a trained sound engineer but there was an element of experimentation – I did have a clear idea of the sound that I wanted to achieve.
Your influences include power-pop, psych, New Wave, electronic music, glam rock and ’60s pop, like The Zombies, The Beatles and The Beachboys. When you were growing up were you into ’60s and ’70s music? Did your parents get you into old stuff?
WF: I’ve gone through different phases, but it certainly hasn’t come from my parents – we never had The Beatles playing in the house. My parents are still quite young – they were more into ’80s stuff, but I wasn’t into that. I got into ’60s music because no one else I knew was getting into it. Once I discovered it, I thought it was awesome!
You’ve also added some vintage electro sounds to the ’60s and ’70s influences…
WF: I’ve always loved ’60s music, but once I started DJing, that opened me up to a lot of different eras and sounds, like funk and New Wave and glam, so I started listening to songs in a different way – from a dancing and production perspective. I used to listen to songs for melodies or harmonies – that pure ’60s vibe…
There’s quite a groove on some of your songs…
WF: Yeah. I DJ’d for clubs most weekends and I run a night in Melbourne called KICKS.
Let’s talk about some of the songs on the album. Someone To Walk Around With is a great rock ‘n’ roll tune, with big guitars and organ, but Skyways and Morality are more electro-pop, with retro synth sounds… This isn’t just a power-pop album, is it? There are different styles on it?
WF: The album is hard to classify or label under one genre or sound. I’ve always liked those albums that have different styles. They have an overbearing sound that ties them together, but they showcase different influences. As this was my first record, I wanted to lay everything out on the table: ‘this is my sound and this is what I can do’…
‘I went through a phase when I tried to be a mod, but it’s hard when you have curly hair’
Morality came from listening to a lot of early ’80s New Wave and so did Skyways, with the synth on it, but there’s also a Motown beat on Skyways. When I recorded the EP, [Melvista] I was mainly listening to glam.
You have great glam rock hair…
WF: I went through a phase when I tried to be a mod, but it’s hard when you have curly hair.
Marc Bolan, who had curly hair, started off as a mod…
WF: Marc Bolan could’ve pulled anything off..
One of my favourite songs on the album is Wish You Would. It has a ’60s psych-pop feel and reminds me of The Zombies and The Beachboys…
WF: I wanted to have one song on the album that was almost like a tribute to The Mamas and the Papas – I’ve always loved ’60s harmonies. I began writing that song when I was in Perth, in the summer of 2012. It was hot and the song has that kind of summery vibe.
This is your first tour of the UK and Europe. Have you built up a good following in Melbourne?
WF: Yeah, but you’ve got stay active to keep them interested. I haven’t reached cult status yet!
You’re only young – you’ve only had one album out…
WF: Yeah – exactly. Hopefully by the second one…
Have you made plans for the next record?
WF: Yeah – I’ve written the bulk of it and I’ve already recorded the drums for some of the songs. I start with the drums and then I build it up from there, bit by bit. I have six or seven full songs written that I want to have on the next album, but there are three or four that I’m a bit iffy about, so I’ll see how they turn out. I’m definitely hoping to have a new record out in 2019 – I’ve got to start dedicating more time to it. That’s the hardest thing, because I have a full-time job. I work for a law firm. I used up all my annual leave to record the first album. I’m aiming to have a record out in late 2019. Fingers crossed that will work out.
What do you think it will sound like?
WF: It will still have the same kind of influences, but I’d like to try a few different things production-wise. We’ll just see what happens…
Inner City Dream by Wesley Fuller is out now on 1965 Records. For more info, go to: https://wesleyfuller.bandcamp.com/