Interview with the Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem at Boomtown 2015


All the way from Melbourne (and everywhere else) in Australia performing at Boomtown 2015 was the Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem. Their set saw the Ballroom full of people dancing while at the same time educating everyone with environmental issues. Their set ended with them sharing out Raddish seeds followed by a quick run through the cornfields and an interview with myself. Here’s what we talked about…

How does it feel to be back at Boomtown.

Charlie Mgee – Corn’s damn tasty! We’re here in the cornfield eating formidable vegetables I’m very impressed that there’s vegetables growing at Boomtown it’s great to be back.


Kylie Morrigan – It’s my very first time at Boomtown so it’s very exciting I’m a bit blown away it’s a magical places.


It is a different world, I find once you come here you never quite return. Your music is about permaculture, and other things such as GMO and oil. When you started was it a case that that was the message you wanted to get out and the music joined it, or you wanted to play electro swing and figured that would be a good subject matter?


Charlie – A little bit of both really I’m to blame for this whole thing I roped these guys into it after I wrote a bunch of songs about permaculture, I was in an electro swing band before that. I love electro swing I really got into the vibe after listening to bands like caravan palace, but on the side I was also studying permaculture and getting right into gardening and composting and trying to figure out solutions for climate change and stuff like that. Then accidently ended up playing on the mainstage at a Solar Eclipse festival in Australia back in 2012 after my electro swing band couldn’t make it for the night they’d booked us for [They needed some] who could fill in. I said I’ve got a few songs about gardening do you want me to do them? And they were like “Sure!” and it was at that gig that I met a load of the Boomtown crew and they invited me over here to play and I needed a band so I called up Mel and he said “Ah, I’m going to be in the UK anyway! Let’s do some gigs”. So he came on board and it was for want of a better pun and “Organic evolution”


How did you progress from that starting point to where you are now?


Charlie – So I jimmied together a band for the eclipse festival and had no idea what I was doing, I’d never made electronic music before in my life, and then just along the way through chance and luck and various things learnt about how to produce and met some amazing producers who have since helped us. I’ve just been really lucky having all these mentors teaching me how to produce and things like that, then having people like Mal and Kylie bringing that live element in, and it’s just.. I don’t know, when you’ve got that different idea and people can see you’re going for it they just come along and help it’s really nice. It’s been great!


Mal – It’s funny because I didn’t really know Charlie very well I’d seen him perform a few times at festivals and he’d been seeing me for years because I’m old and then he came round to my house one day with someone else. He was sitting round playing ukulele and I thought “oh! Oooh he’s very good!” and when anyone was singing anything he as able to play it. Then he sent me an email one day and was like “look I’ve written some songs on permaculture would you be up for putting some brass in it” and I was like “Sure!” but there’s this things about when someone says “der I’ve written some songs about permaculture”.


Charlie – (Laughing) That sounds terrible!


Mal Webb – (laughs) Yeah you think ah it’s going to be crap, but it really wasn’t and so four songs in I kept saying “have you got anymore?” so I started doing brass section things, then we had that whole thing of me going to europe and we ended up combining on a tour and we’ve been hanging out ever since.

Mal Webb - Fibon_Jame Photography

Mal Webb – Fibon_Jame Photography

Charlie – I was a massive Mal Webb fan before that and it was really funny because when I was making the album I was thinking who are the best people I can find? Who would be my dream band members for this album? and I didn’t have a band so I just put it out there to a few people that I knew and I thought ah Mal Webb and I emailed him “Hey Mal I’ve been a fan for ages and  I think I’ve met you a couple of times would you be up for laying down maybe just one solo on or a songs or something?” and he sends me back like four tracks with ten part orchestras on them I was like wow! Thanks dude!


Mal – And then Kylie’s come in playing violin and she’s done the same thing writing violin parts.


Kylie – It’s so much fun, it’s hilarious sitting in my little bedroom on my bed with my computer playing all these cool tracks.


Charlie – This is completely a grassroots movement if want of another pun, we literally produce stuff in our bedrooms and then somehow manage to bring it to these world class festivals and get the word out there which is great.


Mal – The cool things is that his dad plays trombone with us sometimes and there’s a woman that plays harp in a few tracks, and we haven’t met all these people there’s that banjo player I’ve met but Kylie hasn’t yet.


Charlie – There’s about 24 of us in total.


So you’re like a little collective?


Charlie – yeah it’s a system.. it’s a Sound system


Charlie Mgee & Mal Webb – Photography by Hannah Nash

What is the electro swing scene like in Australia?


Charlie – it’s still kind of underground, I first heard about electro swing from Jamie who used to DJ for us [he played] a caravan palace track and I was like “What the hell is that?!? THIS is my music!” and I got right into it, because I’ve never been a massive electronic head but I’ve always loved jazz and loved dance music like high energy stuff and when I heard the two combined I was like woaw you can do that!? The scene isn’t really that big it’s sort of just among the gypsy, circus, carni and freaky folk over there which also what I like


It’s kind of like that over here amongst the hippy culture and stuff


Mall – I don’t think there’s any electro swing clubs over there.


Charlie – There is in Melbourne, but not in Perth


What advice would you give to new bands trying to make a start in the business?


Charlie – Just bloody go for it just play music and enjoy yourself don’t take life too seriously I still don’t take life too seriously you can’t!


Mall – I’m going to repeat Peter Garrett on that one the lead singer of midnight oil in Australia, he was asked that question and he went “stay together” that’s pretty much it, stay together stick it out coz otherwise you know. So many bands get close and then split up if you can stay together you’ll get somewhere


Kylie – and i would say yeah play what you love follow your heart like Charlie was saying he found electro swing and said that’s my thing. Find your thing and stick to that don’t try and do what you think you should do

Kylie Morrigan - Photography by Hannah Nash

Kylie Morrigan – Photography by Hannah Nash

Have you guys got any message you’d like to leave with our readers?


Charlie – grow food everywhere, have a cup of compost and garden the funk up!


Mal – Yeah


Kylie – Yeah that


Mal – Can’t really add to that!


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