Clancy Overall is The Betoota Advocate. Half of it at least. Where is he currently? Betoota of course! And when he talks about his beloved Queensland corner it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, his heart swelling with regional pride.
Betoota is special, you see. Easily on par with the diversity and cultural offerings of the nation’s more metropolitan locales. And undeniably there’s a certain romance to it too, because for all Australians, from the tradies, nurses ‘n’ beer drinking publicans down to the dynastic media moguls, what’s more romantic than the concept of the little fella hitting above their weight?
Clancy’s talking about the real Betoota, not the settlement Wikipedia claims is a ghost town which has been abandoned for more than a decade since its sole resident checked out of this world in 2004. Nor does this tract of land in Diamantina echo the region’s reputation as a political heartland of Australian conservativism, a land where Joh Bjelke-Petersen is still revered as messianic and ‘NO’ votes for marriage equality came in at record highs.
Far from it. In Clancy’s eyes, it’s a thriving town. A cosmopolitan paradise.
So completely does this settlement dominate the Betootan’s mind it’s maybe even a little heartbreaking to hear that he’ll soon be leaving. But to stay there would be to ignore the fact that he and partner in business, Errol Parker, oversee a burgeoning empire. One in which only a few short years has come to dominate Australia’s satirical media landscape.
With business booming, his duty calls. Today it’s craft beer, podcasts and rubbernecking with top political brass. Tomorrow? The rise and fall of Western civilisations.
Clancy also likes music — Redgum and Tame Impala. In fact, he’ll soon be sharing in Kevin Parker’s honour of appearing at most hallowed of venues, the Sydney Opera House.
Overall may be no stranger to success, but even he himself seems taken by the privilege of occupying such a “quality acoustic” venue. Yet it’s but one of many stages hosting he and Errol on the Advocate’s upcoming national tour.
What will these 90-minute spoken word appearances entail? Well, Clancy doesn’t want to give it all away, but does share that pair will be chronicling the story of their humble 200-year-old regional paper’s rise to digital dominance. They’ll also interrogating the impact of some of their greatest headlines. So without any further ado…
Music Feeds: The Betoota are no strangers to interrogating the low standard of Australian music journalism. There’s one article in particular – do you know the one I’m talking about?
Clancy Overell: Not particularly, but I’m sure we said something like that.
MF: Well to refresh your memory I have a quote. Citing a legitimate and expert source, of course, you term those practising the profession as “a life form lower than ever seen before… Their entire livelihood appears to depend on them starting shit between musicians, and labels, and then reporting on them, without any accountability”. Do you have any more thoughts to add to those comments?
CO: Ah, not at all mate. And it’s quite similar to any other form of metropolitan journalism, not just music particularly. Sport, as we’ve seen in the last week, nothing but scandals and everyone’s in the same game so I don’t blame you. There’s newspapers to sell, clicks to harvest.
MF: The reason we’re talking today is that you’re going on the road for a spoken word tour! I was recently working a job ticketing for a similar tour for a podcast, ‘How Stuff Works’. It’s big business! I mean these guys came on stage and were greeted like rock stars! It was like a rock concert without the instruments. Are you expecting a similar reception?
CO: Yeah mate. Well, obviously it’s town by town. I feel like in the more northern capitals we’ll be received with that kind of North Queensland hospitality. Further south we may come across as a bit more foreign. But it looks to be that there’s people coming through in droves to buy tickets.
MF: It sounds like you’re travelling, whereabouts are you now?
CO: We are in the Queensland, Diamantina country, in the town of Betoota.
MF: Are you apprehensive about leaving Betoota to go on tour?
CO: No mate we’ve done a fair bit of travelling around. We’ve done a few events and we’ve just got a beer with the United Breweries. We’ve been helping that out, so we’ve seen a bit of the place. Like I’ve said. Victoria, Tasmania and Adelaide, we have fan bases down there. We’ll get to meet them in person so that’ll be interesting.
MF: What’s your typical fan interaction like? That is if there is a typical fan interaction to speak of.
CO: There hasn’t really been any typical interaction. We cast a pretty wide net we’ve learnt. We were just before speaking on the phone to NITV [National Indigenous Television]. We’ve since learnt that there’s a big following there within the ranks of the NITV and in that particular community. There’s not really a typical interaction but we learn things every day. Every interaction’s new and different.
MF: Is there a common thread holding them all together? Perhaps a love of quality news reportage?
CO: Yeah, I think so. I think it’s the kind of regional perspective we offer. It probably cuts us, cuts us apart from the rest.
