Remote songwriter duo ready to go on tour | Liverpool City Champion
By the time guitarist Mick Turner and singer Helen Franzmann met, they had written almost enough music to fill three albums.
Turner, best known as one-third of the rock band Dirty Three, has performed with Nick Cave, Kurt Vile and Cat Power, while Franzmann performed under the moniker McKisko for over a decade.
Turner was looking for a singer in 2020 when a friend recommended Franzmann, and the result is the Mess Esque partnership, which has so far seen two albums, a series of dates at home and now a US tour.
The prolific duo had unorthodox beginnings — closing state borders due to COVID-19 meant they had to compose music over email.
Lockdowns have become an intensely creative time for the couple despite their location in Melbourne, with Franzmann based in Brisbane, Turner told AAP.
“Helen wrote most of the lyrics. I would send in a simple piece of music and she would improvise on it and write lyrics or melodic lines and send it back,” he said.
The process has resulted in two albums so far. Dream #12 was released in April 2021, the second self-tipped album later the same year, with enough tracks remaining for album number three.
Mess Esque’s sound can be described as ethereal, with music press reviews drawing comparisons to dream pop and The Velvet Underground.
Their launch into live shows was nowhere near as smooth as Franzmann’s otherworldly vocals, with seasoned performer Turner admitting their first full-scale show opening for Ed Kuepper and Jim White at the Rising festival in Melbourne was a nervous time.
“It was quite difficult. We didn’t play the songs as they were recorded, we didn’t play together, and we didn’t change much to rehearse,” he said.
“We were really nervous, but everything went well, and we’ve certainly improved a lot since then.”
Like many music groups, Mess Esque had to cancel dozens of shows during the pandemic, including a date at the Opera for the 2021 VIVID festival.
But things are looking up – the duo have been invited to Wilco’s Solid Sound festival in Massachusetts and are booked on a three-week US tour.
In his typically understated way, Turner’s response is that it’s “nice to be invited.”
“It’s the kind of old-school festival where it’s actually held and they pick bands that they find interesting. I’m pretty flattered they asked us,” he said.
“A lot of festivals now, they actually choose the programming by algorithm, based on the number of social media visits and things like that.”
Mess Esque will play a series of dates on the east coast before heading overseas, with shows in Melbourne and regional Victoria, as well as Adelaide and Sydney in May.
Australian Associated Press