Yours & Owls

The three Leisure Coast born-and-bred men who make up Yours & Owls, Balunn Jones, Adam Smith and Ben Tillman, don’t see themselves as anything special, just long-time friends forging unique work for themselves to avoid the 9-5 monotony. What they have done to the landscape of Wollongong however is something special. While they’re the first to admit they haven’t done it perfectly, where others have seen brick walls and stopped dead, they’ve scrounged for a bulldozer and blazed the entire fortress down, virtually transforming a cultural wasteland into an exciting wonderland that continues to unfurl before our eyes. They haven’t done it single-handedly, but they have been an integral part of the shift. With Shining Bird frontman Dane Taylor in tow, we took the three of them to the site of many a creative spark, Thirroul’s eternal Beanstalk, to delve into their history, dynamics and questionable vegetable analogies.

Black Gold: It seems like you guys have reached a new level at present for Yours & Owls with this epic festival and its amazing lineup. How have things changed since the early days?

Balunn: Ever since you started with the parties in the early days of the barn you’ve been pushing us forward Tillman.

Tillman: Yeah things haven’t specifically changed, more things have happened, just kind of collecting new things to do really.

Adam: You just can’t help yourself, you have to go for that carrot.

Balunn: Yeah you love to push it eh! You just keep dangling the carrot, it’s like, “How about we do this?” and we’re like, “Oh…kay…”

Adam: We’re suckers for punishment.

Tillman: I’m dangling the carrot, or I’m getting the carrot dangled in front of me? I swear it’s both!

Balunn: I don’t know, but you like to dangle it as much as you like to chase it.

Adam: There’s a lot of imagery here…

Tillman: It’s like there’s a carrot dangling in front of me, but there’s one attached to my back as well.

Adam: That sounds really…interesting. (much laughter)

Balunn: You’re like a pacific dancer with those straw skirts, but it’s just made of carrots. (even more laughter)

Let’s go back to the start again. Talk us through the evolution of Yours and Owls and where you each came in…

Adam: It goes back a long way. We’ve known each other since we were kids you know. We used to play in a band together! With Jeff (Bell) as well.

No way! I did not know that! What were you called?

Adam: I don’t know, we had a name right?!?

Balunn: I don’t remember, but yeah, I think I met you in year 8? Because your house was on the way from my house to the beach, so we’d go from my house to Ben’s house and then to the beach. 

Tillman: Yeah, so we used to surf together.

Balunn: We’d have bacon sandwiches at Ben’s house and then go surfing. Tillman always had his drums set up at his mum’s house so then we started playing as a band at Ben’s place.

Tillman: Jeff used to surf a little bit as well - that’s a story in itself!

Balunn: He did hey! Because his house was the next stop. It was like Adam and I and then Ben’s house and then Jeff’s house and then the beach.

Tillman: That was like a whole day.

Balunn: It was, it was crazy how quickly the days went when you were kids.

Tillman: We’d go for a surf, eat some food, hang at Jeff’s and then go back for another surf in the afternoon.

Adam: We started jamming. Bal lived in this place that had a crazy garage. It had this crazy…like a pit under the house. We used to jam down there.

Balunn: It was full of junk.

Tillman: I swear your parents were loving it. We cleaned it up and your parents were like, “Ah, good one kids!”

Balunn: And then my dad, he’s super-schitzy to noise. After the drums were going for a while he’d get pretty riled up!

Adam: But yeah, we used to just jam there and that’s kind of how we started hanging out. And then we all went through teen-hood I guess and then you moved out Tillman, to The Barn, and that was the first share-house.

Tillman: I think we started uni the year I moved into the barn.

Adam: Somewhere around then, maybe the year after.

Balunn: You guys got fined right? That’s why you threw the first party.

Tillman: We used to do these parties, that was Dav, Koots made himself a part of the house but he didn’t live there, me, Rory, Monz, Lofty for a little bit… On Sandon Point beach, right opposite Sandon Point, we paid $150 a week between four people!

Adam: So they used to throw these parties - one of them I swear there was 500 people at - and then did you have bands, or like a DJ?

Tillman: We didn’t have bands, or a DJ, we just had CD’s. Rory used to have a portable DVD player, which he’d put in a cup-holder in his car and then watch movies when he drove up to Sydney every day for work. So we used that DVD player as a CD player and we’d just make mix CD’s and put it on our shitty sound system. Then as soon as the music would end, some dero would run inside, steal the thing and there’d be no music.

