WOODES STARTED AT A TALENT QUEST; NOW SHE’S SIGNED WITH UNIVERSAL
FROM THE MUSHROOM CUP TO THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
This SXSW, for the first time ever, the Aussie BBQ was extended to two days. This meant two wonderful, glorious days of music, food, and drinks from down under.
We hit up the BBQ every year–those accents, right?–but this SXSW we went to catch Elle Graham, A.K.A. Woodes, playing her first SXSW set at Bush Square Park.
The Aussie doesn’t just sing, write songs, produce music, make art, and draw flocks of SXSW-goers to her sets. She’s also a Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. gamer, a world traveller, and a fan of memes and supporting fellow female artists.
We can’t attest to her claim that she “was not a cool teen,” but with all that she does now, it’s hard to believe. We sat down with her just before she graced the stage.
ALLI (HIGHLARK): We at HIGHLARK like to do things differently, so first: which character would you pick in Mario Kart?
WOODES:I’d go Toad or Bowser, depending on attack or speed. If I’m in battle, it’s pretty good to pick Bowser, just ’cause you can just collide with everyone and whack them. Otherwise I’d go Toad just because he’s really cute. But I know in Smash Bros I always choose the bubble one–
WOODES:Kirby. Because I love it when it does the bubble. Otherwise, Link. My housemates are into it. We’re good, we battle.
ALLI: What’s your record? Do you win?
WOODES:I am not the winner. I live with boys.
ALLI: Fair. What was your first concert like?
WOODES:There are a few–some as myself, some as Woodes.
My first concert as myself was a school talent quest in grade 11. I played one of my first songs, and I won it. It was a cool moment for me because everything had been really personal, and then I put it out there. And I literally was hunched over the whole time and mumbling into the microphone, but everyone really liked it. I think having that confidence of my peers was really cool.
I grew up in a place called Townsville in North Queensland, and there was live music at the surf club on the beach. If you’re underage you can play there, so that was literally the only space for us. I did my first official gig [as Woodes] there, and it was really cool.
I got really dressed up considering it was at a beach shack. I had this housemate bass player who was in a reggae band and she was studying science at the uni… long story, but she had this beautiful beaded dress that was her mother’s. It was kind of short and it had full-on crazy beading on it, and she was like, “I would never really wear this anyway.” But it meant a lot to her and she let me wear it, which made me feel really special.
Two years ago or so, I did a showcase with an all-female line-up. It felt like the right timing and I really am all about [celebrating] all-females, so it was cool. And they put me on in the middle of the lineup so it was a good turnout. It was a nice confidence boost.
ALLI: So if you could share a stage with other SX acts, who would it be?
WOODES:Agnes Obel and Maggie Rogers at the Central Presbyterian Church would be amazing. Agnes Obel is one of my main influences and I’m really enjoying watching Maggie’s journey. Also Solange, she’s really good.
ALLI: What was your last Google search?
WOODES:My Google searches are ridiculous.
ALLI: That’s why we ask.
WOODES:Hierarchy. The spelling, and checking I was on point–you know when you’re about to make a call with a big word? I know what hierarchy means, but just the context.
Then there’s a Nick Murphy search, kinda my inspo video. In “Fearless,” a new branch of Chet Faker, he does this really awesome slap delay of his voice, and then he just starts screaming and stuff… I’m not gonna do that, ’cause he’s just like full on ripping into his gear.
Apparently when he played it at the end of his set at Laneway, a festival in Australia, he just knocked everything across the stage. As an independent musician watching gear just being thrown you’re like, “OH NO! Please don’t, I’ll take that, please don’t break it!”
I’m going to an international songwriting camp in Ubud, Bali, so I was looking up pictures of non-touristy things that are still touristy, like temples and stuff. I’m really keen. It was a competition–I just signed with Universal for publishing. So I guess that just means you get put up for things as a writer.
I didn’t even know I was up for it; my management didn’t tell me. And then they were like, “Oh, you’re going to Bali.” And I was like, “Oh, okay!” I’m really stoked. Last time it was a whole bunch of pop artists from Australia. Guy Sebastian, our first Australian Idol winner, was there. He’s actually really incredible.
There’s also a search for Somehow Me, which is my new favorite Facebook group. It’s pictures that are “somehow you.” It’s a meme group. I’m always trying to find the perfect somehow me.
ALLI: I’ll have to check it out. I’m a big fan of memes.
WOODES:Good. I’m only a member of about 3 or 4, and they’re really funny when they’re by my friends. There’s an artist called Mallrat and she has one. We’re working on a song together–I’m sure I can say that. It’s fine. I’m gonna make sure it happens.
I’m producing it, so it’s up to me to follow through, but it’s really sick. She’s so “cool teenager.” I was not a cool teen, and she just says stuff.
We had one song about Ajax, like spray-and-wipe, and she was just talking about wiping things clean. Really cool lyricist. In Australia she’s killing it. Anyway, she has a meme group about networking, like all the things that go around the office like “we have to empty the bins,” but they’re all written by musicians.
I don’t know if it’s funny, I feel like it’s ironic or something. But there’s a sub-genre of the group of artists doing things, like stupid shoots that maybe business people would see artists doing. I don’t know if it’s that funny but it’s good amongst friends.