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New CD is All in the Ear

26 Mar 2013

Growing up with a love of music, Alex Gate-Eastley never wanted to read or compose music; indeed, she just wanted to play by ear for her own enjoyment.

Now, the 35-year-old second year student in the Advanced Diploma of Music Industry (Technical Production) at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT), has co-written most of the music and lyrics for the first CD of the band 'Lou Bennett and the Sweet Cheeks' due for release at the end of April.

Alex, of Brunswick, who sings and plays bass guitar with the band, co-wrote the CD with house-mate Lou Bennett. They have been performing mostly original songs and music around Melbourne's clubs and bars as well as at festivals and overseas in New Zealand and Scotland, for the past five years and decided it was time for the band, which also includes drummer Phil Collings, to finally record and produce their own CD.

The CD, titled Hold My Hand? one of the songs recorded, features 10 other songs about life, love and politics.

'Some of the songs focus on heartbreak and getting your life together again after a relationship has ended,' Alex said. 'Hold my Hand? is about resolving conflict in a relationship by sitting down, holding hands and trying to understand where your partner is coming from rather than trying to force your perspective on them. And as Lou is Aboriginal, the political flavour of some of the songs is about diversity and learning to love our differences as human beings rather than being frightened of them.'

Alex said she would sit around the kitchen table until the wee hours of the morning over a glass of vodka with Lou composing the words and the music off the top of their heads.

'Lou would have the initial ideas for the songs and I would develop them with her, writing extra verses and choruses,' Alex explained.

'There's no written copy of the music; no musical manuscript because I still can't read or write music. I just work it out in my head and play it.'

For Alex, who has been a professional musician for 18 years, having to read music is like giving someone a map when they already know their way around; 'it always felt like a waste of time and it was quicker to just pick up the guitar and play.'

Originally from County Fife in Scotland, Alex first came to Australia in 1996-97 for a musical tour with her Scottish band 'The Well-Oiled Sisters,' and returned to the UK only to come back to Australia in 2000 for a holiday. During that time, she met Lou Bennett and formed a band with her; they've been performing together ever since.

But while Alex is a self-taught musician, she is particularly interested in sound engineering and decided she needed technical skills to enhance her repertoire and enrolled at NMIT last year.

The CD was recorded at NMIT's studios at the Fairfield campus, then outsourced for mixing and mastering.

Alex said the musical style of the CD was 'acoustic, folk, country based' and Lou and her invited other Melbourne musicians including Jen Anderson playing violin and viola, Caewen Martin on cello, Liz Stringer on banjo, Dustin McLean on keyboard, and Ken Pattugalan on electric guitar as well as singers Kavisha Mazzella and Lisa Maza to play with them to achieve the sounds they wanted.

Alex was pushing buttons and helping record as she played and sang.

'It was a challenging and exciting time as I had a chance to engineer and perform at the same time.

'We wanted to do it ourselves instead of going to a record company so we could maintain control. The CD far exceeds our expectations. It's the first we've done and we never thought we'd get there.'

The CD will be available at leading music retailers in early May.

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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.