Permaculture Magazine (PM): Who are you, where do you live and where have you recorded this album? Basics of who with?
Charlie Mgee/Formidable Vegetable (CM): I'm from a small town called Pemberton in the south-west of Western Australia. To the indigenous Noongar people of that area, it is known as Wandergarup, which means 'plenty of water', which is a blessing in this country! As usual, the new album is a cross-continental collaboration with our star formidable veggies, Mal Webb and Kylie Morrigan as well as a throng of incredible musicians from all corners of the country (and overseas), including a grammy-winning rapper called Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a spontaneous choir we formed on a trip to the remote Gascoyne region on the west coast and my own mum! The album was mostly recorded in a converted solar-powered shipping container studio called Hairy Back Marron in nearby town called Margaret River.
How would you describe the music on the new album? What style/s? What themes have remained with you, what themes have you explored this time and why? Have you seen many changes in society/Australia since you recorded the first album?
This album is a bit of a mix. I vacillated between wanting to write some more permaculture songs that kids would dig but wanting to explore some more mature concepts around self-care and social issues associated with climate change. A few people had suggested that, since I'd written an album about the 12 permaculture principles, maybe I should do one based around the three ethics as well, so 'Earth People Fair' felt like the most obvious title. I've seen a lot of changes in Australia (and around the world) since we released Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual 7 years ago - a lot of positive, grassroots initiative inspired by things like permaculture, but also some pretty heinous government action (or inaction) that sometimes makes it feel like we're heading backwards. The new songs explore the themes of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share with an underlying focus on Self-care to try and inspire people with some more personal tools for resilience in the times ahead. In between the deep stuff though, there's fun, lighthearted songs about composting toilets, hitchhiking and veggie gardens so hopefully it's got something for everyone!
As I hear, it is a more mature sound and approach on much of this album. From where you're standing, is it a more sobering time that needs a more direct message at times?
I've started witnessing an emerging sense of frustration, hopelessness and grieving (both in myself and others) around things such as the climate crisis and instead of being all 'happy-happy-joy-joy' all the time, I wanted to express that it's ok to feel these things and probably an important part of the process leading to empowerment into action. When I did my PDC back in 2011, I remember feeling the urge to stop the world and get off, but after moving through that I was inspired more than ever to keep working towards creating the world I wanted to see. It is a bit more of a sobering time, but I think allowing ourselves to go through this process will ultimately bring communities closer and allow us to work on solutions more effectively.
Why change the name of the band? (Previous name was Formidable Vegetable Sound System.)
Ten syllables just seemed excessive. I mean, it was nice getting a whole line to ourselves on festival posters, but I'm a fan of the whole brevity thing.
When and where can people see you live in 2019?
We're doing an album launch tour around Australia and then planning on making it back to Europe this summer for Glastonbury, Seed Festival and Green Gathering and hopefully a few shows in Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Corfu. We're always creatively using and responding to change, so keep your eyes peeled on our website to find out where we'll be: http://formidablevegetable.com.au/
(PM: The band are available for bookings, so take a look at their site, the dates and contact them about booking them for shows around their major festival appearances (Charlie normally does around 15 appearances at the Glastonbury Festival weekend for example, playing on different stages). Get local venues to book the band and/or tie an appearance in with an event you know of.)
What one collaboration with another music artist would you most like to happen?
I reckon working with Neil Young would be a great collaboration. I love his dedication to singing about environmental issues and have been digging his recent work advocating real food and protesting against GMOs.
That would indeed be a dream collaboration for the permaculture community. Neil Young invited Permaculture Magazine to every date on his 2015 and 2016 world tours. His team enabled PM subcribers/Neil Young fans to attend each of the shows local to them and hand out permaculture information. Musically the shows with The Promise of the Real band were a Neil Young highlight as he played classic tunes alongside his new and hugely influential The Monsanto Years album.
If anyone out there can connect Charlie and the Formidable' to Neil's team with the aim of him joining Neil for a show (or that wished for collaboration) please do what you can today.
Thank you, and thank you to Charlie for his time, enjoy his music, energy and connecting with so many different people, his shows are the best!
First single from new album: Earth People Fair