Interview: The Sea of Joy Soundtrack
Big Sky Wire: Tully
Big Sky Wire is a regular Coastalwatch column produced by Michele Lockwood & Andrew Kidman. This week, Andrew Kidman speaks to the band behind the soundtrack to the iconic film, Sea of Joy.
In the late sixties Tully thrilled audiences at the Paddington Town Hall with their psychedelic sounds, sounds described by one attendee as, ‘Floyd before Floyd.’ Surf filmmaker, Paul Witzig was one of the crowd swept up by the Tully phenomenon. He commissioned Tully to make the soundtrack for his upcoming film titled, Sea of Joy. However unbeknownst to Witzig, Tully were in the throws of breaking up, core members Richard Lockwood, Ken Firth and Michael Carlos wanted to re-invent themselves by joining forces with world music folk act, Extradition (Shayna Karlin (Stewart) and Colin Campbell). Together they gave Witzig a ‘new’ Tully sound for the score of Sea of Joy.
Andrew: How did the Sea of Joy music differ to the recordings Tully did for Evolution?
Shayna Stewart: Colin and I had a band called Extradition. The arts council in Sydney decided to take two bands and put them together on the road, one that was breaking the rules in rock and roll and the other that was breaking the rules in the folk scene, which was us. On that tour we did a lot of cross music experimentation. Tully, especially Richard Lockwood, was very interested in what we were doing musically.
In a way I think Extradition was one of the first world music bands, because we were the first to start using instruments from other countries and odd sounds. I think the experimental side of it appealed to Tully. There were a few groundbreaking things happening at the time.
A: How did Paul Witzig come across you?
Shayna: Paul was coming to the concerts and there wasn’t really anything like what we were doing happening anywhere. In those days people were interested in new music and new forms of everything, including drugs. Paul decided we were a good vehicle to do the music, especially for a surfing film, because surfies were the first environmentalists really, weren’t they?
A: You were at Newport on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, what was the scene like back then?
Shayna: That’s where the whole surfing thing came from, not that we were surfers at all. We didn’t have much to do with any music scene, we were quite isolated in a way musically, it was a very intense time and we all spent a lot of time together, there was not a lot of outside influences which is probably why it does sound so different. I can’t say there was any one person we idolised or thought about particularly. We were just interested in exploring different kinds of music and ways of doing it. The Northern Beaches was a nice place to retreat, which was the attraction I think.
A: Paul Witzig talks about playing the film to Tully to see what kind of music would work. Can you remember that?
A: Were the visuals driving what you were playing?
Shayna: No, we wrote certain things, we weren’t improvising to the visuals, we adapted them to fit the visuals. Colin knows more about this than I do.
Colin Campbell: They ran the film past a few times, some sections we could see that we had things in our bag already that we could very easily use. Other pieces were specifically composed for: for example Cat-Clarinet Mit Orgel, Richard enjoyed doing that with his electronic boxes and his clarinet. Michael also wrote pieces with dots looking at the film and gave the dots to the band members that could read music.
A: Did you find that watching the film affected the music you wrote?
Colin: Well yeah, as Shayna said previously, surfers were the first environmentalists and that suited our music, Extradition a treat. We were acoustic, we played world instruments, we made our own instruments and made sounds with those using truck springs and a pram harp, things that we put together. It was all very beachy in that it didn’t cost anything, no-one ever paid us anything so we couldn’t afford to buy anything so we made our own stuff. The Tully boys, well they were well equipped to start with.
A: I’ve heard the reaction to the music when it came out wasn’t that well received as the surfers were expecting the psychedelic Tully, can you recall this?
Colin: Yes, that was the main view of Tully: the drugs in the Town Hall thing, the Peter Skullthorpe thing, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, they were huge and the people that followed Tully, most of them couldn’t make the transition. They were interested in the sounds they’d made previously. We weren’t surfers either and we didn’t know what surfers did, we just looked at the film and we did our version of what we thought surf music should be and Paul was very pleased with that. Paul Witzig himself wasn’t interested in anything at all psychedelic.
I’ll never forget when the film was previewed at the Mandala, the guy sitting in front of me screamed and ran out, that is something that sticks in my mind.
A: It seems in the films that followed Sea of Joy, the music was influenced by the new direction Tully took…for example Morning of the Earth, that soundtrack got a lot softer, more thought provoking, more beautiful/ethereal than the raw abandonment of psych period…
Shayna: Well Richard went onto work with Taman Shud and they did a lot of the music for Morning of the Earth. That was definitely an influence, probably through Richard. –
This interview first appeared in the December issue of Rhythms.
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