Adam: You had some smashed windows and the cops would come - the last one the cops were really onto it. They were checking your MySpace. Remember that? They knew about it and then they shut it down straight away.

Tillman: That’s when we got all the fines. So we had all these fines for having too many people. It was pretty hectic. I had to go to court for some of them actually. Do you know Tom Fetterplace? He got arrested for not moving along and the cops fully roughed him up and got him on the ground. He hired this full sleazy gun lawyer and took him to court. We had this system of wrist-bands for the party and he had one, but the cops were still like, “Nah, get out of here!” He was being a bit of a smart-ass so he got arrested and then we copped all these fines for public disturbance or something. So we were like, “How are we going to pay for these fines? We can’t pay for it ourself!” Big Dav was in there at that point and he was a bit older so he was like, (goes into deep-voice Dav mode) “Oh, oh we’ll just throw another party and make some money.” He was an adult so he actually knew how to do stuff. So we learned how to talk to people and actually make things happen. Castro’s agreed to let us do it and that’s when Liberteen Ranch started.

Adam: You had like Miami Horror, The Jezabels…

Tillman: It was just a club party really, trying to make money to pay for the fines and then it worked and it was heaps of fun, we got heaps of free drinks and it kind of all started from there I guess.

When did Night Eats Day come along, was that later on?

Tillman: So we did the Ranch and then I got offered Ratatat out of the blue.

Balunn: That was a huge show because Tame Impala supported them.

Adam: Cloud Control as well?

Balunn: No it was Young & Restless and Tame Impala.

Adam: They all looked so young then (Tame Impala). The bass player was tiny! They were like 16 or 17.

Tillman: We did that and that was cool and then after that The Grand Hotel people asked us to do regular stuff. So we did Night Eats Day. That went for about a year maybe and then those dudes were just heaps dodgy and didn’t pay their bills pretty much. Around that time the boys (Balunn, Jeff and Adam) got back from South America.

Balunn: Yeah it was around that time that we all got home.

Adam: And me and Bal wanted to start a cafe after that trip. You know you come back from overseas and you feel like you can do anything. You just feel like dreams could true.

Balunn: Just before that I’d gone from South America, where you could do whatever you want because there was no laws, to London and didn’t have any money, so I was just like “Oh I’ll just start a sushi business,” and I was in the ritziest part of London because I was staying at my grandma’s house. So I had free accomodation but I had no money. It was in South Kensington and I was like, “I’ll just sell sushi to the local shops!” So I just bought all this stuff and made these shitty sushi rolls and took them around to all these fancy fish shops in the posh part of London. “Ah, I’ve got these fancy sushi rolls. Do you think you can sell them?” I made up all these stories about training in Japan with sushi chefs and all that and I gave out all of these samples. They were heaps nice, they were like, (puts on posh British accent) “Is that the branding they’re going to come in? Do you have a brochure or something?” I was like, “Nuh! That’s it.” I did one walk around all the shops and realised it wasn’t going to work, no one’s going to buy it. Up that point I’d spent like 18 pounds buying all the stuff. I had a big jar of sushi vinegar and all the stuff for sushi rolls and I was like “Ah, I’ve wasted all of my last bit of money on this stupid plan and it’s never going to work!” I came home very shortly after that and I was like, “Let’s just start a cafe here!”

Adam: And we’ve pretty much worked off that same ethic. So Bal and I were keen to open a cafe. We were never going to have music or anything, potentially it was going to be a bar.

Tillman: We didn’t plan for it at all did we?

Balunn: Nah, but once the cafe opened you’d already been doing the music and then…

Tillman: I think I was bit bummed out because of the Grand dudes…it was just a real negative environment.

Adam: So you didn’t want to do shows.

Tillman: I was just burnt out from that whole thing, didn’t care about it.

Adam: It was like 6 months in maybe…

Yeah because you had started off with the gallery and everything…

Adam: Yeah we had the gallery and then Kirin (Kirin J Callinan) played at our first exhibition opening but it wasn’t like a show. It wasn’t going to be a venue, but that was amazing.

Balunn: That was probably the best art show we did, that first one, Barry Langcaster.

Tillman: Andrew Bass’s was pretty cool…

Adam: Yeah the start was really good.

Balunn: It started off with a bit of a bang.

