Albany trio The Redtails celebrate debut album launch

When The Waifs’ Vikki Thorn hunkered down in her beach shack on the WA south coast after COVID derailed a US tour in 2020, she reached out to her musical neighbours – Simon and Tammy London – about getting together to sing on the front porch, and The Redtails were born. Now, three years after joining forces, the trio are set to launch their debut self-titled album with a live show at The Duke of George this Saturday, October 14. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Simon and Tammy London to find out the story behind the group, and the album.

Congrats on the release of The Redtails’ debut self-titled album. How does it feel to be releasing these songs to the world?

Simon: Yeah, it feels like we recorded them a while back (2021) so it’s good to finally be getting them out there.

How did The Redtails form? You were already friends and neighbours, but what was it that compelled you take the next step and be musical collaborators?

Tammy: We got together one night for dinner. I was due to give birth that day so we had this idea at dinner to try and ‘sing the baby’ out. It didn’t work – but it did show us that something pretty amazing happened when we sang together. Not long after, COVID hit, so we would get together and sing on our front porch. From there, we started doing house concerts and it just grew into bigger things.

There is a strong sense of place running through the release, I felt transported to the south coast just by listening to it! Do you feel that was deliberate, or came naturally because of the circumstances in which it was written?

Simon: I think across the three of us as songwriters, that strong sense of place thing is something that’s probably just there in much of our writing, whether it be with The Redtails or our own stuff.

But yeah, with James Newhouse coming across to us for both of the recording sessions, setting up in our shed-studio on the farm, it’s no doubt washed through with that sense of place. You can hear and see the ocean from there.

At one stage we were timing our takes between the showers we could see coming across the valley. It was a joy to record like that though, at home, the kids around, in our own place.

What’s the biggest difference between the first song you wrote on the record and the last? Does this reflect finding The Redtails’ sound, or how your lives changed during the course of making the album?

Simon: Ultimately, all the songs are about the singing and the way our voices work together. If there’s a ‘sound’ it’s really that, how our voices all layer together, and all the fun we’re having with that. At the start it was whatever songs we had handy that we could muck about with, playing with the vocal parts and the harmonies. But as we went along, the song selection probably became a lot more deliberate.

I know I started writing songs specifically for The Redtails; I loved writing songs that tried to use the power that is there with the way our voices all come together. It was a real treat, as a songwriter, to have that in mind as you’re songwriting. I also went back and repurposed songs too, bringing in songs like Blue Boat and reimagining older songs like Parent’s House, which was originally from The Spirits’ second album.

The three of you wrote and sing on the record, but had some other great musicians on board for the recording. Will you take a similar approach when performing live?

Simon: Since we started, most of our shows have been either with Mark Gretton or Ben Franz, occasionally both. Ben’s pedal steel playing is a beautiful complement to these songs and our singing – such articulate playing. They’re obviously both beautiful players but the thing for me is they’re such skilful servants of the songs.

Since Ben headed back east we’ve settled into the four-piece with Mark on drums. But I do miss Ben’s ‘sad machine’ when he’s not there! For this Duke show we’ll have Angus Diggs sitting in for Mark, so I’m looking forward to that too – he’s some kind of drummer.

The song Aretha names a bunch of great rock and roll songwriters. I’m sure you all have your personal favourites, but were there any particular artists that you found common ground on to create the vibe or style of this album?

Tammy: Not really. I think we all really enjoy singing gospel and soul music as it feels very natural in The Redtails form but as you can hear, there is a mix of genres –like folk, country and soul. When I was a teenager, I found Aretha Franklin’s music and it had such an impact on me. There’s something about it that really opened up these musical doors which I’m still having fun exploring. This song was a salute to her.

What’s going on for the three of you musically, or otherwise, on the other side of this launch show? Any more new music or live shows we can look forward to in the rest of 2023 and beyond? 

Simon: The Redtails really just came out of the joy that we get from singing together, so I think we have a bit of an unspoken thing where it has to stay as a fun thing that we’re doing because we enjoy it. So it’ll be something that fits in between everything else. This metro show will be the last Redtails show for a while – maybe the rest of the year.

There’s not always a heap of empty space in the calendar. Vikki is obviously pretty busy with the massive run of shows that The Waifs are doing for through 2023, and of course she brought out her great Thornbird album last year.

Tam has been recording with Nash Chambers, working up some real standout songs. For me, the last year was about bringing The Spirits back after more than a decade, recording and releasing our album and hitting the road again.

With The Redtails, we probably have another album’s worth of songs that are in our set now, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to get them recorded at some point. We’ll have to find a window. In the meantime, shows like these we have at The Duke just feel kinda special – they don’t happen often so we love it when they do.