Siena Hart is a musician and artist based in Maleny. She plays bass and is co-vocalist for band Melk alongside her guy Nic, as well as running NoVenue (they put on pop-up shows around Brisbane) together and, if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she’s also a photographer and film maker. I adore pro-active souls like Siena who make things happen!
NoVenue is a collective of artists, filmmakers and musicians that collaborate to put on pop-up shows held in different locations across Brisbane and its surrounding areas. What inspired NoVenue to start up?
SIENA HART: The idea of starting a string of pop-up shows around Brisbane featuring underground bands was something that Nic always wanted to do. We were talking about the idea one day in the back of our van and decided that we wanted to also get artists and film makers involved and merge it into something more than just a show. We were trying to decide what to call it and what we initially wrote down for the mock-up of the first poster, became the name. More than that, we decided we should have it in no venue, ever, and so the idea of the travelling show came to be. We had been away for such a long time overseas and we were feeling a huge disenchantment with the idea of coming back to work the nine to five. So NoVenue was really born to give us somewhere to use the skills we had to rouse the scene and give artists an alternative to conventional venues.
Tell us about the first NoVenue show, it was held in a basement right?
SH: We were living in an old Queenslander at the time which had a really strange set-up beneath it. Like somebody had started to build another home under there thirty years ago and got really distracted mid-way. We cleaned it up and built a stage and sound-proofed it with whatever we could find. It was a ridiculous set-up, mattress city crammed into this tiny stage area and huge living-room area. But it was great, so much fun. We had this UV light from an old fish tank we’d been given as a gift which gave everything a weird, blue, eerie feel, like some sort of punk asylum.
I noticed at the most recent NoVenue show featuring The Gooch Palms, your band Melk, Cannon and Pussywhips (held at one of my favourite Brisbane venues, The Waiting Room) that you could buy cassette tapes with hand drawn covers featuring live tracks from the previous NoVenue show with Melk, Sewers and Canibal. That’s such a neat idea; where did the idea come from and is this something you’ll be doing at every show?
SH: Yes! A tape will be released from each show.This was Nic’s idea. He mixed and recorded the first show to kick off his new lo-fi project; NoVenue records. We chose to do the releases on cassette because of that certain romanticism attached to mixtapes. When I was a bit younger I found all these ancient home-made tapes in an op-shop, and they weren’t just somebody copying a commercial release but home recordings with carefully scribed covers of Syd Barrett on the John Peel Show in 1970 or The Kinks at the Fox Theatre in ’88. It just blew me away that someone had been putting so much effort into making these beautiful things purely because they valued the music so much. The DIY aesthetic and the way I valued them so much more because of an anonymous person’s respect for the music really resounded with me. So we wanted to have something that might recreate something even a little bit close to that feeling.
Tell us a little about each band currently connected to NoVenue.
SH: All the bands that have played have been so amazing. It’s such a pleasure having bands that you genuinely love play and really fucking enjoy themselves. We’ve had Gentlemen, a solo set from Matt Kennedy(Kitchen’s Floor/Bitter Defeat), Sewers, Canibal, Melk, Cannon, Pussywhips, Gooch Palms.
And, about some of the other creative individuals involved with your collective?
SH: This past show we had Alex Campbell; the voice behind Gunk with her zine Slubs, the three co-owners of The Time Machine in Nambour; Daniel Stuth, Benjamin Paskins and Barton Worthington, the two latter happening to be incredible artists, and Bianca Amelia who paints these beautiful ethereal-like beings under the name Wall Drawings. There are a bunch of staggeringly talented artists around that don’t often get involved in events because of the formality, the competitive nature or the cost of hiring a space. So we wanted to set up a way of showcasing these guys in an unceremonious, unpretentious way to cut all the crap (so to speak) and focus on the art and the artists themselves.
How can folks get involved/become a part of NoVenue?
SH: Email us! We try to get as many people involved in the shows as we can. There’s a long list of bands and artists who have contacted us and more who we are yet to contact. You can get involved with future shows via our Facebook, email or our blog. Shows are about every two months and we are always planning, so get in touch.
I’ve read that Melk is a creation that was dreamed up by yourself and your partner –in-crime Nic Hew while in a cafe in Amsterdam last year; what were you guys discussing that you decided upon putting together a new musical project? I know before Melk you were both in post-punk band The Submariners.
SH: We had been overseas for a few months by that time and felt that we wanted to come back and start something new in Brisbane. It was a good opportunity to stand back and have a look at where we really wanted to go musically. When we got back, after being away for such a long time, it was like being new to the scene again . New things were going on and new bands were starting to emerge, so it was a really exciting time for us to be starting something that reflected that feeling and the more bare-bones energy of rock and roll.
To Melk, what is rock n roll all about?
SH: Vulnerability, fearlessness, ugliness and splendour, and making people really feel something, giving them something physical. It’s about knowing what that something is and having the balls to stick with it, no matter what.
As well as being co-founder of NoVenue and bassist for Melk you’re a photographer and film maker. What first sparked your interest in photography and what is it that you love most about it?
SH: My father taught me how to wield a camera, as he was a keen photographer, so it’s been a really key part in shaping who I’ve become. He’s a really amazing man who taught me the art of observation at a really young age. Imagery is such a powerful, malleable thing. How could you not be bewitched by it?
Is there a particular aesthetic you strive for with your photography work?
SH: I don’t really have, or keep any direction with what I photograph. I am mostly drawn to bleakness, beauty, and anti-beauty but some of my photographs exist merely for their personal significance. I like to hope that viewers will make their own assumptions or create their own stories regarding the works. If I can make a photograph that is both personal to myself and to every person that views it, that is success.
Do you have a favourite image you’ve taken? What’s the story behind it? Does it have a special significance to you?
SH: This photograph (featured below) was taken in Antwerp. I had been travelling alone for three months, I had caught the flu and I was really feeling terrible. This old gentlemen came over to ask why I was taking photographs of his home. I explained as best as I could in my terrible dutch that I thought the tree was beautiful and he shook his head, laughed and walked me over to another amazing tree growing over and through an abandoned building. Before he left I asked to take his portrait. He was so charming, he blew me a kiss on his merry way! Antwerp means a lot to me. It’s an ugly, beautiful place, scary place. I think when I left there something had changed in my head.
As far as your film work, which piece of work are you most proud of so far? Did you learn anything about yourself while making it?
SH: The way I assemble film works in such a slow way. There a few long-term projects that are being fleshed out slowly from collected captures. These are what I am most proud of but I fear that it will be years before I have the courage to show them! Film, to me, is much more personal because it doesn’t leave as much to the imagination as still photographs. So the vulnerability of it can be both good and bad. Some of the shorter works I do for NoVenue Vision and Melk I get to have a bit of fun with. I made a short to go with a series of photographs for Zyon Magazine recently, which was brilliant fun. I love making beautiful little stories.
What’s next for you? What projects are in the works?
SH: Nic and I just moved up into Maleny (Sunshine Coast Hinterland) which has been such a good thing. Nic is working on a studio which will house NoVenue Records, his label/recording project. It’s really exciting for us to finally use of the amazing gear we’ve collected over the years. We’ve decided to run with the analogue gear we already have to give bands a chance to create something unique. I’ll be working on the other side, NoVenue Vision, which we be releasing some film clips very soon and continuing to document the brisbane scene and beyond. We have started work on the next bunch of shows for NoVenue and we’re working toward Melk’s debut album, so we’re busy but we’d be crazy as hell to complain!
Photo credits: 1 – Nic Hew / 2 + 4 – Jacinta White / 3 + 5 – Siena Hart / flyer – Ben Paskins