We both have the same tattoo of a section of the Yarra River from where we grew up. Mine’s on my forearm and Sam’s is on his shoulder. We started playing music together after moving to a Steiner high school. I was about 15 and Sam 13. I jumped straight into singing and then played guitar, but Sam focused on the guitar, practising constantly, and quickly became a whizz. He got super-fast. Now he’s very much a minimalist and plays with so much soul.
We have a similar creative vision. We see songs like the dreams in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, floating around. If you’re conscious of one and ready, you catch that song but you don’t really know where it came from. I come up with things quicker and in the moment, while Sam gets in there deep, working in a poetic way.
Sam is music obsessed. His ideal day off on tour is working on music in the hotel room. Whereas, when I’m doing music every night, it’s the last thing I want to do when I have time off. I bring a fold-up bike with me and ride through the cities.
When we’re away, I get to hang out with my best mate every day, so there’s comfort in that.
When we were doing private gigs over the past decade, I was the one who chatted about how it’s going to run, while Sam sorted out all the sound, making sure the thing would actually get off the ground.
People often mistake Sam as the older brother. He speaks his truth more, whereas I’m a bit more of a people pleaser. The band became popular in Australia a few years before it took off overseas. It wasn’t until February last year, when we were filling big venues in Europe, that I was like, “Wow, that’s a lot of tickets … hey, we’re kind of a bit famous.”
Our toughest moments are being away from family on overseas tours. Sam’s a fantastic father. He’s incredibly patient, and fun. Sam never gets flustered; he just says, “What’s the problem? How do we fix it?”
It can be a strain trying to keep your life together back home while keeping the momentum with your music going, performing every night. Still, when we’re away, I get to hang out with my best mate every day, so there’s comfort in that.
SAM: Josh has always been very social, very loud. Whether singing or telling stories, he’s always the focal point; people are drawn to him. When we were kids, he was the leader in our games and I was happy to follow.
It’s the same now. I’ll be here playing along, writing songs and getting things happening, but you go up front and do your thing. Being quieter than Josh, people did see me as the more responsible one. But I really grew up after having our son. When Josh and Hannah were pregnant, my advice to him was, “Don’t book a tour right before the due date.”
I learnt that the hard way when I was in another band. I wanted them to have that bonding time with their baby that I didn’t really get. Josh becoming a dad and adjusting to family life has connected us on a deeper level. It’s a good thing to have as we navigate this new world of having followers and fans.
We released our first album in early 2017, planning just the one Melbourne show, but it became clear we were going to have to play more shows to meet demand. There was a weird time when management took over, but we were still playing some gigs we’d booked ourselves. We’d play to about 15 people swimming around at Carlton Baths, then head to a packed-out Corner Hotel. It kept us real.
The ARIAs, Bluesfest and the offers that have come since have blown our minds. But Josh and I are calm and collected. We know things like this can just as easily fade away. Whether it’s 15 or 15,000 people, it’s all just playing music, and we love that part of it.
When we toured nationally in 2018, then went on to the US and the UK, it was a huge year. We had to ride that wave. It was a really big struggle for us, being away, trying to manage relationships and feeling like we were letting these people we loved down.
Josh has always had an amazing voice. For a long time, I was afraid to sing. But now I can see that my voice complements his. We add layers to each other. I see our collaborations as something like Duane Allman and Wilson Pickett.
We write songs in very different ways. Josh struggles to write on tour whereas I thrive. I’m good at staying focused, but Josh doesn’t sit still long enough for that. I was the one who pushed to record an album [the band also includes Brendon Love and Liam Gough]. Josh would have just been happy plumbing and singing for fun. [Josh is a plumber; Sam is a carpenter.]
Josh has been helping with an extension I’m putting on my house. We love working together, creating, making things with our hands. I’ll call him and he’ll say, “I’m about 15 minutes away, I’ve just got to pick up this and that and drop this person off here …” And I’m like, “No worries, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.” He’s not great at saying no.
We love getting out in nature, hiking and camping. We might not do our bird calls for a long time but then, when you hear that call, you drop everything.
We don’t have to say much to know what the other is thinking; our connection runs deep.