A son of a single mother, a late start in life, Osheaga was considered an act of rebellion by Bram and Sharon who were keen to experiment on and off stage with music
Bram Smith is a tall, mustachioed, well-dressed 28-year-old with a lot of swagger. If you don’t like how he sits, then your reception won’t change for the rest of your life. When I first meet him, he seems out of place on my doorstep, in his San Francisco-boy-cut-chic attire, ridiculously tie-dyed yellow trainers and sporting a haircut so outrageous it’s the only possible comic relief from the shuddering onslaught of punk-tastic songs and songs with spiritual overtones. “There are only two genres in the history of the world,” he tells me. “Maggot infestation and death metal.”
His five-piece band, Sharon & Bram, are working on their first album, which they hope to release in 2019. “Our style is slightly icky and I’ve a lot of weird scars,” he goes on. “In a way, our music is therapy for what we deal with every day, which is being male and working and struggling to have a career and a life.” Their last EP, Warm and Wild, followed a similar vein, as did 2016’s Song Our Nation Sang, which has since sold more than 50,000 copies in Australia. Since starting a project called the Inventories two years ago, the band has played two sold-out shows in San Francisco and they are currently opening shows for Franz Ferdinand. But Smith has been nominated for an ARIA award – Australia’s equivalent of the Brits – for his instrumental song Half Moon Run. The song is accompanied by an accompanying video, filmed in a Copenhagen apartment. “[Sharon] can sing all her own songs, but she sings like I sing,” he says. “We are like two sides of the same coin.”
Their music, which they describe as “quirky, lowbrow-rock”, is consistently ranked among Australia’s top 10 records by local critics. Yet outside of their hometown of Brisbane, their endearing, unrepentant single Momentos Amusias is only getting about a million YouTube views, which is down on its peak of 2.3m. That’s despite the band gaining more than 10m views on its YouTube channel. The silence is something that bands that have achieved success underlines an alarming number of Aussie artists, like Lorde, having a limited international audience.
Which is part of the reason why Smith, who was raised in Perth, and Sharon, who was raised in Sydney, were keen to make a demo for Osheaga, their first ever festival, in 2013, when a crowd of 90,000 were experiencing their debut single Float. They and their then guitarist Dennis Forster thought it would be a perfect festival show. “Even in those days, people were starting to complain about the lack of interesting queer artists that represented Australia,” says Smith. “We thought we were the only queer Australian band that had a song to fit those requirements.”
Despite the band’s prior success, and their artists’ identities fleshing out her own, Sharon hasn’t yet addressed her sexuality on record. “I think it’s a legitimate issue that you have to deal with. I have a boyfriend and I’m proud to be a part of the lesbian and gay community. [However], it’s important for me to not think about it too much, I’ve realised it can restrict what you create in music.”
Sharon and Bram – Momentos Amusias
Produced by Frank Ocean and Ross Hogarth at Osheaga (2013)