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Premiere: Nathan Roche’s “Phantom Blues”

Listen to the first track from "Cathedral Made Outta Green Cards" the final part of the Sydney songwriter’s album trilogy.

It seems that Nathan Roche’s free wheeling spirit is as charming in Paris as it is in Townsville and Sydney. The charismatic troubadour, writer and raconteur spent a good part of 2014 living in the French capital after moving to Sydney from his home in Far North Queensland. Thankfully his unique perspective on life that draws on the writing of the beats as well as Chilton and Hazelwood has followed him.


Having played in Marf Loth and Camperdown and Out, Roche is back in solo songwritig mode and briefly back in Australia with a new album, Cathedral Made Outta Green Cards, the final in a trilogy that has included Watch It Wharf and Magnetic Memories, that he’s released on his own label Glenlivet-A-Gogh.

Though his band may change from city to city and gig to gig, Roche’s relaxed approach and delivery is always the star as it is on the “Phantom Blues” the first track taken from the new album.

Roche is an amicable conversationalist but not one for media releases or download codes. When asked for some background on the record, he says, “We started recording the day I got back from overseas after I went to get back on Centrelink direct from the international airport."

The vinyl version of the album will be out in a little while Roche raises funds though he says, “the worthless CD platform will be out in a few weeks for anyone who cares.”

Noisey: You say the new album has more tracks than a Stevens album-ha! Do you write them in bursts or batches?
Nathan Roche: Yes, but it’s nowhere near as clever, poppy or complicated. There’s lots of spoken word interludes and two-minute half-arsed silly songs. An Ivor Cutler or Brigitte Fontaine sort of thing that you’d try to skip but the track will probably be over before you get up to do it. It’s the sort of thing that will make poor Owen Penglis wish he were dead when he finishes mastering all those individual Pro Logic files. How do the Parisians handle you? Are they appreciate of the Nathan Roche bar room/bistro charm and wit?
Not sure how my North Queensland sense of humour, deprecation, nihilism and sarcasm went down with the Parisians but I’ve certainly made a lot of good life-long friends there. It’s important to be enthusiastic and I suppose I usually am. No one wants to be friends with the sad bastard at the back of the bar room, even if he is a decent person.

What are these neverending phantom blues that you are singing about?
That track is probably the most “serious sounding one” on the album. Even if its not a serious subject matter. I don’t really think too hard about songs or lyrics anymore. I did back in 2008, but not now. It’s sort of a Phillip Marlow-style homage of a song that Phantom Blues track. A private detective trying to catch “a blues song” but ends up chasing it forever. I know you are a big fan of Alex Chilton and Lee Hazelwood.
Yeah, I think I’ve been trying to recreate “Kizza Me” and “Thank You Friends” off Big Star’s Third album since I was a teenager. I never quite got there but who else could! Not to mention Chilton’s up and down magical solo career. Hazelwood on the other hand is just next level. It’s not just the music. It’s their personalities, their attitude and philosophy of music and life. I think at the end of the day, I prefer a good story over a good song, but lucky for those two they have both. You are playing a cool show this weekend with Old Mate and Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Are you still surprised or appreciative of the quality of Aussie musicians?
The Australian music scene is unbelievable. In America, where the majority of the music that inspires a lot of Aussie bands comes is just so damn big. How does anyone keep track of any music? Australia is in this prime position where we can take all these ideas, influences and inspiration from cultures all over the world, recycle and release it in this condensed environment. It’s easier for record collectors, distributors, overseas record labels, fans, festivals everything. Especially when everyone plays in each others bands! It’s like taking the best parts of the world, and then doing it ourselves in this exotic place.

Catch Nathan Roche in Melbourne this weekend:
Jan 22 at Polyester Records
Jan 23 at the Tote
Jan 25 at Minimum Wage at the Grace Darling