by Jane Roser
From an obscure small band from Sydney, Australia to inking a record deal, relocating to L.A. and touring with such prominent bands as The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, and Passenger, Falls is living the dream and well-deservedly so.
Cultivating a love for music early in life, even flying out to Sydney as a teen to attend her first concert (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), Falls’ Melinda Kirwin recalls how her mom “used to tell a story about how, when I was four, I asked if I could learn to play the violin and she had no clue where I got that idea from. I grew up in a tiny town in Northern Australia and there weren’t any violin teachers there, so I couldn’t have lessons, but music is something that’s always been a part of me.”
Kirwin met bandmate Simon Rudston-Brown when they were both studying music at the Sydney Conservatory. “We lived in a big house with a lot of other musicians, “says Kirwin, “and if one of us was working on a song and got stuck, then we’d contribute some ideas. Without planning it, we’d wound up writing a whole stack of songs and after a few months together, we realized we had a band.”
Initially, they weren’t even planning on singing in their band. After asking their friend, Pat, who he thought they should get to sing, he suggested they just do it. While in Australia, they recorded their first EP, Into The Fire, which was released in February.
“When we went into the studio,” says Kirwin, “the most important thing for us was not to lose what we were when we played with just two voices and a guitar. We really wanted to retain that and make an album we were really proud of.”
Falls was doing a residency at the Hotel Hollywood in Sydney while they were recording and the location had a major influence on the album. “Pretty much every song on the EP was written while we were playing at the Hollywood,” recalls Kirwin, “so when it came time to do the reverbs for the voices and a lot of the instruments, we actually recorded these in the bowels of the hotel down in the men’s toilets. We put a guitar amp down there because the toilets are all porcelain and recorded the sound of the vocals coming through the amp. We jokingly called it P-verb or porcelain reverb.'”
In January of 2014, Falls moved to the U.S. “It all happened very fast,” says Kirwin, “we met with our label (Verve Records) in November for the first time and in a matter of weeks we had signed our deal and flew out here, so it’s been really exciting to be here in America.”
They have kept busy, playing SXSW and touring the States with Delta Rae. In February they made their debut on the Billboard chart and their song “Please” was featured in American Songwriter Magazine. World Cafe Live in Philly was a stop on February 21st and they can’t wait to go back. “Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging, “says Kirwin, “and it was so great after we performed to meet the fans.” Playing SXSW was a special moment for them because “we came out to the U.S. for the first time to play SXSW last year, so it was a real marker in time for us to look back and see what’s happened in such a short period.”
I ask Kirwin about their songwriting and she tells me that every song is different. “We write separately and together, every song is really by the two of us, there’s never one that was written by just one person. We have a big influence on each other and that’s what we like the most about doing this.”
A song like “Into The Fire” is an example Kirwin uses. “Simon came to me with an idea for a song and from there it grew. I had an idea for the chorus and lyrically, it’s a combination of the two of us. I sing that song because, for me, I really felt that it was coming from a woman’s perspective. We always think about what voice will suit the content of the song the most. Sometimes there are songs that Simon’s written that I’ll end up singing and vice versa. I really love how the songs evolve and their end result.”
After DC’s 9:30 Club show, a fan posted on iTunes mentioning that Falls had tried out a few new songs they hadn’t recorded yet and he couldn’t wait for the one about their trip to New York City. Kirwin is excited about the fan’s comment and tells me, “on this tour we played a lot of new songs for the first time; songs that had been inspired by our time in the United States and one of these is a song called “When We Were Young” about the time we spent in New York City. New York is one of those places that no matter where you are, someone comes over to talk to you and tells you their story. There are so many interesting characters and that song was inspired by people we met, but also by the people watching that you do there and imagining what their life might be like.”
Falls will be touring with fellow Australian’s, The John Butler Trio, this June. Being with them will “take away the homesickness a bit.” And what does Kirwin especially miss from home? “My record collection and turntable,” she muses, “I only have my laptop here and it just doesn’t cut it.”