Byron Bay Film Festival recently hosted the global premiere of The Buckleys’ new documentary, Take It As It Comes. The documentary’s director/honorary Buckleys member Grant James flew in from the States for the post-screening Q&A. The following day, Bryget Chrisfield sat down for a chat with Grant plus all three of The Buckleys – Sarah, Lachlan and Molly.
Sarah: Lead singer, bassist and songwriter. Effervescent as they come. Never not smiling and/or laughing (but not in a fake way). Obviously high on life and the thrill of chasing her musical dreams.
Lachlan: A chilled presence. Loves vintage gear and recording equipment but also embraces exciting technological advances (such as Dolby Atmos). He is a beast on his multi-neck electric and also slide guitar. Hopes to get a surf in at some point over the weekend.
Molly: Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist. Introspective yet captivating, you'll wanna lean in to hear what she has to say. Current musical obsessions: Blondie and Joan Jett.
Seated on one end of an L-shaped tan sofa in the living room, Sarah ponders the significance of our current location: "Even now, just sitting here, I was thinking: we came in here for our first meeting with Chris. Sitting here listening to The Beatles, [points to a nearby table] having meetings there – this is the space!"
"And we'd be sitting around the fire 'til 3 am," Lachlan reminisces. "Chris was so passionate about everything, he was like, 'Whatever you do, don't screw me, guys!'" They all laugh fondly at this shared recollection, clearly still missing their mentor who passed away peacefully on this Ballina property – which he christened "nature's playground" – on 16 January 2021, aged 66.
When asked how Murphy came to sign The Buckleys to his Petrol Records label, home of INXS, Sarah recounts, "Well, actually, I was working – what, like, four years ago or something like that? – at Falls Festival at a fish and chip stall..." This detail makes her little sister Molly get the giggles, but Sarah continues, "And I got a call from [artist manager] Dan Biddle saying, 'Oh, there's this guy Chris Murphy, he used to manage INXS,' and da-da-da-da-da and he wants to meet you guys. I'm flying up next week. Are you guys available? And I'm like, 'Yeah, hold on a second to anyone wanting fish and chips...'" she trails off, laughing.
"So we came over here [to Sugar Beach Ranch] and had hotdogs with Chris and [his wife] Caroline, and we all weren't expecting everything that came from that meeting; it felt very – Chris used to always say the reason we all crossed paths was something beyond all of us."
"Yeah, very much stars aligning," Molly chimes in as I notice an electric-blue neon sign that reads "Murph" glowing upon us from up high on an adjacent wall. "It was just such a perfect mix, you know? All of us."
"Exactly," Sarah agrees. "So, yeah! We just obviously hit it off, and it grew from there. We very much put all our trust in him, and he put so much trust in us, and we became this ultimate team."
"Because we teamed up at such a good point in our career – we were just starting out – and built such a backbone from working with him. He taught us how to work, like, 'Don't be wusses, just work hard," Molly recalls, chuckling.
Byron Bay Film Festival premiere
When asked how they found the experience of watching their documentary on a big screen – for the first time – the night prior, Sarah confesses, "It was so uncomfortable! We were giggling. We just kept being like, 'Oh, my god, what are we saying!?'" Lachlan also admits, "I was laughing the whole time," before Molly adds, "It's my coping mechanism when I'm uncomfortable; I just laugh."
The premiere screening of Take It As It Comes was followed by a brief Q&A – with the trio plus the doco's director, Grant James, in attendance – and then The Buckleys' portion of the evening culminated in a short live performance, which was artfully done. The drum riser was concealed by a stage right curtain, which was eventually opened to reveal their drummer Vinnie Sebastian in action and usher in the gig segment of the night. The Buckleys remained in the centre of the performance space.
"It was so heartwarming seeing people turn up to watch and share that experience with our hometown," Molly extols. Sarah agrees: "Yeah, it was amazing. And it was cool because I spoke to some people there last night who I didn't know personally, but they had seen us when we were really young – here in the Northern Rivers, playing – and now seeing us, you know... What? Ten years, 13 years later? It was really cool to share with everyone." Lachlan agrees that "all the support" they've received from their local community over the years is very much appreciated before sharing, "Our good friend Rex [Parker] that played drums with us when we were ten years old – he came out [to the film premiere]. I hadn't seen him for years!"
The Buckleys' documentary is dedicated to Chris Murphy. During one section where his image graced the screen, it felt like the entire Byron Bay Theatre audience collectively held their breath for a moment. Viewing this film in the company of the late legend's nearest and dearest was always gonna be emotional.
"Chris was so big on: you have to be a great, solid person and be grounded and humble," Sarah reflects, "and all those lessons were so important for us to get early on. Because, you know, so many artists – you go through so much, and it is easy to get caught up in ego or whatever, and Chris really drummed that into us from the get-go. And I'm grateful for that because we try to remember those lessons daily."
"Yeah, he was awesome," Molly continues. "Like, while we were recording our first album, Daydream, he wouldn't let anyone call us – no one intervened with the music-making. He was very much, 'This is your guys' space; you create what you wanna create'."
Lachlan remembers Murphy telling his band, "Do your thing, and make it good." Molly laughs before adding: "'Make it your best, and then we'll listen to it after you've created it,' you know? He'd fly in after we recorded, which is very different. With a lot of labels, you have someone come into the studio – from the label – to listen to it while it's being made and put their two cents in. But he was like, 'Make it and then we'll do a listening session after'."
"That trust in us!" Lachlan marvels.
