Vibraphone connoisseur and songwriter Fleur Green fills us in on the eclectic influences and underrated instrument at the heart of her debut album.
Guitarists are like pigeons: omnipresent, usually harmless and likely to swarm a microphone like it’s a scrap of sandwich dropped by an aloof office worker. But a vibraphone playing singer/songwriter performing tales of seedy characters, grief ballads and dusting off 900 year old poetry? That’s your first clue that Fleur Green & The Keepers are a flock of their own.
“I’ve been learning percussion since I was 9 years old,” Green says. “I was a violinist and a pianist, and I auditioned for an orchestra on violin. But they had so many violin players, so they asked me with my sight reading ability if I’d be interested in percussion.”
Years later, Green has studied the instrument in America, Japan and Croatia and played operas, ballets and everything in between as part of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. But at the same time, Green has harboured another, quite different musical identity, one informed by jazz, pop and self-taught expression over rigid classical study. Her beloved vibraphone is the common element, chiming beneath her voice and lyrics like a metallic game of hopscotch one minute, a smoky waltz the next.
“They’re very different beasts,” she says of the classical career that started at nine, and the more personal one that first bubbled to the surface in her teen years. “I remember putting on a concert in my high school of a collection of songs that I’d written,” she recalls. “But then I got side-tracked. I guess I wanted to focus on another musical identity with contemporary classical percussion, and I devoted myself to that for a number of years. [Then] I rediscovered my love of songwriting many years later. Your musical identity can change — you’re in flux!”
Green’s re-emergence as a songwriter has culminated in When The Tide Rushes In, a full-length debut that sees Green reflect on the “sweetness and heaviness of the human experience”.
“There are a couple of songs on the album that do touch on more personal experiences, but also give people a sense of hope — recovery is possible,” she says, referencing her own experiences with mental health for which music was “incredibly helpful in recovery”.
Elsewhere on the record, Green’s influences reach through the centuries and form an almost accidental link to one of the state’s most enduring mysteries. “The opening track is taken from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” she says, referencing a work perhaps best-known today for its connection to the still-unsolved Somerton Man case. “I was really intrigued by the mystery surrounding that case, and I’ve always loved the text, so I wanted to set just a couple of verses to music,” she explains of Finished, an abridged translation of the book’s iconic final words “Tamam Shud”.
While Green is happy to allude to the case on the album, her connection with the work runs deeper than most amateur sleuths and cryptographers who check it out from the library. “I came across it when I was unwell one time, it almost fell into my lap” she says. There is, after all, a reason the 19th century English translation of a 12th century poet and calendar reformist became so widespread that copies could be found in the possession of lovers, soldiers and beachside John Does alike. An elaborately jewelled copy even lies entombed in the shipwreck of the Titanic. “I still find it a really interesting text,” Green says, “thousands of years old but still relevant.”
The vibraphone might be a more recent innovation, but together they exemplify the eclectic but deeply resonating pool of influences that Green has hammered into her own image on When The Tide Rushes In — quite literally.
Fleur Green & The Keepers will launch When The Tide Rushes In on November 4 at the Grace Emily Hotel
Photography: Ben Macmahon