angie pepper - The I-94 Bar
Most of us will never be privy to the stories that fueled the songs on this album, but that doesn't prevent it having an emotional payload that's the musical equivalent of an atomic bomb over Nagasaki. Stripped-back and fully exposed, the songs have a quiet majesty, stunning depth and genuine power.
The Passengers of 2007-09 are a much different entity to the original late '70s Sydney band, whose music drew on the wellspring of '60s girl groups and soul. A great single on Phantom and a set of demos (released posthumously on Detroit-powered French legacy label Revenge and re-packaged by Career Records) was their only lasting legacy.
Jeff Sullivan and Julie Mostyn. Steve Teece photo
The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using. It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.
Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.
“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.
“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”
Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.
More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.
Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs.
The talent that stumbled out of the late ''70s Darlinghurst scene in Australia was astonishing: a match for anything coming out of London, New York or Los Angeles. But geography and population density is a fucking bitch.
Even scene bosses Radio Birdman are considered an underground phenomena. So what chance is there for the small fry?
Meet The Passengers (if you have not already done so.). Hey. Make sure you find the right ones because there are some dodgy international acts with the same moniker. They briefly graced us with their presence as the seventies clicked over. A gift we clearly we did not deserve because we utterly failed to surrender the charts to them.