Husky reinvents electric folk for the beardo set

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As every Tragically Hip—not to mention Powderfinger—fan knows, it’s possible to be loved at home while maintaining an enviable level of anonymity abroad. That’s the case for Husky, which is currently working its alt-folk debut disc, Forever So.

Even though the four-piece hasn’t achieved an Arcade Fire level of fame on these shores, it’s doing pretty well in its native Australia. Two years back, the group—singer-guitarist Husky Gawenda, keyboardist Gideon Preiss, bassist Evan Tweedie, and drummer Luke Collins—was on no one’s radar, to the point where they weren’t even bothering to play live.

Today it’s got a massive hit single, “History’s Door”, on its hands, thanks to Oz’s tastemaking national alternative radio station, triple j. When Husky plays shows, it packs rooms not just in its hometown of Melbourne but in venues across the country. What might mean the most to folks in North America, however, is that it’s the first Australian act to be signed by Sub Pop, the Seattle powerhouse indie that’s brought the world everyone from Nirvana to beloved folk-rockers Fleet Foxes.

“We recorded Forever So by ourselves when we were completely unknown,” Gawenda says, on the line from the airport in his hometown. “It took us about a year to put the record together—we were all working part-time jobs while recording it at my house in Melbourne. When we released the song ‘History’s Door’ we did it indie-style, and then triple j picked it up.”

The way the recording process unfolded for Forever So suggests that the members of Husky are fast learners. As professional as the album sounds, Gawenda had no idea what he was doing when he decided to build the home studio where the songs came together.

“I had a little bungalow in my back yard,” he says. “Saying that we converted it into a studio is maybe a bit much. What we did is pick up some egg cartons and pieces of foam and put them on the wall. It was more of a spiritual exercise than a technical one, because we had no idea what we were doing.

“It ended up looking like a primary-school attempt at building a rocket ship,” Gawenda continues. “Remember how you’d build a rocket ship and then be really disappointed that it didn’t work? Well, this worked. It’s funny how, if you get a little bit of gear, you can put something together. And then, as long as you work at it and use your ears, you can make it sound really good.”

That contention is borne out by Forever So. Critics have, somewhat lazily, been quick to compare Husky to the group’s labelmates Fleet Foxes—not to mention Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and anyone else with a thing for honey-dipped harmonies. As proven by tracks like “Hunter” and “Forever So”, Gawenda and his bandmates have indeed mastered the art of reinventing the ’60s for the beardo nation. At the same time, they’re obviously interested in moving electric folk forward, as evidenced by the way “History’s Door” rocks a Middle Eastern chillwave vibe and “The Woods” floats on a bed of soft-focus piano.

It’s sweet stuff, and it’s led to Husky touring with the likes of Gotye, Devendra Banhart, and the Shins. Almost famous? Well, that pretty much sums things up.

“I’m getting swamped by people at the airport, to the point where it’s really difficult to do this interview,” Gawenda deadpans. “Actually, I’m joking. We do okay. We can walk down the street without getting accosted still, but we do pretty big shows and we’ve got a nice following. So far, it’s been a great journey.”

Husky plays the Media Club on Saturday (October 27).

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