Adam: That rolled along. It was very much a food thing, we were doing the cafe. Then we got a liquor license and we started…

Tillman: We started doing dinners and they got progressively boozier. We were young and we had the shortest attention spans. We went through so many menus.

Adam: We changed like every day!

Balunn: The kitchen was pretty small hey. We had the toastie press and then the oven and that was it. And we designed like a 15-course tapas menu with seafood and three or four different types of meat. We started to get bookings, like it kind of got a bit of traction. We’d get 20 or so people come in and that was the place packed. We did garlic prawns and we’d cook them on the plate with the chilli on there and everyone in the whole place would start sneezing because of the chilli on there.

Adam: I remember just coughing and crying from the chilli! It was creating a very unpleasant atmosphere.

Tillman: It was getting so hard. We had to prep so much stuff. Things just got less and less common to be on the menu. You know and we’d run out of things, “Can I get some quinoa sushi please?” “Oh sorry we’ve already sold out of that,” and it’d be like 6pm.

Adam: We were 21 when we started and we were really ambitious and had ideas but didn’t follow it all the way through.

Tillman: It was a learning process for us really.

Balunn: It was like a uni degree. There was the weirdest people who liked to come in. The outcasts of society who didn’t fit in anywhere else. So there was always these crazy people coming in.

Dane: Like the people that worked there! (collective ooooh’s)

Balunn: I think we were accepting though. They felt comfortable enough to come in there.

Tillman: They would have tried with all the shops. I remember seeing some of our regulars going past other shops and some of the shop owners would get out the front with a broom and start going, “Piss off! Git! Git!”

Adam: We got some gems out of it.

Dane: Big Red.

Adam: Yep, Big Red. Marie was our favourite.

Tillman: She did an art exhibition, that was a good one.

Adam: She was a bit of a wise woman - like a sage.

Balunn: I remember her talking about walking down, like because she’d lived her whole life in Keiraville, and she used to walk into town and said it was just all horses and paddocks until you got down to the intersection and she’d been doing that walk for 40 years and seeing it change the whole time. So she was really interesting. She’d come in and have this really critical eye on everything. And she was a recovering addict, she’d been through some rough traps and looked at the city with a real interesting point of view.

Tillman: She was always so supportive of us. We obviously never made any money out of that shop and she’d always come in and if we were looking a bit down and defeated by the whole thing she’d just whisper these cryptic sort of messages you couldn’t understand but you knew she was saying that what was going on was a really good, really positive thing. She could see that it was going to turn into something. It was this weird thing that made us feel like we were actually doing something.

You guys did open the door for a lot of things to come. By the time you opened the Oxford had closed, there was nothing really going on…

Tillman: The Little Price / Otis Bar had just started. She’s like our fairy godmother.

Adam: Most of our influences have been women to be honest. She really pushed us, just had some good advice.

Tillman: There was no competition, she nurtured us through it. Told us how to get stuff happening, but I think we have abrasive personalities maybe. Like we didn’t know the rules to start off with, so we just broke them all. I think that’s what opened the doors. Because we just brought all this attention while others were just quietly going about their business trying to get through, and we were just like, “What’s going on? This is fucked! Why can’t you do this? This is rubbish!”

Balunn: But then it got real expensive real quick. Like we racked up $14,000 worth of fines in two months. We got slammed by the council for not doing the fit-out properly, so we had the health inspectors come in and we had two $1,500 fines. Then we had that Bungalows show and we had undercover cops in. There was 120 people in there and the counted everyone and slapped a $3,000 one there and then we got liquor ones for selling alcohol out front. So then all of a sudden it was like $14,000 worth of fines! Then there was the spray-painting thing…

Adam: It’s been 5 years now since that happened and now we’re finally allowed to paint over it with approval because the new owner of Rad wants us to do a mural. So that’s a nice bit of closure for us 5 years later. But yeah at that time there was just the Otis (The Little Prince) that was the only small bar, we started our thing, the Oxy had shut down, so we were kind of like, “Let’s just do some shows…”

Dane: Who was the first band?

Adam: Well Kirin, but that was an art thing.

Tillman: When was Shining Bird?

Adam: That was a Christmas show, $5 on the door and it was packed. Was that your first gig?

Dane: Second, first was the Stoke Factory.

Adam: It was really special because remember you made those Christmas treats as well? And everyone got those rum balls.

Dane: Oh yeah, I forgot about that!

