Between an album release in August and an appearance at This That in November, Nikola Jokanovic takes ten under a full moon with Izzi from The Preatures.
Unearthed alumni The Preatures are moving forward by looking back. Their retro rock style sounds just as groovy decades on from its 60s and 70s influences. The four-piece’s latest LP Girlhood is a nostalgic nod to teenage kicks, to awkward movie dates you tell your friends about at school the next day, and to growing up and away from it all. “Yanada”, the third track and centrepiece of that album, features a bridge sung in the ancient Dharug language once native to the Sydney region, though now largely paved over by sky-scraping city sprawl.
Vocalist Isabella Manfredi (though Izzi is better) says Girlhood is a full-circle return to roots for the band in a number of ways. “Every record is like a postcard of where you were at that point in your life, different circumstances. We’d just spent three years on the road overseas, steadily, and did Blue Planet Eyes [their 2014 LP] in Austin, and we were under a lot of pressure to deliver that record. It’s a beautiful record for what it is, but on this one it made sense for us to make an album that was about being back home, here in Sydney, and to do it here.”
Those three years even had a hand in how Girlhood came together conceptually, says Izzi. “I’ve been on the road with five guys at a time for the last five years, however long we’ve been a band. I love them, but at the end of the last record I needed my girlfriends, some female company and energy.”
Izzi thinks the album is a lot simpler than some may realise: “people have asked me if this record is about coming to terms with being a woman in the music industry. I don’t know, I don’t think so? There are songs there about what it’s like to make music, not just be a fan, and being on the other side of all of that, and also what it’s like having a creative relationship specifically with guys. But mostly it’s really just a record about what I was like when I was a kid, and what I was like as a teenager, and what I’m like now. It’s a record about growing up.”
“Whatever makes me a modern girl” – Girlhood is about being a woman both then and now, says frontwoman Izzi.
The bridge on track three, “Yanada”, translates from Dharug into English as “moon, great (meaning ‘full’) moon / spirit (here, there, everywhere), in the sky.” The song came alongside The Preatures’ ‘Darug Dictionary’ initiative, a collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to successfully raise $7500 for a reprint of the fading Dharug language in the run-up to Girlhood’s release.
“‘Mari yanada’ is ‘full moon’, which is auspicious because it’s a full moon today, I don’t know if you knew that,” says Izzi (I told her I’d go look at it; I did). “Anyway! It’s an incredibly complex situation in Sydney, because it’s not like out in Pilbara where there are groups still practicing the language – most Indigenous people in urban Sydney are part Irish, English, Maltese, Vietnamese, like the rest of us, so trying to find someone who had the standing to give us permission for the language took some time.”
That person turned out to be Indigenous songwriter Jacinta Tobin, with whom the song was co-written. “It was a really great experience. We went and visited her at the Blue Mountains, and sat for and wrote the lyrics together. Kind of funny, after so much time and build up, the process of writing the lyrics was done in a couple of hours.”
“There’s such an ‘us and them’ vibe here in Australia, and it just doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no reason why I should be a non-Indigenous Australian making music and not working with Indigenous people. The fact that we have the first nation’s people here, still practicing and reviving the culture after such a systematic failure by the first British and successive governments, is part of what makes us Australian.”
The Preatures will be joining other big names like The Presets, Tash Sultana and Thundamentals at the This That Festival in November. Izzi’s as excited as anyone.
“We love Newy, we’ve got a lot of friends up there. The thing with us and Newcastle: we’d been playing in Sydney for a year and getting nowhere, no one gave a shit about us. We went up to Newcastle, did a couple of shows over a weekend, and that was the first time anyone really liked us, really behaved like a proper audience and gave us energy. We have really good friends in Newcastle so we always like coming up.”
This That Festival is on the 4th of November in Newcastle – tickets are still available.
Feature image provided.