Media Press Release
15th November 2005 Drum Media


Interview by Michael Smith

Early in the career of Mel Gibson, he starred in Peter Weir's seminal film about Australia's baptism of fire in WWI, Gallipoli. His co-star was another young actor named Mark Lee, who recently completed directing his first full feature film, The Bet and has just begun work on something a little different.



A former musician himself, Lee found himself intrigued by two bands from the Blue Mountains - Blue Swimmers and Reluctant Friends Of Steve - and decided to make a documentary about them. To most readers of course, both bands are unknown quantities, so a little background if you please, from singer, songwriter, guitarist and the "reluctant" Steve Stockton.

"At the demise of my last band, Thumping Buzzard, I came upon an old school friend, didge player Kevin Fox- and I was going down to the city to see a friend's band who were launching their CD and breaking up that night, and Kev drove round and we jammed and I couldn't believe how well his didge went with my 12-string. At the gig I was telling [drummer] Dave [Alexander], whose own band The Flaming Barstools had just broken up, about the sound Kev and I had got together and he suggested a jam. So we organised Sound Level for a jam with six or seven friends, and two months later we had our first gig, with nine or ten original songs, at the Royal in Springwood, a charity gig to raise money for the Children's Hospital.

 "Kev suggested we call ourselves The Reluctant Singles, I suggested something sillier but liked the word “reluctant”, and someone suggested my name should be in there, to which I said it was all my friends that were helping to make the sound and thought it was bit too pretentious. So the Kev Introduced us as during a gig as “Reluctant Friends Of Steve."

While Stockton and the band might have started the whole thing in a playful mood, the fact that they found their audiences in Sydney's Blue Mountains open to their initially quirky, sometimes whimsical original material allowed them to release those originals, first on last year's You Mist It.... and now the more focused Mirrors Of The Past.

 [Lead guitarist] Ian [Duncan, ex-Barstools] used to work as a studio tech at Festival and organised his own equipment, with which, we put into a house and turned it into a temporary recording studio.  It worked really well. When we were deciding what to record for release, Dave said, 'A band with one CD has credibility, but a band with two CDs has even more credibility.' So we recorded enough properly for two CDs, at roughly the time,"

The fellow Blue Mountains-based Blue Swimmers also features a five-piece lineup of extensively experienced musicians, writing and recording original material in a more straightforward blues-rock vein, based around the guitar of Steve Mann, who have released one self-titled album and are soon releasing their second. So, having introduced the bands. I wondered how they found themselves the subject of a forthcoming documentary?

 "Both bands have a similar attitude," Stockton continues. [Blue Swimmers guitarist, keyboards player and singer] Phil Johnson's been really good friends with Mark Lee - they used to play in bands together and made a CD together three or four years ago - and I must admit I don't really get it but Mark seems to

feel that it's quite we're still playing and writing music and making CDs and organising gigs when a lot of people our age [the ages of the various members range from late 30s to mid 50s] would have given up. To me I don't see where the story is. If you're a musician, you must keep doing it. That's what you do,"

 Perhaps the real story, as Lee follows the two bands through two weeks of gigs from the Mountains to the sea and back, from rehearsals to bumping out, interviewing members and their audiences, will turn out to be not the fact that players remain players for as long as they can since that's what they do, but the fact that there's on extraordinarily healthy live original music scene and community barely two hours outside Sydney in those Blue Mountains, sustaining players 16 to 66 and beyond.

 "Most of the people we played with at the Excelsior [in Surry Hills] in the'90s." Duncan chips in. "have all moved up and are living here now! Even Doc Neeson just lives up the road."