FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MEDIA RELEASE
Sand and Stone, the stunning 11-track fourth album from Far North Queensland folk/alt-country duo The McMenamins, amply confirms what the music world has long suspected – in their own quiet way, siblings Fleur and Simon McMenamin are monster talents. With a recent invitation to perform at the Byron Bay Bluesfest topping off a period that has seen appearances at major festivals such as the International Folk Alliance in Memphis and Queensland’s BIGSOUND, attention-grabbing tours of North America and rave critical reviews, The McMenamins seem set to cement their place in the global folk market.
The songs on Sand and Stone extend across European and North American roots forms, while still retaining an over-arching harmony. There are echoes of Americana here, of southern states spirituals, of Irish folk and, underpinning it all, a sensibility that grows from a very Australian understanding of time and place.
“I feel that our music has evolved a lot since we released our first, self-titled album in 2005,” says Fleur. “I think we’ve really started to find our own sound. We’ve become clearer in the sort of music we want to make. I think the sound of The McMenamins is settling into its own place now.” It’s a place, Fleur says, informed by a very strong regard for family, ancestry and geography. Fleur and Simon both live in small towns in Far North Queensland, with their respective partners and children. Family life, community and, as Fleur puts it, “the cycle of the harvest”, underpin the music on this album. Sand and Stone is classic folk: rooted firmly in the concrete imagery of real people and real places.
With Sand and Stone the duo has firmly ensured their place in the burgeoning Australian alt-folk pantheon. Critical acclaim for The McMenamins’ 2005 debut was followed by a whirlwind national tour supporting heavyweights Missy Higgins, Ben Lee and Ray LaMontagne which put them in front of crowds of as many as 15,000. Momentum only increased with the release of follow-up, In This Light in 2007, and saw them invited to showcase at the prestigious Canadian Music Week in Toronto, which pushed their music into the North American market, while back home they were tapped to support homegrown alt-folk superstars The Waifs.
The contrast between idyllic rural tropical home lives and international musical commitments became sharply defined in 2010 when third album, Long Time Gone, set tongues wagging and feet tapping in folk and roots circles around the world. The McMenamins’ international exposure continued to grow in scope and influence, with performances in Nashville, Memphis, Portland and Austin Texas. It is a contrast that Sand and Stone will undoubtedly heighten, but, says Fleur, The McMenamins are ready for it.
“There’s possibly a bit more pressure on us these days, but I don’t think we really feel it,” she says. “I think aspirations change as you grow. Music is one thing in my life that has never gone away, but I’ve changed a lot in my attitudes. I’m not just a musician any more: I’m married, I’ve got children – there are other important things in my life. I’ve grown more and more comfortable as a performer over the years. When you’re an independent artist there’s a lot of pressure, just on the business side. It takes a lot of time and energy to do all those associated roles – manager, tour manager, negotiator, and so on. On stage, I don’t feel that pressure. On stage is where I get to let go and enjoy it, and the music is a refuge.”
It’s also damn good. Sand and Stone was recorded at Applewood Lane Studios, an old converted chapel near Brisbane (owned by Multi ARIA Award winning Producer Magoo). The Album was engineered and mixed by Benjamin McCarthy, who Co-produced with Fleur. All songs were written by Fleur and Simon, who were joined by Benjamin McCarthy – again – on piano, electric bass and percussion; and Steve Pope, on drums.
The McMenamins were good from the get-go. Now, however, eight years after their debut, they are very good indeed. They have the skills, the chops, the experience and – perhaps most importantly – the proper perspective. “I think early on in my career I worried about people judging me,” says Fleur. “That people might not like our music. None of that worries me so much anymore. I’m embracing the artistry of it now and I allow myself to take musical liberties. I guess I feel like it’s Ok to make the music as big or as intimate as I want. It’s OK to be brave.”
Sand and Stone is released on Friday 8th March 2013 through MGM.
For more information, please visit www.themacswebsite.com
This project has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.