The magical Sugar Beach Ranch
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Driving out towards the idyllic Sugar Beach Ranch in South Ballina, residences become increasingly scarce as towering sugarcane plants dominate the landscape, with some evidence of pre-harvest burning underway. Set on 60 acres of native bushland, the ocean-front Sugar Beach Ranch is an operating farm and home to horses, chickens, ducks, pigeons and the delightful showoff, Mr Peacock.
Once through the property’s front gates, which must be opened manually, the sound of tyres stirring up dirt road disturbs a couple of horses – and two foals! – who are lazily grazing. They keep on chewing while watching us drive on by, only vaguely interested and probably wondering whether the purpose of our visit today is equine therapy, which is one of the many services Sugar Beach Ranch offers.
From inside the main residence, the barking of several dogs announces our arrival. The ranch is currently home to a blended canine family comprising two fluffy white Maremma Sheepdogs – Chris Murphy’s dog, Ice, and Diana, who joined the family to be a chicken dog – plus his daughter Stevey Arena’s two beloved pooches: Cleo, the Jack Russell Terrier (an engagement gift from her Dad) and Jack Russell Terrier mix Max, a rescue. Stevey, her husband Nick and two children, Axel and Harley, have moved into – and taken over the running of – Sugar Beach Ranch (flocks of racing pigeons included).
The serenity is palpable here at Sugar Beach Ranch. As soon as we wander out onto the grounds and hear the assorted calls and chirps of native birdlife, we instantly feel our worries melting away. We can immediately see why The Buckleys have shot a selection of their music videos – including Money, Breathe and Woodstock69 – on the stunning grounds of this property.
To learn more about the idyllic Sugar Beach Ranch, check out the website.
Recording at East Iris Studios, Nashville
The film clip for Oops I Love You – the lead single from The Buckleys’ Take It As It Comes EP – was shot in The Cave at East Iris Studios, Nashville (Molly: “an incredible space to make art”), where their latest set of songs – and the majority of The Buckleys documentary – was recorded.
According to Lachlan, East Iris Studios contains “very old, unique things”, “lots of vintage gear”, “super-old keyboards and amplifiers”, and “big, old-school mixing desks”. Sarah and Molly both fell in love with the artwork and murals at East Iris Studios – all created by local artist Scott Guion, whose work features throughout Berry Hill, just south of Downtown Nashville, where these studios are located.
Molly puts it out there: “When we eventually get a house, Sarah and I need him to do the artwork.”
So when did The Buckleys actually write the five songs that would become their Take It As It Comes EP? “We went over to Nashville at the beginning of this year, for two months, and wrote most of the songs while we were over there,” Sarah enlightens. “We kind of had an idea of where we wanted to go with the next project.” Lachlan points out that the siblings had been doing “lots of songwriting” over the last couple of years, so had plenty of ideas and beginnings of songs brewing before they touched down in Nashville.
Although The Buckleys hadn’t originally planned to actually record anything while they were in Nashville, the songs just started pouring out, so they went with the flow.
“We wrote one of the songs, Love Me Wrong, the second day we got there!” Sarah shares excitedly. “Another song, Oops I Love You, we started here in Australia – me and our youngest brother [Dylan, aged 15], actually – and then we were jamming and had some ideas for it. And brought that into the studio with Chad Carlson, our producer.
“We wrote all the songs in February/March, so they’re all pretty fresh, and we went into the studio to record them a couple of weeks after writing them,” she remembers, laughing in disbelief. “Halfway through the trip, we were like, ‘We’ll record three songs, maybe,’ and then we ended up recording five!”
Molly explains, “We couldn’t let go of a few of them.”
“It happens every time,” Lachlan observes, “we’re like, ‘Oh, well, we have to do that one, and we have to do that one. And that one...’” Molly adds, “Yeah, Take It As It Comes was written a day before we went in to record.”
An awesome song always materialises at the 11th hour, doesn’t it? The Buckleys answer in unison: “Always!”
Molly continues: “On [previous album] Daydream, Breathe was written like Take It As it Comes – the day before the studio! – but it totally changed the entire project ‘cause that ended up being our title track.”
“I remember we had a meeting with Chad, our producer,” Sarah recounts, “and Sam Evans, [Director of Petrol Records], and, like, three days before we went into the studio, we listened to all the demos, chose the songs and then as we were leaving I was like, ‘See you later, Chad, it might all change! We have more co-writes to go!’ [laughs] And then we ended up recording the last song we wrote.”
Molly tells, “We wrote Take It As It Comes with Jared Hampton from Lanco, and then we just sent through a really rough tape of the song, and Chad, our producer was like, ‘Yeah, it’s a game-changer'.”
“It was really cool to write that with Jared,” Sarah reflects. “We had started at home, and then, yeah, we kinda just took it to a whole new place with Jared the day before going into the studio.”
The Buckleys sign with Jackson Street booking agency
Exclusive statement: “Jackson Street launched in April 2021 with a vision to work with exciting and emerging new artists; we have been watching The Buckleys closely and love that they embody everything we value; loyalty, hard work, family and a commitment to success. We want to play a part in that success and take them to the next level in their career. We are looking forward to working with Sarah, Lachlan and Molly as well as their extended Petrol Records and Universal Music family.”
The Buckleys will appear at the Tamworth Country Music Festival on Wednesday, 18 January 2023.
Part 2: Third Man Records Vinyl Recording Booth, Exploring The Dolby Atmos Sound, Returning To The States, plus more coming soon...