Cannons doing Dylan

Mandy Nolan

This Friday the Starboard Cannons line up with a host of musicians (Deidi Vine, Chris Aronsten, Bill Jacobi, Luke Vassella, Julie Oliver, Jessie Vintila, Tim Stokes, Stu Eadie, Thierry Fossemalle, Alex McLeod and Steve Russell) to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday with a very special tribute concert to raise funds for the upkeep of the centre’s Steinway piano, in memory of the late Margaret Dods. Seven caught up with the Starboard Cannons to get the lowdown.

Tell me a little about the underlying ethos of Starboard Cannons?

We’ve all been playing music professionally for a long time, and any notions we may have had about being hip or cool or commercially ‘successful’ are now just punchlines we use to tease each other. We don’t really have any ethos except to have fun and be real. There is definitely a place for musicians to act out their stage characters when they perform, but none of us really has the attention span for that. We all love playing all kinds of music, and Starboard Cannons represents a place where we all meet on common ground. We aren’t trying to shape our music into any particular style or genre, we just do what we do with the songs that get written.

What is it about the Australian landscape that provides the backdrop for so many of your songs?

Songs can be so broadly relevant to so many people. Seems like the more vague and ambiguous a song is, the more popular it becomes. I like giving details. Australia’s landscape, both geographically and culturally, is unique in the world, and I try to capture things that might seem totally normal to any other Australian, but may leave people from other nationalities thinking ‘what’s he on about? – that’s not how you write songs…’ Also, it just happens to be a good way to set the scene for a story.


What most attracts you to tales of love and loss?

Songs are inspired by emotion. Emotion comes from love and loss. Everyone reacts differently when presented with these emotions, and I like presenting different aspects of a fairly normal situation. It’s the subtleties within the emotions that I find carry the most weight in real life, so that’s what I try to bring to the surface when writing something.

Do you find yourself looking for narratives for songwriting or do you just have to notice them when they present themselves?

I have tried to source inspiration for the purpose of writing, but it never works. It has to be something that actually affects me personally to be able to make a song that is meaningful. I don’t often write literally about any experience, but take a notion that presents itself and use the concept to build something else.

Who are the singer/songwriters that have influenced you?

Every day I discover new singer/songwriters that influence me to varying degrees. It’s hard to know if you are being influenced by someone or you just really love what they do. If I had to give you five songwriters who I believe have had the most influence over my own songwriting, they would have to be Paul Simon, Paul Kelly, Ryan Adams, Jeff Lang and Fat Mike from NOFX.

What should we expect from Starboard Cannons at the Bob Dylan Birthday Bash?

We were lucky enough to be able to do the three songs we most wanted to do, so it is going to be a lot of fun. Top-class band and such a brilliant venue. We have chosen three quite different tracks and have given them all a good dose of Cannonsing. Dylan was a master lyricist, and I want to put the focus on what the guy was trying to say. But his songs have a remarkable way of being quite malleable, and we’ve been able to have some fun with them. We manage to become quite energetic whenever we perform, so expect us to be having a good time.

What’s the latest for you guys? What’s next on the agenda?

We released the album internationally just recently, and we’re getting a bit of airplay in different countries. It’s really interesting to see who are the most responsive. The Netherlands seems to be winning at the moment, closely followed by Canada and a bit of interest in the USA. The focus at the moment is on festivals. We have done a few great ones so far this year and we’ve got some more good ones coming up soon. Other than that, our hope is to have another album out some time early next year, so I suppose we should get onto that.

Byron Community Centre – Friday. 7.30pm. $25/20. Book on


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