Isis: Reforming the past
Members of seminal Brisbane band Isis talk to Anthony Smith about reforming for The Zoo's 20th birthday, and what’s in store for the much-loved live venue’s anniversary celebration.
It's been a long time between drinks. Formed in the turmoil of early 90s Brisbane, Isis seemed to embody much of what the conservative Joh era had fought so hard against.
With their mix of art and cabaret performance, pro-queer and feminist leanings, Isis was part of the new wave of bands that hit small, sleepy Brisbane hard. After years playing live and a handful of successful releases the band split in 1998. One of the venues they played regularly was the much loved The Zoo, in Fortitude Valley.
Twenty years ago this live music venue opened upstairs in a dusty space off busy Ann Street. The Valley was even grungier back then, but The Zoo soon flourished and became 'the place' for bands to play.
Lead singer Lucinda Shaw hasn't changed much over the years, but much living has been done between times.
"When we were first performing it was early days of Pride marches and street press, and people were looking for ways of framing up identities, sometimes associated with particular venues or performance styles, or alternative culture."
Shaw says Isis’s reformation is only for the venue's birthday. "This is a happy reunion gig, because Joc from The Zoo invited us. We love The Zoo and feel great about being associated with one of Brisbane’s greatest venues.
"It feels a bit surreal, but fun, and musically light-hearted. We're not planning a long reformation; rather, just a wonderful one-off reunion as part of a celebration of The Zoo's birthday. In a sense it feels really natural."
James Lees, her musical partner in crime, points out that Isis reforming is only a small part of The Zoo celebrations. "All of us have a long history with The Zoo so to be asked to perform at their 20th Birthday show is a complete honour. I wouldn’t call the Isis component of the night a full ‘reformation’ though — there are nine bands on the bill, so the sets are short and snappy. With that in mind, it actually feels very natural to be revivifying the band and the songs for this wonderful occasion. The music of Isis formed a very important part of my evolution as a musician – I was originally a fan of the band and then was asked to join, so to get the opportunity to play the songs again is a total privilege.
"We are leaving the music pretty much in its original form — the audience will want to hear the Isis they know and love. From the Isis part of the night you can expect to hear five of our favourite songs, which are also ones that really highlight the vocal harmonies."
Shaw adds: "The whole gig will be a celebration of some of the great music that was happening around Brisbane in the early to mid-nineties. This includes the Tooth Faeries, Regurgitator and The Fabulous Nobodies. I’m guessing the whole night will be awesome."
Isis play as part of The Zoo's 20th Birthday celebrations, December 15, 2012 at The Zoo, 711 Ann St, Valley. Tickets start from $25. thezoo.com.au