What happens when you take emerging artists from the most isolated city in the world and pair them with local composers and a string quartet to reimagine their songs in the height of a global pandemic? Enter Perth’s latest innovative experience, Tender is the Night. Birthed by local multi-disciplinary artist and stalwart of the Perth music industry, Leigh Gardiner, in collaboration with creative consultant and composer, Rebecca Erin Smith, Tender is the Night is a series of performances that bridge and blur the lines of classical and contemporary music.
Gardiner had been brewing over the idea of synchronising support for his composer and musician friends for some time, but it wasn’t until the initial COVID lockdowns of 2020 hit that it was finally put into motion. In September 2020, the inaugural Tender is the Night event took place in a suburban backyard to a private audience of friends and family in a relaxed picnic setting. One year on, with the support of the City of Melville and a generous grant from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries under its belt, the event is thrilled to announce the imminent arrival of its first ever public edition with Tender is the Night volume five on Sunday 12 September. We were lucky enough to have a chat with both of the acts which will be performing at the event: headliners, Simone & Girlfunkle and support act, Tanaya Harper.
Hi Tanaya and Simone & Girlfunkle, hope you’re having a nice week! First up, let’s get to know you. Can you give us a little introduction into who you are and the type of music you each create?
Simone & Girlfunkle: Hi! We’re close friends of many years who share a love for singing in close harmony. We were once described as “Picnic At Hanging Rockcore” and yep, that sums us up.
Tanaya Harper: Hello! Well, I’m a Western Australian singer who loves hiking, and I’m also studying Nursing so I feel like I’m living a double life of creative brain versus policies and procedures brain. It’s hard to summarise, I guess the type of music I create is rather solemn, and usually has a lyrical focus on the experience of anxiety. It’s always been about internal struggles rather than the outside world and politics, but I have felt a recent shift where I’m writing more about the greater human experience rather than my own mental health journey.
You’re both set to perform at the upcoming Perth event Tender is the Night, can you tell us a bit about how Tender is the Night began and what it’s all about?
S&G: Oh we are not qualified to answer this one! But what I can tell you is that it’s Leigh’s passion project. He has created some absolute magic. The string arrangements compliment the contemporary songs and add so many feelings. We went to the first one to see Tanaya and I was genuinely moved to tears by how beautiful the music and experience was.
TH: Well, Tender is the Night is the brain-child of local musician Leigh Gardiner. He would be best to answer this question, but from my understanding for a few years he had the grand idea of having a string quartet playing original arrangements written by a variety of local composers
What can audience members expect when they attend Tender is the Night on Sunday 12 September at the Melville Main Hall? Tanaya, we understand you’ve performed at a previous event before?
S&G: They can expect something unlike the normal gig experience. The beauty of the strings lick your earholes whilst you feast on picnics. I can’t recommend it enough.
TH: Tender is the Night is the most beautiful gig I’ve ever played, hands down. It was such an honour to have a professional string quartet playing professional arrangements over my music, and I get to do it again! The first Tender was performed in Leigh’s backyard so it wasn’t heavily advertised which meant some friends and fans who would have wanted to come but missed out. The only thing that could possibly be better than the last gig is the fact that I get to sing in Melville Town Hall!! I sense another career highlight coming.
Can you tell us a bit more about the collaborations between yourselves and the composers & string quartet? How do you each approach reimagining your songs with these classical artists? What does that process look like?
S&G: For us, choosing the right songs to be arranged was quite difficult. We’ve been playing together for so long, we have so many songs we’d love to hear arranged for string ensemble. But I think we chose the right bunch! We had to omit some of our poppier favourites and pick some we thought might lend themselves to strings a little better. As far as collaborations between the arrangers and ourselves – we did a dodgy demo of the stripped-back songs and then left it to the pros! On the day as they play will be the first time we’ll hear these interpretations of the music. It’s a little nerve racking but also we’re pretty honoured, and of course excited to hear what the arrangers come up with.
TH: Pretty much what S&G said. I sent some very basic voice memo’s to Leigh who then forwarded them onto the composers. They did an incredible job with their arrangements. There are no rehearsals with the quartet, we purely test the intro’s and outro’s at soundcheck and then bam, we play the full set to the audience. It’s very serendipitous. I intentionally chose what I felt would be the most suitable songs (solo) – the only full band song is Don’t Go Outside, and I’ll also be performing an additional arrangement for my new single ’Montreal’.
What are you most looking forward to about performing at Tender is the Night?
S&G: Hearing Tanaya’s set again! Performing in the centre of all that string sound loveliness. Also cheese picnics!
TH: Hearing Simone and Girlfunkle! And experiences what it sounds and feels like to perform in a Hall. I think my heart will melt.
What’s next for each of you? Any upcoming releases, other live performances or collaborations on the horizon?
S&G: We move like summertime slugs, so we’re taking our time working through a mountain of new material, trying to shape it into something beautiful and record-shaped. A few of our crew have recently become parents, so we’ve put no upcoming deadlines or pressures on ourselves at this moment in time. Everything will fall into place when it’s destined to, as it always does and we have something to share very soon.
TH: I have a new single (and EP) coming out very soon called ‘Montreal’. I’m very excited to release this one, it’s very close to my heart. It will be accompanied by a video clip filmed by Annie Harvey and Yardley Smeaton. The EP Launch will be on October 2 at Lyric’s Underground, with supports from Grace Sanders and Julia Wallace.
I’m also going on a road trip to perform in the Great Southern; Ravensthorpe on September 17 and Esperance on 19th. I’m currently working on my debut album, so I might write some songs while I’m down there.
And finally, where can we keep up to date with your work? Give yourselves a plug!
Tender is the Night – Simone & Girlfunkle
Sunday 12 September 2021
City of Melville Main Hall
10 Almondbury Rd, Booragoon, WA 6154
Support: Tanaya Harper
Tickets: $30 + BF via Trybooking
BYO food, drinks as well as rugs and cushions to sit on
Doors at 5:30pm