Tillman: What was our actual first show? Was it Holden and Henny?

Adam: Yeah it was that Mexican night. It was just our mates dressed up as mariachis and they played this ridiculous…

Tillman: That was the point for me, we had the Andrew Bass exhibition and we had this big space table and it was really low. That was the moment because Adam had been banging on about it, “C’mon let’s do bands, let’s do bands!” and then I just remember, because we had our liquor license and everyone had a few drinks. I just remember looking up into the room and it was really dark and there was all these guys sitting around the table and Henny just had his knee up on the table and was just shredding on this acoustic guitar. It was actually incredible. The vibe was so good. I think from then on it was just a done deal. It was all downhill from there…

Dane: I bought one of Bass’s prints that night.

Tillman: Which one?

Dane: That one that looks like a spaceship landing on the beach.

Balunn: They were cool, it was heaps interesting stuff.

Adam: The shop was looking good back then too. So clean, the white walls. Polished floorboards…

Tillman: We kind of realised we’re not good at early mornings, we’re not very good at doing all these different things, so let’s just not do them. We realised the music thing had a bit of traction so we got out of the bar. And now Dan is going through the exact same thing that we went through. It’s pretty cool.

Dane: It seems like you guys are really good at seeing where the holes in the market are, what needs to be filled…

Tillman: It’s not even like we’ve looked at any sort of landscape and gone, “Oh, that needs filling, let’s just do it.”

Adam: It’s all just been stuff we want to do and I think we’re lucky in that we hang out with a lot of people who are similar-minded and don’t really say, “That’s a stupid idea.” They’re just like, “Oh yeah, that’ll be cool.”

Balunn: Yeah and I think we’ve always tried heaps of different things as well. Always trying heaps of different stuff and sometimes it doesn’t work and the things that do work we keep doing them.

Adam: We’ve definitely had a few that have been trial and error.

Tillman: I swear Big Dav’s been real good for that. He’s been the older sort of dude who always just…I don’t think he’s ever had a normal job either and he taught me that. I remember that point where Dav’s just like you can pretty much do what you want if you just try to do it. There was just this moment where I was like you can choose to do whatever you want, you don’t have to go get a normal job.

Adam: All of our mates, all of us used to just do this, go to the Beanstalk when we were like 18 or 19 and Martin would be like, “Do you guys work? Get a job you bums!” Now we’re still doing it and we actually are managing to work while doing the things we want to do, which is cool.

Tillman: It’s just nice, because we’ve been banging the drum for 6 years or whatever and it’s nice that it feels like we’ve managed to trick everyone into doing what we want to do. That’s the best thing. Because it means that it is a thing that you can do for a job or as a lifestyle.

Adam: I mean it is a pretty easy cause to champion. “Let’s bring arts and music to Wollongong. Let’s party!” That’s the thing, we’ve never really tried to be too highbrow, we’ve just been ourselves in saying “Let’s have a party in Wollongong,” and they’ve allowed us to do that.

Everything you guys have done from the cafe to the bar to now Rad Bar and through to the festival has such a laid-back feel. Like the festival has to be the most chill festival in music. Which is true to Wollongong. It’s also a serious festival, but it’s a completely different feel to the standard ones.

Tillman: I guess we’re not corporate-minded, which some festivals are. I think a lot of them, like Splendour, have come from good places, like those people who have organic growth where they’re not doing anything with money as the driving force behind it. I think that’s always going to be where something feels good and you can tell it’s…

Adam: I mean people can smell a rat. If they feel like it’s got this hectic corporate backing or like a council-run festival or something, people just don’t dig it, people don’t go.

Tillman: I’d like to thank our sponsors, uh… Wollongong City Council (much laughter)

Adam: You know what I mean…

How did things unfold after you sold the cafe to Dan?

Balunn: (to Tillman) You had your accident.

Tillman: Yeah, it was in October.

Adam: Pretty much a year to the day before we were actually out of that place.

Balunn: We were out in September. We were already doing shows at the Town Hall before that. So we were already starting to do bigger shows. We had Tumbleweed, I think there was a Sticky Fingers one. But yeah, after you had your accident we just started hating the shop even more.

Tillman: It was a weird time.

Balunn: It was a weird time.

Adam: It sort of galvanised us as well.

