“Looks like an orchestra; acts like a band; feels like a live movie” … Greta Kelly, violinist with deepblue, highlights just how this fantastic music ensemble will live up to this quote when they visit the Glasshouse this month.
What’s the history behind deepblue?
It was started in 2004 by Darren Clark and Andy Arthurs. They were in awe at the amount of potential a modern orchestra could have. There had been groups like Pink Floyd that had a large and open sound. They were, in many ways, the orchestras of the ‘60s and ‘70s. deepblue was an attempt to connect this with the large acoustic orchestras of the past, who had sadly lost their way and were mostly museum pieces.
The first job was to scrape up enough money to even consider such a large project. They did that by applying for Australian Research Council funding to investigate ‘the sustainable orchestra of the 21st century’. Getting the original members of the group was an easy task – so many musicians were of like mind. Many string players had spent years of musical training only to find that there was not really anywhere exciting to go at the end of it. Many electronic musicians were bored with the ‘press play’ mentality of the digital era. They set out to question EVERY aspect of the orchestra. Their pilot performance was at QUT in the Brisbane Festival in 2006. Since 2007, they have performed well over 100 times in many countries.
What’s your role with the group?
I play violin, kamanche tarhu (a Persian style spike-fiddle made by Peter Biffen of Armidale) and theramin (one of the first electronic instruments). I became involved early in deepblue’s development, back in 2005, when our costume was one-armed dinner suits!
I also help facilitate youngblue workshops that we do with the local string playing children in the towns we visit. A couple of weeks before we arrive in town, we send them sheet music, ask them to memorise it, and then in the workshop we fine tune it and get the kids to come up with all sorts of choreography, which they perform for the whole group. Then, during the deepblue show, the young violin, viola, cello and double-bass players play an ABBA song, and we join in with them at the end. Anyone interested in being a part of youngblue should go to www.youngblue.net.au
Where did the name deepbluecome from?
An idea that you can do anything if you believe in the limitless depths of possibility. We wanted a name that felt vast – orchestras have such a vast range of sound colours and power.
How many members are in the group – and what instruments do they play?
There are about 16 string and electronic musicians in deepblue. We’ve got an even gender balance and a big age range: 21 – 45. Age is not that important, but attitude is. The members of deepblue are a great bunch of people, full of ideas and fun, as everyone will see who comes to the show. We have a full range of string players, from the violins to the double bass. We also have a DJ, VJ, keyboard player, electronic drummer, electric guitar, digital sound manipulator and A/V and lighting operator. We also have a theremin player – a quirky electronic instrument from the 1920s.
What genres of music does the group play?
deepblue has many different moods; we play everything from Barber, to Bowie to Bollywood. Nothing is ruled out. So we ask the audience to sms us before, during and after the show with their ideas for new music and anything else they want to comment on. As a result, we do Rock and Pop music, Classical music, Film music. You name it – we’ll do it. Of course, we don’t sit down obediently in front of a conductor. We rock out on stage and wear out a lot of shoe leather! We also go and play in the audience and the foyer.
“Looks like an orchestra; acts like a band; feels like a live movie” … that’s a tall order! How does deepblue go about living up to this quote?
We like to understate what we do. We don’t really look like an orchestra, because there are amps and sound gear everywhere. We don’t act like a band either; we ARE a band. We’re a band in orchestra’s clothing! And we are much more than a movie … more fun, more presence and definitely more real and 3 dimensional.
What’s it like when deepblue goes on the road for extended periods of time?
Because we’re all involved with multiple projects, it’s hard to actually spend much time relaxing with each other when we’re home in Brisbane. So what’s great about being on tour is we have a break from our busy lives and get to hang out and see this big country of ours. Of course, there’s usually a youngblue workshop and a deepblue show to do every second day, but we also find time to jam with each other, which has led to an informal shared repertoire of tunes from computer games to Jazz hits.
What do you hope people young and old will experience when they see deepblue?
I hope kids are inspired to practice their instrument! I hope their parents are amazed at what they can do, and I hope the teenage big sister likes the Muse song we play and maybe will accept the next orchestra ticket her granny gives her. I hope that our audiences leave different to when they arrived, that they have had a great evening with their friends, that they met the band and that they talk about all the amazing things they experienced during the show. We hope that later they will sms us and tell us how they felt about it too.
How extensive is the current tour?
We’re going for the best part of a month to NWS, Victoria and South Australia. This will be the last chance to see this show. I’m looking forward to getting some Port Macquarie sand between my toes on the 18th August. We’re revisiting a couple of deepblue haunts, including Orange, Bathurst and Melbourne, and we’re going new places like Dubbo, Bendigo and Mt Gambier across in S.A. I think there’s a large fiddle following in Tamworth, so I’m looking forward to that youngblue workshop. We’re planning lots of exciting new things for the future.
Interview by Jo Atkins.