Brisbane's Live Music Scene Featuring Roo

If you were around Brisbane’s thriving indie music scene in 2015-16, you just may have received a curious artefact. A home-burned cd, humbly packaged, simply signed: “Love Roo XO”. However beneath the modestly presented, shy first steps into the music world is a duo who are surely destined for greatness!  

ROO is Drummer Dean Hamilton and guitarist/vocalist Roo. The two met studying music in the early noughties and bonded over a mutual interest in the interesting. They played together invarious bands and projects from jazz to pop, but felt that the music degree wasn’t for them. Life went on, Dean worked for a music promotions company and Roo believed she was done with the art altogether. In 2015 family and friends urged her to take up music again. “They Could see howmiserable I was without it, and I finally gave in.” She met up with Dean and others and they re-formed one of their old bands. During this period the two decided todo a DIY project in their home-studio, affectionately known as the dungeon. This became “Love ROO XO” and a monster was born!

Two dungeon albums in, Roo have already cultivated a masterful sound that oscillates from swamp-blues to space-ballads and takes in a healthy dose of soulful grunge on the way. They could be best described as alternative-folk, but to tag them is imprisonment from which their music would escape before the third track.They can’t settle on one tone, texture, or genre for more than five minutes, which keeps them consistently interesting, and full of surprises. Roo’s vocal goes from low and moody soul to a metal shriek that defies belief. The acoustics of their brick studio lend themselves perfectly to the rich depth of their ballads, while providing a feeling of authenticity to the upbeat tracks. They bring a plethora of influences to the table, from Radiohead to nirvana, Muse to Bob Marley.Roo’s vocals feel like Janis Joplin one moment and Cherie Curry the next, and between the two they use more instruments than Rush. The constant paradigm shifts could beunnerving, but somehow they work, feeling like chapters in a story, or movements in a symphony or prog-epic.

The arrangements are intricately crafted, which Roo believes comes out of the constant experimentation with taking covers out of their genres. They may not have enjoyed studying music but their appetite for bands of all genres and eras is evident throughout their catalogue. Though each bring very different things to the table, Roo believes the bond is down to a mutual interest inthe interesting. The lyrical content is laced with double meanings, and some songs which feel playful and light are actually profound statements about life for those who know. Their second album feels like a collection of short-stories all surrounding the same characters. They harbour a deep respect for the songs as their own entity. A highlight moment is Cold Comfort, a ballad exploring that paradoxical statement. The contrast in the title is highlighted in the juxtaposition ofRoo’s soft alto on sparse cold instrumentation. The imagery is instantly evident as she paints a picture of helplessness after love is lost.  

It is these Glimpses of brilliance that elevates this group from intriguing to utterly fascinating. Their infectious love of music and steadfast belief in their art serve them well. However one wonders ifthe secret to their success is Roo’s disregard for the orthodox. “I don’t like the idea of knowing what I’m doing most of the time. Sometimes I do stuff that probably isn’t right but I like the sound of it, and I probably wouldn’t have made it that way if I’d known what I was doing.” Her modesty is just another layer to their inexorable charm. ROO are a name to look out for in the future, they won’t be handing out home-made CDs forever. Head to bigredroo.bandcamp.com to find their music, or contact them on social media. 

Chris West is an up-and-coming music journalist. He has had radio in his blood from age four, and has been in internet radio since 2006. A lover of all music with a passion for finding the next new star, Chris wakes every morning with the thrill and hope that today he might discover his new favourite album. The fruits of this search for greatness can be seen on his radio show The Tripwire every Tuesday evening on www.the-phoenix.net