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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Singer Tribes of Sydney

Hello there,

I'm writing a novel. There, I've said it so now I really have to do it! It's 'chick lit' - a year in the rollercoaster life of 4 best friends who are all singers living in Sydney. Hmm, sound at all familiar?

Anyway, here is a small excerpt from the current draft where the protagonist Clare is describing the different types of singers she's discovered since leaving the corporate world and becoming a professional performer. I'd love to get comments on this from Sydney singers - or people familiar with Sydney singers! Obviously I am trying to poke fun here. I think I'm allowed to, since I have had at least one foot on each of these tribal grounds at some time and you always have permission to tease your own family.

Skinny Indie singers are cool in a geeky way. But don't call them 'indie' because they don't like labels. The female members of this tribe often scorn make-up and wear masculine jeans with t-shirts that belong to their boyfriends. Or they go to the other extreme and wear really girly 'Op Shop' which of course has now been rebranded 'vintage'. They wear obnoxiously loud lipstick against pale skin. It is hip to wear glasses in this tribe, the thicker the rims the better. Long hair and facial hair, along with ironic cowboy shirts and skinny jeans are pretty much mandatory for the male scenesters. A lot of time and effort goes into looking ungroomed. Skinny Indies disdain anything played on commercial radio and only like bands that you haven't heard of, until you start hearing of them, at which point they are dropped by the Indie kids for selling out. Even if they aren't students, they live like them to satisfy their artistic integrity. They don't earn much money as singers because they refuse to sing covers of other people's songs - except for covers of songs from very obscure Indie bands. Playing their own 'original' songs only earns them a small percentage of the 'door' - the fee paid by the similarly cash-strapped hipsters who come to see these bands play at indie hangouts. But they are happy to suffer for their art, indeed, that's where the songs come from man. It is more about 'vibe' than the accuracy of the notes and sounding lo-fi is a good thing. They joke about blowing up Talent Schools but may well have been kicked out of one as a kid. On stage they'd rather gaze at their Converse Chucks than make eye contact with the audience. The Cabaret Crew think they're wankers. The Pop Tarts say they can't sing to save themselves.

The CABARET CREW.  This tribe inhabits the RSL, Bowling and Leagues Clubs that most suburbs of Sydney boast. Their audience remembers the Second World War and so the tribe members feel obliged to rely heavily on slapstick, wigs and mother-in-law jokes to entertain them. Some of the members have absconded from other tribes and there's no upper age limit for membership of this clan. This is where Pop Tarts go after they die. The Crew think of themselves as real singers and can usually dance in any style, as long as it was a style developed before 1983. They probably went to Talent School. They have stage names and carry around promotional photos that have been highly airbrushed. There are strict rules surrounding stagecraft and it is obligatory to own a wardrobe full of sequinned costumes and theatrical make-up. When they aren't singing, they are calling the Bingo or Meat Raffle within their local habitat. The Cabaret Crowd pride themselves on being true entertainers. The Pop Tarts think they are naff. The Indies think the Cabaret Crew are even more naff than the Pop Tarts.

The POP TARTS. Pride comes from being able to make enough money for rent from singing, if you're a Pop Tart. Whether it be at a funeral or bah mitsvah, doing the chicken dance or belting out the latest top 10 international chart hit, you can always count on a Pop Tart to perform in exchange for cash. They are the tribe most likely to change their names, get plastic surgery and fake tans or straighten their teeth but also consider themselves 'spiritual'. They have probably been on a diet since Talent School. Everything a Pop Tart does, at work or play, is simply a step along the path to pop stardom. Collecting famous names you have worked with for your resume is vital if you're a Pop Tart. Until of course you become a famous name yourself. Sometimes Pop Tarts write their own songs, but they are just as happy to pair up with a producer and songwriter as long as they get to show off how high they can sing and how long they can hold a perfectly pitched note.
A sub genus of Pop Tarts, who fraternise readily with the 'Tarts themselves, is the Weekend Warrior. The Weekenders are accountants and public servants during the week and rock gods in party bands after hours. They take their weekend rocking very seriously but are not willing to give up their middle class income to do it full time. They are less talented but more organised than the Pop Tarts. Skinny Indies sneer at the Pop Tarts. The Cabaret Crew don't think they are true professionals but secretly aspire to be a Pop Tart themselves."

Phew, glad I got that off my chest. See you next time,


  1. Brilliant Amanda, love it! Looking forward to your book : ) Fi