Cope St Parade

Swing into The Cope Street Parade

For those of us feeling on struggle street after a long week, this Friday brings a perfect antidote as The Cope Street Parade roll in to town with a playlist of new tunes and old favourites. Jazz isn’t a dirty word, but it doesn’t fully describe the high-energy, all-swinging-all-dancing experience that is The Cope Street Parade, who are playing The Tanks as part of its World Music Series.

Aficionados of the genre(s) will be no strangers to these Australian musical treasures. Now in their tenth year of making music, the outfit has cemented their place in the dog-eared, beer-stained, black book of Australian jazz and swing.

For those less acquainted, the group’s unique brand of rolling rhythms and honest songwriting is an alluring and accessible foray into a scene at times daunting. The young foursome simply want to have a good time, their popular songs belying the immense talent it takes to make it sound that good, and seem that easy.

Ahead of what will be their first Tanks show, we caught up with reed man Justin Femino for a chat about ragtime, gondolas and shit beer.

Hey mate, thanks for chatting. First time performing in Cairns for the group, but have you been visited before?

Yeah we’ve actually been a bunch of times up to Cairns but usually it’s been travelling on a cruise ship.

Oh wow. What’s the cruise ship life like?

Ha yeah, it’s definitely different. Yeah… we don’t do it anymore but it’s a fun experience. Jumping on for a week and, you know… seeing what happens.

I imagine our readers would be split into two types; one with a background in or appreciation of swing, jazz, ragtime etc, and others perhaps uninitiated with the genres. How would you describe your music to the second group, of which I sadly include myself?

Well, generally, we do go under the loose umbrella of jazz. But more often than not, you’ll play and people come up after the gigs and say ‘oh that was great what do you call that music?’  and you’ll be like ‘jazz’ and they’re like ‘oh, I hate jazz though. But I really enjoyed that’ *laughs*  so, we try to steer clear of the jazz thing a little bit. It’s more like, you know, party music. That’s how we like the music to come across. It’s a bit of fun and… not to be taken too seriously.

While your music is unarguably Australian in it’s lyricism, it’s also very true to New Orleans jazz. I understand a few of you play or have played with Geoff Bull, who’s a bit of a legend, and of course spent a lot of time there. Has he been a strong influence?

Yes, most definitely. New Orleans style, which I guess is the original birthplace of  jazz music, we definitely take influence from that. And from Geoff. He’s been such a mentor to all of us. I live in Melbourne now, but there’s a gig every Sunday at the East Sydney Hotel and there’s a few of us in a band with Geoff and we’ve been playing there for about eight years. It’s been a real privilege to get to play with Geoff every week and learn from him. It’s definitely been a big influence on our music making.

There’s a video of the band performing in a gondola in Venice. It’s just this relaxed, lovely clip. Can you tell me about that day?

Oh yeah! That was actually our very first day of our first European tour. So we’d just arrived, and wanted to do a little video to let people know where we were and walked past a guy with a gondola and wondered if we could get everyone in there, get the bass in there… and yeah we did. It was freezing cold and it started snowing straight after we finished the clip. Like we’d just got it done, and we almost got it with the snow falling, which would have been amazing.

Ah man. Maybe you could CGI some snow into it. I’ve gone through your releases – you’ve got some terrific track names, and I couldn’t help but notice a persistent boozy theme. The cover artwork on your latest album Australian Ragtime Music is a really great painting of a pint of beer, and I see a lot of references to (often shit) beer. Is it fair to say the band… like’s a drink?

Oh, yeah most definitely. I think it runs through the music. Everyone likes to get together, have a beer and have a good time. Actually that artwork on the record is by a musician and artist down here in Melbourne by the name of Peter Baylor.

It’s an instant classic. So, a bit of a random one, but I have it good authority that you’re all quite decent at darts.

Ah yeah, right. Well myself more so than anyone else but yeah we don’t mind throwing the dart around. Nothing like, uh, drinking alcohol and throwing sharp objects.

Name a more iconic duo. Hey, would it be fair to say there are some carnival vibes going on? I understand you’re in with the fringe festival crowd, is that an influencing scene?

Yeah. Well about four or five years ago I actually took a bit of time off and joined a circus. So yeah we’ve been around that scene. Carnies and whatnot. So yeah I guess it rubs off a little bit.

Any carnie love songs?

Ooh. Ha. We haven’t delved that far into it yet.

Don’t kiss and tell right?

That’s right.

So you’re playing the Tanks this Friday. What can the audience expect to hear?

Well we’ll be playing music from our most recent album, Australian Ragtime Music, so a bit of that, and a few of the classics, some Cope Street love songs… a bit of everything! We’ve heard it’s a pretty amazing venue and we’re excited to play there. We think it’ll be a really great night!

Jake Gries

The Cope St Parade Play The Tanks Arts Centre this Friday night 2nd of Aug.

Tickets available through Ticketlink

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