“It is strange being in a folk-pop band here,” laughs Bridget Turner for the first of many times during our interview. “There are lots of vaguely inappropriate places to play in Perth if you play our kind of music,” she says of the rock-heavy sounds the city has become known for over the last decade. “Still, there are great scenes here.”
Neither a Simon and Garfunkle tribute band nor any longer a female duo, Simone and Girlfunkle began life as a project between Nelson and lifelong best friend Gabrielle Lammers. Though playing for several years, the band only released their first EP in late 2010, building up enough of a fanbase to ensure the launch was a sell-out and interesting offers of gigs ensued.
“We recently played The Ethnic Business Awards,” she says with a laugh, “it was televised on SBS and Aurora and it’s this big sit-down dinner affair with the Premier and all these politicians. After we played our folk songs, we had just got offstage and were still trembling when the Syrian Ambassador wanted to talk to us. He talked about his wife - which was good - and was full of praise; ‘that was great, you girls keep going’, it was one of the strangest things.”
Now with four other members, Nelson doesn’t find it weird that Simone and Girlfunkle now refers to a partly male collective, “I‘ve never asked the guys if they mind being in a band with this name,” she says wistfully. “I guess not, they do it with a smile, and they show up. We write more collaboratively now too. Gabby and I sit in Hyde Park and write with the birds around us, in nice areas of shade so our guitar doesn’t buckle. When we started singing together we wanted to have a band but didn’t really know it, we glided into it. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, it’s what I want to do with my life, but if you put the focus in the wrong places, it won’t get you what you want. I have no illusions, and it’s working out all right so far.”
With the growth of the band seeming to be almost accidentally happening around the songwriting core, Nelson professes to be set on music as a life-long career, even if the releases aren’t coming thick and fast.
“The EP took a long time, a few years in fact, but when you get paid $50 a gig it takes a while to save up to make a record. Gabby and I messed around and didn’t focus on it much; we were more interested in writing and playing. We recorded an EP of our acoustic stuff, tested out the band with it, and had a launch that was a great success and everyone liked it,” she says happily. “We don’t have the cashola for an LP; we want to record an EP of songs with the band, more pop flavoured than the EP, more…Cliff Richard.”
With a biography containing multiple references to the clean-cut 50s popstar, this obsession clearly requires some explanation. “I really like old music and Cliff Richard especially, and I figure if I keep name-dropping him, a [Google] search for Cliff Richard will bring us up and eventually we get to meet him,” she says giggling at the logic. “I almost got to meet him last year,” says Turner excitedly interrupting herself. “My brother is in the Army and I was at the airport seeing him off, and at another gate, far away, I saw Cliff Richard with all of his people. So, I was running towards him but there was a security gate between him and me and I had to get scanned. Security were like ‘you have a weapon’ and they found a fork in my bag. By the time I was through, he was gone. It was tragic.”