Like an out-of-focus, faded photo in a dusty frame inevitably recalls nostalgic memories of a time gone by Melbourne outfit Buddy Holliday’s lingering tunes have the ability to transport you back to the recollections of summer, friends and never ending hangouts. The remembered fragments of having the time of your life. And it’s all pretty simple, really. Three good friends, a bunch of talent, and the urge to make music that they just want to listen to themselves.
I am meeting Jahan Kumarasinhe, the man behind Buddy Holliday, on a rainy afternoon in May at a café on Brunswick St, Melbourne. Packed away in a damp corner between strangers downing coffees we attempt to create our own illusory hub where Buddy Holliday is the center of attention. Jahan has a subtle excitement in his eyes. This is his first interview he later tells me.
‘I tried to get the others to come, but they’re all just tied up and so busy’ Jahan explains to me immediately. Not an uncommon thing here in Melbourne I’ve learned, where it is more customary being in five bands rather than just one. By the others Jahan is referring to Calum Newton and Bryce Wilson, the two other band members in Buddy Holliday completing the union of three friends, former soccer teammates and musicians.
After about 20 minutes of me rambling on about Denmark and the music scene there, a subject Jahan immediately finds very interesting, I finally turn the attention towards him and ask the simplest, most frequently used first question: How did it all start?
J: It started when I was up in Lennox Head, Byron Bay. I had heaps of spare time and I had a piano, a drum kit, a guitar, and I was playing around with all of them. I just thought: Well, maybe I should try to learn how to record, too. I basically ended up doing that all summer and making a couple of EP’s. So, about May last year I moved down here and I started playing with Calum and Bryce. We did shows but started recording together, too. It all just had a very natural progression, really’.
Natural progression seems to be a keyword in the philosophy of it all. All of Jahan’s stories revolve around things happening very effortlessly, in no way forced and as a part of a movement steadily drifting in it’s own pace. There is an ease about him and his thoughts on Buddy Holliday. I recognize it in the music, too.
K: You stated on Facebook that your newest release ‘Victoria Street’ was going to be something really different. Different how?
J: Well working on that with Calum and Bryce made it different. They both got very personal musical sensibility and they’ve got their own style. Bryce has a hard kind of drumming style; it’s really a lot of kick and snare drum, crash too, and Calum is really good with the guitar and bass. I mean, I’m still writing the songs but when they played them it became something very different. It’s good, I think. It’s a better way of doing stuff because otherwise it gets really cagey, just you being by yourself.
K: Is it always like that? Obviously, you have an idea in your head when you’re writing a song and then some other people contribute with their input – is that always a good thing?
J: Yeah, it’s nice when you have a song and a day of recording, and you just decide to work on it and sees what comes out by the end of the day. And whatever it was you just go with it.
The latter statement gets us talking about the difficulties of recording and getting that ‘perfect’ output. Jahan doesn’t seem too worried about that, though. He explains how it is more about getting stuff out there than having a flawless sound. At one point he found himself blocked creatively and after throwing away enough material for a whole album he really just wanted to get something done and released. Victoria Street is the result of this.
J: There was just no double thinking it, going back and throwing a bunch of stuff in and then not liking it. Once it was done, it was done. I think that works for me.
Jahan mentions this several times which confirms my initial hunch with Buddy Holliday. When it all comes down to it, it’s not really all that complicated. Good music can come in a first try. Buddy Holliday is an example of just that.
K: What are the elements for a good song for Buddy Holliday?
J: Uh! Well, I just want to be able to listen to it later and like it, really. To feel comfortable that it is a nice song. But yeah, all of the songs – I think at least – have a pretty consistent sound because they’re all done in such a short amount of time. That definitely makes it cohesive. Also having an idea about writing an album about something specific, like Victoria Street for us for instance…
K: Yeah, what is it with you guys and Victoria Street? What’s the appeal since you guys mention it so much?
J: Well, I moved there and I guess it was my first proper home after moving out. It’s this crazy street; heaps of people on different walks of life. Just really a massive multicultural melting pot of people new to the city, people who has lived their whole life there etc. It just felt like Melbourne to me.
We talk about Melbourne for a while. I’ve thought about it a lot after coming here and realizing how many people make the move to this specific city. It’s almost inevitably Jahan explains me. Sydney’s too expensive, and he has done Brisbane. Melbourne is something new, a fresh start and endless possibilities.
K: What reactions have you received on the music after coming here?
J: Some people have said that they’ve been intimate with other people to the album. Which I honestly felt was kind of weird but also nice. Ha, some friends even said they’ve cried to some of the songs (Jahan laughs). It’s kind of funny but also weird. I mean, that’s my voice, just hangin’ around… But nah, really, the most flattering is someone who told me that listening to Buddy Holliday reminded him of summer, surfing and hanging out. You know – it mattered to someone. I think that’s the best you can ever hope for.
The new album is in the drafting stages Jahan tells me. When I ask how far along it is he pauses and gives me a percentage: 70. Better than 60 Jahan proclaims and laughs. I have to admit; that’s a tough one to argue with. This leads us towards the end of the talk.
K: Any future plans? Any goals?
J: Just trying to scrape by on the money side of things – and then writing obviously. I really want to do a couple of more albums this year if I’m lucky.
I’m not too worried about the future prospects of new material from Buddy Holliday. It will come. Not overthinking it might be Jahan’s strongest weapon – besides the fact that it’s just insanely good music.