The first time I saw All Our Exes Live in Texas play live, it was a reasonably casual affair in a tiny apartment in Newtown for Sofar Sounds, where audience members sat cross-legged on the floor making friends with the people squished in beside them. A couple of years later, recently returned from a tour of the UK and Ireland and now playing to a sell out crowd at Oxford Art Factory with their own band, it seems that none of that original warmth and intimacy of a lounge room concert has been lost.
The Sydney-based indie folk quartet are touring their new single "The Devil's Part," which was released just a month ago and is the opening track of their debut album When We Fall, due for release in March. Other recent releases "Tell Me" and "Sailboat" will also be on the album and were delivered excellently on the night to an appreciative crowd that was clearly familiar with the tracks.
"Tell Me", the first track to be released from When We Fall, is a tale of chaos, breakups, fights and other types of mess. It's familiar subject material for the group who seem to have a rather strong line up of quirky folk tracks about failing relationships. "Tell Me" does take a little tangent from this in its music video however, featuring a slow-motion soccer match and some amusing appearances from the likes of Jake Stone (Bluejuice) and Lawrence Leung.
A group of four female singer-songwriters, each a strong musician in her own right, All Our Exes have had an impressive few years since they combined their individual talents and formed the group. They've toured with the likes of Passenger, The Backstreet Boys, Megan Washington and Kate Miller-Heidke, and played numerous festivals and venues around Australia and beyond.
All Our Exes Live in Texas are Elana Stone: (vocals, accordion), Katie Wighton (vocals, guitar), Hannah Crofts (vocals, ukelele) and Georgia Mooney (vocals, mandolin). Yes you read that correctly - accordion, mandolin and ukelele featuring regularly in their songs, not popping up once or twice as a folksy gimmick. And on top of that are what have to be some of the most gorgeous four part female vocal harmonies in Sydney.
Katie Wighton's beautiful vocals in "Our Love Won't Die", for example, swept silence through the venue and indeed brought about a few goosebumps. This mood continued and evolved further still as the rest of the group joined in to absolutely nail their divine close harmonies in the chorus. This was true vocal talent.
The artists put part of the warmth and familiarity of last Thursday's show down to the number of friends and family in the audience of their home town show, but we think this is a modest exaggeration - there were many other fans in the room and the homely atmosphere created on the night was not lost on those of the rest of us either.
Tracks were introduced with self-deprecating stories about awkward relationships, terrible dates and the like. At one stage a fan in the front row was pointed to and one of the musicians told us about "a really shit date" she once went on "...standing right there".
Banter is definitely one of their strong suits - hardly a gap passed between songs without a cheeky anecdote or playful interaction between the group. From the stage they apologised with a grin to their manager who had apparently asked them before the show to please "not get too chatty"... as they continued to ignore this advice.
While it did sometimes feel like the gap between songs stretched out a little too long, that space tended to be filled with fun and resounding giggles from the crowd and it seemed noone particularly seemed to mind.
Both support acts joined the group and their band onstage for a rip roaring final rendition of The White Stripes' "Hotel Yorba". It was fast-paced and full of energy and we couldn't help but wonder if maybe next time they could work a few more such upbeat tunes into their lineup of heartfelt folk ballads.
"I think that might have been the happiest gig I've been to", exclaimed one fan on leaving the venue. We understand the sentiment - it was a fabulously entertaining, friendly, engaging night out and and joyful celebration of the grand songwriting and performance talents of this quirky group of musicians.
Debut album When We Fall is out early 2017 and available for preorder here.
Fanny Lumsden is in the midst of her own Country Halls Tour, which hits St Stephen's in Newtown on November 19.