What’s the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
This is the question that I forget to ask Fern Thompsett, fiddle player for The Rusty Datsuns, and it may have been my last chance. Though the Datsuns have only been around for a handful of years, and despite their debut LP having only just arrived (‘Riverbank’), the band will be calling it quits... for a while, anyway.
"That's my fault,” admits Fern. “My sister is living in California and she's about to have a baby. We're really close so I'm gonna move over and live with her for about a year or so. The rest of the band has threatened to follow me over there. But it will definitely be our last show in Brisbane for a little while at least. We've only been going for about two-and-a-half years so there will be a little bit of a lag. But that'll be fine, West End never forgets."
Fern's words are particularly apt. The Dattos are a part of West End, after all. The band lives and breathes the Boundary St air; the suburb is their town, it's where they came together, and it's where they'll be remembered most. Yet with a following as dedicated as the one Fern's outfit has managed to accrue since its formation in 2011, it's with no quick flick of the wrist that she has decided to leave. An adamantine bond exists between Fern and her sister. It's strong, even for siblings.
"She taught me to skate, she taught me to surf. We used to spend a lot of time together growing up. It was really just the two of us. When you're surfing and you spend time out the back of the ocean with one person you become really close."
A year can often seem like quite a short amount of time in the music world, yet knowing that both your band and your friendships are being put on ice for 12 months is no less daunting. It's taken some time for The Rusty Datsuns to come to terms with Fern's departure, though the remaining members will still have enough to keep them busy. Guitarist Sian will be attending to her solo career, while Al Skinner will likely be found chilling out with Chocolate Strings. In the meantime, though, expect some teary-eyed folksters after the Dattos play their last Brisbane show at the Old Museum.
"We're all pretty sad about it to be honest. Playing with them has given me some incredible experiences and it's been tough at times as well, to be honest. But the last time I went to California it was only for two months, and I really missed them! I missed them far more than I expected to. There's been some talk of getting a new fiddler and replacing me! But there aren't that many people that play the fiddle in Brissie. All the other ones have been snapped up by other bands. You know, there's only three of us... wait, that's another exaggeration. I don't know how many there are."
Before the curtain falls, however, The Rusty Datsuns have kindly decided to help out the rest of us. As this article goes to print, all three band members and any friends or passers-by they've cajoled in are huddled around a table, sticking together a thousand individual album covers. It's fitting, without being ironic. A DIY band, departing West End with a final act of DIY madness; a debut album, made by hand. If they were Radiohead they'd just put the album online for free.
"When you fold the CD open this little storybook pops out. But what it means is that we have to make a thousand pop-up albums by hand. We've got a bit of a factory production line going at the moment. I was there from 10 in the morning until 8 at night and we made 50... which means we have 950 left to go! It'll be worth it."
Oh, and by the way. If you were wondering if there's a chance Fern may not return, put your mind at ease.
"I'll be in West End as long as you can buy a $4 kebab there. If West End wasn't in Brisbane it'd be a shithole."
The Rusty Datsuns play The Old Museum on Sunday September 15. ‘Riverbank’ is released September 13.