Wollongong-based band, Pirra, has captured that summer evening, fairy-flossed sky, feel-good sound in their latest track, Limousine Lies.
The track was produced by ARIA award-winning producer, Konstantin Kersting, who has worked with Tones & I, the Jungle Giants and Mallrat. It features the euphoric vocals of Luritja frontwoman, Jess Beck.
Released last Friday, the track has so far received a lot of love.
“There is a really big build up and a lot of pressure but once it’s out you have your family and friends telling you that they like it and it’s so good hearing lovely comments from the fans,” said Beck.
Pirra, consisting of Beck on vocals, identical twins Curtis and Jeffrey Argent covering bass and drums, and James Mckendry on guitar. The four began performing together under the name Jess Beck before moulding into Pirra and adopting the pop/indie sound they now rock.
“The song that changed our sound, it’s called Under the Skyline … The first time we played it was at Surry Hills Festival,” said Beck.
“This was 2018, when we really started to get our live show together. People were loving the music, next minute we play Under the Skyline and everyone got up on their feet.
“There were these Drag Queens that came up and were pulling people up on their feet. People were dancing like they were in a nightclub; I’m looking around and everyone is having the best time. It just felt so right.”
Beck, raised on a sheep property in rural South Australia, had a fascination with music from a young age.
“I’ve always really loved music; it was such a big thing in our household. Mostly because of my older sister, she’s four years older than me and she’d always have rage or Video Hits playing. From five-years-old I’d be up early on a Saturday with my tape recorder up against the TV to record the top ten songs,” Beck smiled.
At 18 Beck had booked her first gig, singing Kasey Chambers’ songs with a band of shearers at a gymkhana in Iron Knob, SA.
From there, she completed a four-year acting degree and picked up a role in a play in Sydney. A role that led her to a crucial moment in her musical career.
“I got to know this musician called Tommy Spender, he was in a band call the Off Cuts that had done really well. We had a jam one day and he heard me sing. He said I should get into writing songs,” she explained.
“One night he rings me up … says, ‘Let’s write a song! Meet me in Kings Cross!’ So, we’re at the Kings Cross Hotel and he asks me to tell him about my life. I talk and he writes down everything.
“He said, ‘What looks interesting in what you’ve said?’ And I picked out a few. We went back to his hotel room, and another one of his friends comes over and we set up mics.
“Next minute, the chorus is down, the verses got down, and eventually there’s a song. It’s recorded and a few hours later there’s a CD. It was called Hometown Dress and it was on my first ever EP!”
Beck is a very proud Luritja woman, continuing a strong maternal lineage.
“My grandmother was Stolen Generation; she was born on a cattle station near the Central Desert in the NT. She was taken when she was four-years-old and brought up on a mission above Darwin, called Croker Islander Mission,” she said.
“In 1958 when she was pregnant … being a single woman … she was convinced to give up my mum.”
Although disconnected, Beck met her biological grandmother at five-years-old and during her twenties, they spent time together.
“It was a beautiful few days. I knew I needed my grandmother in my life,” she said.
In 2012, Beck attended the Festival of Pacific Arts where she connected with legendary Warumpi Band guitarist and songwriter, Sammy Butcher.
“His mob is from Luritja, so over the two weeks, I learnt a few words from him … and that was really special. I remember writing it all down on my phone,” Beck said.
“It was the first time anyone from my own nation had taught me any language, and I felt validated.”
“You always have this worry, that because I’m so pale and because I haven’t grown up with culture, I’m not going to be accepted. But when you have someone so beautiful like Sammy accepting you and wanting to teach you, it made me feel so much more comfortable.”
The band’s name, Pirra, is a Luritja word, and holds special meaning to Beck.
“I did this call out on Facebook asking for a new band name, and I’m friends with Sammy who wrote ‘Pirra, it means moon’,” she smiled.
“I wrote to him and I got his blessing, it is Luritja, I am Luritja. It felt right, it felt special.”
Being artists through the time of COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Pirra, however, they’ve taken it in their stride producing multiple singles to release, and recording live sessions of Limousine Lies and a few of their soon-to-be-released tracks.
Stream Limousine Lies and other Pirra tracks here:
By Rachael Knowles