After some technical issues with the audio set-up that had audiences members nervously covering their ears against the random bursts of feedback and electric noise, Andy Bull introduced his short Spotify Sessions set by saying that he and his band were about to "do a thing." Such understatement is fitting of an artist like Andy Bull, whose simply, hooky electro pop presents a refreshing change of pace in a contemporary music scene that is characterised by over-earnest bombast and manipulative, rousing climaxes. Bull, who has been toiling away for years before making a breakthrough with his full-length album Sea of Approval earlier this year, was the winner of Emerge, an endeavour by Spotify and HP to put a spotlight on up and coming Australian and New Zealand music.
Bull played four songs, the recordings of which are to be released as a Spotify Sessions EP by the streaming service. It's unfortunate, however, that Bull's between-song banter is not likely to be included as part of the EP. Bull was very funny as he spoke to the audience; he introduced his band, including a humorous anecdote about how they bamboozle shifty backstage characters who might be trying to steal their stuff, and, during the ongoing technical difficulties, joked that he was going to hold the remainder of his set ransom until he found himself on Spotify's "Discover" page. Bull is a soft-spoken, but very engaging on-stage presence.
Highlights of the four song set included the staccato jive of "Keep on Running," and the lightly funky almost-ballad "Baby I Am Nobody Now." The band nailed the start-stop dynamics of the former, imbuing it with a real sense of movement. On the latter, Bull's idiosyncratically high-pitched vocals were delivered flawlessly, driving home the powerful chorus. It's obvious just from watching Bull effortlessly bash out the twisting synth melodies, confidently turning knobs to wrangle just the right sound from his instrument that he is enormously talented. It's no surprise that he has worked with the likes of Lisa Mitchell and "Baby I'm Nobody Now" has been remixed by the legendary pop-maestro Todd Rundgren.
With that being said, it's a shame that the EP session wasn't used as an opportunity to play an acoustic set, or fiddle with the foundations of the songs in some other way. The songs that the band played were more-or-less the same as their studio-recorded counterparts. It seems that the band's great technical prowess overshadowed the need to perform, and even Bull himself seemed a little distant when performing, His vocals were pitch-perfect and sounded great, but there was a lack of spontaneity to the proceedings. When the crew were struggling to get the drum pads to work near the start of the performance, Bull joked that this would be a "stripped back set" and it's truly unfortunate that that didn't come to fruition, and that Bull's personal charisma didn't really translate to the performance.
With that being said, the Spotify Session was an excellent sampler and introduction to a relatively unknown Australian artist whose star is likely to burn far brighter in time. Any hesitance or distance in the performance of Bull and his band can't be held against them in light of the freshness of his sound. Even without the entertaining between-song banter it would have been an entertaining performance, and perhaps from a free gig it's greedy to ask for more.
We'll post a playlist of the songs when they're available on Spotify, but for now take a listen to Bull's new album "Sea of Approval".
Words by Scott Wallace.