Tillman: I guess everyone sort of got a break as well, because that shop would have been heaps stressful for you guys. It was bad enough with three of us, but with just two people running it, making no money…

Adam: We were just like, “Why are we doing this?”

Balunn: It went a bit sour for a little while. Then I broke my arm, so I was out as well and I was heaps stoked when I broke my arm, I was like, “Yes! I don’t have to go in and do that shitty…” and it was just Adam. I was so excited.

Adam: That’s alright, I’m used to it.

Tillman: Yep, we stitched old Adam up a few times…

Adam: A couple times I’d get to the cafe and it was just destroyed and it was the partners that had done it. It wasn’t the staff who had left it in that state. The staff would leave it perfect.

Balunn: We always had paint cans lying around and we just threw paint around everywhere, we painted the front wall and I remember all the tables and chairs were turned upside down and we sat one of those old arm chairs up the front and we wrote on a big piece of cardboard a big finger and it just said “fuck you” so that was the first thing Adam saw when he walked into the door, just this big finger.

Adam: I gave them an earful the next day.

Balunn: You rocked up and the Mercury was at the front door because we’d painted the outside.

Adam: Allegedly. Allegedly you’d done all that.

Tillman: It was allegedly our footprints walking in and out the door covered in paint as well.

Balunn: It got pretty crazy there. Thank god we got out of that one.

Tillman: So we got out of it and I guess there was just a bit of downtime. Dan had asked me to keep doing shows for him, so I was still doing that but it wasn’t much.

Balunn: You started doing Farmer and the Owl as well with Jeb and you did the first Farmer and the Owl festival at the uni.

Tillman: It all started because there was that council thing, the Live Music Task Force, and Jeb and I started talking.

So there was that whole time, Tillman’s rehabilitating, what did the other two of you do?

Adam: When we sold the cafe Bal and I just got normal jobs.

Balunn: We didn’t know what would happen to Yours & Owls. It could’ve just finished.

I guess the cafe was kind of out of your hands at that point…

Adam: Yeah and Ben at that point hadn’t started booking other shows as Yours & Owls. He was doing Rad, but not really anything else.

Tillman: We kind of just went back to what we were doing before the cafe, so I started booking shows for other venues, Bal started doing his other job, Adam was doing his other job and then accidentally, I don’t remember how it happened, I started hanging out with Jeb. I was just heaps bored and wanted stuff to do. We did that King Gizzard show and that led to a bunch of other stuff. It was funny with Bal and Adam, because you knew you wanted a break from it, but it was heaps fun so it was hard to stay away.

Adam: We never really stopped helping either. Even with all those Farmer and the Owl shows we were always there.

Balunn: I fully cut myself off for those first few. I was like, “I hate this, I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Adam: I was always doing the logistics thing, just kind of helping out.

Tillman: At the start I was kind of like, “I’m doing this thing, do you want to be a part of it?” and the reaction was like, “I want a break from it.” but as soon as it started happening, it was like, “Oh, actually, it looks heaps fun, I do actually want to be a part of that.” I think that’s back to that whole carrot dangling thing. We’re just all in the fruit shop!

Adam: I think we always knew we were just on hiatus. We didn’t think it was fully over.

So Adam and Bal, you’re both back full time now? You quit your jobs?

Adam: Yep.

Tillman: When did we fully come back together?

Balunn: We kind of all sat down and were like, “Ok, what are we doing with Yours & Owls? Is it going to be a thing any more? Are we going to quit it? What’s it going to be?” and that was when we decided to give the festival a go. So we did the first Yours & Owls festival and that went well, then the second Farmer and the Owl festival the year after that.

Tillman: So was the second Farmer and the Owl the first festival?

Balunn: The first Farmer and the Owl was The Drones one. You did that one, you, Jeb and Nick and then the second we were on. So the first ones we were working other jobs and doing the festivals, but this year we’re full time doing festival stuff.

Tillman: It’s pretty cool and it’s been such a difference. I feel like this year has just stepped up so much. It would have been crazy with you guys juggling another job to pay your way and still trying to get stuff done, like in the mornings before work and in the evenings. Now everyone’s fully focused on this one thing. Again, there’s heaps of crazy ideas and heaps of stuff that doesn’t happen, but at least we’ve all got time to talk it through and be thinking about it.

Balunn: It’s going to be a big festival this year, there’s heaps of cool stuff going on.

