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In early 2000, ex-busker Dean Lombard teamed up with a few old friends — retired sax player Joe Saitta, prolific bassist Isabelle Kenny, and emerging singer-songwriter Victoria Brammall — to form a folk-rock-pop combo to develop Dean and Victoria’s original songs. Accomplished Tasmanian drummer Grant Watkins was soon added and Separation Street had an erratic but successful string of gigs — with well-travelled bass guitarist Jason Cutler replacing the emigrating Isabelle along the way — before the reluctant departures of Victoria and Grant toward the end of 2001 (just after recording a five-track demo CD).
In hiatus for a time, the boys recruited multi-instrumentalist Damaris Baker the following year, changed their name to Dogma’s Breakfast, and developed a new drummerless but percussionistic style, playing occasionally in cafés, folk clubs, school fêtes, bars, and other disreputable places. Time passed… they changed their name to Chapter 11 (long story)… wrote heaps of new songs (cos Damaris and Jason turned out to be talented tunesmiths too)… but actually didn’t really get their shit together until, longing to reconnect with the rhythmic energy of their rapidly departing youth, they added emphatic drummer John Watson to the lineup at the end of 2004. Astounded by their disorganisation and inertia, John quickly whipped them into shape (ouch!).
Changing their name to The Phosphenes, expanding their repertoire, refining their diverse influences into a unique rock-pop sound, recording a mini-album, making a website, playing in a number of music festivals and a collection of inner northern pubs… The Phosphenes had finally arrived. Damaris’ amicable departure (to chart new musical territory with Destination Moon) led to the disovery of lead guitarist and songwriter Simon W Stockdale in 2007; while Joe’s departure the following year heralded a new era of a sparser, more guitar-driven sound. After a time spent closeted in various grungy rehearsal studios (our favourite being Soundpark in Northcote) reworking and refining the repertoire, The Phosphenes launched themselves back into the pubs and bars of inner Melbourne in a series of double, triple and quadruple-header gigs, pleasing audiences and annoying neighbours all over the place.
The explosion of new material catalysed by this burst of activity soon sent them back to the recording studio, where their first full-length album emerged from a chaotic extravagance of synthesizers, piano accordions, iPads, Wurlitzers, Farfisas, glockenspiels, harmonicas, Stylophones, and other more conventional instruments. Halflight is now almost ready to be released into the wild, with The Phosphenes hot on its heels… coming soon to a venue near you.
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