Essendon Airport
Essendon Airport & Anne Cessna | Image: Guy Blackman

The Return of Essendon Airport: “We Probably Sound a Bit Retro These Days”

In September 2022, Melbourne minimal post-punk and art pop group Essendon Airport released their first new music in 40 years. The two-track single, available digitally and as a 7″ vinyl, comprised the new songs ‘Agua Por Favor’ and ‘Ten Thousand Steps’, both featuring vocalist Anne Cessna.

Robert Goodge and David Chesworth formed Essendon Airport in 1978 and released their debut EP, Sonic Investigations (Of The Trivial) , in 1979.They first worked with Cessna on the 1980 single ‘Talking To Cleopatra’ and its B-side ‘Lost in Madagascar’ – their only collaboration prior to last year’s surprise return.

Anne Cessna & Essendon Airport – ‘Talking to Cleopatra’

Essendon Airport disbanded following their 1982 album, Palimpsest, but Goodge and Chesworth have reunited for live shows at various times in the subsequent decades. In November 2022, Cessna performed with the band for the first time, taking the stage at Chapter Music’s 30th birthday party at Melbourne’s Northcote Theatre.

Cessna will join Essendon Airport again for the official launch of the Agua Por Favor 7″ at Melbourne’s Brunswick Ballroom on Sunday, 19th March. Music Feeds spoke to Goodge and Chesworth about reviving Essendon Airport and reengaging with the creative inclinations of their younger selves.

Music Feeds: So, why make new music? Did the Essendon Airport story feel incomplete? Did you feel like there was more to explore with this project?

Robert Goodge: The idea to do some more music together came from having a meeting to agree to a reissue of Anne Cessna’s 1980 single that a Scottish label wanted to do. Feeling a bit flattered that our one-off single was still finding love 40 years on, and also feeling a pang of regret that we never followed it up, we decided perhaps now was the time. After all, it was a bit easier this time around as we had home recording setups and even being locked down in Melbourne didn’t present problems when we could just shoot files to each other.

David Chesworth: There was a desire to play together again as there can be a magical fit between the musical ideas we each come up with. My bit of music often goes well with Robert’s and so we wanted to do more of it. We thought that working with Anne again would enable a long-coming follow up to the first single. It’s also fun seeing what other musicians contribute to those ideas

MF: Are ‘Agua Por Favor’ and ‘Ten Thousand Steps’ brand new compositions? And how easy was it to slip into collaboration mode again, working with each other and with Anne?

Robert: We wrote new songs but tried to put ourselves in the same aesthetic place as our earlier material. If we could use the same guitar and foot pedal or reuse a bit of the original drum machine, we would. It wasn’t that hard to do – you know what they say about learning to ride a bike? You don’t forget.

David: A lot of it was done during lockdown, where we sent each other files with ideas that we assembled, rather like old style tracking on a multi-track. When we had a firm musical bed, we invited Anne to contribute. She wrote the lyrics and then we had a couple of recording sessions to see how she might sing the lyrics. Anne also did lots of fun improvising that we used to assemble the backing vocals.

Anne Cessna & Essendon Airport – ‘Agua Por Favor’

MF: Despite all that’s happened in your careers and in your lives in the 40 years since Essendon Airport split up, do your memories of that period of your life feel quite significant and formative?

David: Definitely. Playing with Robert and then with other members as we grew in size was really my first experience of playing with other musicians. I only have limited technique on the keyboards but by playing in Essendon Airport, I realised that my minimal contributions could still have a big impact.

MF: In terms of the sense of fulfilment that writing and recording music gives you, do you think your relationship to these new songs is similar to how you felt towards the music you made in the 70s and 80s?

David: I think we always make music with the same commitment, but I realise that our style has flavours that were developed in the early 80s. So, I guess we probably sound a bit retro these days, but we don’t set out to deliberately do so; it’s just the style of what we do.

Robert: You get to a stage in life where it is nice to look back and be less critical of what you do, and that is kind of liberating. You don’t care about success or failure; it is all about just doing things, going through the process and rekindling past friendships.

It was probably best summed up in 1971 by Chain’s boogie ‘Judgement’:“Well here I stand before you Lord / With my life’s work in my hand / The only sin that I committed Lord / Was I joined a four-piece band.”

Essendon Airport with Anne Cessna

w/ special guests The Glass Picture

  • Sunday, 19th March – Brunswick Ballroom, Melbourne VIC


Further Reading

Chapter Music Announce Reissue of Whadya Want?’s Eccentric 80s Dance Pop Album ‘Skippy Knows’

Essendon Airport Release First New Music In 40 Years, Feat. Anne Cessna

Chapter Music Turns 30 – Ten Things That Define the Melbourne Indie Label

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