Raucous bluegrass bravado
Little Bastard. Picture: Colin Lewis

It is the unlikeliest country band in the country, a magnificent seven inner-city Sydney 20-somethings you could easily dismiss as hipsters.

But, like the proverbial book, don't judge Little Bastard by looks.

The young urban cowboys, who take their name from James Dean's souped-up Porsche, are becoming festival fixtures with their blend of bluegrass, country and bar-room rock - and a big dose of youthful bravado.

"When people haven't seen us before they don't really expect it to be that sick because they see banjos," frontman Johnny Took says from the hip Sydney enclave of Enmore.

"We sucked two years ago but toured so much that we've actually got good. We still have a party on stage, run around and get pretty rowdy, which I think is important."

It's not uncommon to see fans crowd-surfing to the up-tempo country songs found on Little Bastard's self-titled debut album, released last month.

The raucous approach is a result of Took's early days playing folk songs - "crying my heart out, acoustic guitar in hand" - in bars around Sydney.

"I was playing in (Kings) Cross one time and there were a couple of trashy-looking girls at the bar in high heels and they were almost screaming over my acoustic guitar," he says.

"I was playing this little folk song and at that point I was like 'How am I going to play this kind of music so that people actually listen?'"

The answer was simple - get some mates and play loud. Soon solo Took was a country-rock quartet, then a five-piece. Little Bastard's mandolin player lied his way into the band - he'd never played the instrument before joining the band.

"Before we knew it, there were seven of us," Took laughs. "More mates who are into that style of music were asking to join. No. Seven's already too hectic."

Little Bastard forged their sound on the road, regularly driving down the Hume Highway to Melbourne or up the Pacific Highway to Brisbane for gigs, as immortalised in album highlight Crosses on the Highway.

Last December the band took 11 songs into Sydney's Jungle Studios with producer Lachlan Mitchell (the Jezabels).

They emerged eight days later with their debut, which Took worries could disappear down the grand canyon between Australia's country scene and Triple J's indie-pop sound.

"We're all proud of the album," he says. "It doesn't sound like anything that's getting played on Triple J and we're proud of that.

"I don't think there is anything really like it at the moment, especially not with young dudes playing it."

The album art features feminine cartoon depictions of the seven male members, a motley crew with wildly differing tastes in music.

Took plays in an experimental duo called 200K with his brother Matty, who plays banjo in Little Bastard. Other members are in grunge-metal band Particles.

Took also leads garage-pop trio DMA's, who head west for the Circo II festival later this month - a mere week or so after Little Bastard's national album tour sweeps through WA.

The West Australian

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