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Written by Michael Carr on September 17, 2008

Since their formation in 1994, CODA have racked up quite a reputation as live performers. They have played most major Australian music festivals including the Big Day Out, Woodford Folk Festival and the Sydney Festival. They were nominated for an ARIA award for their album ‘There Is A Way To Fly’ and have performed at a wide variety of cultural events from Fashion Week to the IF Film Awards.

Being renowned for their wild live shows, which often include theatrics, dancing and in one case featured a peep show booth and a goat; I was expecting core members Nick Wales and Fiona Radom to be fountains of exuberance. Instead they were charmingly reserved and down to earth. “We’ve been playing together for 15 years,” Naomi tells me with a sigh as Nick giggles at her tone. “The key to working with people for this long is NOT to sleep together,” he tells me.

We move on and I ask about how the band has changed over the years. “It’s funny because some people still think we’re a string quartet, but we definitely aren’t,” Nick laughs. “We started out being very inspired by people like Laurie Anderson, but that was ages ago. We added a drummer and a rhythm section, and sort of got more of a rock kind of sound, but we also have electronics and vibraphone as well.”

“Now we’re more influenced by bands like Goldfrapp or Groove Armada,” Fiona interjects. “But also arty stuff,” Nick continues. “We’re still really into arty experimental stuff, but our new album is going to have vocals on it, and I suppose it’s just a bit more tangible than some of our other stuff.”, “Something to sing-a-long to,” adds Naomi.

The band having long been an instrumental ensemble have struggled against the Australian markets’ notorious dislike for instrumental music. “It’s not the easiest,” says Nick. “A lot of the outlets for instrumental bands tend to be world music festivals and the like. But that hasn’t stopped us – it’s been heaps of fun. And anyone who’s out there making instrumental music, keep it up, the more that’s out there the better.”

“It’s beautiful you know,” Naomi elaborates. “ It’s more cinematic in a way, it leaves a lot more to the imagination than spelling out some story and it’s been great to be able to give that to the audience.”

However it would seem CODA’s days as an instrumental ensemble are coming to a close, with the forthcoming and as yet untitled album sees CODA incorporate vocals into their unique and ever shifting sound. “We’ve been working on the new album, you know,” Nick tells me. “It’s been really fun, we’ve been collaborating with some vocalists like Michelle Martinez and Jackie Marshall. We’ve got about six tunes up, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re just about to start playing them live, but probably not till next year.”

The band has morphed and transformed several times over the years with players coming and going as the bands musical direction evolved. “It’s like a big family, everyone’s great and everyone’s part of it, it’s a collective,” Naomi explains.

One of the more memorable points in the bands musical metamorphosis was the era of the ‘CODA Collective’. “We went through a little stage where we had a lot of performers in the live show,” Naomi recounts. “We had dancers and burlesque type performers with us, and that’s really when I’d say we were a collective.”

“We called it CODA Collective just to give props to the people who were doing all the dancing and the costumes, you know, it wasn’t just the band,” adds Nick.

I ask them what we should expect during their forthcoming performance at Manning Bar as part of Sydney University’s Verge Arts Festival. “No theatrics, but we’ll be playing our instrumental set – possibly for the last time ever!” says Nick.

Having irrepressibly continued to make interesting and bold choices with their musical development, CODA are well and truly one of the most innovative and fascinating bands in Australia today. Be sure not to miss your last chance to capture their famed instrumental set: They will be playing with Cloud Control, WIM and i like cats at Manning Bar on Friday September 12.

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