In January of 2005, Brisbane indie darlings-cum-chart toppers george made what was believed to be their final ever appearance together, performing in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House. After nearly ten years and a grassroots development into one of the country’s most celebrated alternative bands, it was time to move on and see what the rest of the world had to offer. In the 12 years since that fateful night, however, there was always a sense in the back of the group’s collective mind that the time would come to play those songs again.
“It’s funny – with the last shows that we played, I really feel as though we went out on a high,” begins Tyrone Noonan, who co-founded the band with his sister Katie back in 1996; providing vocals, guitars, keyboards and sampling to the fold. “Not that we ever definitively said that we were done with the band or anything, but at the time it just felt right to take a break from it all. Katie had just found out that she was pregnant with her first child, as well, so it kind of just made sense to leave things there for the time being. None of us ever left music full-time, though – we’ve all still been playing and making music the whole time that we’ve been away from the band. I see that as a real plus – you can only get better by playing and writing as much as you can. There were a few nerves about doing these songs again, but by the time we’d had a few rehearsals and played our first show they were pretty much all gone.”
George – Special Ones
Of course, the end of george in 2005 was by no means the end of any of the members’ musical pursuits. Solo albums, new bands and collaborations with everyone from The Beautiful Girls to The Butterfly Effect have followed – projects that, to this day, fill out the lives of each member of the band. Noonan himself is no exception – as a matter of fact, he may be busier now than he ever was at george’s initial peak. “Music’s still very much my primary focus and my passion,” he says.
“I have a new project at the moment called SonicLines, which I guess is kind of electro-folk sort of stuff. It’s a collaboration with my friends Anthony Garcia, who is a classical guitarist, and William Barton, who’s a didgeridoo player. We’ve got an album finished, and that’s gonna be out sometime in 2017. I’m working on a new solo album as we speak, as well – in fact, just before this very interview I was editing some backing vocals for it. It’s coming together really well. I’m excited for it. I’ve also been working on some stuff with Dave from The Potbelleez, some jingle writing, a few other collaborative projects, soundtracking documentaries, playing gigs, DJing… really, anything to keep me out of a day-job.”
The news broke in 2016 that george would be getting back together for a run of shows, which began with the Queenscliff Music Festival this past November. Revisiting the songs – primarily lifted from 2002’s Polyserena and 2004’s Unity – Noonan confesses to some initial fears about returning to them, and yet getting so much out of performing them again.
“What’s been the most surprising thing to us is that the music itself doesn’t really sound all that dated,” he says. “A lot of stuff from the late 90s and early 00s – which is our era – has definitely succumbed to that; so there’s always that fear in the back of your head that your music is going to do the exact same thing. I think the reason it hasn’t happened to us, looking back on it, is that we were never interested in any trends at the time. I feel as though that’s really worked in our favour. As we play this music again, we’ve been kind of relieved to find that there’s still an element of freshness to it.”
George- ‘Breathe in Now’
Although both of the Noonan siblings have continued to play a handful of george songs live through their individual ventures, the bulk of the material marked the first time it had been played in over a decade. “I know it might make me sound like a bit of a dag, but I’ve really enjoyed playing all of it,” says Noonan.
“It’s been really cool to rediscover all the parts that we wrote and relearning them for these shows. The only disappointing thing has been with my old samplers, that I hadn’t really used since george last played live. I was able to get the samplers themselves to work, but I couldn’t recover the actual samples themselves from the old hard drives. As cool as samplers were back in the day, they were also pretty temperamental – this was a time before hard drives and USBs were better at handling this sort of thing. I had to sort of recreate the sounds of those original samples from scratch. Fortunately, with Katie’s keyboard, I was able to do all of it in the box. The old Korg Mono PolySynth is still going strong, as well. That synth was built in 1984, and it’s still out on the road – think about that!”
Up next for george is two headlining shows, which will see them team up with The Cat Empire’s Felix Riebl for shows at Taronga Zoo and Melbourne Zoo as a part of the Twilights concert series. Beyond that, however, things are up in the air for the band; as the reality of life away from the band will set in once again. “We’re not putting any pressure on ourselves,” says Noonan about the future of george. “Honestly, who knows whether this will become anything more than just a reunion. I reckon we’ll just see where we’re at once we’ve done these shows. We’re all still busy with other stuff and other projects. It’s really hard to say, but it’s honestly just been awesome to just play these shows. If that’s all it ends up being, then I’m still grateful that we got to do that at the very least.”
george will play as part of Twilight At Taronga and Melbourne Zoo Twilights series this month. See dates and details here.