Uplifting as it is, there are ghosts of childhood bike rides and sun-faded suburban scenes haunting the Polaroid-pop of Melbourne newcomer Emmy Bryce.
It might be the hint in Emmy’s rhythms and phrasings of formative years spent watching early ’90s alt-pop stars on Saturday morning television. Or that the songs which make up Emmy’s imminent self-titled EP release were recorded amongst strung-up bed sheets and mattresses in the lounge room of her 1930s-built house.
It could simply be that there are few Australian songwriters making meaningful yet wilfully light-filled music in 2012.
With its minimal percussion opening out to forlorn woodwind and a bedroom-dancing chorus, the EP’s first single ‘Every Star Is A Setting Sun For Someone’ has already introduced Emmy as a young songwriter of tomorrow.
It isn’t difficult to pinpoint where Emmy’s talent for songwriting began. At just 13 she was layering piano and harmonies onto cassettes using her parents’ duel-deck tape player. Her older brother would listen in as she switched and labelled the numerous tapes in order not to lose her place, piecing together her compositions.
It wasn’t until high school was over, however, that Emmy considered trading her first love of acting for a microphone and a stage. From the hall of her final exam, Emmy ran to the travel agent and booked a flight to Europe. There she backpacked alone, picking up stray guitars in pubs on lonesome nights and getting her first taste of what it was like to play in front of a crowd.
Back home, a family connection found Emmy recording songs in the backyard studio of renowned songwriter Ross Wilson and picking up professional studio time from songwriting competition wins. Emmy’s sound really began to take shape, however, following a tree change to Mount Macedon, northwest of Melbourne. It was from the solitude of those hills that she contacted producer Jimi Maroudas, whose work on Tim Rogers’ The Luxury Of Hysteria and Bertie Blackman’s Secrets And Lies records displayed an affection for warm tones set into attention-grabbing melodies.
Maroudas introduced Emmy to Kate Miller-Heidke’s band member Ben McCarthy, and the pair worked further on arrangements and co-wrote the tracks featured on her self-titled EP, including ‘Every Star Is A Setting Sun For Someone’ and the modestly stunning guitar-led anthem ‘Hit The Ground.’
Not long after that meeting, Emmy relocated to Melbourne to take advantage of gig opportunities. The move also gave Emmy, Maroudas and McCarthy the environment they needed to set about recording.
“We turned my dining room into a control room and there were sheets hanging from the ceiling. I had this idea to set up one of those big canvas outdoors umbrellas in the lounge room,” Emmy tells of the recording experience. “We had that set up for three months, so I was watching TV between the umbrella, sheets, towels, doonas – everything that was giving us the sound we wanted.”
A Tupperware container filled with rice made for an inventive percussion instrument. A woodwind section was called upon: bassoon, clarinet and flute. Drum sessions for the album were undertaken at Melbourne’s famed Sing Sing Studios.
It’s the reverence for classical pop forms created with less than common instrumentation and real but measured emotion that have made a vocal fan of indie-pop maestro and recent Triple J Hottest 100 poll-topper Gotye. Former Frente! frontwoman and celebrated solo songwriter Angie Hart has become an unofficial mentor, no doubt also bonding with Emmy over her desire to seek out the positive in her lyrics. Contemporaries, should any need to be named, are found in Feist and Regina Spektor.
“I’m probably not so ‘Oh woe is me.’ I’m a very positive person and I like to put things out there that aren’t all about me all the time,” Emmy says of her songs. “I do have ballads and I have had my heart broken with the best of them, but I like writing songs that make people happy. That’s the connection I’d like to make.”
In 2012, that connection is certain to be one of the highlight discoveries of Australian audiences.