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Features December 23, 2019

“Music is limitless”: Karnivool’s Drew Goddard talks Barefoot Bands & learning through community

“Music is limitless”: Karnivool’s Drew Goddard talks Barefoot Bands & learning through community

Busy times abound for Perth guitarist and songwriter, Drew Goddard. Balancing the ongoing process of completing a long-awaited new Karnivool record and his other creative pursuits, the musician is looking at an exciting 2020. What he is particularly excited about is the future of Barefoot Bands, the WA music mentorship initiative that has been working with musicians in remote areas since 2016.

With fellow musician and project leader Brenton Meynell, Goddard has been working with musicians out in WA’s Goldfields region, engaging in conversation and education with aspiring musicians and people living in communities who may not necessarily have the creative avenues their metro city cousins have readily available. It’s an endeavour Goddard is proud of and inspired by, and hopes will continue to thrive as a new decade beckons.

“It was such an organic start,” he says. “We fell into this. It could go anywhere and I think it’s exciting.”

In some ways, Goddard’s journey to this point has been a lifelong process. Growing up travelling through and living in remote towns, watching his father work closely with Indigenous communities first as an educator, and then as a facilitator/consultant between community and government bodies – Drew’s connection with remote Australia and the culture that has long preceded the touch of White Australia is one that has always been one of high importance.

“One of the biggest things I learned going out with my father, [was] the early stages were about building relationships.” he says. 

“Quite often in whitefulla way, we do a transaction and build a business and the relationship happens after that. [But in Indigenous culture] it’s the reverse and it’s got to be. It’s all about building a rapport and trust, listening.”

“There’s a lot of, “He’s just another whitefulla coming in trying to make himself feel good,” there’s a lot of that. And of course, that’s going to be the case a lot, but the more I go out there, the more I’m in awe of Aboriginal cultures and the ways of knowing and doing; just how little we actually know about these cultures and also how much we can learn.” 

Credit: Barefoot Bands

It’s this sense of two-way learning and engagement that drives Barefoot Bands and the connections Goddard and Meynell have been establishing over the course of different workshops, songwriting sessions and live showcases. Providing a platform for musicians to explore and find their own creative identities is one thing, generating conversation surrounding self-sufficient and sustainable music and artistic cultures in these communities is a broader, long-term aim.

First meeting Meynell in Leonora – a mining town 200-odd kilometres north of Kalgoorlie – and then returning to the town numerous times since with Barefoot Bands, Goddard sees the importance and benefits in being a consistent presence as opposed to a fleeting face.

“There’s so much talent out in places like this with very little opportunity.” he admits.

“Some people come and go from these places and I quickly realised that I should focus on one place and look at being there, a face that’s recognisable and friendly. I go out there in a capacity of a mentor, but I’m probably the one who does more learning every time. I love it out there.” 

“A lot of it’s just me returning to the bush. I grew up in the bush and I grew up travelling around a lot, so I’ve got itchy feet for it. I’m a bit of a homebody too, so I do feel at home when I’m out there and I put my bare feet in the red dirt and clear the head. It’s a good creative space for me personally too. I get to work with community and I’ve got some friends out there who I love spending time with. There’s a real connection out there in that way.”

Credit: Barefoot Bands

Though Barefoot Bands has been an initiative and flourishing out in WA for the last three years, Goddard lights up when talking about the concept of connecting with more communities beyond the WA border as Barefoot Bands continues to develop.

“My main area that I’ve been working in has been in Perth and out in the Goldfields region. Also in Alice Springs and the surrounds, I’ve been out to the Bush Bands Bash a couple of times; I’ve been privileged to hear what’s going on over there. There’s a really established music scene going on over there. It seems very separate from the rest of the music industry in Australia.”

“I’m meeting a lot of good people who are very knowledgeable and who are very good listeners, and very interested in learning too. I think that’s the key.” he says. 

“One of the big things my dad said that he learned from Aboriginal people was, “Do things with us, not for or to us.” I’ve been engaging with that from the get go; not assuming that I know or the music industry knows what people out in communities want.” 

“There’s a lot of potential to be involved with organisations who can help some of these communities and with the help of the community, do some good things and set up sustainable models that can aid these communities in a way that is owned and run by the communities. “Self-governance” and “self-determination” are two things that need to be put in bold and italics when it comes to this work.” 

While Karnivool remains a main priority of Goddard’s (the new album is in the works, promise), finding a synergy between the two projects and how they feed one another is a longterm process.

“It’s way bigger than just me and Brenton.” he admits. “My role is connecting people, which seems to happen. I meet people in these synchronistic ways and connect people up; help in aiding communication and setting up pathways. A lot of that is me staying creative and focusing on my own stuff, which enables me to be able to do what I’ve done so far.”

“Music is a wonderful thing and I think it’s limitless, as to what can happen.”

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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