When I finished high school, I walked blindly into the wide world. Vague notions rattled around my pubescent brain of career aspirations, next steps or long term goals, but mostly my thoughts were consumed with beer, weed and skateboarding.
For Louie Swain and Patrick Hetherington, life after Year 12 is about as different as llamas and lettuces. The duo, still just 18 and 17 years old respectively, have already supported Bob Evans, Husky, and Donavon Frankenreiter among others, had tracks on loop on national radio and had bookings for numerous gigs and festivals, as well as having not one but a collection of bands on the go.
The pair make up fifty percent of Potato Potato, an upbeat folk-pop outfit featured on Triple J Unearthed and contender for the Unearthed High awards. Spawned, as with so much of Byron Shire’s musical talent, from the Rudolph Steiner school, they have been given a superb start, by their own admittance, but that’s not to suggest there isn’t more than a teaspoon of natural talent, hard work and dedication in their recipe for success.
“We’re pretty inspired ourselves,” says Louie, “but pragmatically, it [Byron Steiner school] has definitely pushed us in the right direction. The music teacher, Tom Whittaker, has been such a great help in getting us gigs and promotion and the business side of things. He’s been so supportive.”
Perhaps Louie and Patrick have been lucky to have found kindred musos in each other and in such a musically encouraging region as Byron Bay, as they happily admit themselves, but there’s no denying, given their unwavering passion and superb talent, that they would have made an impression wherever they were. Louie was born in the Blue Mountains, moving to Byron at a young age, Patrick coming to the area from Armidale at the start of high school, and Byron has given them a continual venue for their music.
“We’ve never struggled to get gigs in Byron,” says Patrick. “There’s always so much going on and everyone’s so supportive. There’s such a huge range of people and, through that, a huge variety of music here, so everyone is so open, musically.”
It is as a two-piece that this latter part of 2014 is really seeing them shine. Louie and Patrick the band is somewhat of an indulgence. The pair are no less dedicated to their first child, in Potato Potato, but their passion for music in all its diversity is unable to be sated by one band alone. Stripped back, laid bare and opulent in its simplicity, Louie and Patrick is another face to the boys’ talents.
“Louie and Patrick is something we like to do on the side,” muses Louie. “It’s just as a little refresher, because we’ve got heaps of different bands going at the moment.”
“We’ve been working on a new project called Parcels,” adds Patrick. “It’s more sort of electronica, so we’ve been really getting into that. We try to do a bit of everything – we like a wide range of music so it’s great to play different genres.”
Some have said there are flavours of Simon and Garfunkel in the band’s styling. Sure they have harmonies, but so did the Bee Gees and the Geneva Boys’ Choir, but there are no parallels there. No, Louie and Patrick are significantly different from Paul and Art, acoustic harmony in modern times, far more akin to The Whitest Boy Alive – slash – Kings of Convenience or a band they love to cover, Alt-J.
A long way from campfire-strumming and teen tinklings, there is a very significant maturity to Louie and Patrick, the gamut of their musical education culminating in a sound that is as polished and multi-layered as it is laid bare; two voices, twelve strings and harmonies so deep you can bathe in them.
Their Parcels side project has also helped them in their acoustic guise, the computer-based music making assisting in the production and post-production of Louie and Patrick tracks. “Because we make all the electronic stuff on the computer, we get our heads around that side of things way more,” reflects Patrick. “It has definitely helped with recording the Louie and Patrick tracks.”
“We’ve found a great love for doing the producing and recording ourselves,” adds Louie. “It just gives us so much more freedom and control over the end result.”
Despite a certain familiarity to their sound, Louie and Patrick have definitely put their own stamp on their sound. They unquestionably fit an acoustic-folk genre, but they do it their way. This professionalism and uniqueness has got them noticed, and not least when busking on Byron’s high street or at one of the more musically inclined cafes.
Warming the Byron Community Centre stage for Bob Evans, playing at Byron Bay’s Film and Surf Festivals and jamming with Jinja Safari, Husky, The Black Sorrows and Donavon Frankenreiter, Louie and Patrick are wrapping up ’14 with back-to-back festivals.
Showcasing the release of their second album, We Are Not Convinced There Has Been Any Significant Improvement, the Woodford Folk Festival will be stop one for the duo, playing four gigs across three venues and four days at the expansive event. Certainly indicative of their style, Woodford is the perfect venue for the duo. Less than a day after their final Woodford performance, Louie and Patrick will be back home in Byron, taking to the stage for the Falls Festival on New Year’s Day.
“We’re so excited to play Woodford again,” says Louie. “We played there a few years ago with another band and it was the best fun.” “We had such a good response,” Patrick interjects. “It’s one of our favourite festivals, even just to hang out at, so it will be great to play again. We’re playing at Woodford on New Year’s Eve at six o’ clock and then driving straight back down to Byron to play a gig in the morning at Falls. It’s going to be so damn heavy but heaps of fun!”
Louie and Patrick have teamed up with numerous other Byron musicians, working with Kyle Lionhart and assisting Ziggy Alberts on his newly released album, and this is something the pair would like to pursue, connecting and uniting the local music scene in collaboration.
“For our next album, we’re thinking of doing some collaborations,” Patrick alludes. “There are a whole lot of Byron artists we’d like to have on the album with us. We really want to showcase the range of local artists.”
Despite the end of this year focussing primarily on the Louie and Patrick partnership, looking to the future it is little more than a side project, an indulgence of the stripped bare acoustics of the two piece, and intentionally so. As a downsized band, it allows them to maintain the simplicity so inherent and so vital to their sound.
“It’s nice to keep Louie and Patrick small,” says Louie. “It’s good to come back to every now and then.”
“We do want to keep playing and maybe touring around and stuff like that,” adds Patrick, “but it’s nice to keep it really raw and play the simple kind of songs we want to play.”
Whether it’s with Potato Potato, in their electronic alter ego of Parcels or as Louie and Patrick, post high school life is set to be as busy as it is exciting for the duo, and it’s clear that, whichever direction they choose, their enthusiasm and talents will be taking these two Byron kids to great heights.
Follow them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/louieandpatrickbandbyronbay
Or stream their album, We Are Not Convinced There Has Been Any Significant Improvement, on BandCamp: louieandpatrick.bandcamp.com
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on Nov 26, 2014