Current Issue #487

Siberian Tiger are making music for the downtime:
'It's given us time to have a dog'

Nick Mckk

With their usual lives as touring musicians temporarily becalmed, Bree Tranter and Chris Panousakis settled into their home in a seaside Adelaide suburb to shape a new project that is a perfect soundtrack for catching one’s breath.

“We are pretty lucky to both be touring musicians that get to work together and tour the world,” Tranter tells The Adelaide Review. “Most people don’t get to be with their partners and we are lucky that we can both understand each other’s lifestyles and the demands of this particular work.”

Tranter first arrived on the Australian music scene a decade ago as part of celebrated Townsville folk outfit The Middle East, before touring as a keyboardist with artists like Matt Corby and Thelma Plum. The pair crossed paths when the Adelaide-based Panousakis was putting together a band for his solo project Timberwolf. One thing led to another and within a few years Tranter wound up moving from Sydney to Adelaide, an inversion of the usual migration path that more often sees young people and musicians leaving Adelaide for the promises of the east.

“I lived in Sydney for seven years before I moved to Adelaide, and I had been touring the world for 10 years,” she explains. “[But] because I am originally from a small town and I had had my fill of big city living, I was so ready to settle into a place that was smaller and slower paced.

“Adelaide is a perfect city for that and I am also a huge nature [lover], so it suited me perfectly. I guess I am not trying to ‘make’ or ‘start’ my career here, I am just wanting a simple life. I’ve reached a lot of the goals that you can as an international touring musician, so I would say that plays a huge part to me being happy and settled in a smaller town [as opposed] to, let’s say, needing to be in Sydney and London so people hire me. I guess I am pretty lucky all the timing worked out.”

The last few months have been particularly smaller and slower paced, after the pair’s last live gig – closing out WOMADelaide 2020 when Matt Corby stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Ziggy Marley – gave way to wide-reaching shutdowns a week later. They’re not the first touring musicians to tell us that the enforced break has offered a much-needed, if somewhat bittersweet, moment to take stock.

“To be honest, it’s been amazing to have a break from touring,” she admits. “We were doing it so much, and I was needing a break. So it’s given us time to settle into home and be there for family and friends, which is big value of ours. It’s given us time to have a dog. But it has also taken a lot of work from us, a lot of tours have been cancelled so it has also been a stressful transition. It hasn’t been the easier and not exactly the most productive, but we were able to finish mixing this EP and put it out.” 

While folk-inspired textures and rich harmonies have been a common feature of both Tranter and Panousakis’ past projects there’s a leisurely charm to the songs on the pair’s first Siberian Tiger release – perhaps born of being written without a specific home in mind. On tracks like Call On Me, Water The Plants and Plane Spotting the gentle sound of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and the pair’s crooned vocal harmonies, daubed with occasional touches of marimba and woodwind, offer a timely invitation to just be.  

“We both had songs that didn’t quite fit our solo projects,” Tranter says of the songs on First Dance.  “They were just sitting around in Dropbox folders and Chris was catching up with his friend Emma Coyle, and she asked if there were any songs sitting around, and he showed her some of the old demos. She absolutely loved them, so much she suggested that we form a band and actually release them through a label she was about to begin with her friend Joel Byrne. So we did.”

The newly christened project became the first signing of Byrne and Coyle’s Adelaide-based record label Part Time Records. It’s a relaxed, uncomplicated chain of events that, like the idea of Tranter and Panousakis turning their shared vocation and life into a new band, just made sense.

“Chris and I really both love old school music like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles,” Tranter says of Siberian Tiger’s casual, nostalgic sound. “Anything that has a shit ton of harmonies and beautiful arrangements, I guess, we are inspired by. Some of those qualities don’t work so much in our solo projects… but they do in this one.”

With First Dance waltzing onto the internet last week, Tranter has no clear blueprint for Siberian Tiger’s future. Like its beginnings, they’ll keep going where the wind – and public health restrictions – take them.

“We’re unsure at the moment,” she says. “The world is in a strange place. I think we’ll take what we can get.”

First Dance is out now
via Part Time Records

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country.

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