Into the Woods
GEPPETTO’s ever-eloquent EMMA DEAN joins ZENOBIA FROST at Brisbane’s sofa-jungle Junk Bar to talk New York, lederhosen, puppetry and pop.
ZENOBIA FROST: You and Jacob [Diefenbach] have just come back from adventures in New York. How was that experience?
EMMA DEAN: It was hard being in a foreign city and putting on a fringe show with not much money — knowing no one. I think we have both come out of the experience much stronger. But the audiences were fantastic; we had almost full houses for all of the shows.
ZF: Did New York audiences react differently from Aussie crowds?
ED: We did really polarise audiences, which is something we haven’t done, especially in reviews — especially in Australia. So there was that element of shock. I think that this particular fringe festival was not expecting a show like ours. But having said that, we gained lots of fans and we had an amazing time.
ZF: Polarising audiences and critics is surely a lot better than a lukewarm response.
ZF: You and Jake have been friends for so long that it must have seemed like a natural progression to form a duo. How did you decide what you were actually going to do?
ED: Well, there were a lot of false starts along the way. Though — having said that — we have done various projects together over the years. We were going to start a pop duo together back in 2009 and it evolved into us writing a musical, which we only ever performed once. I think it got to this point where in our solo careers we both thought, “You know what? We’ve been doing this so long, let’s do something fresh.” We both — at the same time — had that exact same thought.
ZF: How did Geppetto’s sound develop between you?
ED: It became clear that this duo would have an electronic edge, which is something I definitely have never explored. (Jake has.) We both grew up being read Enid Blyton fairy tales. We have this wild and vivid imagination; we’re both quite childlike. The songs are our own personal fairy tales.
ZF: And it gives Jake an excuse to wear lederhosen.
ED: He’s obsessed. I hope he buys that particular pair [that he posted this morning on Facebook]. I think they would be flattering.
ZF: I hope he wears them to work.
ED: I think he will. I would not doubt it. The things we had to wear on the subway in New York — I would not put it past him.
ZF: Is New York a scary place when you are wearing hot pants?
ED: It’s actually so fine. People are desensitised — there are numerous millions of crazy people already in New York. You can’t help but get on the subway and have at least one crazy person. We were fine. No one batted an eyelid. Except for the particular time that we both had blonde hair — people asked, “Oh my god — are you twins? You have the same make-up and hair and bone structure.”
ZF: Does that happen often?
ED: Recently I’ve been mistaken for a drag queen and Jake has been mistaken for a woman. We get these weird looks sometimes, especially when I have my fake eyelashes on.
ZF: It seems perfect that Geppetto can tap into this sense of the uncanny.
ED: Absolutely. We really wanted a sort of androgynous aesthetic. I have never experienced that sort of thing before — actually, no I have: in grade seven, everyone thought I was a boy. There was a rumour going around when we were sharing a camping ground with another school. “Who is that weird boy who keeps going into the girls’ cabins?” And, of course, that was me. So I have experienced that, but not since getting past puberty. I have always been a feminine girl. Jake — I know he won’t mind me saying that he’s had that all his life. And he handles it very well. But there’s still that shock for me.
ZF: Your new EP, INTO THE WOODS, features cover art by Melbourne artist Bettina Wild. How was the experience of working with Bettina to get the fairy tale aesthetic you wanted?
ED: It was an incredible experience. She was so open to our ideas, our direction. There was no ego, which is really very rare. What we wanted to capture was this forest scene — and we saw ourselves as puppets. (Geppetto is Pinocchio’s father.) We are these two lost puppets hanging from the double T in Geppetto.
ZF: And Darren Middleton, of Powderfinger, produced the album?
ED: Darren co-produced and recorded (or partly recorded) Into the Woods. It was amazing working with him. Jake had worked with him before and they’d known each other for a while. We were performing An End to Dreaming in Melbourne, and at the same time we were going to Darren’s studio and recording. He was coming from a really pop-rock world with Powderfinger. It was really interesting — his suggestions for harmonies or counter-melodies or production. I listen to those things now and go, “Wow — that’s so subtle. What a great idea.” One reviewer said it’s like Darren keeps it at bay a bit. He goes, “You’re a little wild. Let’s just draw it down — make it a little bit more accessible,” which was really what we were trying to do.