Unearthing Local Talent Across the Halls of the University of Melbourne


Originally Published in Farrago Edition Six (2022).

Being a university student is a convoluted affair--having to juggle academics, extra on-campus activities and part-time work, for starters-that leaves little room or time for pursuing your passions, especially in artistic and creative pursuits. But when they provide you with an outlet for self-expression, stress relief and a chance to rediscover yourself, no one should have to sacrifice what they truly love to do. This is the reality student musicians Lucy Lorene and Billie Raffety face on the regular: as future torchbearers of the Melbourne music scene while balancing their studies simultaneously, they are a beacon of inspiration and hope.

A Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Melbourne with a major in Anthropology, Lucy Lorenne is the frontwoman of her band, Lucy Lorene & The Early Birds. They are reconnected high school friends and have been creating music and performing together for the past year and a half. Their most recent music is their debut mini-album, released in May this year, titled Summers Gone.

With experience as both a solo act and as part of her band called Petrichor, Billie Raffety, VCA jazz and improvisation student, has a whopping six years of know-how and practice as a burgeoning musician ready to make a name for herself.

Radio Fodder sat down for a chat with both Lorenne and Raffety to hear their thoughts on creating music and their self-reflection as student musicians.

Radio Fodder: Describe your music to us!

Lucy Lorenne: I would describe our music as guitar-led, indie-pop-rock with honest lyrics, soulful instrumentation and heartfelt storytelling. Over the years, I've performed in a range of jazz, blues, soul and funk line-ups which have all had an influence on my vocal sound. As for the overall vibe, I have taken the storytelling style from the folk music I grew up listening to and the instrumentation of indie-rock music I currently listen to. More specifically, I believe our music is relatable. If I can create music that people feel as though it's been written for them, then that's what this is all about. I believe art exists to communicate, send messages, tell truths, and raise awareness, and that's what I aim to do in my music.

Billie Raffety: I was lucky to grow up listening to a diverse pool of music, from local folk artists such as Mal Webb and Kate Rowe to classics like Deep Forest and Frank Zappa. My music has inherited elements from these and has also adopted a jazz influence thanks to my studies and experiences singing with big bands.

I would say that I now create music that reflects who I am and expresses the events of my experience as a person. The sound of this expression, i.e. the music itself, is fluid and changes often.

RF: What was the first time you fell in love with music?

LL: My earliest memories of music are singing Phantom of the Opera with my brother, when I sang Avril Lavigne to my class in grade 1 and at the same age, singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow dressed up as Dorothy. There was always a range of music listened to as I grew up, from Hi-5 to Billie Holiday. Then, when I was old enough, I was captivated by Taylor Swift's songwriting which inspired me to start learning guitar. My dad bought me my first guitar when I was 11 and taught me how to play. I've been writing songs ever since then (including my primary school graduation song haha), and soon after, I was busking, playing the piano and performing in musical theatre. I was also introduced to open mics at the same time, and that was my first experience of getting up in front of a crowd. I think that's when I realised that on stage is where I feel most alive. 

BR: I was about 12, sat in the back row in the gym of my high school in Tasmania; the year 10 stage band was performing. The moment the ensemble began to play (they were good but keep in mind that the band was made up of about 30 16-year-olds), my arms were spotted with goosebumps and the hairs became raised on my neck. I knew that I needed to get involved because it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. 

RF: How do you work together as a band? For you, how does it compare to making music on your own?

LL: Half of us used to play in a band together during high school, so we've been working together for a while. We're all really good friends, which means we always have too much fun in rehearsals and have the best time on stage together. It makes the whole process of doing this thing called music even better, having that extra support and people to share the passion with, is super special to me. I think collaboration is really important, working with the band really helps my vision be realised. Having other artists add their own flare, different ideas and perspectives, skills, expertise, and creative input really helps the songs come alive.

RF: What has been the most difficult part of making music in Melbourne?

LL: I would say the hardest parts about making music, in general, are the self-doubt that creeps in, the constant comparison to other artists, second-guessing whether you're pursuing the right thing, wondering if people will like our music, the competitive nature of the arts etc. I think social media and the pressure of having an online presence plays a big role in those feelings. However, these platforms also offer musicians a way to connect with other artists and open the door to many incredible opportunities, especially in the Melbourne music community.

BR: As I moved from interstate at the beginning of this year, the most challenging factor has been making contacts and learning about the city itself. I think working up the confidence to just flat-out ask for gigs has been the achievement I'm most proud of, as well as meeting talented and like-minded musicians at uni. Trusting your abilities and learning to be okay with rejection is something that I am working on, however, this city has so many opportunities available for young artists. Once your foot is in the door and you work hard to keep it there, you're set.

RF: Where do you think the future of music in Melbourne lies? 

LL: Melbourne has an amazing reputation as a live music capital with thousands of talented musicians, passionate venue owners, booking agents, and management agencies, as well as a music-loving audience. I think we are still feeling the post-COVID craving for live music, which is awesome for all those people. However, gender inequalities are still prominent in the music industry. We can avoid that imbalance by ensuring equal numbers on festival line-ups; more women and non-binary artists in industry roles such as sound engineers, cooking agents, and roadies; equal representation in industry boards; quotas; equal nominations for awards; and generally, more women and non-binary music icons. I truly believe that the cultural view must change, and the industries must reflect this change but also, these industries influence our cultural view, so both need to be worked on.

RF: What advice do you have for fellow student musicians?

LL: My advice is to get out there, be a do-er and get things done. Make a list of your dreams and goals, and then actually make them happen. However, I believe it's really important to maintain the balance between the professional side of music and the parts you first fell in love with. Remind yourself to step away from the emails and strict practice and take time to jam, write and create. In the end, this is meant to be the best fun, so don't let yourself lose that. 

BR: I am only at the cusp of understanding my own journey, but there is something simple that I have learnt: balance is so important for maintaining a healthy relationship with creativity. The times when you are non-stop need to be offset with rest and calm. Think of musical movement and activity as a breath in... you have to breathe out eventually, so mindfully setting aside time to be still and "breathe out" is a game-changer. I was pleasantly surprised with how much this simple approach helped my creative processes overall.

You can follow Lucy Lorenne & The Early Birds on Instagram and Facebook @lucylorenne.music, and search 'Lucy Lorenne' to hear their music on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube.

Follow Billie Raffety's musical pursuits on both @braffss and @petrichor.band on Instagram

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