On a cold night, tucked away in the intimacy of sold-out gig at The Newsagency, I was seduced by the soulful vehemence of The Maxine Kauter Band and understood their echoing reputation for their ability to resinate raw emotion through original music and songwriting.
Australian songstress Maxine had been drawn to creative writing and music at a young age but it wasn’t until she moved out of home that she bought a guitar and had lessons, she tells Same Same.
“I’ve been playing music for about 15 years,” she explains. “The main reason I started was to give myself a way of writing that was immediately rewarding. I began making up my own stories and whatnot. I learned to play the guitar because I really wanted to write songs and singing felt good to me. Also, who hasn’t, at some point, wanted to make music?”
Formed in 2008, The Maxine Kauter Band crosses genres of earthy folk rhythms, soft rock acoustics and country undertones. “I’m influenced by people like Kristen Hersh, Guided By Voices, Cat Power, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neko Case,” Maxine rattles off. “I am really influenced by people for whom success is something other than fame or money or being cool.”
The musician’s passion for her art is evident as she goes on to describe how being an idealist is a compliment, and how artists should rage against the norm of having worth only when being treated as a product.
Maxine’s hypnotic vocals translate stories of emotions derived not only from her exposed vulnerability and personal experiences, but through human connection and survival. “I work things out by surrendering completely to the pain,” she reveals. “I often revisit old wounds, I’m not taking any chances you know? So I think heartache is my muse. Often I will finish writing something and I’ll listen to it and realise what I am trying to tell myself.”
But not all of her inspiration is based on sorrow. “I guess songs about heartache are really hopeful because here I am hurt and heartbroken about all manner of things and yet I’m singing. I’m alive. There’s something inspiring in that.
“I think that’s a wonderful feeling, when you’re falling in love just like an ordinary human, in the world, on the street but it feels completely extraordinary.”
With two albums under her belt including the release of Alibech the Hermit in 2011, Maxine has found a delicate balance of evoking nostalgic themes and enchanting melodies that consistently move audiences. “The song-writing process is the most important thing to me. Your write a song and you finish it and then you listen to it and then you start to fully understand what you have been about.”
Her modesty evident, she adds: “I write all of my own music and lyrics, but the guys in my band are much better musicians than I am. I always really liked the idea of getting into a room with humans and figuring out arrangements. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Maxine is one of a kind, an endangered species illuminated by harrowing vices and intuitive flair. The Maxine Kauter Band will be performing at the elite Sydney music venue The Vanguard this Wednesday 27 June. Complete with two guitars, drums and a double bass, this attuned and talented band will leave you feeling wonderstruck and homesick for a place that exists only in the dustiest corners of your soul.