You know the official line by now: lockout laws are crippling Sydney's scene, venues are closing down, community is being threatened, etcetera. While that's entirely real and true, it's not entirely representative: the scene is alive and thriving in Sydney's suburbs, with a tight-knit and fervent scene of musicians and friends continuing to collaborate, create art and host events on the margins.
Over the past few years, photographer Jake Ollett has been obsessively documenting that scene. Photography began as a hobby for Ollett, but now he has over 10,000 photos of live music in Sydney
and surrounding areas. If you've been to a show in Sydney recently, you've probably seen Ollett; he's always there, quietly taking photos with his 35mm point-and-shoot. It's hard to understate the importance of these photos; DIY bands constantly change lineups and many never release records, so having a photo can mean a lot. Or, as a friend of mine from Sydney put it to me the other day, "Without Jake, there'd be no proof that we exist."
On Sunday August 26th, Ollett will be exhibiting between 1000 and 2000 photos of Sydney musicians taken between 2015 and 2018 at Video Club, 31A Marrickville Road, Marrickville. The show begins at 5PM and will feature performances from Buzz Kull and Concrete Lawn, and a DJ set from Body Type. Entry is free; find exhibition details on Facebook. Read our interview with Jake about his work, alongside a selection of his photos, below. Follow Jake on Instagram at @jakeollett.
NOISEY: Why did you decide to start documenting Sydney's music scene?
Jake Ollett: It wasn’t really a conscious decision. I’d never had much interest in photography but I started going to a lot of shows as soon as I turned 18. I ended up with a pocket film camera so I started bringing that along, and it’s just sort of continued. Since then it’s become a bit obsessive and I really hate being at a show without a camera. I think studying history for the past four years has really made me appreciate consistent documentation.
It was a nice accident that I now really enjoy.
You've been to hundreds of shows over the past couple years. What have been your favourites?
Jerkfest 2 in February 2016. Late in high school I discovered Anti Fade records and fell in love with a lot of their bands, especially Frowning Clouds, Living Eyes and Ausmuteants. Becoming aware of them sort of helped me find shows in Sydney. It was great getting to see a heap of bands I really worshipped at the time in the one day, Frowning Clouds (a long time fav I figured I’d never see play) even played a surprise set. It was also kind of impactful for my photos, I met a lot of people and I don’t think Anti Fade/Jerkfest had booked a photographer so my photos ended up being used on their socials and what not. Noisey used one to promo Jerkfest the next year. Also, I found a mobile phone that turned out to belong to Adalita and she drove me from the show in Geelong back to Melbourne. Fun day.
The first show I saw at Golden Age Cinema, The Dandelion (21/07/2016) was a lot of fun. The stage is surrounded by mirrors so it was interesting getting to play around with reflections in the photographs. That venue has since (surprisingly) become one of the most regular in Sydney, which is nice because it always makes for pretty pictures.
A Very Greta Now Christmas, 23/12/2017. Greta Now dressed as Santa and performed a set of Christmas carols before her regular set. Hugh M. Hominid also played his first set ever. It was just him and like five synths, I loved it and it looked great in photos.
Recently Den’s album launches in Marrickville and Parramatta were brilliant. Both shows had excellent 4-5 band lineups and their new LP is something else. Also very recently was Glen Schenau, Pious Faults, and The Baby at Hollywood Sundays a month or two ago. I hadn’t seen any of the acts (two are from QLD and it was The Baby’s first set), and I was a little worn out from work that day but it was a really great show. Thankfully I bootlegged all three sets.
What are some of your favourite Sydney bands right now?
My favourites at the moment are Hugh M. Hominid and Concrete Lawn. They’re both made up of fairly young kids who haven’t been involved in too many other projects. I think that’s helped them escape falling into any of Sydney’s many pockets just yet. Concrete Lawn put out a demo not too long ago via Urge Records, and Hugh M. Hominid is about to release a cassette of two live sets I bootlegged via Dinosaur City Records. Sydney is in good hands.
The Baby are another band who I really love and have only just formed in the past month or two. They’re made up of members from everyone (BB & the Blips, Red Red Krovvy, Photogenic, probably 40 more). I think they have a live tape on the way too.
I’ll also forever have soft spots for bands like Body Type, Felix Lush and Solid Effort. They’re all long-time favourites who I wish played weekly.
What's unique about Sydney's scene?
Chorus pedals, everything is sponsored by an alcohol brand, and everyone is always talking about moving to another city.
Follow Jake on Instagram.