“Often [gypsy jazz] songs are quite fast.”
For those novice gypsy jazz fans, let The Furbelows’ Kelsey James school you about the subgenre. “It's the energy in it that I really love. There's an opportunity for guitar players to shred, because I guess that’s what they're doing but in a really melodic and easy-to-listen to sort of way.”
Kelsey, one of the three vocalists for the Melbourne band, explains their sound as “manouche gypsy jazz, [or] French gypsy jazz combined with three-part closed harmony vocals similar to the Andrew Sisters or the Mills Brothers”.
For those who don't know what gypsy jazz is, Kelsey explains that French gypsy-man Django Reinhardt is the figurehead for this genre and developed the style after he lost two fingers when a fire ravaged his caravan. “[This genre is] usually acoustic. Traditionally it would be two or three guitars, a double bass and fiddle player … Oftentimes, a clarinet player will join in. But it's always acoustic instruments. I love singing with acoustic guitars because it's such a natural instrument.
"I think it really brings out the warmth in my voice. It's quite virtuosic. I guess in a way, because I have a punk background – it can be very intense, but people listening to it, well, it usually makes them feel very happy and want to dance. And when you watch the guys playing you can see that they are working really, really hard,” Kelsey laughs.
“At the risk of sounding cheesy, people call [our performances] very joyous. We work really hard at what we do in arranging the songs, and then on stage we have a lot of fun. We really enjoy being there, we really enjoy each other, we love the songs. It's very happy music mixed with a couple of tearjerkers, but mostly we're just having a really good time.”
The good times aren't coming to a halt anytime soon, either. “We want to work on some new material, get some new songs together. We have just done a little recording that we're going to sell at OzManouche – it's a seven song recording, but we'd like to plan a full album early next year. We'd also really like to tour Europe in the middle of next year. Also, we want to start playing some more festivals.”
The Furbelows play OzManouche at the Brisbane Jazz Club November 29.