MF: I’m going to ask you question that I think a lot of our readers might be wondering and it’s this. Do Errol and Clancy have a favourite album or band?
CO: Ah yes! Well, obviously Kev Carmody sings a lot about Diamantina. Redgum as well, they sing about Diamantina and the people that live out here. There’s a few people that have travelled this part of the world, Paul Kelly of course. But we don’t mind the new stuff. We don’t mind Kerser or, you know, Husky. Tame Impala. We’ve had a bit to do with Kevin Parker.
MF: Back to the live show. What can Betootan fans expect to see?
CO: Mate it’ll be pretty much a bit of a lift of the veil of our newsroom. Kinda to see how things have happened and how things have got to this point. The newspaper was established in the late 1800s and has seen a boost in circulation and readership since the transition to the internet in 2014. We’ll be running through some of the headlines that brought us to the point where we are now, that brought us here as one of the most broadly read newspapers in the country.
MF: Of course!
CO: Our circulation is matching that of The Australian, the Murdoch newspaper The Australian. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it? That’s one particular paper we’re matching in terms of readership and circulation. So yeah, we’ll just be running through that and what it is about our town that everyone can kind of see themselves in.
You know we have a kind of diverse multicultural inland port out here. We have a lot of suburbs that might be near to the suburbs you come from, you know the ethnically diverse flight path districts in some of Betoota’s east which might remind a few of the southerners of their own ethnic enclaves like Earlwood or Oakleigh or Moorooka in Brisbane.
Of course, we’ve got Betoota Heights, which is more kind of our aspirational class. The Hillsong Church runs quite strong through that area. And of course, Betoota Ponds which is effectively our slums. It’s a big part of our town. We depend on them, they depend on us. We’ve got the Betoota Mosque – like I’ve said it’s a diverse town, albeit remote and regional. But we do have a lot of the same things you people in the city have.
MF: The Betoota Advocate is not your typical newsroom. What’s one of oddest things you’ve experienced since you’ve started?
CO: You just never want to estimate the access you can have to different personalities and politicians. As we’ve had, in the name of fair and just reporting, to skewer them on all edges so they’re not particularly worried that there’s a bias there they have to worry about. We report fairly on all aspects of Australian life and we’ve found prime ministers, the leaders of the opposition, the leader of the Greens — they’re all in touch with what we do and read what we do.
MF: What does the future hold for your media empire? Do you have any dynastic ambitions of your own?
CO: Yeah mate, the plan from here is to start setting up bureaus all over the place. We’ve got one planned in Mt. Isa, Charterville too. Hopefully, we might get one in one of the southern capitals – Tamworth, Shepperton. Eventually, we’d like to expand to Port Moresby, maybe Istanbul to get a bit of an international bureau going on.
That way you can kind of… control the news in a way. You can decide when elections are going to be and who’s gonna win ’em. Of course, you get to decide when, you know, war breaks out and who’s getting to win it!
MF: Do you have any other predictions for what the future might hold?
CO: I don’t know. I think that [Betoota’s parliamentary representative] The Honourable David Littleproud, our agricultural minister, I think he might be safe in the meanwhile since we’re a pretty strong Nationals electorate. That’s immediate and that’s about all we can say. You probably saw just as much as Malcolm Turnbull saw leading into the leadership spill.
You never know, we might have another Prime Minister before the next election. Maybe Prime Minister [Christopher] Pine? Who knows?
MF: Would you ever consider doing a spoken word album or collaborating with any of the musicians you’ve listed earlier?
CO: We could actually delve into that. We might start by recording this live show. We’ll see how many tickets we sell first! We’re doing alright. But yeah expanding into live shows is one thing but it really depends how much time we get in the near future.
MF: Is there anything else you’d like to throw out there to the world of music fans before we close off?
CO: For anyone who is a fan of live music it would be worth coming down to our Opera House show. We’re dealing with some venues with some quality acoustics. All degrees of media will be involved in the production.
The band the DMA’s – which I’m sure you’ll be familiar with – have helped us out over the years. They’re actually the ones behind the intro music to our podcast. We might be calling on the band to help us with the production of the show as we put it together over the next month.
MF: Playing the Opera House, performing there. It’s an Australian aspiration! How are you feeling about it?
CO: Yeah mate! Well we’re selling tickets, we’re sellin’ tickets fast. So there seems to be a readership base in the harbour city and, yeah, it should be a good time.
The Betoota Advocate’s first-ever national tour will begin this November.