Five minutes with Mandi Randell

"Live performance is... raw, unpolished and emotional. It’s a unique interaction between people on the night. "

From local band, Civil Hands, Fred & Mandi Randell are bringing some new acoustic tracks from a solo side project to Lust for Live on Saturday, July 16, at the Macquarie Inn.

Lust for Live's Clinton Hoy catches up with Mandi to talk music, the nature of performing and early influences.

L4L: You seem to enjoy performing - what does it feel like playing your songs to an audience?

The experience of playing to an audience depends so much on the audience themselves in many ways.  Each crowd will be a new or different energy. There is a balance between what they want from you and what they want to give to you. Some people want to listen and take as much as much as they want, tune out when they feel like it; others want to give back and engage with energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes it’s dancing, sometimes it’s just being near the stage and making eye contact and you can tell when they are feeling what you are putting out there and that is it’s own giving back which spurs you on.  Live performance is much more raw, unpolished and emotional. It’s a unique interaction between people on the night. You show up for the differences, the variations, to feel connected to the other people in the room. It’s an entirely different than an iTunes download (note: I totally support iTunes downloads—see Civil Hands “Otherman”!) Live music is being present. A lot of people struggle with that- being present in the moment. 

L4L: Civil Hands have a point of difference from a lot of local bands with two singers, and a male/female combo at that - how does that affect or enhance the songs?

I think the combination of the male and female voices in Civil Hands serve different purposes in each song. On the whole, I think, it creates a wider appeal and representation.  I think it makes it so more people can hear or see themselves in the songs - sometimes it shows a commonality of experience when we sing united on lyrics, sometimes different perspectives on the same event, like in “Hold On” where Fred (Randell, Civil Hands guitarist and singer) is singing about the distance and time between two lovers… “14 hours more to California” and I sing back “Hold on, baby, baby.”  There is reassurance, there is doubt and the delineation of the lyrics shows the intertwined nature of the perspectives. 

L4L: An important part of collaboration is bringing different influences in. What’s a band you like that it is as far removed from your own sound as you can think of?

My first thought was Beastie Boys. I know, I know, according to Slim Shady they ‘aren’t a band, b*tch, they don’t play instruments” but I love the lyricism and fun of their early sound. But a band… I’d say the Breeders.  They have such a female energy; so raw, so angry that can drive their sound. They have that 90s grunge to them but have no sadness in their lack of conforming, just putting up their perspectives with no apologies. 

L4L: What was your first exposure/memory of music?

I guess it happened in rather different ways concurrently. I went to a very good public school in rural Iowa in the US and we had a great, free music education program that all kids did from K-8. We also had a free band and free choice with free lessons for all those who wanted it.  It was so amazing to have such skilled teachers and to have all kids have access regardless of money. I can’t say enough how important a music education is for all students, especially in a public school setting. It’s an important community growing experience and an important life skill. 

The other really memorable thing for me about singing came around the time my own parents got divorced. My Mom was so strong; she took care of us, talked to us about what we were going through from time to time but never said a word about herself. I remember driving to my grandmother’s house, 6 hours away across a snowy section of interstate and I remember how she sang. We didn’t talk about her; she sang.  She would only sing in the car and always downplay her abilities, but I remember being so moved as I watched her sing the Bangles “Eternal Flame”. (There was) so much feeling, so much emotion, or “The Living Years” that Mike and the Mechanics song… I saw her pouring all those things she felt she couldn’t say into those songs, and belted them out as we drove looking straight ahead down the highway. Emotion and connection are more important than perfect pitch, I learned that from her, though I am sure she will be mortified if she reads this. 

L4L: Dubbo has an interesting music scene for a regional town - how have you felt as part of that?

Dubbo’s local scene is growing. Any town can support some amount of cover bands and that has certainly been on the scene here.  Lust for Live has done an amazing thing by providing local artists with a platform to grow the industry here and in the region. I love that there are some bands who will show up to support local acts with regularity.  I love that every time I look out at our gigs we all always see One Proud Monkey in the crowd and we try to provide that same support to them and other local bands. I loved playing at 4 on the Floor in Orange and seeing all the young people out en masse to see a new band. I would love to see a mass of younger folks in Dubbo at the shows, musos and those who just love good music and a fun night out. But Lust for Live is starting to draw more crowds and regular folks coming, which is great.  I loved putting out the tambourine last month and watching folks scramble to play it while dancing and having a great time out in the live music scene in Dubbo.