The West

Have music, will travel
Have music, will travel

'If people say 'Well, what do you do for a living' I'd say 'I'm a musician'," says Norman Blake, vocalist and guitarist for Scottish jangle pop favourites, Teenage Fanclub.

"If they ask 'Do you have a hobby', I would say 'Music'. The way that some people enjoy buying model train stations for their model railway, I like playing music and touring."

Pop trainspotters would know that, in addition to the Fanclub, Blake has played in a myriad of bands, including the Faith Healers, the Pretty Flowers, Boy Hairdressers and Jonny, and contributed to recordings from Yo La Tengo, the Trash Can Sinatras, Kevin Ayers, and many more.

His latest side project is the New Mendicants, a collaboration with American musician Joe Pernice, himself no stranger to mixing it up in several bands, most notably indie rockers Pernice Brothers, and alt-country outfit Scud Mountain Boys.

Blake and Pernice are currently touring Australia, with the final stop at the Festival Gardens next week.

"We're travelling light - two guitars and a bunch of songs," Blake says from Brisbane after shows in Melbourne and Sydney. "So far, so good. Every night we're adding something new. It's really informal. We play some of Joe's songs, some of my songs, some of the songs we've recorded together and then a couple of covers."

Blake says that the New Mendicants will record some vocals on tour for the coming album, which will be released on Pernice's Ashmont Records label later this year. The pair unveiled six recordings online via the Australia 2013 EP, which features three new harmony-drenched songs alongside Teenage Fanclub and Pernice Brothers numbers, plus a cover of INXS' This Time - a cynical suck-up to local audiences, according to the jovial Scotsman.

The low-key collaboration began only six months ago in Canada, where both New Mendicants moved to live with their wives. Blake lives in Kitchener, an hour west of Toronto, which Pernice calls home.

Pernice and former Pernice Brothers drummer Mike Belitsky would drive to Kitchener to work in Blake's makeshift home studio.

"I would push back the settee and set up the drum kit and we would record the song and do some overdubs," Blake explains. "Maybe a few days later I would drive into town and go to one of their houses and do some vocals or whatever.

"It sounds good, hopefully it's well recorded. It's not costing us anything to make other than the fuel costs and money for biscuits and a few cups of coffee - and a couple of beers as well."

Blake and Pernice share a passion for the same kinds of music, including soul and psychedelic rock. Sport is the only dividing line, with the Scotsman favouring soccer and the Yank baseball.

Both will return to their main bands after the Australian tour but look forward to fans hearing the fleshed out songs on the New Mendicants album. And with a mendicant being a person who relies on charity to survive, will the duo be passing around a plate at their Perth gig?

"Well, you never know," Blake chuckles. "It wouldn't be the first time."

The West Australian

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