Hits and Memories
Brisbane synth band Tycho Brahe is winning a worldwide network of fans, writes Jason Nahrung.
Normally, being grabbed in a headlock and having a man run his knuckles across your noggin isn't a favoured memory of a night.
But when those knuckles belong to Peter Hook, bassist for seminal band New Order, it's a different matter.
Ken Evans's eyes light up as he tells the story of his encounter with the bassist after the famed Manchester band toured Australia in 2002.
"We saw New Order at the Big Day Out on the Gold Coast and then at Sydney. We found out where they were staying and went to the cigar bar at the Stamford at Double Bay. Peter Hook grabbed me in a headlock and knuckled the top of my head and said, 'God bless you'. I didn't wash my head for a year."
Evans (guitar, vocals), with wife, vocalist and keyboardist Georgina Emery, forms the core of Brisbane band Tycho Brahe.
With Andy Walls on keyboards and Francis Tohill on electronic drums, the band is about to launch its latest '80s-inspired album, Atlantic.
Evans names Human League, New Order, Giorgio Moroder and Berlin among the influences who led him to start making music.
A stint fronting bands in Adelaide led to the foundation of Tycho Brahe after Evans moved to Brisbane in the early '90s.
The band, who started gigging in 1995, launched an album in 2000 and followed it up with a covers/remix album the year after and a single in 2003.
The new album was recorded in Evans' home studio and completed in February last year. Delays with labels and production mean the end product is only now hitting the factory in the US.
The home studio, constantly being updated with new - and classic - technology, is part and parcel of the band's do-it-yourself ethic.
Emery learnt keyboards by rote when the band needed a keyboardist.
"I agreed to a gig and didn't have a band," Evans says. "We are all self-taught. Andy had organ lessons as a kid, but his teacher told him, 'Stop wasting my time and your mother's money'."
That work ethic in part led the band to its distinctive title, named after a 16th-century Danish astronomer. "Brahe was self-taught, his fundamentals were flawed by he got the right answers," Evans says. "Well, we're self-taught, we bumble around, probably break some rules, but the result is right."
While it's a home-grown album, Atlantic was made with a strong eye on the overseas market, where the first album, Cassiopeia, scored about 75 per cent of its sales.
"By calling the album Atlantic we're trying to make the most of markets in the US and Germany," Evans says. "There's a scene here but it's not really large enough to support a major release and distribution. Germany is still going strong; bands like Depeche Mode are still huge there, while they don't tour here any more."
The domestic electronica scene is championed by acts such as Melbourne's Tankt and Angel Theory, with whom Tycho Brahe have played and collaborated. But while the southerners have taken the music into the industrial and dance realms, Tycho Brahe continue to keep the '80s pop sensibility alive.
There are still plenty of ears ready to tune in, too. Tycho's first single from Atlantic, Don't Feel That Way, as well as two other Tycho tracks, are charting in the Top 10 at US music site Electrogarden.com, a testament to the power of the World Wide Web to help artists reach audiences.
"It simply wouldn't be possible without the Internet," Evans says. "When we signed with US label Coahaagen, they put out a press release and one of the responses they got was from Russia saying 'glad to hear Tycho are back'. If you do a search on the single you'll get hits from Mexico, Poland, Russia... We went quiet for a bit and even though we were still doing the occasional gig, the rest of the world thought we'd vanished. So we want to make the most of our momentum now and build our fan base."
That means a busy 2006, with a second single on the way, a remix album featuring the likes of Boxcar, Real Life and Tankt, and recording a second Tycho album.
Don't Feel That Way is out now through Cohaagen/Metropolis. www.tycho.com.au