There’s obviously more international bands in the mix…

Tillman: Yeah, but it’s all the other stuff I reckon. There is bigger bands and more stages, but just all the other details stuff I think is what’s going to make it heaps more special. The cool different little projects, the art stuff getting involved.

I loved that aspect last year as well, even like having the whole Forever Projects thing. That was sick.

Adam: Yeah that was sweet.

Tillman: That was cool.

Adam: That’s the best part about it is just working with the local groups. It makes it pretty fun.

Balunn: I think that’s what makes it more authentic as a festival, especially compared to more commercial festivals that are popping up here and there and then disappearing. Even with the lineup, it’s such a diverse lineup, it crosses so many different genres. We’re doing that on purpose, we want as many people to come as possible. So the more community groups that get involved, the more different bands, the more you can have a celebration of the local community, which is what a festival is supposed to be, you know, like a cool one that’s celebrating art and culture.

Obviously within the lineup you have all the bigger Australian and international bands, but you also have all the local bands on equal footing - a solid amount of local bands for that big a festival. It’s so good. How do you split your time Tillman? Between Farmer and the Owl, Yours & Owls and the promoting, I feel like it must be pretty muddy across each of the different things. In your head is it all one thing?

Tillman: I’ve got phones in each hand. I don’t know, each individual task is its own thing. So, like there’s a video coming out for a band tomorrow and you have to do all these little jobs to get that thing happening. Each individual job is it’s own thing, but you know that it’s all related. So I can’t just go, “Ok, today I’m going to do label stuff, tomorrow I’m going to do festival.” You know emails will come in, you have meetings or whatever and sometimes you can knock off two or three of those jobs at once. You know, “Do you want to play the festival? Also, we need to get this thing for Bec or Hockey Dad sorted, can we get that rolling?” I think because it’s such a small world it’s not like the label is one job and the festival is another job, which equals two full time jobs. They’re both related so you can get two jobs done with one and a half times work or something. there’s heaps of conversations, like even with Adam, where most of your stuff is crossing over, it’s like, “Hey we need to talk about sponsorship for the festival. Oh yeah, we’ve got a Hockey Dad tour coming up.” It just all flows into one conversation.

Adam: Living up here is nice because you can just go down the road and everything’s right here.

Tillman: I’d say my entire life is consumed with this stuff but social and work lines are very blurred. So it’s not too much of an issue. Like I was hanging out with Jeb last night and that’s technically working I guess, because we put time aside for a label meeting but we just talk shit for the whole time.

Adam: On the other hand we went to that Shining Bird gig at the CWA Hall. I went there to watch my mates’ band, but I also knew there’d be heaps of people there and I ended up talking business with them anyway, but it doesn’t feel like that. It’s an opportunity to hang out with a lot of people that you want to hang out with. It’s a nice way of doing it.

Tillman: It’s just like we’re kids, because we’re not working proper jobs so we’re just playing kind of. So each project you’re just playing with your mates. Instead of, “Let’s go down to the sandpit,” or whatever, it’s saying, “Let’s build this crazy thing, it’s heaps fun,” and then everyone’s like, “Yeah, it heaps fun!” And now it’s at that point where we can afford to pay people to do things and pay ourselves not to have to do all that other shit.

Adam: Unlike back in the bar days where we were working for less than the dole…

Tillman: We had live live off $250 a week a one point.

Adam: …and we were working like 70 hours a week!

Do you feel like it’s been worth it, all these years of hard work? Would you do it all again?

Adam: Nah, I wouldn’t do it all again! I don’t regret it though.

Tillman: If you had all the knowledge going through and could just cut out all the bad shit. We’ve got a sweet life now.

Adam: Oh, I love what I do, it’s just the thought of doing it all again is exhausting! I wouldn’t go back in time and…

Tillman: “You are now sentenced to go back to working at Yours & Owls!”

Adam: Bal would just top himself! If we made him make one more quesadilla in his life he’d probably shoot someone.

Dane: I want to see the quesadillas back at the fest, and a real smoky little garlic prawn.

I guess another way of phrasing it is are you happy with what you’ve accomplished?

Adam: Oh yeah, for sure.

Balunn: For sure. Everyone always said it was going to take 5 years to build up a business and we had no concept of what business meant at all, we were just like, “Yeah, whatever, we’ll just make money straight away, we don’t need your advice,” but it was fully true. Now 5 years on we have an understanding of what business is, we’ve got to the point where we can do what we want to do and sustain our lives.

