They say to build a house you gotta start from the ground up, and no one knows that better than steel-nerved Sydney troubadour Alex Cameron. Having already built a sturdy, impressive triplex as part of local electronic experimentalists Seekae, Cameron decided to branch off and do a few jobs on the side solo, constructing emotive, gritty stadium pop anthems on a backyard shed budget. Pre-empting his own failure, Cameron titled his debut album Jumping the Shark, getting it out of his system and proving he had the guts to go it alone regardless of the result. Cameron partnered up with CEO of hard yakka and saxophonist Roy Molloy, and on any given night in the past four years you would have found the duo spruiking their wares in some foreign city, performing to an evolving audience and furthering their trade. Somewhere along the line they found the time to craft a second record, Forced Witness.
Dogged self-starters always on the move, Cameron and Molloy clocked on and made it clear they didn’t intend on checking out. “If you want to get a deal and you don’t necessarily think you’ve made a record that deserves it, which is where I was, you have to show the industry that you are willing to work. I think a big part of Secretly [Canadian] signing us was they saw that we’d destroyed our personal lives for the sake of the work. Which in the long run has been better for my mental health,” Cameron says.
“My mental health is really strong on the road, compared to when I’m stationary, and I certainly can’t afford rent. It sucks because I gotta leave my girl, and I don’t want to do that, but if I stayed here I’d be broke.”
With their combined talents, relentless work ethic, and a couple of years of hard grind and experience under their belt, it’s an altogether more spectacular structure – still disarmingly frank, stirring songs about lovers, losers and larrikins, but this time around with all the slick finishes of a trophy home. For now, though, the duo find themselves more or less homeless. “We try not to use that word, we prefer ‘between homes’,” says Molloy. “Self-employed, between homes, instead of unemployed and homeless,” Cameron reaffirms. You’ve got to spend money to make money apparently, a concept Cameron and Molloy are only too familiar with. “We’ve been losing for the past two years, but the feedback from everyone seems to be that we’re doing really well … but I don’t have any money. You got any money?” Cameron asks Molloy. “Nope. We’ll have some money soon though, it’s coming in,” he says.
In exchange for their apprenticeship on the live circuit, Cameron and Molloy have become a bona fide live force, earning a global clientele in the process. “When I was just starting to get into music, the mentality was – write your songs, get a hit and then do your touring,” Cameron says. “But I’ve found the most effective has just been to play every night of the week if you can, in different cities, doesn’t matter where, you can go and you can earn your followers. There’s a few places in the world that feel like hometown shows – L.A., Paris, New York, London, Berlin. It’s starting to feel like we’ve got this little constellation, the map is getting filled in and we’re returning to crowds now. It’s always surprising when there’s more and more people each time.”
The past three years have been a steep learning curve for Cameron and Molloy, but business is about to pop. They’ve come out the other side with their sanity, the job they want, a stellar second album – not to mention each other. The duo completed an Australian national tour earlier this year, with pit stops on the Laneway Festival circuit, and have showed no signs of slowing down – with performances slated across the United States, Canada and Scandinavia in the coming months. “People will come to you, but they don’t come to you if you’re sitting still. No one’s really that excited to jump on a train that’s sitting still. You want the steam kicking up and the wheels spinning so that people have got to run and jump on, and they get a little exhilarated.”
“All your mates are like, ‘How the fuck did you get that gig?’ And you’re like ‘I dunno, guess I just turned up … ’”
PHOTOGRAPHY Mitchell McLennan
FASHION Kate Carnegie
TALENT Alex Cameron and Roy Molloy
HAIR Junya Nakashima
MAKEUP Kaori Yamamoto
STYLIST’S ASSISTANT Teagan Poppy Buntz