This month The Syncopaths play their musical stylings at The Armidale Club. FOCUS talks with the entire band: Georgie Chorley, Ruth Strutt, Steve Thorneycroft, Dave Van Tongeren and Benn Tracy. Warning: may contain traces of hilariousness!
Who are The Syncopaths? S: Who are we all, really? D: I suppose a polite way would be to say we’re a bit of a “mixed” bunch (laughs). G: We’ve got a variety of backgrounds … We’re all trained professionals! B: Makes it great fun to play in band where everyone is bringing a wealth of experience. R: In order of appearance, we are: Ruth Strutt, aka “Diva Synco”- vocals, avocado, apple, cable plugger-in-and outer-er; Georgie Chorley, aka “Grumpy Synco” – trumpet, vocals, melodica, duck call, ukulele, ALL OTHER THINGS; Steve Thorneycroft, aka “Grandpa Synco” – guitars; Benn Tracy, aka “Suzie Synco” – sousaphone, trumpet, vocals; Dave Van Tongeren, aka “El Relaxo Synco” – drums, percussion.
What style of music would you say that you play?
R: We have a lot of fun with the whole “style” thing. We basically start with well known and popular songs which we morph and twist into styles where you’d think they don’t belong. But you do afterwards!
G: We’ve got Led Zeppelin, Tom Jones, Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga, Gloria Gaynor, Black Eyed Peas (S: “We do?”), Oasis, Aloe Black, Gnarles Barkley … everyone! How many have styles have you actually covered now?
G: Probably easier to think about what we haven’t explored … but we indulge in Polka, Lounge Jazz, Gypsy, Tango, Celtic, Dixie… So nothing run of the mill, then?
B: Funk, Bossa, and French Folk Jazz – can’t forget the French Folk Jazz!
D: We seriously have to try heavy metal; we haven’t done that yet …
R: Oh, the best one, seriously, is the Transylvanian Gypsy Jazz (laughs)!
Is that even a real thing? D: It is now! B: We also like to find songs that have the same sounds and styles and mash them up a bit.
I think we have an unofficial cap of four songs in one song, but who’s counting! R: It’s called a “medley”, Benn. S: Mind you, the My Sharona/Doctor Who/Smoke on the Water/Get Smart medley is beginning to get out of hand …
What is The Syncopath experience?
R: We’re good fun. Some people think it’s a bit random, but we explore songs and styles like we’re having a good chat at a party.
S: It’s a finely tuned, well coordinated creative machine. If you recall the bands who appeared on the ABC show Spicks & Specks to play alternate versions of songs that you know … well, it’s a bit like that. So you never play things the same way?
B: We like to explore “on the fly”.
G: Steve goes off on one of his tangents, and that’s it, we’re off! That’s the “live” music experience though, isn’t it? It’s like Jazz in that way. We get to work with musos who like to challenge themselves and the audience and have a good fun time while doing so.
B: Our version of entertainment is to take everyone’s favourites, old and new, and put them into a bizarre new setting. It’s like watching a venerable aunt get dressed up like a clown and start dancing after a few glasses of sherry! Weird, but strangely exciting …
S: I don’t want to know how you know that, Benn.
D: Seems to work though; we’ve done pub gigs, restaurants, festivals, weddings, corporate celebrations … We’re yet to meet someone who hasn’t had fun experiencing what we do!
R: Always love our sessions at The Armidale Club – awesome atmosphere!
B: Come hang out with us if you like to sing and dance along with songs you know, love a good laugh and quality musicianship.
D: Once you’ve heard Benn’s miscellaneous Eastern Bloc accent singing I Will Survive, well, I don’t know what you’ll do.
S: We don’t know what to do about him …
Any interesting anecdotes you could share from your journey together so far?
D: I have to say most of our gigs are great fun for both us and audience alike.
B: Watching people figure out that what we’re playing is actually their favourite song approximately halfway through and then seeing them join in dancing a Tango … Brilliant!
R: Remember the spoons?
R: Our first drummer, Chris, decided that amongst his various random percussion bits to use he should do a spoon solo. So there we were practicing a Mexican Mariachi version of Final Countdown (as you do) at Georgie’s house, and he starts off on this mad spoon solo. It was so hilariously awesome, until Georgie finally twigged and interrupted the hilarity to ask where he got the spoons. Turns out he raided the fine china cabinet and nicked her Grandma’s family heirloom silverware to crack together.
G: Wasn’t too happy about that!
B: Personally, I like it when Ruth and Dave torture Georgie on the melodica in our French jazz rendition of Hotel California. She gets that main solo to play, and they keep cranking it faster and faster. Bit of a workout!
S: And I have to double her solo on my guitar …
G: Certainly puts the old lungs and fingers to the test!
What instruments do you all play?
B: What haven’t we got?
D: Well, Suzie Sousaphone features pretty prominently.
B: Yeah, bit hard to miss a giant white monstrosity in the middle of the band.
R: And also the giant tuba on your shoulders is pretty noticeable, Benn!
B: Very funny! Other than that, we’ve got Steve’s series of sweet guitars, Georgie’s got her melodica, trumpet, flugel, and ukulele, Dave hits lots of things (R: Need more cowbell, Dave?)
G: Benn also dabbles on the trumpet and whatever that awful Japanese contraption was you got.
What was it …?
B: Otamatone. The singing plastic face that’s the modern cousin of the theremin.
S: We did try theremin – should resurrect that idea.
R: There’s also a stylophone.
G: And we all get to play kazoos.
S: Not to mention Ruth on the avocado. Avocado shaker, that is.
D: Georgie’s Mum made that, didn’t she?
G: Sure did.
D: Awesome piece of premium equipment.
B: Oh, and Georgie’s duck call solo – pure art!
How did you actually start?
B: Well, we’re all highly trained musicians who got tired of hearing the same covers of songs over and over again.
S: It’s all really Georgie’s fault. She basically said, “We’re making a band with you and you and you …” She knew it’d work, though, and what everyone’s different personalities would bring to the band.
R: We got together over a few dinners (B: and wines, whiskies and possibly more wine …) at Georgie’s place and talked about how many songs might be “improved” by warping them into some other style.
B: And ultimately gave in to our twisted senses of humour and started experimenting. (S: With the songs, that is!) Best fun we’d had in ages.
S: It basically stems from our love of all music genres and our experience, training and backgrounds in everything from music theatre through avant-garde concert repertoire, early music, orchestras, Jazz, Soul, cover bands and everything in between.
G: Although we have spent a lot of time bringing Steve up to speed with who all the modern Pop artists are. For a man who’s been in a hundred bands …
D: He’s still in a hundred bands! We’re lucky to steal his time!
How do people get in contact with you for bookings etc?
Facebook: The Syncopaths
Call The Doctor
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Interplanetary cross dimensional access code 513846252.