Adam: And also patience, 5 years when you’re 21!

Dane: Yeah, when you’re a kid you just want everything now. Like now one-year release plans come around so quick.

Adam: The look on The Pinheads’ faces the other night when we told them that something would be a year away was just like disbelief. And I know that feeling. Unfortunately that’s just how it works.

Tillman: Bal and I were saying this morning as well, we just came from WIN TV people, just sorting stuff out with them, you know all their stuff is changing, but it’s just funny now, 5 years ago we would have looked at WIN TV and all this stuff and just been like, “I don’t even want a part of it,” but now it’s at this point where they’re looking to us and realising this is becoming the new…not mainstream, but instead of just the general person being, “You watching the footy on Friday night mate?” it’s sort of changing to, “What show are you going to?” They’re starting to talk more about that sort of thing.

Balunn: The marketing dude at WIN was like, “I’m so happy to be doing something else! I’m over the footy eh!” and you never would have heard that in the past. So it’s cool.

Tillman: The same with council as well, they’ve backed us for this one. They’re like, “Ok, it’s a real thing.” We’ve been banging on the door for that long and now we’ve got heaps of other people banging on the door as well and now they’re realising it’s more effort to keep the door closed than to embrace it.

After all these years of hanging out and working together, from year 8 on, do you still get along together ok?

Adam: We’ve all had some tantrums for sure.

Tillman: Not that bad though. We’ve always said that it would be way worse.

Adam: It’s good, I don’t see it as a bad thing. I’ve always said that any positive, creative process has to have conflict.

Tillman: We definitely butt heads but we work through it, rather than walking away and not solving anything.

Adam: We’ll get a better outcome.

Tillman: We’ll definitely say, “No, that’s a shit idea!”

Balunn: We’ve gotten to the point where you can throw ideas out there and they get criticised but you don’t take it personally at all.

Adam: It’s like you have to fight for your idea. You’ve gotta be able to back it up, so in a sense it’s very democratic. You can vote for it, but you’ve gotta know what you’re talking about or it’ll just get ditched. I think the three thing is pretty good. Two would be real intense. It depends on the personalities I guess.

Balunn: Two would be real intense. Three people is a real interesting dynamic, you’ve got three relationships, you’ve got the two individual ones, then you’ve got the collective relationship and they’re all entirely different, so there’ll be conflicts that come up between different people but then they get mediated in different ways, so it works pretty well.

Tillman: Yeah, each individual’s relationship counts as well as the relationship with the other person as well.

Adam: It’s funny because those two (Balunn and Tillman) studied psychology so they can play that hand and I’m just the rational, boring…You know but rationality sometimes prevails.

Balunn: We can get more carried away. I think we’ve all become more realistic as well, you know we’ve all realised there’s not too much point putting energy into an idea that’s not going to come to fruition. Unless there’s some way of actually doing it, we’ll just sideline it, or come up with a way of doing it.

Tillman: That’s the thing, when we were at the shop we’d all just say, “Oh man, we’ve got so many good ideas! I wish someone would pay us to come up with ideas for them!” but it’s not really about that. Ideas don’t mean anything unless you can actually do it. Everyone has good ideas.

Adam: They’re not actually great until you can do it, and until you’ve pulled it off for a while as well.

Tillman: That’s the hardest bit, carrying something through and seeing it through to happening.

That’s what you guys have done, is just stick at it and make it happen, whereas so many other people have had the ideas but not followed through. You just keep pushing forward. 

Tillman: We’re stubborn. I remember the first time I wanted to do a festival or whatever, I was heaps young, just like, “Yeah we’ll get Arcade Fire!” all this stuff.

Adam: That’ll happen one day.

Tillman: It was so funny because I knew of Aaron (Curnow, Spunk Records), but I didn’t know Aaron, but I knew he’d put the Arcade Fire record out, so I was just like, if I just talk to that, that’s all I’ve gotta do. I’ll just talk to that guy and I’ll get Arcade Fire, because he’ll be interested, he’ll be keen. Now we know Aaron and it’s just a normal thing…

Adam: It is a semi-naive approach, but it isn’t that far from how things works in the real world. It is as casual as that sometimes… Is that a wrap for one day?

Yours & Owls Festival is on October 1 & 2 at Stuart Park in Wollongong. You're crazy if you live in the area and don't already have tickets. Purchase them here.