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HUSSY HICKS’ JULZ PARKER – ONWARD AND UPWARD


Currently on an extensive Australian tour before heading overseas again, Hussy Hicks guitarist Julz Parker spoke to Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips about the band’s ever-increasing global popularity. Photos from Bluesfest by Jason Rosewarne.

If you were lucky enough to attend this year’s Port Fairy Folk Festival or Bluesfest in Byron Bay, you may have stumbled across blues, folk, roots duo Hussy Hicks. If you do did, I’m sure like everyone else you were blown away by their energy, quality of music and their instant connection to the audience. If you haven’t discovered Hussy Hicks yet, then it’s about time you did. Consisting of Julz Parker, one of Australia’s most creative guitarists and dynamic singer Leesa Gentz, Hussy Hicks have been quietly but confidently developing an ever-increasing following in Australia, Europe and America for more than a decade now. Their latest and fifth album, On The Boundaries has just taken out the Best Album Award at the annual Gold Coast Music Awards.

Julz Parker

Released in late 2017, On The Boundaries sees Hussy Hicks expand upon their blues and roots vibe and venture into a more atmospheric, layered, textural world. Teaming up with Raphael White, they’ve allowed the London-based producer to take on a 3rd member role, adding his adventurous spin to their already accomplished musical feast. Julz and Leesa have been thrilled with the response to their new album to date, particularly the Gold Coast Award win. “We were pretty stoked,” Julz told me. “It was really nice. You make an album and you like it but then to know others do too is great. Of all the awards, I guess that’s one that really relates to a specific piece of work, so we’re proud of that.”

With On The Boundaries, there were no early thoughts about what the album should sound like and no preconceived thematic ideas, it was more a case of laying down basic tracks of the songs they’d written and then see if a direction might emerge. “We just wanted to make music with our friend Raphael, “ explained Julz. “We thought we’d just go in and create the songs and see where they went. They are all built on a shaker track, so they all had a solid foundation and groove and the same general feel. We had about two solid weeks in there and that was when we did the bulk of everything. Then over the next four months, we did some back and forward to London with some extra tracks that we tidied up at the end.”

For any artist who is experimenting in the studio with multiple layers and sonic textures, the concern is that replicating the songs live might end up being be problematic and leading to the need for additional gear. However, Julz told us that rather than further complicate their stage rigs, they adapted the songs to suit the equipment they already had. “I think it was more about working out what the core sounds were that we were trying to put across,” she explained. “You had to work out which elements held the songs together the best. We’d tried to hit upon a lot of the things that were there without having to dedicate a whole other instrument to it. So it’s pretty much the same stage set up, although I now use a loop for one of the tracks that we play with the band. I loop a section and play a solo over it and when we play with the duo too I loop a couple of sections, so I can solo but still have some chunk under it. That is the only change we’ve made with these songs.”

Leesa Gentz

Just like the various tones and soundscapes Julz Parker produces on the guitar, her influences reflect those sounds. From John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers-era guitarists such as Peter Green and Eric Clapton, to Tommy & Phil Emmanuel to Django Reinhardt and more modern, introspective players, Julz enjoys exploring it all. Her current dependable tools of trade are her versatile Maton acoustic and a Fender Srat. “I usually take my Maton on the road, a custom shop dreadnought, which I split,” she explains. “I use the normal Maton AP5 pickup into a di, through a Delay Llama pedal. Then I send a magnetic pickup option through my pedals, the same pedals I use when I use the Strat … a couple of Tube Screamers, a Delay Llama, a POG and an Octave. So basically with the acoustic I split it and I get the volume and an electric sound. With the electric guitar, I just like to use valve amps, preferably a Fender Twin and my Music Man 212 HD and I have one on either side of the stage but that is a luxury we don’t have all of the time.”

Hussy Hicks has toured overseas regularly and the work has gradually begun to pay dividends, to the point that many international venues are asking them back. “Our last European tour was great,” said Jules. “We had a couple of sold out shows and seemed like we’d got to a tipping point where enough people had heard of you in any particular town and you fill a room, they tell their friends and so on. We did a tour of the states last year too and have been invited back to a whole bunch of those venues. We’re going to a festival Alaska, so all that stuff is pretty exciting. It’s great to see how an Italian crowd responds compared to a German crowd compared to Australia. It is so interesting to see how people enjoy their music in different places around the world.”

In between Hussy Hicks tour commitments, Julz and Leesa are working with kids’ TV show Get Grubby TV, cast as the band of main character Dirtgirl. Additionally, Julz is helping her friend, Australian country artist Beccy Cole with her new album. However, bubbling away in he background are the vague notions of a new Hussy Hicks album. “We’re still not 100% sure what it’s going to be like,” Julz told me. “We have a bunch of tracks and I’ll probably just do some simple demos at home and we’ll work out where we want to take them production wise. We are going to be in America for a couple of months, so we might rent a studio in Mobile and put a track or two down while we are there. We are always in touch with Raph who made the last album, so we might do some tracks with him or just go into the studio with the band here. I don’t quite know yet where the next album is going to go.”

If Julz hadn’t already been one of the most amiable and endearing musicians I’ve had the pleasure of talking to, she topped off the interview by telling me she’s been a long time fan of Australian Musician. “Thanks so much for chatting,” She said “I have been reading Australian Musician since I was a child. I was always one of those kids who rode their bikes to the music shop to get the new publications and scour the pages.” Hussy Hicks … great band, real nice people.

To purchase Hussy Hicks’ album On The Boundaries and to check out their tour dates, visit their website here

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