There’s a new breed of male musician emerging from regional Queensland and they are the opposite of the egotistical, sex, drugs and rock’n roll stereotype.
Aspy Jones (who calls Brisbane and Gympie home) and TOBiAS (from Pomona), are talented indie musicians. They’ve both done some hard yards gigging and touring and have catalogues of smoothly produced original music behind them.
These are not the only things that stand out about Aspy and TOBiAS (who, by the way, are separate acts).
The two men are humble, hardworking, kind and respectful and their lyrics are positive and optimistic.
Clearly they have been through some shit and write about it in reflective, intelligent songs. As well as relationships, they tell stories about real issues affecting real people: mental health, anxiety, grief, loss and even climate change and global instability.
There’s not much swearing or angry vibes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Neither of them disrespect women or anyone in their carefully crafted songs. They may hate me saying this, but these two artists are family friendly.
‘Hush’ is a raw and rocking anthem about hushing anxious mental chatter and has uplifting arrangements that swell like surf.
‘Long way to go’ is a smoothly produced, danceable and fast paced rock song with a catchy chorus and clever lyrics like ‘unless it’s damaged, a muscle never grows’. It has a twangy guitar solo that amps the emotional power of the song without macho posturing.
Aspy, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a child, cleverly incorporates mental health issues into his songs in a way people, with or without a disability, can relate to. It’s raw, vulnerable stuff.
‘I hope the songs appeal to anyone of any age who has been through similar experiences,’ says Aspy.
TOBiAS is a hidden gem
Long player TOBiAS (Toby Robinson) also does a good line in raw, vulnerable lyrics, though these are produced with a sound that’s less rocky and more Church meets Go Betweens.
‘You won’t take my shit for long’ is the opening lyric on the first track ‘Howling at the Moon’ from his new album behind the valley, which was relaunched in May after COVID 19 dampened the 2022 soft launch.
‘behind the valley’ is TOBiAS’s third album. It reflects his musical approach valuing musicianship, soulful song writing and a textured, sometimes nostalgic sound. It took two years of the pandemic to write and produce this finely crafted album.
‘These are not some punched out pop songs. I laboured over them and took a lot of care, says Toby.
‘behind the valley’ also has some musical heavyweights behind it.
‘I had talented production from Andy Tainsh who has worked with many famous, accomplished musicians. Grammy award winning William Bowden (Gotye, Tash Parker, Grant McLennan) mastered the album,’ says Toby.
‘behind the valley’ is rich palette of styles united by a warm, organic sound.
Standout tracks for me are the On the Shore duet with spooky, ethereal vocals from Emma Beau, ‘Howling at the moon’ about the hopeful, sexy beginning of a relationship and the relatable ‘Crazy Time’ riffing on global instability and climate change.
Although there are some dark themes and melancholy, Toby is a mellow guy and this is a mellow album.
If you give a damn about Australian music you’ll know the industry is struggling right now. The streamers’ algorithms and commercial radio stations preference international music. With the exception of Triple J’s Hot 100, there’s an unacceptable lack of home-grown music on the Australian charts and commercial radio. The touring scene took a big hit during COVID 19 and is still recovering.
So disrupt the algorithms and the Australian cultural cringe which views anything produced overseas as better than home-grown. To use the words of Molly Meldrum, do yourself a favour and have a listen to Aspy Jones and TOBiAS live or recorded.
Aspy Jones gigs mainly in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay. Check here for gigs https://www.facebook.com/aspyjones
Aspy Jones and TOBiAS have both been supported by Queensland’s Regional Arts Development Fund