Woman Crushing-It Wednesday: Morgan-Leigh Brown of Acolyte
Melbourne's Acolyte are on a meteoric rise. With the successful debut of their Shades of Black EP in 2016, support of Twelve Foot Ninja and the release of their critically acclaimed video for 'Space & Time', the band are on an upwards trajectory. With their unique blend of theatrical, heavy, progressive rock they've been quickly making a name for themselves, becoming a featured artist on Melbourne's Triple M and spins on triple j. We had a chat to the formidable front woman, Morgan-Leigh Brown about their upcoming tour, the immense amount of work that went into their 8-minute epic music video, and their upcoming album.
How’s everything going for you and the band right now?
Everything’s going really, really great. It’s a pretty exciting time, closing the last chapter if you will on the end of our debut record. So being able to do that at the same time as going back on the road again with our live show is always a little bit exciting.
Congratulations on the epic music video you just released, Space & Time. It’s set in the desert, where did you go to film it and can you tell us a little bit about how it all went down?
Thank you! I personally got involved a little bit more throughout the lifespan of Shades of Black with all of the music videos and stuff like that, so when it came to the third, we weren’t even sure we were going to do it, we wanted to judge how the others went first because we only wanted to do it in full, if we were going to do it at all, an expansive version that has a very, very expansive ending. So when we made the decision that we were going to do it, I just became overly ambitious, I think, for a local band, and found all of these locations up and down the whole east coast of Australia. We were filming part of it in farmlands down in Shepparton, then we went up to Mildura and did a little bit in the Perry sand dunes, which is a lot of what you see, but the open spaces where the deserts are we had to go a little bit more internal from the Mildura area to find the sparsity that we needed there. I think we did a little bit in some really artistic studios, too. It was just a mixture of a bunch of things, really.
How long was the filming process all in all?
The filming process itself probably took 3 or 4 full weekends. We probably did 2 completely dusk till dawn, dusk till dusk shoots, so 24 hours on each. But really, the prep that went into this one was really the big thing that we hadn’t done with the others previously. The prep took months and months beforehand. Me and the young director from the company Jarrah Film, he actually came with me in the car, and we actually drove to all of these locations so we could scout them all out, along with others as well. We definitely put a bit of effort in.
You’ll be heading out on the road to some major cities and regional towns shortly. Are you excited to play these shows over the next couple of months?
Yeah, it’s because it’s the lifeblood of our band. It’s the thing that keeps us all really engaged and together as a unit. Every time we do it, it brings us much closer as well. We really do all of the things we do, artistically, so that we get this kind of opportunity afterwards. To say that we’re excited is almost an understatement and to be able to bring new music to it as well is really exciting.
What’s 2018 looking like for Acolyte? You said you’re working on a new album and it’s nearly finished, can you maybe tell us a little bit more about that?
Yeah, we’re about 1/3 through at the moment, I think, but time will tell. Things might change as we hit the studio more, but we’re projected to hit the studio again to lay all the finals in January we hope, but we are going to bring out some of the other solid demo’s we’ve worked on up until now, so a good 35 minutes of our set will probably be dedicated to newer music.
How did you get into singing? Have you always wanted to be a performer?
I’ve always wanted to be a performer, actually, my parents got me into musical theatre and everything from a very, very young age, so I was doing guest spots and things like that with the Melbourne Theatre Company. I then went into understudy roles for much bigger Broadway productions and things like that. So, I did know I always wanted to be a performer, and I did study for it at school, but it was just something about it as a career that didn’t strike me enough to really start to go into it, rather than it being something that was on the side of something else. That was until I really got into this with the guys, this is my first band experience AND my first rock experience, so I’ve had to retrain my vocal abilities to be able to do a lot of the lower parts of what we do and retrain myself. I think it’s always exciting, as a performer, to be able to explore and go on a journey with building better parts of yourself, if that makes sense. So, you know, I’m exploring stuff that I never would’ve been able to do if I’d stayed where I was. Yeah, I really like it.
Have you always had a bit of a passion for rock and heavy rock music, or is it something you’ve grown to love over the recent years?
I’ve always loved it, but never thought I’d be a part of it. All the way through high school, I wasn’t an angsty kid or anything like that, I was always very, very sporty. You know, that typical blonde kid who was always playing sport and was part of the arts program and this, that and the other, but I was always listening to this stuff. I remember sharing a room with my little sister when I was much younger and I got my hands on a Marilyn Manson album, of all things, and we were actually going to sleep to that at one stage. The heavier stuff has always been ingrained in me. I like it’s aggression, I like that it can do beautiful things as well as angsty things. It can cover so many grounds, rather than just one emotion, even across one song. I think that’s something that’s really struck me.
For the readers that might have not heard you guys before and are just discovering you guys now, can you tell them a bit about how the band got started and how you came to be the front person of the band?
So, basically, I ran into Jason, he’s the bassist, and he’d been in a number of bands up until that stage, and we were just hanging out, and I said that I could sing and do all of that kind of stuff. He’d been friends at that stage with the original guitarist for 17 years and they’d been in a couple of fairly successful bands prior, sort of in the late 90’s, going into the 2000’s. So they’d been laying down stuff that I think eventually ended up on Shades of Black, but to get the musicians to make up the rest of the band, they needed some vocals on there to drag other people in and put them up on all of the audition sites. So I said that I’d sit there and do a bit of ad lib across that, and they ended up loving it so much that they said ‘we like you as well, and need to do this, let’s give it a shot’. It was a sort of really friendly, organic experience and a happy coincidence I guess.
What’s some of your favourite music to listen to, both from the past and right now?
Growing up, I personally loved the colours and things in a lot of Tool. Maynard was able to bring a lot out that I hadn’t been exposed to before. As I’ve grown up more, Steven Wilson is obviously a huge one at the moment, especially with his new album out, I know we’re absorbing a lot of that right now. I think it’s very important, if you want to better yourself, you want to be able to absorb and be open to people who are doing such great things and really pushing the boundaries themselves, and that pushes you as well. We share a lot of albums with each other, in the band. They’re very weird sometimes. We’ve got foundations in the world of metal, I’m a theatre person, a classically trained person, our drummer is a jazz musician. You’ve got the 90’s and 2000’s prog rock in the bassist. We’ve got a lot of different things going on.
If you could choose three bands or artists from anytime period, past or present, to play live with, who would they be?
Without any doubt in my mind, definitely Steven Wilson. I’d love to play with him. Classically speaking, I’ve got some heroes there, like Sarah Brightman would be one for me, and would be really fantastic from a classical sense. There’s some drummers out there, I really, really like the rhythmic part of what we do, and a lot of the music that we listen to, even Danny Carey, I’d love to play with him behind me.
Because you are about to head out on the road, do you have any funny or fond memories from the road that stand out?
Yeah, when I decided to be the driver for the whole tour, and the singer and the organiser all at once, I forgot to fill the car with petrol twice. So we broke down twice in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and we missed one of our shows, I think it was a Mt Gambier show. We thought we were going to hit a town, but it was just a crossroads with three houses, but someone was kind enough to come down with their motorbike jerry can to give us enough to get to where we needed to go, but I did that twice on the same tour. Needless to say, I’ve been shafted from that job.