EarFest

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Ruel, in a yellow shirt, leans against a reflective surface
Photograph: Michelle Grace Hunder Ruel rules the airwaves in audio arts showcase EarFest

Time Out says

Ruel, John Safran and co deliver awesome audio art to your ears in this brand-new festival for avid listeners

Listen up as Australia’s fist audio-only arts showcase, EarFest, launches its inaugural program, including big hitters like ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Painkiller’ singer-songwriter Ruel and documentary filmmaker and writer John Safran.

Each day this September, subscribers will receive an original recording of seven minutes or less that has been inspired by the overarching theme ‘Pearl’. Running the gamut of rock music, comedy, poetry, performance art and more, it promises to entertain in a multitude of ways. The works were commissioned by EarFest founder Ralph van Dijk of audio advertising agency Eardrum, who just so happens to be ARIA Award-winning artist Ruel’s proud dad.

“[The lockdown] has devastated the arts sector,” van Dijk says. “EarFest allows us to celebrate the power of audio, but more importantly, to support those with the skills to harness it at the time they need it most. This format allows lovers of music and spoken word to enjoy an exciting new work each day of September. With everyone guaranteed the best seat in the theatre of their mind. I’ve encouraged the artists to use this opportunity to explore new territories, so expect a few surprises even from some of the familiar names.”

He’s happy he could get his son involved. “Ruel was scheduled to be on tour right now, so it’s great to have him in the line-up. Dinner conversations would be pretty awkward if he wasn’t. He wants to keep it a surprise, so I’ve only heard short bursts of his contribution when someone opens the door to his garage studio. It’s definitely a departure.”

He’s assembled a fascinating line-up. Ruel will be joined by the likes of indie pop-rocker Pearl the Girl (whose stage name is on-brand), beatboxer Tom Thum, Mongolian throat singer Bukhu Ganburged, vaudeville king David Splatt, comedians Jean Kitson and Grace Rouvray, and Congolese-Kiwi basketballer-turned-storyteller Wāni Le Frère. Even better, tickets are free, but you’re encouraged to donate to the Shepherd Centre, a charity to help deaf or hearing-impaired children.

Rock gods Phil Stack and Ian Moss are also signed up. Stack says a collaborating with Moss was a dream. “The pearl theme made us think outside the box and do something both of us may not normally do. It’s like a bucket list item ticked off to play with Ian Moss. When he started singing, Sean Carey, our engineer, and I just looked at each other. It’s that indescribable authenticity when you know the shit is so real, and to be able to create in a duo is such an honour.”

Kitson loves the ears-only approach. “It will enhance what’s between them,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to the spoken word and it was liberating to be given such a blank canvas. My piece is seven-minute docu-poem about and for my mother, recorded with her daughter and granddaughter.”

Thum says his work with Eardrum has always been wildly different, creative and super-challenging. “I couldn’t be more excited to be invited to take part in EarFest. I wanted to try something recorded binaurally, so it’s a more immersive experience for the listener. So many of us might have forgotten what it’s like to be in a room with a musician. I really wanted to invite them back into the front row, but at least they’ll be safe from the dangers of overpriced drinks and flying expectorate.”

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