Tequila Mockingbyrd have targeted 2017 as their year: with a new album, slew of new tour dates and a new British base to boot it’s now or never for the tough talking Aussie trio. HRH Mag’s Simon Rushworth met three women on a misson.
There must be something in the Melbourne water but right now the world of rock and roll is awash with talented Australian bands breaking out of the Southern Hemisphere and forcing rivals the world over to up their game and hit new heights.
If AC/DC’s days are numbered then their gradual demise doesn’t mean the end of balls-to-the-wall Antipodean angst – with young guns Airbourne leading the charge there’s a legion of ambitious Aussies ready to maintain the assault.
Step forward Tequila Mockingbyrd: a cheeky play on words simply scratching the surface where this talented trio is concerned. Likened to L7 jamming with The Runaways, their heady mix of punk attitude and alt rock melody has already secured tours with fellow countrymen Massive and the legendary Richie Ramone. The band is poised to announce its latest run of UK shows this week.
But that’s for the future. What about the past? Frontwoman Estelle Artois (see what she’s done there) considered a tall tale befitting a rock and roll legend but insisted: “This is the actual story. This is the real story. Or I suppose you could say it’s like lying with the truth.
“There is a website where you can put up ads if you are a band looking for musicians or musicians looking for a band. We were all kind of in different walks of life and looking to focus on one thing.
“Josie [O’Toole, drums] was a back packer. She was over on her one year sabbatical from England and she was in a covers band with another singer who was searching for a bassist and a guitarist so me and Jess [Reily, bass] independently responded to this ad.
“I remember me and Jess went to this bar to chat with the singer. She said ‘you two are the only two who have responded to my ad’ and then me and Jess sat next to each other and we found out we liked exactly the same bands so we clicked instantly.”
That immediate connection led to a full rehearsal and the idea for Tequila Mockingbyrd was hatched.
“We had one rehearsal and Josie came down on her lunch break,” added Artois. “I will never forget she came wearing this Union Jack T-shirt and I’m like that’s so English! Josie came in and it just really kicked up a notch.
“After that one audition me and Jess decided we didn’t want to do covers. We actually wanted to invest our time and emotions into writing our own stuff and I always had Josie in the back of my mind because you get a vibe when you really click with people musically.
“It’s very, very difficult to find that so I think that is why we kind of gravitated back towards each other over the last few years.”
O’Toole – an ambitious ex-pat detrmined to make her mark in Australia – eventually took the plunge and ditched covers for original songs. “To cut a long story short we kind of stole her back later,” said Reily. “She was still in the country – she was on a working holiday visa – so we started our own band.”
That was 2012. Encouraged to make up for lost time Tequila Mockingbyrd played anywhere and everywhere for three years – supporting Cherie Currie of The Runaways and winning their first batch of dates with Ramone on the back of a blistering cover of Somebody Put Something In My Drink.
Towards the end of 2015 the hard-gigging trio played the Middle East on the Australian government sponsored Tour Of Duty – entertaining the troops and showcasing their Fight And Flight debut.
Fast forward to the autumn of 2016 and Tequila Mockingbyrd opened up for fellow countrymen Massive and Black Aces on the whirlwind Aussie Wrecking Crew tour. It would prove to be the trip to end all trips.
“We have been friends with Massive and Black Aces for years and have been playing with them around the circuit for a while,” added Artois. “Massive were planning to come over to the UK to tour their second album and we got the call one day to join them. We were going to come over anyway for Hard Rock Hell X and then Black Aces landed a slot there too. We thought how about we all go over as a package and take a bit of Australia to the UK and Europe!”
At least that was the plan. But once the T-Byrds studies their schedule and reassessed their goals it became clear an even bigger decision loomed large.
“I suppose once we got all of the dates confirmed and we looked at how long the tour would actually be we started thinking,” added Reily. “We looked at our lack of annual leave from our jobs in Australia because we had already been touring back home so much. We knew we would have to quit our jobs to do the Wrecking Crew tour so we thought why come back? Why not just stay? So I guess that’s how we ended up squeezed into Josie’s house before Christmas!”
O’Toole was ready for home but never expected she would be back for good. The adopted Aussie left the UK on a gap year intending to play some drums and travel. That she returned as part of a hotly tipped rock and roll trio caught the pint-sized powerhouse by surprise.
“I’d come back and visited family for a couple of weeks on and off over the past eight years but I had no plans to return permanently,” she added. “You should have seen it when we brought all the other boys to the house – my mum was speechless.
“She was like ‘I don’t mind if the girls crash here but watch out for the hairys – I don’t want to open the floodgates’. And then within a week of us being there the boys had somehow invaded as well.
“My mum had gone from it just being her and my dad at home in their nice little house – with all the kids grown up and gone – to having eight hairy Australians and two vans outside and the neighbours looking in and wondering what on earth was going on!
“They live in a really posh neighbourhood in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. It’s where all the posh people from London move to when they get too rich.
“Suddenly this little mob of black clothed, long-haired, unwashed, tired people arrive push-starting a van. We were surrounded by fancy Range Rovers but it was great.”
Artois added: “We completely destroyed the neighbourhood.” “Or at least we gave it some character,” said Reily.
And character is what Tequila Mockinbyrd have in abundance. It’s what makes their brand of no-holds-barred garage rock so addictive and so right for 2017. And it’s what makes them a perfect fit to open up for The Struts. “We only discovered this this year that we have this brilliant band in common – The Struts,” added Artois. “We are absolutely in love with The Struts. Infatuated with them. Just think of it – The Struts with the sluts. It’s a match made in heaven.”