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Extended Family: A Chat With Sianne van Abkoude

RAD LIFE

Extended Family: A Chat With Sianne van Abkoude

Jason Katsaras

For two years now, local music lover Sianne van Abkoude has been curating and heading up Extended Family, a locally based video series of acoustic sessions from some of Adelaide and the country’s best acts. The production quality and musical standard of these videos is testament to Sianne, Lachy Bruce (who masters the audio for each video) and all those behind the scenes who have helped give emerging artists such a unique platform. As well as creating something special, Extended Family has galvanised and cemented a pre-existing 'extended family' relationship shared between musicians, and those who support them. With around 50 different artists recorded and 105 videos done in over 20 different locations, the growth of Extended Family is astounding. With the two year milestone approaching, we spoke to Sianne ahead of their annual birthday show, which this year has a brilliantly diverse and exciting lineup.

2 years on since Extended family started, Where did the idea for the platform come from and how did you settle on a name?  

It was an accompaniment to the shows that were already happening around Adelaide. There are great local shows happening all the time but I had friends that were putting together some really special things. Lachy Bruce used to run a weekly gig at Producers called Cactus, and Ben David was always facilitating and putting on great shows which turned into the ‘Party Party’ series and Fools Festival. There were always house shows and laundromat shows happening too. Basically the videos were a way of capturing a little slice of the things we were involved in, in order to share it with everyone else beyond our group of friends. I never quite know what to call myself as far as titles go but I do illustration and graphic design and love visuals. There are so many music sessions I’ve loved and watched religiously (La Blogotheque, Tiny Desk, Pink Couch, Nervous Energies etc.) and I wanted to figure out how to make that happen for my friends. A lot of them were making incredible music, but didn’t have demos and were nowhere near recording actual releases, and even further away from affording touring. This was a way of giving them a platform to share what they were doing using the skills I have and a few that I had to very quickly pick up too [laughs]. I went through a lot of name ideas, but the end result came courtesy of a Luca Brasi album title. It fit pretty perfectly and felt right as soon as we found it. My friend Dave Brown was also already making great compilations under the title Friends of Friends, and it’s a nod to that sentiment too.

Where have the majority of the videos been filmed?

In my backyard! Most of the videos have been filmed between the backyards of the last couple of places I’ve lived - it’s the simplest way to do it. As well as those, there’s a pretty wide range of backyards in both Adelaide and Melbourne, plus a few bars, laneways, and a bedroom too. 

You’ve had a number of interstate acts come in and do videos, how have you gone about establishing those connections?

Its a mix of things. Friends of friends is probably the most common way that new people come along. So many of them I do know already but then there’s also been people Ive heard of and I’ve sought them out. I think its important not to solely rely on what’s already there but to kind of push it a little further; essentially extending the family that little bit more with some effort. I’ve met some incredible people through this project that wouldn’t have just turned up at my door…like some of my other friends do [laughs].

Georgia Maq of Camp Cope

Georgia Maq of Camp Cope

What do you tend to look for in an artist that you’re keen to record?

Umm.. that’s a hard one actually. I guess I’ve tried to create a family of people that would be proud to be promoted with each other; musicians that are making interesting, good music so that each person would be happy to say “yeah I’ve done Extended Family videos and so have all these other great people”. I wouldn’t want them to hesitate to tell people to watch the other videos as well. Its also a big thing for me that I want to feel sure about putting in my time to promote these people as well. Its tricky, a lot of the acts I’ve done are good friends, and its hard because I’ve got lots of other great friends that I haven’t given time to yet. Ive got a job to go to and other design projects but we’ve still somehow filmed almost 50 different acts on top of that. But yeah, there’s just not enough time for everyone, I guess. I’ve had to be a bit pickier when that didnt seem as necessary before. It’s also dictated by what’s going on at the time -- tours, releases, things like that. I just want to put out good music by good people.

I’ve had a number of times where I’ve just gotten stuck looking through all the videos in extended family, there’s so much to see…

That’s what I wanted! That was the whole idea when I first started of getting them out weekly - I wanted there to be content for people to kind of fall into. How many times have I fallen into a YouTube rabbit hole, essentially, where you just keep clicking on the next one? I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager with other sessions that I’ve loved and I wanted that for this group of people as well. So that’s really lovely to hear.

Two years on and after doing heaps of videos, have there been any highlights?

Umm, It’s kind of a weird sentimental highlight that I maybe shouldn’t voice cos it sounds like I’m taking credit for something that I dont think I deserve, but my mind always jumps back to the early days with Bec Stevens and Lachy Bruce. When I first filmed with them they were playing songs that they didn’t have recordings for, but there was a noticeable difference after their videos were released where people would come to shows they were playing and know the words. [laughs] I can remember a little show that Lachy played and there was suddenly a bigger crowd response to the two particular songs that he’d done for Extended Family. It was amazing. That was a really warm feeling. The same with Bec -- the two songs she filmed with us were unreleased and you could see a difference in people singing along. It’s a highlight, but I also think I was just helping something that was already happening; songs and musicians that were already on the up. Hmm and as far as people I’ve gotten to meet, Into it. Over it. was a good one. I’ve been listening to Evan Weiss for a lot of years, so that was nice. I know it sounds silly but Ive really enjoyed all of them - there’s not been any of them that feel like a waste of time. I really enjoy getting to hang out with so many different people. There are a couple of good ones coming up soon that were really lovely…I think I’ve rambled and not gotten to a point [laughs].

No no that’s so cool to hear that its such a relaxed process…

I hope it comes across that way. Most of the time we’re just hanging around drinking and chatting, you know what I mean? It’s a very normal experience.

Can you give us an insight into what goes on at Extended Family gigs, what can people look forward to on the 29th? 

Umm I guess that it’ll feel like a family. There’s just so many familiar faces and so many welcoming, warm people. Everyone’s got time for everyone, so that’s something really beautiful. I love that I can help bring over acts from interstate and they’re guaranteed an audience because people give a shit. Its a group of people that care about each other, and care about music, and want to see others do well. Its a really positive experience. I think that there are definitely shows without that atmosphere and there can be a strange divide between the band and the audience, whereas I don’t think that really happens here. I think it feels like a family and I like everyone’s involved. Its not like those are the musicians, those are the fans, that just doesn’t happen.

Bec Stevens performing at the Crown and Anchor - Elliot Oakes 

Bec Stevens performing at the Crown and Anchor - Elliot Oakes 

As far as the birthday show goes we’ve got a lot of good friends coming over from interstate…its so exciting! We did one last year and it actually felt like a celebration; like it was an ACTUAL birthday party [laughs]. Hmm I don’t how to say it without saying something lame but… it just felt like such a nice gathering of so many friends - there was so much love in the room. This year’s show is twice as big as last year, I think its gonna be really interesting. I’m getting nervous cos thats a thing I always do, but like I said, I think people really care about each other and these bands…It doesn’t need me. I’m just facilitating something that is already a good thing and I think I get a sense of reassurance from that.

Awesome, we're super excited for the show thanks for talking to us!

No worries, thanks for having me

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Much like the Triple J like a Version youtube page, its easy to get lost in Extended Family's website and accompanying youtube channel. The sheer amount of brilliant content acts as both incredible entertainment and a beautiful archive. Videos like the one below have absolutely captivated us, get on it people!

Jump on the Birthday Show event here!

- Extended Family Website

Facebook

Instagram

- all non credited images courtesy of Extended Family