Images: (a) Eastmint. Photo by Rachel Taylor. (b)-(d) Events at Eastmint. Photos by Briony Barr.
Featured track- Cold Hands Warm Heart- Quartz coldhandswarmheart.bandcamp.com
Narrator: You’ve arrived at 25 Eastment street, the home of Eastmint studios. This is part of a larger industrial warehouse that in past decades served as a textiles factory as well as storage for flooring materials. Coordinators Genevieve Fry and Esala Liyanage took over an existing arts space here in 2011 and it currently provides studios for people working in fields associated with musical performance and composition, visual and partipatory arts, cinematography and projections. It also provides a home for the Scale Free Network (SFN), an Australian art-science collaborative group and publisher who create books, interdisciplinary workshops, exhibitions and installations which draw on the microscopic world. In addition to this Eastmint hosts semi-regular musical events and album launches for local and touring musicians working in experimental, folk, solo instrumentalist, contemporary classical and other genres. Gen and Esala describe the space, what inspired them to create it, and some of the shows that have taken place here.
Genevieve Fry: It was really a blank canvas. It’s kind of in two sections, the bit out the back where we have the shows at the moment. Then there’s the bit in the front which is a garage with two other rooms where there are artist studios.
Esala Liyanage: We were part of the theatre group called Four Larks. In the 2000s there was this amazing underground theatre scene in Melbourne, like Black Lung theatre, and people put on shows in random spaces. So we all had this experience of people who lived in warehouses and put on shows that were quite immersive and seated with deep listening. We were like playing in these quiet, quiet bands and there was really no space for us to play apart from pubs or art galleries.
Genevieve Fry: So once we had that space there was just so much potential. It’s so sort of open that we almost didn’t take it because it was kind of overwhelmingly large, and cold (laughter). but we saw the potential that we could create something in that space that could allow us to put on shows and different kinds of events and that was quite an exciting prospect. We’ve been part of these theatre events, just as musicians not producing them in anyway. I guess what it was about Four Larks theatre was that they always inhabited and lived in these spaces where they then presented their work. It allowed us to see that there was this possibility that you could live in this quite dynamic space and create within a world that you wanted to be part of, whether that was music or theatre.
Esala Liyanage: A friend of ours, Emily O’Brien, who is an amazing producer,called us up one day and said she’d just finished doing a run of a production of Café Rabatika at Northcote Uniting Church. They were touring the show but there was bits of the stage that they couldn’t take on the tour and she was like do you guys want it? So me and a friend walked down there and carried this giant stage down to Eastmint and put it on the ground.
Genevieve Fry: That’s how the stage came about, which is really just quite a small riser and it’s a bit of a weird shape but that’s cool. Then the seating came kind of slowly, originally people were just sitting on the floor and then I kind of scoured whatever at the time and found some of those sort of fold down cinema chairs that all stack up nicely together.
Esala Liyanage: We got some from the Shadow Electric Cinema as well when they closed down.
Genevieve Fry: And the South Melbourne Design school. This was really making the space because we wanted people to be able to come in and really engage in the music, which is predominantly I guess on the more listening end of the spectrum. It’s not beer drinking music, dancing, pub music, it’s like listening music. So the seating was an important part of the puzzle. We’ve gotten more chairs over the years as well, we scored about 30 pretty good chairs from the church around the corner. We’re always scavenging (laughter). The mezzanine also acts like a balcony so you can go up onto the balcony and watch from there, which is a pretty unique view to have of bands.
Esala Liyanage: It’s kind of like a theatre you know. Its amazing to have somewhere where you can sit down and listen to a band that’s not the recital centre and not a pub, but you can still have a beer in a glass. It’s pretty free and easy.
Genevieve Fry: We’re just trying to make gigs that we want to go to basically, which are across different genres. An evening of quite diverse music. It’s good to throw wild cards in there as well once you do have that captive audience. I think people don’t think that they want to listen to experimental or contemporary classical music (laughter). Like they might not go to a show that’s billed that way but if they come along to the gig because there’s a band that they know and like there then you get this opportunity to open them up to listening to things they perhaps wouldn’t usually explore. I think that’s a big part of our programming.
We had Mary Latimore, which was a highlight because I’m a harpist and she is a harpist. She’s from the States and having her was just wonderful.
Esala Liyanage: Just to have a giant pedal harp in that space.
Genevieve Fry: Having these world-class musicians play the Sydney Festival and then come and play Eastmint was pretty amazing because it’s probably the opposite vibe to wherever they were slated to play in Sydney. I think it’s just incredible opportunity for people to have such an intimate experience with performers like that. You can just go and talk to them, it’s like everyone’s pretty relaxed. There’s only 100 people and we try and keep it not too formal even though everyone’s very attentive and focused while they’re in the audience and while the music’s happening. We’ve had heaps of amazing local acts as well.
Esala Liyanage: Briony Barr’s done participatory work on the side. Between bands was this ongoing work of chalk art that Briony would set rules to and guide the public to draw in between the sets.
Genevieve Fry: We’ve had quite a few projection collaborations with music. Our friend Matsu does really beautiful overhead projections to music.
Esala Liyanage: It’s like UFO club style, oil and water. He did beautiful projections to Hello Satellites album launch.
Genevieve Fry: And we’ve had Briony and Gregory from Scale Free Network. They projected some of their beautiful microscope filmings.
Esala Liyanage: We had this wall where there was micro life crawling on the walls.
07 – Eastmint (25 Eastmint St. Northcote)